A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
Hessian is in the midst of a big year. The four-piece band out of Portland is releasing its debut album on several labels later this summer, they were chosen to play a renowned festival in Chicago next spring, and the lead singer of Satan was seen wearing a Hessian shirt onstage earlier this year.
This Sunday at Geno’s, Hessian shares the stage with SoPo’s Sawtopsy and Ohio bands Doctor Smoke and and Horse Drawn Death Machine. Sawtopsy is “vicious, grinding death metal” and Horse Drawn Death Machine is blackened doom. Doctor Smoke is “good-old stoned heavy rock, very nice clean vocals, very swirly atmosphere,” according to Angus McFarland, guitarist and singer for Hessian (a role he shares with Salli Wason).
McFarland, who also plays with The Kip Brown Kronikles and the uberheavy Eastern Spell, took a few moments to chat about Hessian’s upcoming album (“Bachelor of Black Arts”), the possibility of a tour, and the devil.
Post Mortem: It seems like a pretty good time to be a Hessian. How did all this come together?
Angus McFarland: Yeah, a lot of exciting stuff is happening for us right now. Way back when we first started the band we talked about a five-year plan, like where we wanted to be in five years, and we are pretty close to that. I think we wanted to have more albums out by now, but oh well. The truth is we have been lucky, and we have been persistent. A lot of people have believed in us and helped us out, which is very important. Like the devil. He saw some potential in us and has been a big help.
PM: It’s funny. Hessian’s work ethic is on par with the Puritans’ and three fourths of the band is sober, but the devil still seems like a driving force in the band. Witchcraft, anyway. I mean, sometimes I think metal bands are about as satanic as Hulk Hogan is menacing, but Hessian seems like the real deal. You in particular. How does Satan come into a person’s life?
AF: I can only speak for myself, as we all have varying ideas about this kind of thing, but I was not raised very religious. I was taken to church a bit as a kid, like to Sunday school. It was Episcopalian. I didn’t like it at the time, it seemed stupid and creepy and dull. As I got older, I didn’t have to go to church anymore, and I liked religion less and less as I started to see how it stunted people. That’s why I like the devil as a symbol, he’s like the patron saint of the wild people, the people who dare. I think God is the big boss of the hierarchy, the one above the king, who wants you to keep your head down and submit. I like people who have a rebellious spirit, and I think the devil is a great symbol for them. Of course I am also interested in all kinds of magic and occult thought, too, which has always been an inspiration for our songs and stories.
PM: What’s the best story Hessian has ever told? Or your personal favorite?
AF: I like “Eyebite” a lot, which is the first track from the upcoming album. It’s about a guy who gets thrown off of his land by the local lord, so he goes to the bog witches to sell his soul and learn the evil eye, which he uses to curse the lord. I wrote it during the housing crisis, where a lot of poor people got screwed and had no recourse, so this was my little revenge fantasy.
PM: “Eyebite” sounds like a very specific moment in the ’70s. It’s like a mashup of Edgar Winter and Frank Zappa, but it also incorporates the 1970s’ love of the ’50s. It seems like a product of the same era that brought “Happy Days” and “Bat Out of Hell” into existence, particularly your vocal delivery. How would you describe Hessian’s aesthetic or influences?
AF: There’s definitely a ton of ’70s rock in what we do, sort of metalled up. Our original idea was to dial metal back in time to its beginnings, and proceed from there. We seem to be dialing further back than we originally meant to, but that’s fine with me. We were all raised on classic rock radio, and those kinds of sounds are really close to our hearts. There are also other things that creep in, maybe a little Misfits, a little Rush, Rainbow, Venom, Arthur Brown. It comes from a lot of places. We don’t really think a lot about making a song sound like someone else when we are writing, but sometimes we will play a riff which is total Captain Beyond or Budgie or something, and that lets us know we are on the right track.
PM: Have you guys set a release date for the album?
AF: We’re hoping to have it out by September 1, and we have a Portland release show planned for the middle of September, with other dates elsewhere.
PM: Are you putting it out yourselves, or on a label?
AF: We are releasing it with a couple of different labels in different formats and continents, but we can’t discuss too many details until they are finalized. But we’ve got great cover art, great sound, and some solid people putting it all together. The title is Bachelor of Black Arts, by the way.
PM: You’re also planning a trip to Chicago for Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse this spring. Are you going to weave a tour into that Midwest trip, or is it a one-off show for Hessian?
AF: We haven’t really thought ahead to Chicago very much, but we’ll probably play at least a few more dates on that trip. It’s kind of a waste to go that distance for just one gig. We are also playing at the RPM Festival in Greenfield, Massachusetts, August 9 and 10 of this year. It’s a brand new heavy music fest that we are really excited about, they are really doing it right as far as I can see.
PM: Is there anybody you’re particularly excited to share a stage with?
AF: The RPM Fest is a lot of bands that we have played with around New England over the years, like Seax, Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Faces of Bayon, Rozamov, et cetera, so it will kind of be like a reunion, but there are a lot of other excellent bands like Lich King, Cortez, that we are excited to play with for the first time, and some more that I haven’t heard yet, so we’ll see about that.
PM: If you could share a stage with any band, living or dead, who would it be and why? You can only pick one.
AF: Thin Lizzy, because they are the greatest band ever. Or Angel Witch. I follow no rules.