This interview took place outside the Black Heart, Camden on Monday 20th April 2015. You can read a review of the gig here on Rock Sins.
MH : First off, despite your years of doing this and your experience as such, do you ever wake up and feel like you’ve swallowed a pineapple?
DH : Do you mean with my voice or more in general?
MH : Can that be a double-ended question? Can it be both?
DH : Is it a double-ended pineapple?
DH : Well, yes, absolutely, yes I do. In technical terms of singing, I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. Seriously, I do everything the ‘wrong’ way…
MH : Yeah, because a lot of people go down the ‘coaching ways’ to spread your voice and you’ve come from, I imagine, a more “I want to do this, so I’ve done it” (angle) and however that affects you, you’ve learned to gear yourself towards conditioning that and coping with that.
DH : Yeah, it’s a matter of coping with it rather than avoiding it. If you do things properly, you can avoid it but I just deal with it but who cares, you know what I mean. It doesn’t matter. If I stub my toe getting out of bed, it doesn’t matter whether I’m doing the gig that night and my toe hurts; it’s the gig that’s important whether I bleed that day. Get on with it; man up, bottom line.
MH : Absolutely. So, for Anaal Nathrakh, was the leap between being a studio band initially and touring something that was based on the reception of the band or was that something that you guys realised “actually, we want to do this and go out and tour live”?
DH : Err, it was somewhere between the two. We only started playing by accident, live I mean. We got asked to do a radio session.
MH : That was the Peel Sessions?
DH : No, we’d already done that and we got asked back to do one for the Radio One Rock Show and we just thought “what can we do differently? I know, let’s do it properly live” and we happened to be lucky enough to know people who could do it so we did it and because we’d done that Terrorizer magazine got wind of the fact we’d put a live band together and they’re like, strangely enough just over the road, “we’ve got a show we’re putting together so do you want to do it?”. So we said “alright” and just see how it goes and it went really well. So, after that we just thought “OK, let’s see what else there is”.
MH : Whilst it’s mostly been a two man affair, to a point, do you write separately or do you guys combine and build upon what each other have done?
DH : Separately.
MH : Do you have your own, I don’t want to say ideas but I suppose that’s really it, you know your own mindset like “I’ve got this fury” about this and finding something that matches that which Mick’s doing or is it a case of you building upon what he’s done?
DH : Mick writes music and then I record the vocals on it without there being an intermediary stage of passing demos back and forth. Simultaneously to him writing the music I make notes, ideas and whatever it is that I have whether it’s idea for a vocal style I might want to try or lyrics, or whatever it is, and then when we come to record the vocals, I listen to what Mick’s recorded and go through my list and find what feels right and then adapt it pretty much on the spot to fit…
MH : But I suppose in many ways that’s sort of sums up really, and I don’t want to sound cheesy and say ‘ethos’ of Anaal Nathrakh, or the mission as it were but you know part of the appeal, certainly to myself, is that it’s just that raw fucking fury and not just that but there’s a melody in it that kind of combines many emotions so you kind of feel that it’s not just some guy screaming on top of really loud noise and some people don’t get that, people just think “what the fuck?”.
DH : Yeah, “it sounds like a concrete mixer”…
MH : But then again, those that know it, and I suppose those that matter, ultimately see through that and see that there’s not just some guy screaming for the sake of it or he’s saying things at that point for the sake of it, it’s something that means something to them…
DH : Yeah, and that’s because it’s done in a way that’s supposed to represent the fact that it’s meaningful to me or to us in the first place, but I think that’s the mixture of the elements. Human beings don’t notice absolutes they notice contrasts and people aren’t often aware of this but it’s true. Not totally, but in many, many things and the reason the horrible bits sound so horrible is because it’s not ALL horrible. You have your ‘singy’ bits and stuff like that, they’re not put in purely instrumentally, they’re not put in to serve merely a purpose but they articulate something themselves, or are at least intended to, but it’s the interplay between the differences that makes the experience, in general, more powerful and more engaging…
MH : Absolutely, both those words are apt… So your shift, I don’t want to say of form, but towards a more melodic side, but certainly as the progression of Anaal Nathrakh has gone on there is that clear shift towards a more melodic…
DH : I disagree, actually.
MH : Yeah?
DH : I do disagree, yeah. The first album didn’t have much melody, but any of our past 5 albums, none have been more melodic than the other. The most melodic of all of them is probably in the middle somewhere so I don’t see it as a trajectory towards melody. Whether that’s valid, from the outside…
MH : Well, certainly you’re better placed to mention that than I.
DH : What I mean is, from the inside we can intend to do something that isn’t necessary picked up on in the same way by somebody else on the outside but we haven’t been intending to get more melodic as we’ve gone on…
MH : I think, certainly from my point of view, that’s part of the attraction of a band like yourselves is that it’s not a case that you’ve clearly got 5 guys playing together that are going “right, well what worked last time, what didn’t work?”, you’ve got two people that are playing different instruments and with different influences and what have you, but you approach it in your own that way that, combined, ends up with something like it (Nathrakh) is…
DH : Yeah. And also, we’d never been that formulaic about it saying “what worked last time?” and everything. The only question we ever ask is “what feels right NOW?”, not in the context of what we did before or anything like that, but what feels right now. To be honest, I’d say that’s probably a strength but I don’t know whether it’s valid to conclude that it is but it seems like it should be… That you’re not trying to recapture past glories and failings, or even succeeding, rather you’re doing something that seems more applicable right now.
MH : Again, in terms of the two of you, how does the recording process for this band actually work? Is it just two of you recording I guess, so how does that work? Am I right to say that Mick’s still in the US and you’re here?
DH : We get together for vocal recording and, it sounds shit, but that’s the end of it really!
MH : And by that point you’ve heard what you’ll be singing upon?
DH : No.
MH : Wow, so it’s a case that the two of you will come together and, I say ‘jam’…
DH : He’ll play me the stuff. He records the final album music, and sometimes I’ll hear bits, it depends how it happens to work from one recording to another but generally he records the music and then I hear it when I go into sing on it. So it’s not so much improvised, because as I was saying before, I’m keeping ideas but it’s very much mapping it onto something. But that’s it, it’s intentionally like that because what I do is a reaction to the music; you’re not trying to force a round-peg into a square hole, it’s more of a synergistic kind of thing and hopefully if there’s any histrionic to be heard that’s because it genuinely felt histrionic as opposed to being a planned thing. More spontaneity is what we want.
MH : I suppose, again, we see bands that come and go and try different things and try and sustain themselves, for want of a better expression just to keep going, and then bands that realised, Led Zeppelin for example, who are at that point, a peak, who go consciously “we’re making a decision to stop”, whereas some people just go “what haven’t we done?” and I suppose that’s quite unique and it many ways, despite the music, that’s what sets bands like yourselves apart where you realise a lot of what you’ve done is independent, by yourselves, and you never really conformed. You’ve done what the fuck you want, basically!
DH : Yeah, yeah. But that’s not from having a particularly anti-conformist point of view. We didn’t recognise conformity because we weren’t paying attention. We were busy doing what we wanted to do without thinking about anything else.
MH : And that’s a great thing, which is ultimately what the whole point should be. It doesn’t matter how many people show up, to a point, or buy your records, at the end of the day if you’ve written a record that you know, “even if no fucker listens to this but me and Mick, that’s what WE wanted to do”.
DH : Well, it’s kinda combining that with something a bit more outward looking because that has to be the attitude for what stays and what goes and all that kind of stuff, but if no-one buys our albums and we can’t get a record deal and stuff like that, we can’t carry on doing it. I mean, it ain’t free for recording time and all that kinda bollocks, so you do need, in order to carry on, a certain level of people out there willing to be receptive to whatever it is that you’re doing but I just don’t think you should make pleasing them your focus. You should just make whatever it is that you find fulfilling that you’re doing for the right reasons then you should concentrate on making that REALLY good… or at least as best you can because then people have got something that they can latch on to.
MH : This is a question for you more than so much the band; obviously in the past, there have been examples of your lyrical inspirations. Are there are any current artists or people that yourself finds an inspiration to what you’re writing, or towards contributing to a vocal style or maybe even just a song that you find yourself influenced by?
DH : Erm, not so much in terms of specific recording artists or anything like that, but it’s more ‘things that happen’. It’s more what you see on the news or whatever. So no, I can’t think of anyone creating works of art or in a band that does inspire me.
MH : In terms of literature, perhaps?
DH : Yeah, there’s reading and stuff. One of the things that’s run through a lot of stuff is a certain degree of fascination with Nietzsche, but you shouldn’t read too much into it because most interpretations of Nietzsche are superficial and wrong, I think. There’s some stuff that I’ve carried on doing that makes me re-interpret what I read years ago and it really contextualises it. So, some of that stuff is involved at the moment. Basically, the meaningfulness of life and what counts and what doesn’t… That’s what interesting me lately.
MH : As, in some respect perhaps not a traditional ‘band’ per se in terms of not having 5 members or so, how does working with your current record label (Metal Blade) differ from working with Candlelight and Seasons of Mist?
DH : And every other label we’ve been with before…
DH : Umm, it does differ but only in unimportant ways as far as I’m concerned. Like, if you were doing a job that involved working in an office and you moved offices, or if you were doing a job that involved working with suppliers and you went to work for one of the suppliers instead there is a change, but it’s not something that really affects what it is that you do. There is a change, because I speak to different people so you immediately have different inter-personal relationships, so nuances… I don’t mean massive adverse reactions or whatever. Will, who’s one of the main A+R guys for the English part of Metal Blade; I’ve known him for years so there’s a certain dynamic there in the first place so it’s only on that level that things like that really change.
MH : If I can ask in terms of, and obviously we discussed how you record with Mick, your own perspective has there been a release that was more of a ballache and harder to actually finish than the others?
DH : Yeah, each successive one!
MH : Each time it gets harder, eh…
DH : Yeah. Because we do all of it ourselves; we produce, record, engineer everything all ourselves and you’re always learning how to do it and one thing I’ve found is the more you know, the more you can tell what’s wrong, you know what I mean. So, the past 3 albums we’ve spent ages and ages and ages sorting out little bits of production and little bits of mastering, kind of boring stuff, but nonetheless it makes all the difference.
MH : At the same time it’s important, not so much to yourself…
DH : …to the finished product.
MH : Exactly, if you’re going to do something you put your full-balls in or you don’t regardless of how it takes.
DH : Well, to use what metaphor… yes you do do that, you put your full-balls in but you have to put them deeper and deeper each time. So, for the last album I had a release candidate off Mick who twiddled his knobs and what not, sent it to me and said “I think this is done, what do you think?” and that was in the middle of March and the album came out in October so that’s a long time…
MH : But it’s honing it, isn’t it?
DH : It is, very much so.
MH : Especially if you’ve got just two people. I mean, I’ve briefly done bits and bobs with bands in the past but it’s different for me, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how it comes out as long as it comes out. You don’t want to go “ah fuck, we HAVE to realise it by this date”…
DH : Yeah, it HAS to be right.
MH : I think, certainly from a listener’s perspective, that’s something that you notice.
Man asks Dave for photo and declares “this is a beautiful fucking album”
MH : That must be a nice feeling! I’d go as far to say for all the people here; seeing somebody like you guys actually come back and play… It’s not about “ah, I fancy going to a gig tonight” it’s a case of “I’m going out my way to make sure I’m fucking HERE to see this”.
DH : That’s a nicer way of thinking about it. I’d prefer to think it was like that!
MH : But I think it definitely is.
DH : That’s why if somebody comes up and says hello I don’t get anything out of it, you know. A lot of people enjoy ego gratification and I ACTUALLY don’t like it but I feel genuinely appreciative that that bloke would want to. The first part of that sentence might have sounded harsh, but it’s not. I don’t find it irritating or anything it’s just not something I would seek out.
MH : It’s like, even this interview, you get to the point where you think “I’d rather be drinking, or smoking” or whatever…
DH : Weeell, I can walk and talk.
MH : OK, in terms of yourself again and back to the whole vocals (I’m interested myself, you see); who are your favourite vocalists? I mean, you’ve worked with Attila; in my eyes, that’s done. I can’t think of any combo that’s better than that; that’s me, but for yourself? I mean, you’ve worked with Alan Dubin of Khanate. I’m probably the only person in the entire friendship circle that I have who knows who them (or him)… but is there anybody that you’d like to work with?
DH : I would really like to work with Philip Best who used to be in Whitehouse and is now in Consumer Electronics. He looks like a dodgy old paedophile. I’d would gather from your lack of reaction that you don’t know who he is…
MH : I’m gonna be honest and say I don’t know who that guy is!
DH : By all means have a look. They started in about 1982, Whitehouse did.
MH : The name rings a bell, but I don’t know the singer.
DH : Where the president lives, you would have heard it before…
DH : But no, he’s quite a phenomenon as far as I’m concerned… and totally asocial. He’s one of the only people who’ve said “no” to us. We did ask him but he was kind enough to email me back.
MH : There’s some respect in that, at least he came back to you.
DH : Absolutely. He’s a stand-up kinda guy.
MH : For yourself, again, as a vocalist are there any tricks or methods that you use to achieve the sound that you have?
DH : Nah, I don’t do anything that a) you should do, or b) would help. I’m terrible for that kind of thing… I can think of a sound and I can make it; that’s the only thing that I do.
MH : That’s a pretty good talent, though…
DH : Yeah I’m not bad at impressions sometimes either! I mean, that’s absolutely not advice to anyone. Don’t do that; it’s bad for you.
MH : A lot of people will say there’s a way to scream, there’s a way to shout…
DH : There may well be, but I don’t know it. The only technical thing I can say is if you’re doing a gig; breath in before the line. Because, often if people are new to singing, say they’ve played bass in a band and start a side-project and sing, they find themselves running out of breath all the time. That’s the only thing I’ve picked up and I’ve been doing this years…
MH : I’ll remember that one thing if I ever decide to go down that road; away from the mic, deep breaths.
DH : Yeah, exactly. But that’s the limit of my expertise. Other than that, I haven’t got a fucking clue what I’m doing… I’m just trying to make the ‘right’ noise.
MH : Well you’re winging it pretty fucking well, might I add!
DH : I’m doing alright!
MH : In terms of side-projects, is there anything in the pipe-line with Benediction? Mistress? Fukpig perhaps?
DH : Fukpig pretty quiet at the minute. I have a feeling there might be another album but when it would happen, I’m not sure. Mistress; no. Mistress is in bed.
MH : You did a farewell show?
DH : Yeah, yeah at Damnation and it was about as good as farewell as we could have wanted. It was a fairly big room, it was packed, it was all mental, we were shitfaced; it was just what it should have been and I wouldn’t like to trample on that. It was lovely, and that’s it.
MH : I saw you guys, well Benediction, at Bloodstock and I remember telling people “I don’t care what you fucking say, we ARE watching this band” and certainly for me, Benediction with you, well I don’t want to say is the better one, but there’s more to it for me.
DH : Oh you mean compared to previous singers?
MH : Yeah, absolutely. I’ve got a mate who’s all “nah, OLD Benediction” but to me, it’s not about that because the times I’ve seen you, the times I’ve listened to you, it’s more about you in terms of the vocal side…
DH : Well I mean, I’m glad you liked it. I’m certainly not going to say I’m better or anything like that because I don’t think I am to be quite honest with you.
MH : Ah, but it’s a personal opinion at the end of the day. It’s not just about who’s better; in that style of it, it’s ultimately who can do it!
DH : Yeah for a start!
MH : It’s not an easy job.
DH : But with Benediction, we are starting to write new material. There’s been about three albums worth of stuff that’s been written and discarded just because they’re perfectionists and the lads, not so much myself, I can manage to fit most things in (but I’ve never got time for anything), have got kids and wives and what-not, but the new drummer of Benediction works as his day job as a ‘man-with-a-van’ driving bands around so he actually drove us here and we just told me inside that he was down jamming with Rewi (Peter Rewinsky) the guitarist a few days ago so it’s starting to kick off.
MH : Good stuff. I know Micks’ got his side-projects and I don’t want to take away from yourself, but does Mick currently have any side-projects that are active that are going to do be releasing any material?
DH : The one that he’s been working on most lately he called Iscariot which is electronic music.
MH : That (direction) doesn’t surprise me… He’s (and his styles are) quite broad…
DH : We’ve both always been into a load of stuff. We’re not trying to be clever, we just never noticed it was different, you know? The one thing about Mick is if he finds something that interests him, he needs to figure out how it’s done. He’s been thrown out of loads of museums from trying to work out paintings and we found that with electronic music; he could hear them doing something, but just couldn’t put his finger on what it was so spent ages trying to figure it out and he started to apply that so he’s done a couple of tracks of stuff along those lines. Whether he’ll carry on doing any more of that, I don’t know. I’m sure if you go on YouTube it’s probably there…
MH : With bands that are ultimately about guys making music that they want to you’re gonna have side-projects, you’re gonna have tests and what have you… But I’m gonna wrap this up as I don’t want to go on forever, so two questions for you. If Anaal Nathrakh were forced at gun-point to record or cover one album, that wasn’t their own…
DH : A whole album? Not a song, a whole album?!
MH : Yep… what would you pick given full reigns?
DH : You see, that’s the thing, it’s quite easy to think of something that in itself would be a rebellion against being forced to choose that would be totally unlistenable…
MH : An Eminem album?
DH : Maybe a Tom Waits album.
MH : ‘Raindogs’ by Anaal Nathrakh would probably be quite fucking out there!
DH : It probably wouldn’t be ‘Raindogs’ that I went for but the thing with Tom Waits is in singing a song, he’s gives it context that it wouldn’t have if somebody else was singing it. If he sings a love song, it’s to his dead wife not this wife. There’s something about the way he does things and I quite like that ‘dark things beneath the surface’, so maybe one of his, I don’t know. Or maybe something ridiculous… We were actually talking about covering something the other day but I’m not going to tell you what it was or it’ll spoil the surprise… But maybe something completely stupid. Not stupid stupid, but maybe some Lady Gaga stuff… I really like Lady Gaga.
MH : I’ve got a big love for ABBA. I get a lot of shit for that…
DH : I can see why you might…
MH : From a musical point of view, when it comes to constructing a song, yeah they might not have written it all themselves and they might have had other people inputting to it, but they ticked all the boxes of a formula that works for what they’re trying to achieve…
DH : And they ticked it particularly well… saying that, the reason I like Lady Gaga isn’t because I like dance music, it’s because I think she’s a satirical artist and it’s satire.
MH : I suppose it’s the same, and I can’t believe I’m saying these names in the same sentence talking to you, but Eminem and Marilyn Manson are two examples I can think of…
DH : Marilyn Manson is superb; well, ‘Antichrist Superstar’ era Marilyn Manson.
MH : He knows exactly how to push people’s buttons, how to release something going “if I release this in a controversial manner, people WILL talk about me and you’ll get 50% of people going “oh, you shouldn’t listen to this” and that’s just gonna do me favours”.
DH : Well the thing I liked about that era Marilyn Manson, and I hone in on that era as it’s the only one I really know and haven’t paid attention to the newer stuff.
MH : The latter stuff is shit…
DH : The thing I find fun about it, or interesting about it, is he’s not being original, I don’t mean musically, he’s not being original in the negative ideas that he gets people riled up by going on about but he’s holding up a mirror. It’s not coming out of him, he’s showing, America, for the most part, and the world what they’re doing and they’re horrified by it. That’s the thing I like about him. He’s being the bogeyman when they invented the word bogeyman, you see what I mean?
MH : I like that. I completely understand.
DH : That’s what I like about him; I don’t really listen to the music or anything but I like the phenomenon that it was.
MH : I’ll wrap this up now but I have to ask; who is your favourite Simpsons character?
DH : …I don’t know. I’m torn. Fuck the minor characters, I’m torn between Lisa and Homer because I’m kinda both of them. I’d like to be one of the writers; if I was going to be a character in the Simpsons I’d like to be somebody who’s smart
MH : If I win the lottery, I’m gonna make Dave Hunt a secret slide-on character. 99% of people won’t get it but they’ll be that 1% who do!
DH : I think I’d rather be in Family Guy, though, given the choice. I do like Family Guy and pretty much my favourite comedian on the radio was apparently in Family Guy. John Finnemore his name is. He does Radio 4 comedies and stuff; very, very different mindset to all of this, but I love the way that he does comedy because he’s very, very logical and he observes things and can’t work out why they are the way they are. I’d like to follow in his footsteps.
Anaal Nathakh’s newest album Desideratum is out now on Metal Blade Records. You can also follow them on Twitter at @ANOfficial.