Over the course of the last 11 years, Havok has gone from an emerging talent with a penchant for the classic stylings of thrash, to one of a handful of bands leading the new era of genre. The band's catalog, now five full length albums and two EPs deep, has served as a brilliant example of the progression of the genre. There is an understanding of the importance in keeping the sound classic, while pushing the creative boundaries that band gets. For Havok, their time in the spotlight is less the new era and more an evolution, a progression, their own take on timeless sound that inspired them enough to contribute.
Releasing one of the most anticipated records of the year thus far, V, has served as a milestone not only for the band, but has seemingly ushered in a new chapter in the legacy of thrash. With a well-established reputation for crafting precise, dynamic songs, David Sanchez and HAVOK have ultimately produced a career defining effort with V, propelling the band to new heights, despite the stall of the outside world.
Havok's frontman and songwriter David Sanchez discussed how the record has become a fitting soundtrack for such apocalyptic times and how the band appreciates the compliment of comparison while still asserting their own identity.
What are your thoughts on having what is probably the perfect album for the current apocalyptic state of the world?
SANCHEZ - I knew a lot of the things I wrote about would be relevant, but I didn't know they'd be this relevant. I hope that people are paying attention to the messages on V. Lyrically, the goal is to inspire people to think outside of the box and look at the world with a different perspective. The aggression in the music and lyrics is a fitting soundtrack for much of what you see on the news today.
V is being regarded as one of the band’s strongest efforts to date. What were some of the changes in approach if any between V and Conformicide?
SANCHEZ - On V, we made a point to write shorter songs than Conformicide and add special intros to give the album its own character. We also utilized the the full breadth of our instrumentation more symphonically on the new record. Most of the time on V, the two guitars and bass are not playing the same piece of music, but playing different lines that weave together, creating a dense musical fabric. Lyrically, I think that V is less angry than Conformicide and it touches on some topics that we've never explored before.
How has the addition of Brandon Bruce added to the evolution of the band?
SANCHEZ - Brandon is a very creative guy and he plays guitar, drums, bass, keys, and can sing. That being said, he's a versatile musician and can see things from many different perspectives. Brandon had a large part in the bass department, some riffs, song structures, and vocal delivery. Most notably, he brought a lot of melody and movement to the low end.
Havok has been active for well over a decade now. The release of V really feels like a new era of the band. Do you agree?
SANCHEZ - To me, V feels more like a natural evolution than a new era. We haven't completely changed course, I think we're just getting better at what we do. Every album has expanded on the previous one and “stretched out the box” of our sound. I think we're more eclectic and diversified than ever on the new record, both musically and lyrically.
Between the guitars, the percussion, and the lyrical content, these are some very loaded songs. What’s the songwriting process like typically? How does it go from an idea to a recorded song?
SANCHEZ - We keep a pretty substantial “riff pile” at all times. Songs start taking shape when we pair riffs together and add drums and bass. We wanted the compositions to be dense and dynamic, so that listeners would be able to notice new things every time they re-listened to a song. The lyrics are almost always written after the music, but I had a lot of key phrases, song titles, and themes in-mind well before recording began.
Havok’s sound has always been equal parts intensity and precision. Is it tough to still connect with being pissed off this far into your career?
SANCHEZ - George Carlin was pissed off at the system until his death, yet he was able to share his views while still entertaining people. I can relate to that. I feel very lucky to have music as an outlet to share ideas in an artistic way, as opposed the many alternatives. It seems much healthier to write a song than bottle up rage and let it explode sporadically or online. Art can often provoke more meaningful thought in 3 minutes than an hour of listening to people debate.
Havok has been named as one of the band’s that is leading the next generation of thrash. Do unofficial titles like that matter to you?
SANCHEZ - Whether or not people give us that unofficial title, Havok exists to play tight, heavy, riff-based music of the metallic variety. This band was incepted with the notion that this style of music needs to live on, well after the originators stop. This is the kind of music that got me INTO music and inspired me to pick up a guitar. Music saved my life and I don't know what I'd do without it. I truly believe art can save the world.
Your record isn’t even a few months old yet but considering all that’s going on, are there any ideas for new music with all this free time?
SANCHEZ - I'm sure we will start putting some musical ideas together this year. Who knows... Maybe we'll have a new record finished by the time touring picks back up.
Lots of bands have been putting out B-sides from their new records as supplemental singles. Does Havok have any unreleased gems from the V sessions that might see the light of day?
SANCHEZ - We actually did record one extra song that didn't make it onto the record. We are still trying to figure out the best way to release the mystery song. We have a ton of riffs, bass lines, drum beats, and lyrical themes that didn't get used on “V”, but remain in the pre-production sessions. I'm sure most of those ideas will find their way onto future recordings.
How is the band pivoting to stay connected with fans during all this?
SANCHEZ - All we can do right now is utilize social media to interact on a large scale. Say what you will about social media, but it IS pretty cool that you can interact with your fanbase all over the world in one place. We're living in an age of amazing technology that can be used to our advantage, or to our detriment... On an individual level, the choice is ours.
What are the chances there will be some kind of socially-distant performances from Havok?
SANCHEZ - We live very far away from each other, so doing a true live stream is farfetched. Personally, I think if we are going to invest the time and effort into being creative as a team, I'd rather arrange new material than re-record B-rate versions of the songs from “V”. I feel like we'd be doing a disservice by playing our new songs without the unique energy of a live show. We write our songs for the live show experience, not for the sterile YouTube screen. If we're going to work on new content for digital consumption, I'd much rather look forward than backward.
Purchase/download V from HAVOK HERE