Q1. Thank you for doing this. Firstly, how did Hexvessel become a band?
Mat McNerney(Vocals, Guitar)
I think it was like falling in love. I was making private songs at home. Love songs and personal spiritual songs that were not really meant to be released.
At some point some good-willing friends persuaded me to put them on to a record, and I recorded the debut album Dawnbearer with the help of some musician friends. But it was more like a solo record of my songs, with a bit of help from session members.
I played some of those songs at my wedding to my wife on acoustic guitar and it was the first time I had played them live. I was very nervous and I don’t play guitar so well on my own. So I was aware that if I was to play the Hexvessel songs live it should be with a band. A proper band. But I wanted a group of people who had some magic in them. Magic the way I had read that Captain Beefheart's Magic Band were magic.
At our wedding we had a band called Dark Buddha Rising playing for us. I was caught under their spell. They had a magic aura around them. They were just radiating and they were hippies but man were they dark gems. I realised then and there that if anyone was gonna play my songs with me it would have to be them.
After the wedding I asked them if they would like to be my backing band. They were shocked because they were going to ask me to sing on one of their records.
So that’s how it came to be. I sang on their 3rd record and they joined me on my 2nd record. Hexvessel came about with members from Dark Buddha Rising joining as my backing band.
Along the way we met Niini who plays bass and Kimmo who plays the keys and the violin and trumpet and we became a real band. It felt that we have grown into something totally different. Like a real family. Born out of love.
Q2. What does the name Hexvessel mean or refer to?
To me it means “spiritual journey.” A Hexvessel is a carrier of spells. It is a vehicle for spiritual travel. It’s the embodiment of your life’s magic work that will carry you and bear you into enlightenment. For me it means hope, dreams and a search for meaning in the universe.
Q3. Could you describe Hexvessel's sound to our readers who haven't heard you yet?
The sound is an unearthly amalgamation of folk and cosmic, psychedelic 60s/70s rock music. There is a deep vein of blues and progressive rock spirit within, spurred on by our influences from Beefheart, Bo Hanson, The Doors, Camel, Ultimate Spinach and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Bob Dylan and early Steeleye Span. I would say that if you like delving into real, obscure and rare vintage, deep music, you will understand and appreciate something about us. It’s about alchemy and magic and we believe in the power of music to transform and transport you. We’re all about connections and connecting this world to the other.
Q4. You're known as black, death metal musician before Hexvessel. What made you to play folk music?
For me it was about musical purity. Making the dead sing again. Folk music is about pure song. It’s a story. The story and song within us. It’s about getting to the source of what it is to be human and part of a much bigger story, of the nature of our planet. I was on a journey when I started getting into making black metal music. I wanted to continue that journey and what I was searching for. Black metal is good access music when you are young to break on through to the other side. It helps you to understand the concept of music, that music is within us. People talk about the “ black metal feeling” and that feeling is musical enlightenment. It’s reaching the gods. It’s actually inside the core of all good music. But black metal is one way to learn how to get there quickly. Easy access. But I wanted to keep on going. It felt that my internal song was more rooted in folk music where I could get right down to the source of the music in a much purer way, and closer to what I wanted to say and to the spirits of inspiration. Folk instruments are made from the nature itself. Old bones, ancient trees, animal guts etc. They make the dead sing again and tell the stories of our natural history. It’s like the sound of DNA. I think that’s what attracts me to folk music. If it’s death you want, it’s got it all and more. For me it’s both darker but also lighter and more enlightening.
Q5. How were you first exposed to music? Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians?
I was first exposed to music as a boy, laying on the floor of our family library and my father was playing Paul Simon’s Graceland album. For me Simon and Garfunkel were one of the first things that I truly fell in love with in music, along with Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke and Roy Orbison. My father was a big Elvis fan and so I grew up on a heavy diet of Elvis and also John Lennon. He wasn’t really a Beatles fan, but more of a Lennon fan and that’s something I think I carried on from him in. I really love John Lennon but it’s only in later life that I discovered the Beatles. I didn’t grow up with them. The Beach Boys was a band that as a kid I listened to a lot. I think I had a hidden stash of porno mags and I used to flick through and look at these retro girls while the Beach Boys played on my stereo ha ha. I think the first 7” I bought was The Beastie Boys and the first LP was Michael Jackson’s BAD.
Later, as a teenager I think it was The Cure and The Doors that were the two most important bands for me and that’s when I kind of changed from being a listener to a music lover. It was like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole. I was lost forever in a new and insane world! :)
Q6.You moved to Finland from UK. Does living in Finland have influence on your creativity?
Yes absolutely. Finland has a very beautiful landscape. I love the nature and people’s connection to nature. It’s one of the biggest land-masses in Europe but a very small population. It’s an isolated place surrounded by vast forests. I have always been very into nature and the forests and the countryside. From being a boy-scout, camping in the English countryside, to spending long summers on my uncle’s farm in Ireland. I found the natural world to be closer to my imaginary world. It was and still is a place where my dreams and reality meet. I read a book by Terry Brooks when I was a kid called Magic Kingdom For Sale Sold. I found the story of this book to somehow mirror my life. My life in the UK was reality and the real world and Finland was/is the magic kingdom of Brooks story.
Q7. How would you describe the music scene of Finland?
Psychedelic! He he. I think that the psych rock scene right now is very strong. It’s ruled by a band called Circle and then there’s bands like Pharaoh Overlord, Death Hawks, Oranssi Pazuzu, Dark Buddha Rising, Domovoyd. The Finnish music scene is very open. People of all kinds of music genres go to each other’s shows. It’s not segregated like in other countries. I like that at a Hexvessel show you can find goths, hippies, blackmetallers, folk people and weirdos. All kinds of freaks co-existing.
Q8. I can find the paganism, occult, shamanism from the lyrics and music video. What is these culture for you?
It’s spiritual questing. I think it’s about exploring the culture of spiritual adventure. I like how the old occultists, shamans and pagans were finding mysticism within nature and the fabric of the universe rather than some made-up stories in the bible. I enjoy the idea that magic is out there and I really love connecting that with my music. I read a lot about the occult and people like Crowley. I am also very into my pagan ancestry, being of celtic heritage and my roots in the UK and Ireland. I think what it all means to me is the idea that there is something more to life. I like the idea of breaking our reality tunnels and delving into the abyss to see what we might find.
Q9.Rosie from Purson and Alia from Blood Ceremony was participated to “Iron Marsh”. How did that go? Both of the band are known as modern-retro, psych doom band. What are your thoughts on these bands?
I love and support both bands. That’s why I asked them to participate on our record too. I think we have some things in common with both bands. I also love the idea of strong talented women taking control of their music and writing and leading bands. I think it’s a nice shift in our scene and since we also have 2 girls in our band I feel we’re all helping to
Q10.You recorded Yoko Ono cover “Women of Salem” for “Iron Marsh”. I think it surprised everyone. What made you to play this song?
I’ve always admired Yoko Ono. I think she’s a really under-rated artist as a musician. I think she helped produce a lot of John Lennon’s greatest songs and albums and was a far greater influence on his music and music in general than anyone gives her credit for. I loved the song when I started to delve into her back-catalogue and it’s from an album called Feeling The Space which I think is excellent. I just felt that the song could be finished up and done in a different way. That’s always the sign of a good cover, if you can take it in a different direction and let the song take a new life-form. I felt that we did that.
It’s interesting because after that the South Bank had a big event celebrating her influence in music and it kind of solidified my opinion and also helped to reinforce the idea that she has been a massive part in the avatgarde music movement. She has also be a provocateur and an agent for good, changing people’s views about women in art and music and about Japanese people too. I think she opened a lot of doors and inspired a lot of people around the world to create and to work for peace.
Q11. Do you know any other Japanese band/artist?
I love Flower Travelling Band. Joe Yamanaka was one of my favourite singers. I also really love Acid Mothers Temple and then composers like Ryuichi Sakamoto have been a massive influence on my music. I loved the music by electronic artist Susumu Yokota. I loved the minimalism. I am a big fan of the directors Kurosawa and Miyazaki. I like the band Mono. I think I like a lot of Japanese music actually! When I visited Japan I went up Takaosan (Mount Takao) and it was my favourite place that I visited. It was beautiful. I have very fond memories of Japan.
Q12. You have a new EP and full length album coming out soon. The latest biography mentioned that “Moving into the next phase”. Care to share any details? Previewed track “Earth Over Us” reminds me of 60s psychedelic surf rock stuff.
Yes the new album is called When We Are Death. It’s another step for us. There’s a bit of 60s pop, some psychedelic rock, some folk and then also some doom rock and progressive rock in there. It’s heavy and deep, slow and hard, beautiful and sad, but ultimately uplifting. The message of the album is one of happiness and enlightenment. I think it’s our deepest, greatest and most honest record. We worked harder on this record than any other before. It’s an ambitious work and I think it shows that we love it as a band. I could die now, happy that this record would be my testament.
Q13.Which bands and musicians albums are you currently enjoying? Any recommendations you can give to our readers for bands to check out.
I haven't been able to delve too deeply into releases as I would have liked this year, so I missed out on a ton of cool stuff I bet - but I traded it for recording two of the best albums of my life - one with Hexvessel and the other with my other band Grave Pleasures, touring like mad and together with Marja brought a beautiful little boy into this world.
But anyway here's my year list so far of what I had time to check out:
DØDHEIMSGARD - A Umbra Omega (their best album and easily my #1 of the year)
UNCLE ACID – The Nightcreeper (fuzzy Beatles worship - can't get enough - still really enjoy this band)
FUZZ - II (The best Sabbathian fuzz rock since Witch)
SATURNALIA TEMPLE - To The Other (Deep drone worship! Love the sound on this album)
DEATH HAWKS - Sun Future Moon (Finnish kraut-rock - a really laid-back and trippy record)
WAND - 1000 Days (Garage rock with some kraut - great songs and riffs)
JOHN KRAUTNER - Fun With Gum Vol1 (amazingly catchy songs - dangerously so - been my summer ear-worm)
DARK BUDDHA RISING - Inversum (Finland's heaviest band - an audio drug)
SEXWITCH - Sexwitch (like Goat making out with Portishead at an ethnic party)
ABYSSION - Luonnon Harmonia Ja Vihreä Liekki (the first release from my Secret Trees label. Top notch far-out Finnish psychedelic blackmetal)
SECRETS OF THE MOON - Hole (next level stuff!)
If I could tell your readers to check out Finnish bands then I would say listen to Circle and then also Domovoyd and Oranssi Pazuzu.
Q14. Finally, Would you like to send a message to Japanese fans?
As Miyazaki says in Castle In The Sky:
“The Earth speaks to all of us, and if we listen, we can understand.”
We hope that you like our new record and that you can hear the earth speaking through it. We hope that we can travel to Japan and play for you all some day soon.