Hemina

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Sydney band Hemina are a band on everybody’s lips at the moment. Their brand new album “Venus”, has people describing them as ‘Australia’s next big thing’ while the fact that they have recently toured with likes of Queensryche, Apocalyptica, Uriah Heep and Kamelot, shows that they are also starting to attract international attention.

 

Many writers have talked about the ‘progression of sound’ for Hemina with Venus lead singer Doug Skene saying, “The writing of this album actually began way back when we were doing our first album. What we have now is pretty much an extension of the sound that we were doing back then;  we even knew that this was going to be an eighty-minute album at the time (in 2012). To be honest though, what we have ended up with is an eighty-minute album a bit different to what we had planned. I think that’s due to things like playing more shows, having a line-up change, not having a permanent drummer while we recorded our second album and then our new drummer, Nathan McMahon, joined us for the tail end of the writing process of the songs. We always knew however, that we wanted to have a  progressive metal kind of sound, but we never wanted to emulate a certain band or anything like that. We didn’t even want to emulate a certain type of metal; we just knew what our sound was and we wanted to make it as unique as possible. We always try to stay in that kind of framework but even doing that, we like to push things out a little with things like horns and stuff that you wouldn’t normally hear in progressive metal. It is this sound that makes the album what we wanted.”

 

Skene says there is always a lot of experimentation when they are putting tracks together. “A lot of things actually came full circle as many of the tracks do sound different from back then,” he explains. “Take one song, for example, I always imagined a sax on it but I thought that would be impossible to do because I don’t have that many connections to brass players, so we had done the pre-production and everything. This one day, I went to see this Pink Floyd tribute show that a couple of my bandmates were doing and on that night, they had this sax player that was absolutely smoking it. I thought, ‘great I have a connection here and here is a young guy that can really play with conviction’, so we brought him around to play on the track, and he did a great job. It just shows how things can come back around to the original vision, even down to what certain instruments are going to sound like. I mean there have been times when Mitch and I have written a song where we want the drums to sound a certain way and then we’ve had a new drummer come into the band and work out how to get the best out of an idea. That really happened with the track Secret’s Safe on which originally, the drum instrumentalization sounded nothing like it does now but we put it into the drummer’s hands and he brought in new hooks and stuff. That led to the whole outro being the way it is. Sometimes, it might take extra ears, sometimes it might take looking for someone that can play a certain instrument, but I think it was an experiment that worked out pretty well.”

 

 

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He also doesn’t mince any words when he talks about how difficult it was to look for a new drummer for the band. “It was a gruelling exercise,” he says with a groan. “It took us many years to find someone. We used to have a pretty firm line-up back when we did our first album; then we had the five-piece line-up, and it felt like we were a really unified unit when we went in to record that first album but then after we parted ways with Andrew,  I think we lacked the momentum for a while. We put all our effort into finding a new drummer, and it was really hard to find someone. We had a guy play with us for a while, but that didn’t really pan out, so we programmed our drums and then sent it off to someone to make it sound realistic for our second album. It took so long to find a drummer, but we felt like a band again. Our new drummer is a good songwriter and has a pretty good singing voice which is great because harmonies have always been a big thing for us.”

I ask Skene about whether or not the gruelling process of finding a drummer was made worse by the fear of bringing the wrong person into the band ‘family.’ “I think that actually happened with our second drummer,” he explains. “It didn’t go very well for a while and then turned out kind sour in the end. We are reconciled with him now, but it just didn’t turn out well. It was really nerve-wracking because I always like to be productive and I’m a really prolific songwriter, so not to have a band to be with and share ideas with was really frustrating. I just wanted to do shows and record albums with people.”

 

As the interview goes on Skene beings to tell me about the darker side of “Venus”. “When we first started working on it, we wanted it to be about a woman that was trapped but that was a very general idea. The concept was very loose because we normally write the music first and then the lyrics. But I was a  social worker, and I started to see some really scary stuff amongst families. I saw a lot of relationships that had probably started off alright but had gone really pear-shaped after infidelity, cheating, people spending money behind the other’s back and pretty much that complete breach of trust. But a lot of those people kept the relationship going a long time even when they probably should have quit. So this album is about a relationship where somebody has cheated, and you try to push on past that to see if it can work. But the person who has been cheated on ends up going crazy and just can’t deal with that breach of trust. I think that and domestic violence is a very personal experience and I wanted to show that. I also felt very helpless in that job; very frustrated at times. It was frustrating because people just don’t realise what goes on in these families. Aside from “Venus” being a release for that frustration, I also find that writing music, in general, is a good release for those negative thoughts. For me, I’ve always seen that as a coping mechanism for any of the dark times I’ve had.”

 

With “Venus” coming from such a personal place, it is no surprise that this has ended up being one of the finest albums released this year. If you haven’t already discovered the beauty of it, then now is the time to add it to your collection.

 

Written by Dave Griffiths

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