INTERVIEW: Astrohenge

Astrohenge was yet another band I stumbled across last year while perusing what was once a plethora of music blogs. As our Q&A with their fellow countrymen Dragged Into Sunlight indicated, Astrohenge is part of a diverse crop of UK bands "doing their own thing." Although it's been over a year since the London quartet's second album, the appropriately titled II, guitarists Matthew Rozeik and Hugh Harvey were kind enough to indulge us by answering some few questions. Be sure to check out the band—which also includes keyboardist Olly Weeks and drummer Kieran Iles—on Facebook here or pick up copies of their records here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShOND3jDftU

For our readers who may be unfamiliar with you, can you take us through a brief history of the band—who’s in it, when you got started, where you’re all from, etc? Matthew Rozeik: We're from London and formed around 2007. I have played various music with Olly for years and me and Hugh had been wanting to jam in a band for a while. I asked Kieran (ex-Eden Maine) if he wanted to join and it turned out he already knew Hugh, so it was a bit of a no-brainer.

Your last record, II, was based around "a concept of going on holiday to a strange planet of women." Can you elaborate a little more and tell us how the idea came about? Does the fact that you're an instrumental band make writing a concept album easier or harder? MR: If anything it makes it easier, as we don't have to use words to be evocative, just ideas. We could have had a picture of a woods or the sea as the cover and kept things ambiguous and tasteful, but we are neither of those things, so the cover has loads of tits and arses on it. This is key to understanding the mentality of the band.

We don't really consider ourselves "instrumental" to be honest, that seems to be a genre that only exists in metal—people never use the term to describe Beethoven or Dick Dale...

What's the writing process generally like for you guys, especially given that you seem to be very adept at combining various genres and sounds into something all your own? MR: We're not a bunch of guys in matching Obituary shirts and we all listen to a huge range of music that's not remotely metal. We never really set out to combine specific genres, it's just in our DNA, so classical, electronic and even jazz ends up in there. I think if we actually sat down and decided to combine classical piano and death metal riffs, it would sound like a contrived bag of shit, but generally stuff happens organically and everyone puts their flavour into a song. If we want to play slow, we play slow and if we want to have blastbeats then it happens—we don't really have anyone telling us not to!

You've played with a bunch of great bands, not to mention 2011's Damnation Festival, over the past few years—what was your favorite and what was one that you learned something valuable from? Hugh Harvey: We have a constantly evolving top five gigs of all time list and for the past year or so every gig we have played has been awesome in terms of general fun, the crowd and the venues we play at. A few that stick out for me are supporting Between The Buried And Me, Damnation has got to be up there for the atmosphere and size of crowd, supporting Russian Circles, playing with Monotonix was off the wall, but on top of that, some of the DIY shows we have played have been equally awesome. Don't fall off stage or try and pick up an Orange 4 x 12 by yourself is something that I have learned!

MR: We're quite unusual in that we play both DIY warehouse gigs and supports at bigger venues. My favourite gig with the band was a Halloween show in a warehouse in London—everybody in the audience was in costume and the show just went crazy, I thought the place was going to explode! I've learned from every gig, especially not to be too precious about things and just enjoy myself every time. There is a saying: people get the show they deserve.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwwybdC8N9o

What's the music scene like in London and how do you guys see yourselves fitting in? MR: We don't really "fit in" anywhere, but it doesn't seem to matter, as we lucky enough to play shows to people who appreciate us. The London scene is much like any other: a few dedicated promoters struggling to give bands the exposure they deserve, a handful of bands working hard for peanuts per show and a small but dedicated crowd of music fans who actually make the effort to come out to shows.

HH: I think it's great. There is really everything you would hope for as a fan or a band member in our particular scene. There are constantly bands touring from overseas, there are basement/warehouse/living room DIY shows and also a plethora of independent promoters putting on awesome shows, not for profit. In London for metal you can find venues to go to in North, South and East quite easily. There are of course a lot of promoters to avoid who try to exploit decent bands for little return, but they are pretty easy to spot once you are active in the scene.

It's been a little over a year now since II came out—what are your plans for the next six months or so? MR: We're taking this year a bit more easy so we can write our third record at a natural pace. We want to approach the writing process a bit differently this time and try to utilise different sounds. I don't want to shit out album after album of the same thing, it has to be interesting to us or it's not worth doing. The new material is a little more cosmic sounding, with a bit more of a grind influence as well as a more freeform psychedelic sound. Traditional metal forms are quite limiting to us, so we have to draw from wide-reaching places to find new heavy sounds.

HH: We have taken a short break from playing live, but we have started to line up a few shows towards late summer, so I'm personally looking forward to getting back on the Henge spaceship. In the meantime, Matt is writing and performing in Necro Deathmort, I'm playing in a new proggy hardcore band called Yards with Tom from Ghost Of A Thousand and Alex from Nitkowski, Kieran is snowboarding in Canada (not on Henge royalties, sadly) and Olly is playing with a few Bengali folk bands and generally doing as he pleases.

II

What are some records you guys have been digging lately? MR: Nothing particularly new, but I've been listening to the last Daughters record a lot, and Tarantula Hawk II has never left my hi-fi. There have been a lot of good filthy metal discoveries for me too, like Corpse Vomit (Denmark), Verminous, Boddicker, Haut&Court, Splatterhouse and Grime.

HH: Although I have been a fan for a long time, I've had all the Yob records on rotation, as I got to see them live for the first time last year and I just love Mike's guitar style. Also the latest Pallbearer record, a bit of grind in the form of Feastem. I also got in to a band called Darkshaft recently from NZ/London so I'm hoping to catch them live soon.

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