Interview with Haiduk
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 2, 2012
"Good Metal should be evil-sounding, heavy and fast with lots of energy. No fucking slow shit or happy-sounding melodies". Where did that come from, you may be wondering?
Haiduk is a one-man band hailing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada and is all about combining elements from Thrash Metal, Death Metal and Black Metal, into one big, ear-slaughtering, devastating experience. Mr. Haiduk's debut full-length studio album, Spellbook, was just released in July 2012 and it's a monstrous piece of work to prove to everyone that you don't necessarily need a full band to make it work the way it should.
So, let's open Spellbook slightly more, and ask a few things about Haiduk's incarnation of evil and his plans to become an evil prophet at home and elsewhere too...
Luxi: So, what's new in Calgary, Canada? Expecting the NHL season to begin and the Calgary Flames to win the Stanley Cup in 2013?
Haiduk: Not fucking likely, even with a good Finnish goalie like Miikka Kiprusoff. Right now not even expecting a season, since the league is still bickering about money...
Luxi: Then let's change the subject slightly and talk about this one-man project, named Haiduk a little bit. It's solely a solo project of yours and you handle all the instruments, programmed drums and everything. A natural first question would be, why on earth did you decide to do Haiduk alone, without hiring any other members for the group?
Haiduk: I work best alone, in a solitary environment, where I can focus with no distractions. That's the way it's been since I first started. I became so used to having to write all the guitar, drum and bass lines for all my songs anyway, it just turned into a sort of obsession to control every aspect of the music right to the end. I know exactly where I wanna take the project and never saw any point in collaborating.
Luxi: Spellbook is your debut full-length studio album, which you released on your own this year. In all honestly, the album sounds awesome. It's loaded with speed, heaviness, energy, aggression and overall it's just amazing considering there's just one guy behind this record. What kind of (challenging) process was it to get the whole thing done? The album doesn't sound like anything one could do in just a few weeks. I would guess months and months of work have been squeezed into this record, correct?
Haiduk: Yeah, it took about a year and a half to make it. A year was spent just writing music and songs, discarding songs, writing more... until I had ten that I felt were good enough. Another couple of months to finalize the drum tracks, and then more time to put everything together; lyrics, texts, concept, artwork, equipment, studio...
Luxi: What was the hardest part of the whole process of making the album sound exactly the way you wanted it to sound? The programmed drum parts, perhaps?
Haiduk: Yes, the drums were one of the hardest, most painstaking parts, definitely. Also the whole mix and the way the instruments sound and come together in the recording can be really hard to nail. I worked closely with the studio engineer while recording and mixing and he did a great job making the music translate well.
Luxi: When you recorded your 8-song demo, Plagueswept , in 2010, I am sure you learned a trick or two that made creating the Spellbook album easier. The kinds of things that make Haiduk sound like a full band and convince people that Haiduk is worth their time. Comments?
Haiduk: What I learned from Plagueswept is that I shouldn't attempt to record an album by myself with my own recording equipment ever again. There's a lot involved in professional recording today, so many techniques and programs, and that stuff is not really what I wanna focus on, so this time I left that to a local studio engineer, Robert Kukla.
Luxi: What can you tell us about all those symbols and stuff on the cover of Spellbook? I believe Spellbook is a concept album and your interest in things like magic and sorcery is reflected in the lyrics, correct sir?
Haiduk: Yes. The artwork was done by Gragoth from Luciferium War Graphics. The concept and symbols were designed by me. Each symbol corresponds to a song, or "spell", on the album, and follows the same order.
I grew up enjoying fantasy books and games which deal with magic, in a fictional sense, and imaginary worlds, and that's what influenced this album. I tried to relate to some of the ambitious and solitary wizard characters that were always furthering their dark arts, and this kind of inspired me to try to further my own desire for creating dark music. I enjoy fantasy and nature, and escaping into a completely different, distant world.
Luxi: What are your musical inspirations?
Haiduk: Originally inspired by Mustaine, Jon Schaffer, Nödtveidt, Galder, Satyr, Kuusisto, any guitarist capable of writing good songs and shredding rhythms. In terms of inspiring me to go ahead as a solo-project, I think it was originally bands like Burzum and Vintersorg who showed that it could actually be done.
Luxi: Sticking to this topic of inspirations, are there particular albums out there that you could say have been big reasons for why you became a Metal musician in the first place? Is Haiduk a tool that allows you to express some of your own inner feelings?
Haiduk: I guess a couple of early favorites I could list would be Megadeth's So Far, So Good... and Sepultura's Arise. One album I started liking later was Carnal Forge's Firedemon. It is one that influenced Spellbook a lot because of its constant focus on aggression, speed and relentless riffs.
I don't use Haiduk to express my own feelings. Thematically, the project is an outlet for creative ideas of a fictional/fantasy world I've been developing for some time. I always had plans for writing a fantasy book, and have written many short stories, so this album combines that with my passion for playing Metal.
Luxi: How would you define a good Metal song? What should it contain in order to grab your immediate attention?
Haiduk: Cool riffs, a good structure, and it has to flow well. Production is important too. I think good Metal should be evil-sounding, heavy and fast with lots of energy. No fucking slow shit or happy-sounding melodies.
Luxi: Your vocals remind me of Karl Willetts of Bolt Thrower, and I guess I am not the only one who has said so...
Haiduk: It's strictly coincidental if we sound alike, but I heard people comparing Haiduk to Bolt Thrower even when Plagueswept came out. When I checked out their music I could see some similarities in the riffs as well as the vocal approach.
Luxi: Your background is Serbian, as the band name Haiduk (or 'hajduk' in Serbian) would prove to some of us, at least. Did you live in Serbia when you were just a kid and then relocate to Canada?
Haiduk: I grew up in Bosnia and Serbia during the civil war in Yugoslavia, and later moved to Canada because of the economic hardships that followed the war.
Luxi: Do you still have connections to your home country? Do you, for example, correspond with Serbian Metal musicians on a regular basis, sharing your own thoughts and stuff with them?
Haiduk: I've talked to some musicians from Serbia while promoting Haiduk on the web. There seems to be a lot of Black Metal bands coming out of that area, often focused on pagan Slavic themes, which I also share an interest in.
Luxi: Are there some new Haiduk tracks in the works, and if so, how would you compare them to the songs on Spellbook? Do you believe that the musical direction on your most recent release will continue on your next release, i.e. lots of speed and blasting stuff, tons of menacing, high-octane riff storms, evil-tinged death grunts, etc.?
Haiduk: The speed and ferocity will not relent. If there's another release, it will continue in the same direction and push for more complexity and more technical guitar work.
Luxi: Playing live might be a tricky thing to do with just one guy. Have you been thinking of getting Haiduk on stage and hiring some live musicians to perform with you? Is that something that may eventually happen?
Haiduk: I'm currently playing live shows as a one-man unit. Basically, I'm on stage doing vocals and guitar, while the bass and drum tracks are pre-recorded and played back through the PA. Adding live musicians is always a possibility.
Luxi: If you could be my tourist guide, what are some cool places for Metal in your area that you would recommend for anyone who would like to spend some quality time attending a Metal concert?
Haiduk: A lot of good shows happen on the University of Calgary grounds, at MacEwan Hall. I saw Dimmu Borgir there in 2010, and Venom is actually playing there this September.
Luxi: Dana Lee, from Oshawa, Ontario, had a one-man band called Iron Warrior back in the late 80s. He released one demo, The Deadly Illusion, back in 1988 and it was pretty darn good, for a demo. Is Iron Warrior a name that is familiar to you?
Haiduk: Not familiar with that project, but it's cool if someone was doing it back in '88.
Luxi: Can you tell me about the current Metal scene in your hometown these days? Canada has always had a great reputation for quality Metal bands and I think this applies to some of the Metal bands coming from Calgary, Alberta as well. Is this correct?
Haiduk: There's a solid and growing Metal scene in Calgary right now. There are lots of great bands popping up as well as ones who have been around a long time. I've played with a lot of the bands here and the scene is really supportive.
Luxi: I'm sure you are aiming to keep Haiduk alive for many years to come so I am wondering what goals have you set for yourself?
Haiduk: Haiduk will keep forging ahead. The goal is to never slow down or soften the sound, and to never make an album that I don't stand behind 100%.
Luxi: If Haiduk was a short film (forbidden to those under the age of 18), what types of elements there would be in the script?
Haiduk: It would be a story in a fictional world in which invasion, warfare, and great battles are waged among factions of demons, knights, orcs, and a myriad of unique races and beasts, with magic and necromancy playing a big part in it.
Luxi: That is the end of this interview, thank you so much Mr. Haiduk for taking some time to getting this done. Last, but not least, I sincerely want to wish you all the best with your future endeavors with Haiduk. Want to throw in some closing words, perhaps?
Haiduk: Thank you.
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