HAJI’S KITCHEN

Boy this was a blast from the past. HAJI’S KITCHEN. I reviewed their debut album back in the 90s and I liked it back then. Now in 2012 I came upon them again. I just had to interview them. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

I remember your debut album. I even reviewed it. I thought you were heading for great things but everything seemed to have died out. What happened to the band after that debut album?
-We toured regionally to promote the album as much as we could. Then we started hearing from fans that they couldn’t get copies of the disc. (This was before iTunes or Napster, so discs & cassettes were the only way to go) Turns out that the 5,000 or so US copies had sold out! Shrapnel refused to print more, saying they would likely end up losing money on the deal, and weren’t prepared to take the risk. Guitarist Brett Stine left the band to learn to play jazz and was replaced by his older brother Scott. Vocalist Eddie Ellis was replaced by Vince Mullins and we went back into writing mode for what would eventually become 2001’s Sucker Punch.

How frustrating is it that you can’t do anything to change people’s minds into not following trends and instead go for quality?
-Not very, if I’m honest. More people are always going to like Justin Bieber than Haji’s Kitchen. All we can do is be jealous of his legions of screaming chicks!

You have a new album out now. How does it fit into the progression curve of Haji’s Kitchen?
-Logically, I hope. I think it takes some of the best aspects of both previous discs, but definitely has its own identity. Daniel really brought something new to the table with his vocal input. These songs wouldn’t be as good as they are without him.

What made you release it on your own? How much has the record industry changed since the 90s?
-We had a desire to make whatever kind of album we wanted without any outside influence, and we had the financial ability to make it happen. I could fill a novel answering that 2nd question… The industry now bears almost no resemblance to what it did back then. You don’t *need* a professional studio or a record label to make an album anymore, when both were previously indispensable. Distribution of music bears almost no resemblance either. Internet retailers like Amazon have mostly replaced traditional brick & mortar record stores for physical product. Since we’ve put “Sucker Punch” up for sale on cdbaby and itunes, we’ve sold about 4x more downloads than discs, which I didn’t expect either.

When you released that first album what were you expecting would happen?
-I genuinely had no idea what to expect. We hoped to sell enough discs to get noticed and picked up by a bigger label, which obviously didn’t happen! What I definitely didn’t expect was the world-wide following we picked up. I don’t mean that everyone everywhere loved us, (obviously), but we kept hearing of groups of fans all over the world that really loved the disc, which was awesome!

How much did grunge kill off the chances of making it for the rest of the bands?
-The changing trends definitely killed a lot of bands chances of making it. Starting with the Seattle grunge bands and moving through things like Korn & Limp Bizkit, anything remotely high-level-musicianship-driven was “out”.

I gotta ask about the name. What is Haji’s Kitchen? Do you think that the name has let you down or even scared potential fans into not checking out the band?
-Eddie Head has always loved Indian food, which definitely has a unique odor. He brought some leftovers into Sunday afternoon rehearsal for lunch, and our drummer at the time, Clint Barlow, said “Damn! It smells like Haji’s Kitchen in here!” We had gigs booked and were looking for a name, and that was what stuck. Effects of such an unusual name are hard to know. Def Leppard sold bajillions of records.. is Haji’s Kitchen really any worse of a name? We’ll never know. I can say we’re not tempted to change it.. nobody ever forgets it, after all. (I didn’t – Anders)

When you have a history that dates back to the 90s and you still isn’t that known to a greater mass what is it that makes you still wanting to do this?
-Just the drive to create music, if I’m honest. We’re not expecting to make millions (or even thousands) of dollars or tour the world or anything.. if we can break even on production costs, we’ll be happy to do it as long as we’re creatively motivated to do so.

What kind of scene is there for Haji’s Kitchen in 2012? Where does the band fit in with today hardrock/metal scene?
-I definitely think there’s space in the scene for us. There are quite a few musicianship-oriented bands doing well at the moment.. I’d hope something of our material would appeal to their fans. I think overall, the metal scene is stronger now than it’s been since pre-grunge.

What future is the for Haji’s Kitchen?
-We’re planning to immediately get back into writing & demoing new material for the next disc. Brett and Eddie both have a ton of riffs and ideas to dig into already. I’d say we’ve definitely got some crazy things up our sleeves… Can’t wait to hammer it all out!

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