HESSLER is another band from the Windy city. A band in a long line of great bands all coming from Chicago. Let yourself be taken away by this band by reading this interview to start with. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
I have a fascination for band names. I think that it is interesting how common words take on completely new meanings when used as band names. But yours I’m not sure of. Where does it come from?
-Where HESSLER comes from is not really as important as where it is going. It is very tough to come up a band name that works as almost everything has been beaten to death. I was never a fan of multi worded band names; how the hell would fans be able to chant “Once more as I die bleeding through the September dream”? HESSLER came to me long ago when I was jumping through a fire that I made with my friends, and it is a flag we are all proud to fly.
To me Chicago has always been a great town for hardrock/metal. That might not be true anymore. So what kind of scene is there in Chicago these days?
-I moved around a lot in my lifetime, from Yugoslavia to America and within the U.S., finally ending up in Illinois (Chicago) in 2002. After creating HESSLER and starting to actively play in 2009, I have had the privilege and in many cases massive headaches in dealing with bands in the Chicago scene. I heard good things about the scene here in the 80s and 90s but I was not around at that time to gauge the difference when compared to today. All I can say is that 3 years ago you would have to beg people to come to concerts. Now you just show up and they are there. I do wish that more pretty girls would drift away from the autotuned top 40 shit and come to metal shows, but we are fortunate enough to have hot gals at our concerts. Once they see a show, they ALWAYS come back. For a long time I’ve dreamed of having a sunset strip heavy metal type of scene in Chicago, but the hipsters are currently winning; we will keep fighting!
In Sweden we are not immune to talent shows on TV. Do you feel that because of all these damn talent shows people expect the big stuff without having to work for it?
-I do, but it is a different beast. I do not follow American Idol or X Factor, etc. but I do know of say James Durbin and him getting to perform with Judas Priest. For the most part every band in their history (us included) has tried to or won a contest, whether for money or recording, and some of the biggest bands in the world started off like that. There is nothing about winning a contest that is “selling out” but REAL fans appreciate and value for a longer time bands that do it the old hard fashioned way of paying their dues. There is a reason Iron Maiden would sell out stadiums with little or no radio or MTV support; the fans grew with the band and stayed loyal up to the present time. I think the fans of the acts on the TV shows are just pop fans that jump from one cool thing to the next. I don’t want that. We want to play to actual headbangers that sing the words and trade their energy with us. Five headbangers are worth 20 American Idol studio audiences.
How tough is it today to build a name for yourself these days? Do you feel that it has changed with the introduction of social media?
-Social Media is a double edged sword. For example, when we put out our first EP Bad Blood, the very first copy sold in Osaka, Japan. This was not a friend of mine, or of anyone in the band, or any of our friends’ friend. That is the power of social media. People across the world can find out easily about your music. It is all there for the taking. The other edge of the sword is having 100s of “bands” in one market that clog up the social waves and have never played a show; anyone can make a facebook page, tag their pics, and say they are in the band. It would be a waste of time to create such a thing, but it should be a requirement that you cannot make a band facebook until you have played a certain amount of live shows. People think too highly of themselves, and the best litmus test for if you are making a name for yourself, is if people come to your shows. We are fortunate enough to have actual fans at gigs and excited for everything to grow because we have been working hard for years. George Young, the older brother of Malcolm and Angus from AC/DC, once said “You are not a band until you’ve played 2,000 gigs.” We are a very humble band that has been fortunate to have a steady growth, but there are bands out there who have payed their dues and never get the credit they deserve.
When you release albums and not being signed to a major label, is that something positive?
-One of my favorite stories is when Atlantic Records offered M.C. Hammer and $80,000. record contract and he replied with “I sell that much out of the trunk of my car.” HESSLER music and merchandise sells very well and this is all set up and maintained by us. I have turned down many offers from smaller labels because I believe we can do most of the work and keep the full revenue to put back into the band to grow. A larger label or one that would put time and effort into HESSLER would be fantastic because of all of their built in connections such as global distribution and booking agents that could get us onto large summer festivals such as Sweden Rock, Hellfest, or Wacken. Labels do packaged tours with larger acts on their roster and this is a great way to introduce new fans to younger bands like ours. Who knows what the future holds with major labels, but I know that we are all very hungry to get overseas (something we are setting up for later in 2013) and to tour consistently with larger acts with whom we would fit. We are dedicated, hard working and high energy band; if nobody bites on what we are doing, we will keep doing it our way.
When you tour does that bring in a new fan base or are you just playing to the already converted?
-Both. We just did a Southwest US tour to promote the new record “Comes With the Territory” and get out of the Chicago cold 😉 In many towns we would see fans that saw us play the Rocklahoma festival in May, but we gained many, many new fans. The key is to go out every 3 – 4 months to keep the fan base growing.
Is it possible to make a living out of being in a band just by playing live and releasing albums? What does it take to make the band a full time gig?
-Every penny I have ever made playing music I put back into the band for the van, more mercahndise, cds, recording, etc. Until you are a larger act, or making good amount of money on your guarantees, you cannot spend the money. Like Scarface’s boss said “Don’t get high of your own supply.” In recent years when I read the interviews of musicians I looked up to as a kid, they are being more free with saying what they did for a day job before they made it, or sometimes at the same time. It is possible but that all depends on the fans and how much they put back in return.
Has new technology made it easier to get a great sound, a sound that previously only was for those who could pay for the big studios?
-Definitely! It gives you the option to do so much more in a smaller and less costly environment. Frankie (guitar) and myself are particular about using actual guitar heads and micing real guitar cabs. We play our guitar parts from beginning to end, same with Marcus’ drum tracks and Erik’s bass. I don’t believe in playing the verse riff then cutting and pasting it on the grid. When you do that, you lose the little imperfections that make music what it should be. Technology is there to make edits and capturing your playing easier, but I think too many artists use it to compensate for something they lack.
What kind of sound are you aiming for when you enter a studio? How do you achieve that?
-A live sound. When you play live your blood is flowing, sweat dripping, and you play songs a bit faster. We play as a full band when tracking drums in order to set a click tempo to make edits easier later on. Sometimes you over think it and record a song too slow which takes some of the energy out of it. My favorite song of all time is Hallowed Be Thy Name by Iron Maiden and if you compare the tempo on Number of the Beast to say live at Beast Over Hammersmith (when the band is on fire), the studio version is slower. I guess that leaves something new for the fans when seeing the band live. Main point, capture your live energy in audio form.
What kind of bands do you feel close to? Any special country that is special to you?
-Everyone in the band has different influences. You can check out http://www.hesslerchicago.com to find out more. When it comes to Heavy Metal, I feel close to Iron Maiden, Accept, Judas Priest, and early W.A.S.P. I love the twin guitar attacks, the lead voice, the stage presence, the amazing fans, and everything about the message and the live shows. Three countries I find special are Japan, Germany, and Sweden. I have never been to Japan but everyone knows how loving the fans are to heavy metal bands that they like and music is still appreciated in culture. My ultimate life goal has always been to play Japan (hopefully many many times). Smany of my favorite bands come from Germany; Accept, Rammstein, Warlock, Scorpions, Running Wild, OOMPH! etc. So much metal and industrial history, and I’m really looking forward to playing Deutschland. In the past few years many glam bands have come out of Sweden, not really sure why everyone is now covering themselves in dirt and grime because they’re starting to look the same, but I would love to play a big festival to prove that live we can more than hang with the bands that are out today. Sweden Rock always has so many great bands, this year included, and I look forward to playing there one day.