I started my journey into heavy metal one fateful day in the late 1980’s, when a schoolmate made me a cassette copy of Metallica’s Master of Puppets. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. To this day, that album remains one of my all-time favorites. But, I digress…
In those 25+ years, I’ve noticed a strange but welcome dichotomy: Heavy metal musicians and fans tend to be some of the nicest people you’ll meet, with relatively rare exceptions. This dichotomy is even more pronounced in the more extreme forms of metal. If you watch a band like The Hackish perform, you might think that they’re pissed off psychos whom you should keep at a distance. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are no traces of their menacing onstage presence in their offstage behavior. Exploring the possible reasons behind such marked contrasts is probably best left for a future article, though.
The fact that I’ve been a devoted music listener for over 25 years has turned me into a bit of a jaded prick, if you’ll excuse my language. But when I cued up The Hackish, my ears perked up, and I noticed my head started banging. The purity and honesty of their unbridled brutality struck a chord with me. I got the impression that they were on a mission to deliver an undiluted barrage of uncompromising musical aggression. On their Facebook page, under ‘Description’, it says:
Sounds like a chainsaw demonstrating the birds and the bees through the back of an unsuspecting head.
Subtle they are not.
The Hackish formed in 2006 in North Port, Florida. They’ve gone through many line-up changes, even performing as a two-piece, utilizing programmed tracks to fill out their sound. Basically, core members Andrew and Sandy did whatever it took to keep the onslaught going. Taking time off to wait for the right people seemed out of the question. They had to keep going, no matter what.
You have to respect that.
Ben, Franklin, Andrew, Sandra. Bassist Adam not pictured.
All five members took part in the interview: Andrew (guitar, vocals), Sandra (vocals), Adam (bass), Franklin (guitar), and Ben (drums).
Tell me about the origins of The Hackish.
Andrew: The Hackish originally began in 2006, it was a one-man band. Pretty much gore/grind/death metal with distorted bass and subsonic vocals. Me and Sandra were in another band at the time – I won’t say its name, it’s a bad curse on everybody. That band fell by the wayside by 2008. So, I invited Sandy, and our other guitar player at the time to form what became The Hackish on the ruins of that other band. It was basically the same type of music, which I had written. So, I just brought it over to what The Hackish became.
We’ve had so many line-up changes. We were a five piece briefly in 2009, just for one show. After that pretty much everyone went away and formed another band. Me and Sandy carried on as a two piece with a drum machine. In 2010, Franklin contacted me through Facebook, asking if we’d consider adding another guitar player. I tossed it around for a little while, because we needed a drummer first. But, we agreed to add him, and he’s been around ever since. He’s been a great asset to the band, rounding up what we do.
We’ve auditioned so many drummers and bassists – Ben is the ninth in a year and a half. He’s been with us for about four months. And Adam’s been with us for about a month. Tonight was his first show.
Can you elaborate on the meaning of the band’s name?
Sandra: What we do is a bunch of stuff, different kinds of music “hacked up” and put together. We don’t have a “type.” We’ve got grind, death metal…we speed it up, we slow it down.
Andrew: Yes, so it basically suggests a group of people “hacking things up.” I mean, death/grind is our base, and then we throw in a little bit of black metal, a bit of thrash, a little doom. Hell, we even got some punk/crust parts in there. So, all sorts, really, but with death/grind at its core.
Ben: It’s a very tasty arrangement, in my opinion.
Sandra: We’re different from everybody else.
Describe the songwriting process in the band.
Andrew: I write almost all of the music, then I show it to everyone else to see if they like it, and to see if it fits where we are at the moment. And then they learn it, and throw in their arrangements or ideas to it. Nothing ever gets ignored. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
Even Ben wrote a song on guitar for us. We’re going to be trying that out in the near future.
That’s pretty versatile.
Adam: Most of us play different instruments. I’m a guitar player that moved to bass.
Sandra: I used to be a drummer, and I can play bass a little bit.
Andrew: Everyone in this band can play drums!
Sandra, what led you down the path of becoming this dynamo of vocal brutality?
Sandra: I’ve never heard that come out of anybody’s mouth!
I didn’t think I could do it in the first place, but Andrew kept saying I could do it. He heard me sing along at shows and whatnot.
It was hard to do at first, you have to crack your voice. But, once I got into it, it got better and better. I love it, I can’t get enough of it. It’s like a drug for me. And I love getting in there, mixed in with the crowd. It sounds funny, but I don’t like to be onstage. I like to be on the floor with the guys, getting violent, pushing around. It pumps everything up.
Do you have any specific vocalists that inspired you or influenced you the most?
Sandra: Let’s see…Chris Barnes [original vocalist for Cannibal Corpse and then Six Feet Under]. I love Coby, the vocalist in [local band] Contorted. I also love Brian Johnson from Swamp Gas [another local band].
I’m trying to go as deep as I can go. I wanna be different. I don’t want to be the girl that’s out there doing screams and high vocals and stuff like that. I’m down there with everybody else.
Something that I want to stress is that we are a band. I don’t like it when they put a girl in the front and she’s the center of attention. I can’t do anything without these guys. They’re the heartbeat of this band, I’m just standing there. I want these guys to be noticed more than anything.
What specific things did you do to develop your vocal tone and power?
Lots of practice, stretching the vocal cords. Also, I’m an herbalist, so I drink a lot of tea. I always have two bottles of tea with me on the shows, and it’s all herbal stuff. Tastes like hell, but it works. [laughs]
It’s the years of stretching, it’s a process that started in 2008. I’m still not where I want to be.
Are there plans of releasing a full-length album, physical copies and all at some point?
Andrew: Absolutely. We’re going to start tracking drums very soon. We did some test runs, and it started sounding good out of the box. When we sit down seriously, and start putting the songs down, it’s going to be magic.
Ben: We did a five minute rough mix, and it sounded great. I’m very happy and excited.
How many songs do you have basically ready to go?
Andrew: It’s about thirteen or fourteen. All originals, no covers on this one.
Have any of you played in a non-metal band before?
Ben: I played in a reggae band up north in Rhode Island, called Jah Fist. It was originally going to be a reggae/metal band, but it ended up being just three guys getting insanely stoned and just playing reggae. [Laughs] It was nice.
What’s the most non-metal music you listen to?
Adam: I listen to a lot of classical music.
Sandra: I listen to “massage” music, that shit puts me in Zen mode.
Ben: My girlfriend listens to different things that I kind of get into, like Florence + The Machine, it’s a girl-fronted band. I like Muse, too.
Andrew: I like smooth jazz. Me and Sandy could easily find ourselves at the Clearwater Jazz Fest, just chilling out. I like a little bit of 80’s New Wave.
Franklin, say something, man!
Franklin: I listen to all kinds of music. I listen to grind, death metal and all that stuff that we all listen to. But, I also listen to 70’s music from Sweden and Germany. I also like obscure proggressive music, and electronic music from the 70’s.
What are your long-term plans?
Andrew: Touring, lots of touring. As a three-piece – Sandy, me, and Franklin – we did a small midwest tour last year. From Chicago to Baltimore.
We were supposed to go on a two-week tour from Texas to Massachusetts this year. Unfortunately, the booking company – which I should say bad things about, but for the sake of the interview I won’t – they screwed us over. They left us hanging. So, now we’re focusing on getting the full-length CD done.
We’re getting some killer shows, though. We played with Krisiun, and before that with Fuck The Facts. Tonight we played with Brutality, and we’ll be playing with Cattle Decapitation soon. Also with a lot of good local bands that we’re friends with.
So, when the tour happens, we’ll be ready on all fronts.
Tell me about your lyrics. Who writes them, and what subjects do you like to tackle?
Sandra: I write them. Andrew writes some, but it’s mostly me.
Andrew: She writes about 95% of the lyrics. Sometimes I’ll just come up with little eight-liners. Of course, that’s your typical death/grind in-and-out, boom – done.
Sandra: I overwrite a lot. It’s kinda hard when you’re trying to spit them out fast, so I redo them sometimes. Most of what I write is nasty, horrible subject matter. [Laughs] The last one I wrote, you’d think I’m psycho.
Andrew: Yeah, she does a lot of sociopath, gore-type stuff.
Sandra: I watch Court TV and get ideas from that. Also, the ID Channel, with all that stuff about killers and such. He [Andrew] also watches it to make sure I don’t bring a knife in the bedroom. [Laughs]
I think we’re straying a bit into personal territory…
Andrew: Well, we’re talking about lyrics!
I always have a certain theme in mind. An anti-this, or anti-that. I’m pissed about something, there it is, done.
What are your thoughts on the local metal scene?
Andrew: Sad. [Silence]
Andrew: [Pouting mockingly] Sad Panda. No magic bananas for the little bears.
Sandra: It’s bad, because it’s not true metal anymore. It’s “clique-y.”
You get these bands coming in with a huge attitude, and they think they’re the best thing next to God. They come in with their friends, play their set, and leave with their friends. They don’t have a sense of camaraderie. They think they’re superstars, and they play and leave. They’re very smug, and that’s not how it should be. This was the death metal capital, and it’s being taken over by little smug kids. What they do musically, is fine. I’m not putting that down.
I mean, tonight we had a band that’s been around for twenty-something years, basically starting death metal. And some of them left already [headliner Brutality’s set had not started at this time yet]. And, you have to give them some respect. We couldn’t believe we got on this show, and we’re very thankful for it.
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