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Bakken (band)
A few days ago, I obtained a promotional copy of Bakken‘s self-released full-length album, Death of a Hero, and I couldn’t help but give it my undivided attention. Plenty of spins and a full review later, and I was hooked. Immediately after, I excitedly put some interview questions together to hopefully give this unsigned band a little more exposure, and Simon Pickett, their guitarist and vocalist, took the time to answer them.

How’s everything goin on your end. I assume you guys have been pretty busy.

Yup, its always busy in the land of Bakken! In recent news we’ve just recruited a new bass player Adrian Stockman, he is a fantastic talent and made us all raise our game to keep up with him, he learned the whole album in one week!! (I’m not kidding) and took to the stage like he’s been in the band for years. We are concentrating on promoting Death Of A Hero as much as possible, gigging all around Ireland and have a European tour planned for July.

First off, how long did it take to write Death of a Hero? Bakken formed in 2011, and in 2012 you release this album on your own.

The album came together very quickly to be honest. I’d actually returned back to Ireland from England to recover from Lyme Disease, so I was off work for a long time. I had a lot of free time to write music and also had alot of pent up emotions from being so sick for so long. In Early 2011 I had started to recover, I felt like I had my life back and I couldnt stop writing music :-) I wrote our first song “Fallocy” (which never actually made the album) in the Summer of 2011, then wrote the rest of the album in the space of 6 months or so. It took a serious amount of work for everyone to learn the songs in a short space of time, but we knew we had to be completely finished by February 2012, so we knuckled down and got on with it. Mark-Anthony and Niall had some great input on the album, some of my favourite riffs were developed from original ideas by Mark-Anthony (like the one at the start of Sasquatch or the start of Voyage Of Aodh).

Death of a Hero honestly sounds like something a band would put out after years of honing their sound, and I was surprised to see no references to past bands. Is Bakken really the first group all four of you have been in? If so, please explain how you came to such a tight concept for your music without showing signs of testing the waters.

I’ve been in bands before and to be honest and have been writing music on and off since my teens. I was in a band in Cornwall in England called Pyrate Bryde, Darkest Day was originally a Pyrate Bryde song and I used some riffs from other songs and recycled them for Bakken. Ive never been in a straight out metal band before though, it was mostly hard rock. Mark-Anthony hadnt been in many bands before but had spent many years “down-picking” his way to ultimate rhythmic perfection playing along to Metallica and Megadeth songs mostly! Niall has been in loads of bands (mostly covers bands I think). I knew of him as the best drummer in town, so when we started Bakken we went looking for him. Rather ironically he was in the process of giving up and about to sell his kit! But we dragged him outta retirement and we are glad we did. Mark-Anthony still laughs at the look on my face when I first heard him play, my jaw nearly hit the floor. I guess I’d been searching for years to find someone with that talent, we are very lucky to have him.

Some of the inspirations for the band are pretty obvious, but would you mind running down some of the most important groups or albums to you that influenced your song writing on this album, or pushed you to even venture into forming Bakken?

Yeah sure. Well, for me there wouldnt be Bakken if it werent for Helloween and Maiden (and perhaps Megadeth). Probably the biggest influence on song writing is Kai Hansen and his work with Helloween and Gamma Ray. I actually watched both bands last night in London, he is a phenomenal talent, an amazing song writer, singer and guitarist. Most of my guitar playing style is based on the way he plays, obviously I’m nowhere near as good! I also love Brian May, Glenn Tipton, Adrian Smith, Alexi Laiho to name a few. Obviously our influences come from a mixture of early thrash like Metallica and Megadeth and some more melodic influences from NWOBHM, power metal and even pop rock. I grew up listening to Queen alot, obviously we dont sound much like them, but I remember studying their songs for years and being amazed at the complexity of the arrangements and how they worked key changes etc into their music to great effect. Some influential albums growing up would have been ABBA “arrival” (my Mum played it non-stop when I was I kid and I swear thats why I like power metal so much now!), Therapy? “Troublegum”, Iron Maiden’s “Live After Death”, Megadeth’s “Youthanasia” and “Countdown to Extintion”, all the Early Helloween stuff…. Nowadays I’m a big fan of Children Of Bodom, I think they are fantastic. Mark-Anthony has got me into alot more 70s rock, Ive always loved Thin Lizzy, but I’m listening alot to bands like Rainbow, Rush and Deep Purple more at the minute.

You guys recorded at Parlour Studios, which has worked with many bands like Evil and Savage Messiah. Was the final product from those bands the reason you chose this studio? If not, then why?

Yes, I guess knowing that big bands recorded there played a part. I remember coming across some interviews on you tube with Neil Haynes (our producer) talking about his studio and was really impressed. It was great value for money (with free accomodation) and recording the whole thing over a two week period really suited us. Neil is now a great friend, he is an absolute legend! and I think he did us proud with the end product.

I love how this album sounds, but couldn’t find any technical information. Who produced and mastered this album, and why did you decide to work with these individuals?

I’ve mentioned Neil, we also used Dave Greenberg (who was recommended by Neil) at Sonopod in the U.S. for the mastering. He did an amazing job and was very fast too!

How about your gear while recording? What were you and the others using to achieve the sound on Death of a Hero?

A big part of our sound is Marshall amps for the guitars. Unlike alot of modern bands we dont downtune far from E standard and we both use high output active pickups. I think we were going for a kind of modernised version of the “Painkiller” sound, so alot of 80s effects like delay of the leads etc. Neil used some clever use of delays to make the rhythm guitars sound a bit thicker, most of the time there are only two guitars playing, me on the left and Mark-Anthony on the right. In terms of production the end result was a compromise between us wanting a rawer 80s sound with less compression and more instrument separation and Neil who wanted a more commercial sound. We are really happy with the end product, its very clear and powerful. *smiles*

Bakken is selling the album on CD format, but you also have it available as a “Name Your Price” download on Bandcamp. How is that working out for you? Do you think it helped spread the word of your existence? Also, what was the highest price paid for it, or were they all free?

Yeah, this was a strange tactic to some people, but it made sense to us to offer it for free just to get our name out there. People who want to illegally download it are going to anyway and people who want to support us end up paying for it anyway, so I think its worked well for us. I think the most someone paid was £10, Big thanks Mr Paul Louge!! *smiles*

Have you given thought to taking advantage of the traditional Metal sound of Bakken and making Death of a Hero available on vinyl? I’d love to hear it in that format personally.

People often mention vinyl and to be honest we havent looked into it yet! That was before our time so initially it didnt cross our minds. I think we will do that as a limited edition maybe before the next release

I noticed you guys have have done a number of shows with “bigger name” acts like Hell. Who else have you guys toured with, and what was it like opening for groups like them?

Wow, yeah, Hell were absolutely amazing! Best live band Ive ever seen and the nicest bunch of guys you will ever meet. They would be the biggest band we’ve opened for, an amazing honour as we all love the album. We havent done any extensive touring yet, but plan to get to Europe/Uk a few times this year. We are currently saving for a van which is going to make things alot easier!

I see you guys are also performing at the Wacken Metal Battle Ireland 2013 on April 27th, which is marked as “Final.” I assume this is to perform at Wacken Open air this year. What has this experience been like for you, and are you excited to be in the final leg against Overoth?

We reached the semis last year and now the final this year. There are lots of great bands playing at it and its a fantastically well run event. Its funny, most of the bands playing have some personal connection with us, Andrew of Overoth is our PR agent, the guys from 7daysdead gave us our first ever gig and Pete from Zombified makes our CDs! So, although its a competition I’ll be genuinely happy to see any of our mates make it to Germany and represent Ireland there.

Aside the potential of performing at Wacken this year, what else can Bakken fans look forward to this year, or the distant future?

I’ve mentioned some touring, that is a priority this year. We plan to have a new record out early next year too so watch this space!

Is there anything else you would like to mention I didn’t get to touch on?

We have new merch and a brand new website so please check it out!

Thanks again for your time! I wish you guys the best of luck with that show for Wacken, you deserve it. Take care!

Many thanks to you mate, stay in touch.

Interview conducted thanks to Future PR.