Interview with Conner Green of Haken

Photo credit Courtesy of Chipster PR

By Megan Juarez-Fontana

Haken are an English progressive metal band formed in 2007.  HAKEN are Ross Jennings, Richard Henshall, Charlie Griffiths, Pete Jones, Conner Green and Ray Hearne.  Connor Green is the current bass player for the band.  They will be performing at the Nile Theater in Mesa, AZ on Monday May 22nd, 2023.  The following is my interview with Connor.

Megan: Okay, so you are with the band Hawkins, and if you want to introduce yourself a little bit, that would be fantastic.

Connor Green: Sure. My name is Connor Green. I play bass in a metal band called Haken. And although the rest of the members are based in the UK, I am from Indiana, which makes me the only American in a British band. But even so, glad to be here.

Megan: That is actually really cool. How did you come to join the band considering they are based in the UK and you are US based?

Connor Green: It was about nine years ago. It was 2014. They had a previous bass player who had left the band and I was a fan of the band. I think I started listening to them when I was in high school. I was like 17 or 18 at the time. I was listening to bands like Dream Theater and Natural League of Canada for the rest too, Haken. I saw a Facebook post just by chance. It’s not every day that you see a post like, oh, we’re auditioning bass players. And no matter where you’re from, just send an audition tape. I was like, well, I was in college at the time. I was in I U studying jazz base and submitted the tape and somehow got an email back and they invited me to England. I had never been on a plane, never been out of the country. Just a sweet, innocent American boy. And went over to England and auditioned live with them. And somehow it all worked out. And now it’s 2023 and we’re toured all over the world.

Megan: That’s a fun story. That is honestly so cool. So, with you being an American, do you travel to the UK a lot to do things or do you do things more virtually now that technology is much more advanced?

Connor Green: Yeah, it just depends on the situation. With our most recent record, Fauna, although a lot of the writing was done in England that I wasn’t present for, we had a week where we just sat, we gave up all the responsibilities of life and said, okay, let’s just sit in the Airbnb somewhere and write the rest of the album together. And so I traveled over to the UK and we sit in front of a laptop and say, This sounds good. Does this melody work? Does this riff work? Whatever. Usually, it’s all done virtually. I’m sat in the US, they’re sat in the UK, we all… Discourse takes quite a long time and songs take longer to finish as a result. But more recently, I’ve been traveling to the UK and joining all the fellows with the writing sessions. And of course, I have to fly to the UK for tours and I have to fly to US for North American tours and that thing. So it all works out.

Megan: Okay, awesome. I did see a while back; Richard had stated on Reddit that he writes the initial arrangements for the tracking use. And then you guys come in and help complete that writing process. Is that still the writing process you guys use for fauna?

Connor Green: Not anymore. So for the first three albums, I think Richard wrote a majority of the music and everyone would put their stamp on it after he sent the initial outlines. But for Fauna, we had a returning keyboard player, Pete Jones, who was a big part of the writing process. So now these days, it’s all collaborative. Anyone in the band can submit an idea or an entire song or a melody idea, anything at all, and we could build around that. So it’s entirely collaborative now. Of course, Richard does still write a lot, but so do a lot of the other members. So, yeah, it’s changed up a bit over the years. And I think it’s definitely led to a sound that we wouldn’t have if we weren’t collaborative. It would sound different these days. And it’s fun because we all listen to different things and have different influences and it all gel s together in the end.

Megan: Okay. That is really cool that you guys… It went from one way of being written to flowing into a completely new organic way in a different way. So that’s really nice. It’s the progression of a band, which is great to see.

Connor Green: Yeah, go ahead. Sorry.

Megan: Oh, no, that was it.

Connor Green: Yeah, great. Well, no, I guess you got to do that. If you’re in a band for many years, you got to find ways to change it up and find different sounds to cultivate. Otherwise, you’ll just write the same record over and over again, which no one wants to hear that.

Megan: That is true.

Connor Green: At least we don’t.

Megan: You actually tied in a question I was going to ask. It was about Peter. What was it like to bring him back and what was the decision? How did that process happen?

Connor Green: Yeah, it made sense because Pete had been in the band way before I joined. I joined in 2014. He was in the initial incarnation of the band in 2007. He was a young buck then. He was 15, 16 years old. When you’re that age, you never know what you want to do in your life. You don’t know what your career is going to be. So, he decided to leave the band and pursue a degree in physics, a doctorate in theoretical physics, which is way beyond my skill set as a bass player. I play bass, that’s all I do. But he’s a multi-talented gentleman. And yeah, so it just made sense to we had a keyboard player gap to fill and we’re all still great friends with Pete at the time. We’re like, Pete, come on back, see what you think. And he was a great fit. He’s such a great guy to hang out with. And he contributed so much to Fauna. Alphabet and me, I think, was initially a keyboard idea that he had come up with. Night and Gayle, the first single we released from the album that begins with that electric keyboard sound at the beginning. He’s very musical and has a lot of ideas and a lot of personality with his writing. So, it all couldn’t have gone better, I think.

Megan:  Awesome. I actually have been listening to Fauna and I noticed a couple of things and I want to ask who your guys’ musical influences were. There are a few songs that instantly I went straight to almost like Dream Theater [sound] because of how intricate the sound was. It just was very advanced, and it’s not a sound we hear too, too often in metal. And it was something that was really refreshing and really nice. But then you also have these awesome melodies that remind me almost of Queen type sound and feel. So, you guys just have this really great sound that it feels like you can build different styles to get to together, but then you create your own, and I really enjoyed that.

Connor Green: Yeah, it’s an interesting thing. We were six guys who grew up in different parts of the world. I mean, the other five grew up in England. I grew up over here. We’re different ages. We have different… Growing up, we just listen to different things. Like Charlie, when he was growing up, I think he was really into Metallica, Pantera, Queen, things like that. When I was growing up, I was really into Killswitch Engage, System of a Down, and as like a Boney Bear and indie stuff like that. Pete and Rich, Ray and Ross, we all have different things we like. So, on Fauna, a lot of that is on display. “The Alphabet of Me”, for example, draw a lot of influence from a band called Everything Everything based in the UK. They’re kind of an indie band, I guess you’d call it electronic, maybe. Bands like that. And then, of course, let’s not forget, there’s the Gentle Giant, and Queen influences. And in our first song on the album Taurus, the initial draft was called Gojira or Gojira, it was called. And obviously that’s Gojira. It doesn’t sound anything like Gojira, but that’s just the initial influence.

Then jazz guys, too. Tiger Okoshi is a big influence on us. And that’s pretty apparent on songs like “Beneath the White Rainbow” and “Eyes of Ebony”, things like that. So yeah, you bring in dozens of influences and that’s pretty at all. I have different styles. I guess you’re going to sound unique as a result of that anyway, as opposed to just being like, I really like this one band. I just want to sound like that one band. It’ll just sound like that band. But bringing the different styles and you have an interesting recipe that can work. I think it worked on Fauna.

Megan:  Yeah, I agree. It definitely worked on Fauna. And I think it is such a creative album. And it’s something that I feel like we haven’t heard a whole lot in this genre of music. So, it’s really exciting to hear and to see you guys’ step away slightly from what I would say a typical progressive metal type of band would be playing. Exactly. Right. So honestly, super refreshing album, really enticing, really draws you in. I think you guys did a great job with it. It was wonderful. What were some of your influences in writing these songs? Were they drawn from experiences, maybe thoughts, ideas, stories you’ve heard?

Connor Green: Yeah. Well, it depends on which song we’re talking about because, for instance, I’ve never written lyrics before, and there was a song called… Well, at the time, it had no name. There was a song in the album that had no lyrics to it yet, just had melodies. And we were running out of time. And Ross was busy writing lyrics for “Taurus” and “Sempiternal Beings” and things like that. So, I was like, I’ll give it a shot. I don’t know. And so, I heard the song and I listened to it for a while and I thought, there’s this one movie I love. It’s like this 1960s film in Japan Made in Japan called the Mad Fox. And I was like, I really want to write a song based around those ideas in that film. But every song is different. Early on in the process, we had discussed the idea of totems, sort of  an animal that represents a bigger idea or a spirit, that thing. And so that quickly got us talking and thinking about the idea of having an animal representing each song. So there are more obvious ones like “Taurus” and “Nightingale” . But then there are songs that aren’t so obvious like “Beneath the White Rainbow” or “Eyes of Ebony”, which is about passing a British father who was the greatest guy ever. So that’s a very personal story to him. “Beneath the White Rainbow”, that’s just based on a movie I like and ideas that I like. And “Elephants Never Forget”, Charlie wrote those lyrics based around the elephant man. And “Taurus”, Ross wrote those lyrics centering around the Ukrainian situation at the moment and the idea of refugees having to flee their… Where they come from. So, it’s a melting pot of ideas and whatever we wanted to write about, we wrote about. But the continuous theme that links everything together was the idea of totems and animals representing our songs in one form or another.

Megan: Okay, I love that. It’s a really creative and different take into, I feel like, something that most people wouldn’t look at that way. And so, I really like that too. Since the release of your album, how has the feedback been?

Connor Green: Yeah, I think it’s been pretty overwhelmingly positive. Obviously, speaking for myself, I read every comment online. I’ll go to YouTube, Reddit, everything Facebook, and just read what people are saying because you can’t take that stuff personally, but it’s also interesting to see what people say. And the vast majority are digging it. Of course, we have folks that maybe aren’t into the popular sound of the alphabet of me or love bite, valid, that’s fine. We like that sound. We like pop music and try to combine that with progressive sensibilities. Some folks don’t like the metal side of things like beneath the white rainbow or tourists, the guitar driven, riff centered stuff. So, you can’t please everyone. That’s how it goes. But with it being such an eclectic album, you’re going to get more folks saying, I don’t like this, but I like that. I don’t like this, but I like that. So that just comes with the territory. But I feel like the big majority is digging it. And folks at the show, the new songs are going down better than the older material in some markets, which is great. It’s not like we’re just playing the old hits and people just want to hear those and they don’t want to hear the new stuff. People are still hanging on with the new stuff. That tells us everything we’re doing something right, I think.

Megan: I think that’s extremely positive because sometimes you do go to shows and everybody only wants the old stuff. They don’t want the new stuff. What’s nice, too, with your album, like you said, it’s being eclectic, you are being able to touch on the different taste palettes of people and being able to bring them a little bit of something instead of only being curated for one set of sound.

Connor Green: Yeah, it’s definitely challenging. I could imagine as someone who’s never heard of us, they come to a show or they listen to us on Spotify or whatever, and they listen to a song like “The Alphabet of Me”, like, Oh, this is cool. It’s like an indie electronic pop thing. Then they fast forward, they’ll start to forget, and it’s influenced by Gentle Giant and some of the vocal melody is atonal and it just all over the place. I can imagine that’s jarring for some people, but that’s what we ended up writing and that’s what we like to do. So, it’s a challenge, but hopefully some folks, they like the challenge. Some of our fans like that thing, which is great.

Megan: It’s what keeps music exciting and currently evolving. And I love that. Absolutely. You have been on tour since May third, correct?

Connor Green: Yes, we’ve been on our North American tour since May third. We did seven weeks in Europe in February and March, a little bit of April as well.

Megan: How has touring been so far? Which has been your favorite country, state, city that you’ve been to within this year that really stood out to you?

Connor Green: Yeah. Well, tour has been great so far. The shows have all been more than we could have imagined they would be. We didn’t have to post pandemic, so we don’t know how folks are ready to get out there and go to shows. But it seems like they definitely are, which is great for us and other touring bands. But the morale of the band is great. We’re all best buddies. We go out and have dinner together all the time. And that helps keep us going. As far as the favorite city, every one of us is going to have a different answer. Personally, in Europe, I love Scandinavia. I think those countries are beautiful. I love the coffee. That’s the best coffee bill. Like coffee roasters over there for some reason, which I’m really into. So yeah, Helsinki, I love Copenhagen, I love Oslo, I love those. That part of the world is great. And then the US, I think I was blown away by Montreal in Quebec. We played this event that we played before as a support act, but we headlined it and it was just packed out. It was one of the best shows we’ve ever done. So, I would say in North America, Montreal is my choice.

Megan: Okay, awesome. I just have a couple more questions and then that’s pretty much it. Is there any city you’re looking forward to that’s still left to hit on your tour?

Connor Green: Yeah, for sure. We haven’t done a headlining show in San Francisco in a while. I love that town. I think the last time we played there, headlining was maybe 2018, 2019. And that show was great. The venues over there are really nice. I think just California in general, LA, San Francisco, those places, we always had a great turnout there. As well as Chicago is one of our biggest markets. Any of those three, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, those are always the forward in those shows.

Megan: I’m always partial to the Bay Area, but that’s where I’m from.

Connor Green: Oh, you’re from the Bay? Yeah, of course. It’s the best. I love it.

Megan: Over there. The music scene is great. The music scene, I’ve relocated to Phoenix, and the music scene is really great out here too. Shows are fun. Both locations are great. I hope they both blow your mind. My last two questions. If you could create a dream tour with your dream band in it, whether they are alive or not, who would you want to put on that?

Connor Green: Oh, boy. Dream tour. Well, I’m not going to have us headlining because I want these to be huge shows. I think a really nice package would be us opening gentle giant, playing next. And then maybe the headliner would be let’s say Phil Collins. I’m going to go with Phil Collins, his 80s era Phil Collins. That’s what I would go for. He or Gary or Phil Collins, their solo projects. Either one would be fantastic.

Megan: Okay, interesting. That’s a very interesting mix. I like it.

Connor Green: Yeah. You got some poppy stuff, you got some really troggy stuff, and you got some heavy stuff on us. I think that would be… It’s never going to happen, of course, but if it did, that would be my dream tour, I think.

Megan: That would be honestly a really interesting tour to go and witness, I feel like.

Connor Green: Yeah, absolutely.

Megan: My final question is, do you have any pre show rituals? I love to ask this with people because everybody’s so different.

Connor Green: Well, speaking for myself, I am the classic pick up my base and just play it for an hour guy. I just play… I actually, I think I heard a comedian say this once about, I think he was talking to a musician, I think it was Sam Smith, the singer. He told him Sam Smith was really nervous about something. And the comedian told him, just sing what you’re going to sing tonight just to get your head in the game. And I said, it’s a simple idea, but I never thought of it. I was like, oh, I have to play all these warm up routines, and I have to have this very specific regiment that I go through before the show. But I thought, I’m not going to play this song. I’m going to play Tonight. Why wouldn’t I do that? I just never thought of it. Sometimes the simple ideas just go right over your head. So, I just sit down on my bass and I slowly play some of the riffs we’re going through tonight and make sure my fingers are loose. Then I just run through the most difficult parts of the show. Ross, our singer, has a different warm up routine.

He does a lot of breath exercises and sings some melodies from the show and sings scales and that thing. But as I’m speaking for the guitar players, we just sit down and make sure our fingers are moving and we play the risk we’re going to play in front of the crowd and it gets our heads in it pretty I think better than a typical warm up routine would.

Megan: Okay. Honestly, I think that’s great advice. I’ve also never heard anybody mention something like that, so I think that’s really great. That’s a great idea.

Connor Green: Yeah, I think it works. I think we’re playing tighter as a result as a unit.

Megan: Which is always great. You always want to be able to be a better of a unit.

Connor Green: Yeah, give the audience what they paid for.

Megan: Yes. That is actually all I have. Question wise, is there anything you have for me or anything I can do for you before I head out?

Connor Green: No, I don’t think so. Thanks for talking. I guess in the Phoenix area we will be at the Nile, I think that little venue there. Was it Mesa area, I think.

Megan: Yeah, it’s a great venue. I love it.

Connor Green: Yeah, it’s good. We’ve been there once. Well, we were there last year supporting some of the acts. Now we’re playing ourselves, which is great. I got my haircut there last time, so I’m looking forward to that again.

Megan: That’s awesome.

Connor Green: Yeah.

Megan: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Connor Green: I think that’s it. Yeah.

Megan: Thank you for doing this interview and I hope the rest of the tour is great. And hopefully, I will catch you when you guys are here.

Connor Green: All right, that’d be great. Thanks for talking. Awesome.

Megan: Thank you.

Connor Green: All right, bye bye.

Megan: Bye.

I would like to thank Connor Green of Haken for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.  Again, Haken will be performing at the Nile Theater in Mesa, AZ on Monday May 22nd, 2023.  You can check out more information about Haken and future tour dates on their social media accounts.

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