Interview with Hank “Rain” Irving of WHILE HEAVEN WEPT
Hi Rain, thanx for having some time to do an interview with METAL FIELDS.
Hi Rain, thanx for having some time to do an interview with METAL FIELDS.
Rain, your new album „Fear of Infinity“ will be released soon. What can the listeners expect of the new album ?
They can expect what I feel is a solid record that not only caters to our fans expectations of what a WHW album should be, but those fans whom have yet been exposed to WHW, regardless of their stylistic preferences. As we went through the recording process of FOI, I told the band members that this record really seems to hone in on many styles of metal. From traditional heavy metal, to black metal, to doom, as well as our signature epic stylings. This record is somewhat thematic. Should the listener truly give it the spins it deserves, I feel as though they will “get it” more so than if they listen once and give it a grade. Upon the mixing process, Tom and I discovered that this record, with the content and order of the songs, that FOI truly speaks to the process of bereavement. The listener should pick up on an array of emotions ranging from anger towards the beginning, to depression and bargaining towards the middle, and ultimately to acceptance and peace towards the end. Kerb, we are pleased with the outcome of FOI and absolutely cant wait to release this record to metal fans worldwide.
On the album cover I think I can see a ship cruising through the cosmos. Can you agree with that and is there a special statement behind using this artwork?
Wow, the artwork!! Its quite involved as you might agree. Tom has had a true knack for selecting artists that help him convey the WHW themes and visuals for each of the WHW releases. Fear of Infinity is no different. I actually needed to “study” the cover art for hours in order to make some semblance of the message intended. Let me say that I do get it, however, I do not want to interject my opinions/theories/ and or insight because it is my wish that the listener, upon truly paying close attention to the audio content of FOI, can then reference the cover art by which to make an assumption.
With the new album you moved to Nuclear Blast, one of the biggest metal labels now. What was the reason to do that and do you await to move more steps forward with this label in the back?
Nuclear Blast, by far, IS the biggest metal label and they have managed to become quite the “metal force” by signing incredibly talented bands past and present. We have had somewhat of a relationship with NB prior to FOI. From what I have heard, NB were very fond of our 2009 release on Cruz Del Sur “Vast Oceans Lachrymose”. It made total sense as a band for us to work with NB for FOI. Their reach is phenomenal. The support they offer their artists is amazing. Let it be said, we are extremely honored to have the backing of Nuclear Blast for “Fear of Infinity”. We know that the potential for FOI will be truly realized with a label like NB behind us and that brings us a lot of peace and satisfaction as artists. In regards to moving forward. We will always move forward as a band. As you may have learned by listening to WHW albums in the past, we have yet to produce a product that is reminiscent of the last release. After FOI, who knows which direction we will go and whom with as far as support is concerned. It is however, our hopes to continue working with Nuclear Blast as they seem to understand our vision.
Your last album „Vast Oceans Lachrymose“ received very good reviews all over the world. I remember that you even reached album of the month in Germany’s biggest metal magazine Rock Hard. Was it a surprise for you ? I mean…the album is great.
Thanks so much for the kind words regarding VOL. In regards to the reviews and ratings…YES!! We were utterly surprised! we knew we had a great record on our hands, but so many questions remained for each of us. Would the fan base accept my singing? Would they like the fact that we played faster on the record? The progressive sounds really came forth on VOL. Therefore, we had many questions regarding its place, but the media and fans quickly let us know that they liked the record.
Let’s talk more about the new album. Is there a special story-line behind the lyrics ? If I am right there are seven songs on „Fear of Infinity“ that means we will listen to one or two long tracks too?
As mentioned earlier, there is a true concept and or theme to FOI. The songs, however, are somewhat shorter on this release than releases in the past. We have songs ranging from 3 minutes upwards to 11 minutes on FOI so you can sense that there is quite an array of song lengths, but we feel as they the record truly makes sense. Regardless of the song-lengths, the theme of acceptance in the face of loss is delivered in the 38-40 minute time frame in which FOI is. You can consider “Finality” as quite an epic though. However, “Destroyer of Solace” is just shy of 3 minutes. To attempt to compartmentalize WHW is a waste of time!! hahaha
How is work shared in While Heaven Wept ? Do you compose all together or is there one person who give the ideas? And how long does it take to create a new song?
It is no secret that Tom Phillips is our chief-composer if you will. Tom Phillips, in my opinion, and I share the opinion of the rest of the band, is a brilliant composer therefore we have it made as a band when he’s doing all the work!!!! I hope he doesn’t read this!!hahaha!! Kerb, in all honesty, we ALL contribute to the writing process, however the majority of our ideas, outside of Phillips’ original structure of the song, emerge in the studio. We simply add what we feel can lend positively to Toms writing. Scott Loose actually wrote the majority of ‘Saturn and Sacrifice” from a musical perspective. I as a vocalist, contributed way more on FOI than VOL. Ultimately showing that we are collectively collaborating more now as a band, and will in the future.
Some people call your music as Romantic Doom. I think thats cause you pack a lot of harmonies and dreamful parts in your songs. Can you agree with that or how would you call it?
I cant say I have ever heard of the “Romantic Doom” genre, however I like it! Does it make sense?? I think so. Toms lyrics are all written from personal experience. Its no secret that much of his lyrics up to this point are relationship based. We have had our “romantic” moments I have to agree. Who cant call “Vessel” romantic?? Once again, to compartmentalize this band is tough. There is a subset of fans that are now questioning the doom tag that we often receive which speaks to WHW’s ability to break outside of genres. We pride ourselves in being “free” to play “WHW music” whatever that is. Its my opinion that genres can play a major factor in limiting artists and we do not want to be limited musically or artistically. Do we embrace doom? I would say yes, more for reasons of emotional content than for musical stylings. We like to play fast as much as we do slow. The reference to harmonies and dreamful parts….well..lets just say we do what we feel works for specific songs and harmonies/ dreamful parts just seem to make sense for WHW.
Rain, if I have the right informations you were lead vocalist in a band called Altura before. Is that the band that had an album in the 90′s called „Mercy“? That was an album with a person running out of the woods on the artwork
You have a great memory. Yes, Mercy was the only release from Altura up to this point. There has been a major demand for a reunion, but we simply have not been able to make it work. I did, however, procure Jason Lingle, the keyboardist/ backing vox for Altura, for FOI and he is now a full time member of WHW. His contributions to FOI were invaluable. Hes incredibly talented and its been wonderful being able to work with Altura members again in this facet. That release was in 1996 on Magna Carta/ Roadrunner.
Do you all like water ? I mean…I think this element takes a big part in your concept. Oceans, ships…..are you pirates, ha ha ?
I much prefer beer!! hahahaha That is a question that Tom should answer. I will say that water is a means for so many chemical reactions to take place. It is also the perfect medium for so many emotions. Why do people flock to the ocean for vacation? Perhaps it is synonymous with peace, relaxation, introspect, and fun. However, it can also be indicative of rage, fear, pain, and sheer awesomeness in the face of a storm, high tide, or catastrophic event. As you can probably see, water can mean or yeild so much in terms of emotion. Likewise, water is essential for life. We as humans are composed of 70 percent water, so i guess we ALL need to embarce water!! hahahaha. That would be my best guess as to why Tom has chosen to include water in many of his works.
Tom Phillips founded the band back in 1989. So While Heaven Wept is now more that 20 years in this business. What does this mean to the band ?
Once again a great question for Tom. I, personally, have been in WHW since 2008. What I can say is that we have an incredible history which lends to so many experiences. Within these experiences, we learn. and with this learning, we have fuel as artists to utilize in the writing process. Likewise, as an entity that has existed so long, there are elements of realism you find with us that you may not find with a band that has been together for a year or two. This is not to insult bands that lack history. It is what it is. Years = Experience. Experience should equal better quality art. Its our method, but we cant speak for anyone else. Another thing to consider is the element of non-compromise. As I mentioned earlier, there was a bit of questioning in regards to Tom passing the vocal torch my direction. Did we want it to be embraced and accepted by the fans? Ofcourse, but did we need that affirmation to continue? The answer is no. We do what we feel is best for WHW and we can say that because history has shown, we make good decisions as a band and hopefully will continue to.
In these modern times it is easier to reach people cause of internet and other technologies. On the other side there are more and more uniteresting bands coming up with this and find companies to release their stuff. What does this mean for a band like WHW who worked hard for more than 2 decades and most times without this technologies ?
It simply means we earned what we have earned to way it should have happened for us and that is over time and slowly. As far as I know, the internet hit hard about 1994 or so. The advent of Myspace and Facebook many years later. It wasnt until 2003 when “Of Empires Forlorn” was released, however, the means of promotion and communcation by way of the internet was available to WHW, however, we were so rooted in the metal scene by 2003 that we depended less on the internet than many newer bands do today or bands that you deem “uninteresting”. I guess you can say that WHW earned their stripes with ‘Sorrow of the Angels” as far as promotion and marketing is concerned the hard way. Without the use of specific technologies. It was ultimately a good way to start. As I think back, “Chapter 1″ and “Lovesongs of the Forsaken” truly depended on word of mouth for promotion! Wow Kerb!! You just reminded us of how old we are!! hahaha
In June you are on tour in germany with Primordial. Please give a short statement about this package.
Actually, we are touring many countries with Primordial, and we couldnt be more excited!!!! We are slated to do the series of Open Air Metal Festivals which take us to Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, and Czech Republic. Aside from that, we will do 5 additional dates with Primordial which includes additional dates in Germany and the Netherlands. Let us not forget our friends ALCEST who will join us for that tour. In terms of a proper pairing, it is my opinion that we could not have been paired with a more appropriate list of bands. We have nothing but the utmost respect for Primordial and Alcest. My best friend is the biggest Primmordial fan I know. Lets just say that I have a “list” of things I have to accomplish for this tour that have nothing to do with performing, but more like a series of autographs on numerous items for him!! We are so pumped and we hope many of you will find time to witness what we feel will be an amazing tour!
What songs can we expect on this tour ? Do you play older stuff too or is it more focused on new material ?
You can expect it all, from the Sorrow era, to Empires VOL and FOI!! of course we want to promote the new record, but the voice of the fans says a lot and they want “Drowning Years” and “Vessel” and its a safe bet to say they will get what they ask for! As far as newer material, there will be plenty of “Fear of Infinity” so worry not.
You are also confirmed for some festivals in summer, right ?
As I have referred to the Open Airs, we are slated for 5 festivals. We will lump those dates into our tour with Primordial and Alcest. They also will be at each of the Open Airs with us alongside of Arch Enemy, Cradle of Filth, Sabaton, Amorphis, Saxon, Entombed, Amon Amarth, Watain, Belphegor, Rage, Sodom, Destruction, Misery Index, BlackDahlia Murders, Krisiun, Thaurorod, and many many more great artists!!!
If you could look into the future…in which stadium would you like to see WHW in about 10 years ?
I personally would love to play the Acropolis in Athens Greece…yu know..Like Yanni!!hahaha – In all honesty, we just played in Greece for the Up the Hammers Festival and had a chance to see the Acropolis. I thought the place was amazing.
Is there any work of the band-members outside of While Heaven Wept, for example in other projects ?
Jim Hunter, our bass player, plays in a multitude of other bands. Most notably Twisted Tower Dire and October 31. He is also playing in a new band called HellRazor, so he is very busy to say the least. Scott, Trevor, and Michelle are still involved in the progressive metal band BRAVE.
Are you interested in the present music scene ? Are there any new bands that you are listening in your private life ?
The music scence continues to deliver good stuff in my opinion. Im finding a number of bands way appealing, strangely I seem to be keeping my interest very close to home. I think that our friends from Pennsylvania ARGUS are about to rip some faces off with thier new release on Cruz Del Sur coming soon. Likewise, I have heard the Twisted Tower Dire release prior to its release…and its fantastic. Likewise, TTD are due a release on Cruz Del Sur soon. Aside from Argus and TTT, I have to say that Im very excited at the upcoming Primordial release “Redemption at the Puritans Hand”. There is a local band here in Southern Virginia that Im expecting to make a grand splash with thier new release. They are know as Dysphagic. Young, talented, and eager so seek them out! Lastly, as far as my listening pleasures, I am excited about the re-release of “The Sound of Perserverance” by Death. Always have been and will remain a Chuck fan!!
After the release of „Fear of Infinity“ and the tour and festivals…what are the next plans of WHW ?
In September we are proudly playing ProgPower USA in Atlanta alongside of Sanctuary, Arcturus, Therion, EverGray, Vanden Plas, Dream Evil, Mob Rules, Eldritch, Red Circuit, Creations End, Voyager, Haken, and more. We couldnt be more excited to be a part of such a special event. Wanna thank Glen Harveston for the invite and support!! Outside of that, probably a bit of rest and reconnecting with family and friends. I would also assume that writing for the next record will be a priority!
Private question at last: Why are you called „Rain“? Is there a special reason?
Hahaha – Well…Rainey has always been my nickname. It actually was derived from the fact that I could not and did not want to avoid rainy weather as a child. Most run from the idea of getting soaked by the rain. Not me! I would immediately, upon a shower, find myself outside in the rain splashing mud puddles, running as fast as I could in the rain, and ultimately attempting to become as soaked as my parents and siblings would allow. I cant help but laugh as I think back to your question about WHW and water!! hahaha Call it strange but, storms and rain excited me in ways I have yet to truly understand. Strangely, I could care less for rain now!
Thanx, Rain, for the interview…any final words you want to tell our readers?
Thanks so much for your continued interest and support of WHW! Likewise, we hope you will seek and find “Fear of Infinity” upon its release. Its a record that we are proud of and feel you, the metal listener and fan, will appreciate and enjoy! See you on tour very soon!
Interview by Kerbinator for METAL FIELDS