Kaan Tasan, Heart Of A Coward

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A thoroughly drenched, but excited, Matt Fraser caught up with Heart Of A Coward frontman Kaan Tasan in Manchester prior to the start of their UK headline tour for the release of fourth album ‘The Disconnect’.

“Thanks very much for doing this interview with us today, we really appreciate it. So, tonight’s the first night of the UK tour (gig review here). You must be champing at the bit?”

Yeah, totally. I mean it's just been a really good, exciting process writing this album, and finally to get to the point where we're now at the fun part where you can just go out and play live, and just do what we love doing which is obviously playing shows. Last year, we came to Rebellion and it was…crazy! Manchester always turns out, so it's going to be a good night.

“So, is that what fed into you guys coming to Manchester, rather than Leeds or somewhere?”

Yeah, to be honest I think after the response last year, it was definitely a no-brainer. I think the guys have always loved playing Manchester, so yeah it was a no-brainer.

“I actually saw you guys headline Tech-Fest pretty much a year ago. That was one of your earliest gigs?”

Yeah, I think it was after a few shows…I think that was show number five or something kind of like that.

“You had a great reception that day, and then I suppose you fast forward to now – launching the album, a headline tour, playing Download Festival, Radar Festival. Has it been a frustrating or an exciting 12 months leading up to this point?”

Not at all, no it hasn't been frustrating. I think as a creative unit we've really clicked within that time. Obviously, you know, you don't really get to gauge how the band and social dynamic works really until you do something intense like tour properly or lock yourselves away in a studio or something kind of like that. The writing process for this album really helped everybody just fine tune the setup of the band. The social aspect of just having a pint somewhere, to actually sitting down and getting to the nitty gritty of trying to be a bit more open and creative with the writing process. No ideas were off the table. Nothing was too precious – whether it was a riff, a drum part, or a vocal part - it was all torn to pieces and trying to really rebuild it into the album.

“That's excellent, a collaborative process. Actually, that brings me to one of the aspects that I've seen you say before, that the songs all came about quite differently - some just clicked into place while others were a bit more challenging. Having listened to The Disconnect it's difficult for me as a third party to know which is which, but I wonder if you felt either of those kind of extremes produced better results in the end, now you look back on it?”

Oh yeah, totally. I think some of the songs that just clicked into place got forgotten about because they just happened, they were done. It was just kind of easy. And then the other ones are the ones where we were churning ideas out and rewriting stuff and trying to develop them as much as possible, and just things weren't working or not everyone was happy with it. Those ones are…I don't know, not that it was a hard process at all, but it was just they're the ones that kind of stick to the forefront your mind. And then once you're finished, and you listen back to them in there, you’re like “shit I totally forgot about that song!” Return to Dust was one of those songs that was just a 2am jam. Because what we have is a rehearsal room, and we set up all the studio stuff in there - nice lights, a full drum-kit and we have all the rehearsal equipment as well as the studio gear in there. So if you get stuck, you can just jam ideas and stuff like that. Return to Dust just came from having a jam, we'd been drinking most of the evening, sat around just jamming ideas and that came about, and we were “shit, let's keep that and try and make it into something new.” But then it all just fell together and just worked really well. Then we demoed it, left it, and then the recording process was just super easy for it as well. For me it really came to the forefront of the album once we heard the final mixes. It was such a different sound.

“I was going to say actually, Return to Dust is haunting and beautiful, but it’s so different to anything else on the album. It's kind of interesting where it comes on the album and the way it sweeps straight into Suffocate.”

To be honest, it was just more about trying to push the band creatively. They'd done melodic, slow songs that crescendo before, kind of as in Distance and Skeletal Part One and Two, but we're really trying to develop the song-writing and try it more, whilst also trying to simplify it as well. I think something we've achieved with this album is trimming the fat off, there's no songs like seven minutes long or five minutes long. A lot of them are just to the point and you just get to it, then the next one. They all stand alone, they’re really great songs standalone, but then when you put them together it just works. But with Return to Dust it was just trying to really push, push everybody to try and just do something different as well. And it just kind of made sense that the two songs Return to Dust and Suffocate just merge together.

“Having listened to the new album (The Disconnect), it’s a great piece of work. Very powerful, very punchy, very cohesive. Although it’s the first album with you on vocals, for me as a fan, it actually feels very much a natural progression of the band. I wonder how you guys feel about this album with regards to whether it was a big change-up, or whether it did actually feel like the natural progression?”

I think to be honest with the whole process of it, even before I was auditioning and during the audition process, the guys already had eight songs written. But they could be “Oh, that sounds like something off Severance, or off Deliverance, or whatever.” And it was all within the same tunings, within the same tempos and stuff, and they realized that. And so there was a focus on trying to play with different tunings, different tempos, and just trying to mix things up again, just to try it because it would inspire them. So we actually only kept two of those songs from that eight, the rest just went in the bin. Because as soon as I started to demo over the tracks we could clearly see which ones were going to work and which ones weren’t. It was kind of like my style has always been more of a melodic thing - you know, choruses, all that sort of stuff. Whereas obviously Jamie had a bit more of a death-metal style, which is just what his bag is. But then also the guys thought there were certain aspects of the previous sound, which they feel they've done - it's been like three albums, you don't want to regurgitate the same thing. So it's just about obviously playing to my strengths, but also trying to keep the classic sound and bring in this new melodic element.

“So was Collapse one of those songs?”

Collapse and Drown in Ruin were the two that stayed. I mean, I think both of them unsurprisingly have gone up in tempo! I think Drowned in Ruin really got pulled about and reconstructed, but they’re the two skeleton version tracks that made it through.

“So those are two of the ones that are already released to the public.”

Yeah, that wasn't even a thought process. Collapse made sense because it was just a fresh start for the band, and just felt like it was a bit of a banger, so it was worth releasing.

“I think I've read about you saying it was almost just about getting that out, so you as the new frontman was out of the way, that’s done now, let’s get on with it”

Let everyone deal with it, do some shows, let them reacclimatise, and then we'll hit them with the album sort of thing. So that was kind of the plan, but then again as soon as we heard the final mixes back of Drown in Ruin we thought “shit this is the first song, it's just too good not to release.” It bridges the gap from the old sound to the newer sound.

“I know that you’ve mentioned in a video interview for The Disconnect that the album’s themes of frustration are a big thing. I can see that with the song titles – Isolate, Suffocate. I guess what I was wondering was those ideas of frustrations, are they in relation to very much personal frustrations or social commentary?”

Both, yeah. To be honest, my writing style has always been about writing about what frustrates me, or what fucks me off, or whatever is just going on in my head sort of thing. So whether that be the political state of the UK, feeling frustrated about that, or whether it be anything. Return to Dust and Suffocate are written about contemplating the eternal darkness of the galaxy, and how insignificant human life is, but we're at a stage where we can now contemplate our consciousness. And that’s just something that's boggled my mind forever. It was just something that was quite a beautifully dark subject to write about. The best part with working with the guys was that if I pen something down and show it to them, they either relate to it or be “Oh, that's cool…what about this…what about that?” and there's a very open process. But again, it's all stuff that we can all relate to, you know, whether it’s a political frustration, a personal thing, whatever - it's just all based around what I think are relatable topics. But yeah there is a definite socio-political undertone to it.

“I think Culture of Lies wears it on its sleeve.”

To be honest, I think if you’re living in the UK, as we are, and you don't have an opinion on something you're not…switched on, you’re not paying attention to the social commentary. There's too much to be fucked off about in this country. Wherever you are, whatever your thoughts are, whatever your opinions are. And you know, I'm just going to voice my opinion through music.

“Your vocals really lend themselves to that - there's a lot of clarity in your vocals, no matter which of the two styles you’re using. They're both very emotive, but the lyrics come across whilst also carrying the melody. They’re quite different vocal styles, with the more melodic clean vocal versus the harsh vocal. Do you have to do quite a lot of different preparation and practice for those two different vocals, especially keeping in mind a long stretch of shows like you've got coming up?”

Totally. I mean, it's all about practice and technique. As with any screamer/singer, you're pretty much using every single part of your voice if you're doing clean singing through to screaming. So it's just about prior preparation as with anything. If you're a drummer and you're playing some stuff, you need to practice it to be up to speed with what you're doing. I wouldn't just go into a tour completely unpreped. We've had months of rehearsals. It’s down to having a correct technique as well as looking after your voice. The guys are over there having pints, but I don't drink when I'm on tour - it's all about water and tea for me!

“On this tour you've got label-mates Any Given Day and also the return of Lock & Key from a hiatus - two brilliant bands. Did you guys have a say in who was on the tour?”

Absolutely. The label suggested Any Given Day because we did their album release tour in Germany, so it made sense to get them to do ours. We were kind of like “what do you think to scratching each other’s backs.” And they’re the best dudes. It was really nice…I don't know, there was a bromance to the shows we did in Germany. And it's just great to invite them back. And Lock & Key, we've known those guys for years, so I think when we were looking at opening options and stuff they were a natural choice.

“Thinking actually about the bands that we've gotten talking about, and some of the other UK bands that have released albums recently, like From Sorrow to Serenity and Monuments, do you think the modern progressive and modern tech scene in the UK is genuinely on the rise at the moment?”

Totally. I mean, you've had these bands for a while. This band, Monuments and TesseracT came from one band, and they were doing that shit in 2007. So, I think from that then you've got the other frontrunners. Obviously TesseracT are huge, there's what we're doing, and then there's a whole new level of tech bands. I mean, I don't really like the term tech anymore. It's just modern metal to me because, you know, you have your crazy shred bands that are going to do that sort of stuff, and that to me is the tech side of stuff. But yeah, for example, From Sorrow to Serenity, Harbinger, Carcer City, Valis Ablaze or anything like that - there's a whole stream of these UK bands that are really pushing through at the moment. And I think the UK scene is definitely growing. I mean, I don't know if it quite compares to the US market or anything like that, but we're only a small island, and if you think about the quality of our musicians, not even just metal bands just musicians in general, well there's got to be something in the water because we’re just producing quality for generations. So in terms of the UK metal scene – yes, it’s growing, there's loads of decent metal bands, decent tech bands, but totally it's definitely on the rise. And we try to think that if you're in a position where you can headline a tour and stuff like that, you should be looking back to other bands and trying to give them…not giving a helping hand, that’s a horrible way of putting it, but you know giving them an opportunity. For us like Lock & Key, we had From Sorrow to Serenity on the last tour, Lotus Eater. I know I'm the new guy, but it's a real honour to be able to offer that sort of stuff to the smaller bands. That's why we do it as well.

“So if we were putting on Kaan-Fest, I guess those would be the sort of bands you’d have on the bill?”

Yeah, yeah, totally. Obviously I'd get Deftones to headline because they're my favourite band ever. It’d just be Deftones and then mates’ bands underneath that…or a Heart Of A Coward set four times in a day – no that’d be horrible! 

“Ha ha, why not! Okay, one final question. A bit of a fun question - what one song is there that someone else has written, that you wish you'd written?”

Oh, wow. I think…musically there's too many. Yeah, musically I think it would have to be something timeless, like Hotel California or something like that. Because everybody knows it, everybody's bought it. So we’re doing a little bit of singing along, and there's a little bit of business in there. So it has to be something like that if I had my business brain switched on. Maybe a Christmas song, yeah, the Slade song would be a good choice, every six months you'd be “thank you very much!” But I think it would be something like that. But if not, it would just be for me Deftones, Be Quiet and Drive - it’s the epitome of heavy and melodic married together. But no, I mean with my brain switched on I’d obviously want some royalties so I'd go for a pre-80s Classic and then you’d just be laughing all the way to the bank!

“Cool. Well, thanks very much, it’s been awesome talking to you – have a great gig tonight!”

New album ‘The Disconnect’ is out 7th June 2019 on label Arising Empire.