Tuesday, June 9, 2009

An Interview with Chris Hakius of Sleep & OM... as remembered long after the fact.

During the Sunday of ATP I was lucky enough to grab a drink with the legendary Chris Hakius, drummer of Sleep, AsbestosDeath, and OM. Unlucky for my everything I had to record the conversation was out of batteries at the time so I went in with pen in hand, convinced I'd be able to jot notes down. After about 15 seconds with the guy that plan went to hell so I just went with it and took notes after. Anyways, here's the long and short.

The first thing that comes across when you meet Chris is the phrase, "down to Earth." The dude has that oh-so-rare quality of being chilled out but with it. Cool but not a space case. You can feel this quality radiating from him in not just conversation but in his drumming too. A straight, natural vibe that drives any band he's in without ever letting it drop. The 2nd thing you notice, is that even though he's basically pulled out of the whole touring/recording game the fire's still there. Dude's now 37, has a wife, a 2 year old kid, and a job driving trucks so his priorities are a little shifted but it's not like homie got hooked on skag and lives in a dumpster. Instead of touring he's now pretty into the whole dad/husband thing, more power to him if that makes him happy.

After talking about his actual family and his current state of affairs for a long amount of time things moved in to the obvious discussion of what it was like being back with Matt and Al and playing with Sleep again. The one quote I managed to get down was that, "it feels like no time has passed" since they last played together. According to Chris, even though there have been issues in the past, he, Matt, and Al are all brothers til the end. Fuckin' Al has a Chris tattoo for god's sakes. Even though they never intended to get back together, it just kind of naturally happened (along with a shit ton of nagging from the ATP promoter...). Happily, instead of "sleeping under bridges" and being flat broke, this time they get to play with a little cash in their pockets and a gushing public dying to hear them after a decade of absence started right after the recording of Dopesmoker.

So apparently Sleep didn't bullshit their label, hide what they were doing and just turn in this 63minute Magnum (d)Opus as a blindside. Apparently they pitched the idea to London Records straight up front that they wanted to do one massive hour long track. The showed the label the layout of the sections on paper, invited the brass to practices, showed them more written layouts (I'd kill to see those man), GOT THE OK and then stepped in to the studio. That's when shit went awry. Apparently it was during the recording stage when London decided that an hour long, uncut, indivisible, paean to a fictitious tribe of ancient, bonged out, religious, nomads descending upon the holy land wasn't such a hot idea... Anyways, long and short, not their fault, sorry for the delay, glad the fans like it. PS: Allmusic is wrong on their take apparently.

From there we got talking about other holy men of note, specifically Justin Marler (who also played with Chris in the Sabians). Justin was the 4th member of Sleep during the Volume One days and replaced Tom Choi when he left AsbestosDeath (which facilitated the name change to Sleep). Apparently, Justin, who couldn't make it to the UK for the reunion, is also doing well and living in Texas(? could be wrong but I know it's some south and west state). And for the record yes he was a monk after he left Sleep but you know... he uhhh got better.

Anyways, I could write about this shit for hours but instead I'm just going to leave it with my favorite anecdote of the conversation, one I think sums up how they played back in the day and a few weeks ago. AsbestosDeath's first show was a high school talent show. Though they were the total crowd favorite (you know, according to Chris), they still came in 3rd place. Apparently the judges, some of whom were employed by the school, didn't take kindly to kids stage diving off the piano...

And that about says it all.


Anonymous said...

Man, awesome interview.

Camellia sinensis said...
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