HAKEN, one of progressive music’s most exciting bands, released their much-anticipated fifth studio album titled Vector at the end of 2018, and the band has been touring actively in support of the record. The album was produced by the band themselves, and recorded & mixed by Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood (Periphery, Devin Townsend Project), with the artwork once again being handled by Blacklake (You can read our review of the album here).
Following the North American tour dates last Autumn, the band embarked in subsequent tours through Europe and Latin American stages at the beginning of 2019, and while warming up the engines to play in Peru, contributor Jorge Pozo had the chance to catch up with the band’s keyboardist Diego Tejeida. In full Latin American fashion we recorded their conversation in Spanish, and it can be listened to below. For those strange to Don Quixote’s tongue we have included the full transcript of their chat as well.
Listen to this interesting conversation below, or subscribe to our Podcast in several platforms to listen and be notified about new interviews and contents we publish on daily basis.
Diego, Welcome to Peru, thanks for your time for this interview. I know you´re from Mexico, how do you feel about playing in a Latin American country?
I’ve always played in this Latin American tours and I think there is a special connection when I say something in Spanish on the stage. Besides, I’m Mexican, we are Latinos and I think people identify with that. We have been in countries like Chile, Argentina and now Peru, that makes me very happy because it feels like home. It is the same language, same mentality, there are very similar things among Latin American countries compared with other countries like Spain; which is a totally different world, even if it is the same language, it will always be different there! It is closer to the European “world” than we see it here because we are Hispanic.
You have played Vector’s songs in the North American leg, how was the reception of these new songs?
I was just talking to Ross [Jennings] about that yesterday. When we did the United States and Canada tour two months ago in early winter, the album had just come out, we did our first show five days after the album came out. Although we had a very good vibe, very energetic, especially seeing that kind of reaction in the United States is something very unusual. Suddenly we see more movement of the public a couple of times we saw some mosh-pit and someone doing stage-dive, I think it is very rare to see in a Prog show and obviously it’s fun. With the obvious concerns about health and something else, it is still fun, in a good way! but I still felt that the album was new, you did not see the audience singing the songs so much, because it had just come out “yesterday”, I talked to Ross about that, and now I see the public singing the new songs and identifying with them, that is something that gets me goosebumps. to see the audience reaction, to play Vector live and listening to the people chanting the intro with us is something gratifying. There is no way to explain that or see how you start a song from scratch, it is you or maybe two more people and suddenly it becomes everyone’s, you know that everyone is singing it. It’s what we´re seeing right now and it’s very rewarding.
In the recent Latin American shows, how did you see the response from the audience?
What I expected!! It was excellent and intense!! the good thing about Latin Americans is really that. We started in Chile with the right foot, it was a show of a thousand people, very energetic, people giving the same in Argentina, we came from San Pablo right now, and although the audiences have been smaller than Chile, the energy has been the same and also higher. The Latin American public seems to be very warm and effusive.
Would you consider playing Vector entirely in some of your shows or is it something you have not planned to do until now?
I think it would be nice even though it is not the time right now, because the album is new. I consider the public in these Latin American shows are fans of all kinds, fans who came from the time of Aquarius and Visions, people who came from The Mountain, people from Affinity and also people who has listen only Vector, but I think the most sensible thing is to give a little bit of everything.
Of all the Vector songs, what would you consider the favorite song to play live on stage?
Well, at this point, I have to say that I have a personal connection with “Veil”, that’s one of my babies, the lyrics are mine, it’s a song that for me is personal and I suppose on that side, as a narcissist, it makes me very happy to play it and it has good energy; but I really think that for the reaction of the public, “Nil by Mouth” is a song that I love to play live, it has a lot of energy!!
Will we listen to it tonight?
Maybe! (laughs) Yes, it is in the set list!! It’s a song that I love because of the energy it transmits. I think it is my favorite song to play with Haken.
The band’s popularity keeps growing exponentially. What would you say has been the highlight of the band’s career and what moment has been the most difficult to overcome?
I guess, the first album that we started to be considered as a solid and strong band was The Mountain and I’ve said that in several interviews. I think Aquarius and Visions were two albums that were the best we could give at that time, but now, we can listen to those albums back and we can see many elements of the lack of experience, and I feel that The Mountain, and two more albums in the past, gave us the experience of doing many things, and we were able to level up and be a band that is playing well and that makes good music. You can see a few failures on the arrangements, there are still elements that were not so solid, we did not have such a defined musical personality. I think that with The Mountain, we could define our sound. Although, The Mountain, Affinity, Restoration and Vector are different animals, genetically they have the same center. The Mountain was a very important album that started to open the doors for us as a consolidated creative unit, it has been a very long way of constant evolution and growth. Regarding what was the most difficult thing to overcome, I think there’s not a specific one, everything has been a process of learning, I think there are many things far from the music that should know how to handle when you are in this business and it is something that we did not consider from the beginning. The finance and marketing aspects; legal advice and the industry, the contracts, all those aspects have been difficult to us and I think, nobody wants to deal with that, but in the end we have to do it!!
There has been a significant change in the keyboards sound over the course of the last three album, is that something that you went for or is it something that was decided in the production stages?
There are some aspects, the first one is that we didn’t have a producer in the albums, we have made the production of the records since the beginning. All the albums have been self-produced, we have had a post producer, who is in charge of the mixing details like the guitar tones and all those aspects. In my experience, there are several things, the first thing in Vector, I decided from the beginning to have a different sound… Also, in many aspects, Vector is the album that I have composed the most of all the previous ones, many of those songs were composed with an idea of very main keyboards and guitars. I started little by little to find enthusiasm as a sound engineer, not as a keyboardist, but as the kind of sound I want, the kind of personality I want to have and little by little I get involved in that. In spite of the sounds of keyboards in Visions, Restoration, Affinity have different concepts, they have had many similarities, they have been very digital, they have had many orchestral things and it is something that, at this point with Vector I told myself: “I already know this, I already know this language, I can do an orchestra, I can do this, but I want to do something totally different because at this moment, it’s boring me!!” I wanted something that challenged me, something that went more with my musical personality, I wanted to focus a lot on that particular sound.
Talking about other projects, have you ever considered the possibility of making a solo album? If so, what direction would it be musically?
I have considered to do other projects. In fact, Erick Gillette and I have been talking about doing something together since The Shattered Fortress, but we have not been able to match our schedules, but in the prog-rock world, he is a person whom I identify the most. When we did the shows with Mike (Portnoy) we had very good chemistry, not only musically but personally, we shared mentalities and I would like to work with him. It’s something I’ve been thinking about; the problem is that Haken takes most of my time, but I would like to do something that was totally different from the Prog world. I think the kind of music I hear today has almost nothing to do with Prog. There are more experimental aspects, from minimalist composers such as Phillip Glass has many elements of experimental electronics and right now, that’s what I like to listen to. I was on the plane listening to a Spotify playlist of Techno Analogue. When people see me it’s like you “play Prog”!, Yes, I like analogue music, it’s something where I’d like to move in, something out of Prog. I’d like to open up a space outside the Prog world that is the discipline of practicing eight hours a day and having everything very well to something that is more focused on the sonic experience.
If you follow that vision, whom would you like to play with?
If I follow the vision totally outside? I haven’t thought about it, but I have thought about people for a project within the Prog world, but I have never thought about people outside for the moment, that’s what I thought as a soloist.
Now, if you assemble that Prog related project you just mentioned, who would be in that band with you?
Ideally, Eric Gillette (The Neal Morse Band / The Shattered Fortress) would be on the guitar, Baard Kolstad (Leprous) on drums, we always talk about working together and it has never happened; and I don’t know the singer, maybe, I do not remember his last name, but there’s this guy from Serbia called Vladimir Lalic. The only person I’ve talked about the project is Eric and it’s something that we still have in mind and I hope that will happen. Hopefully, no more than two years. We would love it!!
It would be wonderful to have you both in a project, I would buy the album for sure!!
Perfect, at least we have one sale!! I’m going to tell the record label that! (laughs)
From watching your live performances I’d say you are like the Mike Portnoy of the keyboards (laughs), you are always engaging with the audience, interacting with your band-mates on stage and so on . Is this something that comes out from you naturally or you consciously make an effort to be more involved with the fans while performing?
It’s something that is natural for me. I’ve been on stage since I was 15 years old, I had a band in Mexico and we played in big festivals of 3,000 people. I mean, it’s a world where I’ve been for a long time, and performing reveals another part of my personality. I think it is something that I have to let go because it is something that I have always had as a human being, the stage is my alter-ego. Recently, some friends of mine went to see me in a show for the first time and they said: we could see the dichotomy of who you are when you’re on and off stage! But I’m the same person and it’s not a fake stance, I think that’s something that people would notice if it was fake. It’s just the way I live, I do not imitate, I do not think about it, I do not meditate, it just happens. If it does not happen, it does not happen at all!! There are shows where I do not feel comfortable letting my stage-persona go. For example, if I have some problem with monitors or I have problems with my keyboards, I do not interact so much, when everything works well, when the vibes are good, when the audience is giving it, it turns into this brutal synergy of what becomes the show.
We’re almost finishing… so there it comes a classic question: what were your musical influences be as a keyboardist?
I think my biggest influence would be Bill Evans. He was a jazz pianist who died in the 80s. He influenced me very late, I grew up studying classical music and I was not very classic, but when I went to London to study Jazz, there were three professors of Jazz. They were Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson and Chick Corea, but Bill Evans was who really caught my attention by his way of thinking about harmony. I could tell you that he is one of my biggest influences, I could also name some composers such as Phillip Glass, and also Richard Barbieri is a player who has influenced me a lot, I identify myself with his mentality. Once I listened to an interview with Richard Barbieri when he was saying that in his youth, he wanted to play like Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman but he didn’t have the chops to play that way, so he focused on making interesting sounds, and that is a mentality with I identify myself a lot. I have to play Prog, and I must have the chops and much more, but at the same time you have someone like Rick Wright of Pink Floyd that was exactly the same mentality, having the adequate sound, the right vibe to fill a room.
A few months ago, you were playing Dream Theater music with Mike Portnoy during the Shattered Fortress tour, and I know Jordan Rudess is also a fan of Haken, did you heard from him regarding that tour and your performance of his parts?
I talked to Jordan before the Shattered Fortress shows, and sort of asked him for his blessing to perform his music, he kindly told me to go ahead. In fact, he offered me a couple of scores and he was very nice about it. After that, we haven’t talked again, he’s a busy person and it was necessary to leave it that way, but he was very polite, he told me: “Go forward if you want to do it, welcome! I wish you the best”
Now a very hypothetical question: If for some reason, Jordan (Rudess) retires from Dream Theater and you get the call to take his place, would you accept?
I don’t know (laughs), it would be a world of considerations. I think that the 15 years old Diego immediately would say YES! but the Diego from today would have to organize a lot of things. It would be a great honor and it is something that would happen, obviously it would be like enormous and being more realistic about it. I think there are better keyboard players in the technical aspect than me. I think they would go for another kind of player profile than the profile I have.
Diego, you are in the South American tour right now. Then, shows in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. What is the plan after all this?
Now, we have several things to be confirmed, it is not time to talk about it yet, but just this week, we just are checking all the details for something important at the end of this year and maybe do more shows, more festivals, a couple of places that we have not visited before as Haken, but the idea is, even between tours, going to work on the new material, because we left a long space between Affinity and Vector, if you realize, Aquarius came out in 2010, Visions in 2011 and almost a year and a half later, at the beginning of 2013, The Mountain, with Restoration in 2014. We have always tried to keep that kind of rhythm and that is what we hope to make again. What delayed us a little bit in 2018 was Haken and The Shattered Fortress all in the same year. Finally, we did 80 shows in a year between both things and it is something we are starting to think about in the near future, we have to write for the next album!
I am excited and grateful because you are here for the show you are giving us tonight!! Thank you for your time!
Thanks, it was a pleasure!!