Freedom Hawk

Grande Rock got in touch with Freedom Hawk’s bass player Mark Cave and talked about the new album, the band and various other things. Check out the interview below.
Freedom Hawk band pic

Hello Mark, and thank you for joining us today. Suffice to say, Freedom Hawk’s “Beast Remains”, is shockingly good and, no disrespect of course, but somewhat of a step up from past ventures, musicianship wise. In other words, as chillax-ing as say, the titular sophomore or more recent “Into Your Mind” are, it feels like the band has duly found its niche, as well as signature sound while smoothly refining its overall chemistry this time around.
 
M: Thank you for the kind words. There’s always things with any record we make that we’d like to go back and change but in the end you have to move on if you to complete it or meet deadlines. Overall we are pleased with this snapshot in time. You just add or make very slight good tweaks live. That’s usually what makes a live concert better. We’d much rather have people say we are better live then on record than vice-versa.
 
 
That said, did the band chart a specific course towards any particular goals in the making of “Beast Remains”, or place stronger emphasis, if any, on a particular element or component in order to make this its finest production to date?
 
M: Production wise we feel it could have been it a little better. But, we ran out time to meet deadlines and we ran over our budget. I think the biggest thing is we put together “Beast” as a 4 piece capitalizing on the similar dynamics and chemistry (dueling guitar leads, harmonizing, adding the octaves to rhythms etc. basically the “metal” packaging) as “Sunlight”, but more experience on the writing, composition, production side, and our way around the studio. Maybe it came out well because w it seemed we learned from the past and did more pre-production in our rehearsal space before going in the studio.
 
As far as charting the course we didn’t really chart anything consciously at least or really talk about any goals. In fact, most of the foundation of the songs we put together in a month or so, as soon as Brendan O’Neill joined the band, which was about a month or two after the release of “Into Your Mind” and our tour as a 3 piece in June Europe 2015. We continued to work, revisit, record demos, and add new stuff while touring/playing live on the existing catalog. It made us tighter and create a refreshing chemistry with the ability to just jam and improvise live (usually only during sound check though (lol). Once we talked to Ripple and were given a deadline we went to work. For us slow southern laid back procrastinators it’s what we needed to get it done.

 
 
You and (other members) must be pretty tight-knit, considering the line-up has remained unchanged (aside from Matt’s mid-point departure) since your full-length debut, “Sunlight”, going back to 2008. How would you say the band came to be, or rather what was the spark which permitted “the Hawk” to fully take flight?
 
M: Friends jamming and letting loose on the weekends in TRs detached garage that we turned into a rehearsal space. TR would have parties and people insisted we go play out. Also, we were fortunate that TRs neighbor at the time had a make shift little recording space in the back of truck trailer. His neighbor recorded our first demo so people were able to listen to the music and liked it and it caught on from there and the rest is history until 2014 when Matt left. Then the next chapter happened 2015 on. We were friends with Brendan for at least 3 years before he joined because his thrash band the Pestilence Choir’s rehearsal space was right next to ours. Once Matt left about a year later he asked to join but we didn’t think he was serious and he may have not been either cause he was pretty busy and had a cool thing going too. He was really stoked on a lot of the songs off “Into Your Mind” and us as a 3 piece. He heard it come together so he had the opportunity to be exposed to the whole process. Even though we pulled it off as a 3 piece we knew it felt like something was missing and we came to the realization that Freedom Hawk is a four piece and after talking more with Brendan we realized he was serious. So, we talked to over and we agreed to bring him in and jam with him and see where it goes. Brendan worked his ass off and learned at least 10 songs from our catalog 5 days before he even stepped into the jam room with us. Other than some very minor tuning nuances to work out together (because there are differences between the recordings and live now, some of our old stuff/pre-2010 is tuned a half step down + drop on some songs, but now we tune to a whole step down and play them all a whole step down + drop on some songs) he pretty much nailed it first jam session. His stoke about the music and playing them and with us gave us a lot of inspiration and reinvigorated us. We were a little lost as a 3 piece in terms of what the future held for us as a band. Once we started cranking out riffs and ideas it just started flowing naturally from there to full flight.
 
 
This can be considered a three-tier query relating to the East Coast’s unabashedly wicked stoner/doom metal scene comprising your home state, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas and harking back to the mid-70s as well as 80s, notably with the inception of Pentagram (I guess the scene somewhat parallels California’s 90s “desert rock” legacy!). Firstly, what are some of the bands/outfits you guys most drew influences and inspiration from, specific to said movements and/or in general?
 
M: Too many to name if speaking for the whole band or trying to remember them all. I’m sure I will forget a lot or get it wrong but… as a band, it’d be probably be 70s rock and 90s stoner rock. We’ve been jamming together a long time so can’t pinpoint one thing. It depends on who you ask in the band and it varies widely but we all meet somewhere in the middle at - Black Sabbath (deep tracks more on the blues side), Kyuss, Thin Lizzy, COC, Misfits, Iron Maiden, Blue Cheer, Zep, Scorpions (70s), Tull, Soundgarden, to name a few... everything around that genre. Our inspiration was to play music that we listened to but weren’t hearing in our home town, beer, life experiences and a little help from Mother Nature...
 
 
Secondly, how is the scene in your neck of the woods today? What other bands have you fellows shared a stage with, or aspire towards collaborating a show with?
 
M: There are a lot of balls out rock/metal, etc. in this state that we have shared the stage with. We are a product of our coastal environment in the south and it comes out in the music. Southeastern VA (Tidewater) is made up of 7 separate cities all next to each other around the tidal water, bay water, ocean water and dismal swamp. We live in a resort suburban area (largest suburb in the US, by the way) so there are a lot of entertainment spots, which means there are a lot of cover bands making lots of money off other people’s tunes, which we don’t agree with. We would rather see or play with a good underground metal or punk or rock band giving there all than a shitty top 40 cover band.
 
 
Thirdly, which notable genre catering venues are you fond of, or habitually play? Personally, visiting the hallowed “20 Buck Spin” night club is definitely on my bucket list, even if it’s a continent away! As well, is there a foreseeable North American tour in the works? Any chance of coasting out West, perhaps even Canada (and/or B.C.) anytime in the future (nudge, nudge)?
 
M: There are talks of working on a North American tour(s) for “Beast Remains”. We would love to get to B.C/Vancouver. Last time we were in Portland and Seattle we had some diehard fans that joined us at both shows who were from Vancouver… we have to get back. We really need to get back to all the US cities/venues we’ve played before and new ones that we haven’t been to yet but there is a demand for us. UK and Europe are great too…I t’d be great to get back there. Australia would be killer too.
 
 
I have to say, the clear, un-muddled and slightly echoing level of production of “Beast Remains” is simply fantastic, notably in how the shimmering vocals portentously resound… Additionally, T.R’s surging and uplifting vocals pronouncedly rise to the fore on “Solid Gold”, where they loftily breeze throughout, and “Coming After You”, on which it’s almost as if they’re curtly bouncing off the well from said congenial cover… Care to elaborate on how this nifty as Hell feature came about?
 
M: That comes from growing as a singer and developing more vocal range and coming into his own. The engineer (Rob Ulsh) we worked with cares a lot about vocals too, is good at it and made him work really hard (lol). Rob has a shit ton of experience and worked with a lot of great and diverse singers too so that helped such as Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, Pharrell Williams, Counting Crows, Prince, Missy Elliott and more… so needless to say he knows what’s up.
 
 
For that matter, where was “Beast Remains” mixed, recorded and produced, and by whom?
 
M: Recording Engineer: Rob Ulsh
Asst. Recording Engineer: David Stillman
Mixing Engineer: Rob Ulsh
Master Sound Studios, VA Beach, VA

www.mastersoundva.com
 
Mastering Engineer: Chris Goosman
Baseline Audio Labs, Ann Arbor, MI

www.baselineaudio.com
 
Produced by Freedom Hawk
 
All music written/arranged/performed by: Freedom Hawk
Lyrics: TR Morton

 
 
What gear (instruments, amps, fx, sound boards) does Freedom Hawk clamp down on in order to achieve maximum effect, or simply, out of preference and convenience?
 
M: Orange Amps, Gibson guitars, Ludwig drums, vintage gear and all kinds of effects. There have been changes over the years but this is pretty much been the staple choice. In regards to fxs pedals – delays, whas, phasers, boost, tube screamer, big muff, pog, etc. pretty much everything..lol.  For me personally, I went from Ampeg amps + vintage cabinet and over time a mixture of rat pedal, bass muff, tube screamer, and others to Orange bass amp + Ampeg vintage cabinet + plug straight in with a Thunderbird bass. Bass pedals only really work for us very sparingly if at all as a 4 piece and definitely not for the last 3 years.
 
 
Do you guys have any specific and/or formal musical training or have you honed your skills as you went along, that is, as hobbyists to full-blown genre purveyors/trailblazers?
 
M: Extremely minimal if at all. We honed our skills as we went along.
 
 
As much as I dig ‘em (to the center of the Earth!), I’m sort of flummoxed by the lyrics and theme to “Brutal Winds”, in my opinion the album’s top liberating, hard-driving and outright gripping highlight. What is the main driving lyrical force/inspiration behind this winning humdinger? For that matter, could you explain in a few words or so the story for each track? You may have noticed in my review I jocosely alluded to “Champ”, as a possible cute soliloquy on the elusive lake monster! Am I right in assuming I’m way off the mark on that one?!
 
M: TR had to help answer this one…
 
“Solid Gold”: 3 parts to this story – ocean, dreams, and my mother… things important to me that I don’t want to let go off.
 
“Danger”: About being naïve and taking risks without knowing you could get yourself in trouble or worse.
 
“Darkness and the Light”: It’s a made up story about life and death and surviving and looking for all the good in all the bad.
 
“Brutal Winds”: Each part has different meanings – chorus comes from navigating the oceans bottom and the other part is about the northern sea and dunes that constantly move with the seasons.
 
“Beast Remains”: This song is about depression and falling deep into it and coming out of it and fixing your problems (kill the beast) by getting help.
 
“Deep Inside”: This track is about being deep inside a crazy tubular wave and taking chances and pulling it off. Ultimately a good day of surfing.
 
“Coming After You”: It’s about growing up… life’s catching up to you.
 
“Champ”: It’s about drinking your friends under the table and being the best at it. But you can’t be the champion everyday cause it will catch up to you (“sometimes in a world of losers… your number one”)…
 
 
Is there a particular record label you gravitate towards, whether it’s for professional reasons or personal preference? Backtracking a bit here, I noticed your Metal-Archives page lists Freedom Hawk as signed with Small Stone records, whereas “Beast Remains” was released under Ripple Music. What’s the word on this slight ambiguity? 
 
M: How does one update that shit? It’s not accurate and way off. There’s no ambiguity. There’s also no issues (that we know of). We are friends with Small Stone and still have a good relationship with them and likewise with Ripple Music. They are great people. I would imagine just like WoFat and Gozu. We enjoyed 5 good years with Small Stone and Small Stone bands/family. Unfortunately, Small Stone was hit really hard by the disastrous flood in Detroit in 2014 that set them back, so we were kind of out of options. They and the city of Detroit are still trying to recover to this day. After that we had a discussion with SS and Ripple and were actually going to release “Into Your Mind” with Ripple but decided to complete our obligation with SS and support them as they supported us. We had already talked to Ripple about releasing “Sunlight” and S/T on vinyl that never had been released before. We’ve talked to Ripple off and on for at least 4 years. They love music and have a good/modern philosophy that we liked as artists. In the end we went with them and also decided to re-master them/re-release on digital too. Once that happened and what Ripple did for us it was only natural for us to sign on with them to release our latest album “Beast Remains”.
 
 
Oh, I almost forgot, as I was musing over this since first hearing it… is that a guitar or bass trill at the inception of “Deep Inside”… I dare say, if it’s the latter, you don’t come across that every day!
 
M: Bass…
 
 
Who drew and/or designed the compelling hued, as well as fluidly rocking and “freedom” instilling cover art? How ‘bout the groovy band logo for that matter?
 
M: Sandra Paul Havik (she also does work for WoFat). That’s how we linked up with her. The band logo, our local artist friend, Matt Collins designed when he did the artwork for “Sunlight”. He took an unknown font (overused now) and stretched it and tweaked it to how it is.
 
 
What are your expectations from “Beast Remains” and what do you wish to achieve with Freedom Hawk in the near future?
 
M: Keeping the expectations low really… high or any expectations can backfire but hopefully people old and new enjoy it. Good or bad reviews don’t mean shit… what matters is the fans and people who pay their hard earned money on the record and/or to see our live show or buy/wear merch. Or send us a message saying our music saved their life or got them through a hard time. In the near future, we’d like to work on getting on a good tour.
 
 
It’s now time to accede to the token “weird”questions!!! How did you come up with the name Freedom Hawk initially?
 
M: TV commercial – Is that Freedom Rock? Well turn it up! Freedom Hawk, in name, started February 2006 when we opened up for Year Long Disaster. The promoter for that show contacted us, asking for the name of our band. We really didn’t have a name at that point. We were batting around a few ideas, Freedom Hawk was one of them, but we could never decide on a name. Since we had to provide one, T.R. told him Freedom Hawk. That name has just stuck with us ever since.
 
 
Are you a dog or cat person? As well, given the choice, what would be your ideal “exotic pet” (i.e. a gecko, chameleon, parrot, or further unconventional “beast”)?
 
M: Both. I have had cats most of my life. I have a 4 year old yellow lab, who is smarter than me… it’s scary. My exotic pet would probably be a Serval (that I could legally own in the US)…
 
 
Who, if applicable, is your preferred science fiction writer? Do you have an unbridled must-read to recommend for our erudite viewers/listeners?
 
M: The Way of the Peaceful Warrior (Dan Millman)…
 
 
Somehow, the spectral, flying figure on the cover reminds me of Spiderman! Which is your go-to action hero? Or do you find them rather cheesy and childish (like me, but don’t tell anyone!)…?
 
M: Hawk from Buck Rogers? I don’t know there is so many of them.
 
 
Are you a fan of graphic novels (comics to the layman)? Is there any particular author, illustrator or series which has stoked your fire of late?
 
M: Nothing comes to mind.
 
 
What is the grandest, most slambashing and outright enthralling, as well as hot rocking concert you’ve ever attended?
 
M: That is a real tough one. I have to say Lollapalooza with Janes Addiction, Soundgarden, Tool, Rage Against The Machine, Butthole Surfers or Iron Maiden “Somewhere in Time tour”.
 
 
What was your first actual job? How old where you and did you dig or loathe it?
 
M: Installing carpet in hotels. Loathed it.
 
 
What is your favorite kind of movie? Comedy, horror, action, drama, westerns!? Also, can you point out one of the better ones you’ve gleaned lately? On a similar note, (a two-pronged Q), is there an actor you particular fancy and alternatively, one you simply can’t abide by (speaking for myself, I abhor Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson!).
 
M: I’d say the best actor in my mind – Denzel Washington. Any movie that he is in you know will be good and 99% of the time will not disappoint.
 
 
On a more toothsome and gastronomical note, what is your favorite food, dish, or cuisine?  Wryly now, would you ever sample the toxic and dangerous Japanese delicacy albeit oddity which is the blowfish? 
 
M: Thai Red Curry. I love sushi but never tried a blowfish. There used to be a killer sushi place by my house where they would pick up fresh fish every morning from the docs and we would even bring our own fish in after going offshore (yellow fin tuna, you name it). I even had my own roll there – marco roll – spicy tuna and crab in the middle of the rice, salmon on the outside with roe (fish eggs) on top.
 
 
On a Buddhist, metaphysical level, which animal/creature do you aspire to be re-incarnated as? Feel free to go out on a limb here...
 
M: A hawk?
 
 
Imagine that your girlfriend/wife/life partner is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
 
M: I wouldn’t let that happen or she wouldn’t do it because she cares and/or listens to them too and/or I would be with someone that would do that. 
 
 
Ah, looks like we’ve ran the gauntlet! Once again, thank you so much for taking the time to enlighten Grande-Rock readers on the band, as well as on a personal level. It’s truly been a gas, and I wish you and the band all the best in your upcoming musical adventures/endeavors! Godspeed! (as opposed to Satan speed!)…
 
M: Thanks so much for the interview Eric and supporting the band! And special thanks to anyone and everyone who reads this, supports the band/keeps gas in the tank, friends, family, other band friends and our past and current support network like Small Stone, Ripple, Dropout media, Doomstar, High Wattage, Sheltered Life and Orange Amps.

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