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Haken Talk India Debut at Mood Indigo 2017 in Mumbai

The U.K. prog metallers’ keyboardist Diego Tejeida talks about coming to India, why completing a decade is a big deal and their next album

Anurag Tagat Dec 12, 2017

Haken will make their India debut this month. Photo: Marco Castellani, Renee Liszkai

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Over the phone from Mexico City, Haken keyboardist Diego Tejeida says the prog metallers have been working long-distance for a while now. Four years ago, Tejeida moved from London to his home in Mexico. Their bassist and latest addition Conner Green is based out of Indiana. But in prog, what matters is practice. Tejeida says, “This kind of music requires a lot of homework, so as long as everyone does their homework, we’re fine.”

There’s probably a bit of homework in store for the band as they work up to their India debut on December 22nd in Mumbai. Haken (pronounced ‘hey-ken’) will perform as part of the Indian Institute of Technology–Bombay’s annual cultural festival Mood Indigo, for Livewire nite, held on the biggish gymkhana grounds. Tejeida counts India as a “bucket list” trip and even plans to come by a few days prior in order to explore the country. He says, “I think it’s the first time for everyone except for Charlie [Griffiths, guitarist], he’s been there once. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the year than doing the show in India.”

The one-off show rounds off a year that marked 10 years of existence for Haken, who have already put out four albums and become a source for resurging epic-scale prog, drawing comparisons to the likes of American veterans of the genre such as Dream Theater. Their latest, Affinity [2016], leaned on Eighties-era synth tones and destructive prog. Tejeida says about the milestone, “When I joined in 2009, we were doing really small shows, before our first album Aquarius. We were doing shows for 30 to 40 people and they were quite good. You have to start with those shows. Now, playing festivals and doing our own tour in the United States and in Europe, I think it’s a very healthy way to acknowledge that and celebrate that we’re still doing this.”

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While drawing comparisons to Dream Theater is a bit contentious, Haken are more than just fans. Tejeida, bassist Green, guitarists Charlie Griffiths and Richard Henshall and vocalist Ross Jennings are all part of former DT drummer Mike Portnoy’s project Shattered Fortress. Tejeida is on the phone just before he jets off for more shows with Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress, which he counts as one of his biggest dreams realized. He namechecks getting introduced to Dream Theater’s 1994 album Awake and considers himself a “big fan of Scenes from a Memory.” He recalls his introduction to prog, “Back then, I was like 13 or 14 years old, and I was into Nirvana and Deftones—that kind of movement. One of my friends back then gave me Awake and said, ‘Listen to this.’ The very first song I listened to from Dream Theater was “The Mirror” and I thought, ‘What the hell is this? This is so heavy.’”

Haken’s trademark, so to speak, is their 2013 album The Mountain’s lead single “Cockroach King,” an eight-minute theatrical prog treat that draws from the strengths of the genre across the decades. Tejeida assures, however, that there’s no way they’ll ever try to make anything along the same lines again. “From a personal point of view, I would hate finding a formula and just sticking to it. I don’t see that as creative input.”

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Of course, “Cockroach King” will make it to their setlist in India, alongside songs from every album. Says Tejeida, “When you go to a festival, people have been standing there for a long time and seeing other bands. You have to come in with a lot of energy and just deliver and keep the energy flowing from the previous acts. We’re going to focus on the later stuff and we might throw some stuff from the first album.”

It’s been a prolific year in terms of shows played by both Haken and Shattered Fortress, so Tejeida says there’s likely to be fewer shows in 2018. But that’s because there’ll be more ideation and writing for the next Haken album. “The first thing on the agenda is to write the next album. We have a couple of shows for next year and some stuff that’s still coming in,” he says.

Watch the video for “Initiate”

This article appeared in the December 2017 issue of Rolling Stone India. 

Livewire Nite at Mood Indigo 2017 ft Haken, The F16s takes place on December 22nd, at Gymkhana Grounds, IIT Bombay. Entry: Rs 499. Buy tickets here.

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