And We Should Die Of That Roar Interview: “Zap The Motherfucker Away”

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And We Should Die Of That Roar Interview:
Photograph courtesy of Michael Strandhed

And We Should Die Of That Roar is the nom de musique of one Hardy Hum (I’m not sure that’s his real name either). A musical project of ambition, and tremendous scope, AWSDOTR incorporates blues, folk, gipsy, americana, Balkan oompah styles just to name a few. Hardy took some time recently to discuss his debut album with Overblown, while diverging into such disparate topics as George Eliot, Tom Waits, Plato’s Cave allegory, and Alice In Chains.

Overblown: Your name And We Should Die Of That Roar is taken from the novel ‘Middlemarch’ by George Eliot. The full quote is: “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” Why did you chose that name? Is the quote significant to you?

And We Should Die Of That Roar: Correct, “And We Should Die Of That Roar” stems from George Eliot’s, or Mary Ann Evans’ as was her real name, novel ‘Middlemarch’. That particular quote is breathtaking as it is but the broader excerpt surrounding this quote brings even more excitement. Check it:

“That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.”

Remember that this was written in late 1800’s and yet the eloquence and precision of her observations seem to be immortal, easily applicable to the world today. That’s just amazing! The quote’s last sentence kind of wraps up her message in a familiar and significant context – I’m thinking here about how it is, in a way, reminiscent of Plato’s Cave allegory. In a word, there is a paradox inherent to this situation where we humans are torn between the stupidifying sheer ignorance on the one hand and quite often the life-saving stupidity mechanism on the other.

I believe that the truth of things is larger than us, larger than we’ll ever be. We humans are just a brief visitors in the unceasing stretch of time and no matter for how long we stay, next to eternity we just kind of disappear. We just vanish and that’s it. So we simply cannot and should not wrap our heads around the truth or to put it bluntly, we can’t know everything. Some things are simply beyond our epistemological reach and perhaps there is a good reason for it. It’s just that we ‘ll never fully know that reason.

However, that doesn’t give us a moral justification to stop caring. But what’s interesting here is that once we care, we’d die to know and there we go again, striving for the impossible. So, anyways, this sort of made me think how we too often are focusing on the truth as if it had any significance detached from our experience of things. The truth, I say, as we so often describe it today as objective etc, is overrated. The only truth that should really matter to us is the subjective one, the heartfelt one. If it hurts – it’s pain, no matter what the digits, instruments and “facts” say!!!

See, while we’re always busy reaching for the stars with our hearts set on all those hopes and our eyes on all those goals located somewhere in the future, we seem to be more and more blind to all those things that really matter, things in our immediate surroundings, in our contemporary world, in our spacetime, here and now. Which is why most of us are able to walk by a hungry person on the street on our way to a banquet without allowing that to hold us back in any way. Or to skim over a war correspondent’s portraits of horror in a morning paper and wash our conscience clean by gorging in some funny story on the next page about a celebrity being naughty, a reality show star making another saucy confession, usually completely void of substance, or anything similar.

Most of us suck at being attentive and considerate, that is a fact, and that is exactly why all the suffering in the world and the brute stupidity that causes it, is but a squirrels heart beat to us. Most times we can’t hear it because we fear it might destroy us. Although, at its worst, it might disturb our boring lives, bring disorder into our daily routines and to some of us even cause a slight feeling of guilt. So we “walk about well wadded with stupidity.” I don’t know if we really are able to do better than that, but I know I don’t like it. Whatever it is that defines the truth, its meaning can only exist in that roar.

O: Instead of telling the story of grand, epic heroes, ‘Middlemarch’ tells the story of ordinary characters, is that something that you attempt to do with your music?

AWSDOTR: Ha-ha, I don’t know, that question sounds like that Foo Fighters song. Maybe at some point I might write a song about some big-shot established hero celebrity – but both the meaning of hero and of what is to be regarded as epic enough is in first place culture-bound with further individual variations so, whenever we’re talking about heroes, it can certainly be useful to ask a question “a hero to whom” because people will always look at those things differently.

For now, instead of addressing the clear cut and easily recognizable themes, issues, problems, and such I want my songs to explore the gray zones, the in-betweens, the indeterminacies of life, all those hazy corners of our existence, the common yet obscure, the well-known yet ambiguous. Choking on my own heart beating in my throat I approach that little squirrel with a stethoscope, my whole being yearning to hear it. I shove a microphone in the dirt where the grass grows and blast it through the speakers, all knobs at ten, singing along as possessed. I think that there’s a whole lot of amazing stuff hiding in the pause, in the void, in thing left unsaid, note left unplayed. I believe that these gaps are loaded with much more significance than we’d ever dare to admit.

O: Personally, I hear a strong link in your music to Tom Waits. How do you feel about that comparison? Is he someone you admire? If so, why?

AWSDOTR: I love Tom Waits! He’s one of the greatest artists and songwriters of all times, period. I would occasionally wear a Tom Waits t-shirt and whenever I get the chance I’d try to convince someone of how great Waits is. He’s been a tremendous inspiration in everything I do and this is not the first time this comparison has been thrown at me. And no, I don’t mind, if anything I’m flattered! Waits is bold in his approach to music. He’s innovative while still being loyal and respectful to the classics and tradition, a true musicologist that somehow manages to keep things focused enough not to become too experimental. There is, however, one rather large disadvantage in being compared to Gods – you can never outshine them, so you always come across as tolerable copy at best.

But sincerely, it should also be mentioned, chances are much of similarities that might be found between And We Should Die Of That Roar and Tom Waits are to a great extent also a result of similar set of influences. Listening to Waits’ music you can easily hear the strong influence of different kinds of folk, roots, traditional influences, be it US-based (Blues, Jazz, Swing, Americana, Folk) or Latino (Samba, Bossanova) or Eastern European (various gipsy styles and Balkanesque oompah grooves) – and much of this is just the kind of music that I’ve been surrounded by for years while growing up and I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t inspired by them.

O: You are from the former Yugoslavia, but were forced to migrate to Sweden. What happened?

AWSDOTR: Well, the vicious men with knives, guns, and bombs combined with twisted, propaganda polluted, political creed – they were the reason. I was just a kid when the hell of Balkan wars broke loose and when my whole world fell apart. I was 15 when we managed to escape. A convoy led us up north. Eventually, we came to Sweden and we were forced to leave, running for our lives with nothing but a bag of memories. And so here I am now.

O. How has the mixture of cultures influenced your music?

AWSDOTR: Well I was always kind of drawn to the rock, punk, blues etc all of which are what you in a daily parlance call a Western cultural forms but I’ve always also felt touched in my heart by traditional Balkan styles such as Sevdah, Starogradska, Tamburasi and other such stuff I was exposed to while growing up. So, this mix of cultural influences was not necessarily brought by my fleeing to Sweden, it was already there, long before. I fear I might be one of those musical escapologists, always being fascinated by and reaching for something else, in spite of being aware that there’s no escaping from who you are.

Funny thing is that all new conquests are automatically embodied as an additional element in the configuration of the self and so they become something to be escaped from. So I’m on to the next one. But more often than not I find myself running in circles in the fields of tulips. Tulips that seem hesitant and kind of troubled before the volatility of the approaching dark. Much like a sleepwalking wolf on amphetamine perplexed by the beauty of flowers and deeply intrigued by the odd finitude signaled by the sun’s striving to plunge into the horizon, completely unaware that underneath the seducing tulips, there’s a mine-field, smiling, chafing hands, rejoicing.

O: What is lead single “Nobody Cares” about?

AWSDOTR: Nobody Cares is the only song on the album with very clear message – we’re fucking up our world and each other beyond recognition but we’re to busy to let that bother us. It seems that we expect even from the TV news to serve as entertainment. So whenever I feel that certain coverage might disturb my peace, the ordinariness of my day and my routines, I just zap the motherfucker away. In the meantime, people, real people, are suffering, and they need us. WE need us to save us from ourselves!!!

O: The album is nearly an hour and a half long. Isn’t that an audaciously long running time for a debut album? Aren’t you worried that listeners won’t commit to that long a running time from a new artist?

AWSDOTR: Hahaha, yes, that is a long album, especially in times when it’s all about fast consumption, singles and EP’s at best. Yeah, I am aware that many listeners might find the 87 minutes debut to be just too much to digest – and frankly I don’t care! The proper length of the album is defined by time and space – and there was a time and space where a 6 to 7 tracks records, between 30-40 minutes long, was considered a full-length albums. Today it’s about 11-15 songs, between 50-60 minutes. But I really didn’t care much about any of that. I went into the studio with nearly forty songs, ended up recording eighteen of them, one didn’t make the final selection so I was left with 17 songs all of which I liked. So I just went with it.

I am not into calculating and strategically planning the marketing side of my art. Instead, I have given my heart the role of Executive Director with unrestricted action-space. Everything is moving so fast nowadays and we don’t really have time for anything. To pause, to take a break to sit down and reflect – to let the impressions sink in – there is a shortage of these things. They are a luxury earmarked for no one because it is becoming increasingly hard to justify what is often considered “doing nothing”.

Well this album is an open invitation to take a break, to sit back and tag along on the 87 minutes long music journey, for those who never could imagine themselves in such a scenario, they might think of the album as a playlist with 17 tracks to chose from according to their mood. I mean, in the end, you get 17 handcrafted pieces of art for the price of one, I call that “value for your money” and if anybody should complain about the album being too long than it just shows how grumpy people can be about stuff. It’s like saying “that restaurant is great but they serve way too large portions”. But perhaps we’re all driven by this gluttony regarding everything. The excess is the norm but at the same time we’re being painfully peculiar as to exact format and substance of all the shit we swallow. Like a pac-man, whose all existence is about eating dots, complaining, “well this line of dot’s was just to darn long”. Ha-ha.

O: ‘Red Rose Garden’ sounds like an Alice In Chains acoustic out take. Are they an influence?

AWSDOTR: Oh, come on, everybody keep saying that about that song although I haven’t had a slightest thought about Alice in Chains while writing and recording that song. This song for me is pure blues and nothing else. If you listen to the choruses you must admit that they’re nothing like Alice in Chains, not even remotely. Although I can see how a combination of sparkling acoustic guitar and a spiraling nasal vocal lines resembles Staley and Cantrell during the MTV Unplugged sessions and I do admit that my voice kind of sounds like Layne’s during the verses. That is because I sing through a rather wide tonal register in those verses and I can’t really pull that off technically, so my voice kind of changes. It starts by being rooted in my gut but looses that base and kind of ends up stuck in my nose. It’s almost like my voice is mutating (laughs). But I should also say that there was a time, during the late 90s and early 00s when I would only listen to Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, so they’ve most definitely left their mark on me, that’s for sure.


O: The album is quite eclectic. Was that an important aspect for you when you were creating the record?

AWSDOTR: Yes and no. It wasn’t thought of as a strategic way of approaching the song writing and recording sessions, but I really wanted to stay clear from genres, which is not to be confused with staying clear from influences – the latter is simply impossible, and I wouldn’t see the point of such an orientation anyway. I’ve been playing punk rock for more than a decade with my band BlockBastards and there’s something really liberating and comforting in knowing what to expect.

But there is also something thrilling in NOT knowing what to expect when you start writing and recording songs and that what I was going for with And We Should Die Of That Roar. This thing is pure guts, nothing else, which is why it ended up so eclectic and broad. I think I’ve managed to reach a certain breadth of musical arrangements without losing the focus of their depth, and that is not an easy task. Be that as it may, I’m sure the heterogeneous character of And We Should Die Of That Roar will be dismissed by some, especially listeners who are loyally devoted to specific genres of music, but I believe that it will reach an audience that really gets it.

O: There is a significant blues influence on the record. Who are your favourite blues musicians? Who had the most impact on this record? How?

AWSDOTR: I love blues. Blues is sexy, it is primal, raw and uninhibited. Blues has always been kind of point of reference for me, even in times when I didn’t explicitly listen to blues music. I guess my first encounters with the blues came while I listened to Hendrix, Joplin and also Aerosmith, AC/DC and ZZ Top when I was kid.

But it wasn’t until some years later, when my mom bought me this acoustic guitar and I started learning how to play, that I discovered that those sweet licks and solos that Billy Gibbon or Angus Young would noodle around with were all taken from somewhere else. It wasn’t until many years later when my closest friend, a true audiophile and chronic music addict, and I started this joint journey through the rearview mirror of all stuff we like… so, one night, he brought along a CD with Howlin’ Wolf’s His Best and we both got hooked on that. It was amazing, such passion, such heart, I’ve never heard anything like that before… and also his guitarist Hubert Sumlin is just one of the greatest with very specific piercing, almost out-of-phase, sound and a really characteristic and hard-to-copy vibrato technique.

Listening to those guys really did make a huge impact and, dare I say, really changed the way in which I approach music nowadays. But my friend and I, we went digging further, and our search led us through Blind Boys of Alabama and Memphis Sheiks to spiritual songs, which are kind of proto-blues in their style and emotion. I really like to hear that southern gospel and one of my all time favorites is Reverend Dr. C.J Johnson’s “You Better Run To the City of Refuge” which inspired me while writing “All Gone” on my album. Then I also really enjoy the post 50s blues scene, where instruments were electrified but these acts still didn’t reach the big Chicago scene, so there are guys like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells. Little Walter, B.B. King, and later on even Albert King and Freddy King.

I’d like to specifically mention Hound Dog Taylor, whom I absolutely adore, although I myself don’t play as much slide as he does, but his rough sound of a cheap 4-pickup Kawai guitar and full blasting Fender amp and all that raw emotion that just keeps on bursting through his slide and through his throat is just something that touched me deeply, and it still does. Also, my friend bought me an LP with Junior Kimbrough, and I instantly fell in love with his trans-like way of playing and singing, or “weeping” might be a better word. Finally I’d like to mention two Swedish guys, Daniel Norgren and Slidin’ Slim for all your blues loving readers. You really should check these guys out, they’re both amazing.


O: Random questions: What is your album of the year? What’s your favourite Christmas memory?

AWSDOTR: Oh, I don’t really feel that 2014 has been a great album year. Most of the albums I bought in 2014 belong to yesteryears. My best buy during the 2014 was Charles Bradley’s “No Time For Dreaming” (from 2011). The best live performance in 2014 was: Reignwolf at Bråvalla festival in Sweden. That was just a great show! There was not a soul left unaffected! I think this guy was born to perform.

Being born a Muslim in a communist country I never celebrated Christmas. All peoples of ex Yugoslavia did however celebrate New Years holidays in a way resembling the western version of Christmas. So, we had the Santa and everything but instead of Christmas tree and Christmas presents there were New Years tree and gifts and stuff. Anyway, my best memories of these holidays is actually the Christmas of 2012, which was the first time we spent the holidays together with our 7 months old baby boy! Nothing can beat that! But I also like 2013 because my baby bought me a Guild Manhattan X-170, which is this beautiful arch-top with vintage voiced pickups and it just roars.

And We Should Die Of That Roar’s debut album was released in November. Stream it here