Lamestream Lydia (Dale Unsworth) caught up with British progressive metal singer, Ross Jennings for RAMzine. Ross plays in renowned prog back Haken. Haken’s latest album Fauna, released in March 2023, marks a pivotal year for the band. The release captivated audiences with its stunning beauty and artistry.
RAMzine: With the tour happening right now, you’ve got to tour Fauna and this is also the replacement tour for the Virus album?
Ross: Yeah, I mean [on] this current tour, we’re co-headlining with Between the Buried and Me and it really was booked as a rebooking for the shows that were cancelled in 2020, which initially was supposed to be a celebration of the two albums Vector/Virus and then… For reasons we all know (Covid-19), we never got to go out on the road and play those songs. So the setlist is tailored a little bit leaning towards Virus and finally getting those songs a live airing. However, in the interim, we’ve written and recorded and released Fauna. So choosing the songs for the setlist has been a bit difficult. We had some singles released from the records so we decided to put a few of those in the setlist and so it really is a bit of a mix of both worlds touring Virus and then introducing people to the new record.
RAMzine: There’s something for everyone.
Ross: There definitely is yeah, and that’s very true of this record as well. Stylistically, we’re touching upon all our different styles that we’ve approached in the past.
RAMzine: The synth is back with a vengeance.
Ross: Yeah, Vector and Virus deliberately lean towards the heavy metal element of our sound. Keyboards were there, but they kind of took a step back and definitely with the release of Fauna, keyboardist Pete Jones returned to the band, which was a huge part in creating the sound we ended up with on the record so like you say, synth keys definitely take a step to the foreground again.
RAMzine: Absolutely. The Vector/Virus show in London, is that still going ahead?
Ross: Unfortunately we’re no longer doing that planned Vector/Virus show. This might happen in the future. It’s something I was dying to do. The whole idea was to play that show at Shepherds Bush Empire in London, film it, record it, and have a live release. Sadly, that just wasn’t to be so now we’ve got the co-headline tour, our setlist is a little bit shorter, shorter stage time.
RAMzine: It’s interesting that you’re back with Between the Buried and Me because on the Coma Ecliptic tour, you were supporting those guys, so it’s good to see all these bands that are from such pivotal points in prog history coming back together and staying close. How are you still getting on with Between the Buried and Me?
Ross: Great, yeah, we’re sharing the bus together. We’ve been travelling through Europe with them. They’ve become really close friends, honestly. And yeah, we sealed that relationship like you said back in 2015. It was a shorter tour but I think it was about two or three weeks.
RAMzine: It was in smaller venues too…
Ross: Exactly some smaller venues so obviously can see the growth of both bands since that time. Yeah, it’s great to be back with them honestly.
RAMzine: While we’re here we should take a second to wish Dustie well and hope he gets better soon (Dustie Waring, lead guitarist of Between the Buried and Me).
He will be absent from this tour, they’ll have pre-recorded parts. Everyone else is here for magical prog magic and magic wonderfulness.
Ross: Yeah, the shows have been amazing. Like we’ve had some really good turnouts. Great energy. People are really enjoying themselves and enjoying live music again, which is for some people the first show since pre-COVID.
RAMzine: It’s fantastic to see people still doing it. How’s the prog scene itself doing with people coming to shows?
Ross: It’s getting back slowly to where it was I’d say. We were in a great position with the new record and there’s a big buzz around the band at the moment. So we’re seeing that reflected in the numbers. Yeah, I don’t think we’re suffering really.
RAMzine: That’s fantastic to hear. And with you guys being together for so long, we have another anniversary to celebrate. We have ten years of The Mountain.
Ross: Yeah! God, makes me feel old.
RAMzine: This is where I found you guys. This is where a lot of people found you guys.
Ross: Yeah, it was our first major label release [via Inside Out Music]. So there was definitely a sense of excitement and creative energy there that was just suddenly burst onto the scene.
RAMzine: Everyone was calling you Dream Theater 2.0 in the best way possible. A lot of people would take that as a disparity..
Ross: It was kind of funny. I don’t really feel like this record sounds like Dream Theater whatsoever. There are a lot more elements to it. The great part was this garnered the attention from Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess and it’s great to have that seal of approval from Prog legends.
RAMzine: The fabled Shattered Fortress tour which was just a few dates around Europe…
Ross: Right. Yeah, that was to follow in 2017. So yeah, it’s a pivotal album in our career. And obviously, we’re certainly proud of it. And it’s opened many doors for the band since.
RAMzine: It’s fantastic. What’s next for Haken?
Ross: Well, I can say there’s a few shows left on the tour. I don’t know when this is going out but do come along. There’s a few left. We’ll be hitting North America soon and festival season. So there’s plenty of Haken opportunities to come and catch us live.
RAMzine: North America is going to be with Arch Echo.
Ross: That’s right.
RAMzine: Who supported Dream Theater?
Ross: That’s true. Yeah.
RAMzine: It’s six degrees of Mike Portnoy at this point.
Ross: Yeah, we’re excited to see those guys in action. From what we’ve heard, they’re phenomenal players and so yeah, really excited about that.
(Ross notices the interviewers pin at this point) Is that Charli XCX?
Ross: That’s not very Prog!
RAMzine: It’s Charli baby! Charli as this prog as it gets.
Ross: I’m all for it, I’m absolutely open to many genres.
RAMzine: We’re gonna close it here but I’m gonna ask you to sign something.
If we get yelled at we’ll leave but can you sign this please?
Ross: Yes. Oh mountain, no Brokeback, Nice. This is a phenomenal soundtrack. Like I fell in love with the music for this film and I’m a bit of a country fan as well so I like all the sorts of country songs on it as well. It’s a great movie. But yeah, I’ll happily sign it if that’s what you want. If you can’t see it, do say Haken.
RAMzine: Never buy your albums on Wish.
Ross: Here it is… never done that.
RAMzine: That’s the key advice when you get stuff signed by rockstars just bring any garbage.
Ross: Oh we’ll sign anything.
RAMzine: Don’t bring their albums, they’ve been seeing their albums for years. They know what they look like.
Ross: I’ve signed playing cards, travel tickets, all sorts of things. Anything goes.