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Interview With HANKER

By Stéphane Bélanger

The Québec scene is known mostly for its weird bands (ex: VOÏVOD, GRIM SKUNK, etc.) or its powerful and/or brutal bands (ex: CRYPTOPSY, GORGUTS, OBLIVEON, etc.). But the rise of Techno Thrash that hit Europe some time ago is now starting to seriously set up its wings up here too and certainly the most fertile and impressive of those new young bands is HANKER! I recently had a talk with Pascal Cliche, who told me about the band's present plans and its unavoidable progression into the future. Read on and support HANKER!


"First off, hello to everyone!"

—>Hi man! Nice talking to you! I think you guys just signed to Attack Records, didn't you? What's the deal here with them?<—
"Yes indeed, we are with Attack Records and our third CD, 'Snakes And Ladders', should be out by the end of March 2000. It will be distributed by Sour/Sony Music Canada."

—>And what of Attack Filmworks? Do they have something to do with you now, too?<—
"Attack Filmworks operates in the movie soundtrack business. We have had some offers but nothing concrete yet. It would be very cool to be on a movie soundtrack someday!"

—>I think that "Snakes And Ladders" was set to come out in September... However, it's not even out yet... Why is that?<—
"Yes, 'Snakes And Ladders' was supposed to be out in September but we didn't like the initial artwork. So, we mandated Graphigne Communications in Québec City to come up with some artwork that would satisfy us. Furthermore, the company signed with a new distributor (Sony Canada). Therefore, things have been delayed for HANKER. But, good things happen to those who wait!"

—>Are you totally satisfied with that album? What can we expect from this one?<—
"The 'Snakes And Ladders' album is the best we have ever done. Not that our previous two did not satisfy us at the time, mind you! This album is a killer! The production is way superior to that of our previous albums. The powerful guitars are bigger than ever with the real HANKER sound (kind of like the 'In Our World's guitar sound but much more refined). The drums are ever present and match perfectly well with Denis' aggressive bass parts. My voice is more blended with the music and more ascendant than ever before! The eleven songs are very effective and well written. This album will blow you away!"

—>Will it still be in the vein as "The Dead Ringer"?<—
"'Snakes And Ladders' is way superior to 'The Dead Ringer'. This is just pure HANKER with a better production."

—>What about the studio experience for that album? Did everything go well? Any anecdotes worth mentioning?<—
"We recorded the album at Phase One Recording Studios in Toronto and we worked with people who had produced Metal acts before us. Therefore, the production took us where we wanted to go! Overall, everything went well, because we were really well prepared and enthusiastic! We had a really good time in the studio and at our hotel room.  ;-)  About anecdotes, I would have too many things to say at once but I can tell you that our new bass player, Denis Cossette, recorded his bass parts in only two hours! He holds the new record at this studio!"

Pacal Cliche

—>Who was behind the boards for this one?<—
"Throughout the recording of 'Snakes And Ladders', the producer, technicians and the four of us were behind the boards."

—>Does the sound have more depth and heaviness than its predecessor?<—
"Yes! The sound is definitely superior to its predecessor! The 'Snakes And Ladders' sound has much more depth and heaviness and we are very proud of it!"

—>The artwork off this new album looks cool! Who did it?<—
"Yes indeed, the artwork is very beautiful! Moreover, the album's packaging is just simply incredible! The painting was done by Benoît Labbé and the packaging by Graphigne communication."

—>Is there any concept behind the title?<—
"It's not a concept album, yet the eleven songs are all related to the title. 'Snakes And Ladders' talks about life in general. Life could be so simple, but some people keep on screwing it up!"

—>What kind of promotional strategy do you have planned for this album? Any touring soon?<—
"'Snakes And Ladders' will be distributed in Canada by Sour/Sony Music Canada. We are currently working on something with the United-States and the rest of the world. We are thinking about a video and a tour somewhere for the summer 2000."

—>When the hell are we going to see you in Montréal?<—
"We will be playing in Montréal on March 31st 2000 at the Foufounes Électriques and possibly earlier in March as part of a special event. Would you believe that on Saturday April 1st, we will be sharing the stage at Le d'Auteuil here in Québec City with another great Québec band, OBLIVEON!"  :o)

—>And in the past, what kind of stage experience did you get? Did you do some touring before? What about outside Québec and Canada?<—
"Up to now, we have done many shows! We did a club tour that lasted for four years! We played with LEE AARON, SLIK TOXIC and BIG HOUSE. We did some contests in the Québec City area; we did some local TV shows, etc. Unfortunately, we have never done a real tour (different countries, etc.). Therefore, we are hankering to go on tour! This is just a matter of time and place. 'Snakes And Ladders' will open the doors for us! Until then..."

—>What about Europe? I believe that your brand of music would do good overseas... Do you have any distribution deal there? What kind of sales are you expecting there?<—
"Europe is the promise land for HANKER. We have sold many CDs (especially in Germany) over the European territory. All of this without any distribution network. As a result that if we ever hook up with a solid Power Metal distributor in Europe for 'Snakes And Ladders', we expect that the record will sell very well."

—>You guys have been together since 1985. So you guys obviously didn't start playing music and your instruments just two or three years ago... What kind of experience and formations do you have? Any bands previous to HANKER?<—
"We learned to play music by ourselves. Patrick and I have been playing together since elementary school and we have never played with other bands. Luc (drums) has been with us for ten years and he had not played in any bands either before joining HANKER. About our new bass player Denis, he had played with other bands before joining HANKER."

—>I think that you were called COBALT before being called HANKER...<—
"Yes indeed, we were called COBALT before being called HANKER."

—>Why did you change the name?<—
Snakes & Ladder "When we started off the COBALT project, we were around fourteen years of age. We did a couple of shows as COBALT. Two years after, we hired a new drummer, Jeff Fillion, and we changed our name for HANKER. We were getting older and better and we wanted to be taken seriously."

—>What does HANKER mean to you? Not just the definition, but the deeper meaning...<—
"HANKER roughly means to really want something, yet it means much more to us! HANKER is everything you have ever wanted and everything you will ever want. There also is a nice ring to it!"  :o)

—>Will you re-use the name COBALT in the future? For a song title maybe?<—
"To be quite honest with you, I have never thought about re-using COBALT as a title for one of our songs. This could be a good idea! Only God knows and the devil may care!"

—>Is it true that you guys sold two thousand copies of your debut demo in 1991?<—
"Yes, we did sell over two thousand copies of our debut demo in 1991!"

—>What were the territories that sold the best?<—
"The territory that sold best is Québec!"

—>Were some of those songs re-used on your albums?<—
"We re-used three songs on our first CD 'In Our World'."

—>You did a video-clip off that demo, right?<—
"Yes! We did a demo video with the song 'Disturbing The Brain', a HANKER classic. We got some airplay on Much Music in Toronto, but none in Montréal."

—>Now let's talk about "The Alliance" compilation CD on Emperor Records... How did this deal come about?<—
"'The Alliance' compilation CD was put together by Derek McDonald of Emperor Records, who contacted us after listening to 'The Dead Ringer'. I think he likes us very much."  :o)

—>What are the territories of distribution for that compilation?<—
"'The Alliance' is distributed pretty much the world over, albeit on a small scale. It has been very beneficial to us as 'You Won't Live Eternally' got the attention of a number of people."

—>And what are some of the other bands featured in there? Many kind of Metal of solely melodic Thrash??<—
"On it, you will find all types of Hard Rock and Metal, including Montréal's own PORNO COMA, along with bands from South Africa, the United-States, Australia, Ukraine and Canada. It's a real smorgasbord of highly energetic hard and heavy stuff."

—>Were you on any other compilation aside from this one?<—
"Yes, we have been on Germany's 'Larmbelästigung' compilation and there are talks of appearing on Malaysia's 'Metal Terus' compilation pretty soon."

—>What is this CBKA Award that you received? Something from the industry?<—
"First off, CBKA stands for Campbell Brothers' Killer Artist. These Texans have a weekly radio show on the Internet's Hard Radio. This is an award that HANKER received for 'In Our World'. We are very proud to be on their Wall of Fame!"


—>Is Pascal the sole writer when it comes to the lyrics, or does he get help from other members?<—
"I am the one who writes the lyrics. Nonetheless, I have help from our manager who is very well learned in English. The other members often give me ideas for titles or subjects."

—>And how do you guys go about composing new material? Is there a sole writer there too or is it a team affair?<—
"Patrick and I are the main songwriters in HANKER. However, a song becomes a HANKER song once everybody has had his say. If ever a member does not like a song, we work on something else. HANKER do work as a team and we are very honest with one another."

—>You have lately got your own domain (www.hankermetal.com)... Does the Internet provide you with a good promotional tool? Do you believe it is a necessity by now to have your own domain and stuff like that?<—
"The Internet is a great promotional tool! This is very practical in order to create contacts and new fans all over the world! It has become an absolute must for anyone who is really serious about their business, whatever it may be. The daily e-mails we get are living proofs of it."

—>Speaking of web site, yours has been put in Metal Rules' Top 50... How is it doing? Where does it stand now in the standings?<—
"As of today, February 12, 2000, www.hankermetal.com stands at number 4 and we are very proud of it!"

—>And which would you consider as being as the best Metal band web site nowadays?<—
"I would be hard pressed to tell you which Metal band has the best site today. If it were not for my legendary objectivity and humility, I would say: OURS!  ;o)  Seriously, we have been blessed with a webmaster extraordinaire: Pierre Bégin. He is one of the very best thing that has ever happened to us. We could never find a more efficient and dedicated person. Thank you very much, Pierre!"

—>I find many parts of your music which remind me of IRON MAIDEN on your album "The Dead Ringer"... Was MAIDEN one of your big influence when you started this band?<—
"When we started it was, but not anymore!"

—>Speaking of "T.D.R.", how have the sales been for that album? Do you have any figures?<—
"The sales have been going well enough, despite the fact that we do not have any distribution network. But this is going to change with the release of 'Snakes And Ladders'."

—>What were your best territories?<—
"The best territories have been Germany, Québec, Italy, and Greece."

—>Were you satisfied of that album?<—
"Yes we were, given the budget we had to produce it. However, with the influx of greater financial support, we strongly believe 'Snakes And Ladders' has elevated the HANKER sound a few notches."

—>Was it an entirely independent release?<—
"We had a deal with a German Label, which does not exist anymore. They went bankrupt just before the release of 'The Dead Ringer'. Therefore, we may easily say that it is a totally independent one."

—>Was that album also picked up by Attack Records? And what about your debut album "In Our World"? Is there a chance that Attack may re-issue those two?<—
"There have been talks with Attack Records regarding 'In Our World' and 'The Dead Ringer' but nothing has been signed yet. It is definite that 'I.O.W.' and 'T.D.R.' will be re-issued in a not-so-distant future. But 'Snakes And Ladders' is our top priority for now!"

—>What are you guys into nowadays? And what are your views on the scene in general? And in Québec?<—
HANKER "We are working very hard on the HANKER project. The Metal scene seems to be exploding all over the world after a decade of relative obscurity and we are all very pleased with it! About the Québec scene, we do have excellent Metal bands but the music industry has not been very supportive. Let's just hope that this is all going to change."

—>Where do you see yourselves in the coming century? Planning on playing Metal for a long while, still?<—
"We see HANKER extensively touring the world and we want to be playing our kind of Metal for a long time!"

—>What did you think of the celebration all over the world from December 31st to January 1st.. Do you have hope for the years 2000?<—
"Nothing special, we don't really fall for that kind of fabricated mass hysteria. We only hope that mankind will wake up before it's too late and start living together as one."

—>Ok man! Thanks a lot for the time you took to answer to these questions. Any closing comments? What do you guys have available for the fans (merchandise)?<—
"We are working on setting up our merchandising. We would like to invite our fans to visit us regularly at www.hankermetal.com for more details, as the merchandise will become available.
Before we go, we would also like to sincerely thank the people at Sang Frais fanzine for their great support, along with all the underground radio stations that play Metal music in general and especially HANKER's. Thanks to you too, Stéphane. Long live Soundscape Webzine!
Get ready for 'Snakes And Ladders'! It is going to be a must addition to your CD collection! Hope to see you all at our shows in either Montréal, Lac Etchemin or Québec City... or all three! Why not?  :o)  Take care!"

- Pascal "The Screamer" Cliche


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