CONNER GREEN Talks New HAKEN Album, Gear, Tour & More

Conner Green

I believe that everybody already knows that Haken have a new album called Affinity and that it’s bloody great. The band is literally about to kick off their European tour together with Special ProvidenceRendezvous Point, and Arkentype. For bassist Conner Green, Affinity is the second release with Haken after 2014′s EP Restoration, and in an interview for Prog Sphere, Conner talks about the new album, his bass rig, technique, upcoming tour, and more.

Describe how the new Haken album Affinity came about.

The writing process for Affinity (it was called H4KEN at the time) began, I believe, in the late fall of 2014. At that time, we were sending each other bits and pieces of unfinished songs via email, workshopping riffs in these unfinished songs, and attempting to devise reasonably adequate arrangements to build on. After a few months of that, our guitarist Charlie Griffiths put forth the idea of “affinity,” which served as an inspiring foundation for lyrical themes, song titles, etc. Incidentally, “affinity” took on a double meaning for us, since it encapsulates our collaborative approach to this record.

Affinity feels more eclectic comparing with previous releases; it feels more calm in some way, what is not something bad. Where do you think it comes from?

I believe the eclecticism is a result of six musicians with a massively varied array of influences. We all have different musical backgrounds and tastes, ranging from metal and jazz to pop and prog, and when thrown together into the compositional melting pot, something like Affinity comes out.

Lead me through the recording process of the album.

Firstly, our drummer Ray [Hearne] went into the studio to lay down his drum tracks. After this, guitars, keys, and bass were recorded simultaneously in our respective home studios. For some sections (the chorus of “The Architect”, for example), I found it necessary to wait until guitars were recorded, so as to ensure the bass slotted into the mix as tightly as I could manage. Lastly, our singer Ross [Jennings] went into the studio to record his vocal tracks. After all recordings were complete, we sent the tracks off to the legendary Jens Bogren for mixing and mastering.

Haken - Affinity

What is it that makes Affinity an exceptional album? Do you attribute that to the band’s success with each of the previous records and the creative progress that’s been made with each of releases?

I wouldn’t call Affinity an exceptional album necessarily, but thanks very much for describing it that way! When we began the writing process, we didn’t pay any mind to The Mountain and how it was received, nor did we consciously avoid writing Mountain-esque material. However, creative progress certainly played a roll, since this was the first album that was entirely collaborative from the beginning.

Affinity is your first-length record with Haken after the release of Restoration EP in 2014. How much of a challenge was it for you to engage in a creative process?

Engaging in the creative process for Affinity felt more natural to me than it did for the Restoration EP. Because I’ve become musically and personally closer to the guys in the band, expressing thoughts and opinions has become much easier. The real challenge in writing music with five other musicians, though, is realizing when your thoughts and opinions just plain aren’t needed.

Tell me about your bass rig that you used for recording the new album.

I went for a fairly minimal setup for this album. I recorded everything with a Zon Sonus 6-string bass with Elixir strings, which went direct into an Avalon U5 DI. For distortion/fuzz, I used the Darkglass B7K and Vintage Microtubes, as well as an Amptweaker TightFuzz. My favorite piece of kit, however, was the Boss OC-2, which I used for sub-octave effects on “The Architect” and “Red Giant.”

Conner Green's Sonus Special 6

Having grown up in the Indiana (correct me if I’m wrong), how would you describe your initial exposure to music?

Yes, that’s correct! My parents put me into piano lessons when I was five or thereabouts, so I learned to read music at a young age. I didn’t begin listening to music recreationally, however, until I discovered bands like System of a Down, Killswitch Engage, and Korn. I was eleven or twelve at the time, and was immediately inspired to pick up the guitar.

Were you in the music programs in school while you were growing up?

Actually, I was in choir and musicals until high school, when I switched over to the school band. Regrettably, I didn’t put much effort into the singing I was meant to be doing in the choir, since all I wanted to do was play guitar in a metal band.

How did you get into playing bass? If you wanted to get into the heavy metal thing, it is kind of unusual to go straight to the bass. Most guys want to be guitarists. [laughs]

That’s very true. When I was a freshman in high school, I joined the jazz band, but, much to my chagrin, there was already a guitarist in the band, so my only choice was bass. Actually, I didn’t take bass seriously until two years later, when I picked up the upright bass. At that time, I was listening to a lot of jazz and indie music, so making the switch from guitar to bass wasn’t too unusual.

Did you start to listen to music differently once you discovered bass?

Absolutely. Before my junior year of high school, I only seemed to focus on vocals or guitars, because they were often the main attraction of whatever I was listening to. After I decided to take bass seriously, I began to “listen down” to the lower frequencies and the drums.

Who were some of your early bass influences?

My first major bass influence was actually an upright bass player called Ray Brown. I was hooked after I heard his playing on an Oscar Peterson Trio recording of “Days of Wine and Roses.” I was also digging into Scott LaFaro and Paul Chambers at that time. It wasn’t until college that I studied electric bass players. The first electric bass player I greatly admired was Janek Gwizdala, whose playing on Bob Reynold‘s album A Live Life really piqued my electric bass interests.

Conner Green (photo credits: Catherine Brun)

Conner Green (photo credits: Catherine Brun)

How did your career get rolling? What were you doing initially?

To be honest, I didn’t have much of a career before I joined Haken. I was in my second year of studying jazz bass at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music when I joined. I played a lot of jazz gigs around Indiana, and planned on continuing schooling until I had a master’s degree. Playing rock music proved to be more fulfilling though.

Tell me about your bass technique. Do you play much with a pick or do you play more with your fingers?

Over the last year, I’ve spent more practice time balancing my finger and pick playing. Both techniques have something unique to offer, so I use the technique I feel is best suited for the situation. Recently though, I’ve been eradicating raking from my finger technique, and instead alternating fingers when switching strings.

Do you have one or two “go-to” basses, or do you have a big arsenal of instruments?

I have one “go-to” bass, which is the Zon Sonus 6-string I recorded the new album with. Having a large collection of basses is attractive, but achieving total familiarity with an instrument is more important to me.

Switching back to Haken — you guys have a tour kicking off on May 25th in Bristol. What are your expectations?

As strange as it sounds, we haven’t solo-headlined Europe in over two years! Naturally, I’m hoping to see marginally larger crowds full of new faces in the cities we’ve visited before. We’re headlining shows in Scandinavia, Poland, and Israel for the first time, so we’re not quite sure what to expect just yet. Overall, though, it’s shaping up to be an epic tour, and we’re very lucky to have Special Providence, Rendezvous Point, and Arkentype along for the ride.

What about the future? What else would you like to do that you haven’t already accomplished?

Personally, I’d like to perform in and explore new areas of the world. We get a lot of requests to play in South America and Australia, and we’re itching to finally have those opportunities. Also, scoring a support slot for bands like Karnivool, Dream Theater, or Between the Buried and Me (again) would be simply amazing.

My last question… What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?

I’d almost certainly be a failed guitarist.

Affinity by Haken is out now; order it here. See the band live on the upcoming AffiniTour V1.0. For dates see the poster below.

Haken AffiniTour V1.0

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