Jaxon Benge from (Hed) p.e.
Interviewed by Michael Meade
Interview Conducted 7/2/14
Posted 7/8/14 - 10:30 PM ET
Tastes Like Rock editor, Michael Meade, spoke with Jaxson Benge, guitarist for (Hed) p.e., about the band's new album Evolution and their recent tour with SOiL. As well as what's coming up for himself and (Hed) p.e. in the coming months after Evolution drops on July 22, 2014.
TLR!: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today, Jaxon. To get things rolling, your new album, Evolution, is coming out July 22; what can you tell TLR's readers about it?
Jaxon Benge: Thank you for inviting us here! We are all very excited about the release of, “Evolution!” It showcases some new styles for us as well as some familiar ones. It was mixed by Ulrich Wild and mastered by Maor Appelbaum. We think people are going to freak out when they hear it!
TLR!: It has been four year since your last album, Truth Rising, how much of the in between time has been spent on writing and recording Evolution? And why is now the right time for it to see the light of store shelves and digital retailers?
Jaxon: In all, we spent a good deal of time writing and recording, but it took a while to put it all together. After the Truth Rising album cycling began to wind down, some material had already been written in demo form. In the summer of 2012, bass and drums were recorded to that demo material. While on the road, however, we had discussed moving in the direction of doom metal or old school Black Sabbath. At sound check, Trauma and I frequently jammed on riffs, including the ones heard on, “No Turning Back.” On April fool’s Day, 2013, during sound check in Mandan, North Dakota, we were all excited to hear the sound we were getting as a band. When we collectively heard those riffs at sound check; we were convinced this was the sound we discussed and one worth pursuing. More material was written, which fit that style we agreed on. The drums and guitars were recorded in summer of 2013, based on that material. Vocals were recorded shortly afterward, followed by the bass, which was tracked while on the road, in early 2014. In addition, we spent some time at a Louisville, Kentucky studio, recording material based on a demo of three additional reggae songs. In that session, we recorded as much as we could for the time we had and the rest of what is on the record is from that demo. Most of the material recorded in 2012 was shelved, except the songs that would become, “No Tomorrow,” and, “Never Alone.” I believe this is the longest the band has gone without releasing a studio album, but the timing couldn’t have been better and we weren’t going to put out another album until we knew we could do it right.
TLR!: When it comes to writing details, how does it all break down in terms who does what? Do you work as a team the whole way through or are areas broken up for independent writing and composing before bringing the everything together?
Jaxon: In my experience, the initial writing is done at home, individually. When I write, I keep going until I feel I have a pretty good chunk of material that I’m not too embarrassed to submit to the guys. I write completed instrumentals with tentative arrangements. They include guitar, bass, and drum machine. I never put vocals on my demos (At least not the ones I send the guys). The songs, “No Turning Back,” “Never Alone,” and, “No Tomorrow,” actually spawned from demos I wrote in summer and autumn of 2010. In spring of 2013, I wrote a collection of demos and submitted 12 tracks to the rest of the guys. Of those 12 songs, 5 made it to the album, along with the 3 from 2010. When Jared gets the songs, he listens for the ones he vibes with the most and selects those. Often times, arrangements will be changed and parts will be adjusted. For “No Turning Back,” Jared came up with the music for the chorus you hear now, which is different than the chorus on the demo. Actually, we had already recorded the guitars based on a previous adjustment to the chorus Jared made, so when we adjusted the chorus again, while on the road, I went back into the studio and re-recorded ONLY the chorus section of that song. The original demo version was more melodic, but the album version is much more sinister. For “Never Alone,” Jared spiced up the verse, by taking another section of the demo and repeating it across the verse section. “No Tomorrow,” took on many different forms prior to what you hear now. Jared came up with music for the hardcore bridge section and the other parts stayed true to the demo. Jared wrote and brought to the table three reggae tracks, “Nowhere2Go,” “Let It Burn,” and, “Hold On.” Also, he put together the interlude, “The Higher Crown.” While the initial demo writing may be done individually, the final recording takes all of us as a band to knock it out of the park.
TLR!: Are there plans for the next album yet or are you all taking it one album at a time and focusing on Evolution?
Jaxon: We’re going to focus on spreading the word about this record, for now. But, there’s always material ready to go and this is the first record we’ve released with Pavement. So we do have our sights set on building something for the long run, especially since Pavement is doing such great work.
TLR!: (Hed) p.e. Just finshed touring with SOiL back in May, memory fails me, have you guys ever toured together before?
Jaxon: Yes, we did a U.S. tour with them in the late summer of 2012.
TLR!: How was it working with them for this tour?
Jaxon: It was a blast. Those guys are all super cool guys, phenomenal musicians, and they put on one hell of a show.
TLR!: In your opinion, Jaxon, what was the best stop of this run?
Jaxon: I really enjoyed Denver. It’s a great city and the Summit Music Hall is always fun to play.
TLR!: I've never been to Denver, but I have heard the Summit Music Hall is a great venue before. And the worst stop?
Jaxon: I really hate to put this in print, but the process of elimination forces me to say Fresno. I’ve never seen as many cockroaches in one area as I did in the parking lot of this one particular venue. On the way back to the bus after the show, we all looked like we were playing hopscotch, trying to avoid hearing the crunching sound.
TLR!: I hear you, I've covered shows at venues where I'm based in Pennsylvania and one in New York City that... had a lot in common with that Fresno stop. This one is kind of a fan boy question, but what other acts would you each love to share a stage or tour with that (Hed) p.e. Hasn't yet?
Jaxon: I would have to say Alice In Chains, Paul McCartney, Jack White, Black Label Society, or KISS.
TLR!: Nice list! Bringing things back around to Evolution, once the album has dropped a few weeks from now, are there more tour dates and/or one off performances coming up to help promote the album's release?
Jaxon: We’ll be on the road from July 8th till the 23rd. Then, we kick off a U.S. tour with Powerman 5000 for the month of August. We have a short run planned for the end of September in the Philippines, and then we do a Europe/UK tour with Soil and American Head Charge. We’re looking forward to seeing our old friends and making some new ones!
TLR!: Awesome, hopefully TLR will be out cover one of your August gigs. Thanks again for chatting, it's been a great time!
Jaxon: Thank you very much! It was my pleasure!
For more on (Hed) p.e., their new album Evolution, and upcoming tour dates check out www.hedperocks.com.