INTERVIEW WITH HESSLER FRONTMAN IGZ KINCAID AND GUITARIST ERIK MICHAEL
Date: January 2, 2021
Photos: David Gall (first, fourth and eighth photos), Bryan Wilkinson (third, seventh and ninth photos)
AFTER MORE THAN FOUR YEARS, HESSLER ARE BACK WITH A BRAND NEW ALBUM TITLED ‘WHEN THE SKY IS BLACK’ WHICH HAPPENS TO HAVE BEEN RELEASED ON THE DAY THAT THIS INTERVIEW GETS POSTED. HESSLER FRONTMAN IGZ KINCAID AND GUITARIST ERIK MICHAEL HAVE TEAMED UP WITH BASSIST ADAM ARLING (THE LAST VEGAS, WARRIOR SOUL, FURBABY, URGE OVERKILL) AND DRUMMER RICHO MARQUINA (BLACK ACTRESS) TO RELEASE THE FIFTH RECORD IN THE BAND’S HISTORY FOLLOWING ‘BAD BLOOD‘ EP (2011), ‘COMES WITH THE TERRITORY‘ (2012), ‘GHOST DANCE‘ EP (2014) AND ‘SKELETON CREW‘ EP (2016). SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH KINCAID AND MICHAEL TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM ‘WHEN THE SKY IS BLACK’ AND MORE! YOU CAN PURCHASE HESSLER’S NEW RECORD VIA ITUNESAND/OR SPOTIFY.
Sleaze Roxx: So let’s talk about the delays with the Hessler album. Why did it take so long?
Igz Kincaid: Ummm. I don’t know. I’d say part of it was everything that was going on, part of it was maybe laziness. Most of these songs were completed before. The reality is that the new ones that nobody’s heard, we ha them done — I don’t know — for maybe eight to nine months. I’ d say I was a little ambitious in trying to get it out for spring. I wasn’t aware of the Apollo fire that happened in California that burned a primary pressing vinyl plant. I didn’t know about it and then Corona hit. It kind of slipped through the cracks. I think that happened at the beginning of February  which delayed everything from what I was told from when you submit your tracks and everything else, to artwork for vinyl pressing. You know, we could wait three to four months. When I saw that, I was like, ‘My gosh! That’s going to be quite the wait.’ I think that was a little bit discouraging.
We should have put it out right after we put out ‘When The Sky Is Black’ the single, but in hindsight as always, I’m glad we waited because I think that the title of the record is still relevant with what is going on. And I also think that had a little bit of an impact. We hadn’t planned anything Corona wise for titling it ‘When The Sky Is Black.’ It just kind of happened that way and the I felt in the summer that things were improving post-riots and the protests but at least from a Covid standpoint. And I don’t know if this album name is relevant anymore to what is going on and heck, now we’re in the middle of a cold dreary winter. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world so I think it’s definitely on point to everything that is going on.
Erik Michael: I think a lot of it had to do with our locations. We had like three different rehearsal spots in a short amount of time. It just got harder to get together. Though with recording technology today, we don’t have an excuse anymore! Gotta get on that…
Track List for When The Sky Is Black:01. Crazy Horse02. Akira03. This Evil04. Fallen Star05. When the Sky Is Black06. No, I’m Alpha Male (Turbonegro cover)07. London Dungeon (Misfits cover)08. El Jefe09. Twilight Zone (Golden Earring cover)10. Bad Blood
Sleaze Roxx: Why did you decide to go with the darker theme for your album title and cover?
Igz Kincaid: I don’t know. It just kind of naturally went there. I don’t think that all of the songs that are on the album necessarily have a dark theme but it just seemed to be the pathway to go.
Sleaze Roxx: One thing that you’ve done which is different than your past albums — you’ll correct me if I am wrong — is that you’ve already released six of the songs on the album. I think that the last band that I can think that did that and it actually worked out quite well for them, was The Cruel Intentions. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them.
Igz Kincaid: I’m not.
Sleaze Roxx: They released a whole bunch of videos and singles for a couple of years leading up to their album and when they finally released their album, which was their debut, it did pretty well. So was that your plan? How come you released so many of the songs beforehand?
Erik Michael: It just kind of happened.
Igz Kincaid: It was. Originally, we were like, ‘OK. We’ve got to do a record.’ And then you think what is the financial impact of that. How much does it cost to record that many songs? Are you going to press it? How are you going to press it? What’s the artwork going to be? And then the artist in you turns on and says, ‘Hey! Are you rushing it if you have a deadline?’ So, it’s a little bit of trial and tribulation over time. I think that if you look through past Hessler interviews, and question whatnot, we were always frustrated that we felt rushed whereas now, I felt like I could take as much time as I wanted. It was enjoyable but it also makes it difficult. There’s that old saying, ‘When is the right time to let a song go?’ So by releasing them as singles, it was part planned, part that it just worked out this way.
But I also think it’s cool because when you look at records of the past, a band might have there or four singles off of a record and each one of those singles had different artwork and may have charted differently. You know, maybe the first or second one don’t break and the third one does really well, in past times. I don’t know if that’s relevant now. But I think that it’s cool just to have different artwork and one other thing about this being an upcoming vinyl in the future. We are looking to finalize that here hopefully next week, and then we can get the ball rolling. But the mixes and even the lyrics on the songs as an album are different than what was out as singles because I didn’t want… If I was a fan and a band released an album that was just a collection of previous releases, if there wasn’t something different on there, I don’t know if I would pick it up. Maybe from a collector’s standpoint so I wanted to make sure that we gave our listeners something different than what they had heard before from just the singles.
Hessler‘s “Akira” video:
Sleaze Roxx: Is this the first time that you release an album on vinyl?
Igz Kincaid: It is. We’ve never had one before. There was no plan to put this out on CD, cassette or anything else. I just thought that vinyl would have the most impact and kind of a cool way to put music out. I don’t know why we hadn’t done it before. Maybe — I don’t know — CDs were still kind of kicking but I feel that that is a completely dead medium. So vinyl gives something for people to hang up on the wall. It sounds great for us music snobs when the needle is down compared to listening to compressed music over your phone.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m still an avid CD buyer.
Igz Kincaid: OK.
Sleaze Roxx: So why do you think that the CD medium is done?
Igz Kincaid: Ummm. Cars now don’t have a CD player in them. Ummm. A lot of the younger people that I have spoken with, you know, ‘When is the last time that you listened to a CD?’ Like, ‘Huh?’
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Igz Kincaid: Even for myself, the last CD that I think I bought was Judas Priest’s ‘Firepower‘ and prior to that, I think I am one of the few that like digipaks. I don’t know. Times are changing. Maybe it will come back to CDs in the future but who knows? It could go the way of the eight track and completely die out. Cassettes apparently have been making a resurgence. I don’t know if that’s just a hipster thing. Are people thinking, ‘Hey! I’m listening to a cassette.’ If I had to make an order of how music sounds best to me, I would have vinyl, CD and cassette dead last.
Sleaze Roxx: Yes, I agree there. I think that at the end of the day, CDs are from a physical format, still the easiest to listen to or most convenient to listen to but I am interested in hearing your views on it. One thing that you guys have done is that you have three covers on your album. What made you decide to put so many covers but also so many different ranging ones as well?
Erik Michael: They’re super fun to play! I love hearing covers from my favorite bands because you know they’re having fun too. “Twilight Zone” lends itself to being heavy. We both love Turbonegro, and after playing a Misfits set on Halloween, I became obsessed with them. Why not throw a song by them on the album?
Hessler‘s “Twilight Zone” cover (from When The Sky Is Black album):
Igz Kincaid: That is another thing that just happened by chance. Pick any band over time and we’ve covered a lot of different artists and a lot of different music. One of them that came from a pure place is that in the beginning, we always covered metal songs. When we put out ‘Twilight Zone” as a single, both Erik and I are fans of Golden Earring as a band and as players. In covering that, it was different. It wasn’t expected. The Misfits cover came about just last year for Halloween, we did a tribute show where we dress up as The Misfits and played. Aside from “Bullet” and “Vampira”, I was always familiar with The Misfits.
Growing up, every kid in school had a Misfits shirt but I think that one thing that turned me off from them — everybody wore it but me, for some reason, I was like “Aaaah, maybe this is not for me” because it was mass approved by the masses but boy, was I wrong! I’m a fan of Danzig but I never dug too dip in The Misfits and in us rehearsing for the show, playing the set we did, I got three weeks of weight lifting, running on the treadmill, singing and trying to get to my closest Danzig shape. Something about “London Dungeon” really captured me. I felt like the four of us — Adam, Richo, Erik and I — played, that song, there was something special. It just seemed like the right reason to cover it. But in putting three songs on the actual record, once again, that’s something that wasn’t planned. It kind of just happened that way because we have a lot more originals that are just sitting I guess for the next record. I don’t know. Just shooting from the hip on this one.
Sleaze Roxx: What made you decide to choose Turbonegro for a cover?
Erik Michael: Have you heard it?
Sleaze Roxx: No. Not yet.
Erik Michael: It rips! Also it’s kind of like a tribute to our roots. It’s proof we’re still Hessler regardless of who is or isn’t with us anymore. Always have been. Always will be.
Igz Kincaid: I’m a huge Turbonegro fan. [They had a] massive influence on me as a band and I felt like over the first or six years of Hessler, that I never really… Maybe until I wrote “Never Lost My Way” that I never really touched upon my punk roots. I am big Agent Orange fan, Turbonegro, Pennywise, and more obscure punk bands than your average fan. “No, I’m Alpha Male” — the first time that I heard that when that ‘Retox’ album came out, it hooked me and I kind of forgot about it for a couple of years. I was like, “Man, this would be a bitch to cover!” We’ve never played it live. We’ve only played it in studio and rehearsal because Corona [virus] hit but that’s one song that I am excited to do, to play live. It’s a bad ass band. I’ve seen them with [previous singer] Hank [Erik Dyvik Husby]. I’ve never seen them with [current lead vocalist] Tony [Anthony Madsen-Sylvester] live. I was supposed to pick them up from the airport but I was not available. I regret not being available.
Sleaze Roxx: Now, there’s one song at the end — “Bad Blood” — which I believe was on Hessler’s first album [debut EP ‘Bad Blood’] so why did you decide to put that on the new album?
Igz Kincaid: So “Bad Blood”, we recut as the first song. That was the first song of the old material that we covered, not covered but recorded with me singing it. My thought process was that we put it at the end of the record. Hopefully, anybody who is a new fan will say, “Hey, I am going to look back to what the old material is.” Maybe it gives them a new perspective to liste to it and a different appreciation. Who knows? Maybe in the future, we’ll put the old records out or specific songs as a re-release or a re-recording with me singing on it because, you know, like I said it in previous interviews or instances, I never intended to have a girl singer or female singer vocalist. It just kind of happened that way. It would be interesting hear them with my voice because deep down inside, I think that is for whom they were written to sing, or maybe, with my singing, it will add some power. So yeah, that’s a little chum in the water. Hopefully, the sharks get hungry from that one and then well, look back into ‘Skeleton Crew’ and ‘Ghost Dance’, ‘Comes With The Territory’ and ‘Bad Blood’ because there’s a lot of Hessler material that’s out there, although I feel that a lot of these songs haven’t been heard or exposed.
Hessler‘s “Bad Blood” 2017 single (from When The Sky Is Black album):
Sleaze Roxx: One thing that I’ve noticed since you’ve taken the lead vocals is that out of the three albums that Hessler put out before you took on the lead vocals, it seems that most of the older material that you guys play is from the first album ‘Bad Blood’ than ‘Comes With The Territory” or ‘Ghost Dance.’ Is that a conscious thing?
Igz Kincaid: I think for ‘Comes With The Territory’ at the time, Frank [“Snakes” Sripada] had moved back from California. He and I — you know, I wanted it to be more of a band so him and I wrote more songs together. I think that out of respect for him, I mean, I love the song “Waste Away.” I think that it’s a brilliant song but that’s Frankie and I 50-50. It does not feel the same playing it without him. Obviously we could, but I don’t know, as a listener, take this for example. I am a big Accept fan, same with U.D.O.and Wolf Hoffmann is one of my biggest influences but watching U.D.O. live and all the talented guitar players that he’s had, playing Wolf’s parts on those Accept songs, whenever I want to rock out, something in me is like “Errr. That’s not Wolf.”
Same with K.K. Downing and Richie Faulkner, or Andy Sneap and Glenn Tipton. The fan in you, you have to look at it from a different perspective. I found a way to appreciate it, for example hearing Richie playing K.K.’s parts. I think that time heals all of those wounds inside you so maybe with time, we’ll play more songs that Frank and I had written. Who knows, maybe somewhere, he’ll jump on stage with us and rip one out. I don’t know. As much as I like throwing like throw backs to the past, I prefer to focus on the future. With the ‘Bad Blood’ songs, they will always have a special piece in my heart because that’s the first record.
Sleaze Roxx: It seems that Hessler has had its most stable line-up in the last four years since you still have [bassist] Adam [Arling] and [drummer] Richo [Marquina]. So what’s the status of the line-up now? Are Adam and Ricoh the touring personnel as Hessler previously labelled them or are they just part of the band now?
Igz Kincaid: Well, I read the interview with Adam [on Sleaze Roxx]. It was fantastic and he said, “As long as I don’t have to wash my hair and there are two drink tickets involved” and as long as I don’t fire him like the thousands of Hessler before him. We’ve never asked them, ‘Hey, do you want to be in the band?” And they’ve never asked themselves, “Hey, can we be in the band?” The best way that I can explain it is if the four of us were to go rob a bank, and either of them got wounded and we’re running out with the money, I would definitely turn around to go get them.
Adam and Richo are absolute professionals. It’s very enjoyable playing with them, playing music with them because we don’t have to think about the little things. It’s just the best way that I can put it. Whether they are in or out, it just depends on them however they are feeling about it. I feel that as long as there is shit going on and good shows on the horizon, they’re up for it. When the four of us are together, there’s a really good energy. We had a really good show before [the] Corona [virus] opening for Hammerfall or the Michael Schenker Group. One of those and it was a very, very, very strong Hessler line-up. I think that somebody has a recording of it. We were just firing on all cylinders. I wish we had the opportunity due to the circumstances to get together more often and play because I really enjoy their company as human beings and playing music with them.
Hessler‘s “When The Sky Is Black” single [from When The Sky Is Black album]:
Sleaze Roxx: Igz — I think I know a little bit about your history with Adam. How did you end up meeting Adam and forging your friendship?
Igz Kincaid: Forging a relationship with Adam, Richo or both?
Sleaze Roxx: Both but let’s start with Adam.
Igz Kincaid: With Adam, similar to what he had said in the interview about we moved in together. All the time, it just felt like — have you ever read the book ‘Get In The Van’ by Henry Rollins?
Sleaze Roxx: No.
Igz Kincaid: I highly recommend it whether you are a fan of Black Flag or not. I read that. It’s always been a very big influence on me about paying your dues and not complaining about certain shit. With Adam, I always felt that Adam — well, if I was on his first foray in a war, he had already done a couple of tours and he is doing his part to make sure that everyone in the platoon stays alive. Working with people like that — being friends with somebody like that as well as working with someone like that, musically or in any other venture, makes everything so much easier. So I have always looked up to him. I don’t have a brother but him and Nate [The Last Vegas drummer Nathan Arling], his brother Nate, were like brothers to me along with the rest of The Last Vegas guys. Pretty standard lives — one thing leads to another and you develop a strong relation and bond. All The [Last] Vegas guys, they were put in my life for a specific reason and like other people, those bonds and bridges have not fallen apart or been burned.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool!
Igz Kincaid: It’s nice to have that. With Richo, he drums for the band Black Actress and when their singer Bobby moved, they were kind of on hiatus. I went to him and said, ‘Hey man, would you be interested in getting together and playing a few shows?” He wasn’t doing much at the time, at least from my understanding so we just got together and played, and it seemed to click. For an adventure and a laugh, hit some pots and pans for people. He is a bad ass drummer. In the studio, he knocks things out quickly, one or two takes. I really enjoy playing with him as well. He is a good human being. He’s a big Ghostbusters fan. If any Hessler fans [laughs] read the interview, and you have Ghostbusters memorabilia, you can send it to Richo.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Igz Kincaid: He collects that shit.
Sleaze Roxx: I am sure that he’ll appreciate if he gets some stuff [laughs].
Igz Kincaid: Absolutely. There’s a whole culture. He’s really into that. It’s an interesting perspective. I asked him once. He’s in a club called the Chicago Ghostbusters. I might be wrong but I know they’ve done charities and maybe parades. It’s always for a good cause. I asked him if he’d dress up as a Ghostbuster for a show but he said “no” as he would sweat to death.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Igz Kincaid: Although maybe for Halloween, we’ll play as the Ghostbusters.
Sleaze Roxx: There you go. Getting back to something a little more serious, how would you compare the EP ‘Skeleton Crew’ to the new album?
Erik Michael: ‘Skeleton Crew’ was like a reset button. A way to reinvent ourselves but still retain our sound. A chance to figure out how the hell we keep going. Now that we’ve hit by the ground running, we were able to hone in on the next level. Maintain velocity. Keep the torches lit. The new album captures all the stories and emotions that happened in that process. Each song is a chapter in that stretch of time.
Sleaze Roxx: I had previously asked Igz about the Hessler documentary in an interview in November 2016 but Erik, I never got your take on it. What did you think of the Hessler documentary and did it accurately portray what was going on in the band?
Erik Michael: I have mixed feelings about the documentary. The Grozdanova sisters did a fantastic job with it. Some scenes are hard to watch, while others make me smile. There’s no doubt it’s entertaining, but we lived it, so some parts aren’t particularly flattering [laughs]! I’d imagine there are documentaries that paint touring the United States as a metal band in a different light. But that’s how it was for us.
Hessler‘s “Crazy Horse” video (from When The Sky Is Black album):