Hex: The 13th Floor Interview

If you are planning to attend tonight’s Dinosaur Jr show tonight in Auckland, be sure to show up early. Wellington 3-piece Hex will be opening the show and they are not to be missed. With an EP out last year titled Calling To The Universe, these three heavy metal rockers plan to release their first long player later this year.

The band consists of Liz Mathews (drums), Greta Van Newtown (guitar) and Kiki Van Newtown (bass). The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda spoke to Kiki Van Newtown recently and found that they are, indeed, very excited to be opening for Dinosaur Jr.

Click here to listen to the interview with Kiki Van Newtown of Hex:

Or read a transcription of the interview here:

MD: So, you guys are opening for Dinosaur Jr. is my understanding; coming up to Auckland for that one. How are you feeling about that?

KVN: I think we’re all insanely excited. We were all talking about it, and Liz was like, “Oh my God! I just realised that J Mascis is going to see our band!” Maybe not, but he might hear it, or something. And we were all just like, “Oh my goodness! This is too big to even understand.”

MD: Well, he should be impressed…

KVN: … Dino Jr. is a huge influence on us. We haven’t stolen any riffs off them, or anything, but they’re a big influence.

MD: When did you start listening to them?

KVN: We were trying to figure that out. Liz would have started listening to them in the early ‘90s, when she was a teenager, and then, I think, the first song I ever heard was on a bFM compilation that, I think, came out in 1995, called Louder – it had Feel The Pain on it – and I remember hearing it, and it had that cool part and I was like, “What the… what? Who does… who put that sound on a record?” And then I was like, “Oh my god, this band is amazing!” So, that was when I first heard them – from the mid-‘90s – and Greta would have been around the same time.

MD: For folks who haven’t heard you before, what other bands or acts or artists would you say have influenced what you’re doing now?

KVN: Probably Black Sabbath…

MD: Yeah, that would be my first guess!

KVN: Yeah! Liz is quite influenced by The Ramones, and I’m probably more influenced by folk musicians, and that sort of thing. Greta comes from the classic metal background – so, she grew up listening to Sepultura and Pantera – so, it’s quite a mix, but I guess we all come together for Black Sabbath.

MD: Did you see them when they were here last year?

KVN: I didn’t, but Liz did. Me and Greta saw them, when they were here, two years prior.

MD: …You mentioned the folk influences that you bring to the band. With all the volume that’s involved, is it tough to get that heard…?

KVN: I don’t think so. I think mainly it probably manifests in the vocal harmonies; also, my bass lines are quite melodic, I guess; so, I think that’s where that manifests. Also, I’m always trying to make Greta sing little acapella bits – so, that’s probably a bit of it too – but she’s like, “No, acapella is the worst!” I’m like, “It’s the best! I love it!” So, that’s where, I think, the folk influence really shows.

MD: I know that you and Greta were working together in bands before, and Liz was doing other things. How did the three of you come together and do what you’re doing now?

KVN: So, me and Greta are married, and when we first got together ten years ago, after a month of dating, we started a band called Newtown; we played in that for about four or five years. And Greta and Liz were friends from when they were teenagers in Auckland. Me and Greta went overseas, and then we moved back to Auckland – and lived in Auckland for six months – and started jamming with Liz. We started jamming because we wanted to write a rock opera. And we started writing this rock opera, and then we were like, “Actually, these songs are just great songs;” but then it actually took another couple of years for us to all be in the same city again, because we all went back to Wellington at different times. We’ve sort of been playing for about four-ish years, but actually only playing shows for just over a year.

MD: And what possessed you to want to write a rock opera?

KVN: I think we were listening to The Transfused rock opera; a whole bunch at that time – we were just on a big bender of The Need music – so, we were listening to The Transfused. Me and Greta both grew up in musical theatre homes – so, we’re massive Jesus Chris Superstar fans and that sort of thing so… we were like, “Why wouldn’t we write a rock opera?” It just seemed like a pretty obvious thing to do!

MD: Well, there’s still plenty of time to get to that.

KVN: Yeah, well, we did a mini version of it last year. We supported Suckdog and did a mini version of it. That’s one of our dreams: is to develop that.

MD: I know you have an EP that came out last year: Calling To The Universe, which was five tracks; but that was almost a year ago. Have you guys been working on new stuff since then?

KVN: We’re halfway through finishing a full length album. We released The Moon in September or October, which [will be] the first single of… the [new] album. We’ve nearly finished that, and it will come out sometime this year.

MD: Is there a specific mood, direction, vibe that’s coming through on this record?

KVN: I think that it has a bit more of a fast paced; some of it is a bit weirder. I think it’s a lot more focussed. We want it to be a whole package. We want it to have amazing art, and be a whole amazing artefact; so, we’re just trying to figure out how we want to do it.

MD: Is the presentation and the visual thing very important to you, as far as how people perceive you?

KVN: I don’t think it is, in terms of us as individuals… I guess we all sort of dress the same anyway, in everyday life; so, I guess that it’s just the mood that we put together: which is tough, feminine and a mixture of dark and light. In terms of the visual artwork: Liz has a massive hand in that. She’s our drummer, and she is quite an incredible visual artist as well; so, she does lots of the visual art. She’ll probably take the lead on the album art, I think.

MD: I noticed on the website, that you’re in charge of ‘administration and politics’. So, the administration, I imagine, is kind of boring, but the politics seems kind of interesting. How do politics work their way into what you guys do?

KVN: I think that’s just code for being angry on Twitter; I don’t know. I guess politics is inextricable from the band’s experience, because we’re queer, we’re women, we have these experiences that are, by definition, marginal. I think having that, and playing in a music scene that is largely white men, you have a different experience; and so, how you express that different experience, immediately becomes politicised, because it’s different to the status quo. I think that’s one way that Hex is, by default, political; but also, we are just really angry, you know? There are a lot of shitty things going on in the world. I don’t ever want my art to be separate from what I actually think and feel about things. I don’t want it to be like it just sounded good; I want it to actually say something.

MD: I see Meryl Streep was getting in trouble with her speaking out, the other day, at the Golden Globes, because she dared to add some politics into her speech.

KVN: Everyone will always get in trouble if they speak out about politics; so, I guess that’s part of the territory.

MD: I think there was some mention of post-capitalism in your literature, and what you do as well.

KVN: Oh, Yeah! That seems to be fast approaching, doesn’t it?

MD: Yes it does! It seems quite prescient.

KVN: It’ll be interesting to see what this year holds. I guess… our generation grew up with the ‘80s economic reforms in New Zealand, which was mirroring what was happening in the States; and so, we all grew up with, “You’re not going to have a high paying job,” “You’re not going to have a fancy house,” and all this sort of stuff. For us, it was just a ‘no-brainer’ that capitalism doesn’t work. I guess I feel like a lot of people in our generation are just waiting for it to stop.

MD: Well, there’s going to be an election this year in New Zealand. Do you feel like you’re going to get involved in that? Are you going to have a say? Are you going to speak out and try and get people activated?

KVN: I always encourage people to vote. Every election I always do a phone around, and I phone everyone who I know isn’t certain if they’re going to vote, and I’m like, “Just vote!” “Have you got your papers?” “Do you need me to get them sent to you?” So, I think voting is really important, so that the system can be changed; but also, I am very into the idea of destroying the system from the outside; but I think those two things can complement each other. I have no idea if things will change in New Zealand. I feel like it’s usually the same policies, just with a different branding.

MD: Yeah, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of choice these days, does there?

KVN: No. It’s just who’s going to hasten the descent of capitalism.

Click here for tickets to see Hex and Dinosaur Jr at The Studio.