June 5, 2015 Interview – Jesse Hasek of 10 Years Talks From Birth To Burial
Longevity in the entertainment industry is never an easy achievement for a musician. With the digital age swallowing record sales into an abyss, lack of support from record labels, and politics taking over, music is in a critical crossroad. Fortunately there are Rock bands like Tennessee’s 10 Years which steer clear of the bureaucracy and stay true to who they. Plugging away now since 1999, 10 Years have seen their share of success from the 2005 album The Autumn Effect and beyond, seeing each album thereafter receive a respected charted position. Uneasy with the concept of pressure to concentrate strictly on hit singles, the band broke free of a major record label in 2012 and released Minus the Machine, thus beginning a new era in their career. Revitalized and in a new comfort zone, 10 Years continue to go strong, creating music on their own terms and recently release their powerful new album From Birth to Burial. Recently we caught up with lead vocalist Jesse Hasek for a closer look at the making of the new album, the band’s approach to music independently, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Last time we spoke, 10 Years was in the midst of an acoustic tour in support of Live and Unplugged at the Tennessee Theatre. Now the band is back with a brand new studio album entitled From Birth to Burial. First, tell us what was the concept behind this new record?
Jesse Hasek – We just really wanted to try to take a minute to get off the road, decompress, and let ideas come more organically, naturally, and not try to feel forced, even though you are always trying to get it done with some sort of time constraint. We came off, and luckily, our old drummer, who does not tour with us anymore, Brian Vodinh, has a studio in the bottom of his house where we did Minus the Machine, and we mixed the live stuff, but we were able to do it in our own hometown. We took our time; we took about six months or so, writing and recording, prior to that we had a couple of months to write while on the road. The thing I would say why it is different than the other ones is that we really wanted to capture more of the heavy, raw energy of the live electric show, and capture some of that angst. I think we did a good job with it. It is probably the heaviest record we made, but just like every 10 Years record, it is like a roller coaster; it is up and down.
CrypticRock.com – It absolutely is, the album is very cohesive from start to finish. It is something that demands you to listen to all the way through. That is really nice in a time where we are a single driven music industry, with single driven downloads, which is kind of sad. Was it important for the band to go against that and make a record that is cohesive like a storybook?
Jesse Hasek – It is just what we do naturally, it is our natural tendency to get fully immersed into the idea and tone of the record and not just chase for a single or a one shot song. We wanted to create a journey and we have been able to do that more so now, on our Independent record label than on the majors. The majors were good to us with what they were, exposure and all of that, but, it gets to a point with them where they really do stress on each individual single. It hinders your ability to put that away and immerse yourself with the music. It is funny when it comes time to put the sequencing together of the album; the order you want to do it. In the past, we kind of scrutinized on how this should lay out, and with this one it kind of pulled itself to us. We were like, “Oh that goes there, and that goes there;” it is comfortable for them to just connect to each other. When it comes to the record, it was organically put together.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly does show, absolutely. As you mentioned, it is one of the heaviest records you have ever done. Some of the aspects that really stick out about the record is it is extremely dark, lyrically, and also very heavy at times. With that said, what was the writing and recording process like this time around?
Jesse Hasek – For me, I came off the road and I have been fortunately to have been doing this as a job for ten years now. You go through all of the journeys, we signed to a major label to start off with, we have gone through a couple manager’s, we have gone through booking agents. We have gone through everything, labels. There are growing pains, I think that age is knowledge in this business and those growing pains taught us, and learning those things, how to survive and being comfortable with ourselves. Coming back on this one, I sat down, it felt like forever but it was about a month, it was the first time in my career I felt that I had a bit of a writer’s block. I was trying to think of what to say, and finally, I was like, “I don’t need to think of what to say, I just need to let it all out of my head.” That is where a lot of that content comes from. It talks a lot about that angst, anxiety, frustration, and roller coaster that I have experienced in the past decade. To get that out is like therapy to me. I think that music is emotion and being able to let it out; wear it on your sleeve, you can let go of all of the negativity and hardships of this business.
CrypticRock.com – Obviously, as you said, the music and the lyrics, that is definitely therapeutic. It is a good release for sure nad it came out great because the lyrics are very vivid.
Jesse Hasek – Instead of trying to take an old idea, an old melody which I have a reserve of, and trying to create something out of that, the way I went about this lyrically was, I sat down with nothing in mind and just, like a journal, brainstorm purged on paper and filled this journal up with stuff. I went back through it and highlighted the parts that I felt could turn into songs. The lyrical content were brought to us that way and then put to the music.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that is an interesting way to go about things and it certainly worked for you. As you have stated in the past, the band felt a new sense of freedom with Minus The Machine. That clearly has carried over into this new record. Does 10 Years feel new life over the past few years?
Jesse Hasek – Very much so, in the beginning of our career, our first independent record, and then The Autumn Effect in 2005, there was no success really per say, so the pressure was not there. We formed in 1999 and did not get signed until 2005. Two-thousand and five, and 2006, just blew up, and we had our whole lives to write those first couple of records. The “sophomore slump” occurs because you have this success and then all of a sudden you have all of these people coming at you from all different angles trying to tell you what to do or what direction to go. The pressure of, “OK, now you have to make a hit and you have to do that.” We suffered on a couple of records from Division in 2008 and Feeding the Wolves in 2010 where the majors were putting the pressure on. Once we got away from that, it went back to the old days; just sitting in a room, bouncing ideas off of each other. It allows us to just letting the song come through naturally instead of forcing it. If it did not come together we would throw it aside and start a new song. It was way more relaxed on these last two albums.
CrypticRock.com – That can clearly be a stressful situation, and now you have this independence, you can relax more, it makes perfect sense. You have been very open and honest about the positives and negatives of the entertainment industry. Recently the band ran a contest for fans to submit links to an illegal download of the album single with a prize for such. That is really a great idea and a wonderful way to combat this pandemic attacking music nowadays. People do not realize the harm downloading music does, not only in a monetary way, but to the artists hard work. What are your thoughts on this?
Jesse Hasek – The era is changing, the media format went from Record, to 8-track, to Tape, to CD, rapidly. You look at how many times it changed in such a short amount of time, and now the convenience of having everything on your phone, to even carry a separate iPod almost seems like too much now. We were not necessarily trying to say, “We are going to stop this, or boycott this entirely,” we were just trying to stress how important it is to not do it. Even our fans, some of them in the beginning said to us, “Oh, check this out on this illegal torrent site.” We responded with, “Please, we appreciate the fact that you were interested in the song, but let’s not do it, it is just like stealing right out of the store, right in front of the clerk.” We were trying to say all of fans band together and trying to trim it as much as possible and making it a little more special and keep it the mystique there, instead of being all thrown all over the place. We know if we can do our part and write good music, no matter how people get it, whether they download it or buy the physical or whatever they do; hopefully the music speaks for itself and the biggest thing is to get them to go to shows and become lifers to our band because that’ is our lifeline. The download thing, we tried to let people know the importance of supporting the band as much as possible. It really is what puts gas in our tank, pays our bills, allows us to keep doing this. At the end of the day, we are an entertainment business, and if we do not have a product out for purchase or for people to get, then we cannot pay our bills, therefore will have to go home and do our real jobs. We are just trying to stress the importance in supporting what you care about.
CrypticRock.com – It is a great way to do it. Let us be honest, it is simple nowadays for people to plug something into Google, whatever they want and boom, it is right there. It is insane how easy it has become
Jesse Hasek – We started in 2005, and it is 2015. Just in our career, we are the band that has grown up during the most drastic or pivotal change in music. How you went from physical, to now the younger generation who does not desire the tangible as much as the older, because they did not grow up with it. If we can create something that is still intriguing enough, whether it is our music, videos, or artwork, or whatever it is, that is the difference that we have to deal with this business now, to adapt. It is not just days when you would create music and put it out, and it does what it does. You have to now be multifaceted and have to be present online and do different things. It is a little more work, but it also helps you connect more with your fans more personally, instead of having to go through just radio and television.
CrypticRock.com – There are the positives and negatives of it all. You try to take the good with the bad, but it does give you a bigger connection with the fans. The band are partaking in a tour with Islander and Starset, which began in May. How excited are you for this tour and how important is the live performance to 10 Years as a unit?
Jesse Hasek – It is sort of our life line, or bloodline. It is our jobs to get up there and put on a show. When people leave, they are satisfied that they come back. That is really what keeps us going. What we started doing recently with the tour packages, we try to look around at upcoming bands. It seems like recently there has been a nice resurgence of new bands coming out. We try to look into them, and these two bands particularly put on great live shows. We try to make it for when people purchase their tickets, they are not there just for the headliner, they are there from start to finish. We are bringing another band from our hometown called Skytown Riot, really talented guys, they have sort of a Muse sound to them too. We are trying to make a full package every tour when we headline shows so you get a bang for your buck.
CrypticRock.com – These are a diverse mix of bands, they have their own sort of identity, no one sounds the same, which is really cool. It will be nice for New York to see the band return again.
Jesse Hasek – Over the years, to be honest, some of the bigger cities have been harder to break. It seems like New York is starting to give us more and more love over the past few years. It is nice and refreshing to know that you can almost restart or rebirth a career. We have played The States forever, the internationals, we are trying to hit too. We have always been big in Houston and certain areas, but some of those other markets are tough, and New York is one of the ones. It recently started to embrace us, which is awesome.
CrypticRock.com – It is a great thing. Sometimes it is strange and there is really no rhyme or reason to know which cities, states, or countries it is to attract a band. You are a very honest guy and you seem to also be a very introspective guy; someone who pulls no punches when you say what you want to say. There is a lot going on in the world today, there are a lot of awful things happening whether it is here in The States or abroad, a lot of chaos going on. What is your point of view of everything that is affecting our culture right now?
Jesse Hasek – We are in the age of information, period. It is kind of eye-opening to see what is happening abroad, but on the other hand, just like the Isis stuff, it becomes a scare tactic to do these things too. As much as you can inform yourself or educate yourself on anything now, the downside to that is you can also create panic from a great distance. For me, lots of times, I take all of the media with a grain of salt because if you are always focusing on the negative that is happening on this crazy planet, it is either going to make you paranoid, it is going to make you jaded. Negative breads negative. So amongst all of that stuff, I try to equally focus on the positive. Everybody has their own way of doing it whether it is a sport, music, art, or whatever. I think what really keeps humanity going is having that passion for something to live for, and in a day like today, it is information overload sometimes. It is good to unplug from that and focus on what inspires you in life.
CrypticRock.com – You are right with the media, you have to take it with a grain of salt. The best way to go about things is to listen to various sources and make your own decision, or better yet, conduct your own research and make a decision. You told me a little bit about your musical influences in the past, but tell us a little bit more about what are some of your musical inspirations. Inspirations do not have to be something that you sound like, it can be something that inspires you.
Jesse Hasek – I would have to give a good amount of credit to my upbringing with my mom putting me in church. My dad was always the artsy, creative one, that is probably where I get my thoughts and words from. My mom, she had the melodic thing going on in church. It is funny many years later, because if you go back and ask anyone from my Middle School or High School, no one would think in a million years that I would be doing this. I was much more introverted and shy, even in church, I would singalong and stuff, but I think I learned my pitch control and all of that from church. My mom said, as a kid I would sing my own songs to myself, just hum them under my breath all the time. I remember doing it but I did not think anyone noticed. I think it was always in me, but it is just about getting it out. Going through my teenage years, I was exposed to the ’90s and a lot of the great music inspired me. It all really started with my mom singing to me in the church, that is the quiet foundation of it. As I got older, it was just hanging out with friends. We had a good local seen in Knoxville, Tennessee, and just networking with other bands, it just exploded.
CrypticRock.com – That is very interesting. Now in the past, we spoke about movies. Have you seen any new Horror/Sci-Fi films lately?
Jesse Hasek – I think in the Sci-fi department, it would be that movie Interstellar (2014), which was pretty trippy. It was sort of like Inception (2010) where it just keeps going deeper and deeper. That one is probably the trippiest one I have seen. There has been some good movies out, like the Foxcatcher (2015), a lot of those were good, but that one, out of all of them, stepped out of my cerebral thing going on. Interstellar is a little lengthy. It is very Sci-Fi and it comes from a place of what currently is going on with the world where we keep talking about, destroying the world and having the Sci-Fi part of it where the human race destroyed it so much that we need to search for a new home on another planet. That is kind of what it gets into, but it gets even deeper on different realms and levels of reality. There is an older movie that is really crazy, someone recommended it to me, I found it on Netflix, it is a movie called Enter the Void (2010), it is a real trippy movie.