March 25, 2014 Interview – Jesse Hasek of 10 years
Success means something different to everyone. To some monetary gain is the pinnacle of success and to others simply working within their love for something is the main objective of their determination. For Knoxville, Tennessee 10 Years, a long windy road has seen the band accomplish a great deal over the course of fifteen years, from touring the world to a series of chart-topping rock albums. Above all, the band has always stayed true to their music, audience, and who they are as people. Having seen a vast amount of bands come and go over time, 10 Years’ level-headed attitude has kept the band going strong and in the good graces of their beloved fans. Recently we sat down with lead vocalist and song writer Jesse Hasek for a personal look at 10 Years, the truth about the entertainment industry, love for creating music, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – 10 Years is celebrating their fifteen year anniversary as a band in 2014. Over the years you have done a great deal, including releasing four full-length albums, touring all over, and building a strong fan base. Looking back twelve years since you became the voice of the band, how would you describe the journey?
Jesse Hasek – When I talk to people about going into the entertainment business, for a job or success, just be prepared for the rollercoaster ride because as high as you get you can easily fall that low. You have to keep a level head about things because it is a very fast paced life. I have always told myself that in the entertainment business everything eventually dwindles down and comes to an end so you always have to dwell on the positives and the things you have accomplished instead of where you were and where you are.
CrypticRock.com – It has to be a rollercoaster ride. It has been interesting to watch the band grow over the course of your career between The Autumn Effect (2005) and Minus The Machine (2012). Each release has seen the band progress in style and sound. How would you describe the progression of 10 Years?
Jesse Hasek – We have always been the type of musicians who, not to say get tired of what we do, always want to challenge ourselves and never re-create what we already have done. We didn’t want to become a shtick, or a gimmick, of ourselves even if a record was very successful. We felt, OK we made that sound so let’s challenge ourselves to go to a different avenue. Sometimes it is a challenge, we always seem to manage to come out on the other side sounding like 10 Years. I like to really challenge myself to not do the same thing over and over.
CrypticRock.com – I think you have accomplished that with each record. They all ultimately sound like 10 Years, but all slightly different in one way or another. In the beginning many compared your voice to the likes of Maynard James Keenan of Tool, which is a wonderful compliment, but limiting at the same. Since then you have really distinguished yourself as a vocalist and further developed your voice and style. In retrospective, how did you feel about the comparisons at the time?
Jesse Hasek – Well, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t influenced by them growing up. I remember getting Tool’s Opiate (1992) EP on a cassette before anyone even heard of them. I grew up listening to his voice, by coincidence my voice had that tone and that sound. It was very much a compliment, but in my eyes I could never be that because that is someone I looked up to. The more I became comfortable in my own skin, you realize the best thing you can do with yourself is find your own voice and your own unique way of doing things instead of trying to plagiarism something that has already been created.
CrypticRock.com – That is something you have done quite well over the years. Your latest studio album Minus The Machine was perhaps the bands most dynamic to date. It is rich in sound and deep in atmosphere. Three years removed from the writing and recording of the album, how does the album hold up to your personal standards?
Jesse Hasek – A lot of bands say that their most current work is their favorite. I look back and I can honestly say my favorite and my least favorite points. Minus The Machine was a lot like the freedom we felt with The Autumn Effect, where there was no pressure or cooks in the kitchen. I honestly would have to say the album holds right up there in weight with The Autumn Effect where we were allowed to be ourselves, we had no limits on where we could go. We could go as heavy or dynamic as we wanted and we could go as soft and small as we wanted. We had that freedom in the beginning of our career and then when you have success people come to the boardroom and tell you how to be successful even though you had success being yourself, it is sort of ironic and backwards. Minus The Machine, still to this day, takes me to a happy place and I really feel like the record in its entirety holds up, cohesively it flows through. We really felt like we made an entire album instead of singles.
CrypticRock.com – There are some amazing tracks on the record. You had that ability to do what you wanted and push the envelope. You have kept busy and released a special acoustic EP entitled Live And Unplugged at the Tennessee Theatre last year and recently toured the USA acoustically. How does it feel to get out there and play these songs in a stripped down acoustic setting?
Jesse Hasek – We have always written with acoustic guitars. It has always been the start and nucleus of ideas, but then we would develop it. By the time you do the studio recording there are all these layers and heavy parts. Stripping it back down to acoustic is fun, but is almost scary at the same time because there is nothing more honest than acoustic because the flaws are more easily heard. We have done acoustic sets in the past, maybe no more than 30 minutes, but never a tour. Even the Tennessee Theater was a one-time thing with a string instrument set of violin, cello, and stand-up bass behind us. To actually go on tour and do it, we really wanted to try and challenge ourselves not to just do the basic structure of the song, but encourage ourselves to re-create a different vision of the songs. We re-structured some the guitar parts, we modified some of the melodies almost to where it gave a brand new refreshing sound to an old sound.
CrypticRock.com – That really adds a different dynamic to the older songs and it is great that you can bring something fresh to these tracks.
Jesse Hasek – What was really fun is we have our touring drummer out with us. We were all talking and said wouldn’t it be cool if we could perform some of these songs on piano and transcribe them to piano. He said well I went to school for music theory for piano. Out of nowhere he was a dark horse, came out, and we turned a lot of the songs into piano tracks. The guitar, bass, and the drum kit come in the chorus and it really made it very dynamic.
CrypticRock.com – What is interesting about that is now you get to hear your songs in a completely different beautiful light. How does that feel?
Jesse Hasek – It makes it brand new again, it is almost like a new song. A lot of the lyrical content throughout the albums are very much about struggle. In a way my dad would always say I write like Bob Dylan protest songs. I am happy within myself, but when it comes time to let out emotions it is through music. Some of the darker lyrical songs that were meant to be heavy like “Shoot It Out”, which is an angry song, we thought how the world are we going to work acoustically? We just turned all the screaming parts into singing parts, and instead of it being bar chords we turned it into picked out strings. It really changed the dynamic of the song, I never thought I would hear “Shoot It Out” sound that beautiful acoustic.
CrypticRock.com – It really is a different sound. 10 Years’ atmospheric textured music has another key element to the band’s sound in your words. I imagine many fans draw strong relations with them. How therapeutic is it for you to release these personal emotions through your lyrics?
Jesse Hasek – Originally from day one, joining the band was always about the creative aspect and emotional outlet of it. It wasn’t about writing a hit or fitting an image or a mold. It was about therapy and art put together. I never really tried to deviate from that even when we had people trying to tell us what to write and how to write. People would say you need a single, we would say we know that, you are telling us what we know. Our biggest hit to date was right out of the gate with “Wasteland” which was a very personal song to me about a family member I was struggling to save from himself. That ended up being a single. The suits and ties don’t know what it is about, they just see it goes up the charts and makes it to number one. Then you get out here and do it for a living and you meet so many people who know what it is about for themselves, they get it. They understand it is about struggle with addiction or overcoming adversity. It makes the songs new again to hear other people’s stories of what it means to them. It comes from a very honest place with me, but then when people take music, it is a very intimate one on one thing sometimes and it gets be their therapy. To know we have created something that gives people strength to overcome adversities is priceless.
CrypticRock.com – It has to be a surreal feeling. Ultimately an artist’s view of which way they should go creatively is the best way without outside influence from say a record label.
Jesse Hasek – Yes, if you have had success being yourself, then just be yourself. If you were signed as an American Idol singer, then just know what you are going to be. I think the problem with the industry is they need to know where to put artists. Do not try and turn a singer/songwriter into a pop star. Let them be themselves, and if they happen to come across a pop song, promote it that way. I think people have identity crisis when they are tried to be crammed into a mold for success. Then there are other people who are incredible performers, singers, and musicians, but they are almost karaoke with people writing songs for them. They have people writing songs for them, I don’t have anything against that, but if that is the role you play and you are fine with other people writing music and you just get up there and be the performer, that is cool. That is just not what we are about. Just know where you belong as a musician, if you have had success being yourself then just stay being yourself.
CrypticRock.com – I completely agree with that. Having been in the music industry a long time you have seen many bands come and go. What do you think the key to 10 Years’ longevity has been?
Jesse Hasek – I look at it now and I have seen plenty of bands which were opening for us. I remember in the beginning we started off in a van or a trailer. We were fortunate enough to have enough success within a year or year and a half to move to a bus. We have never really gone backwards. When they tried to keep us shooting for cross over hits and aim for the stars or whatever, we said well this is success to us. We don’t need to try and jump outside our comfort zone in that sense. We have seen so many bands that would open before us and they went on to have way more instant success, more album sales, more cross-over rock songs which crossed over to pop charts. Then a couple of years later they are back down into an RV or van. That has to be really tough as a musician, or anyone for that matter, to reach that high and come back down that low. In the grand scheme of things, it happens faster than you think. We have been able to stay afloat from about 2006 the same. We have kept our crew like family, we don’t need a bunch of crew guys. We keep them down to the minimum and they all work hard. We treat each other with respect, every one of us. We are out there like a traveling circus. There are no egos or hierarchy, we just do what we do. We then see these bands which have success and they are in two buses, they have semi-trailers, and we see them blowing money and partying. They need to know this will go away as fast as it comes.
CrypticRock.com – Obviously you have had that level-headed outlook the entire time and that really helps the longevity of the band.
Jesse Hasek – I actually had a situation which helped me in the beginning of this crazy whole entertainment business. The entertainment business is really a blessing and a curse, it all depends on how you adapt to it and handle it. If you are unstable to start with and all of a sudden you are put on a pedestal and sex, drugs, and rock and roll are thrown at you it can be very reckless and destructive. I had a cousin which was a child actor. I don’t really usually bring it up much or talk about it much. For the longest time this was very personal. I watched him at 10 years old start acting in movies. Long story short I watched him reach the top on all the Teen Bop magazines at the age of 15. By the time he was 20 or 21 he was dropped like a hot rock and left with drug addictions and alcohol. He overdosed at 25 years old. I watched him be sucked up, consumed, and spit out by the business. So I always kept this business at arm’s length. I can talk about it now because if anyone can take anything and learn from it, and know all the people fluffing you up and telling you are the greatest; it is fun to make fun and poke fun of Justin Bieber, but he is going to have to find out the hard way. This entertainment business will get you, you are not bullet proof. It killed Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, you become your own enemy and you believe your own hype.
CrypticRock.com – My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are a fan of horror films and what are some of your favorite horror films?
Jesse Hasek – It is funny, I never been a big fan of slasher or gore films. I like cerebral and uneasy-feeling films. I don’t think there is a scarier movie than The Shining (1980) in my opinion. There is no gore in that, it is the suspense and thrill of watching this man come unglued and sort of possessed. Of course Evil Dead (1981) is a great one as a sort of parody or comedy. I never really been into the full on gore films. I like them to mess with your brain more.
CrypticRock.com – There is something to be said about the atmosphere that goes into a psychological film like The Shining. That is something that is sort of lacking with a lot of movies of all types nowadays regarding atmosphere.
Jesse Hasek – I think there is a formula for everything. There is a formula for T.V. shows, music, and scripted reality television. It all depends on who is doing it and how they go about doing it. A lot of time it is the more independent and underground individuals trying to stray away from the mold. They are not the Michael Bays’ trying to do the Transformer movies, they are actually trying to do something with the story. To me it is about the content, if the story is strong and you portray the story well, then everything else will fall into place regardless if you use CGI.