Interview with Hundred Year Old Man

16 Aug 2023 - Simon

We are very pleased that leading UK post metal band Hundred Year Old Man sat down to speak to us with regards to life, the universe and everything in between.

How are you feeling now that your album Sleep in Light has been released? A mixture of happy and very relieved. We were sat with a fully finished version of the album for over a year due to Covid, vinyl pressing times and band/label schedules. The process to get to that state had also taken a very long time due to multiple member changes while trying to gig as much as possible too, so to finally have it out there for everyone to hear lifted a massive weight.

Are you pleased with the reactions to it so far? Absolutely. We have had some incredible reviews and many kind words from all manner of people. Some of the comparisons have been insane, but very nice to hear! I think the only negative thing anyone has said is that it is too long, which is probably fair given it’s over 80 minutes!

Were there any specific influences at play on this album? Having six people in a band makes it pretty hard to have any specific influences for a whole album, as we all have our own and quite varied tastes. It’s also quite hard to think back that far, as we were writing a lot of the album in 2019, and obviously quite a lot has happened since then. For me personally, I (Tom) was listening to a lot of darker and noisier stuff at the time. Artists like Lorn and Author & Punisher through to Throes and Throane. For this album, quite a few of the tracks were started by Owen on his own - “Livyatan” was actually one of the band’s first tracks. When Owen and I were beginning to write music for HYOM, I’d recorded a load of rough ideas that went on to become “Black Fire”, while Owen had sketched out most of what would become “Livyatan”. The song has definitely changed a lot over the years, hence taking so long to release, but the basis has remained right from the beginning. While we were out on tour in 2019 Owen’s father passed away very suddenly, which hit him hard. After that, he definitely buried himself in writing music even more so than normal, so the last few tracks for the album appeared very quickly. The album was originally going to be dedicated to Owen’s father, but after we lost Owen too, we changed the dedication to be to both of them. That was the only thing on the album that was changed after we lost Owen, all the music and artwork had already been finished.

How did the group Hundred Year Old Man come into existence? I joined Owen’s old band (The Final Sigh) in around 2005. At the time they were a Tech Metal/Mathcore band, but we started to add more synths, effects and proggy influences from then on. Then, after that band came to an end, Owen wanted to do a massive collaborative album with a lot of the people we had met over the years in different bands. One day, Dan and Owen came over to my house and we decided to just jam some stuff and see what we came up with. Dan was playing bass, Owen on guitar, and I had drums and a keyboard set up. We played around for a bit, then recorded what we had, and after a lot of editing (of the drums especially), we had the first two tracks for what went on to become our self-titled EP.

A few years later, we decided that to properly do the collaborative band live, we would need some sort of ‘core’ band that were based nearby, so we reached out to people we knew in Leeds, and started writing the first tracks on Breaching, then carried on from there.

The fully collaborative band has gone, but we have tried to keep some of that idea going forwards. Sleep In Light features a few people we’ve met over the years: Richard Knox, who ran Gizeh Records and played in many bands such as A-Sun Amissa, Shield Patterns and more, Antoine Boczkowski from Barque, Selina and Isa from E-L-R, Angela Chan from Tomorrow We Sail and Placebo, John Thompson from Reign of Erebus… plus Dan and Aaron both contributed some synths and bass respectively even though they no longer play live with us regularly. It also still feels like a massive collaborative project just because so many different people have played in the band at various points over the years.

Did you put any restrictions on yourself and the other band members for what the album should sound like stylistically? Not specifically. I guess everyone involved was aware of what the band sounded like in the past, so we were never going to stray a long way from that no matter what we did. However, things were always going to sound a bit different from the last album (Breaching), as most of the band changed between the two records. Owen and I have always had a pretty clear idea of how we want the band to sound (not necessarily the same idea however), so we will certainly have picked things out that don’t fit, such as certain sounds or notes etc.

How did the artwork for the album come about? Our friend Adam Dean organised the live video shoot we did at Interplay Theatre and is a good friend of David’s from their previous band together: Last Chance to Dance. While the rest of us were all disagreeing on what we thought the artwork should be, they worked through a concept in secret, then brought it back to the rest of us and I think we all agreed on it pretty much straight away. We’re all massive fans of SciFi and space, so it just seemed to fit very easily.

I’m reluctant to ask (and you don’t need to answer if you don’t want to) but how much has the terrible tragedy affected the band, did you consider calling it a day at any point? It has had an absolutely massive effect on everything band related and our personal lives ever since, and will definitely continue to do so. We have absolutely thought about and discussed stopping several times, as there were many points where we thought it simply wouldn’t be possible to continue. For most of last year it felt like we were working out how we [could] work together as a band, and we haven’t even tried writing anything new yet.

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Owen on stage

It took us three or four months to even get back in a room and play anything together, which was incredibly difficult at first, but did help I think. After that, we decided that we should try and work towards doing at least one more show just to tie things up if nothing else. That show was probably the hardest, but we were surrounded by friends of ours and his, and we somehow all got through it together. We’ve then just continued to take little steps, adding a few more shows and then a full European tour.

We knew right from the first time we discussed the future of the band together, that the album had to come out, so that was a big focus no matter what happened with playing live. The rest has been mostly little steps, pushing ourselves a little further each time.

Overall though, I can’t stress enough how much Owen has been the driving force behind almost everything the band has ever done. He booked our first two European tours himself, many other gigs, organised labels, releases and general plans for what the band should do and when. The band would not have gone at all far without him, so we feel a bit of a duty not to throw it away now, as hard as that might be to actually follow through.

If you could curate your own one-day festival, who would we see on the lineup? I would love to do this, I’m not sure how well the lineup would work, however… It would obviously have to have Cult of Luna, but then I would add Pertubator too so that they can both play their own sets, plus a Final Light set. I would love to get YLVA and Lo! over from Australia, Genghis Tron, LLNN, Throane, Mizmor. Add in some full album sets: Rorcal playing Muladona, The Ocean playing Aeolian, Khoma playing The Second Wave. Would have loved to have Neurosis plus an Absent In Body set, but I’m guessing neither of those will happen again now. I’m not sure that he actually plays live but I think Lorn could work within all of that too, maybe add an actual ‘electronic’ stage with Moderat, Modeselektor and Apparat (three for the price of two), Ital Tek, and then I would throw every bit of money allowed at Boards of Canada to do a set too. I’d then fill the rest of the lineup with bands of friends: Mastiff, The Grey, Din of Celestial Birds, Underdark, Partholon, 7.5 Tonnes of Beard, Raum Kingdom, E-L-R, Torpor, Pijn, Still…. There’s plenty more I’ve missed too. It would definitely be way beyond any budget that could reasonably be recouped in ticket sales, but that’s why I’m not a promoter.

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Live at Portals 2022 (Photo Credit: Kate Wright)

Do you go to see live music much? And if so, what is the next show you are looking forward to going to see? I try to, but things have obviously been fairly hectic for the last few years, and I feel like everyone is still getting used to gigs again since it all shut down, so I haven’t seen as much as I’d like. I’ve been trying to get down to see friend’s bands whenever they are in the area though, as it’s been nice to catch up with people I haven’t seen since 2019. Damnation Festival was a major highlight of last year, just after we got back from tour. Even having the headliners pull out not long before the date, the guys managed to put on a blinder of a lineup. It’s slightly annoying that it’s no longer on our doorstep in Leeds, but they were well overdue expanding to a larger venue and it was an awesome day. I think I, like many others, have become far more used to planning gigs at the last minute, rather than well in advance. Which I feel bad for, as it can really make things difficult for promoters as they have no idea how well a gig will do, potentially until the show has started. I’m not sure how to get people (including me) out of that habit though…

What has been the best musical advice you’ve ever been given, and who gave it? I’ve had so much over the years, I’ve definitely forgotten more than I’ve remembered. I’ve been taught a lot about scales and chord progressions, but I honestly couldn’t tell you anything specific from our music as we always just write by ear. I probably do use a lot of it unknowingly though. I did write a big thing about “keeping it simple”, but thinking more about it, that doesn’t apply so much to us, as while each person might be doing something relatively simple, everyone is changing at different points and playing things slightly differently, which makes things a lot more complicated. So, I’m changing it out to “turn the distortion down”, which I’ve heard lots of times from studio engineers, guitarists and others, so couldn’t name an individual. I hear so many bands where the guitars are just a fizzy mess, because mid scooped full gain sounds heavy straight away. It took me a long time to realise quite how low you can have the gain and still have it sound heavy, but it just sounds so much nicer overall. If you still want more, adding a slightly distorted pedal in front of a slightly distorted amp gives you everything you could ever want. More volume, less gain.

Last regular question, what can we expect next from Hundred Year Old Man? We have a lot of UK shows throughout July: UK Techfest, Mangata Festival, plus shows with Armed for Apocalypse as part of those. We have one or two to announce later in the year, but I’m not too sure beyond that, we have a lot going on behind the scenes, so just trying to plan around that at the moment. The main goal is to start writing music throughout the rest of the year. We have a lot of unused material left that didn’t go on Sleep In Light, plus plenty of other bits of demos and other ideas. It will be the first time we’ve written anything since 2020, so it will be a big milestone, but one we’re also looking forward to.

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(Photo credit: southernsven)

Now onto our quickfire round:
Wine or Beer? Beer generally, but stage-wine is great.

Big arena or intimate club? Intimate club, no question.

A quiet night in or a night on the town? Probably a quiet night in nowadays. Or a less quiet night with friends over.

Download or Arctangent? Absolutely ATG - last year was fantastic.

Garden visit or Castle explore? Castle.

Outdoor picnic or Indoor meal? Outdoor food during some kind of hike/bike ride.

Vinyl or streaming? Vinyl for properly listening, streaming for convenience.

Touring or Writing/Recording? Always touring I think. Writing is great, but nothing compares to playing those songs live. Touring is why we do this.