I have been aware of HESSLER for quite some time now but only recently felt the itch to include them on the page after finally reviewing their live show. Like the bands that inspired them (Maiden, W.A.S.P.) you’re never really going to “get” this band until you experience them live and that’s not a bad thing, it speaks volumes of how true to the spirit of rock and roll they really are. The personalities of HESSLER no doubt stand out in the hipster trendier-than-thou Chicago environment they hail from and they most likely wouldn’t have it any other way. Some have called them a throwback to old-school metal but there’s really nothing recycled about their riffs, some will focus on their disturbingly gorgeous lead singer Lariyah Daniels but they’d admit she’s hardly the whole show. They’re kind of a new breed unto themselves; intelligent kids with a mean streak, a whole lot of ambition and hard work ethic to go along with their talent and image. We talked to Lariyah and guitarist Igz Kincaid to find out what the hell is going on for you so go ahead, enter HESSLER’S vortex and let them consume you. Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: HESSLER has played some shows with acts that are pretty well known but also acts that have a legendary stage show. Has the visual element of a concert always been important to you?
Igz Kincaid: Oh yeah, without question, we’ve always put on an over the top show because if people wanna just listen to music they can stay home and listen to it at their house. I’m a fan of bands and know that’s what I’m looking for when I go to see a show, and we just wanna make sure that everyone there gets their money’s worth whether it’s 2 people or two thousand. Plenty of bands will say they give a 110% but I really don’t see it. Sometimes it will be a band I’ve loved since I was a little kid and I finally get the opportunity to see them and just walk away disappointed. I just saw Iron Maiden again for the 7th time and Bruce Dickenson was onstage just singing his ass off and performing his ass off, even at 55 years old in a 105 degree weather. If a band at that stage in the game can bring that much energy and conviction it would be an embarrassment if a band of our age did not attempt at all costs to do the same.
Lariyah Daniels: There has got to be something more to your performance than just simply singing and playing your instruments, that’s just not enough for us or for people who come out to see us. The truth is, we approach every show like it’s our last show on earth.
LRI: When I saw you guys live it really seemed like there was a lot of interaction between all of you and the audience. It wasn’t just a bunch of people wanting to stare at the band, it was more of a give and take throughout the set.
Igz: I know when I go to a show I don’t just wanna be a spectator, not saying I wanna be slam dancing but I wanna be there to share that special energy between the band and the crowd.
Lariyah: Listening to a band at home doesn’t convey the whole experience. Even if it’s really well done it doesn’t have that spirit or that charm of going out and actually making eye contact and sharing that energy with an audience. It’s an altogether different art. Kind of like seeing a great movie at home isn’t the same as seeing it in a movie theatre on a big screen with an audience. It could be a really good movie but it’s not the same emotion or experience at home.
LRI: Lariyah, I’ve seen photos of you as a little kid growing up in Poland and you were playing piano and already seemed destined for some kind of art. I know you’re also a model but was being involved in music something that was always important to you?
Lariyah: I wouldn’t say I’ve always focused on it because I was into so many things growing up. While HESSLER is my number one passion now, I am still to this day into so many things and always was as a kid, whether it was becoming an architect or being involved in music or art. It was always something and it still is but looking back it is interesting how so much of what I loved as a little girl was related to the arts. It was piano or even guitar, it was dancing, singing, visual arts and now in HESSLER, it can all come full circle.
LRI: I think that some of your chemistry comes from the fact that no matter what you guys all have going on individually there seems to be this laser focus and collective braintrust in regards to the band. On and offstage you all seem very invested and immersed in HESSLER.
Igz: That’s something I’ve always pushed for or sought after in this band. Everyone has their own role but the purpose and goal of this band stands clear and everyone must have tunnel vision towards our ultimate goal of being a nationally touring act and being able to support the band financially doing just that.
Lariyah: It’s so clear that it should be our focus. If you come to a show and see the excitement and passion from our fans it is so obvious that HESSLER is the most important thing in our lives, we feed off of that energy that the fans provide us when we meet them and it helps us keep that focus.
LRI: I was gonna mention that. In this day and age where fans are paying ridiculous amounts of money for V.I.P. treatment or telling fans that they don’t like taking pictures you guys come off genuinely thrilled about getting the audience’s feedback. It seems that your grassroots method of talking to everyone, signing everything and taking pics with them all is much more intelligent and would pay off in the long run. You not only have more loyal fans but you can learn a lot from talking to them. Have you found that to be the case?
Igz: Going back to what we talked about earlier, I may have gotten to the point now where I have a band but I am still a fan. I can remember finally being able to meet some of these guys I always looked up to in bands and I can remember which ones treated me with respect and answered all my silly fan questions; it really made me value them more as a band. There are other artists who I’ve met where I was equally as disappointed with them after meeting them like “Wow, is this really what they’re like”. As a fan you feel crushed. Lots of bands will say things like “Thank you” to the fans in an interview or from the stage but you’ll question how much they really mean it. We will stay until every last fan that wants to talk or wants an autograph or picture gets one. The bands that really care about their fans or their career will make that effort. When we look around a room forty minutes before we even go on stage and see a bunch of people wearing HESSLER shirts not because we twisted their arm but because they’ve really made that connection with us, it makes you smile.
Lariyah: We are a live band and whenever someone looks at that T-shirt or CD that they bought at a show, it immediately reminds them of the live experience and that night that they came out and made that connection. It’s really important to me not only that you like the CD or the shirt but that they remind you of how we kicked ass.
- Igz and Lariyah photo by Tom Leu
LRI: My daughters are hardly metalheads but they seemed transfixed by watching you perform Lariyah. Does it stop and make you think when you see young girls in an audience digging what you do? It may be some of those little girls first experience seeing a strong female singer rather than a Disney singer.
Lariyah: I grew up in a mostly male world with my father and my grandfather and I think that’s where I get a lot of my strength and power from, I never really hung out with girls and still don’t really, even now but I’m always looking for that female figure that means something to me on a rock and roll level. Also, I’m a sucker for kids and while I’m not looking to have kids right now, I still love them and they are absolutely the future of rock. To be able to connect with young kids or make some kind of impression on them is a very cool thing. To see a young person out in the crowd singing along to what I’m singing just blows me away.
Igz: Especially when it’s a song we haven’t even released yet! Youth does not equal stupidity, it equals honesty as kids are much less corrupt and much more honest than adults for obvious reasons. If you ask a kid “Do you like the red shirt or the blue shirt” they’re not gonna lie to you or filter his or her answer through some skewed viewpoint. They’re just going to give you the unfiltered truth.
LRI: Igz, I know you started the band and it’s gone through some changes before and even after Lariyah joined. How much has your bouncing baby HESSLER grown?
Igz: It has changed a lot since we started. I joke around when I say I’ve gone through more members than L.A. Guns but it really has changed. When we started gigging out about four years ago the band had a male singer and that was because of my requirement that they have a strong look and a strong Bruce Dickinson or Doro Pesch type delivery; to be honest I just couldn’t imagine ever finding a female singer who could fit that style and sing with that power, so the though of a female singer didn’t even cross my mind. I just didn’t think it was possible, especially not in the limited Midwest. Don’t get me wrong, there are LOTS of women with really strong voices but they are most often in that Christina Aguielera vein or they are often in a really good cover band that they don’t wanna leave. With guys it was the total opposite, it was so, so hard finding a guy who could actually sing, there were a bunch who could growl but I just didn’t want that. We would play shows with male singers and people would be like “Well, I really liked your band and your stage show but I can’t stand your singer”. Then I tried singing for a while but I didn’t like not being able to run around on stage and play guitar and my voice is really more suited for backing vocals anyway. When I finally convinced Lariyah to try it out it really opened my mind as far as what I thought this band was capable of in terms of songwriting and delivery. It changed all the songs and the concept of the band and I think it changed us for the better. It wasn’t the way I would have planned it necessarily but I think it all worked out for a reason. When I have people who are fans of Venom or Cannibal Corpse or these really heavy bands come up to me and tell me that Lariyah’s voice kicked their ass, it makes me very, very happy.
LRI: I’ve heard your earlier EP and it seems that the band has also grown even since Lariyah has joined. When you play the new material live or hear the newer recordings they feel more direct and the vocals have gotten much stronger.
Lariyah: I think I’ve grown and gotten more comfortable as a singer. When you first join a band or do any type of performance their is a period of adjustment and getting used to the style and delivery of a new band or a new singer. Also, while we were all getting used to our roles in the band the fact is that the first EP was very rushed in terms of recording time. We’ve all grown as musicians and the recordings we’ve done since really reflect all of that as well as the fact that we’re a live band first and foremost and our live shows have grown and improved as time has gone on. My goal is to somehow make this next album match the level of performance of our live shows.
Igz: When we did the “Bad Blood” EP, those were all songs I had developed for quite some time but Lariyah and Marcus (Lee Cox, Drummer) had only about a month to learn them and maybe we were just a bit early on tackling it. Now, when we play those songs live and people are like “Man, those songs are so much better live” it really bothers the shit out of us because we know that if we brought the band as it is in to record that material again it would absolutely kill. I think at some point that material will be re-recorded just to do that tunes justice.
LRI: One of the things that is unique about HESSLER is that every single guy in the band stands out just as much as Lariyah does onstage, which, as pretty as she is, is hard to imagine. Was that important to you or something you were conscious of?
Igz: It had occured to me that I didn’t want it to be like a No Doubt situation where you have this really pretty blond girl who sings great and then there’s this band who noone really knows standing behind her. That had crossed my mind until I really thought about it and it was like “Hey, if she stands out more than any of us that is OUR own fault, that’s not her fault”. At the end of the day, come on, a good looking girl is going to get more attention than a guy in most situations but if I’m not memorable in some way, then that’s my own fault. It’s one of those things that can keep us all on track and keep us at the top of our game in terms of making sure we’re doing our own individual jobs. She’s not the star of the show, we’re all independently visual and capable of projecting onstage. Some of the band grew up on and appreciate a band like Motley Crue, where there are four individual characters and each component shapes the monster to make it unique. That’s why Marcus has his own look, Lar has her look, and on down because people are all different and they like and identify with different things.
Lariyah: If it were just me the show would be nothing like what it is right now. Every single member of this band is the shit, it’s not the Lariyah show and I’m not intent on keeping the spotlight on me exclusively. “Sometimes” these guys have more energy than I do (laughs) and it’s awesome that they are out there kicking ass and putting on a show along with me. It helps me and we feed off of each other’s energy. If these guys weren’t so much fun I would not enjoy everything as much as I do. They are so much fun to be around and to watch.
Igz: What’s really true is that the characters we are onstage are so very similar to how we are offstage which keeps it fun when we look over at one another while we’re onstage going crazy
LRI: I see you have a Halloween show booked and you guys are a perfect fit for that holiday. Has Halloween always been important to you?
Igz: I can’t really speak for anyone else but I’m not afraid to say that everyone in the band loves dressing up. Moving to the U.S. when I was 8, one of the coolest things about American culture to me was Halloween, I got to dress as Bret Hit Man Hart like 6 years in a row. It ranks as my primary holiday because like our music, it is about having a good time and letting out energy. I’ve dressed up as Vanilla Ice, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Motley Crue (nothing like being Tommy Lee having girls grope you thinking that the huge Derek Smalls foil-covered Cucumber duct taped to your leg is the next incarnation of John Holmes), W.A.S.P. (a blast walking into a south side liquor store with my ass-less Chris Holmes chaps to buy a case of Nightrain; everyone stepped out of the way) but last year was our first experience of playing a Halloween show as someone else. We played as Judas Priest. Nobody knew Lariyah was a girl until she took the cop hat off during the last tune. Frank looked more Michael Jackson than Glenn Tipton and I had 7 inch hooker heels for K.K. Downing. Even funnier was seeing The Last Vegas with their cutlets and hairy legs as The Runaways. We’re excited again, now as Iron Maiden, to take part in this long running Double Door event here in Chicago which sells out every year.
LRI: So you have a west coast run of dates and you’re recording a new album to be released before Christmas, is world domination the goal? Are you selling HESSLER merch in Japan?
Lariyah: Yes! All over the globe actually.
Igz: Yeah, it’s really cool. It’s all a part of pushing this band and our music to the next level. The very first CD ordered was from Osaka, Japan and we sell T-shirts and stuff everywhere from Indonesia to Brazil and on and on. It’s really cool that we’re making this West Coast run and playing places out there but ultimately we want to pick up a touring slot in Europe, Japan or South America. The fans there are so insanely loyal to heavy metal and hard rock that it’s just one of those benchmarks a band needs to meet and the next logical step after touring here in the states. The video for “Last Alive” is out and on Youtube and we are finishing the full length album which we’re pushing to finish and press for the Hess Goes West Tour starting December 1st.
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