Hazy J & the Wasted Daze interview

January 13, 2020

Hazy J & the Wasted Daze interview

Brainchild of Hamish Stewart, Hazy J & the Wasted Daze is a musical collective set to deliver conceptualised stories through a genre spanning maniacal menagerie of music. Their first album, a split EP known as ‘Gypsy Mountain’/’Silent Wizard’ has been recorded in their hometown of Adelaide, South Australia.

How would you describe your sound?

Our sound spans various sub-genres of Rock and Roll. Basically we start with a foundation of classic rock and then start adding different tastes and sounds throughout. Bringing in elements of psychedelic, stoner, hard rock and a dash of doom we have tried to not stick to any one sound throughout the release. As these are concept pieces and are technically two separate EP’s, I wanted to have a clear and succinct divide in the sound. It’s almost comical how different one side is to the other, with Gypsy Mountain being a lot more classic and psych and Silent Wizard getting quite heavy. However, this was all done on purpose to lay a foundation for the band and future releases never sticking to one sound.

Would you like to talk a bit about your background?

I was born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia. My Dad brought me up on a heavy dose of classic rock with the likes of AC/DC, Queen, Status Quo, Pink Floyd and the Who. It was my mother who introduced me to Led Zeppelin and they both seemed to despise the other’s tastes, I instead took it all in. In my early teens I started playing guitar and through some high school mates I was introduced to Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, from there it only got heavier and more diverse. I played in various bands through school and into my early 20’s, mostly classic and heavy rock. I studied film at University which led me to become more intrigued and invested in conceptual story telling through music and musical films. After my last band, Thunder Wagon, broke up I decided to start working on more music personally. It was around this time that I moved to Canada with my girlfriend and through travelling and exploring I managed to find the muse and focus I needed to develop the stories that had been plaguing me for years. These two pieces were dreamt, conceptualised and realised over a few years and it was this year that brought it all together to realisation. After moving back to Australia I managed to secure partial funding through our Government’s Arts department and funded the rest out of my own pocket and through crowdfunding efforts.

Are any of you involved in any other bands or do you have any active side-projects going on at this point?

Personally, I am only involved in this project as it is my creation and brain child. The musicians who helped me are all from other bands in the local Adelaide scene. I am fortunate to have an amazing network of close friends who are ridiculous musicians that were willing to help me bring my songs into the studio and give them the life they deserved. I had the opportunity to build my ultimate super group with the people I knew and all of my first choices were available and willing. Jake Brackenridge, our bassist is in an amazing hard rock band ‘Imogen Brave’, Nathan Dior, singer and keys, goes by ‘Cosmic Shepherd’ and releases sweet psych/folk music both solo and is moving into more band situations. Nick Robinson, lead guitar, is honestly one of the greatest guitarists and musicians I’ve ever seen. He is an in demand guitarist but mainly he slings lead lines for ‘Rosemont’ formerly ‘Love Cream’ and absolutely crush the local venues. Dil Simmons, studio drummer and vocals, is one of the dudes I grew up with and makes interesting genre-spanning music under the name ‘Listento Lonomy’. Unfortunately Dil was unable to play live with us due to him living rural and we brought Paris Clark-Proud in for skin duty. Paris is another ridiculous musician who is usually seen singing and playing guitar with ‘Rat Tamango’, another amazing blues/rock band that destroys locally and around Australia. ‘The Wasted Daze’ were always meant to be a revolving band for me as I am a travelling man. This project was never intended to be a set ongoing band but I can say that the first lineup has been amazing and I cannot wait to see where I can take it and how it evolves from here.

“These two pieces were dreamt, conceptualised and realised”

When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music? What brought that about for you?

I think it was about grade 10 music class that I decided to really push into my own thing. I had just started my first band ‘Naked Snake’ and we were writing some cool songs together. With riffs from my lead guitarist Zach Chown, I sung and wrote the lyrics and played rhythm too. This really gave me my incentive to push myself with developing writing skills as well a stage presence. It was also this time I decided to stop studying music. We were finally given the opportunity to write and arrange our own music in class but were given so many guidelines for length, structure etc. I felt boxed in by the criteria that it felt like I had no creativity. In hindsight, more theory knowledge would probably improve my writing but I needed to explore what sounds I could create without the guidelines of learning.

Hazy J & the Wasted Daze (Shot by Lachlan Stewart at Mixmasters Studio)

“I try to never force writing and let the muse find me instead.”

How do you usually approach music making?

It has evolved over the years but I believe I’ve found my formula for making music. Everything I am creating is all based around concepts so before I even have sounds or riffs or anything, I write down the story line and build the structure of that first. Once I have my storyline in either long form or as a visual script, I break it down into scenes or beats which become the songs. These turn into working song titles and now I know what each song needs to convey on a conceptual and story telling level and start getting a feel for how this will shape the sounds. I then let this ferment in my mind and explore the story further by telling friends and anyone who will listen. This helps me get into the zone for the project but also every telling seems to bring more questions that need answers or more answers on how to better tell the vision. I will spend periods working on lyrical content for each of the songs, taking the plot points and turning them into poems and ideas for lyrics. During this period I let the riffs come to me, I try to never force writing and let the muse find me instead. When inspiration hits I’ll find where it fits within the story. It might sound like a good opener, or an emotional hook for a middle point or a great finale, they all have their place in the tale and if they don’t, they go in the bank for future possibilities. Once a riff has been found I can build on the song by adding further riffs that flow well. When the structure starts coming by I can find vocal melodies and start finalising the lyrics and shaping them around how the music has turned out. Once these songs have gone through this process I will take it to other musicians to help shape and eventually demo them, ready to be taken into the studio. It’s a long and weird process but it is an enjoyable journey and works well for me.

The debut album consists of two EPs (‘Silent Wizard’ and ‘Gypsy Mountain’). Can you share some further details how your latest album was recorded?

We had the pleasure of recording the two EP’s in the Adelaide Hills at Mixmasters Studio. It is an amazing hybrid studio mixing the best of analog and digital recording methods. Our producer, Nick Swerdloff, was amazing to work with and knew how to get the best out of us in a short amount of time. I had a clear plan for the weekend and hand the goal in mind to record all ten tracks in just four days. The other beauty of Mixmasters was the opportunity to stay at the studio as it is built into an old house. This gave us a real opportunity to get pre and post session hangs and really dial in with each other and the music. Myself, Jake and Dil managed to smash out the bed tracks by half way through the second day. This left us with the afternoon to get the keys down which Nathan did on a rad old Hammond he found at the studio. The third day saw us finish off the organs, Nick (Producer) laid down some sexy saxophone on “Light the Way” and then Nick Robinson got creative with the lead tracks in the afternoon. This is probably where we spent the most time with recording but he managed to give the tracks the extra life and feelings they needed. Dil gave us his vocals for “Nightmare” and then had to leave the studio for other commitments. His other vocals were recorded after the main session. The final day gave us time to tidy up any leads and rhythm tracks and myself and Nathan got to recording vocals. Initially I intended on singing a lot more but the sessions proved Nathan and Dil to be much better suited to the Gypsy Mountain tracks and left me to deliver the heavier vocals for Silent Wizard. In four frantic days we had recorded everything barre the acoustic intro track for the Silent Wizard side and three vocal tracks which were all done at later times. After letting ourselves breathe for a week or so, myself and Nick S got to mixing at his personal studio, Myth, in Adelaide City. This was an amazing experience and seeing that man work was beautiful.

We took our time to give the tracks time to take on their sounds through this process and I can say that Nick put in a lot of extra work and love and made the album something truly special. Most of our recording process was filmed and there are various behind the scenes films about the process on YouTube.

Hazy J & the Wasted Daze (Shot by Lachlan Stewart at Mixmasters Studio)

What kind of equipment did you use?

This is a tricky question to answer as I don’t have a huge knowledge for recording gear. I let our producer handle all of the intense gear selection which is all featured in our making-of films. Personally, I used three electric guitars and two acoustics and an extremely simple setup for my amp and effects. For the heavier tracks I played my Epiphone Black Beauty, an absolute monster of a guitar and delivered a ballsy punch for some of the tracks. On the softer songs I played a ridiculous 1972 Gold Top Les Paul that was at the studio with a beautiful set of mini humbuckers. Easily one of the best guitars I’ve ever played. With the final track on Wizard, “Destruction”, I used a Fender Baritone which gave the massive bottom end I wanted with that riff. My amp setup is simple, an Orange AD30 running though a PPC412 cab and a single effects pedal, the Boss OC-3 for a little extra crunch. I don’t know why but the OC-3, typically an octave pedal, has a really nice drive that seemed to work well with my style. The only other rig I know well was the organ rig. We ran the classic Hammond through a 60’s Fender Bassman Amp and split in a Vox 30 and came out with some wonderfully crisp and full sounds.

Hazy J & the Wasted Daze (Shot by Lachlan Stewart at Mixmasters Studio)

What are some bands/musicians that have a big influence on you?

I tend to split my influences into two classes, the classics and the modern. My classic big influences are Sabbath, Zeppelin, Floyd, the Who, Neil Young and the Stones. You really can’t go pass that lineup and they paved the way for just about every style and sub-genre of rock and metal that came to be. When we move into more modern influences my main lineup is Beastwars, Red Fang, the Sword, Uncle Acid and Kadavar. As you can tell, I love me some good stoner rock and these guys take riff rock to a whole new level.

Hazy J & the Wasted Daze (Spoz Spozington, shot at Crown and Anchor)

Do you often play live? Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?

Unfortunately, due to the makeup and vision of this project/band, we do not get to play live often. We did a weekend for the big launch and played some amazing local venues to receptive crowds. With this being a semi-solo effort and everyone in my band being in at least one other band, jamming and playing live becomes a difficult task. But, with the way I have set it up it means that I can tour personally with a revolving band wherever I am and deliver the same great experience. I envision it more like a travelling production than a set band, taking new roads wherever I go. Our opening night we played with a sweet little two piece called “Smoke No Fire”. They pull a huge sound out of just the two of them and have a sweet Queens of the Stone Age style of rock. On our second show we played with a crazy good funk rock band called ‘Twitch’. Funk is usually not a genre I mess around with too much but these guys had me dancing and almost sounded like Rage Against the Machine, if Rage weren’t so angry. Adelaide has an awesome music scene filled with just about anything you can desire but unfortunately it is not a totally viable city to launch a career.

Hazy J & the Wasted Daze (Ashleigh Weller, shot at Crown and Anchor)

What are some future plans?

I am always thinking about the future and where I will take this project to next. I am making the move to New Zealand soon with my partner in pursuit of a lifestyle more set to our ways. With this, I am endeavouring to film and create an extended film for Gypsy Mountain as it was always intended to be a soundtrack as well as a standalone album. I am continuing to work on the follow up album, a Rock Opera in which both the Gypsy Muse and the Silent Wizard make appearances in. This first set of EP’s were designed to lay the foundation and folklore for these mystical characters and to give a bigger meaning and depth to their roles in the follow up story. I would like to find a group to work locally in New Zealand but with the marvels of modern technology I will be able to workshop ideas with my collaborators in Adelaide too. I am also going to be looking into finding any interest in the European and US markets for my production. I would love to be able to tour with a local set of musicians and spread the project we have created.

Hazy J & the Wasted Daze (Ashleigh Weller, shot at Crown and Anchor)

Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?

I have a lot of favourite albums, both new and old but recently I have been shifting into collecting movie soundtracks. I’m working on finding the complete Tarantino collection as he always has amazing soundtracks for his films. But going back to my favourite records, Sabbath’s Masters of Reality is always up there. If you can’t hear it’s influence on my writing I don’t know what to tell you, but it’s obvious without being a ripoff, I hope. Pink Floyd’s The Wall and the Who’s Tommy are also two of my favourite. They really showed me what rock and roll can do in a musical sense and theatrically with film as well. Both huge influences and loves of mine for sure. My favourite 2019 release would have to be Beastwars IV. This New Zealand sludge outfit took some time off while their singer, Matt Hyde, was being treated for cancer. This album is so emotionally charged and epic that you can feel the pain he went through and the gratitude to be on the other side. An absolutely monumental record.

Thank you. Last word is yours.

Thank you. I just want to say thank you to everyone who helped me make this record and those who were a part of it. I am proud of myself for what I have created but know it was realised to it’s full potential by those around me. As I said before, I am looking at bringing this act and production overseas so if any of you European guys and girls want to help me make this happen, please reach out. The record is available in Europe now through Shiny Beast, or ask your local store to get you a copy. Thanks again and keep rocking.

– Klemen Breznikar

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