Urian Hackney 13 January 2016 on Rocket Shop
WORDS BY TOM PROCTOR. PHOTO by JAMES LOCKRIDGE.
Urian Hackney comes from quite a musical pedigree. Son and nephew of the founding members of “Death”, the 70’s Detroit-based black punk band, you could say that he’s got some big Doc Martins to fill. Rather than shy away, Urian and his brothers have taken the scene by force. Forming their own band, Rough Francis, they have brought their own sounds and talents to the table and forged a route on the punk pathway.
In the studio to discuss his new solo work, a double A single ‘The Box’, named after their personalized recording space on Pine Street, Urian spent a few minutes having a blather about his DIY approach to creating sounds, why the best instruments come from the 70’s and how he first heard his dad’s music while taking a sprinkle as he avoided his chores:
Tom Proctor: Your double A single ‘The Box’ was released in October, what was the process to making the track?
Urian Hackney: Well my friend Robert Rossi approached me, I’ve played music with him for 8 years so I know him really well. He hit me up and told me that he wanted to stop by The Box and I showed him a track that I made, “Caramel”. He had a listen and helped me take that to the next level, which is what you can hear on the single.
TP: Were there any sounds you wanted to incorporate that you didn't get to?
UH: Well there were some vocals that got recorded that will never see the light of day, bar my girlfriend (laughs.) It sounds good but when it comes to vocals I want to keep it shy ‘cos I want people to be able to chop it up and make it their own. Whatever people want to do with it creatively is fine by me. I just want to make a template for people to make songs from.
TP: Does recording in your own studio affect the way you create music ?
UH: Absolutely! We don't really record elsewhere because we’re very DIY oriented. We’re very hands on with our own stuff because we only have the best of intentions when it comes to presenting our own work. Anyone can book a studio and get their hour, the engineers do what they need to make it sound ok but they're always clock watching. We like using our own equipment which is generally old school and tailored to us and you just can't get that in a rented space. Everything made from 1940 to 1970 has a craftsmanship and intention behind how it was made. These days most equipment is all mass produced and that doesn't work for us. So if we can't buy it we’ll build it ourselves.
TP: So you bring a sense of individualism to your music?
UH: That's why we all gravitated towards the punk scene. Being black and growing up in Jericho, Vermont is kind of a funny thing. People look at you like you’re different, but our lifestyle made us stand out even more. When you’re an angsty 13-year-old, it’s awesome to hear someone empathise with rejection and have an anti-establishment thought process.
TP: Is there a lot of jamming within the band--is there freedom to do what you like creatively?
UH: Absolutely. Growing up we were all initially into the same kind of punk rock music, but we were still coming from different ages, different motives and different angles in terms of the music we wanted to play. I was only 17 when I joined Rough Francis and I came from a hardcore band, whereas Jules just came back from LA where he was playing garage stuff and Dylan was all about the Ramones. There were lots of different starting points and personally I was a little musically immature, but as we progressed our influences kind of combined. So we ended up coming together from different areas but ended up in the same place so we work within that.
TP: Your Dad and Uncles are famously in the 70’s punk band “Death”. Music has been such a huge influence in your life, how did it feel going from the audience to the other side of the mic?
UH: It feels weird ‘cos I’m pretty bad when it comes to being front and center. I’ve always been worried about making a fool of myself, that's why I like playing the drums. I’m a prominent part of the band but geographically I stay at the back. I like to be heard but not seen. We all put in our 20% of the chaos. When I’m playing I go crazy--I feel the music and I can’t control myself. I transcend to become one with the music.
TP: Have you ever collaborated with Death?
UH: Yeah we’ve played shows and done guest appearances, but really we’ve been going out and done our own thing. Separate but still a family. They’re on a different level, a different bracket so we're just letting them enjoy it and enjoy the attention rather than get in on it. We’re at a different stage at the moment. We want to be our own band really, so part of that is learning the mistakes our own way, recording our own way, making the story our own way.
TP: What was it like discovering your dad’s music?
UH: When I heard that Death album it was the most awakening experience in my life. From my feet to my head I felt the electricity, I realized that's what I want to be doing. The day I heard it I’ll never forget. I was in high school and I was meant to come home and mow the lawn, I came home and my dad called me into his office and told me to go into the attic and get these tapes. So I go into the attic, find the masters and give them to my dad and then go mow the grass. I come back in and go to the bathroom and as I’m in there I hear this punk album playing, he was playing the Death album. When I heard it for the first time I lost my shit. It was fucking amazing. it was like hearing and old friend you've not seen in years, like seeing a baby for the first time, familiar but new. Spencer reached out on a music forum and talked to some guys that wanted to get a hold of the album, then it just spiraled and it ended up with us playing at Joey Ramones’ 50th birthday at the Fillmore with Death. The first Death show in 30 years.
TP: Death clearly had an avant garde sound, hows that influenced your own style in Rough Francis?
UH: Well a lot of it has just rung bells rather than had direct influence, as we’ve always felt a gravitation towards that kind of music. After we first heard the Death tapes it was like a lightbulb going off in our head because this was the sort of stuff we’ve always been doing, an affirmation of our direction more than anything. We just go with what we want to play. WE were already tailored to playing towards that kind of music so when we heard it, it just made sense. It was in our blood.