Hexis, black metal/hardcore from Denmark, differs from the usual bands not only because of their specific angry sound, but I daresay, primarily because of their intensive live presence. Tours 109 days long? Playing 111 shows in it, so two shows in one day and twice? Playing stripclub in Cambodia, in running train, or in front of children in school in Lithuania? And how they even finance it? Not only about these curiosities we’ve talked with Filip Andersen, singer and frontman of these Danish madmen.
B.: Hello, Filip, how’s life treating you? I can see you’ve a tour planned, I’ve read that you have music ready, yet I didn’t notice any information regarding the actual release. What are your plans for the 2022, do you plan to release the music this year?
Filip: Hello. Life is good! We are finally releasing a new song/video this Monday (February 28), there is much more on the way for this year, but we can’t talk too much about it yet. We are touring for 5 weeks in March/April, which I’m very excited about, since it will be our first time on the road in over two years. We also have a handful of other tours in the making, some of them will be announced very soon.
B.: First of all, I would like to talk about Hexis itself. Let’s take you back to the start. What was the first impulse to form Hexis, if willing, try to take us through the thought process behind it. I take it, that everyone who starts a band has this vision of theirs, what they want to do differently, or why there exists a need to create something new. What was the idea behind it, what does the name Hexis mean, what were you trying to accomplish?
Filip: When we started the band then I didn’t have any big goals like I have now I guess. I was just kinda obsessed with bands like Celeste, Shora etc. So to make my own band in that style was something I felt like I just needed to do, my biggest dream was to try to play concerts outside of Denmark and release music on vinyl, these things which might doesn’t seem like a big deal now, were totally crazy for me back then. I actually didn’t expect the band to achieve the majority of the things we have now. I guess as the years go on, more and more goals are coming up.
B.: If we were to put Hexis purely to the lyrical level, the songs are exclusively named by a single Latin word and the lyrics are written in the form of short… maybe descriptions, or passages from a book? Not the traditional poetic format, nonetheless. Why did you choose this form and what is the lyrical message of Hexis?
Filip: The idea of using latin words as the titles was something my old band back in 2008 started to do, I think it was our drummers idea to do this. I liked the idea, so when Hexis started then I just continued to use it here. The word used for each song title is usually a word used in the lyrics of the song, but translated to latin or a word that just fits with the lyrics of the song. The lyrics have changed over the years for sure, I guess the first lyrics were mostly more personal stuff and a little political. From the 2014 releases and on then it was more story based, mainly about different demons and possessions. The new lyrics I wrote now for our upcoming songs is based a little around this as well, but is overall taking more inspiration from personal stuff, like I used to do, but kinda went away from, since I wasn’t too satisfied with what I wrote back then. I think I got better at writing this kind of stuff now.
B.: Album names such as „Abalam“ or „Tando Ashanti“ reference demonology, at least in layman’s terms. What is the meaning of those names for the albums’ concept? With that said, do those albums even have a concept or is it just a general theme or topic?
Filip: The albums titles is based on the demons, which we took the name from. Like the story of Abalam is that the only way you can escape from the possession is by killing yourself, the story about Tando Ashanti is that it’s a demon who requires the sacrifice of 7 men and 7 women etc.
B.: I like the cover-art for „Tando Ashanti“ album. What does it represent?
Filip: The cover is a picture from the music video we did for the track Septem, the video is based around the whole thing of sacrificing people. If you have the vinyl or CD then there are a lot more pictures included, which kinda show the whole thing.
B.: In general, what is more important, the message behind the music or the music itself?
Filip: I will say the music. For me, then the music has always been more important than the lyrics, for every band I have been listening to.
B.: In Hexis, I can hear a lot of resemblance to the French band Celeste. Is it possible? Should you reference the most important bands for Hexis, what would they be?
Filip: For sure Celeste. If it wasn’t for that band then Hexis would have sounded completely different. The same goes for Shora from Switzerland, at least their old material. But actually for the new music we recorded now, we didn’t really listen much to the bands we used to do when we recorded Abalam and Tando Ashanti, so I guess if you hear that inspiration in the new music we gonna release this year, then it’s probably more because we just tried to expend on the old Hexis music, while taken inspiration from a lot of new bands and genres that we haven’t really brought into the Hexis sound before. On this new album then you’re gonna find inspiration from everything from Ambient, Deathcore, Beatdown etc. I guess different things that you usually not will hear in this kind of thing Hexis is doing. At least I feel like we did something more unique this time. Hopefully people will agree.
B.: I’ve seen your show on Brutal Assault 2019 and it was an interesting sight to see. Do you have a precise idea behind your shows, like what would you imagine the spectators would see, or feel or is it just a live performance of the specific music? Have you considered stage costumes or the day-to-day clothes are something intentional?
Filip: Brutal Assault was a cool one to play! Probably the biggest crowd we have played for so far, but also a very different show from what we usually deliver, since this show was on a huge stage in the middle of the day. Usually then we play way smaller venues and bring our own light show along, which I will say is a way more intense experience. It’s not like we have a specific way to perform or anything like that I guess. As long as all of us put all our energy into the show. Usually then I’m not thinking too much about what I’m doing on the stage, everything flows pretty naturally now I guess. We also don’t have a specific way to dress when we play, besides that we not should wear something there is too colourful, since it will looks weird with the kind of music we play.
B.: There is a lot of controversy regarding the need for labels. The band use them, of course, but I’ve heard opinions that label could, actually, prove to be a liability, since they are making money off the artists’ talent and at some point, the labels lose their meaning since the band can do it for themselves once their name starts to sell. I can see that you tend to vary your labels and you actually have your own label – Bloated Veins – so, what is the advantage of releasing your music on your own and through another label? What would be your recommendation for other bands? And also, how did you get to work with Debemur Morti Productions? It is kind of a big deal.
Filip: For the majority of Hexis’ existence then I was very against the whole idea of signing to a record label, I guess the idea of somebody owning the rights to our music was something I didn’t like, I guess that was just my mentality back then, coming from the Punk/DIY scene. But we still wanted to work with labels, but without doing contracts, so to do it with DIY labels was just what felt right. After doing the band for more than 10 years then we decided that we wanted to try out something new, so we sent some demos out for the new album, in search for a bigger label who will be able to push the band more. Debemur Morti was actually the label I was hoping the most would be interested in releasing this record, so I was very happy that they wanted to do it. So far the collaboration with them has been very good! They seem very interested in us and the communication is good. So I am happy! Anyway, we are still going to work with DIY labels and self release stuff in the future, but it’s gonna be with different smaller releases mainly. As a recommendation for other bands, I guess, work hard and everything will come naturally.
B.: Now let’s move to the topic of live performances. I don’t know of any band that would have as much live shows as you would at once and with that said, I think you are one of a kind. How do you organise it all? I hear you do it yourself. And what did the pandemic mean for a band like yours, so focused on live performances?
Filip: Yes, so I booked the majority by myself since day one. I guess the reason for this as a start, was that this was the only way for us to go on the road. After some years, we actually tried to work with some booking agencies, but it didn’t work out as well as when we did it by ourselves. So we just figured out that this is the best way to do it for us. You know, I have been doing it for 12 years now + I started to book for other bands as well. At this point then I have a pretty big booking network and it’s usually pretty easy for me to book our tours + the Debemur Morti thing definitely helped making it easier now. So it just feels kinda stupid to me to pay somebody else to do this job, also since I actually really enjoy doing it. About the pandemic, it has been pretty bad for us, like with everybody else I guess. Right now then we are in the worst situation we ever have been in economic, like we had a lot of costs, but no money came in from shows to pay for all these things, so it’s great that we finally will hit the road and get everything back on track again soon.
B.: I’ve seen, that you actually did a 109 days long tour with 111 shows, so you didn’t have a single day off and you actually played two shows in one day – twice. How do you even manage this? How do you deal with the exhaustion?
Filip: So actually 3 of the shows on that tour got cancelled. So by the end then we had 3 off days, but we still played two shows in one day two times on that tour. I understand if it may sound crazy to most people, but the majority of the drives on that tour were super short, like we were driving just a couple of hours most of the days, so we actually had a lot of time to relax. Like most days, we woke up in the middle of the day, drove a few hours, chilled, played for half an hour, chilled and did the same thing again the next day. For me then doing a normal work 5 days a week seems way more exhausting than this.
B.: You do vocals for Hexis. Regarding the live performances, I find it slightly different to other instruments when it comes to indisposition. For example, should the guitarist catch a cold or a flu, they still can play the show since it won’t affect their performance. But what if you had a sore throat? Or lose your voice completely? Did this happen to you? If it didn’t, what would you do, if it did? On such long tours, there is a high probability that something like this would happen. Is there a recommendation, what should the vocalists do to prevent this?
Filip: It’s actually kinda funny, we toured together with other bands, which have vocalists which technically is better than I am, but they had problems with their voice on tour. I never had any problems, I usually just smash a couple of beers and scream, and everything is fine haha. I don’t know, I guess my voice just is super used to scream all the time. We did however had a tour in 2018 where I ended up in a accident and had to fly home, so our bass-player Luca did both vocals and bass for the remaining dates of that tour. But I also performed before while being super fucking sick, like I remember when we played in Nizhny Novgorod in Russia in 2017. I had the worst food poisoning ever, I was literally just shitting, vomiting and laying in the corner of the venue all day long while shaking, obviously it was horrible to play that show and I didn’t move much around while playing, but to cancel a show is only something I gonna do, if it’s literally impossible for me to play.
B.: I’ve read that you actually planned to do a 12-month long tour, but as far as I know, this didn’t come to pass. Do you still plan to do this?
Filip: Yes, we were planning to go on tour from January 1 to December 31 2022 and play roughly 350 shows. I guess it would have been some kind of world record. But sadly covid cancelled that plan. I mean we are still gonna do some parts of this tour that we had planned. But it’s only gonna be some months here and there, in one stretch. Maybe we’re gonna give it a try for 2023 instead, let’s see.
B.: You’ve played basically all around the globe. Where did you enjoy it the most? Can you differentiate between the audiences in, for example, Asia, America and Europe?
Filip: The craziest shows we have played were 100% in Indonesia. Everything is super wild over there! Like we played some small cities on like a Tuesday night and shit lot of people still came out. Cuba was also crazy, like a lot of people every night etc. As a country itself, some places which I enjoyed a lot are probably going to be Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan etc.. Shows are very different in Asia, America and Europe. I guess people in Asia are easier to impress, probably because they have less touring bands coming over there, compared to the rest of the world. America is a hard one, probably because there are super cool bands playing all the time.
B.: You’ve played all sorts of venues, I’ve read that you actually played a club in South-East Asia which was used even for prostitution. What was the craziest venue you played?
Filip: About that club, I think you are talking about the venue we played in Cambodia. It was not used for prostitution, but the venue we played was on the top floor of the building and downstairs then there was a strip club, so a lot of these girls working in the club downstairs came up to the venue and saw the show. I guess they were just curious about what the show was about, since not a lot of bands like us are playing in that city, but the venue and stripclub were not really connected in that sense. I think the craziest show was probably on a train while it was driving (you can find the video on Youtube) or maybe when we played at a school in Lithuania early in the morning in front of a lot of kids.
B.: Have you ever felt in danger on your tour?
Filip: Yes a couple of times. One story which comes to my mind was when we played in Poland in 2017, we arrived early and started to load in. Outside then there was this drunk guy who started to attack random people for no reason, at first then we just tried to tell him to go away, but he kept harassing us. At some point then he hit our drummer in the face, so we got enough and started to fight back. That actually made him run away, but then like half an hour later he returned and started to throw rocks at our van. Luckily somebody called the police and they took him away. The band we toured with actually decided not to play that night, because of the whole experience, we were thinking about doing the same, but a pretty good amount of people had showed up at the show and was excited about seeing us playing, so we decided to play, to not disappoint them.
B.: What was the craziest, the best and the worst experience on tour?
Filip: Craziest/best was probably one of the shows we played in Indonesia. The show was just super rowdy and packed as fuck. Worst, was probably back in 2017, when we got denied at 2 borders to go from Belarus to Russia, we finally got into Russia at some point, but we ended up cancelling two shows over there and spending 36 hours straight in our van. A true nightmare!
B.: This could be an interesting thing for other bands. How does it work, when you book a tour on the other side of the planet? For instance, you go to play in Indonesia (as you did), who pays for it? Do you pay for the flight and everything else is covered, or you don’t need to pay for anything at all? How do you even come to book a tour in Indonesia?
Filip: So the Asia Tour we did in 2017 was a huge money loss for us, when we did that tour then we didn’t really care too much about the economic aspect of going there. But we are planning to go back there either by the end of this year or early next year and we got some pretty good offers, so our next tour there is actually gonna be the opposite, like we gonna make money from going there, instead of losing. It’s a little hard to say, but I have a feeling that our latest crazy tour over there made a lot of people interested in the band, which probably is why some bookers now wanna offer us to come back, but with way better conditions.
B.: This might be a bit too personal, but I’ll try asking nevertheless. How do you manage this live presence financially? I mean, how do you take a vacation from work for 3 months, or even a whole year? Even if they‘d allow it, how do you pay for such things? Where do you work, man?
Filip: So how it used to be before covid was that each of us just worked between tours. Like my father has a construction company, so I could always come and go there. Our bass-player did different jobs, like working at a bar, doing some work for family members etc. So we always made it work. We never earned any money from going on tour actually, but that is gonna change now. Our next tour gonna be the first one where we pay out money to each of us, since the fees etc. overall is higher than we have been used to. which should make everything easier in the long run, we are both in our 30’s now, so we kinda have to realize that we will have to make some money from this band, if we wanna continue to keep touring as heavily as we have done in the past. Going on tour for a whole year etc. and not earning anything at all is probably gonna be pretty hard to make it work haha.
B.: Regarding this aforementioned topics: is it hard to have band members compliant with this way of life? I’ve read that Hexis had a lot of live members, is it hard for you to find and maintain a stable group of people, willing to play at this pace?
Filip: Yes for sure, as mentioned then we didn’t make any money from touring in the past, so most people don’t want to be on the road the majority of their time without earning anything, which I understand. But with the new way things are starting to look, I have a feeling that it’s probably gonna be easier to keep a stable lineup for the future, but let’s see. But with that said, only being two permanent members in the band for the last 5 years (me and Luca) have not been too bad. I hate to compromise and I usually have a very clear idea about how I want everything to be, since this band means everything to me. So obviously only being two people to make the decisions, instead of 4 or 5 means that I am more satisfied with the decisions which are being made by the end.
B.: How would you advice other bands on their way of touring? What would be your recommendation to them, for achieving this amount of shows, for having the best time of their lives, managing the way and, at the same time, doing their best job at performing as a band?
Filip: I will say, work hard, even if stuff sometimes feels tough, then it’s gonna pay off by the end. I still remember when I had to book our first tours, I sent out a crazy amount of emails and barely got any answers, luckily that changed now. When I started to do all this, then I pretty much started from scratch and just dedicated all my time to it.
B.: Thank you very much for your answers, Filip, the last words are yours and all the best on your upcoming journeys and work with your band.
Filip: Thanks for doing this! I enjoyed answering these questions.