Here you will find a true metal document in the form of this conversation with original member of US Metal legend HEXX, Dan Watson. They are back with their 5th album of their career and they only know a way to do it: Fast & Furious! Original US Power Metal from San Francisco, California, as in the old times. They started their story with No Escape in 1984, they continued to grow with the forever praised Under The Spell. But they do not want to live from their glorious past and here is their new album Entangled in Sin to prove it. By the way, we have talked not only about music, continue reading to find out.
Hello Dan, a pleasrure to talk with you. Hexx is a name that has a place in the heart of all guys that enjoyed the 80s metal, do you still feel that affection?
Of course. I think it is evident with our comeback album „Wrath of the Reaper“ and even more so with this new release. For me, the 1980s were the best time for heavy metal music, and that’s where my heart and passion lies.
The current Hexx lineup is commanded by original members Dan Watson and John Shafer. How do you understand each other after so many years and how do you decide about any matter?
John Shafer and I go back a long way and are on the same page as far as the musical direction of the band. For this last album, John and I worked out all the arrangements and tempos for the songs in the early stages of pre-production. We always talk things over and are usually in agreement about all aspects of the band and how we want the group to be perceived by the public.
That’s good. What can you tell us about the other members now in the band?
Our newest member is bassist Don Wood. John Shafer and Don Wood have a history together with other music projects so Don is a good fit for us. As a rhythm section, they work extremely well together to provide the group with that bone-crushing power and tightness that comes from having seasoned professionals that are also good friends and bandmates. Don has proved himself to be a valuable asset to the group.
Bob Wright has also proven himself to be an incredible asset to HEXX. He did an amazing job with all the guitar work he contributed to the last two records. He gives the band a depth and dimension we didn’t have before. He puts a lot of thought into every solo he does and it shows. I like listening to his solo work over my own.
Eddy Vega is the crowning jewel of HEXX. His contributions to the band and its legacy are incalculable. I couldn’t ask for a better vocalist and bandmate. Even if Eddy never sang another note, with the body of work already recorded within the last two HEXX albums he can rest assured that his place is well cemented in heavy metal history.
No doubt, your first 2 albums, No Escape & Under The Spell, are regarded as classic recordings nowadays. Does this put pressure on you when preparing a new album?
It’s funny because when I listen back to our first two albums all I can hear is where I feel we fell short. At the time neither release propelled the band to mainstream success and having to stand in the shadow of bands like Metalica I can’t help but feel a little rejected. However, I am proud and grateful that our early work is now being appreciated even if is thirty years after the fact. I try hard to learn from the past, both mistakes, and triumphs so to answer your last question, yes. But I embrace the pressure because that is going to be one of the driving forces that will inspire us to push ourselves to reach new heights of musical purity.
Well, if it serves for something I must say that I appreciated your work 30 years ago. There is a 16 years gap between your 3rd album, Morbid Reality, and the last Wrath of the Reaper. In that sense, your new album Entangled in Sin seems much more compliant with your 80s legacy
I don’t know. Perhaps I am too close to the source but I think that both of our last two albums reflect our true US power metal roots and influences.
How long did you work on Entangled in Sin and how was the recording process?
It ended up taking almost a full year to record mix and master this album. The project was plagued with problems and setbacks from the beginning. In addition to that our friend and former bandmate bassist Bill Peterson passed away a week before he was scheduled to record his bass tracks for the remakes of Terror and Night of Pain. Then our friend, engineer and co-producer Tim Narducci’s father passed away unexpectedly. After each setback, we had to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back to work. The band is no stranger to setbacks and problems so we managed to persevere.
The hard way, but here you are. Entangled in Sin is a powerful US Metal album even with some steps into Thrash Metal. We could say, no time for prisoners this time?
Yeah, as much as we love the simplicity and heaviness of traditional power metal our thrash influences can be heard on both of the last two albums.
It seems also that John Shafer had to work hard on this new album, apart from „Strive The Grave“ he almost has no break during the whole album
Ha! Yeah, I think that’s the way John prefers it. He has a switch on his back that has two settings, Off, and Balls Out! He is like a high-performance race car, he operates best at full speed!
If something defines US Metal it is the sharp and killer guitar display and we get an extra dose of that with Dan Watson performing on the album. Since you are “the boss” here, how do you divide up the guitar solo duties for you and Bob Wright?
I try and arrange the songs in such a way that gives Bob and me equal solo time. Some songs feature only Bob’s solos and some songs feature only my solos and the rest of the songs we have equal solo time.
Any favorite song in the album?
No, I like all the songs on this album. I think each one has something different to offer.
What are the lyrics about?
Okay, that’s kind of a long conversation but I will try and give you a brief rundown of what each song is about lyrically.
1. „Watching me Burn“ is about the traditional story of the musician selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads but in this version, our singer Eddy Vega sells his soul to the Devil of Oakland California. And its time to collect!
2. „Entangled in Sin“ is about exposing not only the Catholic Church and Christianity for being perhaps the most corrupt and evil religion on the planet but exposing the hypocrisy of all organized religions. When people give their minds and intellects over to theology, most of them are lost to sanity forever. To quote Sigmund Froyd: „Religion is so pathetically absurd and infantile that it is humiliating and embarrassing to think that the majority of people will never rise above it“.
3. „Vultures Gather Round“ is about the so-called unbiased free press media here in the US and how it feeds the American public’s hunger for violence, death, misery, and suffering. Also how it uses fear to keep the masses afraid and divided.
4. „Beautiful Lies“ is about how Americans have been lied to by their government and how, because Christianity is forced on everyone here, the American public are brainwashed believers instead of taking the responsibility of thinking for themselves.
5. „Power Mad“ is about the Roman Emperor Caligula. Any similarities to a certain inept, privileged, childish, ex-reality TV gameshow host current world leader are purely coincidental.
6. „Internal Enemy“ is about how people delude themselves. Reality is too much for them to bare so it is shunned in favor of fantasy and how religious faith is a willfully ignorant auto deceptive self-delusion.
7. „Strive the Grave“ is about the journey of life and how we must all someday face death. It is meant to put into perspective how special and fragile life is and how we should appreciate and cherish every moment and each other. Ya know, just in case of the off chance that when we die we are not reincarnated, or get to sit next to Jesus in heaven, or get to indulge ourselves with the 72 virgins Islam says you get.
8. „Touch of the Creature“ is about struggling with alcohol addiction.
9. „Wise to the Ways of the World“ is about the hypocrisy of Christianity and how it is used by governments to manipulate and control the masses who prefer belief to critical thinking.
10. „Over But the Bleeding“ is a metaphorical story about giving your mind over to theology and how once you do you are lost to sanity forever. It’s all over but the Bleeding!
11. „Signal 30 I-5“ is about fatal auto accidents along California’s Interstate 5 that runs from Los Angeles through the San Francisco bay area and up the rest of the west coast.
12. „Terror“ is a song about bad dreams and night terrors.
13. „Night of Pain“ is about our singer Eddy Vega and some of his childhood sexual adventures.
So, to summarize it, every one can pick up the subject they prefer most. I think the artwork has that Bay Area look that fits very well with your proposal, right?
Yeah, We have our good friend from Italy, Roberto Todrico to thank for that. He was able to latch on perfectly to the concept I pitched to him and capture that 80s US metal vibe we wanted.
The US is one of the countries with more infected people by COVID 19, how are you dealing with that?
Well, I wear a mask at work and when I’m in public and I try to observe the six-foot distancing advice. Our current Republican president during one of his televised rallies said that the COVID 19 Pandemic was a hoax perpetrated by the democrats to make him look bad, then he later said that it will go away by itself so I admit I’m a little confused.
Hahaha, I won’t tell you about what our “funny” president has said for the last months… For the last several months we have heard many US metal & rock musicians criticize the US government for its managing of this pandemic, do you have an opinion of your own about it?
Yeah, that’s another long conversation but again, I’ll try to be brief but feel free to edit my answer if it runs too long. I hate politics. I hate the two-party system that’s in place. The presidential elections are approaching, and in America, the clocks are striking 13. The ideals of truth and justice are being twisted and distorted by the mainstream media which is bought and paid for by special interest groups and major corporations. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign message is basically, Ignorance is strength. Or to put it another way, 2 + 2 = 5.
I can’t help but see the horrifying parallels here to George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984. It sucks but given the choice between the two parties I am an unapologetic liberal and democrat. As a democrat, I am in favor of democracy. In my perception, in America, the situation as complex as it is can be boiled down and reduced to two things. Inequality and wealth distribution.
Inequality has very negative consequences on society as a whole. It has a harmful and corrosive effect on democracy. The top one-tenth percent of the population is super-wealthy so its important to understand that privileged and powerful sectors have never liked democracy and for good reason.
Democracy puts power into the hands of the general population and takes it away from them. Concentration of wealth yields concentration of power which inadvertently causes the cost of elections to skyrocket forcing the political parties into the pockets of major corporations.
This political power translates into legislation that increases the concentration of wealth-creating a vicious cycle. The people controlling this concentration of wealth and power are very careful to look after their own interests regardless of how it impacts the population.
The financial institutions and multinational corporations are the masters of mankind and their motto is all for ourselves, and nothing for other people. They pursue policies that benefit them and harm everyone else. In this way, democracy is flawed because the US constitution was set up to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. Otherwise the poor would get together and try to take away the property of the rich. This is where Christianity plays a major role. I am reminded of something Napolian was quoted as saying:“ Religion is in place to keep the poor from killing the rich“
It’s crazy because the system is actually set up to prevent democracy. The problem can be boiled down to one of two solutions. Reduce Inequality or reduce Democracy. To me, the Democratic party is more about reducing inequality and the Republican party is more about reducing Democracy. In other words, the democratic party is more about human rights, and the Republican party is more about corporate profits.
Perhaps the lesser of two evils, I feel that the democratic party might be more likely to help the economic system by providing a broader distribution of wealth to the population. I also despise how the Republican party and its supporters hide behind the absurd Christian mask of virtue while ignoring their own religious doctrines. To me, this is the very zenith of hypocrisy. Add to that, this president has made the Republican party synonymous with white supremacy. They might as well adopt the Confederate flag as their banner.
When the Whitehouse press secretary, Sara Sanders said in a televised interview that „God wanted Donald Trump to be president“ my blood ran cold because I knew that to believers in the Christian God of the bible, a vote against Trump is a vote against God.
I know I’m a thought criminal for not believing in the Christian God, his son Jesus Christ and our glorious leader Donald Trump but I got into Heavy Metal music because it demonstrates the raw courage necessary to go against the grain and to defy the mainstream heard mentality. I consider myself a true patriot because I love my country, but I am ashamed of my government and especially this current Republican administration.
This all ties into the message of our new album and the cover art regarding the corruption and hypocrisy of Christianity and the Catholic church. I mean what kind of moral compass guides these followers to identify with a president that endorses and supports an organization that sexually abuses little children and then tries to cover up for one another? I realize I might lose some friends, fans, and probably some of the few family members I have left on this earth over what I have said here but I feel that silence is synonymous with complacency.
As I said, I hate politics but this a very important election for this country and the rest of the world. It’s just too important not to fully understand what is at stake here. Republican President Donald Trump has lowered the bar for the presidency to the point that it no longer has any credibility. Thanks to Trump it has been reduced to a joke. A bad joke. And make no mistake…the joke is on us all. Unfortunately,This is what you can expect from a nation of week–minded believers instead of a nation of informed rational thinkers.
So to sum it up, if the Christian God is real and he wants Donald Trump to be president than to me, he is a homophobic, misogynistic, racist bully and I for one, don’t want anything to do with either of them.
A good speech man, you could run your own career on politics when you hang the guitar up. And that is the whole answer with no edits. Has the pandemic affected your activity or plans regarding your debut, promotion, etc?
Yeah, we are totally fucked because we have a new release and we can’t even play any local shows to support it. We have all but given up on the hope of being able to perform in Europe again.
Any plans for the future?
Yeah, try to survive the next four years.
Not bad at all. Thanks Dan for your interesting comments and congratulations for the new album!
Thank you for all your thoughtful questions and thanks to all our Metal Brothers for taking the time to read this. Sincerely, Dan Watson HEXX