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Interview with HITTMAN

by Vpower

The Band: Hittman

Country: United States

Answers: Dirk (Vocals, keyboards); Jim (Guitars, keyboards, background vox)


New studio album from the legendary US Heavy/Power Metal band HITTMAN – the first one in 27 years! After the positive response to the reissue of the classic same-titled debut album (originally released in 1988, reissued by No Remorse Records) and HITTMAN’s amazing live shows at Keep It True and Up the Hammers festivals, the band decided to record a new album. And they are back with honors, as great band from the past should always do. No mikstake here.

Hello guys, Hittman is one of the important names in The US Metal, so it’s always great news to have you back and with a new album after 27 years!

Dirk: Back and in a relevant way, not some retrospective or novelty. We really felt we had something to prove. That the first album wasnt just a fluke. Vivas took us a little off course and I am proud of it, but I think this is what we do best. traditional Power Metal.

JIM: It’s nice to know people still care after all this time. Being that we didn’t get to execute many of our plans when we were still together back then, musically, and as a band….it’s nice to be able to pick up start again, with a little more common sense and experience this time around

Moreover, the lineup has Jim, Dirk and John still on command, what is always important, a real come back we could express it

Dirk: Of couse Hittman will never be the same without Mike. He was Heir Direktor. Our compass for cool. SO we think of him always when making decisions.

JIM: Yes, it’s nice when the comeback/reunion bands still have more original members than not. We’re fortunate in that regard here. Of course, it would be great to have Mike along with us, but we hope were keeping his spirit alive with the music.

A little of history. After the tour supporting your second album, Vivas Machina (1993), the band went on hold without officially separating, what happened?

Dirk: The same thing that happened to many bands. We didn’t get the support to keep the momentum going. When you feel abandoned, it’s hard to see the light through the trees. Of course if we stuck it out it might have turned out differently.

JIM: The 90’s happened. When I see interviews with some of the bigger metal bands who say that they were all hurting in the 90’s due to the shift in rock music and popular culture, its easy to see how a small band like us just didn’t have a chance. So, bad luck, bad timing, and some bad business decisions on our part as well…..just BAD.

Many bands are back with this revival movement the Metal is living, but no so many do it with a new album. What has motivated you to compose new songs after so many years?

Dirk: We thought it important to not be just a nostalgia act. We felt we had something to add to the metal music scene, some unfinished business. Now with TNWOTHM we have a Place to do it and do it right. The kids are discovering the classic sound and its being embraced.

JIM: My day gig is doing music, so making an album was the FIRST thing that came to my mind when we got asked to reunite. Myself and Dirk both record in our home studios, so we knew it COULD be done on no budget, but also, to Dirk’s point, I felt like we never really got to put our best foot forward in terms the music we released. I felt like we needed to set things right.

All the songs in Destroy All Humans are brand new or there is some old stuff there?

Dirk: All new songs except for: “Out in the cold“ and “Code of Honour“ we felt these were great songs from the past that needed to be heard.

JIM: Right…”Out in the Cold” and “Code Of Honor” are older songs from the debut album era….:”Out IN the Cold” in particular was amongst the first groups of songs we had. It was written the same time as “Dead On Arrival”….you can hear it stylistically

How long have you worked in the new album and how was the creative process after so many years?

Dirk: longer than expected, navigating schedules and time zones is hard when your scattered all over the place. Most oft he songs were written pretty quickly though. Also waiting for Bob St John who we really wanted. Also, just getting the album to sound period correct. We didn’t want a new flashy quantized, auotuned mess like records are now. They have no soul. This had to be legit.

JIM: Yes, too long. It shouldn’t have taken nearly as long as it did.Mostly me and Dirk just sent each other demos of songs we wrote, and kind of went back and forth, punching them up, making them better, and of course, recording the parts. “Hey, I need some help with this bridge” or “Lets shorten that verse…” or whatever…..kind of typical creative process, but instead of being in a room together, we did it remotely on 2 coasts.

The album’s title, Destroy All Humans, seems also to connect with your past albums, what are the lyrics about?

JIM: The lyrics are about the state of the world, and more notable, the country we live in (US). Massive level of greed, wealth inequality, corruption, corporations buying power, and how humanity seems to matter less than profits for the few very rich and powerful, who basically use fear a way to keep people fighting one another to control everything. If you look at what a disaster the US is right now, the lyrics seem almost prophetic, but this has been happening for years, only now it’s coming to a boiling point. I only hope we survive it, but it’s getting uglier by the day.

Well, I don’t know how Dirk Kennedy got it but he sounds so powerful as if we were in the 80s, some especial trick or vegan diet you want to share with us 🙂 ?

Dirk: well, that’s kind. To be honest I felt unprepared mentally, and live I thought I was at maybe 60%. But not anymore. I thought: can I do this? Am I still metal? It took a while to put that Hat on and I’m comfortable now again. But the material was daunting and I’m grateful for not dumbing it down and instead really went for it. Most of the vocals on this album are 1st takes . I’ve been vegetarian for 40 years.

A great job indeed. The old and new songs all sound powerful and like a fist, making the listening of this new album very smooth and enjoyable

Dirk: we always wrote anthems. If the crowd cant pump their fist and chant the chorus we’ve failed. Hittman is all about melody and catchy memorable chorus’ but that comes naturally. Its how we write.

JIM: Melody first. Power second, to support the melody and make it stronger. That’s always been our methodology. Priest, Dio, Rainbow, Sabbath, Maiden, Scorpions, UFO etc….that’s the stuff that drives us.

This is Classic Metal all the way, but somehow there is a difference between the bands that already existed in the 80s, like you, and the new bands that are approaching the revival sound so typical nowadays, what do you think?

Dirk: Technology. It makes you lazy. We approached this like we have all the albums. As if it’s on tape. We don’t use all the tricks artists use nowadays. Melodyne, and all that stuff. We went for performances. If it wasn’t up to snuff, do it over.

JIM: Well, I can tell you right away, the one thing that keeps us sounding classic, is that we tune in standard tuning, not lower like most bands do. I know the 1/2 step and full step down tuning makes everything sound heavier, but it also makes it sound more modern. I’m just not that crazy about the tuned down thing for Hittman. I like it for other things, but not for Hittman.

I think one of the strong points of this DAH is that it mixes perfectly a strong and powerful sound with great melodies

Dirk: Again, Always trust your gut feelings. We wanted to make a traditional metal album without all the fluff.

JIM: Yes…there was a point in the late 80’s where being “heavy” became more important than being “good”….so, the heavier metal got, the less melodic it became. We started to see that around the time our debut album came out. Thrash, death, speed etc….all of a sudden, being a metal band a la Judas Priest, Accept or Maiden was no longer considered “heavy”….so it was tough for us.Now, we don’t have to worry about any of that , and we can just do the music we love.

The guitar solos are another ace up the sleeve, they are not only there because a heavy metal song must have them, you can feel they are inspired and with a work behind, right?

JIM: Well, yes, for sure. Solos are only 20-30 seconds of the song, so you have to make them count, and say a lot in a short amount of time. So, I always try to make mine memorable…Michael Schenker, Alex Lifeson, Glen Tipton…those are the guys that shape my meta guitar style.

One question I always have wondered, we talk a lot about creating riffs, but what about the solos? What is more complex? Riffs seems like something more automatic or programmed, how do you do it?

JIM: Melody first with solos for me. Speed is used to excite and accentuate, but the solo must be memorable first and foremost for me.Riffs are important of course, but they just sort of come to me when I’m sitting around playing.

Any favorite song in the album?

JIM: Can’t pick one really.

Dirk: Hmmm. I really love them all.

It happens the same to me. Any especial memories from the 80s? What balance you do of that time?

Dirk: One of the best momories is our first show opening for STRYPER 1000 kids. Amazing.

JIM: I forget everything, The song “total Amnesia” speaks directly to that. It came from a phone conversation I had with Dirk about playing the “Up The Hammers” festival in Athens. I told him, “well, its great we finally get to be on a bill with Armored Saint”…. and he said “What the hell arrow talking about ? We opened for them at Sundance” (a local Long Island club) – I didn’t believe him because I would have remembered that…then he sends me the listing that’s on Setlist.com…
I literally have forgotten so much of what happened in Hittman back then. I do remember some great gigs, and other things, but a lot of it I don’t remember.Dont know why….

Back to the present time, US is one of the countries with more infected people by covid19, how are you dealing with that?

JIM: I’ve been working on a lot of different music projects, and trying to battle the covid depression that way. It sucks, and the US leads the world in Covid cases….so that’s a huge bummer, because everyone else seems to have it under control. That’s what happens when you have completely inept, awful, careless leadership.

Dirk: I’ve stayed home completely save for a few trips to the market. I wear a mask and do my duty as a human being. We need to respect ALL lives.

I agree with you and unfortunately in Spain we are also surrounded by inept politicians. Has the pandemic affected your activity or plans regarding your debut, promotion, etc?

JIM: The album was supposed to be out in May, so we delayed the release. Other than that, not too much.

Dirk: TOURING. We need to play this album live

You have played in European festivals as Keep It True and Up the Hammers, with people going crazy in your shows. Willing to play again around there?

JIM: Absolutely !

Dirk: as I said before we LOVE the festivals. I hope to play as many as possible

Any plans for the future?

JIM: try not to get covid, make more music, and hopefully Hittman will get to play some more festivals once things open up.

Thanks for your attention and congratulations for the good job if you wish to add something…

JIM: Thank you for speaking to us. It’s nice that people still are interested in the band. I really hope we get to see everyone soon, and get out and play some shows. In the meantime, Give “Destroy All Humans” a listen.

Dirk: making more music and bringing it to the people. We love our fans and cant wait to see them again. Thank you so much, it means a lot to us

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