Hostage Life (05 août 2006)

Entrevue de Melissa Hetu avec Hai Vu

Le groupe Ontarien HOSTAGE LIFE se prépare en vue de sa tournée East Infection en compagnie de PROTEST THE HERO et MACHETE AVENUE. PunkMeUp a eu la chance de s’entretenir avec le guitariste du groupe, Hai Vu, qui nous a parlé entre autre de leur premier album ainsi que le récent succès de leur étiquette de disque Underground Operations.

[MELISSA] When one listens to Walking Papers, one notices that there's a definite growth in the band's sound, if compared to your first EP. According to you, what's the biggest change? What do you think it's due to?

[HAI] When HOSTAGE LIFE released the Sing For The Enemy EP we were basically playing the band’s old guitarist’s songs. He and Colin wrote the bulk of that album. There have been three member changes since then. I joined about a year and a half ago just as HOSTAGE LIFE was set to record that EP. I added a bit to those songs but nothing that would drastically change them. Patrick joined the band as we were writing Walking Papers. There was a moment when we were unsure if we could write a full-length album. We all have written before with our previous bands but with all the new faces coming into the band and the primary songwriter leaving we were just on shaky ground. We didn’t know if this line-up would gel. But we all stepped up and put everything we wanted to hear into this new album. All of our influences, whether it’s obvious or not are in there. You can say that we have “matured”, but I’m twenty nine and have been playing a long time. If anything we have just become more confident in our writing and as a band.

[MELISSA] The music on Walking Papers seems to be more polished and refined...was that a conscious decision?

[HAI] It was a conscious effort to not make them sound as polished. It is a rock album after all. But we are perfectionists at heart and we sat there and listened to our songs note for note for weeks till we thought it was perfect. Everything from track order to how they flowed together and guitar tones were debated endlessly over the span of the recording process. We just didn’t want to have the same sounding songs one after another. Our EP flowed very much like that and it is good for what it is, but for our full-length we wanted more depth and more peaks and valleys.

[MELISSA] Looking at the album credits, I saw that you wrote a lot of the songs...Is songwriting a collective effort in HOSTAGE LIFE? What is the process like?

[HAI] Colin writes all the lyrics. That’s his bread and butter. I still write the way I have written since I picked up my first guitar in high school. Where we all get together in a small room and bash them out. That being said we go through many different techniques in writing. Sometimes one of us will come into a band practice with a song fully developed in their heads. Sometimes it’s just a riff and the rest of us throw in our ideas. Sometimes we just mess around while being bored and it sounds pretty good and we go from there and sometimes Colin will come in and say I have a great song it goes “LA LA LA” and we write over that. (laughs)…whatever it takes I guess…to make something we all like.

[MELISSA] What is your goal with your first record? What would you like to see it do?

[HAI] When we wrote it and recorded it our goal was to make an album that we would be happy with. And now that we have done that we really want to play as many shows as possible to get behind it, because we’re really proud of it. Not to say we’ll play everything that is thrown at us. A lot of bands will do that to try and get “exposure” but to us there’s good exposure and then there’s bad exposure. We also never stopped writing we’re already thinking ahead to our next album.

[MELISSA] I've seen you guys play and just interact and you guys seem to have a good sense of humor. How important is it to have a good sense of humor and not take yourselves too seriously in this business?

[HAI] It’s very important. As much as it is a business we didn’t get into this to make money. Believe me, if that was the case I would have quit ten years ago. So the only thing that keeps me in this is having fun and wanting to write music.

[MELISSA] You guys also seem to have a pretty DIY mentality (which in the past was associated a lot with punk rock). What is it about that mentality that works for you guys?

[HAI] (laughs) I think our DIY mentality comes from us just wanting to make sure that everything that happens to us is what WE want to happen to us. Maybe we are control freaks. But we can’t take all the credit here. We have some great people helping us out from getting shows to artwork for our album and website. HOSTAGE LIFE is a collective effort and we like to get all our friends involved, when we needed an idea for our CD layout we didn’t stray far from our circle.

[MELISSA] You guys are with Underground Operations, a label that's been getting a lot of attention recently because of the success of PROTEST THE HERO. Do you think that newfound attention is helping you guys at all?

[HAI] It’s hard to say. Yes UO is picking up steam with how well PROTEST are doing and with Vagrant picking up the band in the States that’s just icing on the cake. But we have a very different style of music then them. A tech-metal dude might not like anything that isn’t in 3/4 time. But most people aren’t privy to one genre. It’s undeniable that there’s more attention for all of us on Underground Operations now, but we’re not takings that as a reason to be lazy and just let PROTEST do all the work. We ultimately want to stand on our own laurels.

[MELISSA] What's the best part of being on a smaller label like Underground Operations?

[HAI] There is still that DIY ethic to UO, and one hundred per cent creative freedom. I’ve known some of the people at Underground Operations for a great many years. Growing up and playing shows with them back in our teenage years. So when Mark put this label together how could we not say yes? It was just another reason to hang out, drink and have fun. And in a way that mentality has never changed.

[MELISSA] You guys just recently signed to Household Name Records in the UK...what does this signing mean to you? What do you think the punk rock scene is like over there?

[HAI] I like the idea that our music is kicking around on the other side of the world, and we couldn’t be more excited that there were people on the other side of the pond that felt that they needed to tell the rest of Europe about us. I know that the UK loves their punk rock music. It’s a national pride to them. It just seems that people like this type of old style rock more out there. We’re making plans to tour there soon.

[MELISSA] The music industry is always evolving...there's always a sound of the moment. Do you think there's a place for the kind of music HOSTAGE LIFE plays? Do you think that punk rock is healthy right now?

[HAI] The skate-punk movement is dying. Or maybe I just grew out of it and it’s still as huge as ever…I’m not sure. But to me the music we play is tested and true. Our influences like THE CLASH and RAMONES have proven themselves to be timeless and will always be relevant. There are a lot of cookie cutter bands coming out, there always will be. They fill a part of the market and then the genre becomes too saturated and collapses under its own weight. But who knows, let it die, give it a few years and it’ll probably come back as retro. But I know that throughout all of that the music that I have always listened to and the music that we try our hardest to be a part of will always be there…atleast for myself.

[MELISSA] On MTV Live, you and Shamus were both wearing Skate4Cancer t-shirts and I know you will be taking part in the Molotov Rocktail later this summer. Is it important for HOSTAGE LIFE to take part in benefits? Help out certain cause? Raise awareness or open eyes?

[HAI] We usually get lumped into being called a political punk band. We’re not actively going to protests and trying to start any type of revolution. We just have opinions on many issues. And if we’re given a platform or an opportunity to say something then we’ll take it. Skate4Cancer is a great organization so when the opportunity came to play MTV Live - where most MTV kids will only notice what you are wearing. Then why not let them see something worthwhile? We are far from preachy but if you want to know what we think then we will tell you.

[MELISSA] Things seem to be going pretty well for you guys... RANCID just recently asked you to play in Toronto, you guys were on MTV, you have some radio stations playing your first single and you also got some great reviews when your record came out...Is the hard work finally paying off? Do you see these things as rewards?

[HAI] Honestly we never knew if anyone would like our CD nor did we think about it. When we wrote it we were pretty secretive, we didn’t play every song live right after we wrote it. Even though we were somewhat bored with out set list at the time. So to have the album come out and to have people say really good things about it is amazing. We couldn’t be happier. But the hard work never stops for us; plans to tour and plans for the next album will always be floating around in our heads.

[MELISSA] What would you say is HOSTAGE LIFE's mission? Where would you like to see this band go?

[HAI] Across Canada! Then to Europe then to Japan…ultimately we’d like to take over the world.

Un gros merci à Hai d’avoir prit le temps de répondre à mes questions ainsi qu’à Katie Clark de Underground Operations sans qui cette entrevue n’aurait pas été possible.

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