Crannk Interviews Canadian Riff-Wizards Woodhawk
Rising from the foot of the majestic Rocky Mountains like their massive riffs are Calgary’s trio of rock’n’roll Woodhawk. Woodhawk manages to blend classic rock influences with smooth melodies, soaring vocals, cranked amps and extremely catchy riffs that create a unique rock’n’roll experience for the listener to immerse themselves in.
Beginning in 2014 with the self-titled EP followed by the acclaimed sci-fi themed 2017 LP release “Beyond the Sun” which really cemented Woodhawk into the scene. Last week has seen the triumphant new album from Woodhawk “Violent Nature” released worldwide and this is the band’s strongest effort to date laying it all out there for the listener and addressing some more personal subjects and moving away from the sci-fi themes on the previous album.
Turner Midzain, Mike Badmington, and Kevin Nelson make up the Canadian Riff Lords that are Woodhawk, congratulations on an absolute ripper of an album in “Violent Nature” and thank you so much for taking some time to go through some questions for Crannk and myself and giving our readers a chance to know a little more about Woodhawk.
Q; First off who are Woodhawk and how would you describe your sound?
Turner; Woodhawk is a heavy rock band from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We take influences from the 70’s and classic rock era bands, but also with a modern touch. I wouldn’t call us revival rock. Stoner rock is often thrown around for a genre used to describe our sound
Turner Midzain – Guitar and Lead Vocals
Mike Badmington – Bass and Vocals
Kevin Nelson – Drums
Q; How did Woodhawk form?
Turner; Mike and I have been playing in every iteration of every band we’ve had. We’ve always played music together. Probably around 2012, we were on a tour in a punk band, and our drummer at the time was deeply rooted in classic rock and old heavy metal bands. He would always stop at a record shop in whatever city we were in and buy more cds for the van. In that time I got so exposed to amazing bands that I was too green to see prior to that. I came home from that tour and the punk band disbanded, and I knew I had to make something like..well what Woodhawk is. Something more up my alley.
Q: Where does the name Woodhawk come from?
Turner; The name Woodhawk derived from our love of craft beer. We tossed around the name Witchwood, similar to Wychwood brewing out of U.K. But found the word Witch is so overused in band names we’d get washed out too quick. But from that, we stumbled upon the name Woodhawk. All in, it was Wychwood that inspired it, but we just put our own spin on it.
Q; How did you first start playing (Guitar, Drums, Bass )?
Turner; Mike actually taught me to play guitar when I was 11. He’d started playing a year or so earlier and I was keen on learning as well. He taught me, and I made it my passion to play all the time. Mike switched over to playing bass not long after. Bass players are a little harder to come by, so he fit the role perfectly.
Q: What was the first Instrument (Guitar, Drums, Bass) you owned and do you still have it?
Turner; My mom bought me a used Squire Strat. I think through my adolecentes I modified it and repainted it 100 times that it was just destroyed by the end. So no, I don’t have it. I have my second guitar I ever bought though. I was an LTD something or other. When I was 14 I thought it would be cool to cover it in porn, as my fond love for Motley Crue at the time. So I uncomfortably asked my mom to go to 711 and buy me a porno mag so I could epoxy my guitar with it. She obliged, and the next day I went to art class and asked the teacher for some industrial epoxy sealer. Worked like a charm. The guitar was kind of gross by the end so I peeled the porn off. But I still have the guitar.
Q: What Guitar,Drums,Bass are you using now?
Turner; I have a selection of Gibsons. But my main guitar is a 91 Les Paul Custom. Just plays like butter. I used that on most of Beyond The Sun. It didn’t make as much of an appearance on Violent Nature though.
Mike has a 2014 Walnut Rickenbaker 4003 bass. Loves it. I think it’s the only thing he uses now.
We both use Orange Amps almost exclusively. They’re workhorses and always get the tone we’re looking for on all fronts.
Kevin has a variety of rotational drums he plays through. But mainly Pearl Sessions.
Q;As a musician who do you feel has helped inspire and influence you so far on your musical journey?
Turner; I’d probably say a lot of our peers. We’re lucky to be surrounded by amazing musicians here. And many of them are always sharing advice, and offering help. So we always take influence from that. I’ve learned more from my friends in this business than anywhere or anyone else.
Q; How did you first get into rock/heavy/alt music and what was the first album you bought?
Turner; Led Zeppelin IV was my first ‘rock’ album. Then I went through all the classics, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Black Sabbath etc. But really diving off the deep end was probably in 2004 getting into post hardcore band, Alexisonfire. That band at the time was so different and influential to me and to all 3 of us actually. Still are.
Q; What would be the track you are most proud off your previous release the Beyond The Sun album which one would it be and why?
Turner; Probably Chrononaut. We had a lot of fun build layers into that song and it was the first time we added keyboards to any of our music. Having Jesse Gander play keyboard for us was amazing, and kind of helped grow the band, the sound and help us further find ‘our sound’. I think it’s just a cool epic ending of an album and it really took shape in the studio.
Q; Violent Nature is the second full length album from you guys can you tell us a little about how you approached the song writing and song composition for this album?
Turner; The process for this album was completely different than everything prior. With Beyond The Sun, we would ‘jam’ a bit more. We still weren’t sure what to do with ourselves fully. But with Violent Nature, it holds a lot darker of content and subject matter. So we tried to treat it differently and craft better songs that expressed emotion and resilience, rather than just writing all the riffs and putting some lyrics on top. I kind of took a lead on this album in writing more of a skeleton of a song by myself, and then bringing it to the band to build onto it and rearrange. We wanted to be happy with all elements of it. So everyone has an attachment to this album and the songs. Sometimes just playing a chord progression felt better for the songs than crafting a shredding riff.
Q:How did you do things differently on this album compared to the 2017 release “Beyond The Sun” ?
Turner; We really focused on capturing the intensity and struggle in the songs. There is a hard subject matter in it, and there is triumph. But making sure that we let the emotion speak, was key. Violent Nature is a very therapeutic record for all of us. Where as Beyond The Sun was a more fun rock record. It was meant to get your head banging and separate yourself from the world for 40 minutes of sci fi rock. We didn’t shy away from ballads or soft parts where we may have on Beyond The Sun.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the recording and production process for “Violent Nature”?
Turner; Jesse Gander is the heart of the production for this album, as he was the previous. But we tracked it over 2 weeks in Vancouver at Rain City Recorders. We intentionally let ourselves be more creative and receptive in the studio this time around. On past work, we’ve had a very clear vision and knew what we wanted. But working with Jesse, he just has amazing ideas and input and really drives to get the best out of you. And of course, he played keyboards all over the album, and wrote some really beautiful parts to it as well. We also broke stuff down more as we were recording. Beyond The Sun was closer to live off the floor than this album. If Jesse heard a cool bass or guitar tone, we’d go back and redo it with that ‘tone’ to further enhance the song and do it justice.
We’re fortunate how involved Jesse is with us. We start bouncing demos off him months in advance so we perfectly craft the song as to what feels best. Then when we approach the studio, it’s all ready to go. And this allows us to be more creative with the production since the bones are solid.
Q;I really enjoyed the heck outta this album but can I ask about the track I have been really digging “Heartstopper” and what this track means to you?
Turner; That’s a close one. I have this very close friend, who has gone through a heart transplant and exceeded what doctors told him he’d survive. He’s dealt with Cancer and everything else in between. But his optimism is always at the forefront of it all. He appreciates life in such a way it’s inspiring and amazing. And on the other hand, I have friends who spend more money on substances than anyone should, and will literally have friends die from substance abuse, and continue using. So Heartstopper was this juxtaposition of these 2 lives I witness. On one hand a friend who is grateful to be living everyday and never stops smiling. And the other, people who have no disregard for their own well being and live every day like a party with no vision of a life. I will always be there for these friends, but sometimes it’s harder to watch.
Q:If you had to pick a favourite track off “Violent Nature” which one would it be and why?
Turner; Our Greatest Weakness. This was the one track that I knew was a standout for us. But it was hard to write in terms of self reflection and acceptance. I also remember starting to write it with just Kevin and it was so plain and thin sounding. Right when we started he was into it, but I said “trust me, this will be epic when it’s done.” And I feel it exceeded our expectations. When Mike wrote his bass lines and Jesse added the amazing piano and organ, it just took on it’s own life. And I feel we can never write a song like this again. But I’m so happy with how it turned out and the way it closes out the record. It’s soft, heavy, loud, sad and happy
Woodhawk thank you so much again for taking some time out and go through these questions for myself and crannk. Keep Crannking those riffs loud and rocking hard \m/
Woodhawk Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/woodhawkriffs/videos
Woodhawk Bandcamp https://woodhawk.bandcamp.com/
Check out Woodhawk on Spotify and if you like what you hear and really want to support the band and scene head over to one of the links and track down some merch/music and keep the scene strong.