Following hot on the heels of their critically-acclaimed fifth album, This Place Only Brings Death (reviewed here) and a headline slot at Nottingham’s Mangata Festival UK stalwarts Heart Of A Coward are very much a band on the upswing. As the band reached the end of their European tour The Midlands Rocks cornered the band’s vocalist Kaan Tasan for an exclusive chat just before the band’s gig at Birmingham’s Devil’s Dog venue (reviewed here).
Tonight is bang in the middle of the UK tour. How has it been so far?
The UK has been great. The weather has been the only thing to turn on us. We had great responses in Southampton and Bristol, but we are just buzzing to be back and playing shows.
How does it feel to be in Birmingham, the home of heavy metal?
Birmingham’s always great, it has always treated us well, so I’m really looking forward to playing, it should be good. I like what they’ve done with the area, Digbeth has had a bit of a spruce up since we were last here.
Black Sabbath say they were influenced by their industrial surroundings. Growing up, how did your environment influence you?
Music wise, I guess I started getting into heavy music with Korn, Deftones, Linken Park, that era of nu-metal was when I really started getting into really heavier stuff. I grew up in a sleepy seaside town on the south coast, so in that respect my surroundings didn’t help too much, but it made me focus on music as a way to escape.
Touring is really hard. This UK jaunt is five consecutive nights. How is that mentally and physically?
Physically, it’s very demanding. It’s also the end of a twenty-date tour with three days off along the whole time. It is tiring, but as this is the end of our third week, everybody is in the groove in that respect.
And how do you keep things harmonious when you’re in the tour bus. Is there one band you all rock out to in the van?
Not at all. Music is one thing we never agree on [laughs]. I think there’s only a handful of bands that unite us all. But as a social unit, everybody’s in a really good place now, there’s never any stress or anything like that.
With this tour, the new album and festival dates there’s been a real burst of activity. Does it feel as if the band has had a rebirth?
Yes, 100%. There was a forced hiatus with Covid, and that period hit us really hard, both personally and creatively, it knocked the wind out of our sails, and it made us question if we still wanted to do this. But getting Dan in gave the band a new lease of life, and working with George Lever really helped us get the excitement back and pushed us creatively towards a newer kind of sound. It does feel like a rebirth; everyone’s energised and in a better place to push forwards.
This Place Only Brings Death sounds like a very angry album. Did Covid play into that anger?
Of course, I think it was a very challenging time for everybody, but coming out the other side of it singing about roses and rainbows wouldn’t be genuine. Because of my lived experience through that period, I don’t think anything nice was going to come out cuddly, especially for a heavy band like us. There’s a lot to be angry about, and for everybody across the board, so yes, it is an angry album…but I don’t think there was any other outcome really!
Now the album has been out in the world a while, how do you feel about it? Anything you’d like to go back and change?
Hindsight is 20/20. It’s always nice to reflect back on things and change things here and there, but we are super proud of the album. The public reaction has been great. There’s always going to be some negative comments here and there, whether it’s on the internet, people are going to troll you or whatever, but overall it has been a great response. The live shows have been great, and the live environment is where it really matters.
The artwork looks amazing. Does physical product mean a lot to you?
Yes. For us, having a strong visual representation for the artwork was always important, and we did something different this time around. We settled on the album title before we’d even finished recording, so we thought we’d get the artwork rolling then to help us create a more visual aesthetic. We used an artist based in France, we got him involved early, sent him some of the demos, some of the lyrics, the album title, and when he sent some designs back and we saw the figure cloaked in red, we knew that was it. The fact that we all agreed on the same artist was a green light; so we trusted his skills and vision.
Do you think you would use this artist again, to give all your albums a unified look?
Interesting, but we haven’t really looked that far ahead. But as somebody to work with, the creative process was great and we’d be happy to work with him again.
This album was your second with the band, so did you feel able to imprint more of your personality on this release?
Yes, I think so. With the previous album [The Disconnect] there were moments where we hit really high points where it was clicking and working, but although I still love the album, there were moments where it was like trying to fit me into the older sound, whereas now with this album I definitely feel we’ve got to the point where the band is working as a unit, rather than trying to shoehorn stuff in. I still feel like we have a bit to learn, but it definitely feels like we are getting into our stride. It feels like we’ve experimented more on this record, I know the songs are a bit shorter, but what we are doing with all the synth work and the structuring of the songs, it’s been a real experiment in trying to push the boundaries of the songs while still trying to stay within certain parameters.
Although it’s not your fault, the band’s first three albums were released in quick succession, whereas the last two have had three and four year gaps. Do you think the long gap is a help or a hindrance? Do you think you’ll take that long in the future?
No, because of Covid there was a long break, and that whole period hit us hard, and creatively we very much lost our mojo. So, it wasn’t an active choice to leave such a long gap and it’s not something we want to do again, now we’ve got this record out we want to keep our foot on the gas. People consume music differently nowadays. You could take a four-year gap 20 or 30 years ago, but now music is consumed constantly, if you are not always in front of people and releasing new music, you can be forgotten. So, I think we’ll keep the pressure on ourselves and get new music out as soon as possible.
This Place Only Brings Death flows like an old school album, as opposed to just a collection of singles. Do you think that the album is making a comeback as an art form?
I think it is because of vinyl. There are still those who still consume singles and playlists, but for me a favourite thing is putting the headphones on and listening to an album from start to finish, and that whole experience has resurged because of vinyl. For us, it’s always been a preference to have an album that flows with peaks and troughs, and that was definitely a conscious effort for us, and it feeds into the whole concept of life and death.
Finally, if I had a magic wand and could make any one dream come true for Heart Of A Coward, what would it be?
To keep building. We’re not in this for the fame or money, everyone is here because of the experience and the energy we get from the crowd, so if we can keep people coming back and enjoying themselves then that’s all you can wish for. It’s great to still be able to play these shows and get so much energy back from the crowds. To keep doing this is what I’d wish for, rather than a million pounds or something.