QUICKIE OF THE WEEK: A short interview with Aaron Schug (HÄMÄRÄ)

written by Marko Jakob

Pix666: Hello Aaron and thanks for your time. You are from the US, but your band name sounds Finnish (it can only be Finnish, with the three Ä in the word 😊). What does the word mean and how did you come to choose this band name?

Aaron: As many bands do when they first form, we had a lot of discussions around the band name and came to the conclusion that we wanted to find a single word that set the stage for our brand. Having Scandinavian metal as one of our biggest musical influences at the time, the band was formed led to the adoption of “hämärä”, a Finnish word used to describe the dark, gloomy time between day and night. This came after a lot of research into words that both sounded cool and where the definition of the word described our sound. We loved the imagery of Hämärä as we wanted  to create heavy music that didn’t fall in line with a common metal theme of very dark lyrics that lean on profanities. An image that describes something at the edge of dark fit that mold perfectly!

Pix666: Do you have any favourite Finnish bands?

Aaron: Of course I do! Bands such as Dreamtale, Amorphous, Nightwish, Apocalyptica, Turisas, etc. have all inspired me as a musician in different ways. However, the top bands that have influenced me the most from Finland would be Ensiferum, Norther, Kalmah, and above all, Children of Bodom (RIP Alexi). All of these bands were so much more melodic and different from American Metal, I was immediately hooked and thought it would be amazing to combine American/Finnish styles.

Pix666: What would you do if your fans said: Josh/Aaron – „please sing a song with Finnish lyrics“ – would you accept the challenge?

Aaron: That would be incredibly challenging, as Finnish is regarded as one of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers. Ensuring that we articulated the words correctly would be hard in and of itself. I personally have been interested in learning it for a while. So I would say yes, I would do it.

Josh: I feel the same way that Aaron does, while learning to even correctly say the words would be hard, it would be a fun challenge that we would be open to.

Pix666: Please introduce Hämärä to the readers in a few short sentences. What kind of music do you make?

Aaron: Hämärä is a symphonic metal band based out of Castle Rock, CO and was formed back in 2006 by Aaron Schug and Joshua Ruff. The current members consist of Josh Ruff (Lead Vocals / Bass), Aaron Schug (Vocals / Guitar), Austen Couch (Guitar), Tony Molieri (Keyboards / Synth / Orchestrations), and Orlando Manzanares (Drums). We embarked on a 15 year journey to create a blend between Scandinavian melodic death metal and American metal. There are so many amazing bands out there globally, but there is a lot of music that sounds very similar in each of the sub-genres. We wanted to create something that our fans could add to their libraries that had a different sound to stand out. The varying musical interests of each band member has allowed Hämärä to develop a style that blends a diverse set of genres, creating what we believe is a unique and dynamic sound.

Pix666: The band got a new drummer some time ago – what was the reason for the new line-up?

Aaron: Our previous drummer needed to take time to pursue other life goals and interests.

Pix666: This spring, the new Hämärä album ‘Ivory Tower’ was released. How have the reactions to the album been so far?

Aaron: As far as the new album goes, we’ve always had an extremely strong and loyal set of fans in the local area that have been asking us to put out new music for years. Once a handful of them heard the demo tracks, they got super excited about the sound and could hear how much work we put in. Our reviews since the album release have truly been amazing. We are getting higher ratings than I think any of us would have expected. Some reviews from magazines and other places have rated us at the same or even higher than some of the bands we listen to and are influenced by! We honestly couldn’t be more happy and thankful about how people are loving this album we worked so hard on.

Pix666: What are the songs about and what are the main differences to your previous releases?

Aaron: All of the songs have different meanings as the album doesn’t necessarily follow a story or theme. ‚Withering Away‘ for instance, is about a sinner who gets dragged to hell by hell hounds. ‚Hardly Awake‘ is about a man who continues to have terrible things happen to him, and he breaks down, losing control. The cool thing about this song is that when you watch the music video, it has a fun little twist that everyone can interpret their own meaning from. ‚Under the Sun‘ is about a person who worked hard their whole life, and never actually lived. No family, no friends, only materialistic assets and money. Only to realize in his old age that while he was rich materialistically, he was poor emotionally, alone, without living a truly fulfilled life. Each song is unique and has deep meaning behind it.

I would say that the biggest difference in our music is our musicianship. Josh took vocal lessons, learned how to produce, record, and of course worked on his Bass playing. That goes along with the rest of the members. I spent a lot of time learning how to structure songs better, and challenged myself to write more advanced riffs that have a newer sound, but still hold on to the roots that had originally inspired Hämärä.

Pix666: You have also released two great and quite elaborate video clips this year. Where did you film the videoclips and how long does the creation of such a clip take, including the preparation up to the finished work?

Aaron: That’s a great question, and a little bit hard to answer as far as the time it took from preparation to final product. I was the one that found most of the filming locations. My house was used for most of the scenes. I relied on friends and even ex in-laws for other filming locations and props. We even had a real party for the song ‚Under the Sun‘. We filmed our friends and fans having a great time making my house a mess like a bunch of college kids. I would say that filming for each video took roughly 16 hours, and we did all of this in one weekend.

We had an entire film crew, actors, makeup artist, and director with us. We painstakingly went through hours of footage. Band scenes were shot from 5 angles and we had to pick the best shot for each few seconds. Think about a few cameras rolling for 16 hours, then taking all of those hours of footage and narrowing it down to a few minutes for a song. It was incredibly challenging. With all of that said, I would say over 80 hours of work per video.

Pix666: You have been on the road with the band for about 15 years – what have been the most beautiful and unforgettable moments and experiences for you so far?

Aaron: I would say the friendships we made with one another along the way. One of the best memories I have was playing at this local venue called the Gothic Theater. To play on the same stage that I saw Children of Bodom and Amon Amarth did, made me feel like we were “real” rockstars. This album release to include the videos is another big one. This album was the first time we really could do everything we wanted with an album, and the fruits of our labor show.

Pix666: Do you have dreams and wishes for the next years with your band?

Aaron: I really want to get back to playing live shows more regularly. I also really want to start cranking out the next album. It takes time and money as everything we do is self produced and recorded in a studio that Josh built in his basement. Of course we hope to be signed in the near future to help us get our name out there. Even if you have the right sound to hook an audience, it means nothing if you can’t get the music out there to be heard. So expanding our fan base and effectively promoting the band would be extremely helpful.

Pix666: What do you do when you’re not into music – do you have an interesting job or extraordinary hobbies? 

Aaron: I work at Lockheed Martin Space as a Program Security Representative. It is a challenging but fruitful career. I am really big into off-roading, riding my motorcycle, and even playing video games from time to time. One of my biggest hobbies is health/fitness. I have a degree in Human Performance and Sport, and train at the gym 1-2 hours each day. I am also a single parent of an amazing 6 year old daughter who of course is a huge fan!

Pix666: Do you have any other news about Hämärä, that you would like to share with the fans?

Aaron: We are currently working on a new single! I have been working on this song on and off for the last 9 months trying to write a really aggressive, punchy new sound for Hämärä  that I think people will like. I have had a lot of inspiration this year and can’t wait to share it with you. We also are currently searching for a new guitarist. Austen Couch decided to take on other life ambitions. More to come on that soon!

Pix666: Thank you very much for the interview – Good luck for the future!



photos © by Hämära