I had the opportunity to talk with Jon Bodan the founder, lead guitarist, backing vocals and death vocals for the band Halcyon Way. The interview took place before their new album “Bloody But Unbowed” was released last Friday. You can check out our review of the album HERE. We discuss the new album, some specific songs and all sorts of other cool items.
First off Bodan talked about the history of Halcyon Way, “I started the band in 2001 and it was very casual, just jamming with some buddies. After some time, we wrote some solid songs and put out a four-song demo. We started doing some shows at that point. We ended up demoing out 10-12 songs that became out first record in 2008, “A Manifesto for Domination”. It took us four or five years to get that album out. We took some missteps in the recording process and it was a long process. In 2007 we played at Prog Power in Atlanta and got signed on the heels of that performance. We had records released in 2010, 2011 and 2014 and now in 2018, “Bloody But Unbowed”. Over the years we have had so much stuff happened. A ton of line up changes, I am the only original member. In 2010 a week before a tour of Europe, I found out I had lymphoma. We ended up having to cancel out of that tour and it was our first big tour opportunity. At that point I went into chemo treatments for around 7 or 8 months and then got a clean bill of health. Right after that, we put out, “Indoctrination”. In 2012 we went to Europe for the first time with the band Delain. In 2013 we did several tours in the US with Ozzy, Saxon and others. Now we have been touring a lot. I wrote a lot of the tracks for our 2014 album “Conquer” while recovering from lymphoma. I was confined to my house for a year. I wrote the bulk of that album. I have a death metal album and industrial metal album I have also written but have not released.”
Next up Bodan talked about the sound of his band which is metal, thrash, some death vocals and even some industrial sounding metal all in one album. He had this to say, “That is kind of our thing. We have never been pigeon holed into a certain genre of metal. We started more as a prog metal band but we are too hard to be prog. Then as we went we added some death vocals and some thrash metal. We just kept getting heavier and heavier. Prog is usually for bands that our pushing the boundaries of music. We just have a lot of different influences that push us. It is a blessing and a curse. It makes us a unique band. A lot of people don’t get us which is kind of funny. I am like these songs are catchy, they all have ear worms and heavy riffs. What is not to like?”
Bodan also discuss the intricacies of the album and how you really need to listen to everything that is going on in the back ground, “That is one of my trademarks as a writer. I like to layer things up. I have a tendency to over do it when writing material, then I have to strip pieces out. I try to get to a place where the ear candy in the back ground is subtle, but it is all very deliberate. We work really hard when we write for an album. That probably has a lot to do with why our stuff takes longer to be released. When we started on this album we had skeletons of 26 or 27 songs. Some were songs, some were pieces. We could have made two records. We focused on does it have a great hook, is it a great song, is it to the point? We cut some songs that had amazing riffs and other great parts. It is hard, we had some great songs that didn’t make it.”
It was time to address the new album “Bloody But Unbowed” and if there was a message in the title. Bodan had this to say, “I think overall we try to have our lyrics open to interpretation. Were not saying its about this and you better agree with it. We want people to draw their own conclusion. I think continuing though adversity and make it through it. You don’t always come through unscathed. That was some of the message. For the cover art, our nail head guy is our Eddie, he had to be there, he is on every album cover. There is an old phrase and I can’t remember who said it, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” With all the political upheaval and everyone yelling and screaming, I felt like we should tap into that a little bit. The flowers that the guy is holding is meant to be an allegory for the tree of liberty. We like to have little hidden meaning and nuances in the art work of our album covers.
Next Bodan talked about the guitar work on the album which is fantastic, “My process is I have a studio at my house and I just come up with riffs. My strength is being a good writer, instead of a shredder. I try to keep in mind, we are a metal band and I love good riffs. If it is not a fairly unique riff or even if it is familiar it needs to have a twist on it. There are plenty of bands that are doing the same old riffs and there is enough of that. If the riff is generic I will toss it. I try to make sure there is room for a chorus. As far as solos go, I am not the best player out there. I learned a long time ago there are things I am really good at and I focus on that and stay in my wheel house. I like tying melodic runs and melodies with speedy things that pull it all together. I like to do a lot of whammy floaters. I don’t really go out and listen to a ton of guitar players. I just stay in my sweet spot.
One of the songs that stands out on the album from a guitar perspective is Ten Thousand Ways. Bodan talk about his song, “We were putting that song together with the attitude if we are going to have a song with constant solos this was going to be it. Max wrote most of that song and he is a killer player. We split the solos in the song. We traded off a lot and had some fun with it. The chord progression is so melodic and fun to play over.”
Since we had talked about the best guitar song on the album, of course we had to cover Desolate, which vocally is an incredible song. Steve Braun is a great vocalist and Bodan addressed his singing, “Steve has been singing a long time. He came from a hard rock back ground. When he joined the band it was awesome, because I love vocal harmonies. As the band got heavier I encouraged Steve to sing angrier. On this album he had been pushing himself and he was on fire. It was totally the next level for him. We are a much heavier band than his last one and we needed him to be angry singing. We really feel like as a band we have something to prove and have a chip on our shoulder. We are out there to scare the band after us from getting on stage. No one has ever handed us anything. We have had to grind and work for everything we have ever gotten.”
Last we needed to cover tour plans for the future. Bodan said, “We don’t have anything booked yet. We are definitely working on several ideas and what would be the best fit. We have had opportunities, but not the right fit yet. We are holding out a bit to find the right tour. We are definitely going to tour, it is just a matter of when.”
Order Halcyon Way’s album HERE.