As Progressive masterminds Haken come closer and closer to their Australian tour in June, we have the opportunity to have a chat with guitar wizard Charlie Griffiths.  When discussing what he’s looking forward to about this tour he shares, “I can’t wait to come back and experience you guys again!”

When questioned on whether he’d like to explore our country a bit more, his response is the unfortunate plight of touring musicians with such busy schedules. “I’d love to do that at some point, but I don’t think there’s gonna be time, again, this time. We’re doing five shows I think and they’re each on consecutive nights.

“We’ll probably be getting to the airport at 4:00 am every day. Flying a couple of hours or whatever, then getting to the venue, setting up, soundchecking. Have something to eat, play a show, pack down and then go to the next airport. And somewhere in amongst that sleep! It’s gonna be kind of brutal from that point of view. But it’s always a pleasure to come and play for people. So I never complain about it.”

On that note, he goes on to share how the rest of the tour has been going so far. “Oh, awesome! We started with this ‘Vector’ run in the US, and we played many sold out shows over there. It was ourselves and Leprous doing a co-headline tour. Those were some of the biggest shows we’ve done so far in the US. So that was a real success. And a lot of fun to obviously watch Leprous. We kind of go back a few years. I think 2014 we did a mini UK tour with them, ever since then we’ve wanted to do it again. So finally we did it. They’re awesome, great songs, great musicians, great guys. Everything you want from a band.

“Then we did some South America shows which were insane! Cos they’re just so loud and animated over there. You’ve played a song and they react like you’ve scored the winning goal at the World Cup or something like that.”

Keyboardist Diego Tejeida is from down in Mexico, and Griffiths gives some interesting insight in the difference between chants in different countries. “Man, he’s a superstar down there. We play anywhere else in the world and the crowd is going, ‘Haken! Haken! Haken!’ but we play in Mexico and they’re chanting, ‘Diego! Diego! Diego!’”

After sharing some raucous laughter the conversation turns onto the fact that most of the members of Haken are giving one-on-one instrumental lessons to a handful of fans before each show. “There’s kind of two sides to it. First of all to get a bit of extra income into the band. That’s kind of the reality. We kind of need to do everything we can, once we’re out working… We’re working. We need to optimise the time that we’re on the road. And also it’s an awesome experience for ourselves as musicians. It’s kind of like a fun thing to sit down for an hour or two hours and basically talk about what you love to do, help somebody else on that road that’s kind of starting out. So it’s a real kind of nice, fulfilling hour. And the people that come along always have great feedback about it as well. They get to come to the venue early in the day and get not only the lesson but they will get a sneak peak at everything getting set up and they might see a bit of soundcheck. They get to see us in our natural habitat, just relaxing backstage.”

Continuing on from that, I ask whether he has any hilarious or shocking stories from teaching guitar lessons. By way of response he goes back many years and explains that it wasn’t the tour lessons with Haken. “I was doing a trade show up in London one time and I was working for a guitar school, it was these mini kind of 10 to 15 minute lessons for anyone that would wanna show up and learn something. Normal people. Just kind of people that wanna play guitar for fun.  So I was sitting there and at one point Michael Angelo Batio walked in! And he was like ‘Oh yeah I’m here for the lesson.’ I said, ‘Ah, well… I can’t teach you anything!’ It transpired that a friend of mine had set it up as a gag.”

Moving on, Griffiths explains why he’s bringing the same exact rig to Australia that he’s been using for a number of years now.

“It’s been the same rig for the last few years. I’m just using a Fractal AX8. I’ve been using that for basically every live show since they’ve released that thing. It’s just the easiest, most convenient thing ever, I can carry it! And my guitar too! I’ve just got a Keisel Vader. Which is a little headless thing. It’s in a tiny tennis racquet looking guitar case. So I can basically carry my entire rig, everything I need for the show, on the plane. So I’ve got my pedal in a laptop bag and my guitar on my back. And it’s kind of small enough to go in the overheads. So that’s really my thing, is how can I be self-sufficient? I’d never wanna have to rely on hiring gear or hoping that there’s backline there. And you never know what you’re gonna get. I just wanna be self-contained.”

To wind down the conversation I prompt Charlie to give any final words of advice for aspiring guitarists. “Just start slow and play accurately. Focus on that, don’t worry about playing fast. You can play fast once you can play accurately. And just be patient, is the biggest thing. You’ll get there.”