Interview with guitarist and vocalist Casey Hurd
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 4, 2023
From the scorched landscapes of Austin, Texas, comes this doomy death metal band named Hinayana, who you could easily mistake for a Finnish band due to the murky and melancholic ingredients this originally one-man band has incorporated into their doomsday's music.
Casey Hurd, who founded the band in 2014, recorded the debut album, Order Divine, basically alone, with only Daniel Vieira to help him on drums. The album was released in March 2018 and gained quite a lot of positive attention around the globe.
This Texan act's next outing, a 5-track EP called Death of the Cosmic, and released at the end of August 2020, had the full band lineup that has remained the same to this day. They also recorded the band's follow-up album, titled Shatter and Fall, scheduled to be released in November 2023.
The Metal Crypt asked Casey about the new album, his love of doomy and often sorrow-ridden death metal, and connections to some Finnish musicians in the scene, among other things.
Casey: Hey, how's it going?
Thanks for asking. I'm good. It's getting pretty chilly here in Finland in the north of Europe. It's late autumn over here and we are heading toward winter time, no doubt.
Casey: It's a little opposite of what we got over here in Texas. We've got intense heat. It's maybe getting a little bit cooler outside. We've had a really hot summer of 100 plus degrees for months.
Casey: Yes, so I'm looking forward to when we get on tour in Europe and we're away from the Texas weather for a little while.
THE FIRST STEPS OF HINAYANA
Hehe... I hear you. OK, to get things started, where did you get the idea to start making music of your own and form Hinayana as a one-man project, and what was your main motivator to get this band started?
Casey: That's a great question. Ever since I was young, I wanted to write music. At some point, I made the decision that I wanted to be the guy writing music and making riffs and stuff like that. My brother and I learned guitar growing up and we both were learning to play songs and stuff like that. I was always messing around with my own riffs and my own little ideas here and there. When I was a teenager, I started learning about recording software. I was really inspired by some of the bands I was listening to. It was born a little bit out of necessity, the one-man project thing, because there weren't any other people to jam with who liked this style of metal in Dripping Springs, Texas. It's a pretty country place. If there were people who were into metal, they definitely weren't into the very specific style I was going for. There were bands that I found out were one-man projects. I always bring up Tuomas Saukkonen of Wolfheart. He had his old band, Black Sun Aeon. I remember listening to that project and realizing it was a one-man project, essentially. He was doing basically all the work.
I thought that was the coolest thing. I thought, if I can do this myself, then I can put out whatever I want. That was the motivating factor. It's like I had this music in my head that I wanted to write. I knew I wanted to do this project. I knew I wanted to put something out, but I didn't have a band, so I put it together. I took some photos for the front and back covers, and I put the music on Bandcamp. I got a lot of really positive feedback on it.
That was what motivated me to make it into a full band. I didn't really think that it was going to take off or anything was going to come of it. I thought, "I'll put it up on Bandcamp and I don't know, people might like it or not, whatever." Then I was like, "Okay, I'm going to do this for real." I moved into town, into Austin instead of the country town where I grew up, Dripping Springs. I started meeting more musicians. That was something that led to the formation of the band right there.
After listening to your songs on YouTube, I can safely say that you play a sort of hybrid of death and doom metal. I have often seen people comparing your band to the Finnish death/doom metal band Swallow the Sun, and at times, even to Wolfheart. Do you subscribe to these comparisons?
Casey: Yes, I think it's a fair comparison for sure. Those are two of my favorite bands. I have a lot of favorite bands that just happen to be from Europe and from Finland. Some of my favorite artists when I was growing up, I didn't even know were from Finland, Sweden, Norway. That just happened to be the style I was and still am really attached to. It influenced my writing style, I guess. I've never set out to write music that was like, "Okay, I'm going to write stuff that sounds like this." I just write from the heart, and I'm writing music that I like. Turns out what I like is very similar to what the Finnish people like, I guess.
What makes the Finnish metal sound so special to you?
Casey: I think Finnish metal always has a very deep emotional aspect to it. I've always felt this way when comparing all the bands that I really love that are from Finland. I feel there's an emotional thread that ties them all together. It's a cultural thing, probably. All I can say is that I hear that they all have the same sort of emotion, I would say. Yes. It's got a depth to it.
ATHLETICISM IN METAL
Yes, it has. If you live up here in the north, then you definitely don't want to write happy music all the time, that's for sure. I have a pretty tough question for you. Why do you find this Death-doom genre is so fascinating?
Casey: I think for me, it just strikes a chord. I think that a lot of my favorite songs in metal in general are not the most fast paced, I guess. Let me rephrase that. There is a lot of athleticism that goes on in metal, I think, especially these days with who can play it faster, who can play the fastest. There's always going to be some band that does it faster and does it heavier and does it more extreme. That gets a little ridiculous, in my opinion, whereas I really notice the stuff that strikes a chord with me the most.
It's always been this way. As the years have gone on, especially growing up in high school and listening to this music, I've gotten better at identifying what traits in music and in songs really grabbed me. A lot of it is the stuff that is more mid paced, slower stuff that I feel is connecting with me on an emotional level. That's what it is. I feel like it connects with me on an emotional level.
TWO DIFFERENT BABIES
What are the biggest differences between your debut album, Order Divine (2018), and its follow-up album, Shatter and Fall, which will be released on Napalm Records on November 10 this year?
Casey: I think there are a bunch of differences. It's a very long list. First and foremost, the production is better. We learned a lot about production. I learned how to record guitars properly and we learned what a good mix actually sounds like. That was a big deal. I also learned a lot about songwriting from that first album and hearing the feedback on it. I think we have more of our own voice on Shatter and Fall. I think Shatter and Fall is more unique in the genre itself. I think our first album suffered from some issues with not being a hugely diverse album.
It was short and it was not the most diverse, whereas this one is a lot longer. There's something for everybody on this album, whether it's slower, more doomy songs or faster paced, more like straight up melodic death metal. We've got stuff that's just down tempo and atmospheric stuff that's catchy, poppy sounding. I wanted to make sure all those elements were incorporated. I think it's a big evolution and the best representation of what we're going for compared to Order Divine. That was more of a learning experience, in my opinion.
I'm really looking forward to hearing your new album when it comes out next month. What are your driving forces to keep this band running? Do you think that without this band, your life would be less content and might be a tad tedious?
Casey: Yes, I absolutely think so. I think my life would lack meaning and depth if I didn't have this band in it. I think that some of the driving force is always going to be my love for the art form. I'm always going to chase that perfect song and that perfect melody, that perfect chorus or whatever it is. I'm always going to be chasing that for as long as I'm doing this. I really love the art form and I really want to give people the same sensation that I get when I hear one of my favorite bands and one of my favorite songs for that first time. That's a really special moment, in my opinion. I think that if I can touch people in that way and if I can give them that experience, that's always going to motivate me. I want to impact people in that way.
You are on Napalm Records nowadays. How did you end up signing to this label? Did you promote your band like crazy and they contacted you when they got to hear some of your stuff?
Casey: Yes, so they actually reached out to us and we're not exactly sure how they discovered us, but we believe that they heard of us probably through Nature Ganganbaigal, who has a band, Tengger Cavalry, that was at the time on Napalm Records. That is the Mongolian folk metal band, for those who don't know. Nature did some horse-head fiddle on our previous release, our EP that we released with Napalm. Before we were signed, he had mentioned something about it on his Facebook or something like that. We think that's how they discovered us. they reached out to us. At that point, we had been promoting our stuff like crazy. We had been trying to get our stuff out there on the Internet. We had just gotten done with the deal with Black Lion Records. It was a licensing deal with them. We were catching some momentum. This was right before COVID, too. The whole world hadn't really slowed down yet or hit that speed bump. It was just like the right place, right time thing for us. I considered myself lucky and very fortunate.
MEETING TUOMAS OF WOLFHEART
Now back to this Finnish guy named Tuomas Saukkonen, who is known for his bands like Wolfheart and Before the Dawn, among others, of course. He was the one who directed and produced your video "Pitch Black Noise" some months ago. How did you originally get to know about him and his Winter Notes Productions?
Casey: Yes, so, funny story. We were on tour with Wolfheart. We were actually on tour with Moonspell, Insomnium, Borknagar and Wolfheart last year. We were in Germany, and it was the second gig. I knew that Tuomas had done video work for other bands. I knew he self-produces a lot of his own music videos. The funniest thing, though, and I love telling the story because it was just hilarious. We showed up, everyone on the tour was talking about this venue called Hellraiser out in Leipzig, Germany. Everyone thought this place was like the biggest shithole, I guess. They all referred to it as the worst venue on the tour. They're like, "God, this place sucks."
It's funny because we just love the place. We thought it was great. It was grimy, it was dirty, but it was really cool. It reminded us of some places we played back home. Our green room was like a little dungeon in the basement. It was just the coolest, grimiest place. Very metal, in my opinion. We showed up, we pull up in the back of this venue, which was down this little dilapidated, I don't know, little path. You wouldn't even know it was a road if you were just looking at it from the street. We pull in back and we get out of our van, and we start walking to the venue and Tuomas has his camera in one hand and he comes up to us and says, "do you guys need another video film for your EP?" We're just looking at each other like, uh, and then noticed there's this warehouse out back.
I said, "I guess it's like an abandoned factory." He says, "There's this really cool spot out here. I've got like an hour or 40 minutes or whatever until soundcheck. We have to do the video right now." We're just like, "Okay." We're not going to say no. We filmed the music video out on our tour before soundcheck. It was just like, bam!, that was that. It ended up really perfect. It was great. The only thing missing was our drummer, Daniel, who couldn't make it on that tour. There are no drums in the video, but we were able to get a good, solid piece of work there, so we were happy. We're very grateful to him for doing that. That was a really awesome video shoot.
Did Tuomas also direct your "Reserve the Code" video that was released at the end of August this year?
Casey: That was done by our good friend Christopher Thompson, who is a filmmaker. He lives in Los Angeles now. Our other good friend, Eric Davis, has done work for us in the past, as well. Eric is a good drone pilot. He did drone shots for our music video. Those guys are a kick ass team, by the way. Shout out to those dudes.
You have also been dealing with another Finnish artist, named Toni Toivonen from Hanging Garden, who did quest vocals for the "In Sacred Delusion" song. How did you get to know Toni?
Casey: Yes, well, that's another band that I got into when I was in high school. I've always loved his growling. We reached out to him, and he was absolutely down for doing it. It was a perfect pairing for that song. That song was extra doomy and aggressive. I really love how his vocals turned out. That was our first time having a guest vocalist on any song. We knew we wanted to do that again. That's why we have two more guest vocalist features on the new album.
Cool. What's your take on making promotional videos? Do you think they are essential in today's music market if you want to gain visibility for your band?
Casey: I think right now in the music industry, they're very important. Yes, I think when someone looks up your music or looks up your band on Google, I think it's important that they see a variety of videos to choose from. It's just a good look. It also shows that you're doing something. Even if it's not for a new song, it's really important that you do something with video. Not everybody has Spotify, believe it or not, and a lot of people just look up your band on YouTube.
If a song's not on YouTube, in the form of a music video or whatever, they might not ever hear it. So yes, so it's important that you take advantage of the visual aspect of what you do. We've got such great technology these days for making videos and doing visual promotion stuff. I think that putting it on YouTube and putting it on social media, it's very important in the industry. I really like seeing that sort of thing.
EUROPEAN CONQUEST – PT. 2.
You have a European tour coming up, starting next month, actually. There will be 24-25 shows. I noticed that you only have one day off at the end of the tour. How well are you prepared for this tour, as you seem to be playing practically every night?
Casey: Yes, so the only days we have off are our travel days. We get to Germany, and then from Germany, we're driving ourselves to the Netherlands. That's where we play our first gig. One driving day at the beginning and one driving day on the way back when we go back to Frankfurt to fly out. Those are the only two days off. It's going to be a tight schedule for us. The one thing I think that prepared us is last year, we had I think 18 shows or so. That was our tour last year. There were no days off. That was sort of like a little crash course in doing show after show after show.
This tour is going to be a little bit more strenuous because we're going to have a longer set and we're going to be doing new songs and stuff. We've been rehearsing.
I've been trying to make sure my vocals are on point. I think last year's tour went extremely well, and I think that we're ready to do it again. It is going to be exhausting. It's going to be a lot of fun, and we really can't wait to get out there. It's going to be one wild ride. I'll say that.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
I guess it's fair to say you are used to doing a hectic tour. What plans do you already have for 2024?
Casey: We are working our hardest to book a North American tour for next year. This tour that we're actually starting next month is our second European tour and we still have not toured the United States or Canada or North America in general. We want to change that. That's our biggest goal and we don't have anything that we can talk about yet, but we do have some things that we are planning and we're working on, and so fingers crossed that it goes through and that we get to meet our North American fans next year.
Is there something special that you'd like to achieve with this band in the next couple of years or so?
Casey: Yes, I think that one of my biggest goals, honestly, is I want to play some of those European festivals. That is one of the biggest things that I think that we really want to do in the next few years. Of course, I think that's a goal for a lot of bands, but it's really tough for a band from the United States. You've got to get there. It's more expensive. We're going to have to make some headway in our career here so that's a good goal for me personally. I know that we will end up doing it. It's just a matter of time. That's one of my big ones is because I've always seen us doing that and I've always wanted to do that, do the summer festival circuit. That's a big one for me personally.
Not having Wacken or Hellfest or any of these bigger festivals in your mind, though...?
Casey: No, those are really big. I'd be happy with ones like Summer Breeze or Brutal Assault, those would be really killer. We would love to get on those.
Hopefully your dreams come true at some point. Well, Casey, I think that's all I had in my mind for this conversation. I sincerely want to thank you for talking to The Metal Crypt and wish you a very successful European tour as well.
Casey: Thanks again. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for the interview and I really appreciate it, man.
... and, hopefully we'll see you guys up here in the north of Europe someday, too, as I believe your music should go down very well among the Finnish/Scandinavian crowds...
Casey: God, we would love that. We would love to see Finland and we would love to see your fans out there, too.
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