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Once Human Interview
Written by Robin Stryker   
Monday, 31 August 2015

Once Human Interview
by Robin Stryker July 30, 2015 (via phone)

 

Once Human is a new metal outfit from Los Angeles fronted by American-born/Australian-raised screamer, Lauren Hart. Originally, producer Logan Mader (ex-Machine Head, ex-Soulfly) intended to stay behind the scenes, and build the band around Lauren’s vocals and guitar work. But their musical chemistry reignited his desire to take up his mighty flying V, after a 12-year hiatus from live shows. Once Human’s debut album, The Life I Remember, will be released on 4 September 2015 via earMUSIC, a week after they begin their tour with Fear Factory.

 

Once Human 


Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker rounded up with Lauren Hart for an introductory interview. Dive in for Lauren’s exclusive details on The Life I Remember, summoning bears, the joys of Vegemite, and much more!

Sonic Cathedral:  Lauren, welcome to Sonic Cathedral! Once Human have an incredible origin story, which started with a short YouTube video of you playing the guitar. Would you walk us through how things came together for you?

Lauren:  The videos were up on Instagram actually. I didn’t put them on YouTube, but they were on Instagram and Facebook. I think it was just the wonders of social media, and it ended up in Logan’s hands. I didn’t tag anyone or try to get the attention of anyone; I was literally messing around. I think the fact that it’s a girl playing these heavy metal riffs that aren’t really common to hear coming out of a girl is what kind of caught their attention. Yeah, I didn’t intend for it to go anywhere, but fate has happened! <laughs>

Sonic Cathedral:  How did it first trickle back to you that industry insiders were interested in what you were doing?

Lauren:  I got an email from someone who was a Roadrunner guy, and he told me that Logan would like to meet with me. I didn’t know who Logan was, and he said: “Oh, he is a producer and a manager. He is interested in meeting with you.” A couple days later, I went to Logan’s house, which was also his studio, to have a meeting with him. I showed him some more of my stuff.

He was interested in doing a production deal around me, where he would build a band around me, and I would be able to write music, play guitar, and do some singing. Logan was going to produce it, and try and build it up as he does with other bands like he has done with a couple of other people … production deals like that. The next time I saw Logan, we started working on the first song, and we just hit it off immediately!

He was really loving what I was doing and my ideas -- I came in with all these riffs and orchestras and everything already down. I think it sort of sparked something in him that he hadn’t felt for a long time musically. I knew what I wanted to do, and it wasn’t for pop or radio rock. I wasn’t worried about money; I just wanted to play fucking METAL. <laughs> I think he found that really refreshing, and that’s how it started.

Sonic Cathedral:  What was the first song that you were working on with Logan, where the magic happened?

Lauren:  The song was called “Time Of Disease”, and it’s actually on the album. That was the first song that we wrote. The second one was “The Life I Remember”, which was the one that we released first. With “The Life I Remember”, Logan told me: “Guess what you’re going to do today? I want you to do some clean singing.” I said: “I don’t do clean singing.” He said: “You do now!” <laughs>

I kind of put up a bit of a fight because I like screaming. I never thought of myself as a singer, so we have this joke that Logan made ‘er sing. Logan Mader … get it?

Sonic Cathedral:  <rimshot sound>

Lauren:  <laughs> It was a bit funnier in the moment. <all laugh> We’ve got three songs on the album with clean singing; the rest is all screaming, which I prefer. But it works with some of these choruses, you know? It’s catchy and nice. I tried actually screaming instead. I asked: “Can we please just TRY the screaming, instead of the singing?” But he was right -- the clean singing sounded better, so we went with it.

Sonic Cathedral:  Although Logan continued being active in music behind the scenes as a producer, he hadn’t been in a band for 12 years, and it didn’t sound like he had any intention of being in one again … until he met up with you. What changed?

Lauren:  Yeah, he thought that part of his life was over because he was becoming quite a big producer. He had gold records and was high in demand, so he thought that part of his life was done, and he went out with a bang. But I guess he just got really inspired, and started wanting to write with me and coming up with ideas that he picked up.

At first, he picked up the bass. “Maybe I’ll play the bass in this band.” I said: “No, you’re a brilliant guitar player. If you’re going to be in this band, you’re playing guitar!” <laughs> There is no one who can do it better than him. Originally, I was going to be playing guitar, but I cannot play like Logan Mader. He is AMAZING.

 

Once Human 

 

Sonic Cathedral:  I agree. But you have lightning-fast hands, and are a gifted guitarist in your own right. Was it hard to step back?

Lauren:  No, it wasn’t. Because I’m self-taught … well, Logan is self-taught too, but he has a lot more experience under his belt … I gave up playing my electric for a couple years. (I always played my acoustic, and never put down the guitar completely.) I tried really hard to play in metal bands for a long time, and auditioned and everything.

But I think it’s simply because I’m a girl and the way I look, I never got taken seriously, and I had kind of given up. So, when I do play in front of people, I have a hard time. My hands shake, I think just because of the lack of experience. But one day, I will be picking up the guitar on stage. I did play on the album, but when I get in front of people, there’s a problem.

Sonic Cathedral:  I don’t quite know how to ask this in a way that doesn’t sound weird and creepy, but how much difficulty has there been with the dissonance between how you look and how you sound? You’re a lovely girl, with a tumbling mane of hair and pouty lips, but you scream your ass off. Are people shocked that you’re not up there singing pretty songs?

Lauren:  <laughs> Yeah, they are! That is what the world has been saying. They look at me, and they’re like: “Oh, you want to do metal?!? You don’t look like a metal-head. You must be a pop singer, so do that.” You know, people just judge a book by its cover, or put you in a box. And I didn’t fit in that metal box at all. But I am here to prove them wrong, and show who I really am. You should NEVER judge a book by its cover. Looks fade, metal is forever.

Sonic Cathedral:  I found it rather interesting that your introduction to metal was symphonic metal, which (to me) is on the softer end of the spectrum.

Lauren:  My introduction to metal started with Yngwie Malmsteen’s Trilogy, actually. Then, it spiraled into more power metal type bands, and then onto black metal. Very quickly, I discovered my favorite album of all time is Dimmu Borgir’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. It is symphonic, but it’s BRUTAL. And that’s what I love -- the beauty and the brutality. The clean singing, I really love how Mikael from Opeth pulls it off in one of my other favorite albums, Blackwater Park. It’s a perfect mix of brutality and beauty that still remains dark and melancholy. Even though the styles are mixed, somehow the mood stays the same, and it is pure perfection.

Sonic Cathedral:  <laughs> I think you and I are referring to very different types of bands when we use the term “symphonic metal”.

It seems like you have music on the brain 24/7. If you don’t have an outlet to create music, does it start filling up your head until it feels like bursting?

Lauren:  Yeah, I have this issue where I would be trying to sleep at night, and I would have orchestras in my mind. Sometimes, they would be so loud that I couldn’t sleep, and I’d have to get up and try and do something to stop thinking about them. That’s why I picked up the guitar and started teaching myself piano -- just to get some of these melodies out of my head. That was a long time ago.

But recently, there is an app on your phone called Music Studio, and I could actually get the whole orchestra onto my phone because I didn’t have the money to buy all this amazing equipment. I had an eight-track recorder, and I’d do the best I could with that back when I was 19 years old or something. Now, it’s all digital, and you can get an app on your phone that has all of the instruments in it. Even though it doesn’t sound amazing, it was a way for me to sort of get it out and to be able to sleep at night.

Then when I met Logan, he was just amazed that I was bringing him all these orchestras. The first song on the album (“Trail Of Tears”)is an orchestra done by me, completely out of my crazy brain. Now that I can get these out, I can actually sleep better at night.

 

Once Human 

 

Sonic Cathedral:  Would it surprise you to know that Once Human’s music attracts bears?

Lauren:  Like black bears and brown bears?

Sonic Cathedral:  My hand to God, black bears seem to like The Life I Remember. I’ve never seen a wild bear before, but three came wandering into view this past weekend while blasting your new album. Until someone proves me wrong, my theory is that Once Human attracts bears.

Lauren:  That is INSANE. Have you tested other music with them?

Sonic Cathedral:  This was the first time seeing bears, so I haven’t had the chance to experiment with other music. But the bears did seem curious to check out Once Human.

Lauren:  Wow, I really want to test that. Next time I’m in an area with bears, I am going to try it out! I can’t wait to tell Logan.

Sonic Cathedral:  <laughs> You need some bad-ass bear tee shirts. Back to the music after that odd digression … something that I enjoy about your songs are the nuanced, textured words you use in your lyrics. Are you a writer?

Lauren:  Hmmmm, I wouldn’t call myself that, but it has always been my strongest subject in school -- writing and English. But honestly, I didn’t think that was my strongest point in writing our album. I’m not great with words; I’m better with music. But I do really relate with the words, and it’s something that comes out of my heart, out of my soul. It is something I really feel, so it’s REAL.

Sonic Cathedral:  On the band’s Facebook page, the name Once Human is described as: “The fall of humanity and what we've become over time. Our morals and values have been corrupted by media and society. We are no longer one, constantly at war with each other and choose to be divided by factors such as wealth, race, religion and politics.”

Do you think society truly is devolving? Or is humanity basically the same, but we are more aware of shortcomings through social media?

Lauren:  I’ve always thought about that too. I wonder if it’s just in your face more because of social media. On the other hand, social media could be part of the problem. But to be honest, I prefer not to preach about things, and let our music speak for me. I vent about it there, and don’t feel the need to talk about it outside of that. The way the lyrics are written are meant to speak to someone in their own individual way.

One person can take them one way, and think it’s about one thing in particular, while another person can think it’s about something totally different. No one is right, or wrong. Like with “You Cunt” … Am I speaking about a particular person? A religious group? Or am I speaking about a part of myself? I know what the song means to me, and the meaning can actually change depending on the day I hear it. If it means something else to you, you are not wrong.

Sonic Cathedral:  Lauren, how long have you been in Los Angeles? If there is a soul-sucking spot on Earth that drains one’s faith in humanity, it would have to be LA.

Lauren:  I’ve been back in LA for a little over a year now. I met Logan just a couple of months after I got back. Mmmmhmmmm, it was super-quick. It was like I had a calling. I didn’t want to leave Sydney, but I did. I don’t know why I did -- I just packed up, and came here. For some reason, I just felt: “I need to be here. I don’t know why.” <laughs> I found out later on that [meeting Logan] was why.

 

 Once Human

 

Sonic Cathedral:  What was the biggest culture shock, in moving from Sydney to LA?

Lauren:  Definitely, the people. I find that, in general, the people in Australia are a lot more … this is talking specifically about LA, here … in Sydney, when people meet you, they don’t ask what you do, what you drive, or what you have. They aren’t trying to see what they can get from you. They’re just curious about who you are as a person. I feel like people around here are just looking to see what they can take from you.

<sighs> I find it really hard to connect with people and to make friends out here. Even when I was growing up here, before I left when I was a teen, I was a loner. I couldn’t make friends, I just felt judged all the time, like people didn’t really want anything to do with me because … I don’t know, maybe I was weird. I was a loner, I didn’t have the coolest clothes or want to fit in with the cool crew. I kind of had my own identity, and that wasn’t accepted. I think it’s just hard out here to really be accepted for who you are.

That being said, I did meet the love of my life out here. Not everyone is this way, but genuine people are hard to come by.

Sonic Cathedral:  I understand that feeling, Lauren. I fled Southern California the minute I was out of college and could run off to the other side of the country.

Lauren:  So you understand because you went through the same thing. It’s just plastic; it’s fake out here. If it wasn’t for Logan and for what’s going on, I would be back in Australia right now. I miss it so much. I don’t think all of America is like that. I think I’m really going to enjoy the South. I lived in Tennessee when I was kid, and I think the people there are a lot more like Australians -- down to earth, and they haven’t been corrupted by material possessions.

Sonic Cathedral:  If I saw you at a concert, and I had a jar of Nutella in my right hand, a jar of Vegemite in my left hand, and just ONE spoon, which jar are you going for?

Lauren:  I don’t need a SPOON for the Nutella … I’ll just stick my mouth in the jar. But I love Vegemite, and miss it sooooo much! I would probably say that it might depend on the day, but I would probably take the Vegemite. I used to eat that with a spoon. <laughs> You saw my photo, didn’t you? Did I post that on Facebook or something?

Sonic Cathedral:  You did, and I creeped your page, Lauren. <laughs>

Lauren: <still laughing> It’s just so good! I miss it.

Sonic Cathedral:  The only thing that Sonic Cathedral loves better than metal and Nutella is romance ...

Lauren:  Oh boy, I was wondering: “Who’s going to be the first one to ask?” No one has asked about this yet. <laughs>

Sonic Cathedral:  Woooo! You and Logan recently became engaged. Would you mind sharing your engagement story?

Lauren:  We knew from the first couple of months that this was it. I have never felt so connected to anyone! Okay, I know this is going to sound strange, but have you heard about people who say there is electricity … like a spark?

 

 Once Human

 

Sonic Cathedral:  Oh yes, definitely.

Lauren:  Well, I didn’t think that was real. I thought anyone who ever said that was mental as shit, or maybe they watched too many chick flicks. I was working with Logan, and we never really shook hands or anything. A couple of sessions in, I was done with the session and we were going to say goodbye, and we went in for a hug. It was the first time we actually made contact, and it was literally like lightning struck!

We both jumped back after the hug, and we couldn’t look each other in the eye. I just walked out like “okay, goodbye!” And he was like “okay, goodbye!” We didn’t talk about it until a little while later when I asked Logan: “Did you feel that?” And he said: “Yeah, I FELT that.” It was literally a spark. Ever since that lightning moment, we just knew: “This is it; this is the person I’m going to be with for the rest of my life.”

We went to the Wynn in Las Vegas. (We love Vegas; it’s always fun!) He took me to the Wynn hotel, which I’d never been to. I love the Wynn! They treat you like a princess, and there’s good food. I don’t gamble, but Logan likes to play a bit of poker. He is good at it, and I like to watch him play poker … well, I like spending time with him no matter what. The second or third time we went to Vegas, he took me out to a really nice dinner and then to the Bellagio. Do you know the water show?

Sonic Cathedral:  It’s splendid!

Lauren:  He proposed to me there. “You can be engaged to me now.” <laughs> He kind of just demanded it, and he gave me this beautiful ring. That was it. All my dreams have come true because of him. I did not believe in soul mates until I met Logan ... I know we were pre-destined to be together.

Sonic Cathedral:  Awwww, that’s so sweet (in an epically metal way, of course). In a little less than a month, Once Human are going to be hitting the road for a North American tour supporting Fear Factory.

Lauren:  I can’t believe it! I just can’t believe it.

Sonic Cathedral:  Is it daunting to have your first shows in big venues alongside a well-known band? A lot of bands get the chance to road test their live show in teensie clubs before starting a major tour.

Lauren:  I can get up there, and I know I can scream my head off. The reason why I’m not nervous is because I can take all the nervous energy that’s pent up, and just let it out on stage. But if I was playing guitar, this is where I think I would be FREAKING out because my hands shake when I’m nervous. <laughs> I think I’m more excited than anything. I am so thankful. We are still a baby band and have growing to do, and I think with Logan leading the way we will grow up fast. I hope I make him proud, that is what I am most nervous about!

Looking at my life from a couple years ago to where it is now, this is EVERYTHING that my soul has been hungry for. With the music video coming out that I wrote and directed and acted in, and I wrote the music with Logan, and the lyrics, I got to be an artist in all the ways that I dreamt about. It’s just clawing out of my veins at the moment. It’s going to be diving into the deep end, and it’s a bit scary, but I couldn’t ask for anything better right now. I am so excited, and I’m so happy! And it’s all because of Logan. He is GOD. <all laugh>

 

 Once Human

 

Sonic Cathedral:  Do you know when the new video will be out?

Lauren:  Oh yeah, the “You Cunt” video is coming out in the next week [the week of August 2nd]!

Sonic Cathedral:  You’ve done some of the visuals for Once Human, like the artwork for “The Life I Remember” lyric video. That must have been so much fun to combine your interests in visual arts and in music for the new video!

Lauren:  I was sooooo happy that I got to do everything. I mean, I didn’t make the lyric video. I did the artwork, but another guy did the actual lyric video. More than sitting down and doing artwork (which I love), I feel like my biggest strength is going to be in this writing and directing area. I want to get into doing more of that. I had so much fun … and also playing the roles in the video! I can’t wait for you to see it; I’m excited. <laughs> I can’t wait for the WORLD to see it.

Sonic Cathedral:  I sure am looking forward to seeing the new video! Lauren, with Once Human having checked off so many boxes in such a short period of time, where do you go from here?

Lauren:  Keep doing it! That’s all -- just keep doing it for the rest of my life. If I’m able to do this for the rest of my life with Logan, then I am a happy girl. I don’t need millions of dollars; I just need to be able to do this for the rest of my life. I feel so alive right now, and it’s something that I haven’t been able to do. When I wasn’t able to do it, it felt like a part of me was dead, and I wasn’t living. I want to keep directing our videos. It was so good for me, and I loved it so much! Of course, I also want to keep getting more and more brutal with the music, and keep writing albums, and to kill it live on stage.

 

Once Human 

 

Sonic Cathedral:  Lauren, thank you so much for talking with Sonic Cathedral tonight! We are looking forward to sharing The Life I Remember and your videos.

Lauren:  Thank you!

Many thanks to Amy Sciarretto of Atom Splitter PR for setting up the interview!

Photo credit (promo shots): Nathan Mader

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Once Human

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