Monday, January 16, 2012

Driving Force: Zack Hansen (North)

by Walter Kovacs

In this installment of Driving Force, we talk with Zack Hansen.

Zack is the drummer for the band North. North is a band who has a sound that is difficult to categorize. It might be said that the roots of their music lays somewhere in-between the atmospheric heaviness of bands like Explosions In The Sky and the metallic discord of A Storm of Light. They are a devastatingly brilliant band that has released three albums since their inception in 2005.

Their last recording, 2008’s What You Were was met with great acclaim. It was even included in Decibel Magazine's top 40 albums of the year for 2008.

They have just wrapped up their latest studio sessions, and are preparing for a release of a new album and tour in the spring/summer of 2012. Their new album will be titled “The Great Silence”. It was recorded by Dana Fehr in Tucson, Arizona.


Here is a video of them performing a new song, from the forthcoming album, entitled "Sentience". It was recorded August 26, 2011 at Plush, in Tucson, Arizona.

For a downloadable demo version of this song, click here.

Zack, what would you say gives you inspiration when you were writing music for these newest songs?

For me really anything can. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels. When you are playing heavy music sometimes the worlds of these novels just take you away. I feel like real life is a detraction from the music, so is the monotony and dullness of a 9-5 job, especially if that's what you are stuck doing during the writing process. You really need the music and these harsh, brutal, magnificent worlds to take you away. A lot of good music that doesn't resemble what you are trying to do is also awesome. Just the complete opposite sound can give you such a creative and inspirational buzz.

Are there any films or books that have proved to be a recurring influence the way that you look at your art?

Personally, I love the “Lord of the Rings”, and the “A Song Of Ice and Fire” novels and anything by Isaac Asimov. Really, there are too many writers to name. I have a love of films and HBO series as well, anything that can make you think really in any sense. The Tree of Life was a big one this year, in terms of how I really looked at any art form, it was so fluid and I watched it unravel like an amazing album or a painting progressively getting more and more real. Battlestar Galactica, A Game Of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire on HBO. The rawness of these series and the way you lose yourselves in their worlds really is such a boon when you have tones and notes flying through your ears.

Are there any habits you or your band mates indulge in when writing music?

I like coffee before a practice session. The other guys indulge in more traditional music stimulants before and during practice. Other then that we don't really do anything out of the norm.

Have you ever written music while on tour? If so, how did you arrange songs while being away from your studio and in a different environment?

Never. In our case it just wouldn't work, the drives are long, the shows are exhausting, the music has to be loud while we practice. Things don't get written on an acoustic guitar for us. We like our rest on tour. When you haven't showered in two weeks and you just drove 9 hours through the Midwest you don't have a lot of inspiration. I imagine if you had a bus and someone else driving and doing all the hard stuff for you we could get things done but that won't happen anytime in the near future, nor would we want it to probably.

What sort of influence does the music and writings of your peers influence what you create?

In some ways they are the biggest influence. When you are on tour with an amazing band just watching their process and their live show changes everything. The drummers I respect most are the ones I tour with. Then when you hear their new record you just can't help but be blown away, almost like "I can't believe I've toured with musicians of this caliber."

How long have you been into music? What are your earliest memories of hearing something that really moved you? Were your parents musicians? What albums changed your outlook about what music could be?

Oh wow, this is a heavy question. I have an older sister and grew up in the 90’s so I heard a lot of the pop music as opposed to anything heavier at the time. My first definitive music favorites were probably Tupac and Biggie in the 3rd grade right around the time they died. It's weird to say but 90's hip-hop made me love music. A lot of Tupac's more socially conscious tunes made their way into my thinking and realizing music could be deeper than I had previously known. My parents were not musicians but they absolutely encouraged me. Obviously drums are an expensive instrument and they paid a lot for what they thought might have been a passing hobby, and it's now going on 12 years. So I am so thankful to them individually, especially my Mom, for putting up with the noise.

I was heavily influenced by the Rx Bandits record's “Progress and The Resignation” in high school, along with Poison The Well and Shai Hulud’s earlier records, in terms of definitive heavy music that really got me into what heavy music could aspire to. Explosions In The Sky’s “The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place”, and Mogwai's “Come On Die Young”, along with Pelican's “Australasia” and Sigur Ros's ( ) opened me up to a whole new world. North wouldn't be a band if it weren't for those bands and those records. Rosetta's “The Gallilean Satellites” inspired me to really know what music was capable of doing, and nowadays a lot of ambient/neoclassical composers like the guys from Stars of the Lid and Eluvium/Matthew Cooper are giving me more sounds to invest heavily in.

Thanks for the interview Zack! Let us never take for granted, the infinite ways that music can inspire, transport and transform us all.

Check out North’s back catalogue at

For more info, please explore:

Be sue to catch NORTH on tour this year!

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