Spencer Seim of Hella talks about the new album “Tripper”, sBACH, The Advantage, gear and more
Sound Colour Vibration interviews Spencer Seim of Hella
Conducted by Erik Otis
Summer of 2011
Photo above from Simon Weller
All other photos from Spencer Seim
Hella is a two-piece band that started out about a decade ago in Northern California. The two leaders (and members) of the group are drummer Zach Hill and guitarist Spencer Seim. Over the many obstacles and mutations that Hella has had, they have always achieved a heavy amount of power and spirituality. There is a time when a band rebirths a certain nostalgia to take precedence for their fellow fans and music lovers. Now is that time, and Hella is that band. – Pouya G. Asadi
SCV: Hella is a band of yours that has been around for over a decade and has seen an expansion in line up for the past few years. Zach and yourself decided to bring the band back to its roots with the two piece line up. On the new track you guys released called Headless, there is the same interaction that makes you guys so unique in my opinion. Did you guys record the album in a short window or did this project take awhile?
Spencer: Ha, well… both I guess. We wrote, recorded, and mixed Tripper in only 16 studio days but we did it in short 2 or 3 day sessions spaced a couple of months apart each.
SCV: The new Hella album coming out this year called Tripper is scheduled for a release in late August, are you really excited with the stripped down 2 piece format the group has again?
Spencer: This is my favorite Hella record. I think Zach and I played really well together on it and I like the new approach that we used. Each song was recorded the same day we wrote it. All the music was captured at its freshest point.
SCV: With you guys recording each song the day you wrote them, is there a lot of layers added to each piece or is it mostly single takes with little to no added parts?
Spencer: 95% of the album is just one guitar track, one bass track and one drum track. On Headless I doubled the guitar part and on a section near the end of the song I actually played a harmonized lead for a second.
SCV: Where do you plan to go for the touring of this album?
Spencer: We are not too sure exactly how we want to tour this record yet. I personally would like to try and play a bunch of the countries that we have not hit yet.
SCV: Where would you love to tour that you have not yet?
Spencer: Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Mexico, Ireland and Scotland.
SCV: With you guys going through Sargent House, we will see a vinyl version of your latest full length. Does it mean a lot for Zach and yourself to have the album pressed on vinyl?
Spencer: Yes there will be vinyl for this new album. It is very important for us to have vinyl. The tripper vinyl will be the released with different art work. Stoked!
SCV: How did you guys select the name Tripper?
Spencer: Old Zachy suggested the name tripper. It fits the music nicely.
SCV: You released Elf Titled with The Advantage in 2006, do you see the group releasing more material in the future?
Spencer: Yes. The Advantage is set to release a huge batch of B sides on August 18th. It will be available on iTunes and other online stores.
SCV: You have two custom guitars made for you from Scott French, the SF3 and SF0SS models. What type of sound do these guitars give you?
Spencer: The 2 guitars I play the most are my Scott French SF3 and my Series 10 Telecaster Copy. The Scott French is a humbucker Guitar with very low action and a very fast neck. The Series 10 guitar is a single coil guitar with higher action that is great for really banging on and tapping.
SCV: Are you using any different guitars for your newest recordings with Hella and other projects you have going?
Spencer: Nope. I have had the same Telicaster Copy and Mesa Boogie MK III amplifier since I was 17. I only go to music stores for strings, sticks and drum heads. I’m not a gear nerd because I have exactly what I want.
SCV: You released your first record under the name sBACH in 2008 with the Suicide Squeeze imprint. How did you pick the name and will you be releasing more music under it?
Spencer: sBach is just a combination between the classical composer and the star trek character. I guess the image of that is what the music sounded like to me. I’m sure I’ll be releasing more sBACH records in the future when I have more time.
SCV: Having recorded all of the instruments on the recording “sBACH” in the same vein as Chirpin’ Hard, what type of process did you take for creating the compositions that made the final cut and where did the recordings take place?
Spencer: I recorded the sBACH record in a 2000 square foot commercial space that I rented out as a studio/ nerd zone. A lot of the songs started with composition that I wrote on Impulse Tracker which is an early ninety’s dos based tracker/sequencer. Some of the others started with either a guitar part or a drum part.
SCV: I really loved that your group Hella released the DVD Concentration Face as a double set album that contained the EP Homeboy. The film is sourced from Japan and to me shows a unique window of Hella inside a beautiful and colorful culture not many people from the Western world are able to enjoy, do you see the group doing more film releases like this?
Spencer: It’s very possible. We have a lot of footage laying around that I’m sure will get edited together at some point in the future.
SCV: There is a lot of synchronicity in the way that you and Zach Hill connect on your respective instruments. Very intense interlocking states of energy that turn at the oddest moments. How would you describe Zach Hill’s drum sound and do you conceptualize in any mental way your guitars relationship with the direction of his drumming?
Spencer: It’s hard to really specifically conceptualize music if you don’t really know anything about music theory. Zach and I are self taught musicians and rely more on energy, feeling and intuition than anything else. We have been playing together since we were kids so when we get in a room together and start playing, it all comes together very naturally and we don’t stop until we have the music exactly how we want it.
SCV: Thanks for your time Spencer.
Tripper from Hella will be out online and in stores everywhere August 30th, 2011. Pre-sale orders with bonus shirt have already shipped. Sargent House is one of our favorite labels and we are really excited Hella is releasing records with them now. Don’t miss out on Tripper, one of the best albums of the year.