haarp’s Keith Sierra, Jr.: The Gun Shy Interview

Keith Sierra, Jr.

Last week, New Orleans dirgesmiths haarp released an awesome, doom-laden new record called Husks. The three-track follow-up to the band’s exceptional 2010 debut full-length The Filth is perhaps one of the most overwhelming and most infectious metal records of 2012.

Gun Shy Assassin caught up with haarp drummer Keith Sierra, Jr. last week, one day after Husks hit stores, and we spoke about the new disc, people who don’t get doom, his boss (and bud) Phil Anselmo, and why haarp’s just a plain old metal band.

Keith says he’s “glad to have the record finally out after all the work we put into it. Hopefully, people check it out and like it.”

They should, because I think they will. It’s three songs. They’re slow, punishing, and eargasmic. But not everyone gets it. I had to ask Keith if he’s ever been interviewed by a non-believer…if he’d ever been asked, for example, why his band’s music’s so sad?

“We’ve had a few interviews where it was pretty obvious someone got stuck doing it and didn’t really care for it, or really didn’t know what was involved,” Keith tells GSA. “They ask stock questions and you just give stock answers back, and let it be, man.”

To me, haarp’s music is ultimately very progressive, both in its design and execution. Keith’s fine just calling haarp a metal band.

“I listen to all different kinds of heavy music, and I hear people say things like ‘sludge can be boring.’ It all depends on how you approach it,” he begins.

“If you are only going to play one riff over 10 minutes and develop that riff and build it and build it and build it, and come to a climax and then drop back off, well, that’s one thing we try to shy away from,” Keith says. “We action-pack the songs if you will. We have so many influences from over the years, when people call us sludge…I don’t know if that’s the best term to use to describe us. We’re just heavy metal.

“I’m not a death metal drummer or a doom drummer — I play heavy metal drums and add my style to the riffs that the guys come up with,” Keith continues. I just let him go.

“Our influences are very varied and very plentiful — we don’t write one-riff or two-riff songs,” he says. “I’m a very big fan of progressive music and have been for a long time. I like odd time signatures and drummers who don’t feel like they need to play the same beat for a part over and over. But…man, it’s just metal.”

Fair enough. I, too, think we should cast off all these bloody tags and abandon the whole subgenrefication of the whole fucking scene. Yes, I just made that word up.

So, Keith — what’s it like to work for a living legend…for the one, the only Phil Anselmo?

“He’s alright,” the drummer quips; I should mention that haarp are signed to Phil’s Housecore Records. “I’m friends with him and it is neat to work with him. Of course, anybody whose really liked heavy metal over the years, whether you’ll admit it or not, Pantera was a huge band and he’s known. But in all reality, he’s my friend, and it is cool to just sit down with him and just talk — have a beer, barbecue with him. As a boss, he trusts us.”

Of course, being from New Orleans, I figured Keith could confirm all these national reports that his beloved city’s still in shambles.

“New Orleans is a big area,” says Keith. “I live on the outskirts in St. Bernard Parish. You see national reports about the Ninth Ward and certain specific areas, and really, they were trash to begin with. That’s why they aren’t rebuilt — the community [around these areas] doesn’t put the time and effort into rebuilding. Some parts weren’t very good to start with, and those places are still down. Most of the city is rebuilt, though. Most people I know down here, the businesses…they’ve all come back and they’re doing good.”

But what about when all those out-of-towners invade and then puke all over your town during Mardi Gras? That’s gotta be annoying, right?

“I don’t mind Mardi Gras,” Keith admitted. “If you live here, and have to deal with it with work and everything, you get used to it. Personally, I like to grab a few drinks and have fun. It’s really a sight to see.”

haarp are now on tour with Down, Keith says, and are planning some “deep South dates” at this very moment. More touring will also go down early next year.

Oh, and haarp’s already been writing.

“We’ve got another song written for a seven-inch or a split seven-inch for late this year,” Keith says. “And we’re halfway through another new song.”

Rad.

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About Chris Harris

Chris Harris is an internationally-published music journalist and writer whose work has appeared on the pages of Rolling Stone, IFC, Revolver, Alternative Press, and Radar. The former news editor for Noisecreep, Harris also served as co-host for the site’s weekly podcast, “Creep Show." Before that, he spent four years writing for MTV News.