Will Haven - 05/10/2007

In 1995, Will Haven, named after a fictional, self-created character, formed and released a six-track demo. The band was formed from members of Sock, a band that was formed with Shaun Lopez of Far. Will Haven's debut self-titled, seven-track EP was released in 1996, to positive reviews. 1997 saw the release of full-length ‘El Diablo’ bringing them increasing attention and a growing fanbase. In 1999, they released ‘WHVN’, arguably their heaviest album to date.  In 2001, the band released the critically-acclaimed album ‘Carpe Diem’, which saw a world-tour promotion, headlining shows in the US, UK, and Japan, and playing the Vans Warped Tour in Australia.


Singer Grady Avenell left not long after the tour. Haven released a DVD called ‘Foreign Films’ featuring their last ever show in January 2002 - in a small coffeehouse in their hometown of Sacramento, called The Capitol Garage - and a wealth of footage from the final tour. Members of the band went on to form Ghostride (with members of Tinfed and Oddman), The Abominable Iron Sloth, and Death Valley High, as well as their own label, Distruktor Records.


On October 12, 2005, Will Haven officially regrouped and began writing new songs with original singer Grady. They initially planned to release a five-song EP with B-sides; however, during the writing process, the band decided to put out a full-length album. As of August 2006, Will Haven has signed a record deal with indie label Bieler Bros. Records. On February 19th 2007 Will Haven played a free show at the Troubador in Los Angeles, where they announced that Grady Avenell had left the band and been replaced by longtime friend Jeff Jaworski. The band released the album ‘The Hierophant’ on June 18th 2007 (UK) and June 19th 2007 in the US.



Recently I had the chance to ask Jeff Irwin, guitarist of Will Haven some questions, so here we go!!!

I’m not that familiar with your band and music, so can you tell us what happened after you reformed Will Haven in 2005.

After a few phone calls we talked about doing a show here in Sacramento in January 2005. Soon after that show, we started writing for a new record. In the middle of that, we were getting offers to tour so we went over to the UK and did a two week tour with Crowbar. Then, we came home and started looking at labels for the new record. We found a home at Bieler Bros. and started writing ‘The Hierophant’. That took about 4 months. Then, it was in the studio to record, which takes us up to now.


Between ´Carpe Diem´ and ´The Hierophant´ there is a 6-year gap. Did this break influence your style or did you actually need this break because you changed your style?

Well, when Will Haven took its hiatus, we started a few side projects such as Ghostride and The Abominable Iron Sloth. We recorded a record and toured for both of those bands. So, we were pretty active. When Will Haven got back to writing it was really easy because we had been experimenting with new sounds and styles. So, to make this record, I think we needed that break to go experiment and become better songwriters.


In 2006 vocalist Grady Avenell and guitarist Cayle Hunter left the band, did the lineup changes result in a different style of songwriting or a new direction for the band?

No, neither of their departures had any effect on our sound. I have been the main songwriter for Will Haven since we started. Band members may come and go, but the sound will always be my initial idea. Grady definitely had a voice that can’t be matched, but the music will always be the same.


How did you launch into writing the material for ´The Hierophant´, after your previous album, did ideas come easily or was it more of a careful composing thing?

Well, for me, I am always willing to push the envelope, but want to keep that Will Haven signature sound. Sometimes it comes really easy and other times I will go weeks without finding something I like. The most important thing to me is sounding original in some way. That’s why the riffs have to have some kind of emotion to them; feeling is big part of my writing process, if it doesn’t feel right then I wont keep it, if it moves me in some way then I will keep working on it until I am happy with it. Trying to create something different and original is hard, but the pay off at the end is priceless. I love that feeling of accomplishment, but on the other hand, I am never fully happy and always want to make something better. That’s what drives me.


Did you have a certain idea of what you wanted to do on ´The Hierophant´, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?

Yeah, I had a lot of ideas for this record, I think we could have gone crazy with the ideas we had. We had to be careful though, because being away for 6 years and getting a new vocalist we had to make sure that we didn’t do too many things out of the normal. So, we did have to tone it down a bit to make sure our fans knew we were still Will Haven. I think ‘The Hierophant’ is the perfect mix of new ideas and the old Will Haven sound. I know on the next record we won’t be holding anything back. We have already started working on ideas for the next record and it’s going to be insane.



Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?

Yeah, we have a sound we were looking for and it comes across a little bit on this record. Like I said, we did have to hold back a bit. The stuff we didn’t do on this record just opens up doors for the next record. We always want to make something original and something that will hopefully be timeless. That’s why I love this band; we all have a drive to create something different and groundbreaking, not worried about anything else but our art.


How do you manage to come to one musical agreement when you work on a new record?

We are all on the same page, we all have our input when we write and some of us like to interject there own influences, but at the same time we all have the same goal, to make the most original record we can make, therefore, there are no egos in this band. It’s so nice to write with Will Haven; there is no arguing, no battles, just everyone knows what they have to do to make the song sound good. We are a lucky band to have that, to be on the same page is a rare thing in most bands.


Was this a natural thing?

We have been a band for 15 years now so we know what our “signature” sound is. When we write it’s really natural and easy. The hard part is adding more things to it to push the envelope. Most bands are happy with there sound and stick to it, we know we would hate putting out the same record over and over again, so to us, if the following record isn’t a progression, then its time to call it a day.


Have you taken into account your old school fans when you wrote your new album?

Yeah definitely, that’s why we had to tone it down a bit. Our fans are so awesome, we have put out 4 really different records and the true fans have found something in all of them to love. So when you write a record, you have to think a little bit about your core fans and don’t want to just leave them in the dust. We know our fans love the wall of sound, the riffs, and the emotion so we always keep that in our music. As we grow, so do our fans. So, I think anything we put out our fans will get. With this record, we wanted to show everyone we are still the same Will Haven and haven’t lost that edge.


How hard was it to come up with a follow-up after all these years?

It was really easy, ever since we took that break in ’02, we were itching to write another Will Haven record. So, we were really happy to work on these songs. Most of it came really fast then later on when we started coming up with more ideas and started thinking about pushing the envelope even more, but we had to stop ourselves and get back to our roots and just concentrate on putting out a strong Will Haven record, which I think we did and we are happy with the way it came out.


What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘The Hierophant'?

Making a good record is always our goal, but this one was a little more important being that we have been gone for so long and to come back with a new singer. So, the pressure was on but knew we could make a really good record, but that is always our goal. Every time we start writing a record, to make the best record we can.


Who was responsible for writing the songs and the lyrics on the new album?

The music was written by Mitch, Mike and I. I usually write most of the songs and record them at home, then take them to Mitch and Mike and they put their ideas into it. It works really well that way and we are more productive then just jamming. Some songs I wrote the whole thing at home and we just kept it the way I initially wrote it. For some of the songs on this record, Grady wrote the lyrics being that they were older songs, but Jeff did most all of the lyrics. We have been pretty lucky, Grady and Jeff both can write amazing lyrics.


What kind of things did you do differently since you previous album ‘Carpe Diem’ and did you worked different this time?

We didn’t do too much really; we have grown as musicians so most of it came naturally. I think for this record we were looking to get a bigger sound than ‘Carpe Diem’, such as adding more second guitar parts and keyboards, but that was really it. When we went into the studio, we were looking to try new ideas as well, which we were able to do. So nothing is really different about this record, just more experimentation.


How did the recording process proceed and how much time did you spend in the studio?

Well, we recorded at 3 different studios for this record. We started in Los Angeles at Shaun Lopez’s house. That was a lot of fun because Chino was there for most of those sessions helping arrange songs and ideas. We spent about one week down there then it was back to Sacramento to record the rest of the record. We put in some late, late nights and had to move to a different studio after a few weeks. So, we spent about 3 weeks in the studio and traveled over 700 miles to finish it. We had an awesome time in the studio for this record. It was a lot of fun.


In song writing, what is according to Will Haven the utmost important ingredient for a song?

Emotion. The song has to be full of emotion. If it’s heartless, then it is fake. You will always hear a lot of emotion in our songs and that is by far the utmost important thing for us.


What would you say are the main themes in your lyrics and how important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

The lyrics are important to our sound. Our sound is filled with pain, aggression, death, and happiness. So, the lyrics have to embody that. I know Jeff and Grady both wrote lyrics that dealt with their personal lives; some people might relate to it and others may not, but both of their lyrics are filled with personal emotions. Lyrics are an important piece to the overall sound though.


Had all the lyrics already been written before you entered the studio, or were many changes made during the recording sessions and can you tell us something about them?

Well, Grady used to have the lyrics already written before the music. He would keep a journal of his everyday life and incorporate them into his lyrics. As for Jeff, he likes to hear the music first then gauge the emotion of the song and write accordingly to the felling he gets from the song itself. So, Jeff wrote a lot of lyrics while we were in the studio recording the record. He didn’t have much time since he joined the band after we had already started recording, but he did an amazing job.


Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘The Hierophant’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?

We wanted something spiritual for this record, but we didn’t want to be religious. I am really into ‘day of the dead’ type stuff and wanted to create the alter you see on the cover to incorporate that. As for ‘The Hierophant’, that is a tarot card, which means wise teacher. We felt that everything that card embodied was what this record was about. So we combined the idea of spirituality and tarot and came up with the title and the artwork for the record. We have some twisted minds in this band, but that’s what makes us what we are.


Do you have any favorites on ‘The Hierophant’, songs that you think are somehow above the others and what about the CD are you most proud of?

Yeah I have a lot of favorite songs on this record. I love “Kings Cross”, “Firedealer”, “Day Without Speaking”, but I think my favorite is “Caviar With Maths”. I wrote that whole song in my house and when I brought it to practice everyone said its perfect we don’t need to change one thing. So, to me, that is my favorite song because it has so much emotion in the sound, the lyrics and the ending is strong. It’s also a lot of fun to play live as well. I am really proud of this CD. With Grady leaving and the time we had on this record, we put out an amazing record. I think it’s definitely up there on one of the best things I have done in life.


Have you received any feedback on the new album yet? How do you feel about this album – are you satisfied with the outcome or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?

The feedback has been awesome. The reviews have been amazing from all the magazines and the fans have been very supportive. I am very happy with the way it all came together especially with Grady leaving. I don’t think we could have made a better record unless we spent 3 years on it. So, I think we came back strong and showed everyone that we can endure anything thrown our way. I wouldn’t change one thing on this record.


What is your opinion on the heavy metal scene these days, is there anything missing?

I think it’s really lame. I have been so disappointed with the heavy scene in the past 5 years. It is so watered down now. I used to love putting on Pantera or Sepultura and having that adrenaline run through my body. Those bands had so much rage and emotion you could just feel it through the speakers. Now you have a handful of bands that can pull that off, it’s so sad. Thank god for bands like Deftones and Neurosis who still know how to create heavy music with passion and emotion.


Which album has been your biggest musical influence, one that made you think “this is what I want to do!”?

All of Neurosis. When I first heard that band was ’Word Is Law’, but then when I got ‘Souls Of Zero’ I was like “this is the perfect band”. I mean I have a lot of other influences like Bad Brains, Mr. Bungle, stuff like that, but the dark, emotional power of Neurosis cannot be matched, they are the darkest most evil band to ever make music, and I absolutely love it.


Okay, if you could choose three bands to get on stage with, who would they be?

Bad Brains

Pink Floyd



That would be a good show!


What can we expect from Will Haven in the future, any touring plans for Europe?

Yeah we are touring the UK in November then coming back to the US to do some things here. Then, hopefully, back to Europe soon after that. We want to tour on this record as much as we can, this album is a lot of fun to play live so we don’t want to waste that.


Is here anything you’d still like to share with us?

I would love to thank everyone who has supported us and kept the name alive. Its really hard for a band to survive as long as we have and still be able to put out records and play live. So, to the fans thank you, to the press thank you, and to everyone who has helped us thank you. It has been a lot of fun and we appreciate everything we have been able to do as a band, but we are not done yet, we still have a lot of music to create and share with the world.

Peace and much respect!




Jeff Jaworski – Vocals

Jeff Irwin – Guitar

Mike Martin – Bass

Mitch Wheeler – Drums


Former members:

Grady Avenell – Vocals (1995-2006)

Cayle Hunter – Guitar (2005-2006)

Wayne Morse – Drums (1995-2000)

Dave Hulse – Drums (2000-2001)

Chris Robeyn – Drums (2000)



El Diablo (1997)

WHVN (1999)

Carpe Diem (2001)

The Hierophant (2007)



Will Haven Demo (1995)

Will Haven EP (1996)

The Best Song On Here (Demo) (2000)

Will Haven EP (Remastered) (2003)