Haast Hunter talk creative process and inspiration “it is what it is”

Ever wondered where the rock revolution begins? It might just be in the hands of babysitters armed with cassette tapes.

Straight out of Hamilton, New Zealand, Haast Hunter is ready to make your eardrums beg for mercy. Comprising the fiery James Harper on vocals and guitar, rhythmic wizard Richard Oranje on drums, and groove guru Chris Gudsell on bass, they’re a trifecta set to shatter musical norms.

Their latest earworm, “Sunshine,” isn’t just your run-of-the-mill tune. It’s a roaring anthem with more attitude than your grumpy neighbour’s cat. With intense riffs and lyrics that tackle mental health, it’s a sonic smackdown that’s impossible to ignore.

Haast Hunter

After seven years of rock ‘n’ roll mischief, and their debut album lurking in the shadows, these Kiwi rebels promise to redefine what rock means to you. Haast Hunter is the “no rules” sign you’ve been waiting for on the musical highway. Join us we delve into all things Haast Hunter with frontman James Harper.

Happy: Tell us about your ultimate day?

Haast Hunter: Right now, its looking forward to Friday! Friday we are back in the Lab doing what we love. Recording music. Working towards our debut album.

With four singles out and a further four songs completed. We have another four to five songs to record before we make our final decisions on what will make the cut or not! Its such an exciting process that I am quickly falling in love with. 

Happy: What did you listen to growing up that fuelled your passion for music?

Haast Hunter: I think I was 9? Something close to that. My babysitter asked “ever heard of Metallica?” I was like “what even is that word?” he lent me “ride the lightening” on cassette tape. I couldn’t give it back to him cause I played the crap out of it and ruined the tape. That was the start of it. 

Happy: “Sunshine” is a powerful song that sheds light on mental health. What inspired the band to tackle this important topic in their music, and what message do you hope listeners take away from the song?

Haast Hunter: As I learn and evolve as a lyricist, I’m quickly realising I tend to write songs that capture a brief moment in time. A snapshot into how I am feeling in a certain moment. A way or processing things maybe?

Yea I think so. This particular song focus’s on that middle ground, that space in between the dark hole and coming out the other end “ok”. Its that brief moment where you can see what needs to be done to get to the point in life where you want to be.

But not sure on how to get there, or even if you want to get there (because you a starting to take comfort in limbo). Its not the first song that tackles this subject and certainly wont be the last. 

Happy: Hamilton, New Zealand, is the birthplace of Haast Hunter. How has the city’s culture and environment influenced the band’s music and artistic vision?

Haast Hunter: I think we draw inspiration from our day to day interactions and experiences. We all grew up in Hamilton and have a very individual intimate relationship with the streets and landmarks of Hamilton. Where this creeps into our sound, I don’t know. If it does, its not intentional. 

Happy: As a trio, each member brings a unique element to Haast Hunter’s sound. How do you collaborate and combine your individual strengths to create your distinctive hard rock sound?

Haast Hunter: Keeping each other in check and staying in our own respective lanes to a certain extent is our formula. I don’t speak drum speak, I know Rich (Drums) will pick up what I’m putting down and run with it.

I know Chris (Bass) knows when to sit in the pocket and when to back off. It’s a blend of respecting each others strengths and also a little push from me in terms of setting the overall tone and feel for a song. Then we just let the rest take care of itself. 

Haast Hunter

Happy: “Sunshine” marks the band’s fourth single release. Can you tell us about the evolution of your music from your earlier releases to this latest track, and how your sound has matured over time?

Haast Hunter: Funny thing being, “Sunshine” is the first song we wrote as a group. I put the song together fairly quickly, even started the lyrics and melody with the intention of someone else singing. When our first vocalist left, the track got put on ice for a little. It took me awhile to get to the place I wanted to be as a vocalist to give the song the love it deserved. 

Happy: The songwriting process can be deeply personal. Could you share some insights into how the band crafts songs together, and how you manage to balance personal experiences with universal themes that resonate with your audience?

Haast Hunter: I would like to think with me being so new to the lyric writing side of things that our point of difference is how accessible the music is. The lyrics are not overly complicated, they are very real and honest.

Because that’s who I am and who we are as a group. We have a great chemistry when it comes to just letting things be what they want to be. Still challenging ourselves in the jam room, but not forcing things. Taking ideas, nurturing them and letting them take their own form. 

Happy: Your music is described as a blend of Soundgarden’s swagger, mid-90s Metallica crunch, and TOOL-like progressiveness. How do you maintain a unique identity while drawing inspiration from these iconic bands?

Haast Hunter: It is certainly not by design. I am very much a “it is what it is” type of guy. Inside the Jam room and outside in my normal day to day life. All we are is a collective of life’s experiences and influences.

Its funny reading the comparisons from listeners, I like it. It makes sense. The three of us a really good at checking ourselves. “does this sound too much like this?” Yes, no? if it does, you take a little away, a less is more approach. Then rebuild from there. Its working so far. With all that being said, we write and play what makes us feel happy. It is what it is.  

Happy: Haast Hunter has been honing its craft for seven years. How has the band evolved during this time, and what challenges and triumphs have you faced along the way?

Haast Hunter: Rich and I are the OGs that started this thing, we have had (at least) six or so other bassists, two, three vocalists? I struggle to remember. With every member that came and went, we evolved in different ways, each interaction would add a little flavour we didn’t have previous.

Some of it stayed, some of it didn’t. Finally, we came to the point where I had to make the call “the less people we have to rely on, the better” – so I became the vocalist by default. Something I quickly emersed myself in.   

Happy: Collaborating with renowned engineer Olly Harmer at Lab Studios must have been an exciting experience. How did this collaboration impact the recording process, and what did you learn from working with such a seasoned professional?

Haast Hunter: I don’t have a lot of experience working with engineers/ studios etc. “the Lab” is (I think) the fourth studio I have been to. Olly is without a doubt a guru, and true wizard of his craft. He is leagues above anyone else I have worked with in a studio.

I feel we get on well and can appreciate each other’s strengths. He quickly dialled into what I was wanting out of recordings in terms of overall feel and tone. Honestly as I write this, I can’t imagine working with anyone else. He just gets us. 

Happy: With a forthcoming debut album on the horizon, what can fans expect from Haast Hunter in terms of themes, musical exploration, and the overall experience of the album?

Haast Hunter: I am very new to the lyric writing thing, still finding myself on this journey. I gravitate towards writing about my experiences in life, like most lyricists, I guess. I’m generally a happy “go lucky” positive guy. I

use writing music as a conduit to channel any negative experiences that I have come across over the years (losing friends to mental health battles, losing family etc.)

Happy: Lastly, what makes you happy?

Haast Hunter: Helping people, seeing them grow in their own journey. All life is, is a collection of moments. Knowing maybe I had some form of positive influence in their lives is everything to me. It would be very fulfilling to know If I am part of a moment that leaves an everlasting imprint on them.