-- Hitherside gets shredded! --
Interview written and conducted by Stijn “Metal Shredder” Daneels.
In late 2019 I was contacted by the Belgian/American alternative metal band Hitherside via social media and soon thereafter our friends at Hard Life Promotion sent us a digital download for Hitherside’s second album “Blue Lotus.” (read the review: http://belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/179). And during a cold Saturday night at the Crossover Music Pub in Ghent (March 7, 2020) I finally had the chance to check out Hitherside live on stage and get them shredded!
So before they commenced their gig, I got together with Jennifer, Sam and their two session musicians Jeff and Steve to talk about the band’s origins, their creative sense of duality, Jennifer’s successful efforts to learn Dutch and their collaboration with Megadeth’s Dirk Verbeuren (and their time backstage with Megadeth in Germany).
BMS: Hello Hitherside! It’s good to finally meet you in person! Tell me, how did Hitherside begin?
Sam: I’ve been a multi-instrumentalist for years and have played in several bands in the past. Jennifer and I have been good friends for a long time. In the beginning we only did covers of such rock and pop acts like the Alanis Morissette, Shinedown, Pat Benetar and Rhianna, we recorded those covers on video and put them on the internet.
Jennifer: Yeah, but Sam and I both wanted to transition to original material, especially since we wanted to play live on stage. And after some lineup changes in the rhythm department we’re now very happy to have Jeff and Steve as our bassist and drummer respectively.
BMS: I’ll talk with them in a minute but first, Sam, you’re a multi-instrumentalist and I saw you did most of the sound check yourself (except for the vocals, which Jennifer did).
Sam: Yeah, I’ve been an active musician for 20 years now, but my main instrument is regular guitar, with bass being my second and drums my third. During live gigs I indeed do the majority of the sound check so that Jeff and Steve here can join right in!
BMS: And now Jeff and Steve can finally join the shred! Tell me, how did you guys become part of Hitherside’s live lineup?
Jeff: One day I recorded a bass playthrough for a band I’m friends with and that video came to Jennifer’s attention and so she asked me to play along with her and Sam. Steve and I have been playing together in other bands as well, such as Cinnamon Blindspot.
Steve: Indeed. In addition, I’ve been a friend of Sam for over 10 years back when we played together in his band Throwing Sixes. After that act disbanded Sam and I had been keeping in touch with each other and 3 years ago he and Jennifer asked me to stand-in for their drummer at the time and after a couple successful gigs I’ve become Hitherside’s permanent live drummer.
BMS: Great! Now if I have to describe Hitherside’s sound in one word, it’s duality! It has a gentle, vulnerable element on the surface but there’s also a darker, more aggressive undertone underneath it, especially within the lyrics of such songs like “Lovely Day to Kill.” At first sight, it’s an upbeat song but the lyrics tell the story of a woman poisoning her abusive husband.
Sam: Indeed. And this mixture of joyful pop rock and brooding heavy metal has turned quite a few heads towards our sound, sometimes positive, sometimes negative. But the truth is that we all enjoy writing this varied style of rock music and performing it live on stage.
Jennifer: Yeah, we also have a huge DIY mentality. All of the material on our latest album, “Blue Lotus” was written by
both Sam and me over the course of three to four years and we recorded it all by ourselves.
BMS: You did get some drum assistance from Dirk Verbeuren, our Belgian Megadeth drummer. How did you get in touch with him?
Sam: Quite simple really, Dirk’s my cousin!
BMS: Keeping it in the family! Sweet!
Sam: Yeah, he visited us during the “Blue Lotus” recording sessions and offered to drum a track for us (which became the song “Get It Back”). Recently we went to see him perform with Megadeth in Germany and we were invited into the backstage area. Quite an impressive operation, they had 2 full trucks of equipment and a bus with the band and their 13-man crew.
BMS: Going backstage with Megadeth? Now that’s something that makes most thrashers (me included) quite jealous. Did you also meet Dave Mustaine?
Sam: Yeah, while we were having lunch with the Megadeth crew he sat down right next to us. He’s a friendly guy, overall, but he’s also one hell of a perfectionist and he’s sure to let his displeasures known if things don’t go as planned.
BMS: That’s understandable. After all, you don’t get to become one of the Big 4 if you leave things up to chance. Now back to Hitherside matters, what are your future plans?
Jennifer: We’re writing new material which will be more progressive and heavier compared to the songs we’ve had on the “Blue Lotus” album.
BMS: I’m curious to see how that’ll evolve. So, what other things do you have in life aside from Hitherside?
Jennifer: I’m a passionate tailor and makeup artist and I love gardening. I have a nest of chickens and I call them the Hitherside Hens. They lay delicious eggs, perfect for breakfast!
Sam: Aside from my many musical endeavors I make a living in the telecom business and I fly drones.
Steve: I also play drums in such acts like 10 Rogue, Cinnamon Blindspot, the Queen tribute band Magnifico, my own solo-project Shrine of August and many others. And aside from all that musicianship I also have a lovely wife and daughter.
Jeff: Like Steve said earlier, I’m his bass-mate in Cinnamon Blindspot and I’ve got my own studio wherein I do a lot of songwriting, particularly post-metal.
BMS: Then be sure to get in touch with my neighbors called Dunk!Records!
Jeff: Yeah! I love those guys!
BMS: So do I! So, Jennifer, I must say that your Dutch is pretty damn good (the interview was originally conducted in Dutch) and your American accent gives it a special charm. I especially love the way you pronounce your AAAs, very AAAmerican.
Jennifer: Thanks! I’m multilingual and I speak Spanish, French, Italian and some Hebrew but Dutch is certainly the hardest of those I’ve learned thus far. Especially that typically Germanic placement of the verbs, something right after the subject, other times right at the end of the sentence. But I’m getting the hang of it!
BMS: Keep up the good work! So, is this your first time here in the Crossover Music Pub?
Jennifer: Yeah and we love the place! It’s a very clean venue with an awesome American biker bar theme, a variety of drinks available and a solidly built stage, plus there’s sufficient parking space around the place for us and the bar patrons. We’re going to have a blast here! Thanks for the shred, Shredder!