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This episode is with Ray Hearne. Ray is quickly being recognized as one of the premier drummers in progressive metal playing with Haken. Formed in 2007, Haken has steadily grown to become a globally touring act and a household name for progressive metal fans worldwide. Aside from playing and teaching drums, Ray is also a professional classical tuba player and recently a big collector of hot sauces!
Haken has been touring relentlessly since they released their last record and Ray has reflected that it has changed the way he approaches life at home. Prior to touring extensively, Ray has had freelance work lined up for him to supplement his income from the band. Now that he spends most of his time on the road, he uses lots of his home time to relax and decompress from all the touring.
Ray doesn’t have much of a workout routine but enjoys climbing when back in the UK. On tour, his style of drumming is more than enough physical activity.
Touring persistently has personally taken a toll on Ray’s long term relationship and he reflects how it is difficult it is to sustain the connection when being absent for so long. He believes the majority of touring musicians struggle in this department as well.
Ray reflected that being in a band is akin to being in a marriage with the other members. He went on to say that you need to test the limits of the relationships.
Admitting to being pretty obsessive on tour, Ray says many days on tour are relentless for him with non-stop work from load in to load out. He does admit that a lot of this is self-inflicted. The band schedules lessons during the day as well as VIP meet and greet events and this fills in the otherwise free time, but helps the band make additional funds and capitalize on their momentum.
Ray makes it clear that the band is riding a wave right now that they try not to take for granted, and so touring constantly and doing all that they do on the road to promote the record is a sacrifice they feel they must make.
Hot sauce collecting has been a recent hobby for Ray on tour. At this point, people gift him sauces and he has amassed quite a bunch. He has had friends try some as dares on social media and the posts have been quite funny!
Ray has been a vegan for 5 years. Wherever the band goes, they happen to find a vegan restaurant within walking distance to the venue, so availability is rarely an issue. He scopes places out in advance to find a good vegan place or one with good vegan options.
On this past tour Rockin’ Wellness, as a nutritional supplement company, provided enough green powder for the band for the entire tour. Ray said this was helpful in situations where he did not get adequate nutrients from food. Ray also has a vegan protein powder which he includes in his daily morning smoothie at home. The smoothie will also contain a wide variety of seeds and nuts as well.
Ray tries to eat 1-2 hours before he plays, but not much. He saves the majority of his meal, or has a second meal to eat right after he plays.
When asked if he exercises on tour, Ray admitted it doesn’t quite make it into the busy schedule that they have. He also reflects that a good balance would need to be established as not to take energy away from him on stage.
Ray doesn’t have a strict pre-show routine besides some light warming up and stretching. He believes the stretching and relaxing actually helps him more than the warm-up. He doesn’t want to have to rely on a specific ritual that he might not have time for because it might psyche him out if he doesn’t get to do it.
In speaking about teaching, Ray mentioned how when his students struggle to remember a complex part, to simply zone-in to some small detail of it and let the part work itself out around it. He said overthinking can definitely get in the way of learning.
In the early days of Haken, Ray joined the band and reflects on how inspiring it was to play with great musicians and how it had pushed his ability forward continually.
Although Ray has been hesitant to teach on tour since all he has available to work on is a drum pad, he has had good success with that this past tour. He places his students between sound check and VIP, or about 4-6PM. He gets a buzz out of it, and he finds it fulfilling. He has ended up teaching lessons over having additional rest.
Ray’s approach to writing drums with Haken involves either making the parts sound even crazier and more technical or simplifying them to make them more “headbangable”.
Aside from teaching for active income, Ray has sources of passive income including tab books he has released for his drum parts. Ray is dealing directly with his fans, selling his books one by one to fans through DM’s to keep it personal. He even offers to help out his customers if they are struggling.
Haken’s record contract holds that they can’t crowd fund and in asking about this, they were told that it sends the wrong message of being needy. Ray said most bands put a good façade of being bigger than they are and it apparently helps them. When they do VIP though, Haken stays very intimate with their fans and tries to mingle among them as much as possible.
The ultimate goal for Ray is for Haken to be at a stage where he can be fully financially sustained by their activity. He still would love to teach, but not as a necessity.
Ray is in the early stages of being part of other creative projects to fulfill other aspects of his creativity. He would love to explore making music with others without the pressure of past accomplishments.
Ray’s advice for all musicians is to keep going. You are almost certainly going to run into some down periods that will make you really question what you are doing. He notes the importance of getting guidance from others and to never get complacent. He said other people should hear and assess what you are doing.