Friday, June 23, 2023

Desolation Years with Nik Serén of HONG FAUX

In this episode of The Rock Metal Podcast, we're chatting with Nik Serén of the band Hong Faux about their new album ‘Desolation Years’ out now via Golden Robot Records.

During our chat we touch on a lot of great tips for musicians, such as what Roni learned working with their producer, Josh Shroeder.

'Desolation Years' was Produced by Hong Faux, Mixed and Mastered by Sebastian Forslund.

The band Words That Burn is for fans of: Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Mother of God, and One Inch Giant


Guest Resource

Hong Faux on FB - Connect with Hong Faux!

Guest Music Video

3 Heavy Hitters

1. It can be hard to imagine people enjoying the art that you create; working on how you meet with fans can have a greatly positive impact on the artist / fan relationship

2. Make records for yourself that will make you happy to have released for the rest of your life and beyond.

3. Always keep an open mind with regard to new equipment, as it may surprise you what comes out on the market next.


Asher Media Relations: Doing PR for everything loud! For your band needs to be seen and heard in print, online and radio!  Let Asher know Jon from The Rock Metal Podcast sent you.

Tue Madsen: Tue Madsen is responsible for producing, mixing, and mastering some of the best metal for over the last 20 years.  Let Tue know Jon from The Rock Metal Podcast sent you.

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Show Notes // Transcript

Jon Harris: All right, Nick, thank you so much for coming on to The Rock Metal Podcast today. Go ahead and say Hi to all of our beautiful listeners. 

Nik Serén: Hi, all beautiful listeners. Hope you're well. I am. Sweden has sun. 

Jon Harris: If it's anything like Canada, it's definitely dark and cold and dreary for a large portion of the 

Nik Serén: Yeah.

Jon Harris: Speaking of dark and cold and dreary, let's chat about this record Desolation Years, which is out now via Golden Robot Records. What was the greatest moment for you producing this record? 

Nik Serén: It's going to sound a bit cliche, but every time we got together and actually recorded it, because it was the height of the pandemic and everything was just pretty gloomy, and just meeting up with these people and making this record was cathartic in a way, because obviously we're friends and all, but we were also doing something that actually mattered to us. So it was that and we actually didn't think it was going to come out at all because the industry for a smaller sized band as ourselves, it didn't seem very positive at the time. So I would say that I mean, I'm just amazed that it's out and people are actually listening to it. It doesn't matter how many albums we do. I can't speak for other musicians, but for us it's always the same. It's like you do this stuff, you do it the best way you can, and then people actually listen to it's always amazing when they do because it's hard to imagine that people sit down and listen to it. I don't know why, because I listen to music every day. So it's not something weird, but just our music?  Okay.

Jon Harris: Yeah. 

Nik Serén: That's great. Yeah. 

Jon Harris: Well, I mean, everyone listening in right now. Raise your hand if that is something that resonates with you. I know it resonates with me. Somebody listened to my podcast? I almost get embarrassed when that happens in real life. Like, oh, no, you heard it? 

Nik Serén: Yeah.

Jon Harris: Like, yeah, it's great. It is? Thanks. I'm always kind of weird about that in real life, and I'm pretty sure it's something similar are for you as well, Nik. When somebody says, I heard your record and you're like, oh, no.

Nik Serén: Yeah. Especially when they sometimes you meet fans and stuff, especially when you're on the road, et cetera. And some people want to talk about the songs and what they mean and all that stuff, and then they give you, like, an explanation about what the song means and what the words means. And it's not true, but it's a better one than the actual intention. So I just say, yeah, you're right. You're right. That's it. That's it.

Jon Harris: Yeah, it's a very unique thing. What's that like for you? Have you gotten used to that? Is it still an interesting do you find maybe that some songs just kind of almost like a Venn diagram, it starts to mean something in particular to many different people?

Nik Serén: I think actually, as I've gotten a bit older, I've changed my perspective a bit because in the early days, I would probably grab you by the neck and tell you, no, you fuck face, this is what it means. And then because I was so serious and I was an artist and all that stuff, but now it's more interesting to hear these people muse about this song and what it means to them. And I'm starting to think that maybe that's the achievement. You know, that they listen to something that you do and something starts spinning in their head and then something gets done up there. And I don't I'm not a psychologist or anything like that, but it's amazing that these people are spending time with this music and it's making them think. Because it's not just I mean, you can make music about tits and ass and having fun and all that stuff, but we don't. So, I mean, we have that dimension to the music and you're hoping that people that it will make people think. So when it does, that's great. So I just find that I mean, it's hard to believe, but it's –

Jon Harris: Yeah.

Nik Serén: It's great. And obviously when I write the words and when we write the music, we have an idea and we know what it means. But that's not the essential thing right now. 

Jon Harris: Something that you had mentioned, Nik was doing this at the height of the pandemic and for a band your size, it just seemed like it wasn't a very positive environment in the industry and you didn't think that it was going to come out. Was that the biggest challenge for you guys on this record or what was the biggest challenge on this record? 

Nik Serén: No, you know what? Again, you interview bands, so you've heard every cliche in the universe, but I think the fact that we thought that it might not come out was actually what made this record great to us, because we just didn't care which just did it for us. No one talked about the record company. No one talked about the A&R or radio or stuff like that. So that was a good thing. I think the biggest melancholy and all that was that thought or feeling about maybe we can't play anymore. Maybe we can't go on these tours that we used to go to. Maybe that's over because we've been around most of the rock clubs in Stockholm closed because the kids don't want to go to rock clubs anymore. And you can reminisce and be sad and be a boomer about it, but that's the way the world goes. But it's sad when you spend so much time on it. So I think that was a bit scary area, because we don't play golf. We play music. Right. 

Jon Harris: Right. Not like Alice Cooper. He does both yeah.

Nik Serén: Yeah, yeah. Does he do it with style, though? Maybe he does. I don't know. 

Jon Harris: I don't know. I've never actually –

Nik Serén: I just read an article about him and it seems to me that maybe if I can keep my politics and still play golf, can I do that? 

Jon Harris: I think you can. 

Nik Serén: Is that allowed? 

Jon Harris: I think it's allowed. 

Nik Serén: I don't think golf is boring, do you? 

Jon Harris: Yeah, I find it really other than mini. 

Nik Serén: I mean, playing it, not watching it. I would never do that. 

Jon Harris: Oh, yeah. No, playing it is amazing. 

Nik Serén: Yeah, that's what I think. 

Jon Harris: It's like fishing. It's like the best thing a guy could do to spend all day doing absolutely nothing. 

Nik Serén: Yeah. So if I can go around, go 18 holes with, like, Mike Patton or something, that would be fun. 

Jon Harris: Yeah.  Yeah.

Nik Serén: Alice cooper too, I guess. 

Jon Harris: Very cool. 

Nik Serén: Kid Rock. Can he come? He can bring his gun. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, he could bring his gun and his Bud Light. Yeah. I didn't realize he felt so passionate about Bud Light of all beers. 

Nik Serén: I don't know. I have this thing where I sometimes I used to live in California for a couple of years, and so I have this weird fascination with with life there and politics and everything. I don't know. It's better than TV, but I'm just amazed of all these videos where people are destroying beer and most of them are really rich and I just want to call them up and say, hey, when you're rich, you don't really have to drink Bud Light. 

Jon Harris: Right. 

Nik Serén: You don't have to. 

Jon Harris: You could do Stella. You can afford Stella now in the glass with the swish thing for the foam. Yeah. Wow. 

Nik Serén: Yeah. I don't know if I've answered your question, but I tried. 

Jon Harris: You did, you did. And I'm curious. No one talked about the record company, the A&R or the radio. And you mentioned I've interviewed a lot of bands, I've heard all the cliches. Interestingly enough, that isn't one that really comes up a lot. It has, but it isn't really one that comes up a lot. But I have noticed that whenever somebody says, you know what? We went into this record not caring about the management, not caring about the record company, not caring about the A&R, what comes after that is, and it was the best record for it. 

Nik Serén: Yep.

Jon Harris: Why is that? 

Nik Serén: Because you can only get my opinion. Now, I'm not a scientist of these questions, but if you're the best tennis player in the world and you're at the finals in Wimbledon, and you just have to win because your dad, whatever, it just doesn't work when it's stuff like this that has to be honest. And this stuff is going to be on Spotify and Apple Music long after we're gone. So if you can't stand it yourself. Because we've been in that situation before where the record company calls us back, they've listened to the Master and they say, we love this album, but you need a radio track because otherwise we can't throw money at promotion and stuff. Then you have to try to come up with some sort of compromise. And it's good that we humans can compromise, but it's not the best art that comes out that way. It's just not. 

Jon Harris: Yeah.

Nik Serén: So I think we have to think about that all the time because we have to exist in this market that works in a certain way and no one can ever change it. And you need this and you need that. So sometimes you have to do that track. And it's actually pretty tricky to do a radio track. The last album we did, we had this song that was supposed to be the radio track and we were really happy about it, and that's rare. But I have a very good friend, a very old friend that hates our music. Because he's really hardcore and he only listens to metal. So every time I try to do a radio track, I send it to him. And if he comes back telling me that that's the worst piece of music he's ever heard in his fucking life, then I know I have a radio track. 

Jon Harris: Right. 

Nik Serén: So that's how we do it. But yeah, but I think you leave something out there to be judged by others, and if you have that feeling that you can't really stand by it all the way, that's a nightmare. When people start writing reviews and stuff and you know you have those two tracks in there that you didn't want to put in there, it's a nightmare. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, the two tracks you didn't want to put in there. Now, something you had mentioned, Nik, earlier on was about lyrics and themes, and obviously fans want to create their own versions of it kind of always happened. I remember watching a video of John Lennon talking to somebody and he's like, no, I didn't write that song about you. I don't know you. How is that even possible?  Nevertheless, what went into the themes on this particular record from you? 

Nik Serén: Well, height of the pandemic that was the scenery. It's called the Desolation Years. I mean, you don't have to be a genius to kind of put that together when you know these things. But we live in a pretty strange world, and the way we organize life in this strange world gives you a lot of workable material. There's a lot of strange stuff going on. And we are the kind of musicians that come from a world where we don't do happy music. We're not happy, we're funny. We're ironic, but very few of us are happy. So that's why it comes out like this. I mean, the stuff that we deal with in these songs are pretty serious stuff, but it's also a bit distant. 

Jon Harris: Right. 

Nik Serén: I like writing that way from the perspective of someone who doesn't really know all this stuff. That classic thing where an alien lands on planet Earth and just takes off his glasses and they're like, what the fuck are you doing?

Jon Harris: It's because his glasses are off. If you put his glasses back on, he'd be able to see how much sense we make. 

Nik Serén: Of course. And a person born in the 70s would tell him that instantly. 

Jon Harris: Yeah. Was there any gear on the record that you used that was either new or super cool or surprised you? 

Nik Serén: Yes. I would have to say yes. And this is a bit sensitive because I'm going to tell you a story about guitar stuff and it's an area in which I have completely changed my mind. I was proven wrong and that's a difficult thing to say for men.

Jon Harris: Especially a guitar player, I know, I am one.

Nik Serén: Exactly, exactly. But yeah, we've been kind of exclusively using Orange amplification gear throughout our career. We love that stuff. We use it all the time, and we still do and disclaimer. We're indoor st everything. I mean, it's just we used that. And during this pandemic recording, the way we recorded, it was difficult to have all that gear moved through these locations and stuff because we didn't have time or the possibility to do it in a studio for like, three weeks. So we did it all over the place. And a friend of mine told me that if you take your Orange rigs and you profile them into a Kemper or an Axe effects or whatever this was a Kemper, you won't be able to tell the difference. And I was like, Fuck you. I know that I will hear the difference because I know this stuff.

Jon Harris: The high end is a little more brittle if you listen close enough. 

Nik Serén: Yeah.

Jon Harris: But in a mix, you can, I guess, fix that, or I guess it just doesn't matter in a mix, but they're a little more high end, a little more brittle sounding. 

Nik Serén: Yeah. Anyway, I did it. Started bringing the Orange rig with me, but in a digital format, and we recorded it. I did that profile with the microphone that I use and the cabinet that I use. So it was my sound. And then I did it. And I wasn't sure, I didn't like it, so I brought the 2x12, the cabinet with me and I just turned off the cabinet in the digital thing and then I recorded the usual way, but without the amplifier. But it was the amplifier only, and it sounded absolutely great. This story doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was a big deal for me because I was always like I was treating those things like the antichrist.

Jon Harris: Yeah, I mean, IK Multimedia has the ToneX now that is a software that you could take your laptop with you now instead of having to bring a Kemper profiler around with you, there's the Quad Cortex that is like smaller pedal form. And then obviously the Kemper has been around for ages and yeah, I wouldn't doubt that if we've been using real amps forever. This thing's going to suck the soul out of my amp and I'm not going to notice? But evidently it worked. Does that change your workflow going forward?

Nik Serén: No, I wouldn't actually imagine that it would, but it just adds another dimension. Because now when someone tells me that because I wouldn't do it with a generic rig in a Kemper. But since I know in the back of my head that this is actually my amp, that's the difference for me. Because I didn't buy a random amp of the Internet, a wave file that I record and someone to record I'm not saying that those are bad, but for me, I just want to use my amp when I do these records. So I'm guessing that it's going to add another dimension to whenever we want to record again. I know that if someone tells me, hey, I've got the afternoon off in the studio. Want to come and lay some of the guitar tracks? It's not a hassle anymore, I can just do it. I think that's great. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, that's a really good point –

Nik Serén: And if someone calls and say, can you fly in and do this festival? We don't need Orange to send trucks with amps and stuff. We can just be a bit kinder to the environment because we still have to go there, and that's one thing, but we can just have that thing and do it. But if we go on tour and we're going to be away for three weeks, we're going to take our stuff off like we always did. So adding a dimension, making it a little bit easier. I'm guessing that's the point of all this stuff. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, yeah.

Nik Serén: Because it doesn't sound better.

Jon Harris: Nik, how would you define success at this stage of your career?

Nik Serén: Um wow, that was hard. We we started this band without ambition. We started every other band in our lives with ambition and that all went to shit. And this band, we started honestly, without ambition. And then things started happening. That should tell you something. We've always been happy when people listen to our music and people keep booking us on shows, on tours. We've done lots of supporting act tours and our own tours. And for us, that was success and is still success. We know we're not going to be Foo Fighters or Guns and Roses, whatever band you think is really cool. So for us, it's just, can we do music? Can we make music? Can we have people listen to it? And can we go play it live? Because playing it live is I can't speak for all rock bands, but I would guess 90% or above. It's the live shows. That's the thing. That's where you live. That's what you live for. So for us, just being getting into that van, taking that trip around Europe, it's mostly Europe that's success. People going into a room at 10:00 at night in, I don't know, Berlin. I mean, we're Swedes and we're in Berlin, and there's like 400 people there that bought a ticket to see us. That's weird, isn't it? 

Jon Harris: Yeah.

Nik Serén: Again, I go to these shows all the time. I don't think it's weird to buy a ticket and go see a great band. I just think it's weird when people think that we're that band. 

Jon Harris: Yeah. 

Nik Serén: So for me and for us, that's success. 

Jon Harris: Very cool. Very cool. Very good to hear it. The only other question I had sort of off the cuff, just because I didn't see it in the EPK or any information from the record label, was just was there a producer that you worked with? Any kind of, like, mixing or mastering engineer, some other extraneous member to the band that maybe is worth asking? What was it like to work with Bloop? But I don't have that information. 

Nik Serén: Yeah, we did that in the past producers last album, we did work with a guy called Daniel Bergstrand, who has worked a lot with In Flames and Meshuggah and these things, and he thought it would be fun to do softer music. And that turned out really well. But this time we said, no produce there. We've been doing this for so long, we know exactly what we want to do. Let's just skip that part and just do what we want to do as good as we can do it. But having that set, we work with a guy called Sebastian Forslund who is a great mixer. And when we have done the recordings, we send the stuff to him and then we tell him to mix it. We don't give him any input, we don't tell him what to do. And we tell him, if you get an idea, if you want to cut something out, if you want to add a fucking tambourine, or if you want to fry the guitar solo, whatever, do it. So he becomes like the Fifth Element because he's really talented and we don't tell him what to do. We accept what he does. So we get that extra dimension that way. Because, honestly, today you can change so much after the fact. That coming from where we're coming from, with the budgets we have and stuff, getting a great producer, it just doesn't make any sense. And asking people to work for free, it's just insane. So. This. I mean, I can't I can't say what, you know, anyone else thinks about it, but we were really happy with this record. This record sounds the way we intended it to sound, and that's a good feeling. Then if people like I mean, we got some pretty good reviews, so we're happy there are people out there in the world that actually agrees with us. But, yeah, that's a pretty good way of doing it, I think. I mean, great producers will always have work, so we're not cutting out the middleman or anything because Rick Rubin wasn't available.

Jon Harris: That's a shame. 

Nik Serén: Yeah. Absolute shame. Sebastian and I can plug he actually plays in a band called the Night Flight Orchestra, which is a great band. 

Jon Harris: Yeah. And you want to know who was on my mind last time I chatted with Björn about the Night Flight Orchestra? He said, what made the Night Flight Orchestra so fun was that they weren't worrying like they would in Soilwork.  They were just coming together, him and David, and saying, I like this music. You like this music. Let's just –

Nik Serén: You can tell when you watch the Night Flight Orchestra that they're having fun right now. They're not in a very fun place, because David actually regrettably passed away. 

Jon Harris: Right.

Nik Serén: So that was tough because a lot of us in this little community that we have, we kind of grew up together, and we've been known each other for a long time, and that's why we keep the collaboration within the extended family. But, yeah, you can tell when the Night Flight Orchestra do their thing. You can tell that they're trying to have fun. And I think we have this beef going on in this community about whether or not humour belongs in music. And I think that's something that you can probably devote a whole podcast episode to, but I think it does. I don't like slapstick. I don't like people dressing in funny clothes and making a rock video, and that kind of humour I don't like. But I think witty lyrics and irony and critique of society and all that stuff in a funny format. Absolutely. 

Jon Harris: Like, the Foo Fighters. We've mentioned them, and they do slapstick music videos. 

Nik Serén: I don't like it. 

Jon Harris: Suicide Silence. I just chatted with them. They said they were inspired by the Foo Fighters and they make slapstick videos because of the Foo Fighters. 

Nik Serén: And as I said, this is a divider. Some people, if you talk to our fine neighbours, the Norwegians, they're very serious. 

Jon Harris: Oh, so serious.

Nik Serén: When they do their black medal and stuff. No humour. 

Jon Harris: I mean, if you've been to Finland, like monotone. Man, I am so happy to be here. Are you? Yes. Thank you. 

Nik Serén: It's weird because the Finns are like I mean, the Swedes, we're depressed because of the sun and all that. We are depressed people. Our history is wreaked with genocides and fucking Viking atrocities and stuff like that. But the Finns, they are constantly on top of the happy people on Earth when they do these things. But when you go to Finland. You never notice. No. So I'm thinking something's wrong there. But I'm just saying no, don't do slapstick in my book. But keep your humour, man. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, don't do slapstick. Keep your humour. What is the number one thing you would like people to do who are listening to the podcast right now? 

Nik Serén: Because of the insane state of the vinyl business, there is no record to pick up at this point. You will have to wait with that. I mean, obviously it's great if you listen to the music and stuff, but I would probably use my 15k of fame because I have this motto in my life, which is obviously in Swedish, but if I translated it, it would be something like just get your shit together. So I'm telling you now, audience, get your shit together. It's not that hard. It really isn't. Bar is pretty low. Don't be an asshole. That's it, pretty much. You don't need a constitution. You don't need 22 fucking amendments. You just need to don't be an asshole. Pretty simple. Stick your hands down your pants and face the music. 

Jon Harris: Wow. Yeah. Stick your hands down your pants and face the music. 

Nik Serén: Yeah. As you can tell, I'm not a philosopher. 

Jon Harris: No, clearly not. All right, well, everybody listening again. Go ahead and head over to There you can get the transcript for today's audio, music videos from Hong Faux, as well as ways to connect with Hong Faux. So, Nik, thank you so much for coming on to the Rock Metal podcast today. 

Nik Serén: Very happy to be here. Take care.


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