“When I’ve gone into all these different projects, I’ve always tried to be the chameleon. I feel like… I’ve actually conformed to the music,” Evanescence‘s longest standing drummer Will Hunt admits, struggling for the right phrase. “Whereas in Evanescence, I’m encouraged to be myself, and be okay with that.”
He’s talking from the perspective of having played with bands from Black Label Society, to Device and Crossfade. But by the time he joined the group – fronted by iconic vocalist Amy Lee and formed back in 1995 – for third album Evanescence, he was ready to dive into the inherent challenges: complex rhythms, classically-based composition, and Lee’s penchant for originality.
The band’s latest release Synthesis from November, a masterpiece re-configuration of past classics with orchestral and electronic composition, is no different.
Ahead of the quintet’s nearly sold-out Australian tour in four days, Hunt sat down to chat about being thrown into the deep end with these orchestral shows, relating to rhythm guitarist Jen Majura‘s initial struggles after joining in 2015, and embracing his imperfections.
Amy’s described getting to play the Opera House as a dream come true for her. Do you feel the same way?
“It doesn’t matter if you’re from Australia, if you’ve ever been there or it’s something you’ve seen in person. I think as a musician and performer… Even in America, I grew up seeing pictures of that place and knew what it was from a very young age. I remember being in Australia back in 2012, and we were staying across the street from there [the Opera House]… I saw it and was just like, ‘Wow, man! What an incredible-looking building’.
“I was never thinking in the back of my head that in four or five years I’d be playing there… I was thinking about everything that’s happened and the people who’ve performed there. Now we’re doing it. I remember when our manager said that we have sold-out nights at the Sydney Opera House, and I was like, ‘Hold on a second, you said what?’. It’s very surreal (laughs).”
There’s this raw live energy created from you guys only having 30 minutes with the band and orchestra before a show, which is awesome! Was it more invigorating or challenging?
“Yeah the orchestra thing is very different for us, and no-one’s really doing this the way that we are. Therefore there’s not really a road map where we can take cues from other bands and make it ours. So for us, going into this initially, it was – I don’t want to say scary – exciting, but also like, ‘Whoa, what do we do here?’.
“We’ve had a lot of shows with orchestras now. We’re in a really good place where we’re happy and comfortable with the show, and having a lot of fun with it. It is very cinematic, but we’re having a good time. It’s a cool thing.
“It’s completely challenging, and in the best way possible. It’s not just about how we’re gelling with the five of us, but this 28 to 30-piece orchestra we’re playing with every night. It’s like, ‘How do we make this all work?’.
“It’s an incredibly powerful feeling when everyone’s on.”
Amy talks about being able to fully realise something that she’d been “tapping at for years” with Synthesis. Did you feel a sense of realisation from making the album?
“I think it’s different for everybody, it’s the kind of thing where she had this vision and it’s no secret. So the realisation for everyone is a little different.
“For me, I’m happy to be a part of it and see the enjoyment that Amy’s getting out of this, and helping to realise her vision to the fullest extent. But at the same time, for myself, I’m really excited about being challenged in a different setting. Challenged to do something completely out of my box, and realising some things about myself, like how much I love different elements of music. Particularly electronic.
“Amy’s had her sights set on something like this for a long time, so this is a dream come true, whereas for me it was more of a liberating experience. Like, ‘Whoa. I’m not just this hard rock and heavy metal drummer’. There are so many other different things.”
It’s interesting that Evanescence was really the first album you recorded as a band, and almost a third of the songs on Synthesis are originally from that one. Do you feel like that much more collaborative vibe was what Synthesis needed?
“I think that Synthesis has certainly been a different process to that record, but ultimately what I’m excited about is the next one. What this one has done is broadened our horizons. Added different colours to our palette, and we’re all aware of and are able to use those colours, because we’ve all been involved in making this.
“One of the coolest parts of that is for the next record, it’s opened up a lot of different doors that we maybe wouldn’t have explored.”
Speaking of new music and approaches, fresh track ‘Imperfection’ really sticks with me.
“That’s a song that means a lot to all of us. Knowing when Amy wrote those lyrics what it was about, and the time that she wrote them… It was just a heavy time, man. It’s a great song. But it’s a common theme in her lyrics that it’s a heavy time, but it’s about not giving up hope, which I think the world needs a lot of right now.”
Something powerful that Amy’s said is that if we can look at our own imperfections as less like imperfections, then things will get better. Do you feel like that’s happened on your journey with Evanescence?
“I’ve been in so many different bands that this is a completely unique experience, in that I’ve been able to really extend my wings and not have to worry about fitting into a certain mold.
“When I’ve gone into all these different projects, I’ve always tried to be the chameleon. I feel like I’ve actually conformed to the music, whereas in Evanescence, I’m encouraged to be myself, and be okay with that. It’s an incredible feeling.
“I think that’s the vibe that Amy puts out to herself, to the people in the band, and the fans. It’s a very unique approach to things, but it works (laughs). I’m going to stick with it.”
It was great when it was announced Jen had joined the band, but what was it like meeting her and playing music together?
“That’s an interesting question, because she got thrown to the wolves, so to speak (chuckles). This is a very different gig for her, too. We’ve got, like, nine different tunings that we use on the guitar and a lot of this music, and she’s not used to that. So I think for her it was an incredible challenge, and I remember coming into the band too with Troy (McLawhorn, lead guitar), and it was a real challenge to step up to the plate and learn all those intricacies.
“But Jen really fought for it, and she’s an incredibly talented and cool human being. One of the coolest elements that she brings to this is a vocal one, where she’s able to sing a lot of the harmonies with Amy that we’ve never been able to do, because there are no other females in the band.
“It sounds really cool to hear two live vocals singing these harmonies together. That’s one of the highlights of our regular Evanescence show with her, and certainly a big one of what’s going on with this orchestral show.”
Interview by Genevieve Gao
Don’t miss out on a truly visceral experience when Evanescence storm our shores, backed by a full orchestra at every show, their trademark heaviness and electronic power – limited tickets to their Brisbane and Melbourne shows available here.
Evanescence – Synthesis Live 2018
Saturday 10th Feb – Brisbane – Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th Feb – Sydney – Sydney Opera House SOLD OUT
Friday 16th Feb – Melbourne – Rod Laver Arena