G’day! Wall Of Sound’s resident Australian Bogan Ambassador Duane James here! On this episode of Duane’s World, I recount the time I sat down with Mongolian legends The HU the night after their long-awaited show in Sydney (our coverage here) to talk about the upcoming release of their eagerly awaited sophomore album Rumble of Thunder out September 2nd via Better Noise Music.
Guitarist Jambaldorj “Jamba” Ayush and Khengereg percussion drummer Unumunkh “Ono” Maralkhuu discuss the importance of their culture, their western musical influences, dream collaborations, the creation of a new musical genre and the triumphant return to the city they were made to quarantine in for six and a half weeks after the outbreak of Covid.
It’s March 2020 and Mongolian 8-piece The HU are in Sydney for the Aussie leg of their ill-fated Download Festival appearance and sideshows. They’ve only just released their debut album The Gereg in the 6 months prior, their YouTube videos are gaining a tonne of traction on the back of multiple filmed radio appearances on every continent – with electricity and with a global tour ahead of them they’re on the verge of conquering the music world.
All that turned to bat soup though when a bloke driving a covid-exposed flight crew to their hotel, got the spicy cough himself and went walkabout through half of Sydney, coughing on people, licking the walls and, along with everyone on board the Ruby Princess, exposed the entire eastern seaboard to the dreaded spicy cough pandemic. Next thing, all of Australia goes into lockdown, the country closes its borders and all eight legends from The HU are stranded, unable to return home and made to quarantine in a flat in Sydney for 45 days.
Now, 29 months later, these Mongolian legends returned to the city they called home for a month and a half, armed to the teeth with a new album’s worth of music, horse fiddles, loud guitars and the most amazing collection of hard rocking Mongolian throat singers on the planet. Let’s put their translator to work…
Duane: Welcome back to Sydney. Thanks for coming back after all this time. Last night’s show was incredible. It was powerful, heartfelt and very heavy. During the performance, Jaya said that Sydney is your second home. What has it been like revisiting the city you were made to quarantine in at the start of the COVID outbreak?
Ono – First of all, thank you for welcoming us. Secondly, the band like to throw this joke around, that because of the quarantine, we stayed for a month and half. We’d never stayed in one place for that long. So since we stayed here doing quarantine, it just feels like our home. During that time, we were just like one big family. You know, doing jokes, eating together, cooking together sleeping together. That’s the talk around this band.
Duane: I loved the YouTube updates that you shared during that time. For me, it provided further insight into Mongolian values, the culture, especially the food, the preparation and the banter between you guys. You’ve become, for a lot of people, ambassadors of Mongolian culture. With the new album Rumbling Thunder will you be diving deeper into telling the world about your Mongolian pride and heritage?
Ono – So it’s not just the second album, but everything we do. We try to show our Mongolian culture and this heritage. The things that are passed down from our ancestors to us. On our second album, there’s a lot of deep meaningful songs.
Jamba – So it’s kind of funny but at first, they used to do this show with short clips about how they were cooking in the bus with sausage and those kinds of stuff. But it turned out to be a full content called “Hu’s in the kitchen?” So from the perspective of showing the culture and heritage, it just became a thing of showing from a food side, how things are. What do we eat? For those who haven’t been to Mongolia, if you come to Mongolia we have our delicious meals and dishes you should definitely try it. Also since we started talking about food, I’m hungry HAHA.
Since there’s eight members in our band, we all have our own chores. For example we have people who prepare vegetables, people who cook and people who instructs and lets them cook such as myself. We also have people who clean after we eat (Jamba points to Ono and laughs)
Duane: Traditional Mongolian music is something I’ve never been familiar with. Heavy Metal on the other hand is something I grew up with. With the music you’re producing, you’ve found a beautiful balance amalgamating the two styles into your own unique sound. What was your metal influences growing up?
Jamba – There’s a lot of bands where we grew up from the metal side such as Metallica, Slayer, Judas Priest, Megadeth, Five Finger Death Punch and those kind of bands. This idea of mixing Western culture with our long traditional thing, all the ideas came from our producer Dashka. Long before the idea came up, he went to his father’s place, and at that time, he had this idea of mixing western music with more traditional music. So he’s been organising it for the last decade. Even before the band, half of our members were in a Mongolian traditional band, playing horsehair fiddles, the Mongolian flute and everything. The rest of the guys was also in pop music bands. At that time, we all knew each other. Dashka talked to every each and one of us and that’s how the band formed.
So everything including mix, it becomes this genre called Hunnu Rock. It’s like a totally new genre that our producer Dashka came up with. Now we’re just working hard to spread this globally.
Duane: Well, you’ve done that. You’ve already toured America. Australia loves you. You’ve got all of Europe to go towards the end of the year. You’re about to return to America again with Megadeth and Five Finger Death Punch. With your first album, The Gereg you released a deluxe edition where you recorded three of your songs with American artists Lzzy Hale, Jacoby Shaddix and from Ashes to New. Now that you going back to The States in the lead up to the release of the new album, are you going to be doing any more special releases with American or even European artists?
Ono – For the new album, we do have some plans, but at this point is just like talk level. Yeah, so it’s just too early to call. So just to sort of keep it secret.
Duane: Well, you’ve worked with Metallica with your contributions to their 2021 release The Metallica Blacklist with ‘Sad But True’ and ‘Through The Never’. Is there any dream collaborations you’d like to do down the line?
Ono – So we had this good chance to play two songs in The Blacklist this year for Metallica. And since we did a song, like a cover song for them, why not do an actual song with Metallica. And not just like a metal rock band. We could also do collaborations with pop artists. Because that’s how special our Hunnu Rock genre is, this genre can adapt to many different styles.
Our Hunnu Rock genre can adapt to many different styles. Just like a metal rock. It can be like pop rock, hip hop, any kind of style
Jamba – Maybe like Eminem…
Duane (pointing at Jamba like a savage): YEEESSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!! That would be epic. But even without the guest artists, from what I heard last night at the show, this is shaping up to be a massive album.
Ono – One thing I can promise from myself is that it’s going to be a really great album. Because personally, I worked with the producer Dashka for the recording of our second album and as an artist, there’s this feeling of doing great work. Our message is just let the people feel the music. We’re trying to spread this message of love your environment, and find the virtue of men, and if you’re going through hard times, difficulties, we want to help you with this, and give you this boost with our second album.
Interview by the bogan metal mind of Duane James @duanejames666
Read our album review here
Rumble of Thunder is out Friday!
The HU – Rumble of Thunder tracklisting
1. This is Mongol
2. YUT Hövende
4. Teach Me
5. Upright Destined Mongol
6. Sell The World
7. Black Thunder
8. Mother Nature
9. Bii Biyelgee
11. Shihi Hutu
12. TATAR Warrior