Haarp: The ‘Residue’ of Katrina Can Be Found in ‘The Filth’
"There's nothing at all like seeing us live," Haarp frontman Shaun Emmons told Noisecreep." If I could invite the world to come see us play, I certainly would. It would be worth everyone's while, I think."
Anyone who's been lucky enough to catch the sludge outfit from the murky deeps of Louisiana can't argue with that. In the short time Haarp have been around -- releasing two EPs and a full-length, 'The Filth' -- the slow-burning grooves often get them labeled as a doom band. But there's much more, as each song sacrifices its own crawl to give into perilous parts that bleed from black metal to more chaotic forms of metal.
"You can't just call us slow, " Emmons joked. "There's a lot of different things going on." For Emmons and drummer Keith Sierra, the band's variance is rooted in their previous band Rat in a Bucket.
Rat in a Bucket met their demise as the band's guitarist relocated to Portland after Katrina. For Emmons and Sierra, there was no question and no debate -- they could never recreate those manic, grinding speeds without him. "As far as I'm concerned we lost the best fast guitar player that I ever heard in Louisiana."
Upon forming Haarp, it didn't seem right to return to the style and attitude they played before the flood in 2005, either. "To put it in my words, we wanted to slow it down for the retarded people," he laughed, quickly turning serious. "Everybody was down, and we weren't feeling that furious style of metal we played before."
The seemingly trademark sound of New Orleans has been one of the slow walk into the shadows (Eyehategod, Down and Crowbar are viewed as the forefathers), but as Emmons explained, a pain was left that festered in other bands after Katrina devastated the area .
"I don't want to sound cheesy, but it did play a big part in Haarp and a bunch of other bands. So many bands that were before Katrina and afterwards that I knew had members that evacuated 10 states away. So many people left that weren't able to come back. There was a lot of loss -- a lot of life loss -- and that definitely affected the mood of everyone's music once everything got kick started again.
"It's one of those things that's hard to put into words, but you can definitely feel that residue of that darkness in the music that has come out of New Orleans since, especially our music."
In Haarp's name itself -- derived from the name of an apparently shadowy government operation popular in conspiracy theories -- infers that this darkness is meant to be felt through the band. "Celtics believe that music had the power to create trance, to forget things or to force dreams, " said the frontman. And of course harps themselves have their power in myth as the instrument of the gods. "In the old days of yore, the harp was the favored instrument used when telling old tales and stories, which is what we do."
Then there is the HAARP facility in Alaska, which has been a topic of chatter for years, due to the somewhat cloudy understanding of a government research program based around technology utilized for controlling ionosphere. "There are people that believe they can cook somebody from the inside out half-way across the world by manipulating the vibrations in the ionosphere and playing with radio waves."
Combine all those understandings into a play on words, and Haarp is not just a band name -- it's a desire for the music's path. "It's like a weapon," reasoned Emmons, "a musical weapon manipulating the vibrations of sound to convey a certain mood or emotion or a feeling to the listener."