Are you sitting comfortably?
Yes?…then we’ll begin….
Hanterhir have sort of existed since 2007. Ben was playing in a band called Takk with Jason on drums and former Hanterhir members Martyn Whitford and John Filbrook. Ben slowly began to hate Jason as two thirds of the gigs the band were offered were turned down because of Jason’s other bands and various commitments in life so decided that he was going to write and record some songs that anybody could play along with if they wanted to join in. He then spent the next year or so writing the first songs for the as yet untitled band, and recording demos for them at Brendan McGreal’s Cornish Underground studio whilst Takk fell apart.
Now we’ve got to this point in the Hanterhir story it’s probably best to talk about where the name came from. Ben used to live in Northampton and the area of the town that was notorious for prostitution was called Semilong, when it came to naming the band, and having no band members to quarrel with about names, that was what the band was originally called, or more strictly speaking “Ben Harris’s Semilong”…when it actually came to playing the first gig on 11th July 2009 the name had morphed into a lazy Cornish language translation Hanter (meaning half) and Hir (meaning long).
The band secured their first gig on 11th July 2009 at Redruth’s infamous Gaslights (sung about so eloquently by Hedluv and Malibu Barny). Personnel rotated for a while with Barnaby Ray playing drums for the first few gigs before making way for Jason, Whitford played bass from the start with notable appearances from Martyn Trathen (currently playing in Twitch) playing guitar and djembe for a few gigs, Stephen Taylor playing a laptop, Dave Kent playing djembe, John Filbrook playing guitar, Brendan McGreal and Lukas Drinkwater playing bass and some random guy called Mike Hewitt playing sax.
By November the band had settled on core members Ben, Jase and Whitford, but on booking time in Black & White Studio to record, the band found a guitarist in producer Martin Pease who joined the band in later 2009.
The recordings eventually became the first untitled album and saw the four-piece Hanterhir release they first album in early 2010.
We made a video for Knots and the rest of the year saw the band playing gigs and festivals across Cornwall on the back of the first album. As Peasy had joined after the first album had been written it was only natural for the band to start writing as the gigs came and went and by the middle of the year the band had completed writing another full albums’ worth of material and this time, they’d decided it was going to be bigger and better.
The band headed back to Black and White Studio in Redruth and this time enlisted help from artist Chris Odger on guitar, Beckie Brown, Duncan Jewitt, Lucy Keast, Hayley Sanford and Jud Vandy on vocals, Frances Bennett on fiddle, Brendan McGreal helping write Plos Mis Du with Whitford and Stephen Taylor making random noises.
The result was Agapus, titled after Whitford’s inability to say “abacus” in a Cornish accent. The album featured our first two Cornish language songs “Omgonfort” and “Plos Mis Du”.
Promoting the album saw us play across Cornwall and England as well as our first radio appearances.
At this point in our lives we were fired up as hell, we’d been getting rave reviews with whatever we did and we were even keener to get back in the studio that we ever had been before so we booked some studio time, started recording, and then the fucking bass player gave in his notice.
We quickly enlisted Ross Kessell to take over on bass. As with all Hanterhir members, you generally get a practice or two and then are expected to be fully up to speed with everything and to be honest, Ross was more than capable. We were asked to compete in a Cornish Language competition called Kan Rag Kernow and wrote a song called Tekka Ha Hwekka for it. This was Ross’s first gig with us, with Whitford playing guitar as a kind of goodbye. We were hammered by a Britains Got Talent styled crapfest and ran from the place with our tails between our legs.
Ross continued with the band until The Boss came calling. We were booked to play a festival and with no more than about 5 or 6 hours notice, Ross told us that he was in London as he’d been to see Springsteen and wasn’t coming back that day anymore. After a frantic hour or two of “what the heavenly fuck?” a phone call to Whitford saw him agree to playing that evening to about 800 people and probably our best gig up to that point.
Whitford was back in the band, albeit temporarily, until we found a new bass player in Matt Robbins on Whitford’s suggestion. Matt slipped in to the band pretty easily, we went off and did some gigs in England, he was an awful driver and received a Hanterhir ban on ever driving us anywhere again.
Soon afterwards, for some stupid reason we decided to “compete” in another Kan Rag Kernow song competition. This time, knowing that we were never going to win (let’s be honest about things, we’re not really Radio 2 enough), we wrote a song called Kana Pubonan (“Sing Everyone”) and decided that if we weren’t going to win, we sure as hell were going to enjoy ourselves, so we enlisted as many musicians as we could. The organisers found out about our little plan and then tried to stop us from playing by adding a “6 musicians only” clause to the entrance, so we pulled out. Somehow, we ended up playing, turning up at an arts venue on a cold rainy night as a 14 piece. As with the previous competition we were hammered (this time by a young Fisherman’s Friends tribute act) but thanks to Grant Kellow on bass, Mike Hewitt and Matt’s cousin on saxophones, Tim McVey on stylophone, Stephen Taylor on toy guitar, Andrew Cornish on bodran, Frances Bennett on fiddle, Becky Brown on vocals and Jo Tagney on harp, we had an awesome time.
With our tails not so firmly between our legs we quickly decamped to Cabin Fever Studios to record our self titled 5-track with Hoby Allen. Somewhere in the recording process, Matt left the band and Grant joined in May 2014 (and then went off to play in a festival in Brittany with his band Tredanek). Mike came back on saxophone on a few songs, Becky returned on vocals with a little bit extra from Jago Clift.
We released the EP, did a bag load of gigs and drank some tea. PJ stood in to cover a festival (you can check him out pulling some shapes in the video for Victim) and we were ready to record again (sometimes life really is that fast…).
Jason had been talking (well, going on and on) about us writing a rock opera for a long time, so we took that as the starting point. The next recording we were going to release was going to be a 10 song rock opera on a 10 inch record played by 10 people and limited to 10 copies…you’ve gotta think big.
By the time we’d finished writing the first song Hello Sunshine, we realised that we were never going to fit it all on a 10 inch record, so bugger it, we might as well release a double album. A year in to recording the album saw a chance meeting with Carlton from Easy Action Records, after a show in Falmouth, led them to agree to release our next album.
The next thing that happened broke our hearts for a good five minutes. The laptop that we had stored all the files from the album crashed, we lost 99% of everything that we’d done.