Eirikur "Hawk" Hauksson is the lead singer in Ken Hensley's "Live Fire" band. He also plays some keyboards and guitar on stage with the band, as they perform Uriah Heep classics and Hensley's solo material. Ken Hensley & Live Fire have recently released the album "Faster", which sees Eirikur singing lead on most of the tracks [you can check out a review of Faster elsewhere on Universal Wheels].
Born in Iceland, Hauksson relocated to Norway in the '80s to pursue his musical career, which has included a few successful appearances on the Eurovision Music Contest, as well as albums with Artch and another release this year with progressive rockers Magic Pie.
Here Eric answers questions pertaining to his early days, his busy career, and his touring and recording with Ken Hensley in Live Fire. Many thanks to the man for taking the time to answer so much, so quickly and thoroughly -- a real trooper. :-)
For further information on all that Eirikur is up to, please visit the following links:
You grew up in the '70s -- a great decade for heavy
rock n roll. What was the hard rock scene like for you growing up in
Iceland? Was there a strong concert circuit there for major bands of
the day or would it be more local bands?
It was mostly local bands. There weren't too many concert halls for the big stars to play at. I do remember though when Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin came in΄71 & ΄72. My mum didn't have the money to buy tickets and she wouldn't have allowed me to go anyway. But of course I hung out, outside the arena, just to feel the tension. 2-3 years later I saw Nazareth and Slade, and by the early eighties bands really began to find their way to little Iceland.
What were some of your favorite bands, singer, players and songwriters growing up? [Can you give me a few of each?
To begin with it was the "Big-3" : Sabbath, Purple & Zeppelin. But eventually Uriah Heep became the act that really grabbed my heart and soul. But you know I also became a huge fan of Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago. My oldest brother was into this brass kinda rock 'n roll and I liked it as well. I just loved scrutinizing a band like Chicago with three lead-singers and such skilled players.
Can you give me a 'Top 10 list of favorite all-time albums?
Wow,- now you're being just a little bit cruel mate. It is impossible and it would be slightly unfair 'cause I would surely forget someone important. I will though mention a few (in random order) that were an inspiration and marked my future career.
Demons and Wizards / Magician's Birthday Uriah Heep: I put these together because I listened to them both on the same day (again and again). There was something in David's voice that hit me like lightning. And little did I know back then that at another point, later in my life, I would be singing some of these same songs with Heep's original songwriter and member Mr. Ken Hensley.
Number of the Beast Iron Maiden: I was 23 and well on my way when I put the record on my player. I just could not believe the lead vocals I was hearing. It was just too damned good (pardon my French). I remember throwing the cover right across the room in pure anguish. My point was that I could never become this good and might as well call it a day right there and then. I am glad though that I changed my mind,- but the fact remains - Bruce's singing here is way beyond belief and the record is a masterpiece.
Ziggy Stardust Bowie : Before Bowie it was all about bands. But here was a guy that that put stories, a character and acting into his music. All genre's put aside,- I would say that Bowie is my biggest musical influence. And he is creating - still !
Deep Purple- In Rock Black Sabbath ( 1st ) and Zeppelin I & II : I listened to all these that same summer and from then on it was obvious which road I was going to follow.
Tubular Bells M. Oldfield : Simply a masterpiece
with every musical ingredient imaginable. Really tells a story without the use
words... Amazing !
How did you first get in to playing music on a regular basis? You are a teacher first, correct?
It's the common story. Playing in cover-bands from the age of 15 and getting a breakthrough at the age of 19. Been a pro more or less since. Living in Iceland with about 240.000 people there at that time, I had no real hope of making a living out of music. Education was for me a must. And like my fathers before me, and their fathers and mother's before that... I took up Teaching. I have never regretted that and even now (when I have dead periods) I do some teaching at a special-school for "troubled " kids that homes and schools no longer can handle. I find it incredibly giving and there is no better way to get your feet back on the ground. No crazy rock fans there, just kids that have none, or little trust in grown-ups and you can only win their trust by being your true self. And I have made many lifetime friends through the years.
Prior to Ken Hensley's Live Fire, you were best known amongst metal fans for the 2 Artch albums. But your recording history goes back further. What were your earliest serious bands and recordings?
In 1981 I won the "song of the year" with my Icelandic band START. The song was in Icelandic "Sekur" (guilty) and after that I was a household name. I have no count on all the album's and songs I was involved with in my Icelandic years (1980-1988) but it was a lot and quite various I must say.
The Artch albums were successful, but the band disbanded in 1993. What are the highlights from this band [gigs, moments, songs] for you? And what was your next major act after Artch? Any offers?
We had some highlights like Wacken and Breaking the Ice (Iceland). But to be quite honest we didn't play that much. We made the general mistake of relaying on good critics and thinking that it was just a matter of time before the millions would come rolling in. We said no to multi-record contracts and then ended up with Metal Blade, I guess mostly because of their tempting down payment fee. Looking back it seems that they just wanted to secure that we wouldn't make it at another label. They never lifted a finger for us and in the end we faded out and became history. There were a couple of tempting offers after Artch, but none of them involved economic security, which was essential for me at that time. My family was well settled in Norway and for me to go out there on endless touring would have had to involve a fair amount of money. For the next years I took the easy way out sort of Elvis-Las Vegas period, you might say.
Many people may not know that aside from being a 'metal' singer; you've had a long history doing some different things, including the Eurovision contest. What have been some of the most different [style wise] and successful recordings and gigs you've done over the years?
Now you mention what I often describe as my "Achilles heel". This desire,- need of mine to just break out and do what I feel there and then. Crossing musically ethical boarders and fans expectations - this has been my history. And somewhere inside of me there is a little "demon" that enjoys this a lot. I love to swim against stream and shock both critics and fans. I will never state that this is a wise thing to do, but I know that it is because of this that I do consider myself to be a very happy man. Call it schizophrenic tendencies....
How did you get noticed by Ken Hensley and become the lead singer in his band?
In 2004 some friends of mine arranged an outdoor- concert here in my hometown Gressvik. It was Hensley with his, at that time Spanish musicians. The promoter asked Ken if he would consider letting me doing lead vocals on the last song "Easy Livin". He wasn't too keen on the idea but I was asked to be ready, just in case. And as it turned out he invited me on stage. This was really appreciated by the fans,- me being the local hero and all. Ken then wanted to do an extra-extra number and landed on Lady in black. The only problem was that John his bass player did this great electric violin thing on their special arrangement and that meant there was no bass. I of course volunteered to do the bass and Ken took the chance. It all worked smoothly. But it wasn't until the summer 2006 that he asked me to put together a Norwegian band that he could use in Scandinavia. I did and Live Fire was born. To begin with Ken did all the lead vocals and I played guitars and keys aside my backing/second vocals. At some time he called me and asked if I was comfortable with the idea of taking over the main vocals, because he wanted to get the feel of the old days, you know concentrating basically on the Hammond and step in with vocals every now and then. I remember me hiding my mobile behind my back, screaming with full lungs "Yeahhh" - to then put the tool back to my mouth stating very calmly that I might consider it. Yeah...right, Mr. "playing hard to get"!
You were a Uriah Heep fan previous before joining Ken's band. How familiar were you with the set list that you now sing before? And what are your favorite Heep / Hensley [solo] tracks to perform?
A big fan. Heep is my all-time favorite band! I knew all the old classics but Ken's solo career stuff was unfamiliar to me. But now "The last dance" is perhaps my live-favorite. "Circle of hands" just brings me to tears each and every time and I love July morning as well, especially since Ken and I make a vocal duet out of it.
I've read you were a fan up until late '70s, then lost interest. Can you give me a few of your favorite Heep albums, songs, and your take on Heep singers such as David Byron, John Lawton and John Sloman [all during the '70s] and have you checked out any of their 80s and recent albums? [Bernie Shaw being a fine fellow Canadian].
My interest sort of slowly faded. The first three albums were great and things got even better when Kerslake and Thain joined in. Gary's death was a big blow but the music was still great. But when David left the spirit changed of course. The magic was between him and Ken and by that time the magic was gone. All credit to his followers (myself included) but he was something special and will never ever be fully replaced. It is not an easy task to follow in his steps and I approach it with greatest respect and dedication. I remember one time when Ken and I had done our "Rain-duet", that he looked me in the eye and said ; "Eric,- David would have been proud of you". Probably the best credit I have had in my whole life. Well... most appreciated for sure.
John Lawton is a good friend and he has occasionally performed with us. He is a great guy and a good singer. I am now recently digging into Mick's Heep and enjoying their music. I like that album Abominog a lot. I've got that one and so many others on vinyl back home at my mums place. Good to hear that Mick has still got it and in Bernie he has a good front man as well. The ultimate fan experience would perhaps be with both bands playing at the same arena; Hmmm.. well might as well realize that this is just wishful thinking
You have been in Live Fire since 2006, and are finally on disc with "Faster". How has the journey been from the time you joined, the Hamburg Blood On The Highway show [w/ John Lawton], the Heepy reunion playing with Paul Newton and Lee Kerslake.... and then finally getting in to the studio to make this album?
Every step on the way has been an amazing adventure. Faster brings Ken back as a band member, a role he seems to like a lot. But I am hoping we can make one more recording and then really make it a band effort. Due to distances and tight schedules we were never really allowed to create the music together as was our aim. In the end it was up to Hensley to write all the stuff, but at least we were together in the studio and fulfilled the puzzle as a group.
You also play keyboards and guitar, but don't on the album, correct? I meant to ask - what came first for you > vocals, guitar or keyboards?
As a kid it was my true intension to play the bass. But it turned out that no-one else dared to sing, so it became my teenage destiny. And yes I play all kinds of instruments, but the singing always comes first. You know when in studio it is all about time and money. There is no need for me to play guitar on an album when Ken Jr. does it so much better and it is obvious that Mr. Hensley plays keyboards in this band. On Artch΄s second album I played all the instruments on "Confrontation" a ballad I wrote. Again it was all about time and money. I knew that I would record it quicker myself, than as if to learn each and everyone their parts.
How familiar were you with the other members of Live Fire prior to joining the band? And can you give me a word or few about each of the guys?
They were all good friends already. Willy Bendiksen (drum ) left us though, after two years. We had done a lot together and he is a really funny guy to travel and hang out with, as well as being a great drummer of course. Tom took his place and I first met him at a dinner in Minsk. I was traveling from a solo-gig in Iceland and Tom did the gig that same night without having rehearsed at all. That is how capable he is. Sid has played bass with everyone worth mentioning here in Norway. He is a rock and very reliable on stage. Together with Tom you might say that they are the foundation of the band. Ken Jr. is my soul mate in the band. We are the ones that probably will sneak out ( again ) deep into the night, just to check out if we might have missed something. We are also a perfect match on stage, both of us quite incapable of standing still, and always supporting each others ego. Hensley of course is the main attraction. This is his band and he can be a bit too fatherly at times. But then again I guess he has to be, with these crazy Scandinavians on board. To me it is obviously a dream come true to just get to know him, not mentioning fronting his well respected name. As a band we stand very strong together. There is so much friendship and respect and I am enjoying every minute when we work together.
How was the experience of working with Ken Hensley in the studio? Being a professional [as yourself] but from another era in rock, was there a lot of direction on how things should sound and what he expected of the band?
As I have said this became very much Ken's album. He wrote all the songs and was the producer. And you are absolutely right when mentioning us coming from a different era. I have the tendency to overdo (a lot) ,- you know stunning and moaning, not caring if half of my notes are "blue" or right on spot. I guess you could say that I want things to sound live, just like on stage. Ken is more accurate in his approach and given the fact that these are his songs, he has every right to claim his type-o signature on the melodies. When we were finished I made a joke of this and told him that he had won the first round. But if it ever came to live recording he wouldn't have the same chance to hold me by the horns.
As Ken wrote the songs what was the process of you adapting to Ken's words for the recordings? And as Ken's words are easy to relate to for many fans, was it easy to get in to them?
I would never dream of interfering or questioning his lyrics. At his best he is the master of easily understandable but deeply meaningful words. Have you heard "There comes a time"? Absolute brilliance, gives me the goose bumps and all. And his words are very easy to relate to and get into as well.
What are your own favorite moments on the album -- as the singer and for listening? Can you give me a few words on some of the songs that stood out for you?
I like "Set Me Free" a lot. It takes me back to the seventies in it's form and approach... powerful. I also enjoy "I Cry Alone". Simply yet another great ballad from the man himself. "Beyond the Starz" is a great song as well and with powerful lyrics. But my best moment on the album is, I think - the live recording of "Circle of hands". Why?... Because it is live, I guess. No beating around the bush, just seven minutes of recording and the deal is closed. And performing and recording with a big symphony orchestra was a new and a great experience.
Do you foresee a follow up to Faster in the future, perhaps with band co-writes as well?
We have a dream of doing a live recording partly with this orchestra. And another studio album would be great. It is not Hensley's fault that he ended up writing everything on "Faster" and he has urged us to front our ideas whenever we are ready. We were far too passive and never took the challenge of songwriting serious enough. Won't happen again, that's a promise !
How much of Faster is featured in the band's live set?
It varies from gig to gig. Set me Free & I Cry Alone are always there and so is The Curse plus Circle of Hands (of course). Faster & Fill Your Head With Rock are also presented every now and then.
In a blog earlier this year you mentioned that Ken had said this would be his last year performing live. Does that still hold true? And do foresee yourself working with other members of Live Fire beyond your work with Ken?
He was serious when he said so, but luckily for us all he changed his mind. We are hoping he will go on "forever". And there is also a future for Live Fire if he was to call it a day. He has urged us to continue as a band in the future and promised that he will even contribute with his songwriting if we do.
You also have a fairly new album "The Suffering Joy" out with Magic Pie? Can you tell me a bit about this band and the new album? [It is very much a progressive band, along the likes of Dream Theater, Queensryche?]
A friend of mine was one of the singers in the band and asked me to step in when he left. He gave me their previous two releases and I liked it a lot. The main reason I joined in was probably that I saw this as something new and challenging. And I loved the idea of making songs without limits, time-wise or stylish. Writing the lyrics to "The suffering joy" was a big task and I enjoyed it so very, very much. It has been a while since I have had to be this creative and it made me realize that I have still got it. A good deal of the melodies are also mine, even though our guitar player Kim Stenberg is by far responsible for the composing. So far has being a member of both bands gone smooth.
What other projects do you have on the go or are planning in the future?
I am always on the road doing all kinds of solo performances. Me and Stenberg have already started the writing process for Magic Pie nr 4 and I am hoping next year will see me busy traveling with Live Fire and hopefully recording a live album. I have also done a recording with a band from Sweden. You can find a link to this project SKARR on my home-page: www.eirikur.info We are still hoping for some kind of a contract but it is a jungle out there... And it's not getting any better either.
Any road tales or favorite shows since you've been a member of Live Fire?
Our yearly performance here at Gressvik Summer Weekend is always a night to remember. And we have done it all from playing 250 seats clubs to a massive crowd of tens of thousands. It's all cool and it is all a part of the whole picture as well. You meet a lot of rockers on your way and regardless the "size of the name" you meet, we are all like brothers and sisters really. You take care of the good memories and the very few not so good... You just wipe 'em out your memory. Hooking up with Dan and Pete from Nazareth is as an example always a good vibe. They do know how to spend an evening...
You are involved in a Queen tribute. Can you give me a few details about this gig? And what are a few of your fave Queen tracks and/or albums?
These kinda' performances are a big part of my career
as a free-lancer. There will be double-concerts in Reykjavik on
November the 23d and 24th. The period of autumn 2000 - spring 2001
found me crossing the Atlantic back and forth for almost every weekend,- also
for a Queen show that time. So you might say I know my Queen/Mercury quite
well. Aah...dear beloved Freddy why did you have to sing
this high-pitched all the time? Was it just to tease us smaller prophets coming
after you? My favorite album is without a doubt Queen
II. It is not the best one technically / materially speaking, but it
such a joy just sitting down, undisturbed and open your senses for Side White
& Side Black. As for favorite songs it is much more
complex. But as I've said I love to go against the stream, and to
prove that : To me "The Prophet's Song" is even ( if
possible ) more of a Hymn than "Bohemian Rhapsody". And I
would also like to urge everyone to admire the majestic voice of Roger
Taylor. For instance on the fantastic "Tenement Funster"
from Sheer Heart Attack. Let's face it these guys are all brilliant,
but understandably the remaining three have lived in the shadow of a man who
perhaps is the biggest rock-music entertainer of all time.
Being from Norway - I am curious if you watch much hockey? :-))
I do follow it occasionally. The Norwegian hockey-scene
is improving every year and they have even had some fair battles recently with
the far more strong Canadians. Not too many years ago it was a case of
15-0 at least (ha-ha).
Hope to see many of you in times to come. I know there is a plan for Live Fire and the U.S. next year and let's hope Canada comes up as well. Thanks a lot for your time and all the best...always - Eric
Check out some of Eirikur's work on Youbube:
Eirikur Hauksson / Valentine Lost
Performance of Iceland's entry at the
Hauksson / Stone Cold Crazy
Rare Queen Tribute / Fifuni 2009
Set Me Free [From Yesterday]
track from Ken Hensley &
The Last Dance
by Ken Hensley
Magic Pie / Slightly Mad
From the album
"The Suffering Joy"
I Cry Alone
Ken Hensley &
Live Fire from
Interview: ©2011 Kevin J. Julie / Universal Wheels / Travellers In Time