Cornell, Weiland, Staley, Vedder. These are the some of the voices of my childhood that shaped my love for music once I began playing and writing music at a young age.
What if I told you Manian was another name that I have on that list?
I have known Manian Van Hacker since 8th grade, and I can actually credit him with teaching me how to write a song. We had long nights of staying up writing, talking about life and of course being angst-ridden teenagers. Somewhere there is a VHS tape of us at our high school talent show (which we won) absolutely nailing a cover of Live’s “Heropsychodreamer.” Or, at least we thought we did.
I have watched Manian Van Hacker grow as a musician and songwriter throughout the years, and I was excited to see that he recently released a new EP titled “Pilot Error.” So I caught up with my old friend to ask him about the EP, the death of Bowie, and what the future holds for undoubtedly one of the best vocalists in our area.
MJ: Where was “Pilot Error” recorded?
MVH: Pilot Error was recorded at MDW Productions in Harrisburg. It was produced by myself and Michael Washkevich. I worked with him a couple of years ago when I tracked the “Teeth” EP at his studio and he was fantastic to work with – very professional and supportive. So working with him on Pilot Error was an easy decision for me.
Tell me about the musicians that helped you create Pilot Error.
I started out with drummer Jim Bedorf, who I’ve worked with before in Manian and the Monumentals. He has a very creative approach to his drum work for a song. He’s like having another songwriter. Guitarist Mark Burke and bassist Dan Ruscito were new to the mix. I’ve jammed with those guys while being involved in the Susan Givlin events at HMAC. They really brought something unique and exciting to the songs. I brought in my dear friend Brandon Reece as well. He played keys and some guitar on the “Real Love” track. Washkevich also played some great guitar stuff on “Rise of the Heathen.” And, the harmonies on “Villan” are sung by my wife, Jennifer. She’s always my go-to person for the harmonies.
I am hearing a lot of Bowie influence on this EP. I know he had a huge impact on your life musically. How did his death affect you personally and musically?
When the news came out about Bowie’s death, I was still trying to get over another hero of mine passing away, Scott Weiland. Weiland was a conduit to Bowie for me, so really both of their deaths affected me greatly. With Bowie, his last album, “Blackstar,” really inspired me to push through the hand up that I had about myself as a writer. With the “Monumentals” stuff, I initially intended to go outside of my comfort zone on those songs, but I played it safe. Blackstar ignited this confidence in me to really swim into those uncharted waters.
Do you have any upcoming local shows planned?
I am playing just one show on Feb. 10 at River City Blues Club in Harrisburg. This will be my farewell show since my wife and I will be moving out of the country in the spring. I am excited to experience playing some of the songs off the new EP live. In the past, I would write songs and play them out live for a while to see how they do in front of an audience. Then go into the studio. So this will be interesting.
You’ve been involved in music in some way your entire life so, whats next?
The next adventure for me is moving to the U.K. with my wife. I plan to continue my career in music. I’m working very hard at getting these songs in people’s ears, and this will still be the case once we’ve relocated. I usually give my releases roughly a year to a year and a half of shelf life until I’m ready to go on to something new. Pilot Error was originally a full length. I had 10 songs picked out for it. The four on the EP are the ones that I chose to release, so I don’t know, I might elaborate on Pilot Error in the near future but there will certainly be new music on the horizon at some point.
Having listened to Pilot Error many times already, the profound lyrical abilities of Van Hacker have never stalled throughout the years. His creative, as it always has, continues to push conventional boundaries. While I am sad to see us lose such an important musician in our area to the U.K., I can only imagine the new heights this will take Manian in his musical career.
Purchase Pilot Error on Itunes and also check out Manian Van Hacker’s last performance before he sets off across the pond Feb. 10 at River City Blues Club. Cover is just $8 and the show starts at 9 p.m.