By Alan RantaIn 2002, the Herbaliser released an album ominously titled Something Wicked This Way Comes. Since then, a series of harsh personal and professional events have unfolded that put the future of the group in jeopardy. Leading up to their newly released album There Were Seven, bassist and founding member Jake Wherry shed some light on where the project has been and where it's headed.
"Since leaving Ninja Tune, Canada has died for us," Wherry tells Exclaim! "We were perennial jazz festival favourites, doing the Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary jazz shows, but without a record company based in Montreal, like Ninja Tune was, our profile's taken a beating in Canada, and the same thing in the UK. We're still pretty popular on the continent of Europe, but with a four-and-a-half-year gap, you need to release a record every couple of years if people are going to remember you."
The gap between There Were Seven and their previous studio album from 2008, Same As It Never Was, was not a casual vacation. Wherry has dealt with serious personal issues, from 2002 until recently, which led to his reluctance to tour and momentarily changed the direction of the group's music.
"I lost my wife in 2004. That was devastating. She was killed in an accident, and I had two young boys to bring up," he explains. "And then just as I got over that, and I remarried and had a couple more kids, I found out in 2009 that I had Hodgkin's disease, which is a blood cancer, very treatable but still a terrible surprise, and I had to go for chemotherapy. It came back last year."
Yet There Were Seven is not just a place marker, made to keep the band in the limelight. Thematically, the album is a scathing indictment of an overproduced and under-talented industry, and the group borrowed a large sum of money in order to release the album on their own label, to do it their own way. In this effort, they rediscovered some of the original passion they felt which informed their funky, political hip-hop aesthetic early on.
"The intro track, 'Return of the Seven,' there's a vibe to it that we'd kind of forgotten about, where you go through thousands and thousands of hip-hop records and pull out little words from different records and scratch them all together. It's really powerful and dynamic. We did a lot of digging, and [Ollie Teeba] came up with vocals. If you listen to the intros to Very Mercenary and Blow Your Headphones, there's a similar thing. We've always liked to have intro tracks that say, 'We're fucking here!'"
There Were Seven is out now on their own label, Department H. You can watch the recently unveiled video for album track "March of the Dead Things (Night of the Necromantics)" below and read Exclaim!'s full Herbaliser interview here.