Music Sunday, November 29th Words by: Mark Bowen, pictures by: Mark Bowen

Going solo: Bren Haze on bringing back the lost art

Music Sunday, November 29th

Going solo: Bren Haze on bringing back the lost art

Out in the middle of the Herefordshire countryside on the banks of the River Wye a frenzied guitar solo fills the air.

It’s the type of solo that Bren Haze would describe as filthy. This is a compliment. It’s the same word he uses to describe the guitar work on the Rolling Stones and Jeff Beck records he much admires.

Bren lives at the end of a long lane in Byford. It’s likely that the only living creatures liable to hear his dextrous playing are the swans that swim serenely behind us.

The location, a barn conversion with a glass frontage on the side of the river, is the perfect practising place for a busy musician intent on rehearsing for live shows and writing his own material.

 

Bren in action on the banks of the River Wye.

After Bren launches into a self-penned number Herefordshire Live tells him that his solos are a mix of Slash and David Gilmour from Pink Floyd.

“Thank you,” he says in his laid back manner. “It’s a huge honour.”

Bren sings and switches between acoustic and electric guitar mid-song. He hasn’t heard of anyone else who does this and quite frankly neither have we.

His songs are a blend of acoustic guitar, catchy melodies, and hard hitting solos. It’s a genuinely thrilling moment when he launches into one.

“When I was 18 or 19 I used to watch Jon Bonham and Keith Moon continuously. My dream was always to become a good drummer - but I was not,” said Bren.

“So I sold my drum kit to pay an electric bill. Then somebody at work told me I would look really cool if I played a guitar so I taught myself bit by bit.”

His switch to six strings has paid dividends. He has been BBC Introducing ‘Artist of the Week’ twice, had his music promoted to Radio Two’s Steve Lamacq show and played Chris Evans’s CarFest South.

He has also supported Mick Ralphs, formerly of Mott The Hoople and 70’s rock giants Bad Company. In February 2014 Bren released his debut album ‘Set Free’. This was swiftly followed in April 2015 by ‘Step Out Of The Haze’. Sales spanned all corners of Europe, Australia, Norway, the US and Canada, alongside favourable reviews and significant radio play.

Bren tells me that he does not often play covers preferring to write his own material with his creative process being remarkably quick.

“When I write I get either the music or lyrics in the space of an hour with the exception of the solos,” said Bren.

These are written in the studio. But surely, we ask, isn’t this a guaranteed way to heap piles of pressure of yourself?

“I did not have a solo for most of the songs on the album and the producer was telling me that we only had a certain number of hours to do this,” said Bren.

“But I know when I am in the zone I will get it done.”

During the recording of his second album Bren says he wanted to work quickly.

“I was aiming to record a song a day but it’s hard because on songs like Step Into The Haze there is a lot of intricate guitar.”

Last year Bren had a big scare after damaging tendons in his hand and being told that his future as a guitarist was very much in doubt.

“I was told I would not play guitar again. The doctor told me they could operate but said I would not be able to play like I did before,” said Bren.

“He told me that I would not have the same movement. I said if I cannot play like I used to I don’t want to play.”

Soon after the accident Bren was due to play at the NEC in the semi-finals of UK Open Mike.

“I did it but it was not my greatest performance because my finger hurt,” said Bren. “I remember playing a solo but it hurt so much.

“Some of it was psychological as I did not know if it would happen again.”

After months playing with a finger brace he has performed for the last three months without it while becoming a regular on the county’s thriving festival circuit.

Bren has fitted seamlessly back into the music scene after a spell living in Austria. He moved there with Nushka, his Alaskan Malamute dog who still lives with him at his Herefordshire hideaway.

“I ended up in Austria for a few years in the middle of nowhere in a tiny village on the top of a mountain” said Bren.

“There were only about 50 people living there so it was a bit of a shock when I turned up.

“I just fancied a change. I saw this crazy house and I thought it looked cool.

“I really enjoyed it out there. I did not need to go and rediscover myself I just needed a breather.

“When I came back I had not heard of all these new acts like Ed Sheeran.”

After getting back into the swing of things and picking up a guitar again Bren needed to test his vocal chords for the first time.

“I had not sung with my previous bands,” said Bren, “so on my first album I was really nervous singing but on the second album I had a lot more confidence.”

Bren recorded at Mooncalf Studios in Swindon with producer Nick Beere.

“It’s a lot like a marriage in the studio and my aim is to get what is in my head to come out,” said Bren.

“Nick and I get on well and we are both on the same wavelength.

“It was so quick and easy and I became more confident to speak out and say ‘this is what I want’.”

Bren launches into a solo at The Victory in Hereford.

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