Artist Profile | Inspiration

Zack Breen: “I’m whispering into my phone like a crazy person”

Zack Breen has been a .strandberg* artist for about a year. During that time he and his band mates in the explosive rock outfit THE HARA have gained traction for their explosive live shows, all while Zack continues to evolve as a guitar player. We sat down with the enthusiastic musician to talk about the force of live music, the birth of creativity and… baking.

Music rooted in passion for live performances

Besides being a experimental and highly devoted guitar player, Zack Breen recently discovered yet another hobby in life. It’s with great enthusiasm he lets me know that he recently got into baking.

“I’ve started to make banana loafs, but my next step is to make a Victoria sandwich and I feel like I need to level up a little bit more first. This is literally in the past month. I’ve become a baker.”

The process, quite similar albeit on on a more abstract level, to creating music, seems to be a soothing one. Which could be necessary, since THE HARA (which besides Zack also consists of singer Josh Taylor and drummer Jack Kennedy), not only deliver heavy rock music rooted in maximum energy output and presence, but also make sure to play live as often as they can.

The day after our interview, Zack is about to head off on tour with THE HARA and american heavy metal act Ice Nine Kills.

“​​Tomorrow we’re going to be playing two songs from the upcoming album. One of the songs will be the first single. I love nothing more than the performing live. If you want to experience THE HARA, then it’s at the live shows.”

And that attitude goes both ways, since the band, with their debut album Survival Mode (released in 2023), tried to capture the roaring feeling of live music on a record.

“It was was definitely a focus. The idea of playing it live, and capturing that energy live, and then on the record.”

The album also features his favorite song to perform live.

“There’s one song called Rockstar, which is really really fun to play. It’s very kind of new metal bounce. It’s simple to play play as well.”

From Guitar Hero to Dream Theater and onwards

By now THE HARA has gained quite a following, being hailed for their vibrant live shows and charged studio album and EP:s. The road to acclaim started quite unconventional though, since Zack got into guitar playing along a digital path as a young teenager.

“Guitar Hero came out and everything just hit me at such a good time, and I got so interested in music. I asked my mom if she could get me a guitar, and she did, bless her. Besides school I really didn’t have much else to do, and playing guitar made me really happy. I was, and still am, having the best time of life”

AC/DC and Angus Young was the spark that lit it all, followed by Jimi Hendrix, and then heavier music like Avenged Sevenfold and later on Dream Theater.

“There’s just so much insane musicianship in Dream Theater, specially for a bunch of kids like me and friends who were just obsessed with guitar music. There’s so much intricacy but then at the same time it feels like there’s so much accessibility there as well.”

The highly technical music of Dream Theater not only sparked the fire for music, but also ignited a deep sense of discipline, as Zack Breen strives to push his skills ever forward.

“I kind of learned discipline via being interested in the guitar. I do need to practice, which requires time, and unfortunately, it does require patience. The sound of the metronome ticking away still haunts my dreams. But nothing beats the gratifying feeling when you accomplish what you’re trying to do.”

The manifestation of creativity

While the technical aspects of playing might require both patience and discipline, creativity is another form of mission, if you could call it that.

“I feel it manifests in so many different ways. I get creative by improvisation but also by just capturing thoughts. It has to feel exciting. I think that feeling is what creativity might be. Sometimes I’ve just been walking down the street and and get this ‘thing’ in my head, I get my phone out and then I’m whispering into my phone like a crazy person to save that thought.”

Turning creative ideas into songs has proved to be challenge, at times. Specially when you move from “bed room shredding” into a band.

“When I got into song writing and you have to talk to people who aren’t guitar players, it gets a little bit more interesting and harder to communicate ideas. I definitely needed to learn how to communicate with other musicians.”

And the communication in THE HARA seem to be pretty straight forward.

“I take half an of an idea and pitch it to the band and go ‘let’s work on it, this is what it could be’ and they are either ‘hell yeah’ or ‘no”. But that’s now though. We really had to learn how to write together, we’ve evolved, practiced and grown.”

A 10 minute love story

For a year now, Zack has been a part of a constantly growing group of .strandberg* artists. A partnership that started thanks to friend and fellow guitar player Connor Kaminski (who we also talked to a while back).

Being high school friends and sharing a deep interest for Dream Theater, they both ventured further into guitar playing after finishing school. Naturally, this was the guy to talk to about guitar recommendations.

“I was looking for an instrument to help inspire me to write the second album with THE HARA, and told the guys I wanted to start working with extended ranges. So I reached out to Connor and said I was looking for a versatile workhorse guitar, eclectic and inspiring. He recommended .strandberg*”.

A recommendation that quickly turned into love at first sight.

“I tried my first .strandberg* in a guitar shop in Birmingham, and within 10 minutes of playing I knew I’ve found everything I was looking for. A pristine instrument, with so many options.”

“I walked out with it and absolutely loved it. I told Connor who set up a meeting with Ola, and the two of us got along really well. We talked about THE HARA, and guitar playing, and that was the start of it”.

The unconventional design and look almost didn’t occur to Zack Breen, who just noticed the natural and practical perks.

“It’s such an amazing instrument, and I’ve never played anything like it. Before .strandberg* I had never played a headless guitar, and I’m aware that it’s a quite radical change from the traditional style of guitar.”

“But it never registered as a wildly different thing for me. It’s just part of the design, which makes total sense, specially for the stability and balance. It makes a load of sense when you add more strings. And it looks cool.”

Zack Breens .strandberg* gear

Boden NX Prog 6
Boden NX Prog 7 string

THE HARA is currently touring the UK. Check out the dates here.

All photos of Zack Breen by @samanthajguess

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