“I don’t know if you can see this from where you are, but this is where I recorded just about all of the last album,” says Ryder Havdale, guitarist, singer and song writing polymath of Canadian band The Mohawk Lodge. Havdale swings his computer around so I can see the view via the wonders of modern VOIP technology. It might be cold and dark in Melbourne at 7am when we make contact, but it’s a temperate and sunny afternoon in Havdale’s current location in Washington State, just south of the border with British Columbia. “I’m in a little cabin, and it’s pretty cool here. The ocean’s out there,” Havdale says, gesticulating into the distance. “And I don’t even have to pay rent, which is even better,” he laughs.
Havdale formed The Mohawk Lodge about ten years ago when he decided to pull his proverbial finger out and write and record some of his own songs. “I was living in a place called The Mohawk Lodge, and I was taking this course on ‘what do you want to do with your life’, and I stood up and said ‘I’m going to record in the next three months while I’m at this place’,” Havdale says. Havdale had already played in a few local bands, though his talents weren’t always appreciated. “I’d actually been asked not to sing in one of the bands, so I took a few singing lessons and I started writing these songs, and it turned into The Mohawk Lodge,” he laughs.
In an interview a few years ago, Havdale described The Mohawk Lodge as “reformed maths rockers trying to write 80s hits.” It’s a description that sends Havdale into hysterics – and one that he still agrees with. “I was a huge Swervedriver fan, and then I got into Don Caballero, but I literally can’t listen to that anymore – I think I burnt out on that shit!” Havdale says.
Havdale has also used his music to explore some of the darker times in his life, such as ‘Wrong Side of the Bars’, in which Havdale tells the story of a night in gaol after a brawl with his then bass player (whom Havdale had found in bed with his girlfriend). “I’d never been in the drunk tank before then, and that song is about how amazing it is to be free,” Havdale says. “I’d never ever considered what it was like to be thrown in gaol for something you didn’t do, but that’s terrifying for me now. I only spent one day there, but that was enough to make me think, ‘fuck, I never want to do that again’. I remember going to straight to the bar after getting out, and thinking ‘holy fuck, I’m so lucky!’”
Havdale describes his latest record with The Mohawk Lodge, Damaged Goods, as his ‘punk record’. It’s a description that owes more to the attitude with which he approached the record rather than its sound as such. “I think of punk more as the spirit,” Havdale says.
“I’ve done some records when I’ve been really into Fleetwood Mac at the time, and wanted it to be big and glorious. When I think of punk, I think of it as the spirit – leave all the warts. And with the songs, I wanted to get straight to the point – in a note. We recorded the whole album in three days in my living room. It happened so quickly, and I think you can hear that. In the same way that I think I killed my last records by overdoing it, here it’s all there, in a note.”
BY PATRICK EMERY