With fast-rising US metallers Haunt hitting Europe this month, Rushonrock’s Rich Holmes caught up with mainman Trevor William Church to talk new beginnings, new visions and why California needs a few more keyboard players…

“I wanted to have a solo project so I could write whatever songs I felt like writing. To do whatever I wanted to do, without anyone telling me otherwise.” Trevor William Church has clearly put his heart and soul into Haunt. As the act’s founder, chief songwriter, guitarist and vocalist, it’s very much his baby. And after loosening his ties with Beastmaker, the Fresno doom outfit he started with bassist John Tucker and drummer Andres Saldate in 2014, he now feels able to realise his own musical vision.

Haunt’s 2019 album, If Icarus Could Fly and last year’s Mosaic Vision EP, were beautifully crafted records. Inspired by NWOBHM and classic hard rock, they glistened with evocative melodies and were ingrained with all of the deft songwriting that Church brought to Haunt’s 2018 debut full-length, Burst Into Flame, not to mention Beastmaker’s hefty discography.

And the Californian has been quick to build on that momentum.

January saw the release of Haunt’s third album, Mind Freeze. While still bearing the classy metallic sheen and surging twin guitars that have come to define the band, it was a more expansive record than its predecessors, with 80s-style synths playing a more prominent role this time around.

And in contrast to the likes of If Icarus Could Fly, where Church handled all lead guitar duties himself, John Tucker contributed most of the solos on Mind Freeze. The record is another stage in Haunt’s evolution. Another step forward.

“At Haunt’s inception in late 2017 I was still just figuring things out,” admits Church.  “I feel like I’m now able to have more diverse variations of tempos and patterns in my songs.”

Mind Freeze has given Tucker – who is part of Haunt’s live line-up – “a chance to shine” according to his bandmate.

And as for the synths…

“I got more comfortable with my keyboard playing,” Church explains. “Even though I had written keys for Haunt from the get-go I just didn’t feel confident in putting them in there. This time around I finally let them come in.”

He continues: “Keyboards are something I’ve always messed around with. Way, way, back before I had a studio I used to mess around with this program called Reason and I’d make up songs on there. Most were inspired by 80s synth songs: dance beats essentially. I always wanted to incorporate that somehow, but looking for someone to play the parts that I’d write is very difficult in Fresno! I put an ad out but got no replies for a heavy metal keyboardist…”

Jokes aside, Church is obviously relishing the freedom that Haunt – which he still views as a solo project – is giving him. Beastmaker isn’t finished (“we are on hiatus” says the frontman) and indeed, the trio released the critically acclaimed Eye Of The Storm EP in 2019.

But for now, he needs time to focus on his new direction. To give Haunt the attention it deserves…

“I knew I wanted an outlet to write whatever without worrying about criticism. I’m 38 years old and I’ve been in many bands. Too many ideas can actually be a bad thing and it makes songwriting longer and less appealing – for me anyway.

“Haunt was my chance to have a new voice lyrically whereas in my previous band we did a ‘horror’ theme, which got old after 80 songs.

“Beastmaker wanted to stay true to playing doom. I had to move forward and write what I was feeling.”

Thanks to Church’s boundless creative energy, Haunt can draw from three full-lengths and two EPs as they trek across Europe in February and March. The quartet will make their UK debut at NWOBHM-worshipping extravaganza Brofest in Newcastle on February 28, and will hit Hamburg’s Hell Over Hammaburg Festival on March 6, as well as a slew of dates with Seven Sisters, the Londoners with whom they’ve released a split seven inch (Sea Of Dreams/The Crystal Temple).

Church is a self-confessed Anglophile. He backpacked around the UK in his younger days. His playlists bulge with the likes of Def Leppard, Angel Witch and Witchfinder General. Priest’s Sad Wings Of Destiny was a gateway. The significance of taking Haunt to some of metal’s original heartlands isn’t lost on him.

“This will be my first time to Europe as Haunt,” he says. “I’ve actually toured England three times already so I’m very excited. I have had a lot of fun traveling to England – it is such an amazing and wonderful place… and I have a proper ‘English’ name!”

Mind Freeze is out now on Shadow Kingdom Records.

Haunt UK dates:

February 28 – Brofest (UK) 6 – Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne (full festival runs February 28 – February 29).

March 1 – The Black Heart, London (with Seven Sisters)