10 Riffs: Hawk Eyes

Leeds-based riff fanatics Hawk Eyes release their new full-length 'Ideas' today and with remarkable timing, we've strong-armed guitarists Rob Stephens and Paul Astick into picking their 10 favourite riffs for us. TG's arms are like Petrucci's, in case you were wondering…

Hawk Eyes' new album is reviewed in issue 226, but the jist is that it's good and they are good at guitaring, especially when it comes to their riffs -- which are also good. Further evidence of this is provided in the video for their latest single, 'Skyspinners', above...

10. St Vincent 'Surgeon'

Hawk Eyes say: "I know this is fairly new, but it is a top ten of 'all time', and 'all time' includes now and the future too, so I'm gonna go with this. The riff in the chorus is totally hypnotic and incredibly cool. It also reminds me of when we were finishing off [new album] 'Ideas' and the 'Mindhammers' EP. I was listening to this a lot. I really like the way she uses the guitar, with some horrible distortions too. The outro solo is simple but brilliant. It reminds me of 70s space rock like Automatic Man."

9. Cursed 'Head of the Baptist'

Hawk Eyes say: "I really, really, really like this riff. It's simple, but very dark and hates everyone that listens to it. It just grinds away by itself and it's how the other instruments interplay with it that 'makes' it - it's got a really nice swing. I was lucky enough to support Cursed on the Leeds date of their last tour with my old band Bearhead, so it reminds me of some very lovely times we all had in 2008."

8. Melvins 'The Bit'

Hawk Eyes say: "I met a girl at a Melvins concert once. I think she could have been the love of my life, but my good friend Winkle dissuaded her from talking to me, later explaining to me that he acted in my best interest as we had met each other 'at a Melvins gig'. I like to play this riff every time I turn my amp on, I thought it drove the other three mad, but then they started doing it too. It's how we know its time for soundcheck."

7. A Perfect Circle 'Judith'

Hawk Eyes say: "I remember seeing the video for this on MTV when it came out and being totally blown away: no-one else was doing this at all. Intense, huge, sincere, amazing. At the time everything else was jingle-jangle indie or hyper-masculine nu-metal, both of which I was not a fan of. This was also my gateway into Tool, a band who had a profound effect on my ideas about songwriting."

6. Smashing Pumpkins 'Cherub Rock'

Hawk Eyes say: "There are so many Pumpkins riffs I'd have loved to have in here, but I've decided to just choose this one, mainly because the first time I heard this on 'Siamese Dream' I was totally hooked and a lifelong obsession ensued. It's one of the most anthemic, yet understated riffs ever - to fully grasp it you have to completely get inside it, have it surround you - play it loud."

5. Tony Iommi 'Time Is Mine' (featuring Phil Anselmo)

Hawk Eyes say: "I could've picked 100 different Black Sabbath songs, all worthy of a place on here. However, something not given as much attention but equally rifftastic is Tony Iommi's solo album 'IOMMI'. Phil Anselmo sings on 'Time Is Mine', but each track on the album has a different vocalist: Dave Grohl, Billy Corgan and Ozzy all contribute as well. Get well soon riff god."

4. Led Zeppelin 'Kashmir'

Hawk Eyes say: "Absolutely massive, big, giant, humongous, I really like the idea of Jimmy Page turning up to a band practise with the biggest riff ever..."

3. Dream Theater 'The Dance of Eternity'

Hawk Eyes say: "Dream Theater are all incredible players, John Petrucci makes me feel like giving up playing guitar sometimes. Humans shouldn't be able to play guitar like he does. I think he may have made a deal with the devil."

2. Metallica 'Master of Puppets'

Hawk Eyes say: "This band taught me how to play the guitar and introduced me to heavy music. In the heavy metal world, I seriously doubt anyone will top what they did. This song is full of brilliant riffs. I could've just said any song from 'Kill 'Em All', 'Ride The Lightning', 'Master Of Puppets' or '...And Justice For All'. They're a massively famous band but it's easy to underestimate just how much they changed heavy music. This clip is from the Seattle 1989 live DVD and still sounds amazing."

1. Michael Jackson 'Beat It'

Hawk Eyes say: "One reason 'Thriller' is the best selling album ever is this song. Steve Lukather from Toto plays rhythm guitar (Jeff and Steve Porcaro from Toto are also on this record) and Eddie Van Halen plays the solo, that is one hell of a guitar team. I read somewhere that the solo was improvised and he received no fee, he just did it as a favour. The riff is great, the solo is great, it's all great. I love Toto, I love Van Halen, I love Michael Jackson. Three ticks in one."

Need more Hawk Eyes, riffs and generally demented music in your life? Check out Total Guitar issue 224 for our feature on The Future Of British Riffs - featuring Hawk Eyes, Turbowolf and The James Cleaver Quintet.

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Matthew Parker

Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.