Tuesday, December 23, 2008, 03:57 PM ( 1277 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeMy interview with Richard Hawley first appeared in Little Radio.
I first saw you on a show called London Live, and they had one of those cool lights that shoots all over – I can’t think of what they’re called.
Richard Hawley: A mirror ball?
RH: Mirror balls are great. We don’t always have them but if we do have a mirror ball – no matter who you are, whether you’re a little old lady or a hard-core punk it affects every one the same. It’s a nice light - it seems to be a true light – it’s light reflecting off all shapes of glass.
Q: You don’t use your natural accent while singing – do you ever think about singing with your accent?
RH: I don’t deliberately do anything. It just comes out the way it is – I don’t think I’ve got a particularly American accent. The songs are based, a lot of them anyway – not all of them – in my hometown, with geographical places as points of reference. But I never wanted that to be exclusive to people so that it’s so colloquial that only people who live at the end of my road can relate to it. That would be a waste of time. I grew up listening to American music, so that when you open your mouth to sing that’s what comes out. I’ve learnt from birth.
Q: You toured in strip joints when you were 14 with your dad?
RH: Some of the gigs were in strip joints.
Q: Was that kind of a dream come true?
RH: It was a fucking nightmare. I was so young I really didn’t know what was going on. My uncle Chuck played piano for my dad in the 60s. It was the early 80s and basically they couldn’t get an adult to do the gig so the only person they could get was this snotty nosed 14 year-old kid who knew all the chops. It was a trade off of him having to deal with this kid with his first time out of the country let alone out of the city. We thought a foreign holiday was a weekend in Wales. He lied to my mother, he said we’re playing really nice venues and he’s going to be looked after. We played shit hole bars and strip joints and really dodgy places. I got escorted into the gig and then at the end of it escorted out. A lot of the dodgier bars we’d be playing all night – which for me, I had the energy of a lion then – I was enjoying it, it was great. I didn’t really know – when you’re young you deal with the reality that’s presented to you. At the end of the night they’d lock me in the van and I’d sit there bored and they’d go and get shit-faced. I saw some interesting things – it only lasted over a month because it was in the school holidays. I lived off Mars bars – in American speak I lived off candy bars and Grolsch beer. I was skinny as a stick anyway. I must have lost about a stone. My Mother was in tears. I think my Dad knew that I was ready for it, he thought that if he survives this then he’s going to make it through his life. Music is not an easy profession to chose. He prepared me for what may or may not happen in the future. Looking back, as a father now, I don’t think I could do that to my kids but I don’t resent the fact that he did that. I thank him for it now because I knew from when I was really young that all I wanted to do was play music. It was a way of saying, here you go.
Q: Are your kids into music?
RH: My daughter plays guitar, she’s really good and my son’s got a little drum kit. The baby’s too young. He just dances to rock and roll. He loves Little Richard the most, but he likes Johnny Cash as well. He also loves the Sonics – his favorite is Have Love Will Travel – do you know that one?
RH: You should know that. Are you from Seattle?
Q: I am.
RH: You should know your own history. You have a good pedigree here. We better be good tonight.
Q: You’re a spokesperson, along with Sean Bean, of Henderson’s Relish?
RH: It’s a local condiment.
Q: They had an official Richard Hawley sauce?
RH: They did bottles in tribute to the albums, which was amazing. Local beer companies made four different beers for the albums. My Dad said you’d cracked it now, they never did that for me. It was great.
Q: Your wife and you got an allotment?
RH: You’ve been doing a lot of reading. It’s kind of a backburner now – it’s utter chaos at home right now. I’m kind of glad I’m on tour. I’m not a hippie or anything – I fucking hate hippies – love and peace are not fashion accessories, it’s a state of mind. We live in a world where everything’s prepackaged – there’s loads of crappy food. We just liked the idea of growing stuff ourselves. My dad and grandfather were gardeners – I know how to dig a hole. I’ve dug quite a few in my time - of various kinds.
Q: The video for Serious, where you have a mannequin for a girlfriend is great.
RH: It just brings a smile to people’s face.
Q: Have you seen the documentary Love Me Love My Doll?
RH: Yeah – I saw that after and it freaked me out. I couldn’t believe there were people who actually did it. I thought it was just a product of me and Shane Meadows’ (Serious’ director) warped mind, that we kind of imagined . . . what if. Are you aware of Shane Meadows?
Q: I want to see This is England.
RH: You’ve got to see it. It’s awesome. It’s his life, in Nottingham but it’s that period of time when kids were really passionate about music and music culture. It is still important now but not like it was. When I was a kid people would fight in the street because you’re into different music. It was quite serious and it got quite heavy at times. It’s basically working class factions of the music. It was important to take that seriously.
Q: What group were in?
RH: None really. I was always into a bit of rockabilly a bit of a Teddy Boy. But I also liked a lot of music that the Mods liked.
[Hawley was really open and shared some photos with me of his family. I say this honestly – it’s a lovely family.]
It’s funny because looking at these photos stops me from feeling homesick. I never used to (get homesick) but being a father you really miss home. You get back and you’re kind of in bits and they just say ‘hi Dad’. Anyway so now you know I am telling the truth. I take telling the truth very seriously. If you’re a liar and you invent stuff, your life has no meaning. The truth, however ugly, cannot help but be beautiful. Sometimes things are not so easy to face up to. I can’t tell anyone how to live their life. For me, if you’re going to grow as a person you have to face yourself and the truth. It’s quite hard. You become less of a victim then, especially for women. You become less prey to advertising and how you should be. We are not what we wear, what we own or do – those are things that just pass the time. There’s something more fundamental about a human being other than those things. I’ve been searching for that my entire life.
Q: Do you feel like you’ve found it, or bits of it?
RH: Bits of it, but not all of it. That would spoil it. I think the journey’s possibly more interesting. This trip has been great. I’ve been to Chicago before and English bands don’t always go down too well in the Mid West. They loved it. I was really surprised. I understand in New York and LA they’ve got the Anglophiles who think American culture sucks and England is some kind of magical place, which it so isn’t. I really like to communicate musically with Americans – not just the East and West Coasts.
Q: Do you think they were tuned into the rockabilly?|
RH: Possibly, but everything went down well, even the colloquial stuff, like Cole’s Corner. Cole’s Corner is just a play - the actual subject of the song is about loneliness going out on a weekend. I think it’s just something fundamental that has no geography to it – but it has a very specific geography. As a writer, as a singer, as a drunk, it’s given me a whole new perspective on the songs – the songs have taken on a whole new life.
Q: What do you like to drink?
RH: Guinness. I could drink that forever. Doesn’t touch the sides.
Q: But not mixed with anything, like Coke?
RH: What, you mean cocaine?
Q: No, soda.
RH: Hideous. Jesus Christ you must be American. Fucking hell – Guinness with soda. Guiness straight. I gave up drinking spirits a long time ago. Occasionally I will have a vodka, cause that is a demon for me. If you have a pint there’s a quantity to it. Red wine’s my nemesis. I love it.
Q: Does it make you crazy?
RH: I don’t get crazy anymore. I used to.
Q: What about Pulp. Did they get you out of a crazy phase in your life?
RH: I was crazy from being a young lad. Doing drugs and drinking was something I did anyway. It was on the estate where I was growing up – everyone did mushrooms. All the kids smoked weed – homegrown weed. The thing was then you didn’t have heroin, coke and crack. You might get a bit of speed. My perspective is I’m a 40 year-old man and I’ll never do drugs again. The only regret I have, well I’ve got loads – every human being has regrets, is – I’m with Bob Dylan, never look back. If you look back you’ll never be able to change things. I think there are things you can do in your future that can apologize for your past. I wouldn’t say that I’ve done anything really bad, although a couple of things just flashed through my mind – I’m just a travelling musician, and I was trying to have as good time as possible. Sometimes you have too much of a good time. But to get back to your original question ‘Pulp saved me’ – they reset, kind of re-calibrated the guiding system. They weren’t saints, they were all out of their minds in their own ways. That had all finished by the time I started working with them.
Q: What are the songs you’re having fun doing on this tour?
RH: I’m enjoying the new record. We toured it loads in Britain and Europe. Playing it to an American audience – our country and yours speak the same language but in actual fact we don’t. Our humors totally different, some people get it some people don’t. British people are closer to Europeans in their mentality actually. Very subtle things. But it’s been a pleasure to see the reactions from the Americans and not just people who are into British music. It’s people who are mid westerners – lots of check shirts and baseball caps, guys who just dropped in off work. I like that. I’m a steelworker’s son. My entire outlook on life is from the perspective a steelworker – a steel worker’s son should I say. I never worked in the steelworks – that would be a lie. But that kind of working class outlook – just checking it out. A lot of them didn’t even know that we played. We’ve had a lot of support from the people who booked us. Tom, the guy who ran the bar in Minneapolis, he was an angel – amazing. He worked for hard for what he does.
Q: Is this the first time you’ve been in Seattle?
RH: No, we played here a couple of years ago. Next door to where we played [turns out it was the Tractor Tavern] was this record store that had over a million records and a gramophone where you could sit down on a sofa and listen to records. It was great.
Q: I wonder if it’s still there. It might be gone.
RH: Well that’s sad. One of the things I do is shopping, hunting for records. People can distract me easily from getting a pint by saying there’s this great record store . . . The bastards only told me that this place existed twenty minutes before we were going onstage. This guy opened the shop for me and I blew like 400 bucks. Dean, our drummer, and I went to the Army Surplus store and got these satchels we can put all our vinyl in to take home.
Q: You recently made a horror movie, Flick?
RH: I am a horror movie. It’s kind of like a rockabilly spoof horror film. It was good fun.
Q: Did you get to be a killer?
RH: Oh no. I got to play a pirate DJ – he was called Bobby Blade and he was on a barge on the river in London. Originally when they asked me to do it this film was a really tiny budget film. I first got asked to do the soundtrack to it. Why don’t we meet up and go through the script because they wanted pieces of music for the characters. We got to the bit where there’s this Bobby Blade – it was like a late 30s guy with glasses and a quiff and I said – who’s playing that? And they said, actually you if you want to do it. I said I’d do it for a laugh because it was a really small part and I thought, I can probably do this. And then it all changed because a lot of money came in. So all my scenes were with Faye Dunaway – I was really nervous. It’s like diving in the deep end with lead boots on. But it was good and Faye was really gracious. I told her I’d never acted before and she said that I was a con man, that I was winding her up. There were also a couple of English actors I really respect like Mark Benton in it who was amazing. Liz Smith was in it as well who’s a classic English actress. The only hard thing about it was that I had to get really violent with Faye. I was brought up to respect women in general, very much, and having never acted before and getting your head into this space where you have to be aggressive towards a woman was something that didn’t sit right with me at all.
Q: Are you going to meet with Shane Meadows again?
RH: We’ve talked about it. There’s quite a few projects we’re gonna do. I kind of introduced him to my life and I took him in a few bars that I go in where there are regular music sessions – no rehearsals, musicans just play. It happens every night in this bar in Sheffield. He freaked. I’ve taken loads of musicians there, Jools Holland, Nancy Sinatra – I took her in there for a pint. It’s a beautiful place. We’re maybe going to make a film about that.
Q: Nancy Sinatra seems interesting.
RH: She’s great - she’s really down to earth. Whenever you work with someone you’re a fan of you always pray that they’re going to be okay. If ever anybody on the planet was going to be difficult it might have been a little difficult you might have thought it would be the daughter of Frank Sinatra, but she was the exact opposite. She was just like my big sister, we got on great. We still email and speak to each other – she’s a very special person in my life. If anybody can be that humble and gone through what she’s gone through and be who she is and still be straight in her head . . . there are people who are shopkeepers who are nuts. She’s a beautiful person. When we did the recording it was late in the year – September or something like that – I got home and then it came to Christmas time. This huge package turned up at our house – and I mean it was fucking huge – a big cardboard package. We couldn’t get it in the door. Me and my wife had to open it in the corridor. When we got it all out it was all these hat boxes that went from big to small and when you assembled them all it made a snowman for the kids. She’d made it herself – she didn’t order it from the store – it was paper mache and crepe paper. We still put it up. The kids put the tree up today, which made me really homesick. They’ve got Nancy’s snowman. Nancy had filled it with sweets. I didn’t know whether to thank her or send her the fucking Dentist’s bill. No, it was a really generous and kind gift. That displays what she’s like.
Click here for photos I took at his show.