Having been swept away in a sea of tranquillity whilst listening to Star Chamber, we regrouped ourselves and asked Hollow Hand a few questions on the making of his debut album.
Congratulations on the release of Star Chamber, how long was the album in the making?
Thank you! The album was recorded over a year really, a little longer for the mixing progress. We were limited by our life schedules as to the time we could all sit together and work as a unit. I suppose it would have been cool to be less interrupted but perhaps we benefited from the perspective.
The album is inspired by nature, beauty and positivity. What’s your favourite part of nature, what do you find most beautiful in the world and what has been the most positive aspect of making this album?
You can find beautiful things everywhere if you look carefully. I see things differently as I get older but I’m interested in finding something to try to write about always. I mean I adore the welsh valleys, mountains and the wild woods of my childhood, the brutal grace of nature. I have hazy memories of romantic landscapes at golden hour, sitting in fields & grass, staring out at the sea across Cornwall from Tintagel castle. My attention to detail switches. Sometimes I don’t want to see another human but people can be as beautiful as they are cruel and unkind.
Which artists did you grow up listening to? Do they still inspire you now?
Of course I grew up listening to a lot of stuff I heard through my parents; Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Dylan, The Who. Their tastes also brought me to Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett, Soft Machine at an early age. I expect all of these songwriters influence me as to what I think sounds good when I play/sing. I try to focus on more contemporary bands, I listen to a lot of different stuff but to be honest it’s really true that I struggle to relate to this decade. I wish I didn’t feel this way but I find it really difficult to feel any emotion through the way so many bands are produced, like I really hate it and feel cold. When I enjoy a new album/band then I really, really get into them, it’s rare. Most of my time is spent excavating the precious past.
How difficult was it creating an album on a DIY basis?
Well DIY means that you have no boss but you also have yourself to blame for when things don’t work. It also meant (at least for us) that we had no money for gear. Luckily the shared obsessions of like-minded friends meant we had a formidable stash of equipment which we could share to work on the project. If I could afford not to try and earn money elsewhere then I’d be able to work quicker. We had no problem focusing, that was easy as we knew we had good songs and musicians, but that doesn’t mean you can all get along all the time. Self imposed solitary confinement leads to tough times but we’ll never forget making Star Chamber and I’m happy we made it together.
Did the DIY aspect have any impact on the overall sound?
Yes, we only had access to a few decent microphones, we made do. Perhaps we could have done with being able to open up the sound a little, there are always a load of things we wish we had, but I think we benefited from the limitations of working in that tiny, cold room. There’s all the nuance of our personal tastes in there too, the music Tom & Chris make (Pan Andrs/Atlas Shrugs) comes from an 80s perspective so we often used a Jazz Chorus amp. I’d never choose that if I was in a big studio as I’d get excited about the vintage Fenders, using things out of my comfort zone was beneficial to the sound palette. I saved up and went to Denmark Street to get a decent bass guitar and expected to take a P-Bass home, unfortunately I found a 1968 Wilson bass guitar in my budget, put flat wound strings on and as a result the bass tracks are pretty honky tonk, the intonation was bad. I love these happy accidents.
Releasing an album and touring must be pretty exhausting. Which artists do you listen to which help kick back at the end of a long day?
I listen to Steve Hillage’s ‘Rainbow Dome Musick’ often, new age genre stuff like ‘The Best Of The Golden Voyage’. Final Fantasy soundtracks.. Bach’s Cello suites. I’ve recently gotten into a lot of the ECM label through Aquarium Drunkard – just wonderful music.
Finally, as a Brighton based artist, which music venues would you recommend in Brighton?
I like playing at The Hope & Ruin, The Prince Albert. I went to see Robyn Hitchcock last week at Rialto Theatre, great room. It depends what your bag is, if you wanna stay out all night till you fall over then get thee to Sticky Mike’s before it closes down. My goodness have I drunk enough at that place.
Star Chamber is out now.