Progressive-Sounds: The recent release of your album 'Meta-Message' sparks quite a reflective note for many of your fans, providing an overview of some of your work from the past few years. Whilst it's a limited snapshot based on your ten year plus career, how do you feel it summarises your career thus far?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: Ok, let me hit the 'drone zone' on ITunes and collect my thoughts on this question - 'What is Meta-Message....?' well over the last 10 years I've quietly been featuring here and there on a few collaborations with either established or up and coming producers. I've enjoyed not being the centre of attention and just recording, rather than rushing about promoting and touring. I did enough of that when I was starting out and wanted to just concentrate on making music and learning how to use the equipment. After making O>U>T I was exhausted, emotionally drained, and needed to step back and just let things flow a bit. DJs are like pop stars these days, and I'm quite happy for them to do the promoting. I've got a kitchen to clean, and two hungry mouths and developing brains that need seeing to. When Nettwerk suggested the idea of this album, I was very excited as it made sense'. Blair and Mark helped me to make it happen, with the help of a guy called Ian (previous AnR guy) who found me in the first place.
Progressive-Sounds: You've stated previously that aside from the 'Meta-Message' retrospective album that you'd like to do something a bit more personal that dips over the edge and is a little darker. Has there been any progress with this project, or is it something you intend to put together at a later juncture?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: I work every night in the studio, and have built up a roster of many songs. They are private and are in progress. I will not speak about them until they are finished, but yes it's on-going. In life we have to compromise in order to move forward of course, but sometimes you have to do things exactly in the way you want to for the sake of self fulfilment, I keep very quiet now about my projects until they are copy written and available. I'd hope that my personal stuff may be of interest to a major label, but if not I'll try and find another way i.e downloads, itunes etc. I produce a lot of music alone now, and have released 3 albums of library music which is used in films and on T.V. I also make little songs for my children, and have just done a small deal with Ottakers book shop for the children's album 'The Sun and the Moon' which is also available at http://www.uni-kids.com/. Making children's music gives me a very good balance, especially when I get a bit wobbly - it's the best therapy ever, you have to remember how it felt to be a child in order to connect with your kids.
Progressive-Sounds: 'On Ultimate Things' is perhaps your most personal work to date, an album that signified much change in your life at the time of its creation, and indeed upon its release. It's an album that surprised many fans, but one that is held in high acclaim by those who have heard it. Looking back, how do you feel about the album, and what was it like being able to work with your good friend, Global Communication's Marc Pritchard on the project?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: O>U>T was a major turning point in my life. It's the point where I learned how to say 'fuck off' and take the responsibility for how I was truly feeling. Opus 3 was fun, but it was gimmicky mostly and I got tired of myself being like that. Inside I was very depressed, and exhausted from perhaps trying too hard to be perfect for everyone. I was 24 and edging closer to Saturn's return. Living in London with my eyes constantly focused on the cracks in the pavement, with the world closing in on me, and the demons getting ever closer. It just got to the point where I had to look behind me and face what was there. I moved to Cornwall after visiting Fowey for a little break. I decided that I wanted to be by the sea, and close to raw nature to try and repair my nerves and also fill myself up again. I was 6 stone in weight, couldn't breath, and was carrying a heavy load on my shoulders. When I got there, I listened to only two albums for about a month or so. One was 'And she closed Her Eyes' by Stina Nordenstam, and the Global Communication remix album of Chapter House. I couldn't handle anything else. I found a small flat to rent on my own, and cried and cried and cried for days and days. My boyfriend dumped me, my parents were away on another 4 week holiday, strangers would catch my eyes and give me a dark look, and I couldn't eat. Worst thing is people normally kick you when your down, it's human nature - we're not that dissimilar to animals on that subject. I found myself peering over the edge of a very large cliff and feeling so numb and frail that I probably would have just floated down if I'd jumped.
Then one day a German lady came up to me in the street and said 'you do realise your fucked up don't you'! I looked at her and didn't know how to react but something got through and I thought 'wow, I am aren't I'. She told me she could help, but only from a distance, not verbally but with a look. She ran the local health food shop, and I would go and sit with her quietly saying nothing, just sitting there while she served her customers. She told me to make a tea using all the peels from my vegetables and fruit, add herbs and stuff and just drink it every day. I started to do this, and slowly started to repair. As I got stronger, she told me about her life, and how she was managing her menopause with various essential oils, and tinctures. She chatted about the 70's, and how she had been into improvisation, and used to play the 'metallophone' with a band she was in, where they would just connect with each other and play whatever came into the space. This was quite a new world for me, as for the last few years I had been programmed by loops, and 4 by 4 drum patterns. It was all getting a bit boring and had damaged me to some extent. She told me to buy 'Bitches Brew' by Miles Davis, which blew me away. I then moved to Bodinnick which you had to take a ferry to, and found a beautiful pink cottage to rent for £50 a week. The landlord was very kind and gave it to me for a good price, because he wanted to help me. I had also met a guy up the road who owned a little studio called Dave, Dave and I were both a bit depressed to be honest, I was broken hearted, and so was he. We had many a fragile moment, and then one day he said 'you need to drink a pint of sharps lass! Being tee total at the time, the effect was quite hilarious. Shortly after moving to Bodinnick I met up with Mark Pritchard from various aliases, but I'll refer to him as Mark Pritchard a law unto himself! He turned up with a huge bag of sweets, saying that he had problems with his blood sugar. I was like "well I'm not bloody surprised mate'! Curly wurlies aren't going to make that go away. Having a lot of knowledge about how food can affect you, I helped Mark to heal a problem he had had for two years that had wiped out his self confidence. His stomach had been wrecked which was brought on by serious food poisoning.
Anyway I'm drifting here. The long and short of it is, I played Mark some of my demos and he offered to produce them for me. Because I'd been listening to his work not knowing it was him at the time, I was blown away by the coincidence and felt that he was the one to help me realise the album. It was a very intense time making O>U>T but so magical. It's my favourite album to date - it's completely me in spirit, and was very difficult getting it to sound right, there were many different aspects trying to stop it from happening but I was so 'obnoxious' to anyone who tried to block the course, and had to be very manipulative at times - a complete pain in the ass, but I think if you believe in something strongly enough you have to stand your ground or be forever a victim. I had to do it to get over being exploited, to rise from the ashes of a burnt past. Inga, Dave, and Mark were the three key people who were a bit part of my life at the time, and I am eternally grateful to them for all the mad moments we had together. The metallaphone that Inga used to talk about is now sitting in my studio, and I've used it on many things. She gave it to me as a gift.
Progressive-Sounds: As a songwriter, you've co-write several tracks or been involved in a partnership with Judie Tzuke, whom you were a fan of for many years. How did the possibility of working with her initially come to be, and how do you feel working with her has helped you develop?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: Judie was one of my favourite artists when I was a kid. I used to listen to her song 'For You' on the way to school. I wanted to cover the song but only with her permission. She had heard of me also and invited me to tea one day. It was like walking into my own house when I got there. Judie is a very clever and talented writer. She tunes into the person she is working with, and together we always strike magic. At the time I met her; she had just had her second child and was going through a difficult patch. As a friend, and fellow artist I said she should rework some of her old material with modern producers, and introduced her to people like Tiesto, Hybrid, BT and Sasha. They were all bowled over of course when they heard her top lines, and 'We'll Go Dreaming' a song she originally brought out in the 80's was a huge dance hit in the late 90's. It's quite funny because I'd sang it a few years earlier but in a higher key and it never quite hit the spot, then when I was working with BT on Movement In Still Life, I thought we should rework Dreaming. Judie encouraged me to sing in a lower key, which I hadn't done much before, and I liked the way I sounded in that range. After recording the song I played the tape of it down the phone to Brian's answer machine, and apparently he started writing the strings immediately from the answer phone message. The rest is history.
Progressive-Sounds: Having finally achieved one of your wishes to work with Belgium's Pole Folder, working with him on his album 'Zero Gold' and other projects, do you feel glad to have achieved this, and do you feel collaborative projects with Ulrich Schnauss or Brian Eno would still be something you would love to do, and why?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: Working with Benoit was a treat, and there was this very helpful tech guy who lives in Wales who allowed me to use his ftp site at the time to send all the vocals to Ben in Belgium while we were working on it. I'd never used FTP before, and thought 'wow this saves a trip to the post office with a toddler who keeps zipping off to the sweet counter driving me nuts! So from Bucks, to Wales, to Belgium, 'Silent Stars' was born, and 'Faith in Me' I hear will be shortly featured on Nip/Tuck. Ulrich Schnauss I first heard at the Big Chill. I was sitting by a fire listening to the radio station they have of the festival, when he mentioned in an interview that he had seen my set, and then they played one of his tracks and I knew it and realised I really liked his work. I contacted him a while later one day, and it turned out that we had mutual respect for each other. We met up in Berlin while I was touring with The Future Funk Squad, and ate German cakes and chatted for ages. We will most certainly be working together sometime in the near future. I gave birth to my baby daughter listening to his music.
Progressive-Sounds: Having worked with pretty much the who's who of the dance scene over the past decade, if you had to pick a few tracks or collaborations, aside from the aforementioned, which stand out for you personally for whatever reason, what would they be?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: 'Just Be Me' with Jimmy Gomez and Judie Tzuke, because this version was the original version. Tiesto's version was a bit of a disappointment, but I respect the fact that it did well in its genre - trance, but am delighted that 'Meta-Message' will finally show the original version the light of day. Jimmy Gomez is an amazing producer. I wish he would work with me again one day but he is a very busy guy right now, and is enjoying great success. Judie also is one of the most demanded of top line writers of our time now, so I hope I can pencil her in some day too. 'All I Want' again has a Tzuke/Hawkshaw top line and was written with Mike Truman of Hybrid a few years ago, and has finally appeared on 'Meta-Message' also. When I recorded this song, it was the day before I had a miscarriage sadly. I knew instinctively that something was very wrong with me, and you can kind of hear it in the song. 'Running Down The Way Up' should have been on the album, but for some reason it didn't get on, probably due to difficulties or being too expensive to licence or something like that. It's a real shame as it was a great session down in Wales with Truman again and Brian. Brian and I kept running around in the mountains of Wales, and nipping off to the pub rather than working. I wouldn't sing for three days because I was nervous, and Brian and Mike were probably thinking - shit, when is this Diva going to open her gob! We were listening to a loop of the beginnings of it, over and over and over again, when finally I got a melody going, it took me two days to mentally record it in my head before I had the courage to sing it. When it happened it was magic. I was totally in lust at the time. The lyric and song really represent the dynamic I had with Brian.
Progressive-Sounds: Do you find that family life has changed your approach to your work, and perhaps widened your influences and ideas even further than before?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: Having children has given me so much courage to just get on with it. I don't have time to procrastinate anymore, or get caught up in my ego. Kids are relentless, they sense when you're drifting and snap you into place, usually something like a flying cup of juice, or the sound of your cosmetics splashing in the toilet. I'd be lying if I said I don't always care what people think, but I must say I 'care less' now when the critics bite. I work when my children are happy and sorted, tucked up in bed, or lying on their Daddy's chest being sung 'Spencer The Rover' to. That's when I allow myself a little time to unfurl out in my studio. Because I work a lot on the internet now, I consider myself a 'cybertist'. Things have gone onto another level and I get more work done than I ever did before. I have the freedom of knowledge being able to record myself without needing an engineer all the time, though I do have a guy called Tom Hill who is a mutual friend of my husband and I who tidies up all my messes, and teaches me new tricks each week. I think if a woman can go through child birth, then she can definitely pick up Logic 7 in no time.
Progressive-Sounds: Has the Internet changed the way you work and are able to promote yourself, and do you find it helps in building working relationships with people based in other countries, and possibly exposing you to possible projects or collaborations that might never have otherwise happened?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: It's a fantastic way of keeping in touch with your supporters. I have a few very good people who give up their spare time to promote me. Sakis is a guy from the States, and has been a great support. He even gave my children's album to Tori Amos to pass onto her child. That really made my day because I have so much respect for her. They do it for the love of my music and for no other reason, which is very refreshing to be honest. It's a direct route straight from the artist to the people. There are very few journalists I can be bothered with; it's a waste of puff. They can't be expected to get your point across, and the Internet is a good way of doing it yourself. I have regular contact to the myspace page, and try to answer as many emails as I can personally. I do the odd blog also, though I don't think I'm much of a 'writer'. I find it easier to get my feelings across through music.
Progressive-Sounds: The past few years have seen a long term relationship between yourself and the Big Chill festival. How many years have you been appearing at the festival, how did the partnership come about and what's your most memorable appearance or time at the festival that you can recall?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: I first went to the Big Chill ages ago, when they used to have it in the Black mountains in Wales. The first time I performed was with Global Communication. I remember going for a long walk with Matt Herbert and the boys and having a really beautiful time. Then it grew and grew, Pete Lawrence is a great guy, although he is quite shy and can be easily misunderstood. I'm a bit like him myself to be honest. I fell in love with my husband at the Big Chill, played most my live gigs there, and have had the most magical and memorable times. Last year I bought a Tee Pee, it was a nightmare to put up and take down, and Tom and I nearly got divorced, but it was worth it, and I spent the whole weekend as 'tipi winidoo' with my family and friends. I met two soul mates Dave and Zoe from www.silence.com, and have regular trips down to Brighton to spend quality time as well.
Progressive-Sounds: As singer and live performer, what would be your three most memorable gigs to date, and is there any country or venue you would love to perform at if given the chance?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: Whistler Mountain in Canada in a club with Ravi and Asad and Tom Gillerion. It was so much fun! Ravi was my boyfriend for a while, and we had such a laugh together. We rented a house by a lake for a month and wrote some songs, it was amazingly beautiful and I met some very special people while out there, including my current A and R man Mark Jowett. I went to Pnom Phen in Cambodia on New Years Eve with Ravi and Asad once again to see in the year 2000. I wanted to escape the UK because everyone was freaking out and having a pathetic drama about millennium bugs and other such drivel, I thought yeah a 'holiday in Cambodia', apocalypse now! It turned into a nightmare though, and there were lots of losers out there, exploiting women, and children. But it was an amazing learning curve, and a beautiful country despite its difficulties. It's the last time I travel to such a country without a return ticket and a credit card, thanks to Rob Shwarz a journalist we met, he got us out of there - long story. Opus 3 live in Japan was amazing in 1992, went out with Fabio (drum and bass DJ), touring with him and his long term girlfriend Sarah was a very memorable experience. We went all over the country. I really loved Houston Texas also with Opus 3, El Paso, and Ireland. In 2000 I toured with the Afro Celts in the States, which was absolutely hilarious. They are so much fun to travel with, and it really built up my confidence. I wasn't right for the band though because I waved my arms around too much, and when we did the 'Donny and Marie' T.V show, it looks like Eiarla has the arms of Shiva while he was singing because of me in the background and the way the lighting was set up. My manager Steve gave me a right bollocking for my arm waving antics. I can't help it really; I'm a sad raver through and through and just get too excited. Playing at the 12 bar in London has to be my favourite venue; just keeping it simple often is the most effective. I intend to play some live dates shortly in November with just my hubby Tom on guitar. He used to play for Finley Quaye and is one of the best guitarists I've come across. That's why I married him - he impresses me.
Progressive-Sounds: If you had to pick five albums that have influenced you personally or musically, what would they be and why?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: 'Victoria Lands' and 'Treasure' by The Cocteau Twins. These two albums were the sound track to my teens. I used to dream of nothing, while staring at the stars on cold winters nights listening to these stunning albums. Liz Frazer is the most beautiful woman I have ever come across in my life and I once had the privilege of receiving a lovely warm cuddle from her after a Seefeel/Cocteau twins gig. Then there's Global Communication's 76:14, a must have for anyone with any kind of musical taste. Some others would be Eberhard Webber 'The Following Morning', 'Bitches Brew' by Miles Davis, 'The Koln Concert' and anything else by Keith Jarrett. I am currently really into Dillard and Clark - boy has that album been ripped off by some of the top selling artists of our time!
Progressive-Sounds: In an industry that is dominated by producers, do you feel that sometimes when you're collaborating that you have had to fight for equality and the right to give your input, and if so, what advice would you give to other singers that find themselves in a similar predicament?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: I have turned into a bit of a feminist to be frank. The only advice I can give is 'know your fucking rights' and don't shag the producer.
Progressive-Sounds: Finally, what lies in the short term future ahead for Kirsty Hawkshaw, and where do you see yourself being long term, maybe a few years from now?
Kirsty Hawkshaw: Short term future - recovery! Healing, staying grounded for my children, watching them grow into solid and secure mini people, then when they are ready to fly a bit, focus more on my own mind a bit, start writing the stuff I really want to write, learn how to better my skills at production, and take control of the way I release music with the use of modern technology. Long term - who knows, I don't really plan too far ahead, but to age gracefully, with dignity and create ever lasting memories that make me smile and not frown by trying to keep a tab on things and respecting the gift of consciousness, is what I aspire to I guess.
Photos by Jonathan Pearson