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interviews - 2014


 

Howie B

Matthew Haddrill chats with the legendary Howie B about his latest album, DJing, fetishistic videos and career in general.

In recent years, you've done a lot of work with Italian bands and businesses. Do you have a connection with Italy?
Yes, I have been going to Italy since the early-90s, working with bands like Casino Royale and other artists over there. I like the standard of musicianship in Italy and the music community there is very strong. The food is great too and that plays a big part.

How do you divide your time between being a DJ and working in the studio as a producer/engineer?
The balance seems to work itself out. Also in the last few years I have been taking less DJ work on, which I think is age related really- Iím 50 now so my age is somewhat directing the work flow.

I read that you enjoy working with both analogue and digital technologies? Do you have a preference, and what do you think you gain from each?
I have two platforms in my studio- both analogue and digital. The technology of the digital platforms has now caught up with the analogue platforms, which have been developed over the last 100 years. I use both because I like the sound of both; it really is that simple.

You've worked with so many different artists, so I guess this is something you really enjoy? How do you get the best out of somebody when you're working in the studio, and vice versa?
For me to be in the studio is the most joyful thing I can do apart from being a father. So my main priority is to create a cool, productive, creative and joyful environment. My job is also to push the artist or musician to the best of their musical ability and record it! For the artist to get the best from me they have to surrender their ego and let me push them in a way they have never imagined

How important was the time you spent at Lilly Yard studios with film composer Hans Zimmer?
I was also with Stanley Myers too in those days, they both owned the studio. I think it was the hardest three years of my life, I was totally immersed in the studio- it was all I did. The colour I got from the those two men, in terms of creativity and the idea that Ďif you can think it and feel it you can record ití was significant.

Your latest album Down With The Dawn is so diverse. You yourself describe it as ďschizophrenicĒ, not limited to one style. Can you explain why you decided to take that particular route or did it just work out like that?
It just worked out that way. Itís more a Diary of the last few years, love, life and loss.

Did Joe Hirst collaborate with you on other songs or just the album's opener, 'Frankies City'? What did he bring to the collaborative process? The video for the song is quite fetishistic (snakes, rabbits, nudity Ö), what's going on there???
Joe and I have been working together for over seven years now. First of all he was my assistant, then my engineer, and now we write songs together. So the song is a day in the life of Joe and Howie. The video was directed by my good friend Fabio Paleari, from Italy. His vision was a modern day fable of a farmer waking up one morning and discovering he is a rabbit, but he only finds this out when he comes across a snake in his field. Thus the video...

I get a strong cinematic sense from the songs on the new album. What inspires you to write songs? Are you writing with a visual image or idea in mind? (for example, the dark menace of 'Down With The Dawn' or the light and breezy 'Authentication')
I donít really have images in my head. I had feelings I had to express, then once I have finished the song the images appear.

The album is the first release for your own label HB Recordings. How's it going and are there any other projects in the pipeline?
The label is going well, we have been working on it for three years just to get it right. The team is small but strong, with music, art and business the three focal points. As for artists, I am talking to two bands just now- one in Italy and another from Los Angeles. The concept is simple- Great Music, Great Art. Thatís what HB Recordings stands for.

Do you want to take the songs on Down With The Dawn to a live audience? I enjoyed the work you did with Skylab in the 90s, are there any plans to resurrect that band?
Itís a studio album, to take it on the road is a big job. I am thinking about it, though. As for Skylab there is no talk of resurrecting the band. Iím into moving forward not backwards.