Mr. H. Hawkline has had a busy few weeks touring the UK with his new album. In The Pink Of Condition was produced by Cate Le Bon in LA and released last month on Heavenly Recordings.
The tour has included a four-week residency at Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach, and it’s here that we take shelter from the rain in the doorway of Clwb’s smoking area. As I wait for Huw to finish his cigarette, his phone rings: “Dingers!” he answers happily – it’s Alex Dingley, one of tonight’s support artists, and they quickly arrange to meet somewhere they can “sit in the warm and drink a couple of beers”. It’s really starting to piss it down, so we head upstairs to the cosy middle floor of the venue, and I start by asking him all about Heavenly.
First, Hawkline tells me how they’ve known each other for years, since Huw Stephens first put him on in The Social, and how they very nearly released his Ghouls EP last year, but it wasn’t meant to be. Then, by chance, Jeff and Danny came to his show at SXSW, and the rest is history.
“Danny and Jeff are great. They love music, and they go to lots of gigs and see lots of bands. I think some labels tend to follow round the bands that are getting buzz, whereas with Danny and Jeff they go and see stuff that they think sounds interesting. They sign bands purely on the basis of whether they see it and they think it’s good. And that’s why it’s exciting to be with them, because they’re genuine music lovers. They look after me very well!”
So, this is a man who loves his new label. But he also looks back fondly on the time he spent recording with Shape Records. “Mark’s one of my best friends”, he explains, “when I’ve made albums with Shape it’s been great fun, and it’s very much a fifty-fifty project. You’re in it together, working as hard as each other. This is the first time I’ve gone into making an album knowing that when I finish it I’m handing it over to the label and they’re sorting out the rest for me.”
How did that feel?
“It’s kind of weird to let go of it. You have less control, and I’m a control freak and I want to be in control. But it gives you more confidence. I trust Danny and Jeff implicitly, and it gave me confidence knowing that I had them behind it and that I was gonna be handing the album over to them and they’d be working it really hard. It has been nice.”
But if you think he’s about to give himself a pat on the back and put his feet up, you’d be wrong.
“I’m really proud of the album but I think you’re only as good as the next thing you do. In an ideal world I’d like to record another album before the end of the year. I think you always need to be thinking about the next thing you’re going to do, and I think that’s something I’ve learnt from people like Euros Childs and Gruff Rhys, people who always seem to have their next two albums vaguely planned out in their minds. They make a record, put it out, and while they’re working that one they’re also working on the next one and thinking of the next one, and I think that’s a really healthy way to be. I think you should always feel you can write a better album or make a better thing, because if you thought that the thing you just made was the best thing you would ever do, then you would just… stop. I’m really proud of this album, it’s fun playing the songs, I love the songs and I enjoy playing them live, but I want to do it all over again now!”
Next, I ask how this Clwb residency came about.
“One of my favourite Velvet Underground albums is the Live with Lou Reed record, which is all recordings from different gigs they did. They would often do residencies in clubs all round the states, you know, lots of bands played regularly in CBGBs, and I like the idea that when you get booked to do a residency, it’s a gig as a job. It’s your job to be there. There’s something nice about that. It happens a lot in the states – having been over there recently, it’s quite normal for bands to do residencies. I like this idea that you play the same place on the same day for a month, and it’s a way of making gigs grow organically. Instead of a gig being a one-off thing that you promote really hard, and then it’s over, a residency, hopefully, becomes a word-of-mouth thing that keeps getting busier each week.”
I couldn’t help but notice that another bonus of doing a residency is that you get space for ALL the support artists you could wish for. How did he and Shape Records decide who to pick, I wonder? “Mark sent me a list of the people he thought would work, I added some people to that list, our lists were very similar. Gwenno, who did the first gig, was amazing. I’d never seen her live, so getting her to play was selfishly just a way for me to see her! Her record is really good and she has an amazing attitude towards music. Her and Rhys who run Peski Records, that whole scene of bands and people, creatively they’re onto something good. They’re forward thinking and have a healthy outlook on music. Peski have always been a label who are about doing things properly, making records look good and making sure that the musicians get paid, and they’ve been that way for a long time. I saw that when they did Cate’s first EP which was ages ago now – they wanted to make sure that Cate got a healthy split of everything, they wanted to make this beautiful 10” white vinyl record, and it was really refreshing to see people who are all about making something look good, but also making sure that everybody got a good thing back from it. And I think they often do that at their loss, I think they probably end up losing lose quite a lot of money, but they make something good.”
“Bottom line is, Gwenno writes amazing songs, it’s a good record, I think she’s ace.
“Libby has just done a record with Finders Keepers and she’s a great performer. We also got No Thee No Ess, Alex Dingley, I just really like their music! Classes tonight are new First of the First Man, so that’s exciting, and next week is Sweet Baboo. Steve’s funny, he’s always done stuff with me and Cate and there’s definitely a race to email him first because he likes to book things early!”
I wonder whether Cate’s been able to come over here with him.
“No, she’s back in LA. She did a tour with White Fence and now she’s back in LA writing a new album. I think she’s making that in April so she’s gone back to start work on it.”
Before we finish, I ask if he’s enjoyed being back in Cardiff; whether there are certain places he likes to visit while he’s back in the UK?
“It’s mainly people more than places. Getting time in with all the people I want to see. I had a nice run of seeing people in January but we’ve not had a lot of time, we’ve been really busy. I fly home on St David’s Day so I’ll try and see people this week if I can. I think a couple of people have been neglected but that’s probably because they’re busy too!”