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Interview with Marika Hackman

Marika Hackman

Image & Video by Jan-Willem Dikkers

“You can hear how much fun we were having in the recording process,

and that was always my aim, to capture that energy.”

Marika Hackman

Marika Hackman
Marika Hackman is an English singer-songwriter and instrumentalist. Hackman signed to Transgressive Records in 2012 and has opened for the likes of Laura Marling. Her second album, I’m Not Your Man, is out now.

English singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Marika Hackman has just released her anticipated second album, I’m Not Your Man, via Transgressive Records. The album is Hackman’s third project with award-winning British producer Charlie Andrew and her first time working with a full band to record. With a title purposely open to interpretation, I’m Not Your Man delves into issues of sexual identity, millennial ennui, social media and being a young person in the creative industry. Hackman talks about her musical upbringing, the collaborative artwork for I’m Not Your Man and the zen of cooking.

Where are you from?
I’m a musician from London.

When did you start making music?
I learned piano when I was really small, about four, and straight away my instinct was to write. So I kind of started as soon as I could, as soon as an instrument was put in front of me. I learned the guitar when I was about fourteen, and that was when I released all that passion and wrote fully formed songs.

Who did you listen to growing up?
Loads of stuff, really. My parents played lots of great things like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell — a whole spread of just fantastic songwriters. And then I had stuff that my brother was listening to, and that’s kind of how I started to listening to bands like Nirvana. I kind of clocked onto stuff like The Shins, Beach House and stuff like that when I was a teenager. It was kind of three different stages that formed where I am now.

Who would you say influences you the most?
I always find it very hard to work out who or what influences me, just because, like I said, it’s something I’ve always done. I suppose I get inspired by things I listen to that I think, “I’d like to make a record like that.” But in terms of my aims in life, which is just to be sane and happy, it’s my family and my friends all being a great support network that keeps me that way.

How did you decide this is what you wanted to do?
I always knew it was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t really think it would be possible. I was trying out this stuff I was going to do, like a degree in fine art. But when I was maybe nineteen, that’s when I took the jump. I was supposed to go do my art degree, and then I decided to not go and see what happened with music, and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s been about six years now.

“In writing music, you’re kind of
pulling stuff out of nowhere, and it doesn’t
always have a starting point.
You just sit down and hope something’s going
to come from somewhere.”
— Marika Hackman

You had once described your songs as “grungy, abstract folk with a playful darkness.” How might you describe them now?
Well, I would probably take out “folk.” Bizarrely, people are still trying to put “folk” on songs like “Boyfriend,” which I find really strange. I think that it’s grungy, it’s still playful, it’s tongue-in-cheek and it’s fun. It’s dark as well, but it’s fun. You can hear how much fun we were having in the recording process, and that was always my aim, to capture that energy.

Which instruments do you most enjoy playing, and which ones serve you best creatively?
I enjoy playing—well, it’s a toss-up between the bass or the drums. Probably the drums. I find them slightly more intimidating but more fun to play. And creatively, up to this point, it’s always been the guitar, just because I grew up with the guitar. But recently, I’ve been writing a lot more on the bass. So, for the next record, it might be a case of being the bass. We’ll see.

How do you feel about playing instruments yourself, as opposed to playing with other musicians?
I mean, both have worked for me. For the first record it was all me playing everything on my own. And this one was with a band, which is a very different experience. It’s certainly a lot more fun involving people, but you kind of have to do prep work a little earlier. I like playing around with instruments, especially ones I can’t play, because you come up with stuff that’s weird and isn’t really what the instrument should be doing. So I like that sense of playfulness and working out what to do with this thing that’s put in front of you. But yeah, I think recording with a band has been really, really enjoyable.

Kevin Parker
Australian singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and award-winning record producer Kevin Parker is best known as the frontman of the prolific psychedelic rock band Tame Impala. Parker was also the drummer of the band Pond from 2009-11 and continues to work with the band as their record producer.

Stella Mozgawa
Australian drummer Stella Mozgawa first came to attention as the drummer for indie rock band Warpaint. In addition to Warpaint, Mozgawa contributes to the records of other musicians including Kurt Vile, the xx and Regina Spektor.

Who would you most like to collaborate with, and why?
At the moment, my dream combo would be—together, all three of us—Kevin Parker and Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint and to see what we could do there.

“I like playing around with instruments,
especially ones I can’t play,
because you come up with stuff that’s weird
and isn’t really what
the instrument should be doing.”
— Marika Hackman

How did the collaboration with Tristan Pigott for your album art come about?
I met him when I was maybe 16, 17. He was a friend of a friend, and it’s funny because I only really met him that one time briefly, but I followed his artwork because I’m a big fan. I kept bumping into him in London—this is like the last year now—and I was in the process of writing I’m Not Your Man. I was looking through all the stuff he’s got in mind and thought it would be amazing if he could paint me an album cover, so I asked him if he’d do that. I think he always wanted to do an album cover but hadn’t done one yet. He said yes and we kind of worked together in coming up with a concept and references, and then he did three months of incredible genius painting. Then there was the big unveiling, which was amazing.

Little Friend
Little Friend is the second novel by Pulitzer Prize winning author Donna Tartt. Published in 2002, the mystery adventure centers on a young girl in 1970s Mississippi who struggles to understand her brother’s unexplained death by hanging at age nine.

What are your interests and passions outside of music?
I love cooking, I find it relaxing. It’s kind of my wind down, because it’s the perfect combination of logic and creativity. In writing music, you’re kind of pulling stuff out of nowhere, and it doesn’t always have a starting point. You just sit down and hope something’s going to come from somewhere. Whereas when I’m cooking, I know exactly what I’m doing. There’s science involved, but I can still also play around and make things taste much worse than they should. I also like chopping. It’s just really enjoyable. That sounds a bit psychotic.

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction (1994) is a black comedy neo-noir crime film by director Quentin Tarantino. The film, which explores the intersecting stories of Los Angeles mobsters, criminals and fringe players, is a cult-favorite for its highly-stylized, Tarantino-esque storytelling.

Gillian Welch
American singer-songwriter Gillian Welch is known for her dark, sparse musical style and her combination of country, americana, bluegrass and appalachian music genres. Welch performs with her musical partner, guitarist David Rawlings, and together the pair has released five critically acclaimed albums as Gillian Welch and two albums under the name Dave Rawlings Machine.

What are your favorite books, film and music right now?
I just finished Little Friend by Donna Tartt. I’m a huge fan of her books. The Secret History, and The Goldfinch are two of my favorites. Film, let me think. Recently, there’s been a lot of plane films: cheesy stuff that makes me cry at high altitude. On my way to LA three weeks ago, I watched Pulp Fiction which I’d only ever seen in sections. I love Tarantino, but I got really scared because I was staying in a motel on my own that night. I was having horrible thoughts of someone bursting in with a shotgun. Music-wise, I’m really bad at listening to loads of music. It’s not really how I spend my time because there’s so much noise constantly around anyway. But in the van recently I was listening to some Gillian Welch, which was really good driving across America music. I was trying to listen to Warpaint because that’s always my go-to, but I couldn’t download any of it off the Cloud.

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