Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Aug 27th 2009 11:00AM by Stephen Dowling
"I said, 'Right, OK, I've used communication devices like mobiles and internet and stuff so I can keep in touch with home and when I'm actually physically there I want to be physically there, and spend time with people immediately around me,'" Hawley tells Spinner from his Sheffield home as Hurricane Bill blows across the Yorkshire skies.
"I've watched hardly any TV since December. I go on the internet for emails and to answer questions on my forum, and maybe to find something on eBay, but I've really limited it," he says. "And I have periods where I turn my phone off for a long time and just sit and be where I am.
"I've got three children as well, and it was quite weird at first. You kind of feel like a caveman. but then you start engaging more with the things immediately around you, instead of everything that's far away."
Hawley, 41, the former guitarist of Britpop journeymen the Longpigs and a latter-day touring member of Pulp, found the change of pace paid dividends for his sixth album, the soon-to-be-released 'Truelove's Gutter'.
"It was just massive. I stopped thinking about music in terms of singles. When I spoke to Daniel Miller who runs Mute Records, and told him 'I really want to experiment.' He said, 'Just make the record you've always wanted to make'. That was it. Red rag to a bull, and I was off."
Hawley, nominated for the 2006 Mercury Music Prize for his breakthrough album 'Cole's Corner', is something of a cult star in the UK -- one whose fanbase has been built on the most subtle of slow burns. He admits this record is unlikely to race out of the gates.
"I know this record is not commercial and probably won't sell," he says. "I'm really glad as a human being I made it, really really pleased the best out of every record, because every note on there is just for its own sake.
"I've been fascinated all my life with the issue of pop songs, and the perfection of that, and writing great pop songs. I'm happy with where it's got to. Sometimes you realise, 'Maybe I'm just a machine or something.' I wanted to see what it was like to make music and just stretch it out."
One track, 'Remorse Code', is a ten-minute epic which began life after Hawley challenged his bandmates to change the way they played their instruments, or pick up one which was unfamiliar. Drummer Dean Beresford started playing his drums with his hands.
"Everything was mic'd and ready to go, and he just started playing this groove with his hands ... the drums were ringing out, it was a great sound. I said, 'Right, let's just tape this,' and they said 'Ooh, we don't know the arrangement.' I said 'Just follow me, it'll be alright.' And 'Remorse Code' is recorded live in one take. The vocals I redid, but the harmonium, the tenor guitar, my lead, the bass and all the drums were recorded live in one take."
Hawley admits 'Truelove's Gutter' may not be immediate enough to win instant fans, but he says he can live with that.
"We live in soundbite land. I don't know if it's 'cos I'm older, but my attention's pretty big," Hawley says. "I read whole books. I listen to whole albums and watch whole films. I can have an entire conversation. But it does worry me culturally that our attention spans are getting less and less. There are more things being sold to us, and less space."
Come October, one of Britain's best live performers gets back in the saddle and takes his tried-and-trusted Sheffield bandmates back out on the road. Hawley's concerts have a reputation for bawdy humour and withering putdowns -- he once cut short a heckler with the line: "I don't know what makes you tick, mate, but I hope it's a f---in' bomb."
"It is gentle music, and it does deal with a lot of things that are probably on the sensitive side of life. But as you know I'm a steelworker's son, and if they shout abuse they'll get it back. But it's never aggressive," he says. "I always try and make it fun. We all want to have a good time live. And I like the exchange with an audience, I want people to walk away thinking 'I'm really glad I spent that £10 or $20 or whatever.'"