Interview with Hazel Mills

Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with Bristol based musician Hazel Mills for a quick chat about her new mini-album ‘White Rabbit’ as well as finding out about some exciting projects in the works…

Cat On The Wall: The last time we saw you was several years ago in Bristol promoting the launch of your first EP release ‘Butterfly’. What have you been up to since then?

Hazel Mills: I’ve been developing my own material, writing plenty, gigging (both with the band and solo), and over the last year the band and I developed and recorded the new album (out Sept 5th). We went to Rockfield Studios for the recording, which was a really great experience.

On top of my own solo work, I toured a little and released an album with my other band, The Metaphors (an extension of the solo project of Andy Mackay from Roxy Music).

Recently I’ve also been working on various collaborations, one of which is with bassist Damon Minchella and drummer Steve White. These are in the early stages so I won’t reveal too much at this point.

COTW: The new mini album ‘White Rabbit’ is quite a departure musically from the first EP. Was it a conscious choice to develop a new sound or was it more an organic progression? Did you have any specific inspirations for ‘White Rabbit’?

HM: It was both really. TJ, my producer/guitarist, has worked with me on both records and after Butterfly, we were both naturally moving towards darker, edgier sounds, and starting to take more of an interest in 60s psychedelia.

We were listening to Jefferson Airplane, Fifty Foot Hose, and The Velvet Underground. We also took some influence from Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party, and Tom Waits. It wasn’t by accident that we were immersing ourselves in this kind of music.

We both had a desire to break away a little from the more polished sound of the first EP.

The difference between the two records is that for ‘Butterfly’, I was still in the early stages of developing a sound, so didn’t really plan to release a record. Once we’d ended up with 5 recorded tracks, the label decided to release them as an EP.

With ‘White Rabbit’ we had a vision from the beginning. We pretty much knew what we wanted it to sound like before we went into the studio.

COTW: Can you tell us about each song? What do the lyrics mean? How were the tracks put together?

HM: As the overall sound of the new record had taken a darker turn in comparison to the previous, so have the lyrics. Most of the tracks on ‘White Rabbit’ are about having power over someone or someone else having power over you. There’s also reference to death and being lost in a bizarre/unfamiliar world. I like to leave lyrical content up to the listener to figure out, so I’ll not give away specifics!

COTW: The album was mastered in Abbey Road studios! How did this come about? Did you enjoy spending time at the studio?

HM: We wanted a great sounding record so it seemed to make sense to master the record at Abbey Road. We had a day to master the 8 tracks, so we were tight for time. I learnt quite a lot from the experience. I’d never seen an album being mastered before so it was interesting to see how it all worked.

COTW: When you perform live you use quite a lot of technology, particularly for looping purposes. Do you have a favourite piece of equipment or one that you couldn’t live without on stage?

HM: It’s difficult to say I have one favourite, because my live rig changes depending on whether I’m playing solo (for which I have two possible set ups) or with the band.

My most complex set up includes the Electrix Repeater Looper, which is unbelievably versatile so I love it for that reason. I also use various pedal-based loopers, like the Akai Head Rush, which are less flexible, but the upside is that limitations can often encourage more creativity.

The one constant in my live rig is my Nord Electro, which is not only beautiful but sounds also incredible. After having it for over a year now, I’m still creating new sounds with it and it’s really increased my love of vintage organs.

COTW: You’ve worked with other artists most notably The Metaphors. Do you have any aspirations to work with other artists on your own material? Have you considered allowing artists to remix your work?

HM: On top of the collaborative projects I have on the go at the moment, I’m soon to start work on an exciting collaboration for an exclusive performance at the Colston Hall, Bristol. I’m working with composer Richard Barnard, who is running ‘Elektrostatic’, a concert dedicated to the Classical Avant-Garde.

We’ll be arranging a few of my tracks (including ‘Eyelashes’) for small ensemble, which will be performed on 20th October. There are some remixes in the pipeline, so keep an eye out for those!

COTW: What are your listening to/reading/watching at the moment?

HM: I’ve recently been listening a lot to Talking Heads and Cocteau Twins. I’m also watching a lot of Alfred Hitchcock after having received the DVD box set for my birthday. I hadn’t seen ‘Rope’ before and it totally blew me away. The last book I read was ‘The Seeds of Time’ by John Windham a few months ago now and I’m dying to get stuck into something new.

COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?

HM: I plan to get out live around the UK as much as possible to promote the album, and continue writing and collaborating.

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