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Hollie Cook Seduces With Her Smooth Sound
Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hollie Cook has an impressive musical lineage. Her father is the drummer for the Sex Pistols, her mother sang backup for Culture Club, and Boy George is her godfather. What’s most impressive about Cook, however, is the path she’s chosen for her own career.

After a stint with a reformed version of the punk rock band The Slits, Cook branched out on her own, developing her sound as a reggae artist. With her longtime friend and collaborator Prince Fatty, who has worked with everyone from Gregory Isaacs, to Lily Allen, to A Tribe Called Quest, Cook has released two official full length albums, the most recent being Twice, which came out in May.

The smoothed out grooves of Twice are a diversion from the dancehall style reggae that’s dominated the genre for a number of years, as the album has the ability to inspire listeners to take things a little slower on the dance floor.

With Twice putting folks in a nice state of mind, I caught up with Cook to find out more about her music, her life, and why you might not want to go grocery shopping with her.

Adam Bernard: Before we get to your music, let’s talk a little bit about your history. Your musical lineage is pretty incredible. With that in mind, tell me about something from your childhood that you look back on and say, I can’t believe I got to see that, or experience that, as a kid.

Hollie Cook: I don’t know, man. I had a pretty, what I considered normal, childhood. I don’t remember being particularly shocked by anything, to be honest with you. Whether that was just in my nature, or whether nothing shocking actually happened, I couldn’t tell you, because it was all pretty normal to me.

Adam Bernard: So there were no moments when you were three years old and backstage at a show?

Hollie Cook: I was ten years old, and backstage, and I saw Iggy Pop’s dick, so I guess that was pretty weird. It was because he was wearing see-through trousers, not because he showed it to me.

Adam Bernard: I assumed it was an accident.

Hollie Cook: {laughs}

Adam Bernard: I can’t believe it’s nine the morning and Iggy Pop’s dick has already come up in conversation.

Hollie Cook: Happy Monday!

Adam Bernard: When you initially told your family you were going to follow in their musical footsteps, what was the best piece of advice they gave you?

Hollie Cook: They were certainly cool with it, they understood it, but I suppose it was instantly to be made aware of, regardless of having successful examples of my parents’ careers, that it was, in fact, to be remembered and to always realize that it wasn’t the most reliable of career choices to follow. It wasn’t (said) in any way to instill any kind of cynicism in me, but they were like, “Well, that’s cool, but you know it’s not necessarily something that will be able to support you, or something that you will be able to rely on as a steady job for the rest of your life,” but then they’re like, “By all means, go for it.”

Adam Bernard: Did you have a backup plan?

Hollie Cook: Kind of not really. When I was younger I was like if I don’t do music I’ll be a makeup artist, or something. It was always gonna be something creative, probably just more behind the scenes, but it turns out something like that, it’s within the industry, and it’s equally unreliable. I don’t really know what my other backup would be. I’d be in the circus, or something.

Adam Bernard: In the circus you’d still get to travel the world.

Hollie Cook: Absolutely. I’d be an aerial hoop performer, or a trapeze artist, or something.

Adam Bernard: Although you create reggae music now, you started out as a member of a reformed version of the punk rock band The Slits. What was the transition like from punk to reggae?

Hollie Cook: It was completely seamless, actually. It didn’t feel like a huge adjustment in any way. The Slits really had a really broad spectrum of influences, reggae being the strongest one, I think, so that was almost my introduction to learning more about playing the music, really. I just got further and further into it, and more interested, and felt more and more comfortable in that area when I was making music, and when I was singing, so I just, as always, was leaning towards what I felt most confident doing. So yeah, punk and reggae probably were those two things I felt assured that I was ... it was just the most fun, so when I first went into more of a solo thing I didn’t really even think about it, it’s just what felt most natural.

Adam Bernard: Is there anything thematic about both genres that helped make it a seamless transition. Is there something in common about them?

Hollie Cook: There’s some kind of synergy. They share a similar spirit, of sorts. I think the two cultures, back in the 70s, were very much akin. It’s just something in the soul, and the spirit of it, that I think is very kindred.

Adam Bernard: Your latest album, Twice, was completely fan funded. When you start a Kickstarter, or an Indiegogo, or a PledgeMusic campaign, how terrifying is it?

Hollie Cook: It is terrifying, to be honest. There are two types of pledge campaigns that you can do, and mine actually wasn’t fully fan funded, but it did make a huge difference. I'm on a solely independent label, and my album had some sessions that weren’t necessarily possible without those fan funds.

It is a scary thing to put yourself out there, and kind of have to have faith in other people believing in it enough, or being excited enough about it, to essentially buy it before it exists. It’s like an investment. So it was honestly quite a reassuring thing. It was really cool. It was a way of being able to interact with a select group of people who pledged for the album, and it was a fun way of building up to the final finished album being out there. It made me more excited. It felt like there was more anticipation, and it was also, I guess, a relief, and reassurance, that there were people out there who were actually excited to hear it.

Adam Bernard: That first minute a campaign goes live it’s at $0. How often were you checking on it? Were you compulsive?

Hollie Cook: Once a week. I was on a once a week basis.

Adam Bernard: How often did you cheat on that?

Hollie Cook: I didn’t. I was quite restrained on that. I’m not a huge fan of putting myself under too much emotional stress. Obviously we’re all guilty of it. I just had to relax on the matter, really. It was an exciting thing because there’s a time frame, and a goal, so you want to make sure that you reach it. I managed to restrain myself relatively well, I think. {laughs}

Adam Bernard: What was going on in your life that inspired the content of the album?

Hollie Cook: Anything from love, to death, to travel, to lust. All the things that come about in one’s life over a period of time.

Adam Bernard: Were there specific incidents in your life that brought about those emotions?

Hollie Cook: Yeah, absolutely. I lost my grandfather. Right as we decided to book a block of time at the studio to record, my granddad got really ill, so I took a couple of weeks out of that time to spend with him and my family because it was sort of like an obvious outcome.

That was a very interesting thing to experience before I’d really vocaled any of the songs. I also lost my mentor, Ari Up, who was the lead singer from The Slits, a few years back. That inspired the first song that’s on the album, (which is) named after her. It’s her little celebration song.

I think that, for me, personally, death brings out so many different emotions, and it really almost magnifies your perspective on a lot of different things in life, and it gets you thinking about dynamics, and significance, and all those kinds of things, so I feel like most (of the) emotions that I was experiencing were sprung from unfortunate death situations. Out of that you have to create as much positivity as possible, and turn it into something artistic. It was an extremely therapeutic thing to be able to make music whilst grieving. That was a very important thing.

Adam Bernard: It sounds like it could have been a very tough couple of years.

Hollie Cook: Yeah, absolutely. Life goes on, which is the weirdest part of all of it, so I guess you just gotta deal with it.

Adam Bernard: Prince Fatty produced both Twice, and your self-titled debut. How did you two develop your working relationship, and what about that relationship works so well?

Hollie Cook: We’ve known each other for about eight years, so the friendship and the working relationship, have sat side by side constantly throughout. Our working relationship started because I visited him in his studio occasionally, and we just tried out songs that he had maybe worked on previously, and (that) hadn’t worked out. I guess it was just something to try out to see if working together which would be a cool thing, which ended up being the case, and we just kind of just carried on. I kept going down there, and we’d bounce ideas back and forth, and listen to music together. It was all very natural. There wasn’t really a solid plan involved in any of this.

A year after we’d met we realized we had a pretty strong body of work, so we decided to continue that, and make a full length album. After the first album we didn’t really necessarily take a break, or stop working.

It’s pretty much a constant relationship of hanging out, making music, hanging out, making music. It’s a fun friendship to have, one where you actually enjoy working together, and what not.

Adam Bernard: Moving from the studio to the road, I know you’ve toured with a variety of acts. What’s been the wildest, or most interesting, thing you’ve seen, or experienced, while on the road?

Hollie Cook: Interesting question. {laughs} Aw man, I don’t know, I toured with The Slits for quite a few years and some pretty weird stuff happened along the way, but if I told you I'd have to kill you.

Adam Bernard: You can’t kill me over the computer. I’m not too concerned about that, so give me one thing from touring with The Slits that was eye opening, that was like, “I can’t believe we just had that experience?”

Hollie Cook: It's so weird to try and remember these things specifically, they all get mulched into one. From police closing down squat parties and warehouse shows, to pissing in front gardens of hotels that wouldn't let us check in, to finding ghost towns. I have to go through photos in order to remember some of this stuff. We’ve played some interesting places. I got to go to Thailand with Prince Fatty a few years ago, which was pretty crazy. Some very friendly people put on a show for us. I can’t remember any of the crazy rock n roll stories, though, because, you know, that’s how it goes, I guess. {laughs}

Adam Bernard: Some of the best stories we have are the ones we have to be told about.

Hollie Cook: Exactly. There are some very very hazy memories of my touring schedule.

Adam Bernard: When the cops were shutting down the squat parties, did you ever end up wearing handcuffs?

Hollie Cook: No. I managed to keep myself in a very inconspicuous state as far as the law is concerned. I’m a good girl, really.

Adam Bernard: You mentioned going overseas, and touring in Thailand. What’s the most lost, or out of your element, you’ve felt in a foreign country?

Hollie Cook: Probably in a supermarket in America. {laughs} I got lost in the fucking biggest supermarket probably in the world, and it was a really horrible, and stressful situation for me.

Adam Bernard: So going to Thailand, perfectly fine. Finding ghost towns, perfectly fine. Stop & Shop, mystifying!

Hollie Cook: Absolutely mind blowing in every way possible. {laughs}

Adam Bernard: How did you get lost in a grocery store? I’m just thinking of all the times a mom gets on the intercom and is like “Timmy come to the front,” and Timmy comes to the front. It isn’t a challenge for him.

Hollie Cook: I wish that I had found that person who could help me out. Honestly, I’ve never experienced magnitude like it. I’ve not experienced a supermarket of that scale. I wish I could remember where I was. It was somewhere middle America-ish.

Adam Bernard: That part, the location, does not surprise me. Finally, when you’re driving in your car, or you’re at the gym, what’s the most embarrassing thing someone might catch you singing along to?

Hollie Cook: I’m not sure really how much I ever feel embarrassed by anything that I might listen to. There’s this whole guilty pleasures thing, but if it’s making you feel good is it really something you should feel guilty about?

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 1:53 PM  
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