Hawksley Workman
nov 11th 2001 - Inrockuptibles Festival, Toulouse, FR
by Barbara H, SEB WOOd and El Compila Funkistador

Barbara H: How did it feel to play the Olympia yesterday night ?

That was fantastic, it's a big venue and i know that it's probably the most famous venue in France. It was good.

BH: When did you start playing music ?

I was very young, i was about 5 started playing the drums, I'm a drummer first. So i feel that that's my home in some ways. Singing too, i sang a lot when i was young, i sang a lot in church...

BH: what was your first favorite record ?

Probably... Michael Jackson. 'Thriller' was my favorite. That record had a huge impact on me, and then, from then on it was such a wide variety, lately I've been listening to the Who again that was something i loved when i was a teenager, I loved the passion, the intensity, especially in the drumming.

BH: I read that you started playing to evacuate the sexual tension inside your body...

I think that playing an instrument, especially like drums, it's so physical that the outlet ends up being a very passionate outlet, similar to sex... It does feel like that with drumming or with singing too, cause it's so much about your body and about making sound, you're the instrument, it's very sensual, it's very euphoric.

BH: Is your body filled with as much sexual tension now ? (laughs)

(shy) errrr... no (laughs), not as much, but you know, it doesn't seem to matter with music or sex, you do it once and you want it again and again and again... 

BH: Sex is the main difference between your two albums...

yeah, i think that for north Americans, there is a taboo around sexuality, you spend the most of your life as a kid and then growing up, feeling closed off, and i think that with the second record i wanted to make a record that really celebrated and was excited about that animal instinct, and not to be shy... So! it's a more confident records in some ways... The first record is more dreamy... There's dreamy parts in the second record, but it's very aggressive sounding.

BH: you wrote a book titled "Hawksley Burns for Isadora," who is Isadora ?

Isadora is a fantasy creature, like a mermaid, who's wise and sexy and good and i think that when i was making the records i was writing these letters too, I think I was tired of war and the way men run the world, how we're stupid, i thought it'd be better to be breathing and living underwater, to come to a new world...

BH: Why did you choose Hawksley Workman as a stage name ?

because it's my mother's maiden name in some ways i know more of my mother side of the family than i know of my father side of the family, and also, before i released my first record i was an hired drummer, I also produced a lot of records and i wanted to make a definite change, to do something new, so i left one thing behind...

SEB WOOd: "Workman" is that to specify that you play most of the instruments ?

A little bit, i think that inspiration is only one part of making art, most of it is about labor, about work, you can have all these wonderful thoughts, but if you don't work nothing ever gets done, i have a work ethic about music

BH: Is the Hawksley Workman character a part of you or just something new ?

I think it's a part of me... there's the simple part, sitting backstage drinking water and there's the being on stage and turning up for magnifying certain parts of the character, to put onstage so that people pay money to see the show. If i just came onstage with my water and drink it, somebody might think "wow, this is very deep, i think i know what he's saying," but most of the people would think that it's... bullshit! (laughs)

BH: you told the British press that you started as a tap dancer, why did you tell them that ?

Well, I told them that and they just believed it (laughs) It's funny because in Canada they didn't believe it and the English are always err....

SW: excited about everything ?

do you think? i thought that they just think that everything is shit, everything is bullshit, that i wouldn't be able to pull that out, but... they believed it and you know i wanted to make a bio that was interesting to read and was part of the project, instead of just a regular band bio by another boring band...

BH: it really sounds like the beginning of a coming of age novel...

that's interesting, i should go to work on that maybe...

BH: I also read somewhere that you were running for mayor in Toronto (laughs)

really ? no, but i know where that came from. I have a shirt and the colors are very American, blue, red and white and it looks like the kind of shirt that a prospective mayor of some American town would wear, i didn't realize until i was onstage, so i pretended i was running for mayor. The mayor of Toronto... he is a real goof, he's kind of an idiot, and we need a new mayor. Well maybe i will run for mayor. If i ran out of musical ideas i think that i could probably... well, the town i was born in i thought i was gonna run for mayor when i was a teenager cause i had a TV show in my little town, they had a local television and i thought that i could maybe run for mayor, but i didn't know about politics and what was going on.

El CompilaFunkistador : what was the show about ?

It was just about me being a teenager, on TV (laughs)

ECF: like Wayne's World ?

kind of like Wayne's World (laughs) but not so Wayne's World... some people didn't like it, it offended some people, but it was fun, it was a talk show, and it was just... silly, I think, more than anything else

BH: I heard that you were going to release something  this Christmas...

How did you hear that ? That's very new... It's a Christmas EP, one song on it is very French, cause i live in Paris right now, and i wrote a song that is very very french.

BH: in what way ?

It's a  song about my love for the Clairefontaine paper, and i went on a fast, just tea for a week (laughs), just to clean my body out and i wrote all these songs, my first record i wrote on Clairefontaine paper, and, so *surprised* it's cheaper in France ! (laughs) so I bought a pat of it, excited that on my fast i would write something... it's very sexy paper, it feels so good (laughs)

SW: you know that...

...everybody associates that with school here

SW: yeah

I know (laughs) so I wrote a song about Clairefontaine and how much i love the paper, that's the one part of...

SW: is it a very "Christmas" album ?

yes. Except for Clairefontaine.

SW: Have you listened to other christmas albums , like Low's do you know the band Low ?

No... I've heard of but i've never listened to the music, it's good? 

BH, SW & ECF : yes

My Christmas record is about family, it's a very simple record... 'Striptease' and 'Jealous of your Cigarette' were very urban songs... this record, despite that i wrote it in Paris is very much about simple things... with the war going on, it's fucking lunacy, so i just think, really, my family, community, the simple things, singing together... I wanted to write music that people could sing, so in some ways it's a little simpler, there's a couple of silly Christmas songs that could be in a Christmas musical, and others that are more about...

SW: feeling lonely in Christmas ?

yes, one of them is actually, and then about making food (laughs)

BH: you're always magnifying the simple things in life...

yeah... that's totally... I'm not good at about writing about (swings his arms in the air), to me what is really interesting is the poetry, little pieces of poetry in every moment, like, the fact that there is a tomato in the ashtray, this is a song waiting to happen, it's beautiful in some ways and so i just think the simple things are... the world moves so quickly that when you finally slow down and appreciate moment by moment, there's really simple beauty in every moment that passes. I think.

*Sandy, Hawksley Workman's manager comes in, ensues discussions about the EP, Clairefontaine paper and how common it is in France, will the song bring back bad memories to French people ?*

BH: what are you going to come up with next ? A musical ?

I'd really like to, i think it would be a good thing to do...

ECF: including tapdancing performance ? 

tapdancing, dogs, stunts, blindfolded stunt, fire breathing... (laughs) I don't know, I have acouple of ideas but i don't know if i will have the time to write them. I was lucky to have a week or two in Paris to write this new record. do you wanna hear it ?

Gang of 3 : yeah, sure.

*while searching for the cd* well, the musical, it takes so much time, i find that to have time to write is so rare when you're on the road it's very hard...

*we listen and laugh*

BH: You did everything in Paris ?

yeah, I did it in two days. It's a world record for me. all i had was two days and i had these  new songs i was excited... it was busy, so, there's a song about building a house and a boat and learning how to knit, one about Clairefontaine, and about making soup (laughs) and that's the whole story.

BH: do you plan on coming back later ?

yes i will come back in France in the end of January. I stay at my flat until December 15th and then i go home and i come back... I'll tour America when i'm home, but i think i wanna try and do another record at Christmas time, i'm very excited to be home, i'll get my piano tuned, i got a nice piano, gonna get my tooth fixed when i get home... you've got nice teeth! (laughs)

*we talk about French people being slender and smoking habits*

I find it very hard when I'm in France. I get sick a lot. Last night at the Olympia for instance, it was insane ! The smoke was nuts ! 

*'smoking' discussion goes on*

BH: how would you describe your music ?

I usually just say that it's good (laughs)

BH: it's true ! (laughs)

Sometimes i find it hard to... cause i'm a drummer i'm very selfish when i write the songs. I wanna write the songs so that they're fun to play the drums to (laughs) And when you're a drummer you learn to play latin fills, African fills, Swing and Jazz and Rock... and so, I'm good at all those and sometimes when I'm writing I'm thinking as I'm sitting at the piano "oh... this is gonna be great, I can hardly wait!" (laughs). I just think it's good, there's a lot of music out now, I think there's a lot of bad music out now...

SW: do you like dressing up ?


SW: as a woman ? *shows the 'The Delicious Wolves' cover*

(laughs) I like to dress up. this is a real life fur hat...

SW: I mean, do you like angora or... (laughs)

BH: Is it really your hat ?

no it's not my hat, a friend of mine is a photographer and that's the hat he wears in winter in Canada, it's totally utility... well I'm a very feminine boy i guess.

*we talk about bands playing in the festival, and music videos*

The video for Jealous of your Cigarette was fun to make, cause it's a one-shot, it was a real performance...

*Sandy interrupts again, we talk about the band...*

BH: do you like playing alone with Mr Lonely more than playing with the whole band ?

I like both, it all depends... last night at the Olympia maybe i should have played with Mr Lonely cause the bands were all so loud... last tour in Canada we did all the dates with the band except the last one in Montreal where it was just me and Mr Lonely, in some ways it's my favorite show of teh tour, which makes me think about the musical even more and having a very simple show, except for the dogs and the fire breathing (laughs)

BH, SW & ECF: Thank you

Thank you

/pic by A.M. - huge thanks to Pierre from www.soitditenpassant.com/