How are you feeling about tonight?
Good, Manchester is always an exciting show. We’re all quite tired already, it’s only the 4th night in, it’s an intensive tour, but I’m having a really good time making some noise surrounded by all these amazing people.
On your latest album, ‘I’m Not Your Man’, you’ve completely changed your musical style, from a softer style to something a little more grungy. What brought about the change?
I think it’s a confidence thing, I was just able to write the music I’d always wanted to. People told me to focus on sadder, hard-hitting songs but having done that for so long, being able to do it standing on my head, I wanted to challenge myself. I’ve got to keep it exciting for me. I’ve had so much fun making this, touring this and it’s achieved everything I wanted it to. I’ve pushed myself in a different direction and now the question is, where do I go now?
Your album artwork is incredible, you’ve even got a game on the internet explaining all of the intricacies of it. How involved were you in the creation of it?
Pretty involved. The artist is a friend of mine. I’ve been a big fan of his and I reached out and asked him if he wanted to get involved because he’d never made an album cover before. I sent him lots of stuff to do with the album and we sat down and decided what we could put in this little world of ours. He also put some of his own artistic ideas, from his own work, into it. The cucumber (present in the artwork) is something he uses in his work a lot, he sees it as a ‘middle class white man sexual intimidation’ thing, cutting this up and making it into a smily face was the opposite of what the record was about, female empowerment, and to have this cowering in the corner was very tongue-in-cheek. There’s a mattress in there which is from the first album, a poster which influences him, so it’s kind of like marrying the two together to create the Marika Hackman world. It’s exciting as an artist, you make lots of music with hidden meaning and then you create a visual aid before they’ve listened to the music. It really makes them understand what’s going on. I love art, it’s something I’ve always loved.
You’re very open with your creative process, does this help you get closer to your fans? Or is it something you feel like you have to do?
I like talking about my work because it helps me understand what the hell is going on. I don’t really know how I write, it’s a bit of a mystery to me and it makes my career fascinating and terrifying. I don’t know if it’s suddenly going to go because there is no process to my work. I like to discuss it to see if I get anything back. I find it interesting to go back and reflect on why I did things and why I put certain things in. It helps to say something out loud.
You said you were going to read all the reviews for your new album, did you?
Yeah, I did!
You must have been so chuffed!
Yeah it was really good, I was so happy.
In the lead-up to this record you changed your label & management team, what inspired this?
It just wasn’t working for me. There isn’t a horror story or anything, I just jumped ship, it was all discussed and happy. Then I had this autonomous period. I felt terrified but also empowered. Suddenly I was alone after working with these people for 6 years. My publishers, who now manage me, helped me out and got me a record deal with AMF.
I was gutted you didn’t get a Mercury Prize nomination, did you care that you didn’t?
I definitely cared, but the thing about awards is you can invest so much time and energy getting worked up about them and thinking it will change things. If I had been nominated, I’d still be here doing this, I’d still be thinking about the next record I have to write. I want to work hard and be successful, but that’s happening anyway, because the reviews were all amazing and the shows have been going really well. There are more people in the audience and people are coming up to me and telling me that I helped them come out to their parents. That to me is my career and I’m still working incredibly hard on it. Sometimes it can get you down but it’s not worth getting worked up about it. Also Ed Sheeran’s nomination baffled me.
Is the way you think about music like how it is portrayed in your bedroom sessions?
I think about songs, their structure and then how you hold off the hitting bit that everyone wants to hear. Then once I’ve written it, I mess about with the production. The riff is there but then I can make it anything I want. When I was set the challenge of stripping it back, we had to think of the best way to do this. I had to rewrite them in a different way. I always write music in my bedroom though, it feels like such a safe space. I always say that songs should be able to be stripped back to just an acoustic guitar and if you can’t do that then it’s a shame. I know electronic music has amazing production but I like being able to strip it back.
Who would your ideal touring partner be?
I’ve always wanted to go on tour with Warpaint although we are always out of sync. Even a couple of shows would be a massive tick.
Have you met them?
No, but annoyingly I was doing some shows in LA over the summer and a friend told me that Emily (one of the members) was going to come but then she forgot. I was so annoyed! They have followed me on Twitter though.
So what’s next for Marika Hackman?
I’m writing the next album at the moment. I’ll also be doing some touring next year, festivals etc.
Is your next album likely to be a radical departure like this one, something electro perhaps?
I don’t want to give too much away, it’s all baby steps at the moment. But it’ll be different.
Really looking forward to it! Thanks, you’ve been absolute pleasure to interview.
‘I’m Not Your Man’ is out now, via AMF Records.