Monday, 16 June 2014

The SAY Awards - Hector Bizerk Interview

On Thursday 19th June at the Barrowlands in Glasgow titans of the Scottish music community will gather awaiting the announcement of the Scottish Album of the Year Awards for 2013.  In the running include the monstrous Biffy Clyro, who sealed their place on the shortlist courtesy of the public vote, CHVRCHES whose rise to prominence has been nothing short of astronomical, and the secretive and influential Boards of Canada.  Rubbing shoulders with them will be Louie, Audrey, Jen and Fraser, the four members of unsigned Glasgow hip-hop band Hector Bizerk.  As we meet for a chat about the awards the long list had been reduced down to ten, and Hector Bizerk were still standing whilst indie stalwards Camera Obscura and Frightened Rabbit had fallen.  That's not a situation which front man and rapper Louie takes for granted at all.

"It was a bit strange being at The Say Award short listing event, meeting people in person who have written incredibly nice things about us" recalls Louie.  "I met Alan Morrison and Janice Forsyth there.  I admire them both in their respective capacities, and they've each championed our music and it's quite humbling to know that two creative industry professionals dig our wee band." 

Do artists really  pay attention to what journalists and bloggers write about I ask?  Louie replies instantly, "Of course!  It means a lot when people take time to critique your artistic development.  Nobody Seen Nothing  received plaudits from lots of mainstream writers and dedicated bloggers.  Journalists, radio DJ's, music bloggers are what marketing people call 'opinion formers'.  They influence how sheeple think so it's important to us to have the experts say nice things about our music."

Nobody Seen Nothing  is the second album from the Hector Bizerk's station, developing their drums/rap sound by beefing things up in terms of the addition of Fraser on bass and Jen on keyboards.  Lyrically, Louie remains as on point and topical as ever.  Given that The SAY Awards were well established when the album was released on 23 September 2013 was a nomination something the band had in their minds?

"When we had written the album and moved into the production phase it was our target to be nominated for The SAY Award.  It's huge for us but from the first listening session we believed the record was good enough.  We've never been egotistical people but we felt that our song writing merited recognition among the best in the country.  Audrey is the only female producer ever nominated too which is a bit special."

Some commentators have likened Hector Bizerk's inclusion on the short list as a David and Goliath situation compared to the respective might of artists such as Biffy Clyro, Edwyn Collins and Steve Mason.  Without the entourage that can be enjoyed by artists on major labels, life can be difficult.  Louie elaborates on just how DIY the band are.  "We do everything ourselves.  We do all our own bookings for shows.  We fund our own tours through selling albums and merchandise hand to hand.  We've self funded recording two albums in two years."  As he speaks you can sense the pride he has in the situation.  The rise of Hector Bizerk, and their inclusive on this short list is a glowing endorsement of a DIY attitude spliced with hard work.  "We make things happen for ourselves and don't depend on anyone else to scratch our arses" finishes Louie.

There's a humbleness too though, as Louie goes onto explain.

"There are lots of people who believe in what we do and I can't describe how much we appreciate everyone's support."  Pressed on who those people are, Louie speaks with affection of the long list of people who make up the support network.  "The Tait family who are constantly willing us onto better and bigger things.  Visual artist, Pearl Kinnear is the fifth member of our band.  She is a constant inspiration and a truly creative force of nature.  Lead singer from The Miss's Michelle Low helps make sure we behave ourselves at gigs and takes good care of us.  Paul Devlin, of Paul's Halls Studios has supported us from the offset and given us such a wonderful environment to make noise and experiment.  Nobody Seen Nothing  would not have been possible if not for his kindness.  Also, a special mention to Ally McCrae and Muslim Alim who played our first ever song on BBC Radio 1.  Those are the moments I live for and that's why we make this noise."

Fans of the Scottish Fiction show will remember Louie and Audrey popping by for a chat and live session on 12th February this year.  On that occasion we talked about the rise of hip-hop in Scotland.  With Hector Bizerk and Young Fathers making the short list this year, and Stanley Odd last year, is it time to stop taking about how Scottish hip-hop is growing and start accepting that hip-hop is just as much a part of Scottish music as say the traditional guitar band?

"Perhaps.  Good music is just good music and people with an open mind will accept it for what it is.  When we talk about Biffy Clyro's music we don't call it Scottish rock, it's just rock music.  The same with Boards of Canada, it's not Scottish electronica.  It's electronica.  Hip-hop lives and breathes here in Scotland.  I think The SAY Award has shone a light on a counter culture that has flourished in Scotland's underground for 25 years.   I would like to dedicate our nomination to the Bboys Flyin Jalapenos, the graff artists repping Scotland on walls all over Europe, the DJ's still spinning vinyl and the emcees who know the script.  We are very proud to be flying the flag for hip-hop culture at The SAY Award."

As our interview progresses we leave the hip-hop culture and DIY ethos to one side, and I ask Louie about the actuality of the awards themselves.  How did it feel to find out the band were nominated?  "Incredible" quips Louie straight away.  "Look at the pool of talented people in there. There are loads of great albums that never made the top 20 of 2013 so it's a genuine honour to be in amongst some of the countries most formidable song writers.  I think the long list had an embarrassment of riches and indisputable brilliance."

Of course being long listed is one thing, but on 29th May that long list was whittle down by half.  Inclusion on the short list also comes with a tangible prize of £1,000.  Nobody Seen Nothing  stayed the distance, something Louie was keen to stress at the time via the band's social media outlets he didn't think would happen.  Given the DIY nature of the band, what does that initial £1,000 mean to Hector Bizerk?

"We've never had money to invest in PR before, so maybe we can put out a couple of posters this time" laughs Louie.  "Every article written about us is because our music spoke for itself.  We depend on word of mouth and guerrilla advertising to spread the word about our endeavours.  The initial £1,000 is going towards the cost of recording and releasing our new EP.  Either that or we can all go to Weatherspoons and feast like kings and queens."

If £1000 gets a feast at Wetherspoons what could £20,000 stretch too?  "I honestly haven't even thought about that" says Louie stone-faced.  "I have never had that kinda money in my life and the possibility of emerging victorious has never entered our thoughts."  I ask him firstly who he think will win on Thursday night.

"It's almost impossible to predict" comes the diplomatic reply.  "I don't think anyone could begrudge Mogwai taking it, or CHVRCHES or Biffy.  Steve Mason might be a dark horse, it's another superb album but if I had to bet £1 on it I'd say Mogwai for the win."

Can Hector win I ask, as we wind up our chat?

Louie smiles, "not a fucking chance!"

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