For his sixth studio album, the peerless Richard Hawley turned off all his electronic gadgets, gathered together an array of bizarre sonic devices and returned to his first love – songwriting. He tells Brian Boyd about his continuing search for that perfe
RICHARD HAWLEY was in B&Q, accidentally knocked over a plant pot and got an album out of it. “The sound that plant pot made was, by a truly weird coincidence, a sound I was trying to get to for one of the songs on the new album. I researched what I thought the sound was and after a good bit of looking around I found you could get something similar from an instrument called a Tibetan Singing Bowl — it’s like a big bell which vibrates and produces sound.”
It’s not the only unusual instrumentation on his new album, Truelove’s Gutter. “I’ve got the Megabass Waterphone and the Cristal Baschet as well,” he says. “There’s a whole load of odd sounds on the album that won’t have been heard before on anything remotely approaching a rock music record. There were certain acoustic sounds I wanted, and once I tracked down the Singing Bowl, the rest just followed.
“But the trouble we had in the studio: to get that B&Q-plant-pot-falling-over sound, we initially tried all these synth effects and then distorting traditional instruments. But it was never quite right until I found the Singing Bowl. Some of these old instruments, such as the Cristal Baschet, are amazing instruments.
Researching them was great fun. I came across the glass armonica which was invented by Benjamin Franklin, and I found one really old one which was known as the “devil’s instrument” because to play it you had to run your finger around the brim – like a wine glass – but the rim had loads of lead and people would go a bit mad and start to froth at the mouth from all the lead when they played it too much.”
More an eight-track song cycle than an album, Truelove’s Gutter is a haunting and minimalistic affair. His darkest work to date (which is really saying something), Hawley wants it to be a “listening experience”.
“It’s a mood album,” he says. “It’s not full of sudden sonic jumps or anything like that. It’s structured so that it’s best listened to at one full sitting. I wanted it to undulate, to be this really smooth journey – the way I imagine it is that it bobs along on the waves of the instrumentation. It’s very much against the time – it doesn’t fit.
“It’s an anti-soundbite album.”