…Great question. I am actually working on something like that and it’s focused on inspiring people to participate in the solutions to climate change by taking responsibility for their carbon footprint, building local economies, and working towards self-sufficiency (of individuals and local and regional communities). I’ll come back when the next Be album comes out and give you an update. In the meantime; those are good ideals we can all strive towards. We have to pull together and take care of each other.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing David Hawkins, leader of the rock band Hawk
May 15th saw the release of the Hawk’s fantastic new album Fly. Under Hawkins’ stewardship, Hawk has quickly gone from a more personal, self-contained project into a full-blown supergroup with the enlistment of Ken Stringfellow of The Posies (and R.E.M. and Big Star) all-time great drummer Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello’s legendary Attractions, and newly-added Morgan Fisher of Mott The Hoople (who’s also played with Queen and Yoko Ono). Hawk, as well as David’s orchestral folk-rock band Be also regularly feature contributions from Jayhawks leader Gary Louris, who’s not present here due to commitments to his main gig, but is already recording his parts for the next Be album.
Recorded internationally, Fly shakes up the Hawk formula that was once described as having “the crunch of AC/DC, the swagger of the Stones, and the melodies of Tom Petty,” according to one journalist, as this time the band’s sonic explorations move into shinier, noisier, hi-tech territory that recalls early-90’s R.E.M. on songs like “This Is It” and “She’s An Angel”, and even channels New Order and The Cure on “You Are The One I Want”, then goes right for the throat of the Trump administration on “Truth To Power” before closing it out with classic psych vibes on “Lost Our Way”.
David Hawkins is not only incredibly prolific, but also quite the interesting character who took an unusual path to where he’s at now. He’s had a successful career as an abstract painter, and is co-founder of the The Black Mountain Arts Collective, an avant-garde performance group inspired by the “happenings” orchestrated by John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and others from Black Mountain College in the 1950’s.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
You’re very welcome. Thanks for having me! I grew up in Central Illinois; in a town called Normal. No, I’m not kidding. It’s a college town in the middle of the cornfields. It was a great place to grow up. Music was a big part of my life from early on (as a fan), and being a college town it had concerts, good record stores, soft drugs; all the things to encourage a future rocker. The first day of college I became a DJ at the radio station, and before long I was putting on concerts, including a big one with the Violent Femmes, which was a real highlight.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
After college, I moved up to Chicago and ended up managing alt-country rock pioneers Souled American, and one day the leader, Chris, showed me the chords on guitar and I started writing songs and it just kind of snowballed from there. Songwriting was kind of a personal thing at first; it still is, really. It’s kind of a cross between ritual, therapy and prayer. My girlfriend at the time sent my first album to WXRT and they starting playing it, and it became public. Making music is one of my favorite things in life. It’s nourishing; it’s like spiritual sustenance.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Meeting some of my musical heroes has been fun, like Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, R.E.M. and Joe Strummer. I got to know Joe when Souled American opened for The Pogues at the Vic Theatre in Chicago. He had produced their recent album and was filling in on guitar because the guitar player was out sick. He was super cool; just a regular guy. He really liked the band, and we hit it off and hung out for awhile and just talked about everything. There were drinks involved. At the end of the night, he said he was going to tell his label about the band, which I took with a grain of salt because we were out late and we had had a few drinks. But a few months later, I got a call from Epic Records in London and they requested a demo. I couldn’t believe it. That was Joe; he was True Blue. About a year later I was in L.A. and stopped into the El Coyote (a Mexican Restaurant) with some friends, and my friend froze as we walked in: ‘Dude, that’s Joe Strummer!’ They didn’t know that I knew him, so when I went over and said hi and he jumped up, gave me a big hug and had me join him and his kids at their table, my friends stood there speechless. I was a legend for a night. It was a great moment. Joe was really kind and gracious and I was proud to call him a friend. It hit me really hard when he died.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It’s funny now, but at the time it was devastating. We were recording the second Hawk record in my attic in Bucktown, and it was really hard because it was 110 degrees up there and the ADAT machine kept breaking down because of the heat. One day it was a little cooler and we had an amazing day and knocked out like 8 songs in one day. We were feeling good, and the next session while we were setting up, the guitar player put a new tape in and started formatting it just as I came in with the new tape; he had erased that whole amazing session!! We were all crushed, but it kind of lit a fire under us to re-record everything even better, so it turned out OK in the end. The lesson I learned? Always label the tape as soon as you record on it. It doesn’t really apply anymore in the digital realm, but you can bet I never made that mistake again!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Playing with Pete, Morgan and Ken on these records is pretty exciting; they’re such great players, and I can finally capture the songs the way I hear them in my head. Both the Hawk and Be projects are deepening and expanding. The next Be album is going to be great; Brian Wilson (especially Pet Sounds and Smiley Smile) is a big influence on some of those songs. And the following Be album will feature The Master Musicians Of Jajouka (led by Bachir Attar), the legendary Moroccan band who recorded with the Stones, Brian Jones and Ornette Coleman. I travelled to Jajouka, their mountain village in Morocco, and brought a portable studio so we could record. We totally hit it off and we stayed up all night and recorded a bunch of great stuff. It was an incredible experience.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Things are still way behind where they should be; Art should mirror the people; when it doesn’t, voices are being silenced, you don’t get the full expression of the culture, and that full expression is what helps us collectively ‘understand’ ourselves and grow as a species. Same with the music industry. We still have a long way to go.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Luckily, I had managed a band before I started my own, so I had already learned a lot of those things before I got started, like 1) Don’t go into music to be rich and famous; go into it because you have a song in your chest and you’ve got to get it out. 2) everybody is going to have an opinion about your work, but the only one that matters is yours. 3) the music industry, the business side of it, is complete bullshit and has nothing to do with the art. Art is transcendent; business isn’t. They’re like oil and water. 4) The criticizers and haters are often frustrated artists or wannabe artists, and 5) Be like Joe Strummer. (ie, be cool, treat others right and make good stuff.)
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
There’s a season for everything; be aware of the cycles and ride them like a wave. You don’t harvest in the springtime, you know? There’s a process to things; you can’t force it. Leonard Cohen said to keep your instrument in shape and be ready. You nurture the seeds of experience and inspiration, immerse yourself in things (and people) you love, and songs will grow. Just be present so you can catch them when they come; they’re fleeting and elusive.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Great question. I am actually working on something like that and it’s focused on inspiring people to participate in the solutions to climate change by taking responsibility for their carbon footprint, building local economies, and working towards self-sufficiency (of individuals and local and regional communities). I’ll come back when the next Be album comes out and give you an update. In the meantime; those are good ideals we can all strive towards. We have to pull together and take care of each other.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many. I think the first would be my parents, who really encouraged me early on and told me to pursue my dreams and that I could do anything I put my mind to if I worked hard enough and persevered. I am really grateful for that. They would say nothing worthwhile comes easy, and that still rings true.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Thoreau said ‘beware of any enterprise that requires new clothes’. Abe Lincoln said ‘Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,’ and John Lennon’s advice was timeless and spot on: ‘All you need is love.’
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Bob Dylan, hands down. He’s our century’s Shakespeare and a personal songwriting hero of mine. But that’s unlikely, because Bob generally doesn’t hang, so my second choice would probably be the Dalai Lama. I’ve attended some of his talks, and they always transport me to another place. He’s a beautiful soul.
How can our readers follow you online?
Hawk “Fly” IndieGogo page:
Hawk Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hawkrockband/
Hawk website: http://hawkmusic.net/
Hawk Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hawkrockband
Hawk Twitter: https://twitter.com/Hawkarts
Be Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bebandmusic
Be website: www.Beband.net
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thanks for having me. Be safe and be well everyone, and we’ll see you all out on the road when this is over!