Five years in the making, launched in Lancaster in August and finally officially released today on Timbreland Recordings, “Dan Haywood’s New Hawks” is impressive not just in terms of lengthy gestation. At over two hours in length, this thirty-two track, triple vinyl album is a hefty and absorbing listen, billed as “both debut record and final release”.
“The songs are all based on Haywood’s personal ruminations charting his experience as a lone songwriter, poet and ornithologist travelling around rural Scotland. The finished record is uncompromising in its dramatic, personal and raw interpretation - marrying country rock, folk and psychedelic influences, alongside Dan Haywood’s ardent vocals. The instrumentation and arrangements are sometimes sparse, sometimes exquisite and sometimes cacophonous, with the band utilising guitars, fiddles, cellos, drums, pedal steel, piano and percussion along with some minimal use of bass, bongos and harmonium”.
Ahead of gigs this Tuesday at The Yorkshire House in Lancaster with Trembling Bells and on Thursday 16 December at Sacred Trinity Church in Salford with Stealing Sheep, head hawk Dan Haywood answered a few questions about the record and the live shows.
You’ve described this record as “The first and last album by Dan Haywood’s New Hawks” – how come?
There are only so many products that could be termed 'Dan Haywood's New Hawks' because it refers exclusively to the group of songs. The songs themselves are the New Hawks, all dreamt up some years ago. It's not a band name. So there can't be any more-- there were only ever thirty-two of them and now they're all done and stored in one convenient product.
The CD version and the booklet accompanying the vinyl release refer both refer to “ Parts 1 – 6”. Did you originally conceive this as a triple vinyl release or is this grouping of songs accidental? When I was writing it I wasn't worried about the word-count, the running-time, the format, or anything...just the mania.... Didn't even know it was an album or whether it would be made 'public'.. But it soon became clear that it was very much an album, that the songs belonged together. More so than any group of songs I've come up with before or since. But art was first and foremost, staying true to the flashes.
And a couple of years passed before triple or quadruple vinyl was mentioned. The way the recordings were going it was looking to be two to three hours long which suggested the format. The story splits into six or eight parts very nicely, so vinyl worked for me. More toilet breaks. Eat a banana between sides four and five or you can get suicidal.
Two sides is less pleasant, which is why the 2CD version isn't ideal. Probably best to program it into the six chunks.
The record followed from 18 months working in far North of Scotland and is dedicated to the people of Caithness and Sutherland. What is special about that part of the country?
Those people and those places were far more inspiring to me than any band or album or film have ever been. But that area's hidden, subtle, undervalued, overlooked, hard to define. A vast challenge to write about. If you visit it for a few days or a week it can't impress you fully. You have to slow down and live there for awhile otherwise you might not absorb anything specific. So living there taught me patience, and eventually surpassed all expectations and blew me away.
A tourist might race North through Caithness to get to John O Groats. The name rings a bell but everyone is underwhelmed by it when they arrive. Boring. What next? They tick and run-- they go back down to spot Nessie or head on to the Northern Isles and miss out on great beauty and subtlety.
If you had to release a single from the record what would the A and B sides be?
'Smiley Patch' is one of the rockier, hookier moments from the album and might work as a single. The some great fiddle from Mikey Kenney and some beautiful pedal steel from GT Thwaite. You need fiddle and steel for a single, right? And 'Fear of Lightning' is a sweet, compact song that could be the flip. Nice and lonely, sitting to one side.
But 'Spate River' I'm particularly proud of as a standalone because among things it captures the rude essence of Anglo-Highland Scot relations. And that's an important thread of the album. A taster for the whole thing.
If this record was a film, which one would it be?
Oh! This record is a film. And a novel. And a meal in a drink!
Although this is an intensely personal record, it is populated by other people and places- and I’m not sure we see and hear the real Dan Haywood. Who is the real Dan Haywood?
I'm not bothered about that anymore. All of my earlier, unreleased records are more about that. The folly of youth. Other people and places are much more interesting. The other characters and settings on the album might ring more true for having some personal/anecdotal input from me though. So my ego may have some function.
Which other musicians and song-writers inspire you?
David Berman always worked hard to give you the full experience with his songwriting. Pulled out all the stops, played with the rules. It's a shame that he retired the Silver Jews, but also a measure of his great integrity that he did. I'm lucky to have met him and corresponded with him and he was kind and encouraging about my stuff. One of the things he advised was to 'stay weird'!. Consider it done!
Also, my fellow band members are brilliant without exception. Four or five years of recording this and gigging this couldn't have passed so sweetly if they weren't so inventive.
You launched this record with audio-visual displays and an illustrated talk alongside the full band – what should we expect from your December shows?
Back to basics this month. But with added review-rage. A few album reviews have been trickling in and they're driving me mad. The Salford show will be either be our 9-piece or our 10-piece. However - don't expect matching outfits.
FEAR OF LIGHTNING
Dan Haywood's New Hawks
Dan Haywood's New Hawks [BUY]