Nothing More played Copenhagen at Pumpehuset this Wednesday, and Jakob had a chat with Nothing More singer Jonny Hawkins about things like inspirations, life on tour and exploring the deeper things in life.
FOTF: So, I was gonna ask if you’ve had a great tour so far, but since this turns out to be your first show on the tour, let’s talk about what your favourite thing about touring is. Is this your first time in Europe?
Jonny: Well, technically, guess this is my personally…fifth time, but as a band, this may be our fourth time. We did one or two where we just went to the UK.
FOTF: Your favourite thing about touring?
Jonny: I guess my favourite thing is the adrenaline rush you get, meeting interesting people, and not having to worry about the nitty-gritty of everyday life at home….just plug into the schedule and get the job done…you show up…it’s a little simpler. Simpler in some ways, in other ways it’s way more complex. Living out a bag, I have stuff everywhere…I have to find places to get supplies, in between time windows, ya’ know?
FOTF: I was gonna ask about your favourite gig on the tour, but let’s talk about your favourite gig in general. What would be your favourite gig…like ever? Like, one that stands out…was epic?
Jonny: Uhm…two pop in my mind. One was Tokyo, we played to a sold-out audience two nights in a row, in this giant room, with the band Vamps. So, we played with them, and it was like this Beatles-experience, where the people…I’m not sure they knew who we really were at first, but then on the second day there were all these people with signs with our names on them, we had gifts in our rooms….It was just crazy. A real Beatles experience. You just don’t get that level in the United States or Europe, but in Japan…
FOTF: Yeah, that’s Japan for ya’!
Jonny: Yeah, that one sticks out the most.
FOTF: So, about your new album, “The Stories We Tell Ourselves” – four years since the last album – did it just take that long to make, or did you just not feel right about it earlier?
Jonny: Uhm, well, that time period was complicated, because…we made the self-titled record, and close to a year had passed until we got signed, and then it basically got re-released. Then we toured for almost three years, and that was the first, like, world-tour we did, and that just took a lot of time and energy, planning and building, and then we took a year to a year and a half, working on the latest record. Ya’ know, a year is still pretty long for a band, but all our music is directly inspired by our life experiences, and some of those experiences are unfolding in the process, so some of the songs just aren’t done, because the processes aren’t done. So, we will work on something, and then listen to our guts, and we’ll put it on the shelf and come back to it.
Amateurs need to be inspired, professionals just show up every day
FOTF: How did you like the process of making this album? Did you find it complicated, or did you feel inspired throughout? You said that your writing would typically be interrupted by waiting for stuff to happen.
Jonny: Yeah – well, honestly, for me personally, let me say this: As a whole, it was easier and more exciting, because we had more resources available, we had more gear, more knowledge, we had more people behind us, so it wasn’t the same struggle as with the record before that one. On that one we struggled with paying our bills every month, ‘cause we didn’t have a label…And I didn’t quite know how to produce – I mean, I did some production on the record before that, but I’d never produced a whole album before.
FOTF: Wow, you produced the whole thing yourselves?
Jonny: Yeah – I co-produced, our manager was a big part of it, but most of the time I was in the chair. I had a studio that I built in my room, and, long story short, this one was more challenging. Not on the technical side or the financial side, but on the emotional and psychological side. It was challenging because, we felt like, we finally got what we had been fighting for…with a career in music, but I was going through a divorce at the time, and that was very…uhm…psychologically disruptive. So I’d have days where I’d come in, and just didn’t wanna do anything, because I was just so screwed up over the whole process. But I heard a quote along the way that really helped me get through it. Our manager, Will (Will Hoffman, ed.) said: “Amateurs need to be inspired, professionals just show up every day” You know, some days you just don’t know when or if you’re gonna get inspired. Sometimes you just gotta hammer out a day, knock out eight to ten hours, and tell yourself: “Well, I didn’t get much done, but I showed up! Tomorrow might be a different story”
FOTF: Yeah I know – it’s sometimes the same for me as a music-photographer. I’ll show up and click away, while I’m really too bombed to do constructive things, but I do show up.
Jonny: …Yeah, you go through the motions?
FOTF: Yeah, and I’ll do my thing with a smile, go home and sleep!
Jonny: Yeah I know!
FOTF: So, what are your personal favourite, or favourites, on the new album?
Jonny: Hmm…It changes. Let’s see…which one I’m listening to the most…
FOTF: It doesn’t have to be a whole song. It could be, like, a part of this song, and a part of that song…
Jonny: Yeah – honestly, then “Do You Really Want It” may be the one, but it changes with the mood.
FOTF: You’ve said that your song writing is inspired a lot by films, and even very personal things like the song “Jenny”, was that the case with “Stories….” too?
Jonny: Yeah, sure! Like, people’s stories, like stories my grandmother told me, about family members. Like, we know who our family is, but sometimes years go by where you don’t see each other, and all these things unfolded in the family that you just weren’t there to witness.
FOTF: If you were to compare Nothing More to a band, instead of films for inspiration, which band would you identify yourelves with the most? Because you sound somewhat different from many other bands in your genre…So if you were to compare yourselves to a band like, Bullet For My Valentine, or something like that…?
Jonny: Uh…that’s a tough one. In our genre specifically?
FOTF: Nah, just any band. Let’s pick songwriting for instance.
Jonny: Hmm…I’m trying to think of one, but we take our influences from a lot of different groups, but I think, Incubus in their early years. Not so much lately, but their evolution is very similar to us, but I don’t see us going as far from the starting point as they have done.
FOTF: Yeah I can definitely hear that in the bass play. The bass and the drums, I can hear that Incubus rhythm and sound.
FOTF: Soundwise, you seem to have a lot of, uhm, almost industrial and electronica kinda elements incorporated in some songs. Is that intentionally, or is it something that you just can’t help doing?
Jonny: Honestly, most of that came from when we did our first record, which was the first record I sang on, I was in college, and I found this loop-hole, where I had an account with money for college, that was really only supposed to be used for college, but I found a way to use for buying a bunch of studio equipment instead of going to college, and so, I bought a laptop and some speakers and stuff like that, and once I got a laptop, that’s what really started the electronic side of our sound. When we were on tour, there’d be hours and hours of driving, and I would spend the time exploring sounds. I was a drummer originally, so I was very intrigued by letting my mind chew on numbers and processes and getting deep into something…and since I wasn’t playing drums anymore, I was able to find my place in software instruments and the like. And just have fun with it and mess around, and try to incorporate this into our songs.
Five In Five with Jonny Hawkins:
FOTF: Cool! So, at Flick Of The Finger Magazine, we have this thing called “Five In Five”, which is really just five quick questions about unrelated stuff. Here’s the first one:
FOTF: What is the least and most rock’n’roll thing you’ve done this week?
Jonny: The least?! Oh man…uhm, the most rock’n’roll thing would have to be, bringing a bunch of CBD/THC/marijuana with me on a plane..you know, just to help me sleep better (laughs)…I guess you could get in real trouble for that. And I’d say my least rock’n’roll thing would be stocking up on toiletries before the trip. Babypowder, toothpaste, mouthwash…stay-clean stuff.
FOTF: Of all the songs you’ve ever written, which one are you most proud of?
Jonny: Hmm…I’d say “God Went North”. That’s probably my…what do you call that…my magnimosis…Is that a thing? If I should put my hat on one thing, that would be it. And it’s a very personal song about my mom.
FOTF: If you could pick any song ever written, which one do you wish you’d have written?
Jonny: Wow, let me think for a second. That’s a very good question! Uhm….hard. There’s a lot of good ones…but I’d say, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. That one’s just SO interesting in all aspects. Nothing our there is like that song. Nothing comes close.
FOTF: Oh yeah, nice pick! I can’t listen to that song without thinking about that scene in “Wayne’s World”
Jonny: Yeah, ha ha! “…dahdadadaah…” (starts humming the rock-part of the song).
FOTF: Biggest screw-up on stage ever, and most glorious moment on stage? Like that time when you forgot to bring drumsticks to a gig, stuff like that.
Jonny: Ha ha! Oh that happens a lot! Most glorious time on stage…it’s been so many shows over the years. Well, this one show may be the biggest one:
We had been working hard for years, playing shows to very little people, and – this was back in the US – we were given the opportunity to play the Aftershock Festival in California – this was right before we got signed – and, basically, the promoter of this festival is the guy who promotes all the biggest festivals in the US, watched us play on the small stage. We had no idea though. And we just played our hearts out, as we played in front of thousands of people.
FOTF: Yeah, you have to, right?
Jonny: Exactly! ‘Cause you never know who’s in the audience. So we felt like that was one of the strongest shows we’d ever played. And as I walked off stage after the show, and he shook my hand – all before I even got off the stage – and it turns out he’s, like, the head of everything. Our manager at the time, who wasn’t big-time either, was freaking out: “Guys, you realize who this is?!”. So, later that day we was in the press room doing a video interview, and this guy literally just walks in, in front of the camera, stops the interview, and goes: “How about y’all play at the main stage tomorrow?” …in front of, like, 13000 people, and we were, like: “Hell yeah!”. And so, that show was the most nerve-wrecking show we’ve ever played. It was like that Eminem song – you only get one shot. That feeling that, this was what we had worked for, for years and years, and we finally had the opportunity to prove ourselves, and there was all of these industry people side-stage. And we were like (sighs), “Here we go!” So we played like we’d always played, but there was this temptation to be super nervous and fuck it up. So that one would be the most glorious.
FOTF: Alright, last question – If you could take any musician, politician, public figure, whatever – living or dead, take them for a beer, who would it be, and what would you like to talk about?
Jonny: Maynard James Keenan from TOOL! I’d talk to him about DMT, the universe, and psychology. I’d just dive deep into wherever that rabbit-trail goes. He could probably talk about that for a long time.
FOTF: “DMT”…what’s that? (edit: DMT stands for dimethyltryptamine)
Jonny: It’s a hallucinogen. Ever heard of ayahuasca? That’s the drink-form of DMT. They use it a lot in places like South America in religious ceremonies. You can drink it, smoke it – I’ve smoked it before – pretty incredible. It’s already in your brain. When you sleep and you start dreaming, your brain releases DMT. So you basically dream while you’re awake. It just supercharges your system with DMT. It’s pretty crazy – life changing, actually. They give it to people on their deathbed for people with terminal illness, help them go out in a dream. Have you heard of Joe Hogan? Anyway, he hosted this documentary called “The Spirit Molecule”, which is all about DMT.
FOTF: Alright, cool man, well that’s all I’ve got.
Jonny: Awesome chat, take care.