We often endeavour to adopt the characteristics of those we look up to, to be the best we can be. After all the saying goes: “Imitation is the highest form of flattery”. As musicians we often aspire to capture certain feelings or sounds our idol’s have perfected – whether it’s the sense of elevation through epic production or nostalgia through certain synth samples, our own music is an interpretation of what makes good music. Capturing a clear essence of his influences, and adding his own quirky flair , former bassist of George (with Katie Noonan) and The Montgomery Clifts, is Brisbane’s Geoff Hooton, whose forged sound is a refreshing take on 70’s prog rock and 80’s pop.
Phil Collins meets The Postal Service + 70s prog rock + 80s pop + outlandish lyrics and you get Brisbane’s unique multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Geoff Hooton.
With influences from artists Minus The Bear, The Postal Service, Ben Folds,The Beatles, The Police, Tom Waits, alternative-pop- rock-electronica artist, Geoff Hooton, launched his solo career in 2010 with the album This Apathy Feels Alright. Subsequent releases include The Ocean (2013) and singles, Suzanne, Once Upon A Time, Crystal Ball and his latest vintage synth-pop trip of Salesman (Hole In My Neck).
As a producer, songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Geoff is his own man as his plays all the instruments on his albums including the drums, bass, guitars, keyboards. Salesman (Hole In My Neck) is a clean-cut production with rippling samples that playfully bubble in and around your mind, fuzzy guitar lines met with a passionate and edgy guitar solo, and beautifully sweet boyish harmonies reminiscent of The Beatles. With vocals that sit right on the cusp of Phil Collins and The Postal Service, and a creative mind, Geoff Hooton is an imaginative storyteller representing the sound of a past and present life.
Happy: What’s the story behind the track Salesman ( Hole in my neck)? What are some key lyrics you consider to be ‘lyrically bizzare’? What’s the meaning behind the lyric?
Geoff: I guess I like to invent characters with my lyrics, I am rarely autobiographical in my writing. We’ve all encountered that particular type of salesman that can really talk the talk but that you know doesn’t have their own shit together, this song is about that guy, who eventually dies with a hole in his neck from smoking The stereotype I was going for was that 50 yr old chain- smoking car salesman that has been selling late model cars for 30 years and hasn’t paid off their house yet. The ‘slightly bizarre’ is basically that it doesn’t really fit into a guy-meets-girl or guy-wants-girl scenario that so much music seems to be about. “Those sweat-stained white collared dumb fucks never understood tact”, which refers to other salesmen, has never been used to end a chorus, to my knowledge anyway, I guess some people would find that bizarre.
Happy: What artists have been influencing your music lately? What is it about their music that has inspired you?
Geoff: This year I have really got into Lost In A Dream by The War On Drugs and Present Tense by Wild Beasts. Those two albums really took me on a sonic journey also, seeing Elbow live a couple of months ago really cemented the power of making sure I have a sing-along-able melody in my songs and that people will sing along to anything ’slightly bizarre’ if the melody makes them. I’m a big believer in only giving the song what it needs and putting aside all musical ego. My main instrument is bass guitar and I knew really early on when recording Salesman that I didn’t need to use that instrument in the song, as the sub synth bass sounds worked so well, so I guess the inspiration is leaving things out and only putting them in where absolutely necessary, The War On Drugs, Wild Beasts and Elbow all do that very well.
Happy: Apart from describing your music as alternative,pop, rock, electronica, what analogy or metaphor would you liken listening to your music to?
Geoff: Hmm this is hard without sounding like a complete tool maybe: “Listening to Geoff Hooton is like slipping on a pair of headphones on a rainy day, in a bus full of screaming kids, and just staring into the drops of rain on the window – just make sure you’re not driving the bus”.
Happy: Social media is an important tool for amassing and communicating with fans. As a music fan it can be a bit frustrating when an artist doesn’t have a strong social media presence for you to connect with them and their music (good job for being all over it!).What are your thoughts on the challenges of re-establishing yourself as a solo artist in this age of social media? (I find social media helps people to get known, but paradoxically makes it challenging to stand out from the rest).
Geoff: Yes I completely agree with you, social media is a great tool for getting your music out there and it has really levelled the playing field for both the fan and the artist. I guess though Facebook and Twitter have lately corporatised the fan’s access to things they ‘like’ and I think the artist has to jump through a lot more hoops than they used to in the early days of social media with paid ads etc. But….Blogs (like the awesome hhhappy.com) and other curators really do a great job helping artists move through that minefield and they are a lot more accessible to artists than the curators of old i.e. print magazines/newspapers and television.I have good months and slack months of using social media for my music. It’s something you have to try and use all the time and artists/bands are kind of expected to always be ‘up to something exciting’. My posts are more like ‘What should I cook the kids for dinner tonight?’.
Happy: A name says a lot about a band and they are often very consciously made. Some people decide to keep their name, modify it or be known by a moniker. Have you considered a moniker before? If yes, from an artistic or personal perspective why did you decide to stick with your full name as your artistic identity?
Geoff: If you ask any musician to have a go at writing 10 hit songs, or come up with a band name/moniker they will tackle the songs, it seems infinitely easier. Coming up with a band name is difficult,though,you have others to bounce ideas off. Coming up with a name on your own, well I did consider it but I’d rather spend the creative time writing songs. Monikers are cool though, I’m probably not cool enough for that!
Happy: With your love of 70s prog rock and 80s pop, do you feel that you are better equipped to understanding and manipulating this genre compared to the young guns who are dappling in this genre without having lived through the decade? (Correct me if I’m wrong, did you live through these decades?)
Geoff: Haha yes well a little bit of the 70s! Being in my late thirties the difference between me and the ‘young guns’ is that I grew up in a time and a place where you didn’t have good access to the latest great music and you had to make decisions of what to listen to on your own and with those around you, not by simply looking up the Pitchfork reviews on the interweb. I was pretty lucky my dad has a great collection of 70s prog rock which helped me hone my technical skills as a musician, plus he was always bringing home a latest rock or pop release which we would sit down and simply listen to – something that doesn’t happen much now I don’t think. The production standards of a lot of 80s music was and I think still is quite superb and that really turned me on to recording and producing music. I’m still striving for that perfect Phil Collins snare sound!
Happy: As a former member of George (leaving in 2000 before the release of the #1 reaching album Polyserena ), what was it like as a new solo artist after leaving a band that ended up ‘making it’ in the industry? Did you ever consider returning, or was being a solo artist much more ideal for what you wanted to achieve? Why do you think are the pros of being a soloist and what are the inherent cons?
Geoff: I didn’t really leave the George to become a ‘solo artist’ I was really finding myself as a songwriter and trying to develop more as a vocalist at that point and I think I had slightly different musical and life goals at that point. It was a tough decision at the time but I don’t regret it. The ensuing years gave me a great chance to develop skills on other instruments and a career as a music teacher. I’m so proud of their achievements and we learnt so much about the industry and being in a band in those early years of George. Since their hiatus they’ve all done what I’ve done; found different avenues to pursue music, all of which have been awesome and developed other career opportunities in the industry. One day we’ll all jam together again I’m sure .
Happy: What’s next for Geoff Hooton? Tours, new music release?
Geoff: As always I’m moving onto the next song and the next project, there’s always lots on the go. 2015 will hopefully be the year of collaboration,I have a couple of songwriting collaborations I’m keen to get into and finishing up an album with another band called The Nightlight Sleepers and I’m keen to get the band for my solo stuff back together to do a few gigs and play some of the new music live. I’m lucky to know so many quality musicians in the Brisbane scene and getting the opportunity to collaborate with them is awesome!
Happy: What makes you Happy?
Geoff: Well considering it’s Christmas, spending some quality time with my wife, my 3 daughters and family over the break makes me happy!
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