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Former Hefner and Dollboy man Jack Hayter reaches the end of his 12-singles (24 songs) subscription series 'The Sisters Of St. Anthony' this weekend. We're lucky enough to be able to offer you an exclusive alternate version of final track 'Quotes' as well as getting Jack to answer a few of our questions about the series, his possible link to a 1963 murder case his surprising love of hip-hop and, um, a question at the end that he just made up himself.
Stream the set here, the exclusive free track is at the bottom:
Hi Jack, so you've just reached the end of a 12 part series of singles. Where did the idea to do this come from when the songs could have been released as a more conventional album?
I live in perpetual guilt about not being able to pay back the kind people who have helped me get stuff released in the past. Releasing a digital subscription service meant that at least poor long-suffering Jamie Halliday at Audio Antihero wasn't going to be out of pocket too much… so, to some extent it's about the money. I'm not sure this collection of songs works as an album anyway. I'd need to listen to them all back to back and I haven’t made time to do that yet. The series wasn't designed to be listened to in one sitting. I suppose what I want is for you to see something like an old plane, or the decayed parts of Margate, or a derelict speedway track... or you might be walking through the remains of Villiers St. behind Charing Cross and remember a crazy night at Heaven; and perhaps think “Oh didn't that bloke Whatsisname write a song about that?” - a sort of flawed psychogeography of a few places I suppose.
Did you have all 12 songs written and recorded when you launched the series or were you just hoping writer's block didn't get in the way?
Out of the 24 tracks including the subscription-only bonuses, about half are completely new songs and half are songs which existed and/or which got reworked. For me writers block is permanently in the way. Things went right down to the wire on a couple of occasions.
There are a few guests in the series, notably your old bandmate Darren Hayman, did you ever consider doing this as a band or was it always going to be solo?
And Anthony Harding, Ollie Cherer of Dollboy, Woodcraft Folk and Suzanne Rhatigan! I should have had more guests playing... but so often the songs were incomplete until a few hours before the release deadline so it wouldn't have worked out. A band would have been nice but the people I like playing with best live quite a long way from me nowadays. I hope the next project will have more people on it because it won't be constrained by a timetable so much. With the 'Sisters of St. Anthony' series I often wasn't sure what sounds would fit anyway. I am bad at visualising a finished recording and a bit timid about asking those I admire to help out.
There are a few Biblical/church references (weddings, bells, nuns & Saints, Jezebel) are you a religious man or were there other reasons for these references?
I didn't notice this until quite late on in the series and it has worried me a bit. Have I subconsciously been shambling awkwardly towards some sort of Theism? Really though, I was far more worried that it could be seen as lazy lyric writing. Was I filling awkward gaps in songs with Christian imagery when I got stuck for words? The tales are about real people, often in tough situations and many of them hold things together by recourse to some sort of faith... and I understand why they do that and I respect it. I’m just looking down the list of the songs right now and there are not that many which mention religion directly… 'Sweet JD' because John Donne started out as rock and roll animal and finished up a priest! The title track 'Sisters of St. Anthony' mentions a church specifically as a geographical marker in Liverpool’s Scottie Rd. But it's a fair cop. 'Quotes' and 'The Lab Technician and the Sexton' are explicitly about faith and the journey people make towards and away from it as a result of circumstance. In my day job I do quite frequently work with priests, nuns, saints… and probably a fair few Jezebels too! Perhaps they’re twisting me with their sweet gentle ways despite my protestations. I have a faith too but mine is in the collective goodness of humanity and its actions rather than in God. Even so this bunch of songs would be odd without references to belief. I bet you’d have a bloody tough job marketing it to the religious though!
Now that you've reached the end, is there anything you would have changed?
Easy...my voice! Its really rather poor and some of the songs have OK tunes if only I could pitch them accurately.
What's your favourite track in the set and why?
I like 'Charlotte Badger' because I wanted to tell a story that as far as I know has never been made into a song. Charlotte and Kitty Hagerty were convicts who along with their boyfriends, escaped from Australia in 1806 by stealing a ship called the Venus and became the first European women to set foot in New Zealand. They were brave strong women and yet all that remained of them in song was two lines at the start of the most grossly sexist rugby song. There is also some evidence that they faked their deaths by persuading the Maoris to tell the authorities they'd eaten them, and some of the crew managed to get to South America. Why hasn't this been made into a Hollywood blockbuster! I like this song because of the way it got written… you overhear drunk rugby fans singing on the train, get curious, Google the 'Good Ship Venus', go to the various antipodean history sites and a story with an agenda comes out.
Where next for you musically? You've been in a few bands; are there likely to be any reformations as those or will you continue solo?
I will carry on on my own mostly with occasional help from friends. I can’t ask people to give up too much time for me and not be recompensed; even if it’s just travel and beer money. I simply don’t sell enough music to warrant it. So you will see others playing with me live... but they're usually my relatives! I do love playing with a band but that has to be a movable feast at the moment. As far as recorded stuff goes, I am working on some music which tracks a short story which links my accident prone career as motorcycle despatch rider and an unsolved murder in 1963. I want to make a sort of mixed media which can be read and listened to simultaneously... It probably sounds like a rubbish idea, but I’m going to have a go and release the bits that work It will have a photomontage strand as well.... like le Jetee. That should keep me busy.
We're predominantly a new music site. Are there any current new bands or musicians that you'd put in a similar category to yourself, or do you have any new bands we should be looking out for?
When I first started doing this about 10 years ago it all seemed a bit odd... folkish songs about messed up lives, sung badly and recorded in a kitchen with odd electronic noises and stylophones. Only the brilliant Absolutely Kosher label was interested at the time, perhaps because they had some sort of track record with the Mountain Goats stuff. Now there are loads of us doing it but I don't really know what to call this type of music. It gets tagged under a multitude of genres. I love what the other acts on Audio-Antihero do, I love Ollie Cherer of Dollboy’s recent forays into songwriting. There’s a bloke called Tomas Barfod who is interesting in a Bon Iver sort of way, Lorine Chia... she’s primarily an R'n'B singer but I love the wonky electronic arrangements, Withered Hand. Darren Hayman... anything he does is good. All these people are better at doing what I try to do than I am myself. Cheap electronic sounds mixed with real instruments and field recordings used to tell a story or paint a picture of a real place or time... I like people who try to do that even when it doesn't work. When it works at its best you get... I don’t know...Wu-Tang Clan I suppose...’cos that's exactly what they did.. .they were the inventors of 'Alt-folk' ...ugh what a term!
How long will it be before we get the inevitable Hefner reformation for a one-off show at All Tomorrow's Parties? ;)
Haha I just Googled “indie band reform” and found About.com's alternative music's top 10 list of bands who will never reform... and Hefner are at number 4... just below Galaxie 500 and just above Husker Du. So we’re in fine company and the message is getting through! We all have our own things going on. Quite honestly I can’t see it happening, even though we get on with each other and work together from time to time. We were a good band with some great songs and lovely supporters, many of whom became friends. Like all bands we represent fond moments in time for some people. I don’t think we could re-deliver those moments, even though I understand the desire and nostalgia for them. All the good stuff got released and is available... loads and loads of it. Anyway we'd probably screw it up and reveal to the world what a shambles we were live... a glorious shambles sometimes, but plenty of times we were merely shambolic. I wouldn't put any faith in a one off show being any good.
Talking of festivals, let's do the tough question. Fantasy festival time. You're headlining and you can pick five acts, past or present, to also appear on the bill. Who do you go for?
I probably won’t watch any of them because I’ll be busy hanging out by the backstage pool in Speedos... actually I probably won’t play either but don't tell the punters just yet. I don’t know...
Shirley Collins and the Albion Band
Wu-tang clan circa '93.
30 lbs of Bone and Benjamin Shaw backed by an orchestra put together by Harry Partch
The Slits with Spike Jones (the guy who did the Bugs Bunny soundtracks..not the film director with a zee).
You’re asking me this question because you're running a festival next year and you want me to headline and choose the other acts... it's a winner.. .we'll be rich. My bank account details are...
You have just been elected president for life of a small country with large oil and diamond deposits and fertile soil. The population are immortal, good natured with no known belief system. How would you corrupt them?
This has gone quite far enough!
Jack Hayter's website
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