Hector Bizerk has been obscenely productive in the three or so years since they formed, blazing a trail of Scottish hip-hop and now heading over to Texas to play SXSW. Drummer, and one of the two founding members, Audrey Tait, sat and chatted about how she got involved in music and of her band’s current movements.
Hector Bizkerk is going to South By South West, which is amazing. How did that come about?
Well it came about because we applied, that’s how you get it. Probably about two or three years ago, I remember me and Louie sitting with my brother and setting out goals that we wanted to achieve and SXSW was on that list. We were fortunate I suppose that the first time applying for it we got it, cos I know a lot of people don’t, and I think because we’ve got a bit of help management wise now that added credibility to our application too.
Was there a conscious decision made about holding off on applying until the band was totally ready?
Yeah definitely, it’s something that we’ve always kept an eye on and the bands that have been going over from Scotland, we always felt were just a wee step ahead of us. Not last year, but the year before we played about a hundred shows, and in between all that we made the Nobody Seen Nothing album, which we got shortlisted for, something we felt took us up another wee notch. If we didn’t get it we would just move forward and try again next year.
How do you think Austin will respond to a style of music that most of the audience will be used to hearing in an American accent?
Hip-hop is huge in America, so I think we’ll go down well, we played in New York last year, just Louie and I and we got a great response and that was just as a duo. When we do that the songs are just drums or guitar and rap, but we’ll be going over as a full band, which I think will be more accessible cos it’s not as hardcore. I’d like to think we’ll go down well. Hopefully.
Setting aside your US adventures, can you tell me about Hector’s recent EP releases?
Yes, but Louie’s better at this one! We were writing a song in our wee rehearsal room with the idea of making an album and in the chorus Louie was mentioning the Glasgow coat of arms, so it was like, “The fish that never swam, the bird that never flew, the bell that never rang, the tree that never grew”.
We had Jen on synth, percussion and singing before we had a transitional period where Dave came in and this song was him making his mark on things. Separate from that Pearl Kinnear, who regularly draws on stage with us, was telling Louie about this new design she was working on which was “the Glasgow coat of arms with hip-hop flourish”, and nobody had heard this song apart from the four of us in this rehearsal room and we just thought there was a kind of serendipity in that, and that we needed to do something with it, so we decided to split it and make it four EPs.
It gives us a chance to experiment with the sound, and because the last album went down really it feels like we’ve got something to live up to and that we need to make the next one as exciting as the previous one. The best way for us to get the sound is to try four different things, so with the first EP we had Bombskare’s brass section, which gave it a pretty summery feel, then the second one is a collaborative project with Pearl and two film makers called David Henderson and Andrew McKenzie. It’s a 15-minute film and the songs all intertwine so it’s pretty out there and we’ve got Liz Lockhead on it, which was incredible even her knowing who we are, never mind wanting to be involved, so that was brilliant.
Female drummer and sound engineer in a Scottish hip-hop band is a pretty diverse job title, so what initially inspired you to get behind the kit and into the production side of music?
With drums I don’t really know! People always ask that so I maybe I should start making up something. But aye, I was always into music and I’m the youngest of five siblings all with very different tastes in music, so I grew up listening to hip-hop and I just kinda liked the look of the drums. I had this wee pad set when I was nine, and thought I’d ask my mum for a proper kit, so when we were in Belfast visiting my dad, cause he used to work there, we walked past a music shop with a kit in the window and he actually took it back piece by piece on the boat to give me that Christmas. Since then I’ve just loved it.
Production wise, again that was when I was younger. Me and brother got a wee four track and I would just sit and try and record tunes with it. Then I had a job at Carlton Studios doing the nighttime shift where Danny the engineer, a brilliant guy, showed me bits and bobs on their computers, and then when they got a new system they gave me the old one, which was a really old version of Pro-Tools and all the first Hector recordings were done on that.
Traditionally, hip-hop is infamous for having a sexist aspect ingrained in it, and I’d maybe be surprised if any Scottish artists were ever so blatant in their writing, but have you ever come across any challenges in your music work because of your gender?
I’ve not personally felt any challenges industry wise, but see after gigs – it’s actually become a joke in the band – the amount of times people come up to me and say “oh, you’re really good at the drums… for a girl”, and you know, people look at Louie, hear his accent and think “oh, for a Ned, he’s got some good things to say”, so we’re kind of battling those things at times.
People should just appreciate music, because if it’s something that they like then me being a female shouldn’t have anything to do with it. At the same time I think it’s good if it inspires girls to maybe take up drums because a lot of instruments are perceived as male orientated and if I say to somebody that I’m in a band they’ll go “oh right, are you a singer?” and then they give you that surprised look when you tell them you play drums.
In the event that any young women who are interested in drumming or sound engineering, but don’t know where to start happen upon this interview, what advice would you give them?
Just start, somehow. If you want to play drums then get lessons, because it’s really accessible now. And especially with recording, because so many young people are on phones and iPads now, which have so many programs and apps for recording available to use. Always try and write a masterpiece, but you don’t have to dive straight into a studio, just get something simple to start with, like the equivalent of that wee four track I had and learn how to get five tracks out of a four track and from there everything will build naturally. Then hang about a studio because it’s as much about watching and listening to folk as it is about being hands on.
Finally, what future plans does Hector Bizerk have?
Quite a lot actually. We’ve been commissioned to write the music for a play, so we’re kind of working on that just now as well as the next two EPs. The third one is pretty much finished and we’re launching that on the 20th of February at Broadcast with my wee favourite Charlotte Brimner supporting us. Then in September we’ll have the Hectember weekend and launch the fourth one. In between all that we’ll just keep playing shows and we’ve got a couple of festivals, so hopefully we’ll add a few more too.
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Words: Greg Murray