...when the dreams come true...
Chatting with one of my favourite artist Christopher Hall.
Chatting with one of my favourite artist Christopher Hall.
There come times when remaining professional and detached becomes really hard and this is definitely one of those. I must honestly admit I deeply loved Stabbing Westward and I confess I used to listen to “Puppet” at least 5 times a row everyday day. If this means being a fan, well am one of them for sure.
Les Fleurs du Mal: I had been reading lots of things about you in these years, but the point I reached the peak of enthusiasm was when I found out that Walter Flakus, an incredible genius at the keyboards, had joined the line-up. What did you do in that period?
Christopher Hall: I'm not sure I understand the question. but.. Walter and I hadn't talked for several years after the break up of Stabbing Westward. so I was surprised when he showed up at my fathers funeral last summer to support me on a really difficult day. It made me remember that even with all the drama and bad feelings over the breakup of the band that he had still been my best friend and band mate for over 20 years. We spent the rest of the day bar hopping in the small town wen grew up in and by the end of the night we had decided to start writing music together again. There was much discussion as to whether we should go back to calling it Stabbing Westward or stitch with the Dreaming since I had spent the last 10 years building up that name. in the end reclaiming the name Stabbing Westward was too much trouble and carried with it a lot of preconceived ideas of what it should be and how it should sound so we thought it would be better to stick with the Dreaming. but honestly it's the same music whatever the name. It was always Walter and I writing the most important songs of SW's career and none of the elements that created that music have changed.
LFdM: The contribution Walter gave to the project had a strong impact on the quality of the new material, I mean, you have been working a lot together and I am wondering if you have been searching for any particular kind of sound
C.H.: Well I would say we have a natural sound that comes from both of us doing what we like and not worrying about what kind of style or label people will put on the music. but I was very concerned that the music sounded more true to our roots. The last 2 Dreaming albums have not lived up to my expectations. I thought they were good but I thought they could be better. there were always outside influences pulling us away from my electronic darker musical style and I found that frustrating. Walter's contribution fixed that problem. He is such a strong writer and programmer that the music pretty much wrote itself. I'd also like to add that Carlton Bost also contributed heavily to the making of this record.
LFdM: Back to “Puppet”: it had it all. A dark soul, a punk heart and a crazy rock brain, not to mention the lirycs. It reached my guts and made me dream. How would you describe “Raise Again” compared with that previous one?
C.H.: Definitely more late 80's early 90's industrial based. the theme is a bit different. a lot of puppet was based on the emotions of love and lust. With Rise Again we had a different theme and feeling in mind. We had just gone through a really hard couple of years were we lost a couple of my key bandmates to other bands then had a terrible experience with a label who attempted to change us into a rock pop band. at the end I was left with just Johnny in my band and no label, no manager, no endorsements and no one to really turn to. it's was the lowest point of my career since the last SW album. I asked Carlton to come back and help me write the new record and I got Walter involved. WE then found an awesome manager and he found us metropolis records. so the theme of Rise Again really comes from that refusal to surrender no matter how dark things get. It's always been my greatest strength. I'm stubborn beyond reason.
LFdM: Why have you been waiting 4 years before releasing new stuff? Aims of perfection or just some technical problems?
C.H.: Well the problems I mentioned above were mostly to blame. I spent a year trying to write the record with a guitarist who was incapable rising to occasion. and then it took a year to get carlton and Walter on board and functioning as a team. the record has actually been done for well over a year but we had to wait for Rhys Fulber to become available to mix it and that took longer than anticipated. basically everything just takes twice as long as we think it will. oh and I had a son in the process so that knocked me out of the game for 6 months.
LFdM: As it is said about the eyes same with the music which could be considered to reflect one's soul. I noticed some changes in your lirycs, could you tell us something about that? What would you like to share with the audience and how do you feel during sonwriting process?
C.H.: I try and write from a really honest point of view but in a way that the listener can insert themselves into the song. I never really know where my ideas come from. sometimes from the most random events or conversations. A certain phrase will stick with me and I will slowly weave it into a song idea. I do most of my writing while I'm walking my 2 greyhounds. we go on really long walks every morning and it gives me a lot of time to think with no distractions (other than picking up steaming piles of dog poop). I get really obsessed during the writing process. I will think about a song for weeks working it like a puzzle in my mind. it makes me a very bad driver and an even worse listener.
LFdM: If I remember well you live pretty far from each other. Did this somehow slow down the composition and the recording process? I mean, how important can it be having the chance to look into each other bandmember's eyes when it comes to make the best choices about the creation of a new work?
C. H.: No I think it actually really helped. If I was there in the room with Walter or Carlton I would ask them to do what I want. Make it sound the way I think it should sound. But we have already hear those Dreaming records. this one s special because I let go of my stranglehold on the project and trusted these 2 really talented musicians to create without my interference. I still nudged them in certain directions sometimes but for the most part I stepped back and let them create and then wrote vocals over their creations.
LFdM: What or who made you decide to become musicians one day?
C.H.: I was always a musician. I started singing and playing trumpet and drums at the age of 4. I was in band, choir and musicals all through school and college. I was and am a total band geek. Music is my language. I'm not very socially skilled and am a bit of an outsider but music allows me to communicate with people and to get the things inside me out. it's probably the defining quality of who I am.
LFdM: As far as I know you recently signed for Metropolis, a very good label, especially considering its roster. What lead you to decide that was exactly the label you were looking for?
C.H.: We have been trying to get on Metropolis for 10 years. When SW formed our main goal was to get on Wax Trax records. Well I think of Metropolis as a modern day Wax Trax. I love the bands he signs. I love the courage he shows supporting great music and not pushing bands to become more pop to make more record sales. I love the DIY mentality but the support of a real label. I love that they print vinyl!! I really happy being on Metropolis and feel really blessed to have the opportunity.
LFdM: Do you think that being that experienced in your field, that being considered "veterans" can have a deep influence on your style choices? I mean did the recording company try to influence your choices, did you ever try to fight against all that?
C.H.: Metropolis never pushed us in any direction. former labels and managers have. that very thing is what ultimately broke up SW. I don't think any band will ever be successful changing who they are to become more famous if their heart isn't in it. the greatest music is the music that is true to the composer. I do think being a veteran affects or writing styles. we are children of the 80's and 90's and that will always be where we look for our influences. I think it would feel pretty phony if we suddenly became a dub step band or whatever new stele is popular at the moment.
LFdM: Your career in the music field dates back to the end of the 80's and the begining of the 90's, when both industrial and dark waves were reaching their peaks. Do you think it's still possible having fun today with those kind of genres?
C.H.: I think industrial has really changed. we play with so called industrial bands now and to me a lot of them are just metal bands with makeup and goth cloths. I think there is a crowd of fans who still remember that music and I think that younger fans are starting to appreciate it and it's contributions to music now.
LFdM: It's really hard for me not insisting on making questions about Stabbing Westward, so I hope you could forgive me for this one: did Walter's comeback lead you back in the past? And how much would you prefer keeping these two worlds separated?
C.H.: Walter's comeback opened up a pandora's box of mixed feelings about SW. now so many questions are SW based questions. sometimes I wish people could focus more on the Dreaming instead of SW but I'm still thankful that I had those experiences in SW and that I earned so many of our fans from making that music.
C.H.: Thank you so much for staying on this journey with us. without you I'd just be the weird dog walking guy who hums to himself.
LFdM: Please tell me we're going to see you soon performing across Europe, it would be awesome having the chance to see you live even if once in a lifetime.
C.H.: I heard a rumor we are coming over in September!!
Interview by Michela
Edit by Margherita