INTERVIEW: Mark James Hammond And The Slender Blind | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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As the name suggests, Mark James Hammond And The Slender Blind is the latest incarnation of prolific Gateshead-based musician Mark James Hammond. Explaining why he chose to use a band name rather than just his own this time, Mark explains that he yearned for a fresh start and a blank slate: “I grew up on Tamla Motown (my mother’s influence) and maybe unconsciously at the time I wanted that Martha and the Vandellas/Jnr. Walker and The All Stars thing.  I wanted my Bad Seeds. Springsteen wanted a gang.  I guess I did too. Of course, the hilarious thing is it’s just me anyway.”

In contrast to previous releases, the debut album by his new recording project is a classy and contemplative dream pop venture, where lyrics such as “Don’t mind me; I was just making a scene” in opening song Meet Me (Halfway) are at odds with Hammond’s quiet, delicate voice. Victory List and Too Close In Nothing are louder, brasher compositions while title track Nothing Stays Put is a compelling mixture of layered vocals and unusual sounds where the line “Grief outlives us all somehow” signals that the songs are the product of some very real pain. 

“This whole album is a response to the passing of my mother in December 2013 and then the birth of my daughter in May 2015,” says Mark. “All of these songs are related to losing my mother. I’ve always been drawn to the Byronic, tragic, lone-hero archetype and therefore I’ve always been pulled towards very melancholic music. I chanced upon the guitar line for the song Nothing Stays Put in mid-2015, not long after my daughter’s birth.  A little while later I had quite a lot of songs.  It’s taken three years because I went through a prolonged episode of depression. I couldn’t seem to shake the fog of ‘what is the point?’ in terms of trying to be seen and heard, to connect, but also a hopelessness with regards to my ability. That’s where the album opens, with Meet Me (Halfway); it’s about feeling ‘not there’ and it’s really a clarion call to myself to go through with this.” 

I’ve always been drawn to the Byronic, tragic, lone-hero archetype and therefore I’ve always been pulled towards very melancholic music

Folk doyen Cath Tyler, a friend of Mark’s, guests on Victory List, providing an elegant and complementary female voice. “I’d say the majority of my favourite vocalists are female; Dusty Springfield, Elizabeth Fraser, Hope Sandoval. I played Victory List to Cath and she related strongly to the refrain “I’ve been healing all my life”. And she’s given the song such a greater depth with that tone. It’s a song about despair and she’s holding me through it all.”

Mark has considered putting together a band for his live shows but admits that he struggles with the idea as he finds other musicians hard work: ” I think if people took to the album and gigs were open to us that would give us the impetus. I’ve played these songs, just me, an electric guitar and some FX pedals and they’ve been very well received. But almost every time someone will approach me and say, enthusiastically, ‘You need a band!’ and that’s when I go home and invent a pretend one and self-release an album. I’d love to find the confidence in myself to enter a studio. I’d love to be comfortable enough to do that and to forego my ardent control freak sensibilities. Maybe I could. Who knows?”

Mark James Hammond And The Slender Blind releases Nothing Stays Put on 30th April.

 

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