INTERVIEW: Hannah Peel | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Image by Peter Marley

Hannah Peel is fast turning into one of those multi-hyphenate artists whose accomplishments can take up the bulk of a word count: experimental musician, in-demand soundtrack composer, voracious collaborator, radio DJ/host, restless innovator… But behind each of those dry labels you’ll find something magical, like the cosmic brass bands of Mary Casio or the evocative soundscapes of Chalk Hill Blue, her gorgeous but troubling collaboration with poet Will Burns. But we’re here to talk about her Fir Wave tour, which brings her to The Glasshouse (fka Sage Gateshead) on Wednesday 27th September – a couple of years after its pandemic-stymied release.

The germ of Fir Wave was an approach from revered library music company KPM, who invited Peel to provide a modern response to their Electrosonic album. “I’d heard about KPM before, and their library archive,” Peel explains, “but had never thought about making a record for them until they approached me about making a ‘new’ version of Electrosonic. It’s got a quite a mysterious edge to it, that album – primarily because the composers changed their names to avoid issues with their contracts at the BBC. But I love the sounds and the titles… Quest, The Wizard’s Laboratory, Busy Microbes; I imagine it being used on many ‘70s TV science programmes and documentaries.”

so much emphasis was looking inward and to the way we live, it was natural to comment on that in the music

In the end, the Fir Wave project only used small elements of Electrosonic (used to create new digital instruments) but Peel seems to enjoy setting herself limits or puzzles to solve as an impetus to creation and this certainly fit the bill. “Library music is much like a documentation of time too,” she adds. “The sounds and styles tell you what was popular at that moment. So, I started to think what was relevant now and to me it was nature, patterns, eco-awareness and especially because I live at the coast here in Northern Ireland, observing the changing sea and light daily, is so inspiring. It was also lockdown too at the time, and so much emphasis was looking inward and to the way we live, it was natural to comment on that in the music.”

The album’s immersive, evolving soundworld has proved quite a challenge to prepare for live performance. “I released the record in 2021 thinking that it would never tour. It was written in some senses without a live plan in mind, which has meant it’s a bit trickier to put together now.” The decision to tour it arose from a Kings Place Artist Residency. Peel will be performing solo with synths, violin and piano and is taking a lighting designer on the road to create something unique at each venue.

Peel is winning acclaim for her soundtrack work of late – productions like The Last Watch and Sky’s Midwich Cuckoos adaptation – and she’s understandably pleased with this new stage in her practice. “It’s taken me years to get here, I adore film and TV as an art form and always wanted to make soundtracks. Creating the score for The Midwich Cuckoos was very special to me because of the creative freedom and the use of synths and sound. The creator David Farr would often say ‘…make it darker!’ which doesn’t happen very often. I’d love to explore more sci-fi with that level of nonconformity…the next new Blade Runner film or TV series… yes please!”

Hannah Peel performs Fir Wave at The Glasshouse (fka Sage Gateshead) on Wednesday 27th September.


Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout