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Interview: Savages' Ayse Hassan on their debut album, 'Silence Yourself'.

Interview: Savages' Ayse Hassan on their debut album, 'Silence Yourself'.

Sometimes - not often - you feel the significance of a band that hasn’t actually hit them yet. You can tell that although right now they aren’t as renowned as they could be, they seem like the kind of collective whose music is going to do great things.

This is exactly the vibe I got from talking to Ayse Hassan, bassist in the London-based band Savages who are currently reverberating explosions of raw passion with their debut album, 'Silence Yourself' - beloved by critics and fans alike, universally.

Coup De Main spoke to Hassan whilst the band were on tour in Amsterdam recently...

"When I think of myself as a young girl I never really felt like I could achieve something, and I hope this [Savages] will reflect onto other young women or whoever else, that whoever they are they can achieve what they want to do and do things their own way. They can trust their instincts, which is sometimes scary to do, but they have to do it."

CDM: What was it about John Cassavetes' film ‘Opening Night’ that meant so much to you, that you decided to sample it in the opening-track for your album?
AYSE: The clip is an extract from 'Opening Night' and it’s a film with Gena Rowlands and Joan Blondell, and they’re having a conversation about age. I don’t know if you’ve seen the film, but it’s about an emotional actress who becomes aware of her age, but she keeps fighting to save her old job. She refuses to become cynical, but it hurts to see her fighting so much. It creates a gap between her and the younger generation that gives her zero support - in a way that kind of showed to us that age is kind of meaningless and in a sad way sometimes people lose things when they grow older because of their surroundings and there’s this pressure around them and so on, so I think it shows that resistance is precious and that film reminds us of that. And Cassavetes has always been an inspiration, the way he’s led his career as a fearless independent towards the big Hollywood film industry. It also reminded us how life and art are so deeply connected as well.

CDM: What was the recording process for your debut album 'Silence Yourself' like?
AYSE: We took a lot of time to really think about how we can make the experience a really good one for us - because of things that had happened in the past, we felt like we wanted to treasure it so that we could really look back on it and really feel happy about it. So what we decided was that we’d have a three week constant session in the studio with two producers that we’d decided to work with, who were Johnny Hostile and Rodaidh McDonald. We did a lot of pre-production prior to that to make sure that we were ready to go into the studio and record. I think we were totally happy with how it went because we gave ourselves enough time and we put in the work before actually going into the studio, so once we were in the studio we felt that having two producers brought a really interesting mix to what we were doing. It brought out different sides of us - Rodaidh's influence was very organised and structured, while Johnny Hostile, because he knows us quite well, he kind of took the producing to mean pushing us and inspiring us - so for example, when Jehnny Beth was recording vocals he would project film onto the wall for her to not really think about being in the studio recording vocals. It was like a different space - it felt like 'okay yes, we were there to record', but it didn’t feel limiting like that. We’ve all done a lot of recording in the past so we felt like it was really important for the four of us to really get it right - it was great but exhausting having to record all of that in three weeks with no break! <laughs> But it kind of felt like it had to be like that, because it really focused us and insured that we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve from it.

CDM: Written on your album disc is the quote: "Don’t let the fuckers get you down." Is this attitude what you try to live your lives by?
AYSE: I guess, we really like to try! It’s a playful attempt to hopefully inspire people to not accept shit, and I guess we’ve all been through times where we wish we spoke out more or we wish did something differently, but I think it’s a playful way of hoping that people will have that bit of a push, you know? Also it corresponds to a song that we’ve written called ‘Fuckers’ which is a fairly new song - and it’s the lyrics of that song.

CDM: Track six 'Dead Nature', adds a different facet to your album. Do you think that instrumental music can be just as powerful as music that has lyrics?
AYSE: Definitely! It’s quite interesting because when we actually recorded 'Dead Nature' it was just us with a hanging guitar going through effects pedals and just smashing it around and making beats, or trying to add different sounds to that track. For me it’s slightly quite haunting, and I think that it can be just as powerful as a song with lyrics or that’s structured. What I quite like is that it follows no pattern - that recording is just how it was at that time. It captures something that wasn’t necessarily planned, which I quite like.

CDM: Do you think the post-punk scene of the 1990s has influenced Savages? I’ve read a lot about how you’re the new revival of the punk movement and I wanted to hear what your take on it is.
AYSE: It’s interesting, because between the four of us we’re influenced by so many varied influences - be that music or art or books that we’ve read. In some respects I guess it has influenced us in some way, because what you listen to does kind of shape you in a way, so naturally there is maybe echoes of what we’ve listened to in the past that might come out subconsciously. But It’s certainly not a deliberate thing to try and achieve - it’s basically four very individual people coming together and everything just colliding! Everything we’ve been through in the past in terms of the sort of music we listen to or the style that we play in had all been collated once we got into the studio together, or just to rehearse. Even on the first day we got together we had Fay Milton on the drums, and she has quite a few disco-y sounding drums. And then you might have a guitar sound that’s perhaps something that sounds kind of punk. You know, it’s quite interesting to see how people see that.

CDM: How much anger do you think went into the songs on this album?
AYSE: There’s a mixture of emotions in the album - there is some anger, but I think that anger isn’t necessarily a negative thing. In some respects, I’d see that anger is an explosion of passion, a raw portrayal of what we’re trying to achieve - the whole primitive side of being human that we’re trying to push through the music that we're making.

CDM: Reviews of live Savages shows have mentioned that you structure your set-lists like a running narrative. Is this a conscious decision?
AYSE: Yeah, totally! Every time you go to a new place/location/venue/whatever, we will tailor our set-list to that situation, mainly because we feel like it’s really important to try and make something special for the audience and for them to see how much time and effort we’ve put into it to make it special for them. However many gigs you go to they’ll always be slightly different - we might try to play a new song or do something really random. And also it keeps it interesting for us to mess around with the set and to try new things and to see what works. We’ve always tried to approach it where we would love to make every show into an event - for example, in London we had a show where we had dancers. We got a troupe of dancers to write a piece for us and it was so brilliant to have these women dancing around. It was quite interesting to see the audience’s reaction because that’s not what people expect, is it? It’s quite nice to be able to play around with that and to incorporate other people that you respect into what we do.

CDM: You need to come to New Zealand so we can experience that too!
AYSE: <laughs> Yeah! Hopefully! That would be an amazing show.

CDM: Do you think a sustained storyline is important throughout an album, or just a show?
AYSE: It depends on the album. For us, there is a common theme running through the album, which I guess perhaps reflects what we try and do in the live show. But when we’re recording we felt that there were two songs that we wanted to put on the album but didn’t, because we didn’t feel that they captured it when we recorded it, so we just put them on hold and didn’t put them on because it didn’t feel like they would fit into what we were trying to produce. So I guess it is important.

CDM: As a band, you’ve said that your music is "calling within yourself something you buried ages ago". What is that something buried in us all that’s worth finding?
AYSE: I think that’s quite subjective to the person that identifies with it, that something is quite different for each person. I don't think that thing would be the same for everyone. I think that in some sense it would be impossible for me to answer that because I hope it will mean something different for each person!

CDM: One of my favourite things about Savages, is your portrayal of a new-age emancipation for womankind. As a teenage girl I find this particularly inspiring. What do you think can be done on a personal level to fight oppression?
AYSE: For us, it’s quite a challenge because we always get asked a multitude of questions around the attitude of women, and we’ve always said that when we first got together, the whole gender thing has never really been totally apparent to us. By us doing what we feel is right for us to do... I've lost my train of thought there, hang on! <laughs> For us, we have a lot of role-models who are strong women and in some respects for us without realising it, we’ve become that in our way, strong women for ourselves. We’ve been through so much in the past that we tend to not take any shit anymore - we’ve got to a point where we know what we want and what path we want to go down. It takes some time getting there, but I think we’re doing that as best we can.

CDM: Do you find it disheartening that there’s still so much obvious sexism in the world, or does it inspire you to fight harder for what you believe in?
AYSE: Personally I try to see it from the standpoint that there is a lot of sexism, but I think instead of fighting that, from my point of view I just want to inspire people to be stronger in who they are and what they believe in and respecting themselves. By people understanding how to do that it will hopefully overcome that, if that makes sense? Speaking to young girls who say that they love what we're doing, it’s so awesome and it makes me so happy to hear that. Equally, if the guys like it then that’s great as well, the whole point is to inspire people. When I think of myself as a young girl I never really felt like I could achieve something, and I hope this [Savages] will reflect onto other young women or whoever else, that whoever they are they can achieve what they want to do and do things their own way. They can trust their instincts, which is sometimes scary to do, but they have to do it. You get told so much when you’re younger, you get told 'don’t do this' and 'don’t do that' and some of it makes sense, but equally you do have to find your own way. Essentially, I think it makes you stronger in the end.

Savages' debut album 'Silence Yourself' is out now - featuring the singles 'Flying To Berlin', 'Husbands' and 'She Will'.

Click HERE to read Coup De Main Issue #8.

Listen to 'Husbands' below...

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