Savages are one those bands that come around maybe once in a lifetime. That statement might be a tad bit overused, but I’m being honest in this context. How many bands can you name that once they reach a certain level of success manage to keep a sense of earnestness, sincerity, and ferociousness to them? That’s a rare find, especially in the world of Indie-rock, The Strokes in their heyday may have possessed some these qualities but traded them in for excessive drinking and apathetic onstage attitudes (I still love you, Julian Casablancas!). Savages have been in existence since 2011 and from day one been adamant about not having any “bullshit on stage”, a quote from lead vocalist Jehnny Beth. Their live shows are not overrun by any distracting or predictable elements, only two things matter; the energy and the music.
Recently, I was awarded the fortunate opportunity to converse with the band’s bassist, Ayse Hassan. Ms. Hassan, being probably one of the coolest people I’ll ever speak to in my life is not only a member of Savages, but also has her own side project called Kite Base. A duo comprised of solely of bass guitars and the occasional drum machine. Is that not the coolest thing you’ve heard? So when approaching this interview I felt had the responsibility not to go the path of other two-bit journalists and pester her with questions about what it’s like to be a female in a rock band, because let’s face it those questions are pretty f#@*ing stupid (as well as borderline misogynistic). So I decided to focus on the individual and the artwork and to her genius, Ayse had the interesting idea of interviewing the interviewer, so whether you like it or not you’re going to be getting my opinions about art too. Hold your breath for this one.
Jay: So Ms Hasan, what was your first musical memory?
Ayse: An early memory that’s rather prominent, was the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s music video for ‘Thriller’. I experienced a mixture of emotions; fear, excitement, horror. It was such an intense and scary video for me at such a young age, but it had such a profound impact – I hadn’t seen anything else like it. I had nightmares for many nights after watching it…
Jay: What attracted you most to the bass as an instrument, as opposed to say the drums?
Ayse: As a kid, I used to dance – ballet and tap, I was also a cadet for a first aid charity called St John Ambulance – where I recall marching around a playground to the sound of a drum beat, so from an early age I was introduced to music in various forms as most of my hobbies involved the support of music or beats. My first musical instruments were a recorder, guitar than piano. Playing bass actually came later for me, around the age of 14…..from that moment I understood that the tone of a bass, the role it plays in music, really resonates with me.
Jay: How did you decide on what your sound was going to be? Was it something organic that occurred over time or was it preconceived?
Ayse: For Savages, it was something quite intuitive. In the room with 3 other musicians, each person bringing something different – their own style of playing, meant we found a way to work within the context of how each of us plays. Our sound came from that.
Jay: Who are some of your literary and musical influences?
Oh I have many, there are the obvious ones like Philip K Dick, Terry Pratchett, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Sylvia Plath, Frank Herbert, Kurt Vonnegut and so on. But I find it a little boring to talk about these as the road is well trodden. So I’ll go down a slight, dare I say wonky route; I’m a big fan of Tove Jansson’s work, she is a Finnish novelist, illustrator, painter amongst other things, probably most famous for The Moomins. I love her art, her fearlessness within her political cartoons, the story of how she wrote her first picture book at the age of 14 called “Sara and Pelle and the Water Sprite’s Octopuses”, The charm of her adult book called ”The Summer Book”. I’m interested in the author of the books I read, it gives me something I can relate to – I attract to those people who live on the edge of normality, carving their own way in such a structure/conditioned world (or at least in the western world), those who embrace the absurd and take pride allowing imagination and emotion to flourish. I’m currently writing my own novel and I’ve been doing a lot of research, as a result I ended up reading the Philip Pullmans Dark Material trilogy – it’s not normally something I would read but I enjoyed it. The kid in me loved the fantasy/the adventure – I’m very much a dreamer, I love the power of the imagination, how anything is a possibility. I also just finished reading Ted Hughe’s Birthday Letters, a collection of poetry which is a profound body of work said to be a reaction to the suicide of his estranged wife Sylvia Plath. I found it heartbreaking and an insight into the imprint that grief can leave behind.
- Other Influences
Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my cousins – we would have sleepovers and I remember my eldest cousin would want to show off her flashy radio/tape player, she would force me to listen to a radio station called magic…so most nights I would fall asleep to the tunes of magic radio – I believe a lot of those tracks got into my subconscious and probably still influence me today (especially the beats element of it)…. The likes of David Bowie, Prince, Micheal Jackson, Madonna, Devo, The Cure, Skinny Puppy, The Beatles all have been a source of inspiration at some point, amongst much more… I believe that everything you do in your life influences what you do next… that’s why it’s so important to be responsible for yourself and make choices that are right for you – as a result, a lot of my influences tend to come from musical icons but also from people who have shown great courage/humanity and strength throughout their lives… Tamae Watanabe, at 73 she is the oldest woman to climb Mount Everest, her courage and fearlessness really inspires me. I enjoy finding inspiration from different sources, such as a town, nature (I’m obsessed with Everest /mountaineering/adventures), an inspiring unknown individual (but is an outstanding human for whatever reason), an unpublished book/comic from a friends, from different genres of music (I always check out recommendations that people give me) – I believe everything contributes to what you create next, it’s all connected in some form or another.
Jay: Do you any favourite memories of all early days with the band?
Ayse: I vividly remember the Savages show at The Shacklewell Arms in London, it’s a small venue and was so packed with people – that we had to squeeze through the crowd to get to the stage. It was one of those early moments that we just clicked as a band.
Jay: What advice would give to an aspiring musician/lyricist?
Ayse: To keep doing what you love and for as long as it makes you happy – trust your instincts and embrace fear, fear is such a powerful emotion that can stifle creativity, but harnessed in the right way, can open up a great source of inspiration – to use emotions in a positive way. One of the most important things I’ve found, is to constantly try new things; be that music, books, adventures and so on – challenge yourself to read something you might not normally read or visit a gallery in a new place, see a random band, try your hand at doing something unusual (for me that was building a speaker recently) – the freedom to explore new ways of doing things will not only be an exciting adventure but could help inspire the person you become. A cool Litany against fear from the book Dune – I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer (etc) – Frank Herbert. Shared with me years ago from Kendra Frost, who is my partner in crime in Kite Base.
Here’s some questions for you, you don’t have to answer off course but I thought it would be fun to ask – as I’m so used to people asking me questions.
Ayse: What one piece of general advice would you give someone else?
Jay: This is a bit of a loaded one, as I’m only Eighteen years of age and don’t really see myself in the position to give anyone advice. However, I’ve had a lot of experiences with personal growth this year and I’d say the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting yourself first sometimes. This especially true in regards to mental hygiene, which is already hard enough to manage as a human being, but being a teenager? Totally different ball game. Things are undoubtedly going to be rough in our lives but it’s important to recognize when it might be too much for yourself and you’ll have to take a step back. That’s okay, you’re a human being, breathe.
Ayse: What’s your greatest source of inspiration?
Jay: I would have to say music, even I love literature and I’m an aspiring screenwriter. Everything I do always comes back to music, I bring it conversations with people, I sit in lectures for hours and start tapping/drumming instinctively, I make references to songs whenever I can etc. I can’t seem to escape it and truthfully I don’t want to. I don’t know who or what I’d be without it.
Ayse: Is there a memory you hold dear, that you would like to share?
Jay: When I was Fourteen I went to go see the Red Hot Chili Peppers with someone who I consider my brother. At the time I was obsessed with this group, almost bordering a mental fixation but I actually didn’t care about going to see the band, it was the fact that we were together and having a great time, listening to music that we love. He also told that he had checked the band’s setlist on Setlist.com the night before and they probably weren’t going to play our favorite song. They did, which just made an already great night even better.
Ayse: Is there a book, film, record that you would recommend?
- A film that I absolutely adore, and it’s highly underrated, but I love it regardless would be Sleepers. It’s a 90’s movie with Brad Pitt, Robert Deniro and Kevin Bacon in the leads, it’s about a group of young boys that get sent to juvenile detention centre. Once there they are abused and humiliated by the guards that are supposed to look after them, and once they’ve been released years later they seek revenge. It’s a really gripping thriller/drama that cunningly grapples with the societal idea of masculinity and it’s also just really entertaining.
- God Help The Child by Toni Morrison. I won’t give away the premise because it’s kind of a surprise but it just might be the most thrilling experience I’ve had reading a novel. In fact I highly recommend all of Toni Morrison’s works, she’s one of those writers that challenges your expectations all the time. Very rare voice in literature.
- As big as I am on Punk-rock, my first love will always be Bossa nova. My favorite Bossa album of all time is without a doubt Joao Gilberto’s Chega de Saudade, which roughly translates to “kill the nostalgia.” It’s a really great record about breakups and nights on the town in Brazil and it was also the album that helped shaped what Bossa would become today. I listen to it like almost every month!
Savages latest release Adore Life is currently available across all platforms. Below is a link to the night in which they played at The Shacklewell. Highly recommend you give it a watch.
City’s Full: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUqDckQuqcg