What is crucial to the formation of an artist? Influence may take many shapes and forms, both conscious and unconscious, but its role in the creation of great work is undeniable if also – at times – elusive. Wales Arts Review takes a deep dive into the role of influence in conversations with artists of many ilks. From musicians to writers to directors to painters, and much more in between, we hear more about the influences that have shaped some of Wales’ most important and upcoming artists.
Here, we kick things off with a piece from Huw Evans – AKA H. Hawkline – on the music which shaped and influenced him, from childhood to today.
My earliest memory of music is Geraint Jarman’s ‘Siglo Ar Y Siglen’ playing on the radio in the kitchen as I got ready for school, I remember not being able to stop singing it for the rest of the day. We had a Buddy Holly compilation that was played a lot in the car on drives from Cardiff to Prestatyn. I knew the words to every song and we’d sing along with my Mum.
To me, those songs belong to the A470 now. “Raining In My Heart” in particular belongs to Blaenau Ffestiniog (we would all mime the string parts in unison, a risky move on that stretch of road). As easy and happy as the music sounded, I remember that song in particular making me feel pretty melancholy, as much as you can feel that way at 8 years old: “Oh misery, misery, what’s gonna become of me? I tell my blues they mustn’t show but soon these tears are bound to flow and it’s raining, raining in my heart.” Staring out of a rain soaked window – dried Little Chef ketchup stains on my cheeks. Not much has changed.
I started writing songs in school, I was in a band and we were very serious, it was heavy stuff. Sadly we ended up parting ways (musical differences etc etc). I think music in general influenced that decision to start writing, you hear something you like and then learn to play it and then gradually that becomes hearing a song you like, stealing the chords, changing the melody slightly and adding your own lyrics. The goal is to do this so many times that the songs you’re stealing are your own and you’re just making better versions of them.
For me, the following albums, songs and lyrics have a lot to answer for:
The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground
‘Beginning to See The Light’: “There are problems in these times but whooooo none of them are mine” / “Some people work very hard, but still they never get it right”
Neil Young – On The Beach
‘Ambulance Blues’: “You’re all just pissing in the wind, you don’t know it but you are, and there ain’t nothing like a friend, who can tell you you’re just pissing in the wind”
Datblygu – Pyst
‘Ugain I Un’: “Sdim ots pwy dwi gyda, mae’r teimlad run fath, yr un wnaiff ennill y ras, sydd nawr yn bwydo y gath”
Yoko Ono – Feeling The Space
‘Run, Run, Run’ : “I was sitting in the field, feeling the grass, counting the stars as they come out, feeling (feeling) the breeze, (feeling the breeze), feeling (feeling) the spring. (feeling the spring), suddenly I noticed there wasn’t light anymore.”
Today, I am influenced by my friends and the other artists I work with – if you surround yourself with the right people, you’ll learn something new every day.
Influence is everything, whether you know it or not, or want to admit it for that matter. I don’t think you have any control over what influences you, everything goes in so it’s how you decide to let it come out. What changes is how you filter it. I think the best artists in any field are the ones who make an ice rink and tell you it was influenced by a spaghetti western as they skid to a stop, spraying a sabre of frost into your cold coffee.
H. Hawkline H. Hawkline
H. Hawkline will be performing at Camp Good Life Festival on 17th September.