marika hackman’s ‘the one’ goes out to all you attention whores
Watch the surreal new video exclusively here and get stuck into our catch up.
Photography Lorenzo Dalbosco
“For all you attention whores and big-headed beauties, here is a song from the depths of my extraordinary ego,” London musician Marika Hackman says. The brilliant song she’s on about, the one, is the second single from her forthcoming fourth album, Any Human Friend, which is out 9 August. In the accompanying music video -- directed by Louis Bhose -- 27-year-old Marika inhabits an arrogant rockstar character. She performs inside a photocopier atop moving stacks of paper in a scene that screams Jamiroquai's Virtual Insanity, as an alt Marika watches on. It’s surreal, it’s old school, it rules.
“I always have these ideas,” says Marika, over a cold lemonade on a hot July afternoon, “and then you take them to people and there’s a lot of red tape and they say we can’t afford things. But Louis was just like, ‘we’ll make this work!’” So they built the photocopier room, they built the office set up, and Marika knocked back some Prosecco to invoke the serious rockstar moves you’re about to witness. “I was quite scared, it’s quite hard to do that kind of thing. There are elements of it when I perform, but when you’re holding a guitar, it’s different.” If this is what we could be getting... put. that. guitar. down.
Co-produced by David Wrench, the record is unapologetically Marika -- with killer songwriting and bonus synths. “I’m very happy with it,” she smiles. “I think it’s my best one. It’s punchy.” Across eleven tracks the Londoner goes full on introspective; refusing to hold anything back and clearly not concerned with how she presents herself. “It’s just whatever comes up to the surface. There are lyrics on there that don’t make me sound like a very nice person, but there are also lyrics that are really funny and sexy. It’s all just part of what it means to be human, whether that’s good or bad.” Marika hopes that, by opening up to her listeners they’ll be able to relate to the tracks, whether they’re waxing lyrical about behaving badly, feeling shit or exploring sexuality. “It’s me saying, ‘It’s okay everyone! We’re all in this together!”
Take an exclusive first look at the one below, and dive deep into Marika’s thoughts on the word fuck, sexy songs about sex between women, and dealing with emotional unavailability. Fun!
We first interviewed you back in 2014. What kind of person were you then?
It feels like a whole different world. I wasn’t living in London, I was still with my first girlfriend, I hadn’t released an album or done any touring. Obviously I know more about the industry now. I feel I’m more confident as a songwriter and a performer and at doing this sort of thing. I suppose I was quite naive back then.
And what about now?
I think I’ve always been a strong person but that I’m more aware of my strength now. The constant grapple with anxiety is quite draining, but obviously the more you get through that and learn things about it, it all builds some armour around the situation. I think I’ve found my voice more artistically too, and confidence across the board in that sense. The way I write music now is so direct, and lyrically so straight to the point, and I feel very safe doing that. I still want to push and learn though. I mean, putting out the artwork for the record was pretty fucking terrifying.
Yeah, you’re a bit naked in the album artwork!
I am a bit naked! You can see a bit of boob, though it’s mainly covered by the piglet though, and I’m in those horrendous massive pants. It’s a full-on picture, but it’s exactly what I imagined it to be. The side of me that’s a bit vain and self-conscious is looking at it thinking that I don’t want anyone to see this picture, but the other side knows that it’s exactly what we should be doing. You kind of have to reach a balance between the two, but I find that listening to the more artistic, driven side is helping my other side to grow and let go of a lot of things.
You’re referencing the work of Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra and her portraits of women after giving birth... but why the piglet?
We have a lot of misconceptions about the humble pig. We see them as dirty animals and use their name as an insult, but they’re actually very clean and highly intelligent. I used to have pigs, which is where I got this scar from; it’s actually a pig bite.
A pig bit your eyebrow?
Rule number one with animals is don’t wake them up, and I did. Chessy was a great pig. Rest in peace. Pigs are actually very sexual animals too, and they have the closest genetic build up of their flesh to humans. We’re not so different. So I’m holding the pig to my naked body as if it were my child. I’m just holding it there as if to say: I’m not judging you. I’m just letting you be the pig and I accept you for that.
Tell us about the album title, Any Human Friend...
It’s taken from a Channel 4 documentary where they put a bunch of young kids in a home for people with dementia. There’s a conversation about whether the children have made any new friends this week, and one of them says ‘even with the old people?’ and another child says, ‘yes, any human friend’. That was out of the mouth of a four year old and it was so profound and pure. And of course, it’s because they don’t have any kind of adult judgement about why they shouldn’t be friends. It’s so simple.
Lyrically, this record is much more explicit. Was that something you explored intentionally?
Nothing’s really intentional when I’m writing. Lyrically, maybe I’ll think of a theme, but that’s usually driven by something that’s just popped into my head. The most explicit song on the record is one called all night, which I think is my favourite. The whole ‘kissing, eating, fucking, moaning’ part, I had actually written on my phone as a lyric idea way before I wrote that song. I liked the idea of the play on words with how mouths are just for eating and moaning, because at that point I meant moaning as in complaining, but then the moaning changes meaning. So it’s not intentional, the step up. I swear a lot. I find it really interesting that we give jumbles of letters such power to offend. And the word fuck, to me, is a sexy word. I didn’t decide to be even more obscene, I just felt more obscene I suppose.
A good feeling. It’s a pretty rare gift you’re about to give us with All Night: a sexy song about sex between women. Do you remember growing up feeling seen by songs in that way?
My parents were playing Prince’s Sexy MF to me and my brother when we were babies. But in terms of two women, no. I think the nearest whiff of that was the faux lesbian relationship in that T.A.T.U song. I actually can’t think of anyone that I was listening to as a kid who was doing that, and I really wonder how it would’ve shaped my teenage years, particularly at school, if that had been different. Even though I went to a school that was really open, kids are just twats and so to not come out when I was at school was a very conscious decision. There was no way in hell that I was going to start shouting about my sexuality in that environment and have it be the thing that defines me. I would’ve been Gay Marika…. and I’m more than that.
I think there was always a sense of otherness [with openly queer artists], like with Tegan and Sara, who no one else knew about because they were within queer culture. Now, there are so many queer female artists writing music that’s not necessarily about being queer, it’s about their personal experiences. So those personal experiences open up the floor to everyone -- including queer people.
The stans are hailing i’m not where you are as an ‘emotional unavailability anthem’...
I liked that. I was hoping that people would get the sadness in that song as well, and not just think that it’s about me being a dickhead. It’s a very lonely song. I think being emotionally unavailable seems to be presented in a cool, aloof and unattainable way; like that’s kind of hot. But it’s really crap. It’s feeling sort of numb and scared of commitment or like you’ve got some kind of block and can’t throw yourself into emotional situations. It’s actually really frustrating. Obviously I can and I have, but I find it very difficult and it’s the cause of a lot of anxiety for me. So writing a song about it and having people relate, it also makes me feel better. I completely forgot that this was gonna work both ways.
Finally, which song from the record means the most to you?
Any Human Friend, which I wrote last. Lyrically, it’s very simple but it really sums up the album and it makes me feel quite emotional. It’s about how everyone feels like they need to dull themselves down in order to fit in, when actually we all need to just accept that we are golden. It’s a celebration of that. It’s a very reflective song as well, and brings up a lot of images for me. I see light, water, reflections. It rounds off the record with a really nice sentiment and carries it off into the air. It’s like the record is this big weighty experience that you clamber through and get dragged along on this psychedelic ride. And then you let go of the balloon at the end.
Marika Hackman's Any Human Friend is out 9 August via AMF and Sub Pop.
Photography by Lorenzo Dalbosco