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21 août 2007

Interview: Daryl Hall

Believe it or not, Daryl Hall is an indie rocker. While the success of Hall & Oates in the 1970s and 80s-- eight #1 singles, but who's counting?-- was fed by major label dollars and the rise of MTV, they also spent years building a career, and more years rebuilding it after falling off the charts in the grunge-dominated 90s. But since the turn of the millennium, Hall & Oates have been back with new records, successful tours, and plenty of attention from the next generation, whether it's the Gym Class Heroes' upcoming Hall & Oates mash-up album, or Hall's cameo on HBO's Flight of the Conchords.

Outside of music, Hall has a passion for buying and restoring antique houses. He owns properties in New York and Connecticut, and this spring he bought a 17th century house in Maine, where we met him for this interview. He's enthusiastic about the "anything goes" attitude of the 00s, where pop, punk and soul rub elbows and nobody's too cool to dig "Rich Girl". "What's happening now is the best thing that's happened to music in 40 years," says Hall. "And it's great for people like me, because I am not easy to categorize."....


....Pitchfork: Your first solo record, Sacred Songs [recorded 1977, released 1980], is a really interesting album in your catalog. How did you meet Robert Fripp?

DH: I met Robert through a friend in about 1974, and we became friends right away. We have a lot of the same interests, and we just got along. I was first starting to spend a lot of time in England then, so I would stay at his house, and he used to stay at my house, and all that. We were really good friends. And then he went away to Gurdjieff Camp, and I was the only person in the outside world he was communicating with.

Pitchfork: Gurdjieff Camp?

DH: Yeah, he decided he was going to follow the teachings of [G. I.] Gurdjieff, which is basically like the boot camp of the mind. And so I was sort of his touch with some form of reality. And after he came through that period, he wanted to reenter the music world, because he had stepped away. And so he and I got together, and we said, let's do some projects. And we got Peter Gabriel and various other people, Pete Hammill, and the Roches-- we had a loose-knit group of people, and I did my album, Sacred Songs, and then we did Exposure, and I'm trying to think what happened after that-- well then he did the Peter Gabriel album [II aka Scratch]. But the Exposure album was the second collaboration with me, and I was supposed to be the singer on that whole album. Because he did my album, I did his album.

[But] I was with RCA at the time, and they balked. They wouldn't allow my vocals to be put on his records. All the vocals you hear on Exposure are completely my ideas that were as best as could be done copied by other people, except for two or three songs. And that was really disheartening. That's when I completely fell out of love with the music business.

Robert and I did as best we could through all that, but I think we made some really interesting music. I think taking somebody who comes from my background, and taking somebody who comes from his musical background, and putting them together, is a very interesting idea ... to try and take two soulful sounds from two different cultures, and put them together, and form a third kind of music. And that was the idea. Simple as that. I mean, there was no-- well, I won't say there was no conceptual thought, because there was a lot of conceptual thought. But there was no thought beyond that. We were just going to do what came natural to us. Either I would write the words with Robert or he had his girlfriend at the time who was writing some lyrics, and we would just come up with some lyrics, he would put a track together, and I would just sing. Everything was first takes. Everything was spontaneous. And that's how we dealt with it.

Pitchfork: Would it be fair to say music that's more textural, like Frippertronics, or uses pure sound, uses a different element from what you might find in a lot of soul music?

DH: No. There's a similarity, because soul music is totally non-intellectual, and I say that in the artistic sense. You don't think. There's no thought process. It's soul, it comes straight from the heart and the brain right out through the mouth without any thought. I've always been a spontaneous singer. And all the stuff that you hear on the end of the songs, what they call the ad libs-- that just comes out of my head. That's not thought out at all. I have the verses and the choruses and then after that it's total improvisation.

Pitchfork: You also at the time were interested in mysticism, and reading up on things like Alestair Crowley -

DH: Well, that was around my Robert time. A lot of people go through that kind of thing. And I went through it, and I retained a lot of it, and I discarded a lot of it. My life was unbalanced at the time, when I was doing that.

Pitchfork: But it was a chance to get some answers, or some perspective?

DH: It wasn't really answers. It was more self-analysis, perspective-- pushing the boundaries of metaphysics, as well as, you know, to see what is real, and what isn't real. You know? And that's a flexible thought


Interview by Chris Dahlen

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