Saturday, January 9, 2016

Punish/Empower | An interview with Heather Gabel & Seth Sher from HIDE

Photo © Alison Green

HIDE have been together well over a year now. Can you tell us how the evolution of HIDE began and how you both came together on this project?

Heather: Seth had been playing music for many years as a drummer/percussionist. He had just started making electronic music and that's when we started working together. He was doing a solo project, Syne, and I was doing an art installation in NYC that I needed music for. He scored the piece, marking the first time we had ever worked together. He was living in Providence at the time but when he moved back to Chicago we decided we wanted to do a project together that incorporated both of our aesthetics.

Heather, you’re more known for you work as an artist. Do you feel like music was a natural evolution for you artistically? And why now?

Heather: I was starting to feel limited working mainly with collage for so long. I wanted to work outside of my comfort zone. I started doing different things, video pieces, more collaborations with other artists. I toured about 12 years working for bands but I never had the desire to make music myself. I felt like there were more than enough bands playing a lot of things that I didn't want to hear. I felt like I didn't want to contribute some mediocre blather just because it looked like a fun thing to do because so much of what people put out there is total garbage in my opinion. Eventually, though, I got over caring if it would be "good" (whatever that means) or how it would be received which is how I've always operated with my visual practice. The idea of doing something I had no experience or idea of how to do became increasingly appealing to me. As far as "why now", after having my daughter I realized how fast time goes by and how much of that time is spent doing things you don't care about or that aren't personally rewarding. It was a full on FUCK IT mentality. If I want to do something now, I figure out how to do it instead of daydreaming about it because what if I get hit by a truck tomorrow?

In HIDE’s career so far you have already played alongside some awesome bands like Marilyn Manson, Marching Church, Alkaline Trio, Plack Blague to name just a few. Have you both been overwhelmed by the openness and generous support you have received from both fans and peers alike?

Heather & Seth: Yes. It feels really good to have our friends who are also making music asking us to play shows with them. When people who come to see us start to look familiar because they've come to a lot of our shows, that's a great feeling. At the end of the day though, we would still be doing this regardless of how many people were interested because we are excited about what we are doing. It's reaffirming and awesome that there is an audience out there connecting with our music/performance.

 HIDE have a real gritty dark electro industrial sound that’s very evident from start to finish. What/who are your influences? And what was the motivation behind the sound you are now creating?

Heather & Seth: We are both into traditional industrial stuff like Einsturzende Nebauten, S.P.K., Ministry but we each like things that the other doesn't as well. The way we write songs incorporates both of our tastes but since we are doing this together, each person's ideas are run through the filter of the other's likes/dislikes, resulting in something completely different. We never set out to have a distinct sound but over time one has emerged. The motivation was mainly just to make something we wanted to hear, that wasn't derivative or a rehashing of the bands we both like.

Another large part of HIDE aside from the music, and of course that the music good, is the equally gritty, dark, leather and chain layered aesthetic. Does that aesthetic just go hand in hand with the “band persona” and what role does it play in the band and the music?

Heather: As a first time singer and a visual artist I was experienced aesthetically and inexperienced vocally. What I wear or don't wear on stage is what makes me feel strong, powerful, in control. It's a part of the band persona in that it's coming from the same place in me that these songs do. I've bought a few things since starting the band as stage wear, but most of whatever I wear on stage I already had and wear in my daily life as well. I wear a burqah over my face with tape on my nipples, shredded tights with a bullet belt, some fetish/bondage gear and 7" stripper heels. It's liberating for me because we are creating an environment where I can wear whatever I want and it's a safe space. When I get off stage and some guy is talking to me, even if I don't have a shirt on, he's being totally respectful, maybe it's because I was just screaming about cutting someone open and wearing their skin on stage, but regardless, he's not staring at my tits and that's awesome. As a person who is harassed with catcalls in my daily life, it's a wonderful to feel the freedom I am able to experience through my costume and performance. Seth sometimes wears a burqah too, toying with gender roles and making people think about oppression.

 One of the most unfuckable elements to some bands is the dynamic of the duo. How would you both explain your relationship and collaboration and roles in the band and how does it make HIDE, HIDE?

Seth: We actually started as a three piece but when that started to disintegrate we quickly realized we'd be more powerful as just two. We argue a lot, it's not easy, but it's worth it when we finish a song that we are proud of and excited about playing together. Without a third person or more to bounce ideas off of it's a real struggle to keep it collaborative, to not have one person's vision overtake the other's. It's a delicate balance that sometimes becomes really volatile. One area that is less a product of the duo is the visual aesthetic, Heather is pretty much totally responsible for that, she made our logo and designed the art for our first three tapes. The thing that makes HIDE, HIDE is our mutual desire to punish/empower ourselves and our audiences.

Photo © Autumn Spadaro

 When it comes to music and lyrics. Is this a collaborative effort or is one solely a part of the other? And where do the lyrics come from, what implores you to write the way you do?

Heather: Our songs start from hearing something we want to sample, or a field recording Seth has made. We will build it up around one or two elements until it's become a song. That's our more collaborative process. The other way we make songs is Seth will come to me with something that is pretty well fleshed out and I say I don't like this or that, can this part be longer or shorter, can we bring in something scraping right here etc until he's totally frustrated with me and we have a new song! I write the lyrics on my own, it sometimes takes me a really long time, I'm not able to just write on the spot which is sometimes problematic. I can't say where they come from, they are partly a response to the music, partly a venting of some anger, very much a part of me that I am discovering in the process.

Photo © Alison Green

Photo © Samantha Greenwoo

 I know you’re currently working on new material. Can you tell us anything about what is to come?

Heather: Full length baby! We are working on songs for a full length release this February. Not sure who's putting it out but we will self release it if no one bites.

 When it comes to stage presence, HIDE definitely is not lacking. Confronting, will full, honest and raw. How important is the physical performance of the music to you both? And what have been some of the crazy reactions you’ve had performing so far?

Heather & Seth: It's the most important part for both of us for sure. When writing/practicing, everything is being done with the live show in mind, not recording. We are trying to create an experience for the audience that is beyond just watching a band play their songs. We employ fog and strobes synced to the music which transform the space into a kind of void where people are able to piece together their own realities and interpretations. Punishing sub-bass, aggressive rhythms, and haunting vocals combine to create an immersive, entrancing sound.

Seth: As far as crazy reactions go, we were booed for our entire set in Milwaukee opening for Marilyn Manson by roughly 6,000 irate midwesterners. It's a pretty common thing for that to happen to openers on big mainstream bills but it was a new experience for us. At first it was kind of like "oh fuuuuuuck" but by the end of the set Heather couldn't stop smiling. It was actually fun and felt like an accomplishment to have been able to piss off such a large captive audience. 

Seth: Something that happens semi-regularly is that people are confused about Heather's gender. It's not "crazy" but it was unexpected, we are definitely confronting power dynamics and their relation to gender in our society so hearing that from people is encouraging as it forces them to question their personal ideas about gender identity/fluidity.

Photo © Ben Sizemore

Photo © Justin Nolan

 New music. New tours. What’s next for HIDE in 2016?

Heather & Seth: We have an EP coming out this April on Midwich Records. Midwich is Jim Magas's label, he's an electronic musician from Chicago who has always been in really cool out there bands. He recently worked on the score for Asia Argento's latest film Incompresa. We are really psyched about this release, it's our first vinyl release. We are doing a tour around that release as well so we'll be playing throughout the US again this spring.