We Need To Talk About Howie
Howie Hill is one of the most creative and multi-talented people I’ve met in 30+ years of covering the music industry. He can play just about any instrument you throw at him (I’m sure he could get a tune out of a washing machine if you asked him to). As a photographer, he’s covered the big music festivals, and his pics have become prized possessions by private collectors.
Howie Hill has just released his latest album ‘Glass Ghosts’. It’s a beautifully constructed album of piano music. If Beethoven were still alive he’d certainly approve, and probably go away and re-write ‘Für Elise’. ‘Glass Ghosts’ is wonderfully mellow, and is the sort of music they should play at the United Nations building in New York – with a sign saying: “Just chill people”.
Makeit-Loud.com caught up with Howie Hill over a virtual cup of tea:
MI-L: You’re a multi-talented musician, what drew you to keyboards?
HH: What first got me into music was playing guitar when I was about 10 and that’s where the music bug got me, and has just consumed my life since. As I got into my teens I started to learn more instruments such as bass, banjo, cello and then mainly focusing on drums, which is what I studied at Leeds Music College.
It’s always super fun playing drums, but piano was something I had always wanted to try from a young age and dabbled with in the past. But, it was only really when I got to about 27/28 that I actually gave it a proper shot and have been super obsessed since. The main factor for it taking over was being able to compose. Film has always played an integral part in my life, and I take so much inspiration from other composers as well directors and really try and create a whole scene in my mind when I’m creating.
MI-L: Where did the inspiration come from for your latest album?
HH: I had actually had the 6 songs written for about 18 months but with moving about a lot and life just getting in the way they kind of just sat there so I finally took a few weeks to work on them and get them finished. A big inspiration for me have always been musicians like Arvo Pärt, Joep Beving and Hildur Guðnadóttir, the emotionality and minimalist approach to music is something that definitely grabs my attention as I really like music that has intention rather than just pure technicality and speed. As soon as I finish one thing I’ll pretty much have something else lined up as well, because I tend to write music and collectively see what works and then group things together, rather than setting out to write an entire album.
MI-L: How has music helped you during lockdown?
HH: I don’t think I would have got through it without being able to create. Despite the negative situation for so many (one that could have easily dragged my mental health down as well) I really tried to take the time to be as creative as possible and just work on music solidly every day, but also not rush anything as I knew I had the time to delve into it. As with any creative process you hit a wall sometimes and look back and start to think if what you created was any good, which is something that happened a couple times, but when that happens I will leave something alone for months at a time then come back to it and pick it up again.
MI-L: You have a musical alter-ego in Quartz Tiger, how did that come about?
HH: Yeah I write under a few different names in various styles. Quartz Tiger came about because I’m quite the fan of sci-fi films and the soundtracks that come with it, so I thought I’d give the synth/retro wave genre a go and what’s not to like about big heavy warm arpeggiated analog synths with lots of ambient textures? I’ve also been working a project called Astro Waves which is more world inspired lo-fi beat tape sort of thing, which is what I tend to write when I need to refresh my brain a bit from writing other music as it’s so chilled and nice to work. The other is called Dark Gamma, that’s real down tempo (60bpm on a couple of tracks) kinda mixed with future garage in parts, proper bass heavy, dirty noises, ambient vibes. I haven’t put that out yet, but as mentioned earlier I’m taking a break from listening to it and I’ll go back to see if all still works.
MI-L: You’re also an accomplished music festival photographer, do you see a link between your photography and musicianship?
HH: I first started out my music photography journey at house gigs that used to be put on in Leeds by my house mate and despite being the smallest, sweatiest, loudest rooms with the walls shaking, they definitely had to be some of the most fun ones and it caught my attention of the raw power of music and how it can make you feel.
So, after that I really set out to try and capture striking imagery of music really focusing on portraiture rather than this huge fish eye style images, as they just didn’t capture my imagination. I wanted to see that one person in the moment and how it moved them. I’d say a 50mm lens has spent about 90% of the time on my camera even at huge festivals, just means you have to get up close and personal. I have been lucky enough that it has taken me all through-out the UK and abroad getting to see some of the biggest bands and festivals out there. There are times I would definitely come back from a show and just be really inspired to create.