We bounced on over to West London last week to grab a moment with reggae girl de jour, Hollie Cook. Hollie has all the energetic positivity of an artist on the rise. On meeting her, the first thing we see is a mass of bobbing Afro curls and gigantic heavily-lined wide eyes that belong to a girl, who seems way too polite to be the daughter of a Sex Pistol. But daughter of Sex Pistol and drummer Paul Cook, she is. Not that we’d imagine her future would have been any different without this gigantic musical advantage – she’s a ridiculously confident and cheeky performer, with a powerful reggae voice, and a super producer by her side in the form of Prince Fatty. We caught up with her half way through her jam-packed rounds of the festival circuit, following her largest gig to date: supporting the Stone Roses at Heaton Park.
AW: How is the music going at the minute then?
Hollie: Yeah, alright actually, I’ve been doing lots of festivals every weekend, which is nice. I did one long tour in February. That was in France, which is pretty much where I have been doing all of my gigs actually. I’ve just started to branch out into other parts of Europe. I played in Germany last weekend and in Ireland, and in Rotterdam as well. Now I’ve just been back in the studio, and have executed my first full track for my next album. I’ve had all these ideas for a while and am getting around to finally playing them to Prince Fatty, who I’m working with again, and getting the ball rolling on that.
AW: How was it working with him? Did you notice a shift in your music with him at the producer helm?
Hollie: I love working with him. It just started out so chilled and easy and there was no massive shift because it was so laid back and enjoyable. It felt like a pretty natural thing. I’ve been working with him for five years now, but even the other day we were working on this new song and I just thought “bloody hell he’s just amazing – he’s a genius!”
AW: What did you think of the dub version? Were there any tracks you preferred after?
Hollie: To an extent, because it went further into the elements of the album that I really wanted to bring out more. We kept it how it was, so it was a nice rounded sound that wouldn’t scare people off too much.
AW: Would you describe your music as sunshine reggae?
Hollie: Yes, definitely! It’s got that vibe to it and funnily enough on tour, we set ourselves the challenge of how we could make the sun shine when we played. Actually, the other day we made the sun shine two days in a row. We got to this festival, driving through massive hailstones, set up, came on stage and it was blaring sunshine. It was Summer Jam in Cologne. The next day we played a festival in Belgium and it was pissing down with rain, within five minutes of our set the sun came out, and when we finished five minutes later it started raining again!
AW: You obviously come from a punk background, do you feel there are similarities between punk and reggae?
Hollie: I think they’re pretty kindred really, with their frame of minds. It is all rebel music. Something about the two at the time – I suppose it brings them together in that sense, even though musically they are so different. But the attitude is the same. Both still kind of shock people, if it’s something they’re not too familiar with. I find it weird that people think it’s so unusual making a reggae album, when I come from a punk background. One sways into the other quite nicely, and it’s probably quite a punk thing to do, to make a reggae album. It is quite an against the grain thing to do.
AW: Can you see yourself moving into different types of music, or are you firmly rooted in reggae?
Hollie: I can see it moving around a bit. It already has throughout my experience of working. I’m not firmly rooted in anything; I’m as fickle as they come. I’m influenced and inspired by lots of different things. Reggae is definitely a space I feel very comfortable in, as a way of expressing myself.
AW: Who have been your other influences?
Hollie: Lots of different stuff, Mark Bolan for example.
AW: He never gets old.
Hollie: I just love the simplicity of his music; that’s how I learned to play the guitar – they have such simple melodies and then he’s just a little kook. The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las and Dusty Springfield were all big influences too; the 60s girly pop thing. Diana Ross is the same, then more into the disco thing – Donna Summer. Prince Fatty is really good; he plays me a lot of stuff I wouldn’t normally be exposed to, like Brazilian and Columbian music, to 70s psychedelic.
AW: Are you happy with the musical era that you’re growing up in?
Hollie: I would probably have liked to grow up in a different time, but it’s so easy to say that. Music of the 70s compared with music now, seems amazing, but it’s probably overly romanticised. It would have been interesting, the music was there, but the rest of it was so depressing. I’d probably go back even further to the 30s or something and check out the jazz scene, like Billie Holiday. I know less about it, but am equally interested.
AW: How do you feel about X-Factor and shows that try to find the next big talent in music?
Hollie: Um…I don’t! I think it’s kind of fascinating in some ways and I do get pretty sucked into those things when they are going on at the time. I could never really say I get emotionally involved. It’s really interesting in one sense because I don’t really understand it. I don’t know if it’s false, because it’s real and it happens; the lines between reality and the fantasy of it are so blurred. It is literally making someone’s dreams come true in the one sense, but it’s so hyped up by the media, it’s hard to know. I think there are probably a lot of other talented people out there who wouldn’t go for it, so I don’t really know how deserving the contestants are. In terms of serious talent, Leona Lewis is the only one that springs to mind. I find it really fascinating and confusing.
AW: Supporting the Stone Roses was your biggest gig so far, how was it?
Hollie: It was scary and amazing. I get nervous before any gig, but I guess the nerves for that one came a lot sooner; I had to deal with it for a longer period of time. I was nervous for the whole day from when I got there.
AW: How did their fans respond to you?
Hollie: They were actually really receptive, although I did feel the difference between playing to people who you know have come to see you. But I think that if you don’t know the music, it’s not offensive initially.
AW: What other festivals are you going to this year?
Hollie: I think I’m going to Bestival with Prince Fatty, I’m not sure, I might just be gate crashing that one! Then I’m going to be in Europe and then back in the studio in between. I really like what I’m doing at the minute. I spend the weekends playing, and then on Tuesday onwards I go down to Brighton to record.
You can visit Hollie Cook’s site [here] and check out her debut album’s opening track below.
Words by Emily Steer.