20 Questions: Black Hearted Brother

Photo: Sabine Scheckel

Take members of Slowdive, Mojave 3, and Locust, mix 'em together, and you get the space-rock album of the year. Black Hearted Brother sit down with PopMatters, and woolly socks are discussed.

Black Hearted Brother

Stars Are Our Home

Label: Slumberland
US Release Date: 2013-10-22

Indie-bred space-rock is a subgenre that doesn't tend to lend itself to "supergroups" all that often, but if there's any band that comes close, by gods it's Black Hearted Brother.

The group is a trio of guys who have been friends for quite some time: Neil Halstead can be spotted as an influential member of Slowdive and Mojave 3. Mark Van Hoen is one of the founders of Locust as well as Seefeel, and Nick Holton is best known as the mastermind behind, of course, Holton's Opulent Oog. This trio of guys, prior to the formation of Black Hearted Brother, played in each other's bands, produced each other's albums, and even put out said albums on each other's labels. It's a long, convoluted history of camaraderie and great tunes, so the fact that they all got together at long last to record an album doesn't seem as much as an event as it was an inevitability.

Fortunately, that album, Stars Are Our Home, manages to be that pitch-perfect meld between distorted, oribital swaths of noise and some remarkably considered pop hooks. The band knows how to drive a rhythm -- just listen to the constant backbeat of "(I Don't Mean to) Wonder" keep the whole song grounded so that the guitar squalls don't drift off into the ether -- but moments like the nearly-danceable catharsis of "Got Your Love" (which carries a heavy Britpop vibe) and the Neu!-influenced feel of "My Baby Just Sailed Away" prove just how creative, sprawling, and dynamic this trio is when they cull all their strengths into one outlet.

To help celebrate the occasion, Neil & Nick thought it'd be fun to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions, and here reveals to us how proud he is that his kids aren't that into One Direction, how he can't eat fruit that starts with the letter P, and the best piece of advice he ever received during his time in Slowdive.

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I cried with happiness that my daughter has been raised with the great taste of not being in the lest bit interested in seeing the One Direction movie, when so many of her friend's parents had to experience the ordeal.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Doctor Who, because of my ability to travel in time and regenerate when I am mortally wounded.

3. The greatest album, ever?

The one from our summer holidays in 1976, which was a glorious summer in the U.K. Great Polaroids and some beautiful pics from an old Kodak Instamatic. Analogue.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Yes please.

5. Your ideal brain food?


6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

It's hard to say ...

7. You want to be remembered for ...?

I'm pretty sure I will be remembered for being a terrible husband so my main hope, and this maybe connected is that I am remembered with affection by my friends and at the local pub, as a man who always got his round in.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Mainly dark-haired and seldom vegetarian.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Stonehenge, and it would have to be a very large signature too.

10. Your hidden talents ...?

Most are hidden. Can't eat P fruit -- and that may not actually be a talent ...

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

The best piece of advice I ever had was from Chris Hufford who was Slowdive's engineer, friend, and producer. He told me "you can't polish a turd" and I believe he was right ...

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

I used to steal Warhammer figures when I was a kid ... you have no idea [how] depressing it is to admit this.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or ...?

I personally am happiest in a kimono, woolly socks, and a large brandy in hand.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Leonard Cohen ... as much because I imagine he is pretty comfortable with silences.

15. Time travel: where, when, and why?

I would travel forward to that moment in my life when looking back is a positive pleasure.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?

I go for a surf.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or ...?


18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Cornwall, UK.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Wake the fuck up.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Making some music for a film that will be released next year ... thank you.

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