Charting Pop's Future With Hannah Diamond
Hannah Diamond continues to shine brightly.
The London based future-pop auteur ended 2019 on a high, sharing her debut album 'Reflections' with her army of fans.
Coming to the fore as part of the creative nexus that surrounded PC Music, it's been a long road for Hannah Diamond, whose startling single 'Pink And Blue' went viral five years ago.
Everything about the aesthete's output is comprehensively thought out - from choice of collaborators, arrangement, imagery, and more - and this applies to her live shows, too.
Playing a sold out show at South London den of illicit behaviour Fire in the weeks before Christmas, Clash sneaked backstage for a frank conversation with Hannah Diamond.
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There’s an old saying that an artist has their entire life to work on their debut album. With that in mind, what’s the meaning of the name ‘Reflections’?
The album is named after the track 'Reflections' on my album. For me it’s the most important track as I feel it really summarises the sentiment of the whole album and for me really contextualises every other song. It’s about having this image in your head about who you are based on someone else’s opinion of your worth. And slowly starting to realise that the picture you have of yourself is wrong.
That the relationship was a mirror that magnified the ways in which you weren’t compatible with that person and that you are perfect just the way you are. It’s about getting over someone and learning to transfer the love you had for them back onto your self.
You first gained attention as part of the PC Music coterie, how do you approach that term now?
For me, things with PC music have changed quite a lot since 2013. There was a period of time where we all felt super connected and were all living in the same city. Meeting up, hanging out going to parties together. Everything was less official and we were all in the same place. These days, things are transitioning to becoming more official in label terms and everyone has grown up and become more independent. Most of us live in different cities, I’m still super good friends with everyone there’s just more distance between us now.
At times, the press suggested you were merely an avatar, or a front for male producers. That kind of attitude is appalling – how did it feel to be on the receiving end?
It was really frustrating for me, and I think had more of an impact on my self-esteem than I realised at the time. On the one hand its like great that you must think this is so good that it couldn’t have possibly come from me. But also what is it about me or my appearance, or what I’m doing (because at the time no one really knew much about me at all) that makes me seem like I’m incapable?
It really sucked cos a lot of the think pieces were written from a feminist perspective, but no one reached out to me to ask about my process and some that did have their own agenda and bypassed/twisted what I said to fit that. And that really took away my agency. I still sometimes feel like I have to prove myself.
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It’s been over five years since ‘Pink And Blue’ went viral. Why does an album feel right for you at this time, and what makes 2019 the best opportunity to release it?
Sometimes I’m sad that it took so long for me to release my album because it did take a long time. But when I listen to it and I take a step back and look at what I made, including all the artworks, images, graphics, videos. I think no one will ever fully understand how much work and time I put into it other than me. And I’m so happy I took my time because it’s the best body of work I’ve ever made and the closest I’ve ever been to fully realising something I wanted to communicate. And somehow I made all of this when I was having a really tough time in my personal life.
I went through so much between 2016-2018, and 2019 I was coming out the other side and feeling so creative and powerful enough to finish everything off but also enough to feel able to get out on stage and start performing the album as well.
You work with different producers and collaborators on the record, how do you pick this cast? Do you have any tips on who you let into your life and art?
I’m still definitely learning about this, especially since now like I was saying earlier my main collaborators are all over the world. But I think at the start you should try things out, work with lots of friends, people you know who’s stuff you like and see what works and what fits. Then when you’ve worked that part out, if you’ve found someone or people that you really connect with on a creative level and personal level sometimes too is super important. Stick with them, look out for them support each other. For me it’s really important for me to have personal connections with the people I work with, it means I can be my self unashamedly and make my best work without feeling judged or inadequate.
Seemingly you have a ‘Diamond Dictionary’ to aid with lyrics. What started this? How does it work in practice?
It used to be a spreadsheet, now it’s a Harddrive. It used to be words/snippets phrases I liked that I’d read or heard that might be useful. Now its a harddrive of concepts and poems / half-written songs. When I go into a session I have this bank of stuff I’ve been thinking about and working on, and I have a sort of photographic memory of it at this point so if I’m with a producer and we are writing something that makes me feel a certain way or reminds me of something I can pull it out and work from that. Or sometimes they can be the starting point of a session, where we write music to my concept.
There have always been elements of trance in your work – how key is club culture to the way ‘Reflections’ was written and made?
I love trance, I have done ever since I was a kid. I think it’s so ingrained into me that I can’t even tell how it did influence how Reflections came to existence. But definitely the thing I love most about trance is that it can be both super sad and super euphoric at the same time. To the point where that contrast of those two things together makes you able to recognise and relate to them even more. And feel them on a much deeper level.
You have such a distinct visual identity. Does the way you approach visuals –from press shots to videos – inform the way you make music?
A lot of the time ideas I’m working on visually cross over into my lyric writing and vice versa. I think I’m actually always just working on one project. I sometimes feel like I’m more of an audiovisual artist than a music artist because I couldn’t do one without the other. My work would never feel finished.
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‘Love Goes On’ was a bold single, what inspired it?
A.G sent me a demo for love goes on with him singing a super rough chorus and some parts of the melody. I think he wrote it when he was really ill with the flu, cos the lyrics even though there wasn’t really any solid ones sort of sounded like “lonely and sick and alone”.
I feel like 'Love Goes On' is really a mash-up of mine and A.G’s different experiences. We got in the studio and wrote it more solidly together and I think we each have our own meaning and attachment to it. I know it’s his favourite track on the album too. For me the verses are especially about that like helplessness feeling you have where you know you just have to surrender to something you wish wasn’t happening - like a relationship isn’t not working, there’s nothing you can do, you know you can’t change the way things are and you’ve tried.
So you're just like lying in bed staring at the ceiling telling urself it’s gonna be ok, I’ll find the right person one day.
'Invisible' feels like a real breakthrough, can you talk about what lay behind it?
'Invisible' is about seeing the person you like with someone else and feeling heartbroken in the club and staying in every night to avoid that situation again. It was originally written about the memory of that feeling but after I recorded it - maybe a manifestation I shouldn’t have done - it happened again!
For a long time I felt like I wasn’t good enough and I really had to work at being ok on my own again. I tucked my self away and became invisible and worked so hard on my album and all the visual work. Ironically I wrote it with my ex - looking back now it’s like we knew there was a time limit on us and it was a premonition of what could happen.
Writing this song was the most fun I had writing any song on the album though, we wanted to write a really sad pop banger it took us a while to really nail it because it did start out as quite a funny silly melody that was just so so catchy, it had to become more melancholy to feel like me.
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‘Make Believe’ is a phenomenal way to end the album, can you tell us about that song?
'Make Believe' is about the feeling of being in love with someone and how good that can make you feel when you’re falling in love. For me, it’s also kind of a Christmas song/winter anthem. I wanted to end on it because I felt like it’s a reminder of how good that feeling is and after my break up for ages I think I forgot or maybe didn’t want to feel it again.
I think it’s also good to manifest stuff, so if you treat the album as a timeline, you journey through breakup learning to like your self for who you are again, learning to be ok on your own and then finding love again after that.
You played live in London recently, how was it? Is there a difference in your mind between the studio process and performance? What happens when your music reaches that live space?
I love performing live, my London shows at the end of last year were so special. It’s hard for me though, I still doubt my self a lot and having to be up on stage and physically sing and be present and look people in the eyes as you are singing about things that happened to you and your most intimate thoughts and feelings from the last two years are really daunting.
Sometimes when I’m up on stage I realise how gutsy I must be. Because I can’t believe I’m doing it. Moments like 'Never Again' - that was a lot harder for me to perform than I thought it would be, but everyone started signing with me so loud! It was crazy, I didn’t know that everyone loved that song.
Moments like that are so so special because I can see that all of these people relate to this thing I felt. I think a lot of my fans are really similar kinds of people to me.
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Hannah Diamond's album 'Reflections' is out now.
Photo Credit: Rachel Lipsitz
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