Hi, thanks for having me! I’m very good, slowly catching up with all the things I’d put on hold for the EP, including a couple of featurings for other producers.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Oil Fire”?
“Oil Fire” is a song about resilience, and the regaining of agency. It’s an internal monologue, of a character who’s in what seems to be an abusive relationship. But there’s also a sense that it could be a denial of the situation, in the chorus: “It’s only water/ On an oil fire”. There’s a fine line between getting over something and thinking we’re getting over something, and that’s that uncertainty I wanted to explore.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
We are all shaped by experiences and I thought it would be interesting to explore what happens to the self when it tries to heal. In fact my whole EP is exploring that theme.
How was the film experience?What made you want to record on an iPhone?
It was really, really fun, if not a little bit messy! I was on my own in my bedroom, naked and covered in clay… it also eventually involved goggles (once I learnt the hard way that acrylic paint in the eye is not cool). I actually bought the iPhone with this video in mind (mine had conveniently died soon before…). I had a vague idea of what I wanted to achieve, but I knew it would need a bit of experimenting, so I was excited to work on my own. I don’t have a camera, and I knew the iPhone lens was amazing and also allowed you to shoot at a high frame rate for slow-motion. I really want to make more videos with it.
The single comes off your new album Stigma – what’s the story behind the title?
It refers to a book written by American sociologist Erving Goffmann, that’s had a huge impact on me. He talks about the individual who’s been defined as “socially abnormal” – the disfigured, the handicapped, the homosexual, the cancer patient… They bear a stigma – which can be an attribute or a behaviour – by which the rest of society, the “normal” ones, perceive, judge and define them. It gives a very interesting framework when you look at gender. Culturally and historically, the male has been seen as “normal”, and the female as “other”. In the four tracks of the EP, I wanted to explore that idea of otherness, the experience of being female.
How was the recording and writing process?
I do everything in my bedroom – luckily I get a good quality for the recordings. Which is great because I’m a perfectionist to the point of OCD sometimes, and being in charge of the recording button for as long as I want is a luxury I’m fully enjoying!
I knew I wanted to explore a particular theme, namely the links between the self, the body, the gaze of the other, and how that’s part of the experience of being female. So it gave me a lot of guides and a frame within which to write, which is very helpful. The songs came quite naturally, sometimes I wrote the lyrics first (“Oil Fire” for example), sometimes it started with a beat (like for “The Girl You Want”).
What role does London plays in your music?
London is where I decided for the first time to take my passion seriously and to take the risk of going for it. I moved here 6 years ago and have never regretted it. There’s a certain vibe I found here that’s very exciting – I’ve met so many talented artists, discovered so much amazing music… It’s the best environment I could ever imagine for myself right now to be creative. Some of the most exciting music I’ve discovered in the past 5 years was made in London, so it definitely has an impact on my writing.
How has Sia and Thom Yorke influence your writing?
I must have been 16 when I discovered Sia – I remember hearing “Breathe Me” on the radio and being overwhelmed with the beauty of it. Her music was a big influence on me, both for her whispery, intimate singing style, the richness of her melodies and the themes she explored.
Thom Yorke has also had a key role in the shaping of my writing style. He’s been a real model to me especially when it comes to lyrics. I’m a big fan of Radiohead of course, but I’ve also loved his solo albums The Eraser and Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes – “Analyse” and “Truth Ray” are sublime. He can write the most simple lines and put so much emotions in them. I also love how cryptic his songs can be, which leaves them open to interpretation. I try to write lyrics which can be understood in several ways, depending on who listens to it.
What aspect of prejudice did you get to explore on this particular album?
Sexism is a general theme in this EP, whether it focuses on the objectification of the female body, abusive relationships… But also the freeing from it, the empowerment and resilience, the regaining of agency. It’s been a cathartic process that’s helped me on a personal level more than I could ever had imagined. I’m hoping it can do something for others too.
Any plans to hit the road?
I want to get more material ready first. But with the band we’re still planning to do a few showcases this year – our next one is on March 28th at the Victoria in Dalston, for a night called ROAR, that focuses on billing emerging female artists.
What else is happening next in HEZEN’s world?
I’ve started working on my second EP, which is going well. The theme is still a bit vague at the moment but I know it will be connected somehow to the first one.
I’ve also got some collaborations I’m really excited about in the pipeline, both as a vocalist and a producer. It’s going to be a good year!