A Year in Music – Zoë Howe (Author)
by Killian Laher
Find out more about Zoë Howe here.
Let’s begin with 2019. What music/albums have you enjoyed most this year?
Well, I tend to listen to a lot of music from ‘before my time’*, although I must say hosting the The Other Woman Show on Soho Radio does force me out of my bubble and I discover a lot of great contemporary music that way – I’m always grateful for that. I love Jane Weaver, for example, and artists like Vanishing Twin, Nadine Shah. Generally, I’m in my happy place listening to anything from the Boswell Sisters to Dr John, I love Latin artists like Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz and Joe Cuba, and have done since I was a kid, I love Son Of Dave, I’m still excited by what Depeche Mode are doing, I love Talk Talk and listen to them a lot, which is even more poignant now with the loss of Mark Hollis. There’s still so much to discover from the last century of music I don’t know how I’ll ever catch up.
*I hate that phrase ‘before your time’, by the way, and I get it levelled at me a lot but to me music and art transcend time, space and gender, there is no ‘before our time’! Does the record work? Can I hear it now? Great. Sounds like perfect timing to me.
Do you think this decade has been good for music? What are your highlights?
Yes, I think so, there’s always excellent stuff to be found! I spent a lot of the mid-Tens listening to Icelandic and Nordic music, as I was, for a few years, the editor of IcelandMusic.is so I loved listening to and seeing artists like Ghostigital (feat. former Sugarcube Einar Örn) and Pétur Ben, who has that slightly dark, Jim Reid quality to his voice and is an incredible songwriter and arranger, and it was in Iceland that I saw Sinead O’Connor perform an extremely moving solo set at the Frikirkjan, I’ll never forget it. Other highlights include Ye Nuns, Mariam The Believer (her shows are like a religious experience), The Cure and Zamrock legends WITCH (We Intend To Cause Havoc), a joyous performance and the music was just fantastic. I also love the Country Teasers.
Is streaming taking over from owning music completely?
I’m not an expert on this, but just speaking from my own experience and considering the people I know, I would say definitely not. While streaming is convenient and great for discovery, there is thankfully still a hunger for the tangible and permanent, superior sound quality and, most importantly, a product that does not cheat the artist.
Anything really big for you musically that ten years ago, you had no interest in?
I definitely listen to more contemporary pop now than I did then. I love MUNA, and Sigrid, for example: her sound has got a bit of that 80s pop magic, and she has this magnetic, joyful, childlike confidence which is irresistible. Seeing the emotional impact she had on a Glastonbury audience (and me) gave me hope in the power of pop! I’m still consistent in my shunning of R*bbie W*lliams though.
Is music as important for you as it was ten years ago?
Yes, I can’t imagine it every dwindling in importance, only growing!
How are things yourself, have you any interesting projects going on?
I’ve spent this year mostly promoting Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story which I co-created with Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell, published by Omnibus a few months ago. (There’s a patreon launching to help fund our film Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché too, by the way!). Radio-wise, as well as being one of the regular hosts of Soho Radio’s The Other Woman Show and co-hosting the marvellous Steven Hastings’ Harbour Bazaar on Ship Full Of Bombs, I’ve just launched a new esoterically-themed series on Soho Radio’s Culture Channel called The Witching Hour (once a month on a Friday at midnight, from 29th November) – my first guest is the Queen of literary noir, Cathi Unsworth. Lots of witchy fun, a little late-night walk between the worlds on the wireless… It also ties in with a new book project, but I can’t reveal much more on that yet!
I’m also working towards a travelling exhibition inspired by the lyrics of Ian Dury called ‘All Kinds Of Naughty’ – it’s a group show with the Thames Group of Artists and will feature contributions from Ian’s widow Sophy Tilson, Humphrey Ocean, biographer Will Birch, Tad Blower (who created the animations in Julien Temple’s Dr Feelgood documentary Oil City Confidential), Dean Chalkley, Ciaran O’Shea (The Horrors designer) and many others. We’re opening at Stash Gallery (part of Sophie Parkin’s club Vout-O-Reenee’s) on March 27th 2020, to mark the twenty year anniversary of Dury’s passing. More details can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/all-kinds-of-naughty/all-kinds-of-naughty / https://www.thamesgroupartists.co.uk.
I have a special place in my heart for Ian Dury and the Blockheads for lots of reasons, not least because my husband Dylan (Howe) was the drummer in the band for about 13 years, and for the final few years of Ian’s amazing life. Ian loved Dylan and the feeling was mutual! I also spent many happy nights dancing in the wings on Blockheads tours. Musically and as individuals, there’s just no one like them. So there’s a nice circular quality to doing this exhibition now, it means a lot to be part of it.
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