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Interview with Dominie Hooper

30.07.21 | The HopBarn Studio

Tell me a little bit more about yourself, who are you and why are you here at The HopBarn?


My name is Dominie Hooper and I am a musician and this year, I have been working on my solo project. I’ve been doing a lot of collaborative stuff over the years and I guess hmm during the pandemic I’ve kind of focus in on what I want to do a bit more which is my own project and so at the moment, I’m being mentored by English Folk Expo which is an organisation based in Manchester and they run this artist mentoring programme. I got on to that last October, so what I’m doing right now is sort of preparing for the gigs that I’m getting through that. So it’s sort of like launching this project, I’ve given myself the kick up the bum.


So I’ve brought with me, my friend and long time collaborator Mikey Kenny, who is an amazing Liverpudlian fiddle player, hmm he is just an incredible artist in his own right. He plays a lot of English and Irish fiddle tunes and a lot of Lancashire tunes, he does a lot of research into Lancashire traditional music and he also writes tunes. He’s got a few albums and he’s worth checking out. He’s amazing and it’s a joy to work with him. But we worked together in another project called band of burns which is a big twelve piece folk ensemble. I also have Phil Self who is a new addition to this project but a very exciting one. He’s a sort of multi-talented, multi- instrumentalist, hmm, lovely singer. He’s in a band called Cocos Lovers who is very lovely and worth checking out as well. And also we have Sam Pert who is a drummer and also very multiskilled but predominantly drumming this week. And yeah, we are sort of working on my songs and compositions and kind of exploring what they can be with this group and developing the arrangements and sort of settling on a sort of collection to share.





No no, it was all the same except one person has changed, we had Adam Betty as well before but he couldn’t do it this time..



 I’ve been singing since I was a kid and my stepdad like taught me my first few chords on the guitar. I think I probably started like writing and making up songs in my teens but yeah but my dad says I used to make up songs all the time when I was a little kid…I kind of like move away from it a little bit in my 20s I think but I’ve always kind of like written songs sporadically but never really put a lot of energy into it or not wanting to properly push it or do anything with it. I’ve sort of like tried a little bit over the years but this is the first time I’ve really decided to sort of launch something and go for it and make an album.


HHmm..Like really pathetic song..


                                A & D : *laugh out loud*


like really want to stop writing things like that..*laugh out loud* …no ..I also write, I write a lot about hmm …so I grew up in Dartmore, Devon and I feel like a lot of my metaphors are nature based and like there’s a lot of nature imagery in my words.


Well, I find that quite hard to hmm theatre? Where that bio is? *laughing*



                            A & D : *laugh out loud*




*giggle* that’s nice, hmm yeah..well I used to do a lot of theatre stuff and I trained in physical theatre at Circomedia in Bristol hmm and around that time I also did a lot of song theatre so I suppose..




It’s pretty out there, it’s kind of like song cycles, kind of an immersive, like somewhere between theatre and live gig I suppose, but it’s not gig theatre.



maybe sometimes, it’s like one of those genres I suppose, it was only very vaguely a genre, it was such a broad one but hmm I worked a lot with composer called...... he makes this shows that’s quite avante garde immersive show, so I suppose, I’ve taken a little bit of that stuff into what I do hmm I yeah.. when I was here last time, we were very much just exploring what we can do with recording so it was about textures and atmosphere hmm but yeah, I..the theatrical side of it is, I suppose I come from like the circus physical theatre background so when I think of theatre, I think of it in a broad way.


I think it’s been incredibly exposing. With music and theatre as well, I’m still coming out of being a session musician sort of headspace, just trying to get everything right and now it’s a lot more like express myself, find myself and not be afraid to share it. I needed to do this week to get ready to get on a stage because the whole project feels so embryonic, even talking about it feels a bit weird, it’s like too soon. I’ve been really like holding back from talking about it to anyone really. 



That’s the thing, I think that is something that I’ve brought from my theatre experience is that, you don’t really get that many musicians that do this because, for one thing it costs money. I think so much of the time, musicians are just kind of begging, stealing, borrowing hours of each other to rehearse and very rarely pay each other to rehearse. That’s something I really got from theatre is the benefit of everyone being in a place together for a week or more and staying there, being paid and just the level of commitment is so much more obviously and you get that thing where you start to gel in a way where you can’t if you are just meeting up here and there.


It really does.



*giggle* I just want to do this every few months, I feel like it’s a really important thing to do. And it feels like it’s something that I’ve set out on this journey and there’s a certain things that I want to do in a certain way and one of those things is rehearsing like this, having creative time as a group away. And I just love collaborating so, I think I felt like it’s been a bit of a failure before because I was not kind of being the lead artist enough and I was relying on other people but I really sort of switch that around recently and I feel like that’s just a good thing to know about myself, I love collaborating and I love working like that. I love watching collaborations, it’s what I enjoy watching, it’s what I enjoy being part of. I feel like this is something that I’ve discovered and what definitely works for me.



It’s going to be in Manchester, at Home, where there is a temporary stage Homeground and also Manchester folk festival is doing a weekend takeover next weekend and I’m doing two sets there. 


Tell me a little bit more about the musicians you have brought into the space, who are they and what instruments do they play?



So this 2nd week, is actually a continuation of the 1st week that you were here..



The musicians were all different?


Let’s talk about songwriting.. how did you start writing songs?





What do you write about when you write songs?



In your biography, it says that you are quite theatrical as well in the way you perform and in your songs as well? Hmm what kind of theatrical element is it?


It’s on your website..




I kind of wonder if it’s theatrical or atmospheric? Because when I heard your music the first time in that 1st week, for me it was more ambient, atmospheric, entering this almost dream world. I wouldn’t say it’s theatrical because theatrical tends to lend itself to drama, to over the top gestures and so on but actually you are very subtle, there’s an introvert kind of quality but then out of that introvertness, it seems to invite people to enter and they do not want to leave. It’s got that beautiful quality about it.



What are song theatres? 



Would it be crossing over to performance art maybe? 



Does it make a difference that you are living together. When you are not in the working space, you are still together in the chilling space and enjoying each other’s company, you get to know each other so well and not many groups have that luxury of being able to live together.



It shows doesn’t it in the results..



And there’s something beautiful for example like you are working on this collaboration with these set of musicians and maybe five years down the line, you do it again and then ten years, you do it again and you see how everyone has evolved and grown older together. That’s also an interesting one to explore..



Where’s your first gig going to be, or the launch of this project?


Thank you very much for your time, especially as you have had such an intensive week and still having packing up to do tonight before you leave us tomorrow. That sounds amazing and I hope the shows go well and very much looking forward to have you back here again at The HopBarn.

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