Jehnny Beth on how Henry Rollins helped her deal with the brutality of the business this year
Savages have ploughed a year rich in acclaim and credibility, with an audacious band manifesto heralding their “self-affirming voice”, a debut album – Silence Yourself – universally applauded by anyone who cared to listen, and consistently killer live shows that are truly transmogrifying. Jumping off from post-punk, their sound is alchemical, with Fay Milton's urgent drumming pitted against Jehnny Beth's subterranean howl while Ayse Hassan and Gemma Thompson's guitars frantically slice up the air. The four-piece are so airtight that it would seem nothing could prise them open – so as they prepare to hang up their weapons for a well-earned rest, Jehnny Beth to reflects on her trying yet exhilarating year.
“Touring as intensely as we did in 2013 was an amazing experience but it was also very tiring. It came to a point where I had to face my limits. I lost my voice and was feeling physically very weak. We've learned from these experiences to be more involved in the initial booking of the tour. Now that we know more about what it takes, it's easier to plan in advance. It's always a shame when you see musicians all weak, walking wounded. Having to cancel a few dates last minute is never an ideal scenario for anybody...
It's very important to manufacture the right environment to keep feeling inspired and be creative as a band, especially on the road. Having the right support is a huge part of it. I am always happy when Johnny Hostile comes on tour with us. His energy and influence on the band is very positive. We were lucky to have him and Duke Garwood playing with us alternatively, as well as together, for most of the American and European tours this year.
One day in America, we stopped in Omaha to record a cover of "Dream Baby Dream" by Suicide for a new film by Tristan Patterson. It was a suggestion from Johnny Hostile and we were so happy to do something creative again while on the road. We finished the mixing in Seattle a few days later.
“There's nothing really I would have done differently because it would mean having regrets and I have none, but as Henry Rollins says, 'the business I'm in is brutal'”
Another highlight for me was when we organised the event in memory of the Australian guitarist and songwriter Rowland S. Howard at the BFI in London with Australian duo HTRK. We screened the documentary about his life Autoluminescent directed by Richard Lowenstein and Lynn-Maree Milburn. It was very moving, I think Rowland would have loved it.
There's nothing really I would have done differently because it would mean having regrets and I have none, but as Henry Rollins says, 'the business I'm in is brutal.' It isn't a secret to anybody that there are still a lot of things going wrong in this industry, artists often being the first to suffer the consequences. I saw a bunch of weird stuff other the year, things I wish I could have really done something about. I guess I will carry on trying my best to make sure everything keeps improving. Making mistakes is unavoidable, it's just the way we try not to repeat them that is important.
I don't feel more pressure now but I do feel physically very exhausted. I certainly don't feel any stronger; I think touring has the effect of draining you and I think actually now all of us would probably say we need to regroup and gather our strength again; being at home is definitely the best place for that.”