If you can fool the most heady beat head into thinking your tracks were actually dug up and dusted off from the Capitol Records vaults circa 1969, you’re doing a good job. Especially if those crooning soul bangers sound nothing like Daniel Merriweather and all like Curtis Mayfield. The effervescent Mayer Hawthorne can claim that crown with Stones Thow’s Peanut Butter Wolf being the beat head. Mayer’s ‘A Strange Arrangement’ album is a pure joy and he hits the UK in October playing Glasgow (24th October, King Tuts), Leeds (25th October, Hi Fi Club), Bristol (26th October, Metropolis) and London (27th and 29th October, Queen of Hoxton).
Dazed Digital: How do you like London?
Mayer Hawthorne: London is always off the hook. I do feel very comfortable there, except I still look the wrong way before crossing the street and I have to restrain myself from calling girls thick. (In the States it means “curvy”.)
DD: Pre-A Strange Arrangement you were doing hip hop, electronic stuff, right?
Mayer Hawthorne: Yeah, I’ve been DJing and producing hip-hop for the past 10 years or more. My soul music was just an experiment – a side project that was really just for fun, or to sample for hip-hop tracks. I never thought those songs would be heard by the public or released on a label.
DD: Ann Arbor’s musical heritage is incredible, what are the highlights for you?
Mayer Hawthorne: Ann Arbor is a great place for music because it’s very diverse, creative and open minded. Iggy Pop is pretty bad ass, but he was really before my time. I grew up a few doors down from Andrew WK. He was in my first band.
DD: How did you meet PB Wolf?
Mayer Hawthorne: I moved to Los Angeles a few years ago to pursue music full time. I met Wolf at a party and was introduced to him by a close friend who had heard my soul demos. I was still totally focused on hip-hop at the time though. I had never even thought about recording a full album of soul music until Wolf asked me to.
DD: Who are your favourite vocalists?
Mayer Hawthorne: Curtis Mayfield is up there. He sings with so much feeling, it’s so unmistakably genuine. I love Frank Sinatra too and I think Freddie Mercury is one of the all time greatest. Those guys could sing ‘Hava Nagila’ through a tin-can and it would still sound like a million bucks.
DD: Is it all about love or lust?
Mayer Hawthorne: Love makes the world go ‘round but lust sells more records.
DD: Your top 5 greatest lovers?
Mayer Hawthorne: Barry White, Isaac Hayes, Serge Gainsbourg, Madonna and Pepé Le Pew.