Last week’s gig at Ibiza Rocks was an important one for the island. Every year a classic crowd-pleasing band is booked at the venue, and, this year, it was the return of Madness, who played there back in 2011, with support from Hollie Cook. Everybody has heard of and likes Madness and I’m no exception, but I’d never seen them play live before, so I was excited at the prospect. Even more exciting for me was the recent announcement that Hollie Cook would be supporting them. At the end of each season, staff and regulars at Ibiza Rocks are invited to be photographed with a ‘wish-board’ on which they write who they want to see play next year. In 2012, I wrote Hollie Cook on my wish-board. It didn’t happen in 2013, but it did in 2014, so I was obviously pleased with the booking. I thought her summery, happy, reggae music would sound perfect on a warm summer Ibizan evening as the sun went down.
I first encountered Hollie playing keys and singing with the reformed Slits, back in 2009 in London, and I was blown away by her amazing voice. Another great Slits gig later and a performance with The Rotten Hill Gang (supporting Big Audio Dynamite), and I was hooked, so when I saw that she’d gone solo, I bought her album and went to see her play at the Barfly in Camden and then, a few months later, at the wonderful intimate venue that is The Lexington. I moved to Ibiza in 2012 and I haven’t had the opportunity to see her play live since then. In the time since I last saw her, she’s supported The Stone Roses at one of their Heaton Park gigs and played countless other gigs and festivals and also recorded and released her second album ‘Twice’. She’s definitely more confident on stage now as a result, and has a great rapport on stage with the General Roots band that have been touring with her over the last few months.
She’s a bundle of talent, and it must be in her genes, being the daughter of The Sex Pistol’s drummer Paul Cook and one of Culture Club’s singers Jeni Cook. Proud mum was in the audience watching and giving support, but dad was absent, even though he was apparently spotted in DC10 a few days earlier. She gained her live experience on the road with The Slits and has bags of style and attitude to go with her sweet voice of an angel. She describes her music as ‘tropical pop’, and that’s what it is, with a large vein of reggae running through it.
Opening up with ‘Ari Up’, her tribute to The Slits singer who passed away suddenly from cancer in 2010, she played a mix of songs from her two albums, including singles ‘Body Beat’, ‘Walking In The Sand’, ‘That Very Night’, and the latest single ‘Postman’, which coincidentally was released this week. She also played ‘Cry’ a personal favourite of mine, her song which also appeared on The Slit’s final album ‘Trapped Animal’ as ‘Cry Baby’ (see the link to a video of this at the end of the article).
I was somewhat disappointed that many people didn’t arrive at the venue until later, missing most of her set! She deserved a bigger crowd to play to than she had, but it was their loss. She put on a great show and her music was perfect for a hot, Ibizan August evening. I did, however, manage to interview Hollie after her set which you can read elsewhere in the paper. By the time that we had finished our illuminating chat and I had got back into the venue, Madness were already on stage and I had missed the first few numbers.
By then the venue was packed and it was hard to grab a space to see them. Half the island had come out to see them play: parents, teenagers, Uncle Tom Cobley and all. With ten albums under their belt, Madness have a vast repertoire of material to draw on, and we were treated to many of their big hits, including ‘My Girl’, ‘House of Fun’ and crowd-pleaser ‘One Step Beyond’, plus some more lesser-known ska/reggae numbers over the course of the hour or so that they were onstage for. Songs were interspersed with true-to-form humorous banter from Suggs. A highlight for me was the guitarist doing a rendition of The Beastie Boys ‘Fight for your right’, whilst the rest of the band went off for a brief break. The crowd happily got what they wanted and danced and sang along. A noticeable absence on the stage however was Ibizan resident Chas Smash, and I for one missed his larger-than-life presence – the stage seemed a little empty without him. There was nothing wrong with the performance that Madness gave, but there seemed to be a little spark or something missing, but then I’d already been granted my wish earlier in the evening. Their magic wand did not work on me.
They ended appropriately with ‘Madness’, followed by a solitary Suggs on the stage singing along to Monty Python’s ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ before he disappeared off the stage and up the stairs. And another classic gig at Ibiza Rocks came to a close as everybody dispersed from the venue into the night to wherever they were going.
Hollie Cook, ‘Cry’:
Interview with Hollie Cook
Hollie Cook supported Madness at Ibiza Rocks last week and I caught up with her afterwards. She’s a talented singer-songwriter in her own right, blessed perhaps by the musical genes she inherited from her parents: she’s the daughter of Paul Cook who was the drummer in The Sex Pistols and Jeni Cook who was a singer in and a founding member of Culture Club. She first came to my attention when I saw her singing and playing keyboards with the reformed Slits in 2009. They disbanded after the premature death of singer Ari Up, from cancer, in 2010. After that, she concentrated on her solo career, releasing her first reggae-influenced album in 2012, simply titled ‘Hollie Cook’. Earlier this year, she released her second album ‘Twice’ and has spent much of the summer playing gigs and festivals. Her latest single from the album ‘Postman’ has been getting airplay in the UK and she has recently done sessions for Jo Whiley on BBC Radio 2 and Robert Elms on BBC London.
Things seem to be going well for Hollie, so I wanted to know if she craves fame and fortune, did she think it was inevitable with her musical roots that she’d end up as a musician, plus I couldn’t resist asking her about having a Sex Pistol for a dad.
Claire B: One of the reasons I wanted to interview you was because at the end of each season at Ibiza Rocks, the staff and the regulars are asked to make a wish-board and we write on it who we want to see play next year and are photographed with it, and in 2012 you were on my wish-board.
Really? Oh, thank you.
Claire B: Well, I didn’t get you last year, I had to wait a year.
It was really last minute actually, so it worked out well.
Claire B: So how did it feel for you to be invited to play at Mallorca and Ibiza Rocks?
Bloody great, really exciting, because I’ve heard so much about the event but I’ve never been. I’ve been to Ibiza before, but a long, long time ago, back in my teenage years, so, yes being able to play here has been really fun and brilliant. The band are all excited as well. We’re going to have a proper night out. One night only in Ibiza.
Claire B: Are you going to go to Pikes for the after party?
Yeah, I think so, I don’t even know …
Claire B: It’s brilliant. It’s the place to be.
Is it near? Where is it?
Claire B: It’s just outside town on the hills, but I’m sure they’ll take you there.
Claire B: It’s fantastic, it’s like a house party. I’m going, it’s the place to go.
Yeah? OK, cool, that sounds wonderful.
Claire B: So you’ve been to Ibiza before, but I guess that was just on holiday?
Yeah, a school friend of mine had a villa here so we came for about three years in a row when we were youngsters.
Claire B: I’m going to have to ask you about your dad because the Sex Pistols have had a great influence on my life. When were you first aware of the impact of The Sex Pistols and that your dad was a member of the band?
I was very aware from a very young age really. Probably from about 6 or 7 was when I really knew like, when I’d heard the album and I knew that it was daddy playing drums, but I sort of really realised the real, kind of magnitude and impact of their presence in about 1996 when they had their first comeback tour and I was 10, and so I got to see them, they played at Finsbury Park in London …
Claire B: I was there.
Were you? There you go, so yeah, I remember seeing all the people going mental and going “ahh, OK”, so that was in my early childhood, but I’ve always been pretty aware of what was going on. I used to be embarrassed to tell my teachers what my dad did, you know when your teachers ask you “what do your mummy and daddy do?” and I was always really embarrassed to say “my dad was in The Sex Pistols”.
Claire B: Why were you embarrassed?
I don’t know, I don’t know, I think erm, I think it was just you know, you think of teachers as being conservative and I was obviously like aware of how outrageous it was, so…
Claire B: Do you think it was inevitable that you would end up in the music industry with both of your parents being involved in music?
Yeah, I think so. It was kind of always quite clear to me what I was going to, what I wanted to do anyway. Even from a young age, I was always showing off and doing a little sing and dance for whoever would watch, if my mum and dad had friends over or something, I would always want to put on a little show. I loved dancing when I was a kid, I did ballet and tap and all of that stuff and got into music, got into singing. I wanted to be in a band from the age of about 11 or 12. I wanted to play bass originally but that was sort of where it started, but I always felt much more comfortable singing for some reason. It was, yeah.
Claire B: Did you actually learn to play bass?
Yeah, I did. I learnt to play a lot of instruments but singing was always what really held my attention and what I think I’m probably best at.
Claire B: And how do your parents feel about you going into the music industry? Are they supportive?
They’re really supportive but I think that they understand, they empathise and in an ideal world I’m sure they would have loved it if I was a rich successful lawyer or something, but at the same time, we all have something to relate to with each other, so yeah, they’re really great, they’ve always been really supportive.
Claire B: And have they given you lots of advice about the pitfalls and everything?
Yeah, exactly, that’s the thing, they’ve made me aware from a young age, without being cynical about it, that if it’s what I wanted to do, it’s not necessarily a reliable career choice or anything like that and that the music industry can be a fickle, unfair, cruel place at times. So, I’ve always had that in the back of my mind, which has been really helpful and kept me level-headed.
Claire B: So it’s kind of grounded you in a way …
Claire B: And you’ve got Boy George and Steve Jones as godparents. Do they give you any advice on how to survive in the industry?
No, they kind of leave that one. I chat to Steve about it, which is you know, he’s always interested and asking what is going on and this that and the other, but you know, it’s again, it’s just support really and encouragement, which is cool.
Claire B: How did you get involved with The Slits?
I guess it was sort of the family connection really. My dad, my mum and dad, have known The Slits and Ari Up and Tessa for a hundred years or whatever, so… I grew up with Tessa Pollitt the bassist’s daughter, because we were all about the same age and I always knew who Ari was and I heard The Slits when I was about 10 and thought they were amazing. And then in about 2005 Ari wanted to put The Slits back together and she just wanted to record a new record and have all of her friend’s daughters singing backing vocals so she called me. She lived in Jamaica and she’d just show up every now and again through the years in my life, and this one time she showed up and she wanted me to come to the studio and sing, which I did, I must have been about 18 or 19, and then after that she was like we’re going to play some shows, you should come and sing backing vocals live and from there I got more and more involved and…
Claire B: But that wasn’t the first band you were in was it?
Kind of. I’d been in bands with friends from school and stuff like that and I was actually at Music College when I joined The Slits and then I left school to be a full-time musician.
Claire B: You ran away with The Slits?
Yeah, literally, I absolutely did.
Claire B: Fantastic. Do you think that the death of Ari and the end of The Slits was instrumental in you going solo?
Yeah, for sure. I had already been sort of like pursuing the project a little bit, but I was happy being in a band and having a small side project. But then when Ari passed away, I, I literally had to play music. I was about half way through making an album at that point, and it was really like cathartic and therapeutic and it was the only way to get through the grief really, and I knew that that’s what she would have wanted me to do as well, so it was just, well, it was just a really necessary thing.
Claire B: So that was your first album then was it, you were already half way through it at the time?
Yeah, but then I sort of gave it everything after that, and just fully went for it, not really expecting it to go as well as it did, so that was cool.
Claire B: You describe your music as “tropical pop”? What are your influences musically?
They really vary you know. I listen to a lot of music. I love female singers really, I loved Diana Ross and Dusty Springfield and girl groups like The Ronettes and The Shangrilas, and I loved the Beach Boys and Bow Wow Wow and The Modettes and Dennis Brown, just kind of a little bit of everything really.
Claire B: So it’s kind of a lot of old stuff. Was it the kind of music that your parents were playing that you picked up on?
Claire B: Who are you listening to at the moment?
Ahh, that’s a good question. I really like Little Dragon and St. Vincent and Warpaint. Again it’s all female fronted stuff. I love females, you know, so.
Claire B: You seem to be playing a lot of gigs in France and have quite a large fan base there? Have you any idea why that is?
They’ve got excellent taste [laughs]… that’s all I can think of, I don’t know, I have no idea. They’re just very open, I think that the way music is, I was going to say marketed but I think it’s almost the opposite, there’s not necessarily, music isn’t marketed at all, anything goes as mainstream there you know, and I think that reggae has got a lot more of a following out there, because it gets played on the radio more. I don’t think it’s seen so much as a niche genre, it’s just really popular. I can’t complain, I love it in France.
Claire B: What’s the largest crowd you’ve played to so far?
I supported The Stone Roses at Heaton Park a couple of years ago, and even through we played first and it wasn’t full, there were still about 20,000 people there, so yeah, that was pretty big.
Claire B: And you’ve got a new single out this week?
Yeah, Postman is out this week. The album is out as well at the moment.
Claire B: How is the album doing, how is it selling?
I don’t know. I don’t really pay attention to that side, I don’t try and focus on that stuff so much. I don’t really know what album sales even mean any more, but it’s been responded to really well, it’s been very positive and I got to number 5 in the Reggae Billboard Chart in America, so that was good.
Claire B: In America? Not in the UK.
Claire B: That leads nicely to my next question then. Do you want to get really successful and would you like to have celebrity status or are you content to be able to do what you’re doing and make a comfortable living out of it?
I would love to make a comfortable living doing what I do. I don’t necessarily crave limelight and celebrity status. In fact that really scares me. If I can make a living and continue to make music and tour, then that would be perfect, that would be ideal. Even if I don’t make a living I’ll probably still do it anyway.
Claire B: So where and when is your next gig?
I’m in Holland at the weekend and then that’s it for the summer. After that in September I go to Germany and Italy and I’m off to the States again in October.
Claire B: So are you going to get chance to see any of Ibiza while you’re here?
Yeah, we’re going to hang out tonight, we’ll see you at the party later I’m sure and then we’ve got all day tomorrow.
Claire B: That’s nice.
Yeah, and we’re leaving early on Friday morning so we’ve got a whole day to just chill.
Claire B: Well, that’s it, that’s all I wanted to ask you, thanks ever so much.
No worries, nice one.
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