The Suicide Notes
When did you decide that a career in music was for you?
AH: I’m not sure it was ever a conscious decision. I was given a guitar for something like my sixth or seventh birthday, and I learned to play to the point I was in bands by secondary school. I thought I’d ‘made it’, whatever that means, at about 21 or 22 with a punk band called Rocket Boy, but ultimately that fell apart and I’ve played in and out of bands since then. With the Suicide Notes, it came about when Billy was still in the Black Bullets – he and I knew each other and became friends, he knew I played guitar, and he and I were into the same stuff. One day he called me up and said ‘do you fancy writing some songs’ and we figured maybe we’d do a few acoustic pub gigs or something, and perhaps put a band together, and…here we are. I’m still not sure I ever decided to pursue a music career – stuff just happens, and it works or it doesn’t, and you – to coin a phrase – roll with the punches. So far, things seem to be working out.
BT: I don't make any money from being in a band, so technically, it's not a career at all, but it gets me out of the house.
Who are your musical inspirations and why?
AH: ‘Inspirations’ is tough, because there are hundreds. Someone like Sister Rosetta Tharpe or Woody Guthrie or Frank Turner are as ‘inspirational’ as Tom Waits or Trent Reznor, or Slash, you know? But in terms of who made me want to play guitar and play the way I do, the three most important ones are probably Jo Dog and the Dogs D’Amour, Keith and the Stones, and Izzy Stradlin in the original Guns n’ Roses line-up. Those are the guys that if someone says ‘that reminds me of…’ I’ll be pretty happy about.
BT: From a performance point of view, as a singer, I’ve always tried to be part early Rod Stewart, early Iggy Pop, a dash of Jim Morrison, a sprinkle of Taime Downe, a bit of Stiv and a dollop of Mr Timothy Taylor…sadly I’m more bargain basement Bob Cratchett.
Can you tell me 3 things about yourself that people might not already know?
AH: I guess there’s not a lot that I haven’t talked about somewhere, but in general – that I was a registered nurse, working clinically for several years in Respiratory Medicine and Trauma, and running a medical research department for about fifteen years; that in my time I’ve learned Judo, Boxing, and more recently Krav Maga; and away from the band, I’m a Director and Trustee of a Mental Health arts charity based in London and Brighton called Studio Upstairs.
BT; well, what can i say after that? I got my 50 meter swimming certificate when I was 7 and a bloody nose in my local pub, for mentioning a woman's moustache to her when I was 37. High Achievers United, we are.
AH: Wait, you got 50 meters? I only ever managed my 25, because apparently my swimming wasn’t a ‘recognisable stroke’ for the 50 meter certificate.
What song of yours best describes you and why?
AH: I’m going to leave this one for Billy to answer about both of us. He does the lyrics ;)
BT: Probably Smoke It Like A Cigarette, and especially the acoustic version, it was the first song I wrote for the band and it exemplifies the early 80’s trash rock vibe I wanted our band to capture, less Motley Crue more The Jacobites. ‘Smoke It…’ is a wine stained recollection of my days stumbling blindly through Soho at 3am with a lady on my arm, comedown included.
What has been the best gig you have done to date and why?
AH: We’ve played some pretty great gigs – HRH Sleaze for instance was one we’d always said we wanted to do, but actually, for me, I think our second ever gig, at Fat Lil’s in Witney, is the one that always stands out for me. We’d got our first “how the hell is everyone going to take us?” show (The Hope & Anchor, with Vice Squad) out of the way, thinking it’d be a quiet, easy ride to get our wings and it was fucking packed and – apparently – we were great. Then Lil’s is like a home from home for us, it’s literally up the road from my house, it was a Christmas show, we were relaxed and it was just a lot of fun, and – again – we tore it apart. That was the show that made me go “ok, this wasn’t a fluke, we’ve got something here and people like it”.
BT; I’m widely known for not believing in myself let alone our music, I think it's much more healthy for me mentally, to keep my feet firmly on the ground and remain sceptical about every performance; that's just a ME thing, but the response we have been getting consistently at shows and the feedback from promoters and listeners (I don't like the word ‘fan’) gives Alex good reason to slap me haha. As for the best live show? I'd probably say Fat Lil’s too, but when we toured with The City Kids instead, I was really vibing at that show.
If you could perform a gig at any venue where would it be and why?
AH: Can I have the old Wembley, just ‘cos history and stuff. And the ‘proper’ Marquee club on Wardour Street.
BT; Absolutely, The Original Marquee Club or The Roxy in Covent garden, and Eel Pie Island in Twickenham purely for the history.
What has been your best achievement to date and what would you like to achieve in the future?
AH: Honestly, just the fact that we’re making music we like, doing what we do, how we want to do it, and people seem to be into it. That’s the thing I think I’ve wanted to achieve since I was a teenager – making music that’s true to me, and people being into it. That’s success, on my terms, to me, not big houses and private jets.
As to what I’d like to achieve in the future, I’d like big houses and private jets, please.
BT; Biggest achievement? To get out of the other side of Covid lockdown still in one piece individually and as a band and thriving. Also, you also can't argue with big houses and private jets, mange tout Rodney, mange tout.
Tell me a story from backstage or after a gig?
AH: There’s a running joke that I look a bit like JJ from the City Kids, who – for context - used to be in the Main Grains. So after our set at Sleaze last year, we were doing a backstage interview with a fairly well known writer, who asks about the history of the band and how we all got together. So I give the standard ‘well, Billy and I…’ answer, explaining how we all knew each other and stuff, and at the end she said “and you got all the way through that without mentioning the Main Grains”. We all thought she was taking the piss, but…
BT; …haha that was funny … and then they turned up at one of our other shows on the tour in London and started to explain to Alex (thinking once again that he was JJ ) how they had confused Alex at the last interview with JJ. It was a comedy of errors that still hurts my sides today haha.
What do you like best about being a musician and why?
AH: For me, it’s two-fold. One is what I said before, about creating stuff on your own terms and then other people liking it without consciously TRYING to ‘write a hit’, and the other – which kind of comes from that – is being on stage and playing songs you wrote, and having people sing them back at you from the audience. That’s always been pretty mind-blowing, for me.
BT; I don't. I have no idea why I do this to myself. I think it's creative self-harming…as I said earlier, it gets me out of the house. The idea that people like our music is pretty alien to me …*Alex slaps Billy across the face*… What I mean to say is…the thrill of getting off stage after a hot and sweaty fulfilling packed out show means everything to me.
AH: Billy’s amazing; he spends the entire time beforehand hating absolutely everything about live music and being in a band, then gives a fucking stellar head-shot of a performance, then comes off and goes ‘that was alright, actually, wasn’t it?’. Then forgets that bit by the time of the next show. Rinse and repeat.
If you were not in the job you are now what would you be doing?
AH: I write. I gave up my ‘proper’ jobs a while ago and so aside from the band, I’ve got the Studio Upstairs stuff, but most of what I do is writing. I’ve done books, magazine articles, some formal academic research papers in journals, but most or what I do is interviews and music reviews for websites and magazines. If I wasn’t in this ‘job’, there’s a half-finished novel that it’d be really good to have time to finish one day.
BT: I'm an artist first and foremost, always have been. People know my art mostly under the moniker ‘Art Of Hellsville’, I've published six coffee table artbooks of my work over the years plus creating a few album/EP/T- Shirt/merch designs for bands (including my own) whilst throwing in years and years of portrait commission work. Art is all I know.
What has been the best gig you have been to as a fan and can you tell us about it?
I can’t pick one. I think Backyard Babies and The Wildhearts a couple of years ago has to be pretty high up there recently – the Babies were as good as always, and then the Wildhearts just came on and fucking annihilated them. Queen with Adam Lambert at Wembley a few years ago. Just ‘wow’. The Stones. But there were some others – J D McPherson with Jason Smay on drums and Jimmy Sutton on bass. Oh. My. God. Just utterly, utterly blew me away. Incredible live band.
BT; Faster Pussycat at The Underworld years ago was pretty epic, they played a bunch of Newlydeads stuff too, can't tell you that much about it because I freely admit, I was, very, very, drunk at the time. All those early 2000’s Backyard Babies shows that I can't remember were great too.
What would your ideal festival line up be and why?
AH: Us, obviously, the classic line up of the Dogs, the Quireboys, Hanoi Rocks, Johnny Thunders, Faster Pussycat, the original line up of Guns n’ Roses with Steven and Izzy, and maybe Keith, Mick, and Ronnie getting up at the end to do a few Stones numbers with us. That’d pretty much do for me.
BT: What he said, but I'd add that I’d have to wish Darrell bath, Dave Kusworth and Stiv Bators turn up, plus a set from Janis Joplin and then The Doors. I'd be happy just for Lemmy to be being peak Lemmy backstage.
What would you say is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
AH: In general – ‘regret the things you did, not the things you didn’t’. Basically, we’re all gonna make fuck-ups along the way, it’s life, but at the end of the day trying stuff and it not working out is still an experience and a learning curve and, often, a lot of fun along the way. If you don’t do stuff because you’re afraid of failure, you’ve already fucked it up, haven’t you?
BT: “Billy, that's ketamine, you don't want to do that”. He was right, too, you know.
What things make you happy and what things annoy you?
AH: Happy? The band, most of the time. Being stuck in a cold recording studio listening to a snare drum being tuned for two hours, not so much. Friends. My family. My wife. My kids. Books, music, wine, good food. Simple shit.
Annoy me? Billy will probably say that ‘most things’ annoy me, particularly pretty much every other car on the road when we’re on our way to gigs. But…I have a problem with my neck which means I’m in a lot of pain a lot of the time, and that annoys me to pieces. Then - hypocrisy, a lack of kindness, rudeness, prejudice of any kind, people being dicks to other people, narrow-mindedness, cruelty, Tories, the cognitive dissonance required to write-off almost £13 Billion of Covid handouts but vote against feeding hungry children and pay-rises for nurses because ‘there’s not enough money’ and still think you’re ‘the good guy’, people that can’t tell the difference between disagreeing with their viewpoint and disrespecting them personally, simple things not working properly, the fact that the planet’s on fire and choked up with plastic and rubbish and people seem to think that it’s enough to use a paper straw occasionally because ‘yay! for the Sea Turtles’, International banks, Brexit, my coffee machine – regularly - in the mornings. I’m 48, the list of shit that irritates me is long, man.
BT; People say to me “ Billy you're so laid back, you're almost falling over!” That annoys me. To be fair everything annoys me, except kids, they make me happy, and art. Eating annoys me, food bores me, TV is shit, my attention spans are too short to bother reading anymore, I’m a kidney transplant patient, in renal failure, so I can't drink booze like I want any more, being annoyed at everything annoys me, everything Alex has said annoys me…I mean, the list he's made of annoying things, not literally every word he says…although…
What things do you like to do when you are away from music?
AH: Pretty much the same as anyone else; being with people I love, having a laugh, frends. I like going out for drinks and – as you can tell by looking at me – I love food; at one point I was on the brink of opening a restaurant, and it all fell through because of Covid, but I still have a ton of friends in hospitality and catering and I do like good food. And wine. Definitely wine. I ride motorbikes for fun, I write, I read a lot, I love playing with my son…the usual stuff.
BT; What is this “being with people” thing of which you speak? I'm a hermit, a full time recluse. I stay indoors and make art.
Do you think social media and the internet are a good thing in the music industry?
AH: There’s a difference between being ‘important’ and being ‘a good thing’; they’re a double-edged sword. As we do this interview, there’s a big discussion going on around Spotify and whether we should all up-and-leave, but it’s not that simple; the reach of Spotify as a marketing device is huge, and for the listener, the end user, the convenience of it is enormous. It’s fantastic to be able to say ‘Alexa, play The Suicide Notes’ whilst cooking the dinner and keeping an eye on the kids, and it just happen without having to physically get the CD out, and the ability to hear new stuff through playlists that you’d otherwise never find is incredible. The internet has changed the face of the music industry, it’s allowed artists to have direct interaction with their fans which, 30 years ago, you might only have had fleetingly via, say, letters to a Fan Club or a Saturday morning TV phone in. And it’s allowed bands to market and sell directly to fans as well, and for smaller bands in particular, that’s huge. But it’s also meant that everything you do, say, or wear is out there and open to judgment, and sometimes those judgements are wrong, and that everyone feels they have access to you and can comment/argue/whatever on stuff. I don’t know a female friend that hasn’t at some point received an unsolicited dick pic via social media – why is that considered more acceptable than flashing a woman in the street? It’s not, it’s still assault, and it shouldn’t happen, but social media has made it pretty much ubiquitous. Should we all be accountable for our actions? Yes. Should we be available, accessible, and on show 24/7 for whatever people want of us, because someone’s got a phone camera and internet access? No. There’s a reason ‘private life’ has the word ‘private’ in it.
BT: If I didn’t have social media, Alex and I wouldn't have met, spoken, or formed The Suicide Notes. A lot of bands use social media as a crutch to be lazy, they sit back and think it'll solve all their PR problems for them, but it takes a lot of hard work to make social media work successfully for you as a band. I think without it, most small bands would be still just playing tours of their home town pubs, it's given them a massive new reach that's there to be used. To me it's a networking site, a portfolio to be updated and creatively used like a sketchbook. It wasn't that long ago I was still gluing handmade posters all over London and the like before our shows, running around venues frisbeeing our E.Ps at the audiences of other people's gigs. Everything’s a tool if you use it right. If you don't, well don't go attacking others who do.
How important do you think look and image is when it comes to being in the music industry?
AH: It’s important, because people identify with you, it’s tribal, but equally, this is what we look like day in day out. I might add a couple more scarves when I’m on stage, but it’s pretty much what I look like day to day anyway. Image is important, but it’s got to be real. If it’s contrived, it’s not image, it’s a costume, and then you’re The Village People, you know?
BT: I can see Alex’s point but I think those days are generally over. I don't think my crowd identifies with me because of the way I dress because no one in the crowd dresses like I dress, but they do vibe off the nostalgia from our sound. I dress off stage exactly the same as I dress on it. But it's up to you, I'm way past bothering to care about someone else's image. Yes, I loved how Hanoi or The Dogs dressed, it's my scene, but where I came from punk, skin, goth, glam, crust, reggae were all regarded as one tribe. The Sleaford Mods aren't exactly snappy dressers but, man, I love them. Do what makes you happy, forget what people think, it's the music and stage show that matters, not your threads, although I do love a good hat and scarf combo.
Can you tell us about any tattoos you have and the significance of them to you?
AH: Man, I’ve got loads. Some were for things like birthdays and stuff. Some weren’t. They’re just ink.
BT; I used to be a tattoo artist and owned my own studio, most of my stuff is done by apprentices, or after-hour lock ins at the studio, getting messy with close friends and having a laugh. I do have some symbols on my knuckles that mean a lot, my 9 year old daughter tattooed those on me. She's now 25 and owns her own tattoo studio. My wife’s tattooed me, my drunk best friend tattooed me, I've never really been interested in the perfect tattoo on my skin, I'm a capturer of moments, hazy fun memories etched into my flesh. They all represent a moment in time.
If you run the country for a day what would you change about it and why?
AH: How much detail do you want? There’s a LOT I’d change. I’d do away with First Past The Post voting and look at electoral boundaries and Proportional Representation or STV [Single Transferable Vote] to make voting fairer and to make everyone’s vote count more equitably, and then call a General Election; I’d look at the benefits system so people aren’t required to constantly prove their legs didn’t magically grow back or whatever, and I’d look at what we consider to be ‘adequate’ sustainable income levels, both in terms of benefits and in minimum/living wage amounts. I’d fire Cressida Dick, without a moment’s hesitation. I’d immediately set up an inquiry to look at the proliferation of foodbanks, and what we do about food poverty generally, probably headed by Jack Monroe; I’d look at the NHS – it’s not just about money, but about how staff are treated and who makes the decisions, medics or administrators, and we need a truckload of additional staff to make it work and to stop people burning out, but I’d put the money into it and stop selling bits of it out to private providers instead; I’d give a minimum 20% pay-rise to public services – nurses, firefighters, the guy that empties your bins, – because if Covid showed us anything it showed that they keep things running on a daily basis, and if we can afford to bail out the banks we can afford to pay our people properly; more money for education, for sure, I’ve worked in schools, I’ve seen school budgets. But essentially, in general we have a system where charities and community organizations and publicly-funded benefits are being allowed to pick up the slack so private employers can pay less to their workers; that’s not right, and that needs to be addressed right across the board.
BT: Don't get me started on politics…
What would your ideal day consist of?
AH: I pretty much live my ideal days, most of the time. Yeah, it’d be easy to say ‘waking up in a beach house in Mustique and walking on the beach sipping freshly squeezed orange juice first thing in the morning then going jet skiing’ yada yada yada, but to be fair – every day I spend time with my family and speak to my friends, I pretty much decide what I’m doing and when, I have a roof over my head and food on the table, and I get to write and make music. That’s pretty much a lot to be grateful for.
BT; Sitting in a bar on the Italian coastline, sipping chilled red wine in the sun with my gorgeous other half watching my children enjoy themselves in the sea. My ideal day always involves my kids. That's the good life that is.
AH: CHILLED red wine? Philistine.
What has been your experience during the Covid 19 situations.Can you tell us how this has affected you personally,how it has affected you professionally and maybe a story from this time or a message for people out there?
AH: I think it’s affected us the same as most bands; it canceled a load of gigs, and, for a time, made getting together to rehearse or record that much harder, let alone playing live. It put Billy and I into proper isolation at times, ‘cos of various medical conditions between us, but I think how it affected us as a band is kind of insignificant in the big picture. Personally, I think it affected us like everyone – I lost two family members and at least one other friend during Covid, none of whom I could be with when they died because of restrictions, and I am so angry about the revelations that have come out around parties and government since, while we were doing the right things. There’s something like 150,000 excess deaths because of Covid, I think we as a band got off pretty lightly. I do genuinely think that we’re on the recovery trajectory now, but other than that if you’re looking for a positive message, I don’t think there is one.
BT: I spent, I think, 260 days locked away in my single bedsit room, in a communal house full of covid-denying stoners, with no access to a garden. It was my own little piece of hell. And due to my immunosuppressed body I'm still as paranoid about playing shows as I was when the pandemic started, it's not over, it's just been brushed over and that worries me. I didn't sacrifice two years of my life avoiding getting it, just to catch it at a show where someone couldn't be arsed to be vaccinated because they think their tin foil hat will melt. But I'm in a band, playing live is what a band does. Democracy rules, I roll with the punches.
If you could say one thing to your fans what would it be and why?
AH: Hey. Thanks for being there; it’s appreciated.
BT: You're a bunch of nutters…and I love you for it x
How would you answer the question Who are The Suicide Notes and what are the differences between you as a music artist and you away from music ?
AH: Like we said before – essentially, we’re just us. We’re just playing basically what WE like, and if other people like it too then that’s great. I don’t think there’s any real difference between me as a music artist and me away from music – I might not be playing guitar 24 hours a day seven days a week, but everything I am goes into what I do musically, every record I’ve listened to influences me in some way, even if it’s only to say ‘nope, not doing that’, so – as cliched as it probably sounds – I don’t think you can separate me ‘in music’ and me ‘away from music’. Like we keep saying, we’re just us, doing stuff.
BT; With me, it's what you see is what you get. People think I have a stage persona but I don't, I do what needs to be done to get the show done, I'm the same wherever I am. An introverted mess. And as for Who are The Suicide Notes? Well...that’s for the people to decide.
What was the first record or song you purchased and why?
AH: I’d love to say it was something really really cool, but I think the first record I actually bought with my own money was a couple of those 1970’s chart covers ‘Top Of The Pops’ compilation albums with half-undressed models on the covers and no original artists. Sorry.
BT; Prince Charming Vinyl. Adam And The Ants …1980. I was 8. Still listen to it regularly.
What would say to someone thinking about becoming a musician and getting into the music industry?
AH: It’s really hard, and there will be a lot of stuff that kicks you down sometimes, but that’s the same as any industry. If you’re doing it because it’s what drives you, rather than because you want to be a ‘star’, then you have all my respect and support and anything I can do to help you then here we all are. Unless you’re a dick to people. Then you’re on your own. But basically – be honest, be true to yourself, don’t sacrifice your integrity, and be kind to people.
BT; Dont . hahaha
If you could collaborate with any other band/singer or musician who would you choose and why?
AH: Man, there’s a lot I’d pick. Can I go with me, Keith, and Izzy collaborating on a track?
BT: Can I front The Dead Boys please? Because they were sonic.
If you could have written one song from history which would it have been and why?
AH: Again..there’s too many to choose. Probably, to be honest, something like Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ or Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’
BT; I get asked this a lot and I always say ‘Maggie May’…still do.
What things make you uncomfortable?
AH: Jesus. Most things. I suffer with anxiety and depression, so at times ‘other people’ and ‘simply going outside’. I worked as a nurse for years, I’ve seen pretty much all the sticky, nasty, gooey bits of people, inside and out, I’ve been with people as they’ve died, there’s not much that physically phases me, but having to deal with people when I’m having a bad mental health say, that’s a killer. Also, again – people being shit to each other; guys trying to hit on girls that don’t want them to, homophobia, transphobia, racism, discrimination in general. I can’t not say anything, I have to stick my oar in. I’m going to get stabbed one day for it.
BT: All of the above, plus doing live interviews, being outside…just being.
If you wrote a book about yourself what would it have in it?
AH: I pretty much have – in the ‘unfinished’ novel, I’m not gonna lie; there are significant autobiographical elements to the main character. What would that be? I guess everyone had better hope I finish the book and then read it.
BT; Sadly my book would read like a poor man's The Dirt written by Charles Bukowski …or possibly Ham On Rye written by Nikki Sixx .
What has the rest of the year got in store for you?
AH: An absolute load of gigs lined up – we’re at the point now where we’re playing with people I’ve admired for 30-odd years, so that’s pretty cool in itself. Hopefully some writing and recording – we’d like to actually get a full album out this year; maybe some rehearsal, that’d be good. We seem to miss that out a LOT of the time. I dunno if it shows in our live performances. Oh, and maybe – seeing as it looks like Covid might finally let us this year – an actual honest to goodness holiday somewhere with the family. That. Would. Be. Good.
BT; Gigs, dodge Covid, time with kids, dodge Covid, record album, dodge Covid, holiday, dodge, live life, dodge, etc… Finish this interview ?