Interview with Hannah Blilie


Gossip is one of those bands that had me at “Hello.”

One of my best friends from college once made me a mix CD that included their music and said, “Check out this chick’s vocals, you’ll love it.” We were listening to the song “Jason’s Basement” in my car and, from that point on, my ears and heart belonged to Beth Ditto.

A couple of years later, I flew out to Austin for a wedding and saw that the band was playing at a small club called Emo’s. It took less than five minutes to make up my mind that I would leave the rehearsal dinner early and get my butt to that show.

At one point, I stood tongue-tied staring at Beth and her new drummer, Hannah Blilie, who were standing at the bar. I was too shy and nervous to ask if I could buy them a drink, and I think I’m still waiting for my day to do it.

Hannah Blilie

But let’s fast forward to the present time, when I have the opportunity to talk to Blilie about working with uber-producer Rick Rubin, touring behind their new album Music for Men and of course, her tattoos. So tell me a bit about the new album Music for Men. It’s a departure from the others in that it’s a bit more polished – not in a bad way – just not as gritty as the others. What was it like working with Rick Rubin?

Hannah Blilie: This is our first major label record so that kind of plays into how that hi-fi sound came about. Basically, we had a lot of studio time and before we’ve never recorded anything in more than ten days and for more than $20,000 or something.

With Standing in the Way of Control (2006), we spent a total of ten days on everything. That’s recording, editing, mixing and we’re finished. It’s been more of a “get in get out” kind of approach just because those were the resources we had available on [former label] Kill Rock Stars. That was fine, that worked, but we’ve been a band for ten years and now we’ve got the opportunity to take it more seriously and spend some more time in the studio.

Having Rick [Rubin] there, of course, was a big influence. Basically, when we were working on songs for the album we knew we wanted to add more elements, not just one guitar and drums and vocals like our other records. We wanted to make it a dance floor kind of record. There are punk songs too, but we wanted a more hi-fi sound.

It was really cool for us to be able to grow like that in the studio because we never really considered ourselves professional musicians. (laughs) But Rick really nurtured what we were doing and believed in us. He tried to bring the best out of us.

AE: Was there interaction outside of the studio?

No, not really. We met with him a couple times before working on the record and talked about ideas. He’s kind of known for not really being there during the recording process, he’s a really hands-off producer. He just encouraged us and made us feel really good about what we were doing. He’s definitely a guru. He’s got this energy and this vibe that makes you want to do the best you can do.

I think we all kind of developed musically on this record and it was a really good experience for us. We wanted to see how far we could take it but not lose the minimalist approach. There’s not so much going on in the record that we can’t replicate it live.

Hannah Billie, Beth Ditto, and Brace Paine of Gossip

AE: You also just put out the Live from Liverpool album, was there more pressure on that or was it more like “this is what I do?”

That whole process (laughs)there wasn’t a lot of planning going into it, we were just on tour and it was like, “Oh, okay. We picked this date, alright. Let’s just do it.” I didn’t feel any pressure because it wasn’t planned. There wasn’t a whole lot of thought that went into it.

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