An Interview with Darren Hayman by Vladimir Kuznetsov from May 2005

Your latest project is the bluegrass band Hayman, Watkins, Trout and Lee. How did you come to play bluegrass? Is it a long-term band or is it just a whimsy?
I suppose Lee stands for John Lee from B-Monster and Trout stands for Simon Trought from Tompaulin. Who's Watkins then and how did you get together to play this sort of music considering that Tompaulin and B-Monster seem even farther from bluegrass than  Hefner?

 I was at a dinner party with my friend David Watkins, and the host said  he'd always fancied being in a bluegrass band. Me and Dave just nicked his idea. The idea for me was something to stop me going mad whilst my legal situation prevented me from releasing records. We're serious about being as good as we can, but the whole thing is a lot of fun and we spend a lot of time laughing on stage. Everyone writes a bit and sings a bit so it is less of a Darren Hayman project. It'd be great to do an album eventually though.

Last December the Britain's Largest Small Band played for the first time in two years together in tribute to late John Peel. What did you feel when you first learned that John Peel had died? How did it to feel to play together again after such a long break? And (I know it's obvious and probably senseless to ask but.) since Hefner hasn't officially split up yet is the reunion still possible?

Me and my wife had just come back from a holiday and my dad told me. My honest first thought was 'well that's my career fucked'. I know its bad and selfish but sometimes you can't predict the way your mind is going to jump. I genuinely miss him, I couldn't call him a friend but I've met him enough times to know him as great company, and of course his impact on my life as musician and a listener has been immense. People like me wouldn't be able to function in this business without him.

It felt completely natural to play with Hefner again, like we'd only stopped the day before. The other three guys are such fantastic musicians, they make it so easy for me, they're so simple and focussed. Having said that, no, no reunion planned. Jack's been going round sayingwe'll get back together again for Thatcher's death.

You used to have a quirky synth-pop project called Stereo Morphonium with Joel (who goes by the second name Neumatik now) but the last time I've heard about it was probably a couple of years ago. Is the project still alive? And if yes what's its future?

Yes Joel has changed his name to Joel Neumatik, and I've told him its dumb, firstly because he can't spell and secondly because Pneumatic means full of gas and air! Joel is one of my best friends but we can't make music for more than two minutes without screaming at each other ,hence its taken us about four years to make one 5 song EP. We talk about an album but that'll probably take another ten years. Joel is also compiling all the lost Hefner songs for the re-issues, and we fight everyday about that as well. Joel played bass for Hefner for a nano-second a long time ago.

Nothing's been heard about the French either. Do you still plan to make music with John (and Beulah of course)? 

Well this is really down to John. He's made this decision to never play live again (which obviously has a bearing on any Hefner question in the future) and he just doesn't seem that interested in making music with me at the moment. I hope we'll do something together in the future, I think he's fantastic. As with Hefner , there is a big pile of unreleased French stuff, we pretty much finished a second album so maybe it'll come out at some point.

There are rumours about the possible forthcoming Hefner compilation (or even anthology). Are they true? What can we exactly expect and when approximately?

A Hefner best of this year ,as well as Catfight a 2cd collection of unreleased songs. Then Breaking God's Heart, Fidelity Wars, We LoveThe City, Dead Media and Local Information by the French will all come out in turn over the next two years, with deluxe packaging, sleeve notes and tons of extra tracks. There's a possibility of BGH being a double CD.

If all that goes well then we may look into the possibility of a B-sides comp and live and bbc collections.

Beach Boys have always been one of your favourite bands. What do you think of the latest Brian Wilson album Smile? What's you favourite band at the moment?

I was impressed to an extent, that the linking pieces of music that made it complete were interesting, but I think people should leave him alone with his Toby Jug collection to be honest. I'll still play my Beach Boys versions of those songs. Favourite band at the moment would be.....oh crap I don't know.

You used to act as a producer sometimes (Umbrella Heaven, Deletia, others). Do you still practice this? And (if it's not too brazen of me too ask) do you manage to live from music you make or did you have to find a dayjob after Hefner?

 I did until recently, but I'm finally broke again, mainly from paying legal fees! I'm not sad, it makes feel better about the music in a way. Next year I'm going to Goldsmiths to train to be an Art Teacher.

Catfight - is it 43 previously unreleased songs or previously unreleased VERSIONS of Hefner songs?

 It's 43 unreleased songs! Unreleased versions will provide the extra tracks on each album reissue.

As for your solo efforts - is it just you and a guitar/synthesizer or is more like Graham Coxon style when you played all the instruments you could find in a studio? :)

There's a band on most of the solo stuff, its me playing the guitar, uke and keyboards.

Finally, what's the story with Too Pure?

I'm not ready to tell the story of my battle with Too Pure, not because its secret, I just want to be dignified in victory!