Interview: Marika Hackman
Drawn into a macabre dimension of beautiful melancholia, I remember the 2013 version of me is sitting on a bed, listening to the 21-year-old Marika Hackman singing and unveiling the beauty hiding in the darkest corners of our lives. “Even though you think to push me from the bath into the sink, I can still get clean from everything obscene”, she sings, turning the obscenity of our worst mistakes into poetry. Regardless of her young age, she understands the comfort that lives in the obscure spaces between the light and dark.
Two years after my first encounter with Hackman, I am still sitting on my bed, reminiscing about my very first listen to her first mini release “That Iron Taste” and waiting for the clock to turn to four. At 4:01pm, I am on the phone with 23-year-old Hackman who’s just gotten back from France. “The tour has been good but quite draining”, she says and shares a tired laugh. “I find touring quite stressful and if I write quite intensively, I get quite stressed out. The first album stressed me out as it was quite personal”, she admits but continues: “It is better to keep working though and I am already thinking about a second record. I feel more comfortable in my own skin now and I’m more settled in with my new life outside my parents’ house. I feel like this record is stronger as I am more headstrong.”
There is darkness in Hackman’s music that could easily be connected with her Scandinavian heritage. Covering the likes of Lykke Li, Hackmann has mastered the Scandinavian gloom and melancholia in her songs: “My father is Finnish and I’ve been going there every year since I was little. It is quite peaceful and calm but melancholic so yes, I would say it has influenced me a lot though I find it quite hard to pinpoint where everything has come from because it is a mismatch of different things.” While there is no direct influence that Hackman is able to point out, her artsy background is something that can be seen and heard in everything she produces. Having a degree in Fine Art, Hackman could almost be described to be more of an artist than a musician. Focusing deeply on the visual aspects of her music, she wants her songs to be relatable in a very visual way. “I was really big into Philip Glass when I was at school. I am a very visual person so I guess that’s why my songs could be seen as something quite cinematic. When I write, I conjure up images very quickly”, she explains and continues: “I want to conjure imagery that could be a metaphor that you can relate to because you can see them in your head.” Looking at the music video for her 2015 single “Ophelia”, the metaphorical aspects of Hackman’s music become very evident through the very David Lynch-esque cinematography. “When I was making that song, I imagined myself sounding very cowboy-esque in a desert and I thought it would be an interesting take, to place the idea of drowning in a very dry, barren wasteland”, she explains, opening up the juxtaposition between the lyrics and the imagery of the music video.
Brought up in the world of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, Hackman is a poet resembling the likes of Keaton Henson and her friend and colleague Laura Marling. Battling against the banal, standardized way of reducing young female musicians into living and breathing embodiments of pastoral indie dreams, Hackman is very frank with her critique towards the labeling of female artists. “I want to just say ‘stop being so lazy’”, Hackman states and continues: “I have actively been pushing against this sort of labeling.” Looking at the more experimental tracks like “Retina Television” where she uses her body as an instrument, Hackman clearly explores the musical spheres with a creative whim in her step. It is easy to fall into the trap of calling her a folk artist, especially when looking at her career. Touring with Laura Marling and having her first album produced by Johnny Flynn, the world of neo-folk is certainly something that has affected Hackman’s career but it is not a genre Hackman identifies her music with. “I don’t think I am a folk artist. I think it runs a bit deeper than that”, she says intriguingly, pointing out the complexities of her music. “People seem to cling to the fact that there is an acoustic song about a forest rather than noticing the mixture of genres on the records.” Drawing inspiration from the likes of Portishead, Hackman’s work is getting further and further away from the indie folkstress image surrounding her.
Much like her music, there is poetic melancholia in the character of Hackman which, at first glance, seems unobtainable yet enthralling. Her persona is something that could either spark a hatred driven rant or a love letter, fumed by sincere admiration. “People often think that I seem moody or like I do not want to be there”, she says when asked about her stage presence that is very minimal yet hypnotizing. It is easy to judge her for her lack of words but why would she waste her breath on cringey, shallow chat up lines when her music is all about honesty? “I am not the one who talks just for the sake of talking. I rather play more songs than chat between the songs.” She is a girl whose persona grows on you and she is also the girl who leaves the party early to work on a new song which says a hell of a lot more about her than just her stage presence.
As my time with her draws close to an end, I am ready to write a love letter to Marika Hackman. There is fascinating complexity in her and her music that is so beautiful that it leaves you numb because you simply do not know how to feel. Hackman understands the pain of being a human. “Having more people around makes you feel more lonely”, she says, pointing out our contradictory need for solitude and being surrounded by people. The world she creates through her music is a dark yet a beautiful one. Hackman sees the beauty in obscene and captures the fruitful fuel sparked by past relationships. She might be a beautiful poet and one of the finest musicians in the industry, but what I have learned from our discussion is that she is, first and foremost, an actual person.
Marika Hackman’s first studio album “We Slept at Last” is out now.