Hazel O’Connor in conversation…’Breaking Glass’, tour dates and more
New Wave artist and actress Hazel O’Connor is returning to the stage to celebrate the release of her autobiography, LTW took the opportunity to speak to Hazel about the film and its continuing resonance.
The Coventry-born singer song writer, most notable for starring in and writing the soundtrack to Breaking Glass [released in 1980], is embarking on her Greatest Hits tour. The performances will also commemorate the DVD release of the British made film, which depicts the socioeconomical and political issues surrounding the 80s, and tells the story of what life was like rising to pop fame at that time as a struggling, female anarchist.
â€œSadly, I think the film and songs have become more relevant todayâ€Â, says Hazel…â€œI would never have thought I’d be saying that now because it was a very political time in England.â€Â
Alongside the crossover from raw punk to new wave pop, the 80s saw Thatcherised right wing ideals rising in England, and Reaganised ideals in the US…â€œYou knew that we’re heading for disaster if they carried on that wayâ€Â, says Hazel, referring to issues such as the closing of the coal mines.
â€œThat film really reflected all of those issues, from the racism to the fascism, and now here we areâ€Â, she says.
â€œAnd I think God! That song Eighth Day is really relevant now, and it really scares me! There’s always somebody that wants to prove their power and blow us all up. You never know when society is going to break down!â€Â
Hazel’s track ‘Big Brother’ also features heavily within Breaking Glass, and again, she believes that it describes today’s society even more so now than when it was written.
â€œI wrote the song Big Brother because people have to make people afraid so they can control you – It’s the old bloody divide and conquer!â€Â, she says, referring to controversial beliefs that most terrorism threats are government scare plans. â€œI’m fairly leftfield on all of those things, and I read a lot and think Oh My Goodness!…â€œThen there’s the Twin Towers, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, and I’m sure you’ve got a pretty good idea about what I think about that!
â€œIt’s about social equality and social justice, which has become heftily eroded since the Big Brother society has begun. We are no longer the clients that are paying for a service, we’re treated more like we’ve got to work in the hive day and night…â€œAnd the police force, when they get rough and you think, hang on a minute, we are the clients, we are paying for this service – I’m wondering how it’s going to pan outâ€Â, she says.
Hazel lived in Coventry for the first 16 years of her life, but she quickly uprooted from the concrete jungle and embarked to travel the world by herself.
â€œI got into Leamington Art College at 16, and once I was there I don’t think I was equipped for it actuallyâ€Â, she says.â€œI was selfish and wanted to go and see the world and be a hippy.
â€œI did it on a whim because me and my mate went to Ibiza at Easter; we hitched hiked there…â€œI told my Mom I was hitch hiking, which must have given the poor woman conniptions, and my friend had told a lie and told her Mom and Dad that she was going with College – Then we missed the boat to come home again, and so her parents phoned the college and said well when are they getting back, and the college said, what are you talking about?…â€œWe got back two weeks late, and her Mum and Dad nearly got the police out. But it was me that took the blame, and I was 16 and she was 18! Which I thought was a bit unfairâ€Â, she says.
â€œWhen the head of the college got me in his office, he started saying well if you don’t buck your ideas up my lady you’ll be out by the end of this term, and in my head I’m thinking, well I don’t care, because I’m going! That’s why I went, because I thought I don’t like it, I didn’t like their attitude to me either, and I didn’t think it was fair that I was being blamed for everything.â€Â
Hazel’s artwork is now on show at Leamington Spa Arts college, but for the short time that she actually attended lessons, it poses slight irony!
â€œBefore I got famous it would’ve never been on display, I was the black sheep!â€Â, says Hazel.â€œBut I’d like to go and see it, because I do remember my artwork before I did a runner!â€Â
And it sounds like Hazel’s artwork at the time was quirkier than you could ever imagine; â€œthis one piece I did had steps going up to a front door, and the front door was set in the middle of a fieldâ€Â, she says.â€œAnd you had to go through the door, and then there was a little corridor. â€œAnd that went to another door, and that door went to another door. It was a surreal piece – I don’t really know what it was all about at the end…The final door – you open it – and there’s loads of men behind bars in underpants, collaged from magazines – I couldn’t really rationalise what I was doing, only that I liked the idea of a door appearing from nowhere in the middle of an outside landscapeâ€Â, she says, hysterically.
But of course, Hazel has matured over the years, and even her sound has grown from a witty, chaotic, 80s defining ethos into a more soulful territory.
Her latest material explores the depths of jazz, working alongside sax player Clare Hirst and pianist Sarah Fisher to bring out a bluesy vibe in her vocals.
â€œI wanted to do some jazz stuff, outside of the Hazel O’Connor remitâ€Â, says Hazel.
â€œWhen my Mom got diagnosed with cancer, I knew that I wasn’t going to be living in Ireland, I was going to be living in Coventry with her and doing whatever she needed me to do. I wanted to be there for her, so I thought I’m going to need something that belongs to me if I lose my marbles. It’s really scary when you’re at close quarters and doing partial care with somebody who is dying of cancer. You always think is this is it, and I’m one of those people; I’m the coward that dies a thousand times. So in the interim with all that’s going on, I thought I’ll do this project now so that there’s something lovely and exciting to tell Mom about when I go to rehearsals with the girls.â€Â
â€œAnd when somebody dies in your life, it makes you realise that you have to use the time you’ve been given to the best ability you can. Music is embracing me like that, I love music, it keeps me sane and that’s why the project began; it has spun into its own little orbit.
â€œEven the Breaking Glass fans like this three girl set up that we’re doing, so I think I’ve cracked that one; it kind of works!…I like energy music and I like strutting about, but I really love using my voice as well, so I feel like I’m blessed that I’m in a position where I’m able to sing in a jazz club, and that I’m able to sing in a 60s band, and have people hopping about. It’s cool; I like both ends of the scaleâ€Â, she says.
Catch Hazel O’Connor performing her greatest hits and tracks from Breaking Glass;
Oct 11th – Leicester Square Theatre, London
Oct 12th – Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells
Oct 13th – Chinnerys, Southend-On-Sea
Oct 14th – The Ballroom, Birmingham
Oct 16th – The Horn, St Albans
Oct 17th – The Tunnels, Bristol
Oct 18th – Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton
Oct 19th – Picturedome, Holmfirth
Oct 20th – The Duchess, York
Oct 21st – The Ruby Lounge, Manchester
Oct 23rd – Grand Theatre, Lancaster
Oct 25th – Waterfront, Norwich
Oct 26th – The Junction, Cambridge
Oct 27th – The Ocean Room, Great Yarmouth
Oct 28th – Concorde 2, Brighton
Oct 30th – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Oct 31st – Dorking Halls, Dorking
Nov 01st – Corn Exchange, Ipswich
Nov 02nd – Subscription Rooms, Stroud
Nov 03rd – Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon
Nov 04th – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds