Live from the wasa-corner

with Thomas Hawtin

musician / composer / producer


Thomas Hawtin is the frontman for Bristol-based apocalyptic lounge band, Erotic Secrets of Pompeii. The band are just about to head into the studio to record their debut release and the Wasaphone Signalman has become a staple ingredient of the band’s sound during the writing and rehearsal process. We managed to strap him into a chair and get him to answer a few questions about his new Lo-Fi comrade.

  Photo by Robyn Carr

Photo by Robyn Carr

"…to find a mic that I can use live for raucous and controlled distortion is great."


Wasaphone collection: Wasaphone Signalman

Q.1: What song have you got going around your head today?

Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes.

I’ve been listening to FGTH on repeat recently – sound-wise this track is pure polished pop with that overt end-of-days dread that works beautifully with the lyric.

 Q.2: How would you summarise your approach to music-making in one sentence?

The art of balancing dichotomies: the familiar vs the strange, euphony vs cacophony, convention vs innovation, rough vs smooth etc. My approach is definitely based more around intuition than theory. OK that was two sentences, and this is a third, so I’ve definitely outstayed my welcome here…

 Q.3: What have you been up to with your Wasaphone mic?

I’ve been working with the Wasaphone Signalman for a few months now in rehearsals to get a real lo-fi radio distortion vocal sound for our (Erotic Secrets of Pompeii) track ‘Utterly Rudderless’.

 Q.4: How has the Signalman shaped your performances and/or your writing process?

Well, the initial demo of the song was initially recorded with a distortion plugin plopped on the vocal track, so to find a mic that I can use for raucous and controlled distortion live, is great. Using the Signalman (it being a re-purposed ex-military handset) in a live environment has really heightened some of the elements – the conversational element of the song, the directness of the lyrics.

The song addresses the constructs people blindly believe in order to feel safe in the knowledge that someone is in charge of things – this ranges from full-blown conspiracy theories to organised religion (is there much difference?). But perhaps the truth is even darker – no one is in charge and the world is simply afloat without a rudder? The Signalman is a great prop for the stage as it raises the question: who’s on the other side of the phone line? The lyrics really work as a down-the-phone-rant too, playing on the whole “pass on the message” stance many conspiracy theorist and religious types take. It was rehearsing with the Signalman that helped us to realise this idea.

 Q.5: Have you come across any unexpectedly fun and/or interesting ways of using your Wasaphone?

The Signalman has definitely been fun to work with, if not for the additional performance element, then for barking out orders to insubordinate band members! Now and again I lose myself while performing and grab the Signalman to yelp down.

 Q.6: What do you think your Wasaphone mic will bring to your future recording sessions, and do you have any specific projects in mind for it?

Towards the end of this month we’re heading into Coach House Studio in Bristol (run by Tom who also runs Wasaphone) to record our first EP. It will definitely come in handy for the recording of the vocals in ‘Utterly Rudderless’ (and probably some other tunes). I think we’ll get some extracurricular use out of it too as everyone involved in the upcoming recording session is big into using the recording process to experiment with different sounds. Off the top of my head, I think we could perhaps record some distorted percussion through the mic, or maybe some ambient background noises.  Other ideas include – impersonating a manic radio DJ trying to communicate after Armageddon, the voice of God through the radio.....

 And finally…

 Q.7: If you were giving a Wasaphone microphone as a gift, to whom would you give it and why?

I’d gift a Wasarocket to my good friend Julian Port. He’s recently been working on noise soundscapes, so I think the ‘Rocket would give his guitar that extra metallic edge (on recordings) to cut through and assault the listener like a rusty steak knife.

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Wasaphone Signalman
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