Who Is…Hollie Cook

Christian Hoard

By Christian Hoard

on 08.18.11 in Who Is...?s

File under: Elegantly bummed-out reggae, sung by a sweet-voiced siren with punk DNA

For fans of: Lily Allen, The Slits, Althea and Donna, and Toots And The Maytals

From: London

Personae: Hollie Cook (vocals)

Hollie Cook

Hollie Cook

“I’m shadow-kissing you on my balcony,” Hollie Cook sings on “Shadow Kissing,” a highlight from her self-titled debut. With burbling organs and a gently pogoing beat, the song suggests roots reggae, but Cook’s wry croon helps make it dreamy, plush and almost surreal — as if she’s serenading an apparition. Like the rest of her reggae-suffused album, it’s sweet summer music with hints of darkness, as though Sade had headed to Jamaica with bad love on the brain.

Hollie Cook couldn’t be more different from the music that helped put the 25-year-old singer in diapers: Her father, Paul Cook, was the Sex Pistols’ drummer. But Hollie — whose mother briefly sang in Culture Club; Boy George is Hollie’s godfather — grew up loving reggae and ska. After a stint in legendary all-girl punk band the Slits, she met the British producer of her self-titled album, Prince Fatty. The ex-Sex Pistol in Cook’s life couldn’t be prouder. “[My father] loved the Slits so that I think blew his mind a little when I ended up being in the band,” she says. “But he’s been extremely supportive throughout all of my musical endeavors, really. He definitely feels that I’ve found my voice.”

On the music her dad introduced her to as a child:

David Bowie’s the most prominent one that I remember. Also, the Cure and the Smiths, and then, later on, punk. He also had quite a long working relationship with Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice, so when they started to play together I was introduced to him.

On hanging around during the Sex Pistols’ 1996 reunion tour:

I was 10, and I only had a small awareness of what was going on, but when they reunited it seemed to be a pretty big deal. I remember that lots of people threw stuff, and I also remember that the Sex Pistols were on the same lineup as Iggy Pop. He was wearing a pair of see-through plastic trousers and I saw him come onstage and I was like, “Oh, okay. There’s an old man with see-through trousers on. Haha.”

There were a lot of festivals, which is a very good place to take a child, I think — lots of open fields so I could run around. I was into [the Sex Pistols] for sure but I was I was very much a little girl. I was probably more interested in listening to the latest Spice Girls song.

On her godfather, Boy George:

I knew him through my mum. She grew up with George and sang with him in the very early Culture Club lineup, before they got big. She appeared in quite a few of their music videos, too. He would come around the house. I just remember him being normal, doing whatever you [do] when you go around to your friends’ houses.

On being inducted into punk legends the Slits while she was still in college:

I knew [the late Slits founder] Ari Up my whole life. She was a friend of the family. I’ve got photos with her from when I was about 3 or 4 years old, which is pretty cool. She was getting the Slits back together, and I was in music college. I’d been recording a little and she just said, “We want to do some live stuff; you should come up and sing with us!” I was like, “Um yeah, sure!” It was very nerve-wracking. As I got to know her I realized that she picked up on people’s talents very early on and she’d always remember them.

On her first Slits gig:

The first gig was in a shopping mall. It was one of the biggest department stores in London and we were playing with Buzzcocks, which was…kind of strange. I was terrified, to be honest. I hadn’t done very much performing for quite a couple of years. I didn’t sleep the whole of the night before. I was really, really nervous. But it was fun; really, really, really wonderful. I remember the feeling of what it was like to be up there. Just kind of go for it really — do what you have to do.

On her excellent, reggae-fied cover version of “Walking in the Sand”:

It was a nerve-wracking thing because I love the song and I love the Shangri-Las. You put a lot of pressure on yourself to you know do it justice. You try to touch it a bit in you in your own way.

On whether she’s as much of a romantic her album makes her seem to be:

Yeaaaahhhh…I don’t know…There’s definitely a part of me that is. There’s definitely a part of me that completely contradicts that, too. It depends what day it is. I don’t lean towards that feeling in my general movements of the day, you know? Certain people may bring it out of me.