Talks with Susan Hyatt of Stimulator
Lovelier In Black
CEV: Who were some of the artists that you grew up listening to and how did they influence your perception of what it was to be a "rock star"?
SH: I was heavily into new wave. Debbie Harry was my idol and I adored Adam & the Ants, XTC, David Bowie and Siouxsie & the Banshees. I thought the ultimate in “cool” was to be a Rockstar. To be totally self-absorbed and artistic. None of my Idols had choreographed dancers or were corporate stars. It was all about being an individual and creating something new that truly inspired people.
CEV: What was it that made you decide that you wanted to be a performer? Had you been building up to this decision as you grew up listening to music?
SH: No it was instant. I saw KISS live on their Dynasty tour. That was it. Sorry I know a lot of musicians say the same thing. But I think watching KISS live as a kid does some real damage. You can’t help but want to be a performer. It was a true Rock n’ Roll Circus. I joined the KISS Army and never looked back.
CEV: Once you decided to pursue singing how did you get started and what was it like the first few times on stage singing for a live audience?
I was very scared singing for a live audience. I’m still scared but that’s because I care so much. My stuff is so personal, I have to own it.
CEV: How did the band Stimulator get formed? Was the name indicative of what you wanted to do to your audience during your shows?
SH: Yes I want to stimulate the mind, body, senses. Sonically, psychologically, intellectually, Sexually, all of it. I met Geoff Tyson at an Italian Restaurant in 2002 and it was kismet.
We bonded instantly and started writing songs. Geoff is the most brilliant musician I have ever encountered. He was my Prince, my Trent Reznor. We found Chad Stewart through friends to play drums and now my boyfriend and love of my life Michael Brent has joined the band playing Bass.
CEV: Do you and the band write your songs? Is there any place that you go to mentally for pulling the inspiration for the lyrics that you write?
SH: I write most of the songs now by myself. Geoff and I wrote most of the past songs together. We had an equal creative partnership.
My lyrics are so intimate and written from personal experience. I usually go to Malibu and chill out and let the pain seep through my every pore. I’m heavily into poetry and really draw inspiration from poets I admire. English was my second language so I really appreciate beautifully constructed lyrics. My first language was Farsi, in case you were wondering!
We first released “78 Stimulator” with Org Records, a punk rock label in London and then we released the debut album with Cargo in the UK and then we got signed to the LAB/Universal Records in the USA.
We remixed the entire record added a couple of songs and John Taylor from Duran Duran redid the artwork. Voila! We worked our asses off, lived and breathed Stimulator.
CEV: What were your feelings about this first release after it was finished and available? Were you hyped about getting out on the road and touring your songs to live audiences?
SH: Our label never officially released our CD. We were heartbroken and devastated. We did the big tours with Duran Duran and the Go-Go’s before our record was supposed to come out. We got the rights after our label went defunct and now you can buy it anywhere online!
CEV: What kind of feedback did you get from your fans and from music reviewers?
SH: Great feedback from Fans, Mixed reviews from reviewers. Some great some lame. What I hate is when people are so short-sighted. They don’t really listen because they are incapable of digesting details. They listen to the record for 5 minutes and think they have you summed up just from listening to the production. And they think because I’m a girl that I just sang on it. That is a total joke. Believe me no one would put up with me if I wasn’t an accomplished musician and songwriter. I’m too much of a pain in the ass. :)
CEV: I saw that your original label went belly up at some point in 2006 probably because of the problems facing the music industry in general so what did you do as a band to make sure that you'd have a second release?
SH: I wrote e-mails to all of our fans to donate money for our recordings and they did. Stimulator fans pre-paid and funded 100% of Stimulator 2. I’m eternally grateful for their support.
CEV: Tell me about the current lineup for Stimulator as far as members goes. For those who might not be familiar with what you did before Stimulator how about a flashback of what Susan Hyatt has done so far.
We had a top 20 UK Indie Hit single with “Invasion (What Really Turns you On?) Pillbox’s music was all over Dawson’s Creek. I was then a VJ/TV host for a live music chat show in the UK on MP3TV. ( a lot like MTV).
I started Stimulator in 2002 with Geoff Tyson we had amazing tours, released 3 records and I just released my fitness DVD called “Susan Hyatt’s Rockstar Workout” which is currently charting no.15 on AMAZON, it features all original music by Stimulator and Pillbox.
CEV: How do you feel about taking artistic chances with your music and your performances and how does that work out in what you do in Stimulator?
SH: I do it all the time. Check out how different the Stimulator CDS and songs are. I think I have overdone it. I need to stop that shit. It’s just so boring to have one sound one look one style one genre. It’s in an artist’s nature to be a chameleon and experiment.
CEV: Why is it important to a band or an individual artist to keep reinventing themselves the longer they have been around the music business?
SH: They would be boring and irrelevant otherwise. But you always gotta remember where you came from and what it is you actually excel at. The true you, that’s the appeal. It’s hard not to be influenced and trying to be relevant is asking for inevitable rejection. It’s all timing.
CEV: Your new album is called Lovelier in Black. Does the title have an significance to you? Could you explain?
SH: “Lovelier in Black” is a concept record. It has a consistent theme. It explores the dark side of my psyche and all the negative old relationships I have experienced and have now kicked to the curb and outgrown. The cover pic of me is the trapped bride hopeful but trapped in an old animal cage alone with her bad feelings. It was inspired from an old romantic poem, It’s when you are at your lowest worst and most vulnerable point and everyone turns around and says to you “you never looked better. You never looked lovelier in Black.”
CEV: How much do you and the other members of the band collaborate when it comes to taking a song from concept to execution? Does a song change drastically during this process or does it end up pretty much where it started but polished more?
SH: It’s not a collaboration. Geoff and I were like the Eurythmics in the creative sense. Now I write all the songs. I hope with new members this will change. I am always open to great ideas.
CEV: Do the songs all share a common thread on Lovelier in Black?
SH: Yes it points out the obvious that I have dyed my hair black (I was a Blonde for years). Yes the record has a dark theme . “Lovelier in Black” defines and establishes the mood for all the songs. I learned that my fans tend to embrace the dark side of my psyche.
CEV: Ok, I've got to ask, how did the Beat Goes On end up on the new album? Are you and the band big fans of Sonny and Cher music? Hey it's a good rendition but I was curious.
SH: It’s a song that we licensed to NBC’s TV show “Las Vegas , “ it was supposed to be a bonus track for people who love covers. It’s a strange choice I know!
CEV: Tell me the difference between opening for bands like Duran Duran and the Go Gos on arena tours than doing clubs and smaller venues.
SH: You feel like a Real Rockstar when you open for Duran Duran and the Go Go’s in Arenas. It makes the whole struggle worthwhile. You sound great. You have a great stage , people treat you well, you are respected and properly represented. And you are opening up for your childhood heroes! Nothing in the world feels better than this. Not even love. This is what dreams are made of. Until you have done this you don’t know what it is like. The high is so high, but the come down is brutal. Playing clubs and small venues makes me personally feel like “am I ever going to make it?” I love a crowded club but C’mon after 20 years of doing this just drop me off at Madison Square Garden and let me die on the stage.
CEV: Were you happy with what you were able to accomplish with Lovelier in Black? Did you meet all of your expectations that you had when you started to work on it?
SH: Creatively yes now I’m waiting on the rewards.
CEV: Do you like the time you get to spend on stage in front of an audience? Does it give you an affirmation that you are on the right track when you hear that the audience likes what you are doing?
SH: Absolutely connecting with people live is essential. Playing live is key nowadays. I’m sorry we stayed away for so long.
CEV: With the world of music changing so drastically are you finding it difficult to adapt to the landscape that keeps shifting under your feet? How are you and the band using the Internet to take your music straight to your fans?
SH: Same as everyone else. I don’t have a brilliant answer that no one has heard before. Think outside the box. I wear many hats and am always working on a new project to market and expand our brand.
CEV: So what lies ahead for Stimulator short term and long term? Are you touring to bring Lovelier in Black to your fans in the coming months? Any parting thoughts for your fans?
CEV: And thank you Susan for taking time out to talk to Cutting Edge Voices. I hope you get those rewards you are looking for. Hard work and talent should be rewarded. Good luck with your music and your touring.