Band Booking: A Hawk and a Hacksaw

Posted by Jason Diamond

People are always talking about whatever happened to Jeff Mangum after Neutral Milk Hotel put out their generation defining album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (I guess we have our answer). In my very humble opinion, there should be just as much discussion about what Jeremy Barnes has spent the last decade doing in the band A Hawk and a Hacksaw.

If you’ve not experienced the music Mr. Barnes and his partner Heather Trost have spent making since around the start of the new century, please know you’ve been missing out on something special if you are a fan of music from Kronos Quartet to Beirut, or nearly anything given the imperialist designation of “world music.”  But fear not, their latest album, Cervantine, is as perfect a place as any to familiarize yourself as soon as you’re done reading about how Don Quixote helped christen the band.

Listen: A Hawk and a Hacksaw – “Espanola Kola”

I never knew your first album was the soundtrack for a documentary on Slavoj Žižek.  Are you big fans of his work?

A lot of what he says is rubbish, but what there are a lot of interesting things in there, too.  In that way he strikes me as an archetypal philosopher.  I enjoy listening to him verbally improvise more than I enjoy his books…

The Wikipedia explanation of your band name as a reference from Don Quixote doesn’t spare any details. Did you just see a phrase in the book and thought to yourself that it sounded like a good band name?

Yes, and I wanted to always keep the book in mind, so it made sense.  I admire Cervantes for many reasons,  I really love that he never achieved his great literary success until the last years of his life. Don Quixote was the culmination of a life well lived.

It goes without saying that your sound is influenced by Eastern European music, I’m wondering if literature from the region has ever influenced your sound?
Yes, especially the books by Mikail Bulgakov, and  Bohumil Hrabal, who is woefully underread in the west. “My Happy Days in Hell,” by Georgy Faludy is another favorite. 

Could you list off five books you love and tell us why?

The Master and Margarita– Mikail Bulgakov.  One of my favorite books,
one of the few that I have read multiple times.

I served the King of England –  Bohumil Hrabal.  Completely wonderful.

Raggle Taggle– Walter Starkie.  Starkie is an Irish violinist and translator of Quixote into English, this book is an account of his travels around Hungary and Romania on foot, playing music with Roma and folk musicians from the region.

My Happy Days in Hell – George Faludy.  An incredible account of Faludy’s escape from Fascism in WWII Hungary, where he travels through Europe, to North Africa, and then the U.S. He returns to Hungary after the war and is put in the Gulag by the Communists.