Interview With Hannah Diamond On Social Media, Creativity, And How The Early Internet Influenced Her Music
“The YouTube comments section is the most terrifying place in the world.”
You may know Hannah Diamond through her indelibly infectious singles “Attachment” and “Pink and Blue,” but music is only one of her many, many talents. An accomplished photographer, Diamond co-founded the London-based image-making firm Diamond Wright, responsible for some of PC Music’s most iconic artwork. After styling underground brands and launching her own music/style Webzine, she broke into the fashion mainstream last fall with an eye-catching photo campaign for Boohoo, featuring fellow UK pop star Charli XCX. With a feature on Charli’s just-announced Vroom Vroom EP (out Friday) and an album on the horizon, we caught up with Diamond to discuss her burgeoning and multifaceted career.
You work in so many different media, from photography to film and music. What was your entry point into the arts?
I feel like I’ve been creative since I was a really little kid. I started off mostly doing illustration, which I don’t really do at all now, but I thought originally I was going to go to uni to study fashion illustration or something like that. I ended up studying fashion communication and promotion instead and then went down a photography route in the end. I met the people I’m currently working with while I was at uni, generally interning, and going to fashion week and stuff. I met Will Wright, who I work on the Diamond Wright stuff with, as his assistant, then we started working together all the time.
When it comes to photography, your early work seemed to focus mainly on digital manipulation, but recently you’ve had been posting analogue photos and Polaroids. Which do you prefer: real or hyperreal?
The hyperreal thing came from me doing illustration. When I started drawing, when I was five or six, I wanted to get really good at it and make things look more real. When I was in high school I was able to draw people from life and make them look lifelike. I was building and building up on that, but when I went to art foundation my tutor said that I couldn’t take it any further. Like, once you’ve achieved a lifelike drawing, what are you going to add to it? In order to push it forwards, I had to do something else. For me, retouching is almost like a way of still doing illustration, making people look way more real than they possibly could be.
With Diamond Wright, you’ve moved from working for alternative fashion brands like Meat Clothing to mainstream labels like Boohoo. Your campaign with Charli XCX was even featured on London buses. How did that happen?
It’s weird. At the start, we were mostly doing things for friends or creative stuff we really wanted to do, and we still are really doing that. We didn’t think that in 2015 we’d shoot a campaign. Charli got in touch with me through my music and we started chatting about music stuff, then she was like, 'Oh, by the way, I’m doing this thing. Would you guys be up for shooting it?' It was still the same basis that we were working on before, working with friends or people we know, so it didn’t really feel like that much of an evolution.
Speaking of music, did you ever dream of becoming a singer or did it just come about by chance?
It happened sort of randomly. I’d been at uni and knew that I definitely wanted to be a photographer, but I’ve always been musical and really liked music so it happened naturally. I met A. G. Cook and some of the other guys at PC Music in my first or second year at uni. He was doing music and I was doing photography, we were good mates, but it wasn’t until a while after that we thought of working on something together. It wasn’t really until “Pink and Blue” got loads and loads of plays that I thought, 'hmm, this is weird, but kind of cool.
You announced last year that your debut was in the works. How’s it coming along?
Pretty good. I’ve got this really nuts spreadsheet document where I’m keeping track of all the demos I’m working on and how far along they are. We had a massive two-day writing session at the PC Music studios. Everyone, you can think of was there and we were all writing together and making stuff, and worked on quite a few tracks on my album then.
Are you solely working with the PC Music camp or getting outside producers as well?
I think a mix at the minute. I’ve had some demos sent from other people but I guess the main thing is building the core structure and story of the album, mostly with A. G. because I really trust his production. Because we’ve been friends for a long time now, I know he understands what I want to say without having to say it. He instantly gets what kind of angle I’m going for.
A lot of your songs so far have focused on love as mediated through the Internet and social media, but the world you create also feels very early 2000s retro.
I feel like a lot of that comes from growing up when the Internet really took off. I was one of those kids who when I came home from school, I’d be on MSN nonstop or chatting to friends on Habbo Hotel. The retro element maybe comes from that. When we were writing “Pink and Blue,” the "how about you" lyric reminded of when I was on MSN and people were like “how are you” and “wuu2.” I’ve taken a bit of a backseat on social media: I love Twitter and Instagram but I quit Facebook. It wasn’t nice anymore. Social media can be a really good thing but it can also be quite a scary place. YouTube comments are the most terrifying place in the world.
With last year’s video for Chris Lee, the PC Music crew began producing work for other artists. After directing your own video for “Hi,” do you think you could do that too?
Yeah, that would be really fun. That was part of the fun thing of being able to work with Charli on the Boohoo campaign. At the minute, I’m working hard on some visual stuff to go alongside the album, but in the future, I’d be really up for directing music videos.
You’ve got such a distinctive vintage style when it comes to fashion. Where do you get your pieces?
The North Face [from the “Pink and Blue” cover art] I found in Rokit in Covent Garden. Will Wright and I were shopping together for a photo shoot and I was looking through the coat rail and squidged the arm of it. He pulled it out and was like, “Oh my god, you need this.” It was like £10! I’m also such an eBay lurker. I lurk and I lurk and I lurk. I have all the searches I’m looking for saved and I get text notifications. It means I don’t really have to look on there because items come to me. I really like Caitlin Price. I wore her tracksuit in my music video. I also like the Chris Shannon girls stuff too.
Final question: who is Puppy Diamond?
Sadly, he’s not a real dog. Basically, I was looking for high-definition pictures of headphones and found this dog. He was on Google Images with his ears looking glamorous, and I was like, 'You know what, he needs a pair of headphones.' I had a sausage dog up until August. He died of old age and I’m super sad but I want to get another one.