Hannah Peel on Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia

Hannah Peel is a highly talented multi-instrumentalist from up North.  

Her music combines the tremendously deep, rich power of traditional brass with the uplifting arpeggiated patterns and unearthly sound textures of analogue synthesizers.  

For her latest album Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia, the artist has turned cosmic Queen, becoming the alter-ego Mary Casio.

Hannah is also no stranger to Hull. Earlier in the year, Hannah performed with her band The Magnetic North as part of Substance at The Polar Bear in Hull and an incredible performance of Journey to Cassiopeia in July 2017 as part of PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial.

This December, Hannah will be heading back to Hull to perform at Hull City Hall with full brass band for Substance Live: The Future of the North, an event which will see some of the most innovative and exciting women making music in the UK today, take centre stage. 

We chat to Hannah ahead of the performance and to find out what inspired the record.

How did the concept of Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia develop? 

Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia is an exploration to the mind of someone living with dementia. My Grandma who passed away had dementia and I became really interested in the scientific part of the brain. I saw the process of brain neurons growing inside a dish and when I looked down at it, it was like looking at the stars.  

The Mary Casio character developed as I was producing it on a Casio keyboard and the journey is a journey through the mind.

The album is very space-themed, what kind of research did you undertake to gather this inspiration? 

I read a book called The Seven Lessons In Physics by Carlo Rovelli. He talks about how the world works. He mentions in the book that there are as many neurons in the brain as there are in the galaxy, which I found so fascinating. 

From this, I started messing around on the Casio writing electronic pieces. When the band approached me to put this together with them, I was really excited and over the moon. I thought it would be amazing to have the opportunity to move it in to this space. 

Also, when I was younger living in Ireland, I used to lie for hours just looking at the stars, I loved it. Delia Derbyshire is a massive role model of mine who I really look up to also.

If you could venture to your own planet, what would this look like? 

Well actually, the last track that I wrote on the album called The Planet of Passed Souls was me stepping foot on an Earth-like planet, but you can’t see it because of the earth and all of the clouds that surround it. 

It’s about the magic of the planet. As things start to seep from the mind, there’s the voice of my Grandad from 1927 singing through the clouds too.

How has the support from the PRS Foundation helped you to achieve this? 

The piece was already written, although they have supported me literally from the word go. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of the Momentum Fund and I’m very appreciative of this.  

I’ve always had a good team around me, which is really great.

Why do you feel events such as Substance Live are so important given the gender imbalance in the music industry? 

Growing up, I didn’t really have many female role models, so I feel the festival is really important for our younger generation to see female performers. It’s important not just in terms of female performers, but it’s also important for females to be seen as engineers rather than just singers.

Do you have anything exciting planned for 2018?

In Hull, I’m planning on performing with the Freedom Chorus through the project Songs Of Flight which is part of the PRSF New Music Biennial Composer Residency. I will be performing a synthesizer choir piece with all of them. There’s around 300 of them altogether! That’s being performed in April so looking forward to that. 

I’m also currently writing music for the theatre production of Brighton Rock, that goes right up until May. 

Hannah with perform Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia at Substance Live: The Future Of The North on 9 December at Hull City Hall alongside Jane Weaver, Nadine Shah, PINS, CHAMBERS, Lone Taxidermist and The Dyr Sister. 

Tickets are available here.