The 90's brought us some of rock music's greatest singers, screamers and daringly expressive performers such as Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Trent Reznor, Eddie Vedder, Scott Weiland and Marilyn Manson, just to name a few. Whether you liked these artists or not, there's no doubt that they were heavy hitters and absolutely unforgettable.
Among this top notch list of names should, most definitely be
C h r i s t o p h e r H a l l.
Christopher Hall was - and is - one of the most outstanding rock singers on the scene.
Mr. Hall is the scream king genius behind the bands Stabbing Westward and The Dreaming. He has written chart topping songs, plays multiple instruments, produces, records and even designs most of the band's artwork and logos in his spare time - but first and foremost, Christopher Hall is a singer.
Hall's vocal power is mind blowing and unlike anything that's been heard in ages. His thunderous volume and intense screams never falter. Vocally, he can go from 'mighty roar' to 'soft and soothing' in only seconds, blowing through like a visceral tornado of sound.
On stage with either Stabbing or The Dreaming, Hall is a driving force of high-speed energy and is ultimately unstoppable.
If you have ever been to a Stabbing Westward concert, you already know that when this band hits the stage, you are in for the night of your life. Hall, undoubtedly, gives it all to the music. He commands his audience with a larger than life presence, tearing his guts out and sounding off from the most powerful set of pipes you have ever heard. He perches himself among the light fixtures and explodes in your face with his tales of heartbreak, empathy and rage. The music charges through you in waves of high voltage electric currents, seducing you into it's wild darkness and violent exuberance. The smaller the venue, the more personally you feel the exhilarating buzz of life - the larger the venue, the more you feel the earth shake beneath your feet. A truly unbelievable experience!
As for The Dreaming, well they just kick ass and take names and from there - you are owned. You don't really have a choice in the matter, nor will you want one.
Stabbing Westward started off as a little band from Chicago and ended up selling millions of records, toured all around the world playing with major names such as Depeche Mode, The Sex Pistols and Kiss. Their music videos played on heavy rotation on MTV and Much Music. Their songs have landed on countless movie soundtracks (our personal fun favorite being "So Wrong" blasting away on Bride Of Chucky) and when the band ended up splitting, that didn't keep Hall down - No way. Chris started the music right back up again with his band The Dreaming in 2001 and sent the online fans into a frenzy with their hard hitting, rebellious, heavy rock, punk sounds. The Dreaming recorded three studio albums and a handful of EPs and still lives on today, simultaneously beside the much awaited revival of Stabbing Westward.
Photo: Annie Atlasman
Photo: Jennifer Hewett
Photo by Frank Forcino
With all of that on his plate, Christopher Hall was cool enough to set some time aside from his busy schedule to have a chat with us here at Cool Magazine about his life, his family and what's down the road ahead for him musically.
How has family life been treating you? and how has it changed your performances or life on the road?
"It has been a crazy ride filled with months of no sleep and more exposure to human excrement than I ever imagined possible without working in a sewer or nursing home but it’s been amazing at the same time. It’s changed everything as far as the bands and touring go. Gone are the days of getting in a van for 3 months and playing every night. The longest I can be away is 4 or 5 nights max before my little guys start to melt down. It’s changed the way we think about touring."
Are your kids fans of your music and want to be rock stars like their dad?
"Not yet. I’ve shown them videos and tried to explain what I do but they aren’t really interested. They would be more impressed if I was a train engineer or could transform into a fire truck robot."
What would be your advice be to them if they went down the same musical path that you did?
"I fear I may have jinxed my oldest by naming him Gibson Marshall Hall. He will probably be an accountant or worse a republican. But I want them both to find their own path in life. My family never supported me being a musician and it was always a source of resentment. So I have no expectations of them just for them to find something they are passionate about and go for it."
What was it like the first time you ever had to play live on stage? Were you nervous, excited...?
"I honestly don’t remember my first gig. I had already been in band and orchestra and choir and done musicals and stuff so by the time we started playing cover gigs in high school I was pretty comfortable. I love being onstage. It’s when I feel the most alive. Before I had kids I felt like life was the hours and days waiting to be on stage again."
What was your most memorable gig? Either best or worst. The one that stands out to you most?
"So many. The big ones like the Sex Pistols or Kiss or Depeche Mode or Reading Festival were all epic in theory but not fun shows. They were actually really hard work trying to convince these giant crowds who were there to see someone else to pay attention to you. Fortunately this was back before cell phones because now days you would just be singing to sea of people with their heads buried in their phones on social media. The best ones were the club shows right as the band started to get popular. It was magical looking out and realizing that people were actually singing along. It had been several years of opening for bigger bands trying desperately to get their fans to notice us and suddenly we were getting some of that energy back from the audience. Our audience. That was amazing. That’s the feeling I became addicted to. That exchange of energy. I give every ounce of passion and pain and they absorb it process and send it back to me a thousand fold. Best feeling ever.
Who were your major musical inspirations that made you want to do music in the first place? and who taught you how to scream like that? You have some powerful set of lungs on you!
"The influence question is a tricky one. There are the cool bands that I’ve always claimed were my inspiration but you can’t actually hear the influence in my music. And as I get older I’ve become more honest with myself about who my true influences are, cool or not. Ministry and the Revolting Cocks were a pretty big musical influence but not really vocally. The first NIN record was also a huge influence on me musically and lyrically but again not vocal style. My voice is about an octave higher than Trent’s so it was never really comfortable to sing along. Vocally I think journey and queen were the first 2 bands that had singers in the same range as me. Except maybe A-ha. Ha ha. Soundgarden and Pearl Jam both had big influences on our first album but once I sort of found my voice I started to create my own sound. For me the hardest part was being trapped in the song writing world of stabbing westward. Walter and Andy wrote most of the music and Andy has a much lower voice than me so he would write songs that didn’t fit my range. They were always way too low so I couldn’t project with the kind of power that I knew I had. With Walter his favorite key was always a little bit high in my range so I could get a powerful recorded performance but it was really hard to sing night after night without blowing my voice out. It really wasn’t until I started my own band that I was able to control the key of the songs to fit my voice. It seems like such an obvious thing. To write songs in your singers best key but somehow it was never a priority in SW."
Photo: Annie Atlasman
What new music are you listening to these days?
"Walter (Flakus) is the music director of the alternative radio station in Chicago. He listens to new music all the time. I can’t keep up. It looks exhausting. And honestly most of what he talks about sounds like crap to me. There are a few newer bands I like but nothing mind blowing or super underground. I miss Linkin Park. I’ve always liked Muse. I mostly listen to 80's goth industrial and new wave if I’m listening to music or NPR if I’m driving. I have so much music in my head most of the time that outside music is just more noise. Can’t really write a song if your listening to someone else’s."
gAk Photography (Nicole K Brandon)
What's next for you? Any new music on the way from either Stabbing or The Dreaming?
"This is the question I’ve been dreading. The simple answer is yes. I have a record written. Meaning I have 10 songs with melodies and lyrics and chord changes. Which band makes that record and which name we put it under has been a topic of great debate. It’s clear after 15 years of the dreaming that most of our fans were quietly wishing and praying for Stabbing Westward's return. I think they had accepted The Dreaming as their poor mans SW and have even given our new music a fair chance. But once we started playing out as SW again it quickly became clear that The Dreaming was going have a tough time going forward. Honestly I understand even if it’s a bit painful for me to accept. Fans feel a powerful connection to SW because it was a band they grew up with. They were songs that got them through high school and college and that connection will always be there. I feel the same way about The Cure or Depeche Mode or most of the the other bands I grew up loving. So we have some challenging decisions to make. In all honesty most sw fans have no true interest in new music. They may ask about us making a new record but if they came to a show and we played half a set of new material they would walk out feeling cheated. They want to hear all their favorite classics for 20 years ago and I get that. I really do. As much as I love The Cure I can take maybe 4 songs that came after Wish before I get bored. I want to hear my favorite songs. But as a writer I really want to share my new songs. They about something in my life that I feel strongly enough to write about and while writing and recording a song might be mildly cathartic nothing beats singing it live in front of a crowd. Unless that crowd is bored and resentful It’s really no fun singing to a bunch of smart phone zombies which is generally what happens when we bust out a new song. So I don’t know what the future holds. But I have music in me that needs to come out. I’m not sure who will be on other than Walter and I or under which name or label it will be released but I’ll get it out somehow. Otherwise it will just fester and make me all bitter and jaded."
And finally - What's you're definition of cool?
"Cool is having no definition of cool. Loving what you love because you love it. There are Adele and Ed Sheeran songs that can make sing along at the top of my lungs while wanting to cry. I can hum every note of the guitar solo of Separate Ways by Journey. I like to roller skate in my vintage speed skates on the beach with my greyhound. I love old motorcycles. I still wear a leather jacket combat boots and black jeans like it’s 1986. I’m pretty sure I’m not cool but I’m cool with that."
Chris Hall has always been cool because he doesn't just follow the leader. What he thinks, says, or does comes directly from inside of him. He's not a phony and he doesn't fake it.
Christopher Hall is an original - and there's nothing cooler than that.
- by M & J Shepherd (2017)
Drop by the official Stabbing Westward merch store here. All merch and designs are originals and come directly from the band, so you know exactly where your money is going! Also check out the gallery below of Christopher's COOL photo memories from his Instagram @dreamingchris