“We’ve always said genre’s a lie since day one”: Meet Hot Milk, the Manchester punk-rockers who love P-90 pickups and EDM in equal measure, and count Dave Grohl among their fans

Hot Milk performs onstage during the Lollapalooza Paris Festival - Day Two on July 22, 2023 in Paris, France.
(Image credit: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)

Rising out of Manchester’s world-renowned grassroots music scene, Hot Milk are fast becoming one of the UK’s most exciting guitar-based exports.

Formed in 2018, the band is dual-fronted by guitarists/vocalists Jim Shaw and Han Mee. With their hearts on their sleeves and their guitars slung all the way down to their knees, the pair never fail to bring their emo-punk tinged A-game to whatever stage they may happen to call home for the night. And boy, have they played some big ones in their whirlwind career to date. 

From scoring stadium support slots with Foo Fighters to touring with fellow Mancunian rabble rousers Pale Waves and tearing up some of the world’s biggest rock festivals, they’ve utilized every on-stage opportunity thus far to inform the direction of their recorded sound, which incorporates elements of dance music alongside powerful drop-tuned riffs and arena-ready hooks. 

“Aggressive techno and electronic music has the same kind of intensity live as rock music does,” explains Jim, who also acts as the band’s principle producer. “The aggression, the rhythm and the repetitiveness go hand in hand and I feel like they really do mesh well together.”

“We really like playing guitar parts and having that mesh in with all the madness that is Hot Milk,” adds Han, who professes to having only truly discovered her love for writing and playing heavy DADGAD riffs through developing her ballsy onstage persona, which packs more explosive energy than a Mentos and Coca Cola bottle rocket in human form. 

“I don’t like feeling super-girly on stage,” she smiles, alluding to the fact that the band has largely ceased performing fan favorites from their debut EP – like Take Your Jacket or Are You Feeling Alive? – as they’ve veered ever further away from bright and breezy songcraft, clean tones and pop sensibilities. 

“Those songs were the first songs we ever wrote together, so we just put them out,” explains Han. “Now, we’ve worked out what we like to play live and who we are as musicians and that is heavier.”

This being said, there’s no such thing as genre snobbery in the Hot Milk camp. “We’ve always said genre’s a lie since day one,” underscores Han, and pair cite a mixed bag of sonic influences including The Prodigy, My Chemical Romance, Arctic Monkeys, Biffy Clyro, Black Sabbath, Trivium and of course, their stadium-conquering pals, Foo Fighters.

Dave Grohl’s biggest thing that I remember him saying was just: ‘Enjoy what you do. Take stock of it and enjoy it because it’s never going to last forever’

Jim Shaw

Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Dave Grohl and co so early in their career not only fired up Han and Jim’s own ambitions, but the experience also constituted a kind of money-can’t-buy live performance masterclass, and Jim recalls how “watching them on stage definitely made me re-evaluate how I am on stage.”

“I used to be so stressed and I’d think about every other thing apart from the actual show,” he explains. “But you see them, and they’re all looking at each other and feeding off each other’s energy. Dave’s biggest thing that I remember him saying was just: ‘Enjoy what you do. Take stock of it and enjoy it because it’s never going to last forever.’” 

As such, the band is currently preparing to make the loudest and most emphatic statement of who they are and what they stand for with the upcoming release of their hotly anticipated debut LP, A Call to the Void

With 11 massive genre-smashing tracks and an infectious party rock vibe that’s designed for live and loud environments, it’s – as Jim puts it – “The truest and rawest form of Hot Milk up to now.” 

Cutting the album between Los Angeles, Stockholm and their “tiny little shipping container” studio in Manchester, Jim – with his producer hat on – relied on Neural DSP technology to cook up the array of gritty, dense and synth-like guitar tones that power the record.

I don’t have the space for hundreds of amps, but I’m able to emulate all these classic sounds, tones and pedals

Jim Shaw

“I don’t have the space for hundreds of amps, but I’m able to emulate all these classic sounds, tones and pedals,” he enthuses, adding that his newly purchased Quad Cortex is “so versatile and so quick” when it comes to sound design. 

In terms of other essential gear, Han and Jim are both proud players of Gordon Smith guitars.

“I really like the brand because they started in Manchester and they’re still a very independent guitar maker,” explains Jim, who alternates between a Gordon Smith Gatsby with two P-90s and a “meaty” humbucker-equipped GS Deluxe.

“They’ve got a punk background as well,” adds Han, noting Smith’s pedigree for having produced guitars for The Buzzcocks and Joy Division with great enthusiasm. 

“Jim is more technical, but I’m a punk-rocker at heart,” she smiles, and other than her recently acquired GS1, she relies on the near-indestructible OG guitar of choice for punk-rockers worldwide: the Gibson Les Paul Junior. In fact, she has a whole collection of them.

“The P-90s have always been exactly what I need because they’re a bit more meaty and they’ve got the volume,” she notes. “But for me, it’s simplicity and a case of what I can thrust around as much as possible!”

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Ellie Rogers

Since graduating university with a degree in English, Ellie has spent the last decade working in a variety of media, marketing and live events roles. As well as being a regular contributor to Total Guitar, MusicRadar and GuitarWorld.com, she currently heads up the marketing team of a mid-scale venue in the south-west of England. She started dabbling with guitars around the age of seven and has been borderline obsessed ever since. She has a particular fascination with alternate tunings, is forever hunting for the perfect slide for the smaller-handed guitarist, and derives a sadistic pleasure from bothering her drummer mates with a preference for “f**king wonky” time signatures.