Hugh Hardie, An Interview
Recently I had the opportunity to visit Belgium with one of the rising stars of the UK’s drum and bass scene, Hugh Hardie, to attend a gig in Antwerp, located an hour or so north of Brussels.
Antwerp itself is a small, pretty town with a quaint central square, a busy pedestrianised centre and some fantastic churches. It’s a typical Northern European town – clean, tidy and full of welcoming people – but it also has a thriving nightlife scene.
Our destination for the night was Trix, a famous music venue and a Belgian institution. It’s situated a little way out of the city and from the outside the venue is pretty austere, lots of concrete and not too much light, but inside it is a different proposition, with a wide stage overlooking the dance area. We listened and danced with the 1000-strong crowd as Hugh ran through some of his best-known material and also played a few new tracks, being joined on stage at one point by an MC.
At some point the next day I remembered the job at hand and we managed to fit in a short interview with Hugh. Luckily, despite his long night he was still keen.
When did you start making music and what/who were your early influences?
I started really enjoying making music in 6th form college. I studied music technology for a year and found myself spending a lot of lunch times in the music block when I figured out how to use the software. I was initially making down tempo hip hop beats trying to the emulate the style of producers like RJD2, Bonobo and Quantic and later became obsessed with drum & bass and found influence in artists like High Contrast and Logistics.
Your music seems to span a few different styles, what genre would you classify it as?
My main musical focus now is drum & bass although I do occasional tinker around in other areas (house and garage recently). What I like about d’n’b is that it can incorporate quite a few different styles (soul, jazz, reggae etc). I’d say a lot of my musical influence comes from jazz, soul and r’n’b music. Often when starting a track I’ll try to create the sort of chord progression you’d be likely to find in those types of music.
Do you prefer DJing or producing songs?
That’s a tricky one because they’re such different activities. DJing is a very live and exhilarating experience, being surrounded by an energetic crowd in an extremely loud environment, while producing is a much more personal, solitary experience. Producing can be also be very exciting, though when the creative juices are in full flow. I think the best moments for me have to be while playing out my own material that I’ve worked alone for hours on and receiving a positive crowd reaction.
You’ve done gigs in a few different countries, how have you found the experience of DJing abroad?
I’ve played a few times in Belgium and very recently in Amsterdam and found it incredible! The idea of being flown to another country to do something I love is extremely exciting and rewarding. People from Belgium and Holland are ridiculously passionate about d’n’b music and the crowd energy over there is on another level. I can’t wait for the next one!
Who have you been working with recently?
I’ve got a track in the works with my singer friend Kyan, who I’ve worked with in the past. He has a truly incredible voice that fits the soulfulness of d’n’b perfectly and is definitely someone I’d like to work with more. I’ve also been in the studio with Logistics putting together a track which will be released soon.
For the vocals on your tracks do you mainly use samples or original recordings?
Mixture of the two. It’s obviously better to record original vocals, but can be difficult finding somebody with the right voice and who is also willing to give up their time for you. The problem with sampling is that labels often won’t release a track with ‘borrowed’ vocals because they can get in trouble over copyright issues. It’s a fairly common problem in the industry since so many d’n’b tracks are quite heavily sample-based.
Who would you love to DJ with?
It would be fun to be behind the decks with High Contrast. His sets are so full of energy!
What piece of equipment would you love to own?
I’m not that big on the hardware side of things. My set up is pretty simple, computer, midi keyboard and speakers. The one thing I would love to own though is a proper Steinway grand piano. I’d mic it up and record hours of jamming around which I could then chop up into tunes. The difference in the sound between real and digital instruments is huge so incorporating more live piano, and other instruments for that matter, into my music is something I’d like to work towards.
What can we expect for the rest of 2014?
I’ve got more gigs lined up and lots of new tunes in the works, one of which is seeing a release on Hospital Records very soon.