Interview: Hugh Hardie
Hugh Hardie has walked the by-now well-trodden Hospital Records path with more style than most. Inspired by roster stalwarts like Logistics and debuting with 'Tearing Me Apart' in 2014, his infectious spin on Hospital’s classic sound has been turning heads ever since. Last summer’s City Soul EP cemented that fact, with 'Light It Up' being made Friction's Fire on BBC Radio 1 as well as receiving Hospital’s Track of the Year accolade.
Needless to say then, the recent release of his debut album Colourspace and forthcoming appearance at Hospitality’s BBQ XL in Bristol, amongst others, prompted cause for investigation. So, we got in touch it to find out more about the above, and to gain some insight into Hugh Hardie himself.
Hey Hugh, how’s it going?
Very good thanks, yeah.
Let’s start off with your personal history, how’d you get to where you are now?
I’m Hugh Hardie, originally from Cambridge but now living in Bristol. I’ve been making drum 'n' bass for quite a while and I got into production at school, when I was 15 or 16.
It was the Music Technology block during lunch break, wasn’t it?
That’s right yeah, in my last year of GCSEs we had Cubase on the computers, then in Sixth Form I did Music Tech and got my hands on Reason as well. I ended up getting super addicted and would go for a period every lunch, sit inside and make beats [laughs].
I can picture that. So, your early influences were R&B, soul and hip-hop, how important were these influences to you and, more generally, how important are early influences for producers?
They can be really important to shaping your sound. If you’re into a certain type of music from the outset, especially from a young age when you start connecting with music on a personal level it can resonate with you extremely strongly later on.
For example, there’s one album I keep coming back to which I had when I was really young, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I think I bought that when I was about 10 or 11 and I still listen to it every now and then, I guess in a nostalgic way, but it ties in with the point that the early music you listen to has quite an important effect.
Those early influences were clear in your last EP, City Soul - how does that release stack up in your head compared to your new album?
There’s some similar sounding music on the album to what was on the EP so in some ways it’s a follow on, but there’s also a range of different styles on the album, which I’m definitely happy about. There are obviously less tracks on the EP, so that’s one reason why they’re mostly up the same alley. On the album there’s a lot more headroom for experimenting with different sounds which is something I had a lot of fun with in the production process.
How have Hospital Records refined or changed that production process?
I think what’s changed a little bit is I’ve been drawn more towards bass heavy, dancefloor tunes, because I’ve been playing more gigs and obviously through Hospital you get more opportunities to play bigger rooms. So, that would be a change, playing more bangers because I’m playing the more primetime slots.
But I don’t think my sound has changed too much beside that, perhaps some more experimentation with styles, as I was saying, because there’s a pressure now to make something a bit different or something people are going to remember. I guess pushing distinctive styles is another aspect that’s changed in the past two years or so.
Hospital are pretty accepting, I’ve found that if I send them a certain tune I like and they’re not into it, if I just keep on sending it to them and saying I really like it, eventually it’ll squeeze through the A&R process [laughs].
Before we talk about Colourspace, I hear you might be going straight into a second album? Which in some ways I guess would be following in the footsteps of artists like Logistics?
Since working on new post-album stuff I’ve been feeling quite inspired, so going straight into another one could be a possibility, either that or another EP. I like the idea of launching into a second album, it would just depend on whether or not the tunes I were making were coming fast enough or good enough.
Logistics is a good comparison because he puts out albums pretty solidly, about one a year for the last six or seven years and I really respect the professional efficiency in his production. I like the fact that it’s album after album, so I’m definitely inspired by him in that way.
So a second album straight away is an idea I like, particularly the project side, having time to experiment and think about the selection as a package is something I really enjoy. Especially towards the end of the process, on Colourspace I started using some more of the same sounds on certain tunes, synths and samples, that I hadn’t been doing so much at the start but wanted to by the end.
Getting into a couple of the tracks on Colourspace, 'Talk The Talk' is fantastic, and darker than we’ve heard you go before. What was working with Dan Stezo like, and how’d that tune come about?
So, I met Dan in Bruges, he was playing with Lenzman and we hung out afterwards having a few beers and decided to work on some music together. Originally Dan wrote that verse for a completely different track, but the beat didn’t hit in the right way and I wasn’t fully happy with it so wrote a new one. I wanted to make the drums snappier, and 'Talk The Talk' ended up with quite punchy percussion.
It’s one of those one that’s more intended for playing out to a dancefloor, maybe a bit later in the night. We’ve been working on another one recently as well together with GLXY.
The other track I absolutely love is Shades of Blue, and it’s obviously a bit different, tell me about that one.
I went to St. Ives in Cornwall for a week, my friend Alex has a flat there so me and him went down with just my laptop, headphones and keyboard. He was busy working on film stuff (he actually ended up doing the video for it coincidentally) whilst I worked on tunes, so Shades of Blue is quite influenced by St. Ives.
There were certain nights where it was just us in the flat with a massive storm outside and it was real moody and atmospheric, the hail pattering and the wind tapping on the windows. We were listening to a lot of Kid Drama & DBridge that week, so I guess I wanted to make something in that sort of vein, a deeper track. It was also quite late in the album writing process and there was a lot of energetic, melodic or bassy things in the pot, so Shades of Blue is one I’m probably not ever going to play out, something a bit introspective.
Again, the vocals were recorded for a totally different beat which got scrapped, so I had the vocal already and built the beat around it. Doing it this way round seems to work and there are two tunes on the album done like that. With rap verses, lots of different beats might work, but for this one certain hits and stabs follow the vocal. Usually the vocal follows the beat but in this instance, it’s the other way around, and I like how the slightly poppy vocal gets flipped into something deeper.
How do you find making harder music compared to your more trademark soulful sound, is it completely different or just another side of the same cloth?
It’s totally different, all the stuff I’ve been working on since the album has been super dark and bassy. It’s really fun, because you don’t have to think about the music working, the melodies or the chords flowing into each other, it’s just thinking about what I can do to make it sound heavy.
They’re just totally different motives for making tunes. With a soulful, melodic thing it’s about trying to evoke emotion in the listener, something deep or uplifting with nice chords and melodies. With the bassy side of things, you adopt a mindset of thinking about what would sound banging through a sound system and it really is a totally divergent way of thinking creatively.
I’ve been finding it really nice to have both going on at the same time, because whilst I don’t get bored of either, one will get me inspired to produce the other and vice versa.
That applies to the listener as well, and so I guess that mix of sounds shines through in your DJ sets?
Yeah exactly. Recently, the more I DJ out the more I jump around with the styles. You do have that ability to bounce around as it’s all the same BPM, so you can go back and forth without locking into one sound for twenty minutes. Some DJs do that and its really cool, but you can find your way through a variety of subgenres and it still sounds great.
How do you find playing to the Bristol crowd, and can we expect to see both sides of your sound at the Hospitality BBQ in June?
Certainly yeah, there’s going to be a healthy mixture of the two in that sense. The general sound in Bristol is quite bass-driven, maybe a bit of jungle in there but the heavy stuff definitely goes down well. They like a mixture and there’s all sorts of drum 'n' bass across the city, liquid one night and jump up the next, so it really covers all bases.
You can kind of play anything in Bristol, whereas other places in the world often have a tendency towards one sound. There are certain places In Europe where neuro is really prominent and if you played a bunch of Calibre tunes people might not react so well, whereas in Bristol you can usually get away with playing all sorts.
There’s obviously a big party scene in Bristol, a big sense of communal partying as well, so events like this BBQ factor into that in a perfect way. It’s a day event so hopefully the sun is going to be out, everyone just listening to tunes. There’s a big enough scene, and it’ll be a substantial event, Motion is a sizeable venue and it’ll be guaranteed to have a big crowd because there’s such a healthy scene in Bristol.
Are there any acts you’re especially excited to see or play with?
The London Elektricity Big Band will be especially good, I only managed to catch the last two songs at Hospitality In The Park in the summer so it’ll be wicked to see the full set. Roni Size of course, and Nu:Logic as well, they’ve got a new album coming out soon and I’m always a fan of them.
I reckon out of the DJ sets I’m most excited for S.P.Y b2b Nu:tone, I saw half of their set at Hospitality In The Dock and it was sick.
What are some of your favourite cuts from acts on the bill, and why?
Let’s go with 'What I’ve Always Waited For' by Nu:Logic. Super mellow, super chill and just nice to listen to. Soulful, with the Cambridge sound:
Makoto – 'Golden Girl', another really soulful track with beautiful strings over a rolling beat, an absolutely classic sound:
S.P.Y – 'Step & Flow', I really like this one, the expressive vocal combined with a stripped back drop and really cool, hardware-esque synths:
Very nice choices. Let’s talk BBQs then, favourite thing to eat and drink?
My favourite thing to drink would be the classic, beer. To eat just a burger, with halloumi and maybe Swiss cheese. I guess halloumi as the cheese, under a brioche bun. For sure a brioche bun [laughs].
A few last things, what’s this about a long overdue graduation ceremony in Toronto?
I went to university at Toronto in Canada because my mum is Canadian and so I have a Canadian passport. I did a year abroad in Australia and the university really fucked up my paperwork on the courses I did there, so they took four years to process me. I ended up graduating four full years later than planned. The ceremony was funny because I obviously knew no one, all my friends were long gone, but it was good to finally officially graduate.
That’s record level inefficiency, I hope you didn’t stand out too much. Finally, any shouts or recent highlights in drum n bass?
Shouts to my girlfriend Imi.
Music-wise, definitely Phaction’s latest EP on C.I.A. I rate his tunes very, very highly. We came out with a track together for it and yeah, certainly a standout drum 'n' bass wise.
Words: Ben Hunter