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Ant Mulholland

Q&A

Halogenix Talks His Debut Album ‘Passions’

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Halogenix Talks His Debut Album ‘Passions’

Photo Credit: Riya Hollings

With what has been a career filled with many eclectic styles of drum & bass, Laurence Reading is widely accepted as one of the most creative producers within the community. Halogenix has immersed himself in a foray of sounds throughout his production journey containing some of the most soulful, futuristic, and forward-thinking showpieces out there. A background in classical music combined with a sharp ear for thought-provoking concepts very readily transformed him into one of the most complete artists in the game. The unique innovation throughout the body of work he possesses is thoroughly recognised by everyone associated with the genre, holding him in the highest regard amongst some of the best creatives to grace the scene, over the course of the last decade. 

The notable spell with supergroup Ivy Lab essentially put Halogoenix on the map, signed by Kasra’s infamous Critical Music label, they went on to release some of the most iconic projects in the scene. Their drive took them right to the very top of the experimental game, till the North Londoner decided to part ways and crucially embark on a solo career that would ultimately make him stand out from the crowd. To focus on his solo output, it felt necessary to take these steps, especially off the back of two exceptional EP releases, ‘Velvet’ released on Critical Music, which contains ‘Blej’ , one of the standout tracks on his discography. Whilst the other was the ‘Jumpsuit’ EP on Alix Perez’s hard hitting 1985. Having consistently worked with these two heavyweight labels over the years, this highly esteemed producer has been able to refine his sound and showcase some of the finest constructed sound design in the electronic sphere. 

During his time as a solo artist he’s been able to work with some of the greats including the likes of Noisia, Goldie, dBridge, and Alix Perez – a real testament to the respect he’s earnt. In the early stages of this new chapter he’s currently embarking on, we can already denote that high calibre production is a given. In addition, the desire to release what he wants and market it how he pleases has now become a luxury he can afford. With the launch of his label Gemini Gemini he finds himself in a period of euphoria where he can unapologetically express the music to his taste. More recently, the ‘Lost Friends’ EP which pays homage to his close friend Ebow Graham who tragically passed away in 2020. This series of production demonstrated an empathy in his songwriting that is able to touch on trauma, creating a distinctive, immersive, sonic experience. 

Looking ahead, we are all eagerly anticipating his debut solo album ‘Passions’ on 26 April for what can only be described as a body of work that challenges the parameters of electronic music in every sense. The album holds thirteen tracks, and includes collaborations with dBridge, Steve Spacek, and Liam Bailey going on a journey that explores the depths in which he is able to express his songwriting through variations in range, sub-genre and tempo. Using his 2 year old son’s painting as the artwork for this project is a true testament to embracing things as they are, marking this curation of tracks a meaningful one on a personal level. The ability throughout the album to merge soulful and minimal sounds is impressive, interwoven in a way that will work seamlessly in a multitude of settings – from the bedroom to the nightclub. 

How’s life going at the moment?

I’m doing well. Aside from being a fulltime musician, I recently got a role as a product developer at Apple, which I’ve been doing since last May – and that’s three days a week. I’m really having to structure my week. The accountability side of things took a bit of getting used to as I’ve been my own boss for the last 14 years of my life. I thought I’d struggle with that, but it’s been great. I’ve also enjoyed spending time with my little boy, taking him to nursery and stuff like that. Getting that balance right in terms of spreading my time out is very important to me.  

Growing up, what was influencing you?

Heavy metal and drum & bass. My brother was big into heavy metal and we’d often go to gigs together, he had a big influence on me growing up. One day he came back from the shops with my Mum and had bought a Grooverider Mix CD ‘Pure Drum & Bass’. I used to swipe it from his room all the time. It’s what started me on my obsession with D&B.It had tunes from the likes of Ed Rush, Optical, Dillinja, and Die. I would listen to them all on repeat. A year later when i was 11 I got an ‘Underfire’ CD mixed by Mampi Swift mixed CD called ‘Dangerous Drums Vol.2 Underfire’ which I also didn’t stop listening to. It had loads of really early techstep on there; Konflict, Stakka & Skynet, K-Tee. It was a darker and techy sound. I went to my first rave at Fabric at 15 and I was going most weeks after that. It blew my mind. I was hooked from the first rave so I went to a venue called Herbal the week after where Grooverider, Storm, and Goldie were playing – I realised then that I’d arrived. 

So how did the idea of the Album come about?

I guess the idea was born through me trying to be organic in my music production. The idea took shape over the course of lockdown when I was stuck at home. There was no theme per say in terms of theme, it just kept evolving with the musicality.  Being immersed in club music, and then suddenly having no clubs was a challenging time. So I started experimenting with my songwriting, making things a bit more musical. I took some online piano lessons to keep my skills up. I also listen to a lot of R’n’B and hip-hop in my spare time, when I’m not writing music, so when I had the idea of making an album it took a lot of cues from that kind of sound. I was very sample-based before, but there’s only so far you can go with samples. You have clearance issues, on top of that you can only manipulate the samples to a certain point. I took inspiration from watching young sample makers create hip-hop samples online and I thought I could do that too. Then I’d have ownership over the whole thing. Before I knew it, I had a playlist with twenty tunes on it. Only then did I think this could be an album. I played it to a few people and came to the conclusion that there was still a bit of work to do. The irony is, that how the album plays now is nothing like how it first sounded. Two songs survived from the first draft. The oldest tune on the album is nine years old from my Ivy Lab days. 

Really loving the collaborations on the album!

Thanks. So the dBridge tune ‘Take Me Away’ was written online. We were sending each other bits back and forth. I’ve known him for a long time, so we have been sending each other music for a long time. When he sent me a bunch of samples one day, I was able to write the beat in like a day. dBridge has been one of my biggest influences in drum & bass, so it felt very full circle. After he left Bad Company, he was the guy for some of the most iconic minimal and melodic sounds in the scene. I’d borrowed a lot from his production ethos, with sampling chords and reese baselines – a lot of my earlier tunes carry that influence. So when he sent me these stems I wanted to see how close I could get to recreating his classic ‘True Romance’ without being a copy. He loved what I’d sent him back, but I suggested it needed a vocal so he sent it to his brother Steve Spacek. Within a week it was done, the whole process was very organic. 

The Liam Bailey collaboration was so intriguing. I obviously knew who he was already, he’s been on some big d&b tunes over the years, he’s a wicked vocalist, and we have a lot of mutual friends within the scene. I released ‘Satisfy My Soul’ as a single last May before the album idea was finalised. That came about because I was just jamming, messing around with all my synths, on instagram live and he saw this. He messaged me asking if he could come round the studio. He’s got such a charismatic energy about him, being in the studio with him was an experience. He laid down a bunch of different ideas. 

The album has a variety of down tempo and experimental numbers. 

Yes, well there are a bunch of vocal samples on the album as a whole. I also like to take vocals and really chop them up so it doesn’t even sound like words. ‘Keeping you close’ was actually my vocals, I thought I needed to go big for the album. It’s a soulful slowed down tune, I was writing lyrics, had the mic on and just started singing. I can’t sing well but I whacked the autotune and just played around with it. ‘Peng’ was the other slowed down tune. This was nine years old from the Ivy Lab project. It sums up what I like about music in terms of its sound and tone. I had an emotional connection to the tune due to where it came from, putting it out really showcases my journey. To be honest, the whole album shows off the musicality I wanted to achieve. I’ve always tried to make music that’s different from trends, making it a bit more deep and thoughtful. 

Why the name ‘Passions’?

It’s a very emotional project. I discovered that before the 1800’s there was no word for ‘emotions’, it was just described as ‘passions of the mind’. So that’s why I named the album ‘Passions’. The name resonated with me because I tried to challenge a lot of my feelings through music from a young age. The whole experience was very cathartic for me, I could get lost in it and make sounds that make me understand myself more. Making me come to terms with my feelings better and helping me combat different emotions like sadness and fear. Using my two year old son’s paintings as the artwork added to this idea. Just watching him paint and not care about constraints and boundaries inspired me. With just a raw passion to paint. The idea of making something perfect doesn’t exist, it’s a discipline I need when approaching my own production. I was going crazy about trying to figure out what the artwork was going to be, watching him paint made me understand my own music more – it was the perfect idea.  

And how did the ‘Gemini Gemini’ side of things come to fruition? Was it always on your mind to release this album on a label you created?

Creating the label has been on my mind since before Covid. It seemed a good idea as part of maintaining my growth since Ivy Lab and becoming more independent away from Critical. I launched in January 2023, so releasing this album that I knew would be coming out around this time meant it was always in the plan to release on my own label. I wanted to create my own ecosystem. I’ve seen it through different projects I’ve been involved in and now I think it was time for me. I was very lucky with Critical as Kasra gave me license to do what I wanted because he trusted me. Overall, I believe that having my own label makes things a lot easier moving forward not only as an artist, but as a creative. I felt that if I didn’t take the risk and do it then, I may never have done it. I would love for the label to co-exist with the likes of 1985 and Critical.

Your first release on the label was the ‘Lost Friends’ EP. How much did it mean for that to be the first release?

It was really special. It wasn’t the complete intention, but things just fell into place at the right time. I wrote most of it during lockdown, and ‘Amé’ was written with Alix Perez when he was able to come over to the UK. Starting a label had crossed my mind throughout lockdown, especially because there were no gigs. When my friend Ebow died, I wrote the ‘lost friends’ tune. We’d had many conversations about our feelings towards music and starting the label then with the ‘Lost Friends’ project to kick things off seemed like the right thing to do. The vibe with this EP was similar to the album, I was feeling very musical at the time and just really wanted to honour my friend. 

What is your approach with the label moving forward?

I definitely don’t want to rush it. Starting everything from scratch has been a long process. Kasra was a big help, pointing me in the right direction he was able to guide me with who to contact about certain bits. I did sign a bunch of projects last year, but realised I was doing it for the sake of it. They were brilliant demos, and they still would’ve been the stuff I wanted to sign had I ended up taking on demos. I had time to realise that I need to take things a bit slower.  I had to let the relevant artists know I was no longer taking their songs on and that I would hit them up again when the time is right. I just need to see how this album goes, and if it resonates with people. Everyone has their own little lanes and niches, I just need to work out mine with the label. In the grand scheme of things the label is one years old which is no time at all. After the album I want to showcase the broad range of sounds I can do. I touch on a wide range of sub-genres.  

It really does seem like the pieces are coming together not only in your production, but in your label pursuits. It must be a nice feeling!

Yes, it has felt good. I have to add, however, that there’s an internal conflict that I have about pursuing personal passions whilst also feeling a moral obligation to address larger social issues, particularly in light of current events in Gaza, I have a sense of conflict and guilt about focusing on my artistic pursuits when there is so much suffering and injustice in the world.

Music has such an extraordinary power to connect with others and evoke emotion, but I question whether it’s enough to justify the pursuit of personal goals in the face of global crises. I feel like as a society we may be too self-absorbed and distracted by our own experiences to pay attention to the suffering of others. I think it’s important, now more than ever, that we speak out and take risks to stand up for basic humanity. Otherwise what’s the point in all of this?

Music throughout history has been a form of rebellion against the status quo, from the revolutionary spirit of Hip-Hop to the defiant energy of Punk and Jungle, it can be a vehicle for social change, it has the potential to inspire positive and meaningful transformation in society. 

I hope that others use their platform and influence to address pressing social issues rather than being solely focused on personal success or validation.

Really refreshing to hear! You’re obviously known for your minimal & soulful sound, but as you’ve said already you can dip into heavier sounds. Talk to me about how they’ve fed into your career so far. 

Yeah for sure. I guess ‘Blej’ was the first notable one. It was an anomaly at that point. I’d never written a track like that before. I then started getting bookings for more heavier nights. That side of my sound evolved and became a cool part of what I do. The next big dance track I did was ‘Dragon force’ in 2020 followed by my remix of ‘Shella’. It’s something I want to showcase more, I’ve written so many over the course of my career I think it’s time some more of them came out. There was a point where the album actually had some in, but I get it was more appropriate to save them for a bit further down the line. Of course, it might have made the appeal of the album broader, but I’m at a point in my career where I’d like to follow what I want to do. 

How were these tracks to write?

They are good fun. Thinking back, ‘Blej’ was a bit of an accident. I was just messing around really, and when Kasra heard it he loved it. He played it in a rave and I saw everyone lose their mind. Was a really cool moment for me. With ‘Shella’ Hospital Records asked me to do the remix and I initially said no, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. A few days later I emailed back saying I wanted to take it on, and they immediately sent me the stems. I’m a big overthinker so I think the worry of not being happy with the final product got to me. In the end I’m glad I did it.  

We’ve touched on this label a fair amount during the interview. But as you now move forward with your own endeavours, a final word on Critical and what it’s done for you and for the community.Critical have championed the underground like no one else. Consistently putting out great music that caters to more niche tastes within drum & bass. Kasra is a great A&R and business man. He knows how to run a label, promote events, how to build artists and get the best out of them. It’s created an incredible ecosystem for people like myself to get to where I’m at now. I wouldn’t be where I’m at now without Critical, like many other artists. It’s making the underground a very fertile place. Allowing other great labels to grow such as 1985 and Overview, ensuring the scene lives on.

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