With a change of scenery instigating serious productivity, Hugh Hardie means business with his super delicious third studio album Juicebox.
It’s no secret that when you surround yourself with positive energy, it translates into everything you do, and how you feel. Over the past year and a half, Hugh has been experiencing this first-hand. Going against the current influx of producers moving down to Bristol, Hugh’s move from Bristol up to Cambridge – alongside his move from Hospital Records over to Soulvent Records – is cold hard proof that a little change in perspective can do us the world of good.
Juicebox is a fresh squeeze of mouth-watering, signature-sounding Hugh Hardie-esque liquid and crisp and cutting club bangers. It also features an abundance of brilliant artists; some surprises, like Footsie and Killa P, and some staple classics like Degs and In:Most.
From the realms of ‘Love Troubles’ and ‘Dream In Green’, we witness, once again, the ever-talented Hugh Hardie pushing himself even further out of his comfort zone, and we’re totally here for it.
Fresh off his US tour, we couldn’t resist a natter with the man himself, discussing everything from Juicebox to breaking bones, sample packs and writer’s block.
Hugh! The last time we spoke you’d broken your leg skating….
Yeah, that’s right. Although I’m trying to remember which injury that would’ve been, was it my ankle?
Maybe your ankle, yes! Have you been taking better care of yourself since then?
I’ve been doing my best but I think injury comes with the territory of skating. I have had more injuries since then. I hurt my knee and broke my hand but that’s all healed now. It’s all part of it, you just have to sort of accept it. It does suck though as you have to take time off the board but if you want to push yourself, you’re probably going to hurt yourself.
Are you ever scared of really injuring yourself? Like hurting your back or your neck?
Not really. Although just before my recent US tour I did think, for the first time ever, that I do need to be careful if I have a tour coming up as it would ruin it. I broke my hand a month before America, but if it had been the day before I might’ve had to cancel the tour.
Yeah, that wouldn’t be good. Speaking of the US tour, it looked like a lot of fun, Hugh! How was it? Where did you go?
It was amazing. I travelled around with MC Fava. We did Hawaii, then east to Pittsburgh, and then we came back to the West Coast and did California, Seattle, Atlanta and Austin. We moved around a lot. I absolutely loved it. It was quite an easygoing trip in ways, we had a few missed flight connections and delays but for the most part, you’re just in sunny America, meeting people, playing music and having fun.
Hugh, we’re here to talk about your project Juicebox which has just been released on Soulvent. What a project! Amazing work. Talk to me about the album, you’ve been working on it for a year right?
Yeah, around a year and a half. This album is the first project I’ve done with Soulvent, after moving over from Hospital Records and I’ve felt quite inspired and motivated by doing something a bit different in terms of the label. It’s been a good writing process for sure. I’ve been going into the Hospital/Soulvent offices based in London to use the music studio. As I’ve just moved from Bristol to Cambridge, it’s now very easy to get to London to do things like this. I can do day trips to the office and do studio sessions for the day. That’s been such a positive factor in the writing of the album.
New studios, fresh perspectives! Have there been any other major differences in terms of working with Soulvent rather than Hospital on the project?
There’s been a bit more personal attention, but that is purely because they have fewer artists than Hospital. They can really give you that 1-2-1 attention. Also, working with Joe Goss who runs Soulvent has been great. We were friends from before but I’ve gotten to know him really well after working so closely together with him on this project. That working relationship has been a lot of fun. It feels very matey, which I liked. In the writing process, especially towards the end of it, we were on the phone nearly every day, chatting about the music and just catching up generally. He’s very energetic, motivated and on the case so working with him was a big motivator for me.
It’s so important to have those people around you to gas you up. Joe is a good egg. Goes to show that 1-2-1 attention really works too.
For sure. That ongoing working dialogue makes a huge difference in productivity. Plus, it makes the process much more enjoyable.
On your Instagram, Hugh – don’t be scared – you said you’ve pushed your sound and style to the limits on this LP. How so, would you say?
There’s quite a lot of clubby/dance floor stuff. More roller-style tunes, which has been my goal, to make it club-ready. There are also a lot of trademark liquid sounds, but the club energy was what I wanted to push. Working with more vocalists too, I pushed myself further with that. Working with vocalists that are a bit different for me perhaps, has been a great experience in terms of growth.
Gotcha. Any particularly memorable moments making the album?
The first tune ‘RWTS’ with In:Most and Kojo was fun to make. It was written at a Soulvent writing camp and was basically finished in one afternoon. It was a fun day, meeting new people and getting ideas down quickly. There was a really lively energy in the room. It was sick because we started making the beat and Kojo would sometimes also get involved, suggesting different things musically. Then, we would make suggestions with the lyrics too. It was very collaborative.
I had a really good session with Killa P too, we made a garage/UK funky track. He was great to work with. He is a freestyle king. We did an afternoon session, and spent maybe four/five hours in the studio and every time I played him a beat, he just started freestyling the sickest uninterrupted bars. Barely ever slipped up. His writing process was nuts. I’d record everything then he’d be like ‘Right let’s do that bit again I’m just going to repeat what I freestyle’. He didn’t write anything down, basically freestyling the whole tune. Two long verses and a hook. It was wicked seeing how he works.
Would you ever worry about someone not writing something down? I guess if they’re established and that’s how they work it’s a bit different, of course.
Yeah, I know what you mean. You might think ‘I’ve spent a year working on this beat and I’d like the vocal to be very considered’. A lot of vocalists I’ve worked with work really quickly actually, they might not completely freestyle but they’ll write a hook in 15/20 mins. It’s that classic thing that usually the first thing you think of is often the best.
Totally. Why did you call it Juicebox, Hugh?
That came from an idea to make an object for every tune. So for the first single ‘Blush’ we had this terrarium with flowers in it, then the next single was ‘Face Off’ and we made this mask. We thought the album title would represent the space or the world that these objects would live in. I was trying to think of names that would be related to an exhibition or a world. There was a track called ‘Juicebox’ already in the album pot and it just sort of represented the concept quite well. The box represents the world and the juice represents the tunes.
It’s interesting how some producers have these amazing concepts and then others just sort of slap a name on it, the first thing that pops into their mind.
Yeah, it’s good to have a concept, I didn’t have one for ages. The funny thing about the album name was that the track ‘Juicebox’ was a rough idea and I was always planning on changing its name. Then I had a meeting with Joe and Chris and had actually just changed it, they were like ‘Wasn’t this called Juicebox?’ and it was those two that said to keep the name. The album name had been staring me in the face for months and months I just hadn’t realised it yet.
Do you find there are any sacrifices you have to make to pour everything you have into a project like this? How does it affect your life as a human being?
It can be difficult writing music and being creative. If I’m in a bad patch of writer’s block, it definitely affects my mood. I can feel very demoralised. It’s annoying because it always happens in waves, one moment you’re not feeling creative or trying really hard to make music and not making progress, and then the next you’re in a good flow. Writer’s block definitely affects my mood massively. I haven’t yet figured out a way to get around that effectively.
Do you ever speak to other artists about this? I’m sure you’re all going through similar things.
Sometimes I do, yeah. There are things you can do and the more I’ve been involved in this as a career, I’ve developed strategies to help myself push forward. For example, I’ll work on making a sample pack instead of being like ‘Today I need to make a full song’. It can be very emotionally draining to try and make a successful track. Sometimes you’re in the zone and it flows naturally, then other times it’s a real effort. So, whenever there is a period of writer’s block, I do more admin-based music tasks. I might make twenty drum loops, then I’m just thinking of drum loops and not feeling the pressure of a whole song. There are ways to be productive without actually making a song.
A great segway into my next question for you Hugh… What’s your top tip for up-and-comers producers?
Don’t get too addicted to using sample packs. Try to make your own stuff. People will like it more if it’s your own creation as opposed to using a load of pre-made bits from sample packs. It is really hard not to do that though. I’ll sometimes start the day, spend hours flicking through Splice and then I have a sudden realisation like ‘What am I doing? I’m looking for a pad sound but I can just make that myself. Making your own sounds will be more fun for you as a producer, you’ll feel more motivated and inspired, plus people will like the end product more.
I imagine it’s quite rewarding too. Hugh, last but not least, if you could share one thing with your fans, what would be it? Could be a completely random fact, could be a message. Totally up to you.
I have to go with the classic thank you, of course. Thank you to everyone listening to my music and coming to see me at shows! Without the listeners and the fans, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. It’s as simple as that. The listeners and the fans are the life and soul of the music, so yeah. Thank you all.