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In Conversation With Quentin Hiatus

The sound of unjust desserts: Arizona’s most prolific junglist Quentin Hiatus just skidded into 2019 like a joyrider with the schizoid wobbler Blueberry Quiche.

Cantankerous, jittering and riddled with the signature stop/start unpredictability his name suggests; on paper Blueberry Quiche sounds like the worst flavour combo since mac & cheese with cranberries. Through your speakers it sounds like a man refreshed, on the attack and back at the controls of his own label Free Love Digi.

Flipping the switch from last autumn’s Brief History EP on Program, his most high-profile release in his 10 years as a producer so far, he’s returned to his home ground with a whole stack of characteristically wily, capricious hurters and rampant rave hybrids. After well over half a year break from releasing on Free Love Digi, he’s pounded us with Blueberry Quiche, its neon B-side Ever So Evolved and January’s Sage Mode EP.

He’s not just packing his own cuts either; this month he’s also dropped the debut album from Basic Biology. A cosmic odyssey surfing the waves in the venn overlap between beats, bass and dark futurist soul, it’s another beguiling extension of Quentin’s prolific expression. And another reason to stay alert for his regular memos. But first, we went back an earlier memo of his…

You seem very busy as usual. But I swear I read on Facebook you were thinking of taking a break?

You read that right. At that particular time I’d felt the most amount of exhaustion I’d ever felt in being involved in music and DJing in 15 years. I wasn’t sure if I could maintain that for much longer.

Oh wow

Yeah well it’s kinda been full speed ahead since I was 19 years old. I started out as a prominent DJ in Arizona and from 2005 to 2008 I played around 250 shows. I was going so hard it was nuts. Then I got into producing 10 years ago, started the label half way through and it’s just been constant. Then, more recently, I had some cool things happen with some really big labels that have inspired me for years. Which was, and is, amazing. But it had an affect on me.

In what type of way?

When you put yourself out there, you’re vulnerable and it wears on you. I spent the last year or so doing a lot of label negotiations and projects with labels I love. Some things worked, others didn’t and some of that has been stressful for me. I just needed to take a break from the process of pleasing everyone else with my sound. That was the main reason I set up the label in the first place; to express myself with my own releases and the music I love from people I admire.

You need to take a break from the business side

Yeah man it was a whole new level. I felt I was shaping myself for the labels. I’m very grateful for experience and have huge respect for the Ram crew who I continue to work with. But I needed to get back to what I loved doing; having that immediacy. I can make a tune and if I like it I can get the artwork done and get it out there. I wasn’t used to the A&R process. I hadn’t had my work scrutinised in that way. So I stepped away from the process and removed the stress and things started flowing again. Dude I have so many tunes it’s unbelievable.

Were Blueberry Quiche and Ever So Evolved the first tunes you made after making that decision? Blueberry Quiche certainly feels like it’s got that raw vibe…

Yeah man. Blueberry Quiche was specifically made right after that. Ever So Evolved was made about a year ago and you can totally tell. You listen to the two different tunes I was in a different mindset. Blueberry Quiche I made in January. Maybe even February. I made it a week before I sent it to the distributor. I went back to being more of myself. The angst, the glitch, the twistedness, not worrying if it’s easy to listen to or not. I didn’t care about any of that. What I typically do is pair a tune that’s easier to comprehend with something that’s not so easy to comprehend. It’s cool you noticed that; I made it specifically during that process.

I’d never heard of a blueberry quiche before. I didn’t believe such a thing could exist but it seems it does…

No that was exactly my point. I didn’t know if it existed or not, I just wanted to name it something really unappetizing, but at the same time could sound appetizing. People like weird recipes over here. We’ve got people fucking around with mac and cheese and adding things like cranberries or raisins. No one wants that shit! So yeah that’s the vibe the tune had; like when you hear it it’s like ‘I don’t know if I like this, but I can tell this dude is trying to say something.’ That’s more important to me.

Let’s chat about Free Love Digi. You a hippie at heart?

I came up with it in 2010 and I was getting to a stage where my tunes were getting complete. Like I felt I was ready to share something. So I started giving away free tunes. So yeah it was that kinda vibe you mention; fee love… Here’s some free music. An offering; my love to you. But one of the coolest parts of the whole label was that I met this guy from Bournemouth, Aaron Smith, and he’s the whole reason I have the image I have for it. He just randomly hit me up and asked to design the artwork for my music. He came up with the original artwork. It blew my mind man, I didn’t even know if I was going to run this label or not but when I saw it I was like ‘right this is happening now’.

The beauty of the internet and industry. He just got in touch randomly and done all the artwork?

Yeah man. So basically he did all the original logo and artwork. He was only 16 at the time. Now he’s studied animation and his life is a little busier. He works for a big animation studio and worked on the new Black Mirror movie.

Sick

Yeah so he’s put onto other designers but remains the main logo and imagery guy, he’s in the big picture and I have another artist who does so many sick pieces doing the releases. It’s a trip with how it all worked out.

Developed quite a collective around Fee Love Digi. Most recently we’ve had Basic Biology…

Oh man that album is so beautiful. This is Thomas B and Matthew Cassidy. Thomas has been releasing on the label for years. He and Matthew have been building this album and refining it for two years. It’s crazy. They’ve put together an amazing video, they’ve put so much love into it. I feel honoured they believe in my label enough to release it. It’s quite daunting… I need to do it justice. I’m more used to releasing my own albums. It’s a bit different then. Less of a responsibility I guess.

Didn’t you make one of your Neither Quentin Nor Hiatus albums in your car?

Yeah I did! The second one. I had an aux cable in my car. I would take my lunch break at work and go in there and make tunes. I did the whole thing in my car, which was the trippiest thing ever.

You’re instantly doing the car test!

Exactly dude. And the beautiful thing was I could just pull over wherever I liked and work on something if I was inspired or had an idea. But if I hadn’t written in that way, it probably never would have come out. I have a full life with a career and family so being able to work on music wherever had to happen or I wouldn’t have been able to keep up any level of productivity to keep me satisfied as an artist. But going back to your question about the acts on the label, that’s important to me. In the last two years I’ve condensed things down to the Free Love Digi family. Myself, Thomas B, Basic Biology. Sinistarr, Dominic Ridgeway, Stunna, Moralz. Those are the main artists I focus my energy on. I want to build a family; a tight collective who support each other and have freedom to grow. I’ll be real with you; when any of these guys send me music I don’t even have to listen to it to know I’m going to sign it. I know it’s going to be amazing. They don’t do anything substandard, they put their soul into it.

Wasn’t Stunna involved in your first release? On IM:LTD?

Yeah he remixed a really track of mine with them called Different Strokes. That was the first time we worked together and we’ve worked on many things since. That’s an honour man, I’d been following him since I was 18 years old. He’s been on this such a long time. That was a really cool connection to make.

I think you connected with Jeremy Sinistarr really early, too, right? Didn’t he support you at an early gig?

Yeah how mad is that? I was booked to play in Detroit in 2008 when I was DJing a lot and I was known in certain regions for my DJing. Jeremy was already releasing, making awesome music, and he played before me. I remember that night so well. He told me he’d send me all his music, he loved what I was playing and we’d stay connected. He was true to his word man; he’s been involved since the start and been incredibly supportive. Him Stunna and Dominic Ridgeway were some of the earliest artists I had on board. We’ve grown as friends over that time.

You’ve developed musically over the years too… I read you got into hard house first?

Haha! Yeah man when I was getting into electronic music I was obsessed with the UK. I’d buy Mixmag, I’d buy Knowledge, I had the biggest collection of magazines and at the time hard house was a big thing. I remember the CDs so clearly; Lee Haslam, Fergie. I was huge into UK hard house.

I’ve never heard an American say that. Amazing. I enjoyed hard house because it was quite obnoxious and quite silly

I love hardcore for that reason even more. Guys like Brisk and Vinyl Groover. It was Vinyl Groover who got me into hard house when he went in that direction. He was a god to me when I was younger and I followed him into hard house and fell in love with it. I was 16, it was energetic, it was euphoric, it had everything I needed at that time. I had friends who were into drum & bass and I didn’t even like it at the time. I remember them playing Decoder tunes and I was saying ‘this is too dark and fast for me’. It’s funny, looking back…

How did you get into it?

I was about 18 and I met one of the main drum & bass DJs out here at the time, Dave Summers. I lived with a friend in this complex and I was having a walk because I was bored. Then I saw this car with a ‘selecta’ licence plate and I knew it must belong to a junglist. I left a note on his car and said ‘hey man I’ve got some drum & bass vinyls if you want them.’ That’s how we connected. I gave him these records and I did a little hard house mix and he gave me some nice feedback as a DJ and we hung out. I guess it wore off on me. He’s one of the best tastemakers I’ve ever met. A set from that guy is a genuine education in what drum & bass is past, present, future. I was inspired by him. He got me into the really good stuff once I met him. Total Science, Digital & Spirit… Guys like that. He opened the doors for me.

Does he know this?

Oh he knows. We’ve done some projects together like a dubstep project called Beastman and released on Play Me Records. He’s well aware of how things have gone.

Make us all aware of what’s coming up next… 

I’m in a group; Onism Qi with myself, Thomas B and Ghast and we have an EP coming out on Translation Recordings. There’ll be a Free Love Digi album with all the guys and a Ram release around the summer, there’s a collaboration with Trace in progress too. But the biggest thing ever right now is the Basic Biology album  I’m super proud of Matt and Tommy of Basic Biology, from the tracks on the album, to the music video they produced for Melting Patterns, to the banging release party last weekend, they have shown amazing commitment and artistic ability. Big up guys! The album is out now on our Bandcamp.

Big up Quentin Hiatus: Facebook / Soundcloud