The most exciting musical artists are the ones who don’t fit into any kind of box. Their sound transcends across genre boundaries, fusing a myriad of elements together that many others wouldn’t even attempt, while their aptitude for pushing different styles gives a brilliant sense of unpredictability to their work.
Artists like Hypho.
Since he last spoke to UKF back in 2018, the Cumbria-based producer has been taking the underground bass community by storm. As well as a succession of releases across labels such as Swamp 81, Encrypted Audio and Infernal Sounds, he’s become a significant face in the North American scene, regularly touring around the 50 states.
Recently, he’s appeared on Truth’s iconic Deep, Dark & Dangerous label with a four track EP called Sufferin’ that features collaborations with artists from both sides of the pond. His focus on working with other artists only increases the unique nature of his production, and he’s certainly not finished…
Over the forthcoming months, Hypho (real name Louis) has set out plans to work with a number of producers and vocalists on a range of diverse projects.
This approach to his own production has also helped carve out a similar reputation for his own imprint Manuka Records, which can be seen to be an extension of Hypho himself. Run with Xakra, their emphasis on encouraging artists to try something different and explore beats that sit around the 130 region has made them one of the most intriguing labels in the game.
We gave Hypho a call to hear all about what makes him tick…
The last time we spoke with you you’d just got back from a US tour. I saw you’re booked in for another later this year so let’s start there. You must be buzzing to get back out to the States…
Absolutely! It’s a bit mad actually. Most of my gigs are over in America and Canada so it’s always so good to go out there because I’ve met a lot of people from my previous tours. I’m excited to see them all again, especially after Covid. It’s going to be weird actually getting on a plane and everything, but it’ll definitely be good to get back out and about.
What’s playing in the States like compared to over here?
It’s amazing. I’m still quite new to America and I love exploring so it’s good because I can go there and actually adventure around. It’s really next level. I think it’s got better and better over time from what I’ve heard. I find the crowds out there are a lot bigger, especially for the style that I do. In the UK it’s all a bit close knit and it’s quite hard to break into. In America they welcome you with open arms. There’s also a lot of sound systems out there now which is good because they’ve really embraced the culture. Apparently, a while ago people would go and play at clubs and it would just be on the regular club system which obviously isn’t great. Now wherever you go you’re starting to see proper systems popping up here, there and everywhere. I know Hennessey build lots of systems for crews in different states and stuff and they’re always great to play on.
What about the sound itself? Are they embracing to the experimental stuff?
Americans love listening to UK music so they’re really accepting. My first idea of what it was going to be like was that whole brostep, big bass sound. However, after I played over there for the first time, I saw that they really love the deeper stuff as well.
As well as that tour, your calendar is starting to really fill up isn’t it?
Yeah, it really is. I’ve started to break into the UK scene quite a lot more now, so I’ve been booked up for a few festivals this summer such as Solfest and Boomtown. My first gig back will actually be Noise Test in Croatia which I can’t wait for; Croatia is such a beautiful place.
Let’s chat about all the new music you’ve been working on. You’ve just released your latest EP on Deep, Dark and Dangerous. When did Truth hit you up to feature on their label?
I’ve been trying to get on their label for ages, so I was reaching out to them but never really hearing anything back. I sent them a load of tunes one day and they came back saying they thought they were wicked and wanted me to work on an EP. We started sending stuff back and forward for a couple of months and they were giving me feedback, but they also wanted me to stick with my style as well. I should be getting the vinyl through the door any day now! I’m also working on another EP for them with Megumi who featured on the Sufferin’ EP. It’s going to be a collaborative work so I’ll do the beats and she’ll be the vocalist which will be great.
That sounds exciting…
It’s only started to come together in the last couple of weeks or so. I’m always making beats every day so I’m sitting on a shed load of tunes. I sent her a big folder and she picked out what she liked and sent back the vocals. I played around with them a bit and it’s all started to work. It’s a joint effort which is really satisfying.
You mentioned there how Truth encouraged you to showcase your own style on your most recent EP. DDD are known for being quite full throttle so it must be nice they trusted you to do your own thing…
Yeah, definitely. I thought my EP was a little bit different to things they normally put out but they’re really keen to experiment with different sounds. I had a little chat with Dre on his Twitch podcast, and he was saying they love all sorts of dubstep and as a label they actually want to release different styles of music as well, but I think that’s what they’re focused on right now. It’s deep dubstep but it’s kind of Americanised. It’s dope!
Like a lot of your tracks, all the tunes on the EP feature a vocalist. Why is this a style you like working with?
I like to work with people because I feel like it’s a bit more of an adventure with music. Sometimes if it’s just me sitting on my own making music I sometimes lose the essence of importance which I shouldn’t do, but I find when people actually contribute something else towards the music, it pushes it in a different direction.
Tell us about the collabs. There’s obviously Strategy on there…
So, there’s Slowie; he’s a Bristolian MC. I heard him a while ago because he worked with Lamont on Swamp 81, so I’ve wanted to work with him for ages. I sent him over quite a grimy style of dubstep beat at first which he sent back but we actually never ended up using that. I came back to him with a completely beat for his vocals and he was like ‘oh my god, this sounds so much better.’ I find I sit on things and make new stuff all the time and I’ll eventually be happy with the finished product.
Then there’s Megumi who I mentioned earlier who features on my title track. I actually went to college in Cumbria with her back in 2010. We never worked together for ages and then we started speaking again. I’ve actually made a down-tempo album with her as well as the forthcoming EP on Deep, Dark and Dangerous. That’s nearly finished which is dope and quite experimental. There’s a track that’s just loads of soundscapes and her voice which is cool. Then the last is with Finnoh and Xakra. I met them both when I was in America and I actually run Manuka with Xakra. We made the tune together at his house while I was over there touring just before the lockdown. We’ve been sat on the track for a good year now so we’re happy to have that out as we imagined it on DDD when we were making it. We actually sent it over a while ago to them and they didn’t get back at first haha!
This passion for collaborating on music is something that’s been important for you with your label Manuka Records…
Teamwork makes the dreamwork, as cheesy as it sounds! If you’re on a vibe with people and you’re ready to work together it can really turn out well. I find myself a long way away from everything in Cumbria so it’s nice to stay in touch with people even if it’s on the internet, to collaborate on music and hear different opinions and interpretations. It always feels a lot nicer to do it with someone else.
Last time we spoke you had the label in the pipeline. How would you assess where you are with Manuka a couple of years on?
I’m really happy with it. We’ve picked up quite a lot and have got a couple of vinyl releases planned. Our sound takes quite a lot of influence from Swamp 81 in the way they bring through 130 bpm music. With our American artists that we’ve brought through we’ve asked them if they can make any 130-style music, so for example we’ve got people like Ternion Sound who are killing it at the minute in the US dubstep scene making a lot of the stuff that we want for the label. Their release kind of got our name out there a bit more to people which is really good. Although I love making and releasing music, it’s nice when you release other people’s and see their stuff getting talked about. It gives you a nice little buzz.
I can definitely hear the influence of Loefah and Swamp 81 in the style and attitude of the label…
For sure. I’ve listened to them since I was young, probably since I was about 16. It’s always been the style of music that I’ve loved, and I’ve got to sign some music to Swamp which was great. I’m actually due to play some Swamp shows later this year as well which will be dope. I like experimenting in that techno/dubstep realm. It doesn’t really matter what the BPM is as long as it’s somewhere between 120-140. I want artists to try and take influences from my own music and basically say if you fancy giving it a go, we’ll give you the platform to release it.
It’s really exciting the way you have this UK/US link up. It means you can get these people coming with different influences and approaches to making what you want. Your co-founder is based in America, right?
Yes, that’s right. He’s got a load of links that I didn’t know before I started to get involved in the American scene. We don’t really release dubstep on Manuka; we might for a tune here and there but it’s not really what we want to be doing. We just like approaching artists and asking them to experiment and work at different BPMs. Everyone is really excited about doing it and the reaction from crowds is always great.
Do you think having this year off away from shows and the usual music scene has given artists more of a desire to experiment and push boundaries?
100%. It’s obviously not the norm with what’s happened so it does feel it’s given people a chance to say let’s try something different and just go with it. For me especially, I’ve made loads of music that I probably wouldn’t have even thought about making like the down-tempo jazzy stuff. I’ve released everything as Hypho so I’m going to keep going with that vibe of just making music and if I like it, releasing it.
What have you got planned with the label in the future?
Well, we’ve literally just had a tune come out from Aagentah and Dread MC. We did a really sick music video for it which got premiered over on Infernal Sounds. We’ve got a compilation after which will be a breaksy/techno kind of vibe that will come out around the summer.
I saw you posted a few months ago that you moved down to Bristol. What prompted the move?
So, the music scene was what drew me down but that obviously hasn’t really been going. I moved down about three months ago but I had some bad anxiety and ended up going through quite a lot of depression. It never really helps when you’re confined in a completely new place not knowing that many people, so I ended up coming back home last month because I didn’t feel comfortable. It was the best decision to be honest because now I feel like I’m getting back to myself. It was one of those the grass isn’t always greener moments. It was quite scary but I’m optimistic that as a person I’ll always do what I need to do and then I’ll be better.
Good for you man! Before you went down to Bristol you were based in Manchester, right? You can definitely see the Manchester influence in you as an artist- your experimentation, your desire to collaborate etc…
Yeah, I lived in Manchester for seven years since 2013. I got really stuck into the scene and the people there really helped grow Hypho. Getting booked by people like Rich Reason at Hit & Run and working with the likes of Biome was all amazing. I actually got booked to play one of the virtual events at Hit & Run a couple of weeks ago going b2b with Biome with T-Man on the mic which was absolutely sick. Rich encapsulates Manchester with the style of music he books. They all sort of fit into a similar bracket because it’s still bass music but the way he books lineups that aren’t all the same tempo is amazing. I love going down there as I haven’t been there permanently for a little bit. I still feel like it’s home in a sense though.
Let’s move on to what you’ve got coming in the future. I saw you were working with Skream last year on a couple of bits. Are they going to be getting a release?
I believe so. We’re in talks with a few people to be honest. He’s quite busy at the moment so we haven’t spoken in a couple of weeks, but we did about five tracks in the end so I’m hopeful they’ll get a release. I’m really happy with them so I don’t see why not. Working with him was amazing. He works a lot like me; he’s dead fast and is all or nothing. We made quite a lot of Swampy stuff and a bit of techno as well. We never actually touched base on dubstep which was quite mad to be honest, but I really enjoyed making music with him. He basically was one of the first to just make music because he wanted to without worrying about genre boundaries. I watched an interview with him where he basically says ‘I do what I want, whenever I want and it works’ and I just thought that was so sick!
What else have you got planned? You mentioned the stuff you’ve got coming with Deep, Dark and Dangerous…
So, there’s that EP coming up with DDD. I also did a remix for Truth’s Earthlings which was part of their Christmas V/A. I’m making a couple with Logan on the microphone who I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve also got a Shall Not Fade EP coming out which has quite a big remix on there, but I can’t say just yet who that is! I’ve got a project coming on EC2A who are a Bristol-based label who focus on dubplates. I’ll have something coming on Infernal Sounds with Abstrakt Sonance as well. I’ve actually started making jungle with my friend. It’s the first jungle I’ve ever made which is wicked so I’m really enjoying that. I take a lot of influence from people like DJ Rum and his focus on breaks. I’ve also been making more chilled down-tempo stuff which I’m trying to get onto adverts and stuff so I’m delving into that kind of music. Madam X has just asked me and Biome for a collaboration EP on her Kaizen label as well so we’re just touching base with that at the moment. I always like working with Paddy so that should be wicked. To be honest, I’ve got quite a lot in the pipeline, so it looks like it’ll be a busy year. I’ve got it all planned out; I just need to finish all the music!