On rare occasions, all it takes is one tune for a respected label to sit up and take note of a producer.
It’s a rare occasion because it has to be a tune good enough to stand out from the crowd in an increasingly saturated market, a tune that has the special ingredient required to tickle the tastebuds of the scene’s discerning top dogs.
This of course means it takes a producer of the highest order, a producer like Hugh Hardie, to manage it. His funk-infused debut smasher Tearing Me Apart turned the heads of Hospital’s honchos and it wasn’t long before he’d dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on a contract at the prestigious label – the label which ignited his love of the genre in the first place.
With Hospital’s clout behind him he’s steadily risen through the ranks and aptly showcased what his sound is all about, most notably with last year’s City Soul EP, which featured Light It Up, the track picked out by the label’s loyal fans as the best tune to be released on it in 2016. Not bad going.
Spurred on by that show of recognition, the keen skateboarder is now just weeks away from releasing his first full album – an immensely diverse body of work featuring his signature soul-drenched sound as well as emotive efforts and a handful which will cause some serious damage on the dance floor. Suffice to say, it’s easy to hear why Mr Colman was so eager to acquire his services.
We caught up with the Hospital hotshot to talk about the album, Colourspace, and more.
If you had to give up either skating or drum & bass for life, which would you choose?
I can’t answer that! Skating plays a very big part in my life and the two are very much intertwined, which is why it featured heavily in the video for Everything Was Nothing. We’ve designed 40 skateboards with the album artwork printed on them, similar to the City Soul EP one we did, and they’ve already sold out which is wicked! I’m also about to feature in a skating programme on the Extreme Sports Channel alongside professional skateboarder James Threlfall. Filming it was a lot of fun and I can’t wait for it to come out.
Does skating have an impact on the kind of music you make?
I wouldn’t say so but if I have a good skating session and learn a new trick, for example, it puts me in a good mood and gives me more motivation to make music.
Skating might not affect your music but it sounds like the Bristol influence definitely has
Yeah I would agree. The Bristol sound is very dub-influenced and bassy, and you’re surrounded by it every time you go out here. It almost defines the city. It’s definitely a sound I’ve incorporated into my music a bit more since moving here. Most of my early stuff was very musical, built purely around chords and melodies, but I’ve been going for the more bass-heavy tunes recently.
That’s evident on the album – especially on the likes of Viridian and Soundsytem Dub
I really wanted to make a diverse album and I think I’ve done that. Also it’s good to have some dance floor tunes in your armoury when it comes to DJing. Recently the rooms I’ve been playing in have been getting bigger so I’ve been reaching for more and more bangers, and it’s always nice having some of your own ones to draw for.
But there’s also some very mellow stuff on there
Yeah I remember looking at the pot of tunes I had halfway through writing the album and noticed that a lot of them were heavy and very bass-driven, including the ones you just mentioned, so I switched it up and made some emotionally driven ones. I wanted to make a few tunes I’ll never play out such as Shades of Blue. I really enjoyed being able to showcase my other styles on this album, which is something you can’t really do with an EP.
Some artists have to wait a decade before putting an album but you’re pretty fresh out of the Hospital womb – was it a tricky process?
I guess it has come around quite quickly and it all still feels relatively new to me. Finding my groove took quite a long time writing my first EP but this album came quite naturally thankfully. Of course there were a few periods of writers’ block where things slowed down and I got quite discouraged but for the most part it was quite hassle free.
How did you overcome those blocks? Running up mountains with montage music on?
Meditating with monks in Cambodia actually, but close enough… I’ve always found that skating is a good way of taking my mind off things. My productivity levels were quite random, there were periods when I didn’t write anything I liked but then all of a sudden an idea would come into my mind and I’d manage to finish a track in one day. It can be quite frustrating but it’s the same for a lot of producers.
Do you have any apprehension at all as the release nears?
Not really to be honest. I guess the album is a little bit deeper than what people might be expecting but I’m just happy with the range of sounds I managed to cover and I’m looking forward to people’s feedback.
After a few listens I think Dusty Keys is probably my favourite track on the album, mainly because of that beautiful piano playing! What’s yours?
I’d love to say the piano in that was recorded on a Steinway in an old church but sadly that would be a lie. I really like Distance as it’s a different BPM and evokes a nice emotion for me, an emotion which can be quite hard to portray in drum & bass sometimes. It’s a totally different vibe and has real emotional resonance.
But Tearing Me Apart will always be hard to beat… Did you think it would get you to where you are today when you made it?
Definitely not. I think it was my first ever release and it’s been quite a defining tune for me ever since. I guess it always will be/ It was definitely the tune that caught Hospital’s attention and the strength of it got me on the label. It’s crazy how one tune can have such an impact.
Considering its success, I was half expecting to see Kyan feature on the album
Yeah we’ve tried a few other things since that tune but sadly they haven’t quite clicked in the same way, but I’m sure we’ll work together again in the future.
Sounds like it clicked with Dan Stezo on Talk The Talk, though
It really did, I’m happy with that one. I played a night in Bruges a few years ago and Dan was playing with Lenzman. We had a chat and linked up through that. At that point I didn’t have an album in mind, I was just writing music randomly, so it’s actually quite an old one from before the City Soul but didn’t quite fit the vibe of that EP so I held onto it for the album.
The collabs with Pola & Bryson and GLXY aren’t too bad either…
Cheers. Fortunately we were all in the zone when we linked up but sometimes collabs with friends can be quite tough as you have a few drinks and a chat then before you know it realise you’ve done no work all day!
What’s on the agenda after the album’s out?
Summer’s coming so there will be a nice round of gigs and festivals to play. I’ve had a bit of a break from making tunes since finishing the album but I don’t really have a plan for the next project, I quite like the idea of going straight into another album but we’ll see. The best way of establishing yourself as an artist people can trust is by following up an album with more good stuff, so that’s what I’ll try to do… Apart from that I’m going to be playing with my new band.
New band eh?
Yeah! It’s still early days and but we just played our first gig and it went pretty well. It was Collette Warren’s idea and it’s been a lot of fun so far. I play piano, Collette sings, Lurch is on guitar, Ben Soundscape is on keys and there are a few others too. It’s a bit of a drum & bass collective. We’ll have to wait and see where it goes but we’re all keen to get some more gigs and festival bookings in.
And finally… as a lifelong Hospital Records fan, how does it feel to be releasing an album on the label?
It’s pretty crazy. The likes of Together by Logistics, Nu:Tone’s Balaclava and Racing Green by High Contrast were the tunes that got me into drum & bass in the first place. Then I did some collabs with Logistics on two of his albums which really helped as I barely had any releases at this stage, and now I’m here. It’s pretty surreal but I’m so thankful to everyone who has made it possible, and I can’t wait for the album to be released.
Hugh Hardie – Colourspace is out May 26 on Hospital Records: Support