Electronic Groove: Hi Robin thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Your new EP ‘Beasts From Below’ has just dropped on your Immigrant Records imprint, could you tell us a bit about the release for those yet to hear it, who is Hydrafunk?
Hydrafunk: Hydrafunk is a musical collaboration between myself, Robin Porter, and analogue synth connoisseur Mike Carr. We met circa 1996 through a mutual friend when we both lived in Southern California and eventually collaborated on the ‘Mental Stealth’ EP which was released on Immigrant in 2002. We received some welcome attention, especially from the lead track titled ‘Fathernature’, but didn’t make the most of the opportunity. It’s a bit like that in SoCal, the waves can wash things away if you don’t jump on them.
Fast forward 13 years to 2015 when I decided to re-launch the label and I found myself struggling to find great music to release. I felt the need to step up and set the bench mark, so I reached out to Mike to dust off his synths, samplers and drum machines. Luckily, he also felt we had unfinished business so we made a commitment to ‘get the band back together’.
These days, Mike lives remotely in the Colorado mountains and in 2005 I left the golden beaches of California for the red bricks of my hometown of Manchester (There’s a handful of really good reasons, honestly). The contrast in our current locations and lifestyles makes for an interesting story in itself, but what’s more interesting is that we still find synergy in each others passion for Techno and the pursuit of the perfect track.
This EP typifies the Hydrafunk sound and our aim is to keep creating music with a balance of emotion and force that dance floors dwellers can relate. According to ancient Greek mythology the ‘Hydra’ was a giant serpentine monster with numerous regenerative heads, the power of immortality and the protector of the entrance to the underworld. Well, ‘Hydrafunk’ has finally emerged from the depths with a story to tell.
Electronic Groove: The press release tells us that the collaboration focused on a lot of Analogue synths sounds being sent to you from your partner, could you clue us in on what is being used across the EP outboard synth wise and what the process is between you, do you receive stems and then finish the records alone or is it a back and forth process to keep building things?
Hydrafunk: Our working relationship is based on a mutual respect for each other’s production skills and a clear vision of the sound we are trying to achieve. We always stay open minded to each other’s output and try to compliment each others progress where we can. As a duo we have a tendency to over produce at times by experimenting with layers upon layers of intricate patterns. So the key is to be brutal and ensure each sound is absolutely necessary, living in its own frequency space – uncluttered, distinct and harmonious.
On this EP Mike used the Roland SH-09 for bass and the Jupiter 6 primarily for chords and sound effects. These synths are synced up using an old Alesis MM-T8 sequencer and recorded to a hardware digital recorder. Mike prefers to record everything live and experiment with filters, tweak synth parameters and play with various guitar pedal effects and rack mount delays on the fly to capture the moment. When the essence of the track is complete, he creates audio stems and uploads them to Dropbox for me and I become extremely excitable.
I then slug the stems into Logic to engineer and EQ the sounds, then add the percussion to nail the groove, add any vocals we may use before arranging the track. This is where Casey Hogan joins the party after the final arrangement is complete, as we both trust his ear more than anyone to help mix down and master all our tracks.
It’s almost like I’m the film director/producer with Mike and his array of studio gear becoming the actors. It’s a symbiotic process that works well for us and we find ourselves going back and forth a few times before we are happy. Its all very natural and a healthy work routine.
Electronic Groove: What made you decide to re-launch Immigrant after a long hiatus? Was it merely a desire to have your own platform again in a day and age where music is quite difficult to sign with labels you’re really keen to work with or did it just feel like the right time to bring it back to life?
Hydrafunk: A combination of a few things really. I took a break to raise a family and launch a creative agency called ‘Proper’, where we offer our fashion and music clients services such as brand DNA and identity, product design, marketing campaigns and digital communications. I had also lost my appetite for the scene and felt it had become saturated with mediocre music, producers and an incessant desire to become a DJ. I wasn’t hearing anything fresh anymore. It had all become a single soundtrack under a different artist name.
I missed producing and releasing my own music, the sense of family we had at Immigrant and the overall ‘crack’, but more that I feel the brand is still relevant and has much more to offer our culture. I’m also (slightly) older and wiser now with an updated agenda that gives me a different perspective to many upstart labels. I’m planning to use my knowledge and experience of both music and the fashion to launch a clothing and accessories range for Immigrant – inspired by the underground music culture that initially spawned the label. I’m excited to build on Immigrant’s hard earned reputation within the global music community and we will strive to offer unique products for todays modern audience.
Electronic Groove: The whole release definitely seems to draw a lot of inspiration from Detroit and early Euro Techno in its most melodic form, could you cite some of your influences for these new compositions and also some current influences still pushing a similar sound?
Hydrafunk: We are both old school heads with similar musical tastes, sharing a passion for electronic music history and UK bands from the 80’s and 90’s. We definitely aren’t influenced by musical trends or whimsical genre tags. Personally, I’ve always been inspired by the melancholy sounds of the Detroit techno pioneers, such as Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Kenny Larkin, Derrick May, Stacey Pullen and Jeff Mills in particular and have had the pleasure of playing along side a few of them. Coming from Manchester I was heavily influenced by the Hacienda club and its resident DJ’s and also local talent such as A Guy Called Gerald, Mike Pickering, and 808 State. I’m also a huge fan of US House music in general, especially after living in California for a decade. Artists such as Mark Farina, Doc Martin, Sneak, JT Donaldson, Gene Farris, Doc Martin, Chez Damier, all opened my eyes (and ears) and had a huge impact on me.
Electronic Groove : What’s the future for Hydrafunk do you have a lot of material backed up for release or will you be getting back in the studio now to start working on the new records?
Hydrafunk: Mike’s a machine. I can’t stop him making music now which is very inspiring and it’s a breath of fresh air to see files uploading to Dropbox. We have a bunch of tracks in the works and are currently curating the next EP and hopefully we can start targeting labels we respect and want to work with in the near future. We have plans to formulate a live set but have no idea as of yet if that will be done in the UK or the US.
Electronic Groove: After a promising reboot for Immigrant Records with this and the past release, what have you got lined up for the label? Anything you’re particularly excited about you could clue us in on?
Hydrafunk: I’m focusing on releasing a lot more of my own music on the label, whether it’s under my own name, the Hydrafunk alias or via partnerships such as the collaboration with Casey Hogan currently in progress. I’ve scheduled label releases for the rest of 2016 produced by some of the original Immigrant cast including Subb-an, Ralph Sliwinksi and Björn Mulik under the ‘Anobis22’ pseudonym and more from Casey Hogan and Hydrafunk. I also have a release from Manchester’s ‘Freak Seven’ who has previously recorded most notably for Rush Hour and 2020 Vision.
We are also very excited about the launch of a new limited vinyl and digital series called ‘Immigrant Icons’, where select label artists are invited to remix two of their favourite back catalogue tracks. The first EP is from Subb-an scheduled for release after the summer.
2016 is our official comeback year but in 2017 Immigrant will be more visible through our global events and a new website featuring an online shop offering our entire music catalogue and new menswear clothing collection. It’s an exciting direction for the company and we have big plans for the future.
The new website goes live this June.