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Hoj & Newman (I Love): “There is zero ego in the process”

It’s hard to believe that ‘Symptom of the Sound,’ out now on All Day I Dream, is only the first official collaboration between Hoj and Newman (I Love). Their artistic paths have been entwined for quite some time. Beyond their shared veteranship at Lee Burridge’s label and long histories in the underground house sphere, Newman (I Love) was also one of the first artists to sign onto Hoj’s label Tale & Tone. In fact, it was with this milestone Tale & Tone EP that Newman (I Love), born Stephan Delacotte, unveiled his current moniker and revitalized melodic house sound to the world. Since then, he has remixed Hoj, and the two have appeared on several bills together.

‘Symptom of the Sound’ thus showcases the two artists’ chemistry, with both blending their ethereal, melodic aesthetics into a singular EP that whisks listeners to the clouds with stringed pads and lush percussion that pair perfectly with the sweeping melodies they put forth. A touch of psychedelia makes its way into the title track via its vocal sample, which in fact came from a conversation between Hoj and a friend and inspired the direction of the EP.

Newman (I Love) and Hoj have both been keeping plenty busy, despite the pandemic shutdown. We caught up with them around ‘Symptom of the Sound’ to hear more.

Electronic Groove: Hi, Hoj & Newman! Many thanks for speaking with us today. To start, how has Autumn treated you two so far? Anything exciting you’ve been working on that you’d like to share? 

Hoj: Hello! Autumn has been as unpredictable as the rest of 2020. I’m trying to keep my head on straight—working on a full-length album under the alias Winter Lion. And super excited to get the collaboration with this guy Newman (I Love) out into the world!

Newman (I Love): So far Autumn has treated me very well. I just came back from a three week trip to Brazil, and got welcomed back with two gigs on the same weekend, which these days is a real treat!

EG: This year has been an odd one, to say the least, with some creatives having trouble finding creativity while others thrive. How has your creativity been affected by the pandemic, and what have you done to help restore or maintain inspiration in your creative lives?

Hoj: I’ve been in the thrive camp. My creative outlets helped me to cope with all the external chaos as well. I feel like I always have so many thoughts and ideas running around in my head – and this year has forced me to focus and put hours into bringing ideas to fruition.

Newman (I Love): My creativity was great for the first few months as I could devote my full time to finishing old projects and completing new ones, but as the summer came, my motivation waned.

Inspiration is a funny thing, it hits you when you least expect it, so I am letting it wander, take a vacation if you will, and it will hit me when it decides to do so.

EG: Newman, congratulations on your Transitions guest mix for John Digweed! Tell us how you became affiliated with John and the Bedrock family? Any further plans with him that you can tell us about?

Newman (I Love): I released an EP on Behrouz’ Do Not Sit label earlier this year and the promotional campaign called for a guest spot on John’s transitions radio show. I was very honored to be featured but as far as I know, this is as far my relationship with John and Bedrock will go for the time being.

EG: Hoj, it’s so cool that you have a “hidden” filmmaker side to you and even got an Emmy nomination! How has your work in film influenced your music career and vice-versa? Do you foresee yourself building a more immersive audiovisual experience for your music gigs in the future?

Hoj: I’ve been an audio/visual hybrid all my life. The two sides inform one another in so many ways. What I want to accomplish in each medium is similar – to make people “feel” something.

Over the years, the lines between the two begin to blur more and more. I’ve been spending a lot of time conceptualizing and experimenting with an immersive audio/visual experience. More to come on that for sure.

“Inspiration is a funny thing, it hits you when you least expect it, so I am letting it wander” – Newman (I Love)

EG: Of course we are interested to hear more about ‘Symptom of the Sound.’ When did you two start working on it, and what was the writing process like? Whose idea was it to collaborate?

Hoj: The tracks on this EP started with conversations – a good friend of mine is a brilliant novelist/writer (among other things), and I took to recording his ramblings and readings. I started playing with those recordings in the studio, following them toward grooves, melodies, and the rest. I like to follow ideas in the studio – wherever they take me. Sometimes they take me to a finished tune. And sometimes, I’ll have something that isn’t quite finished but leads me to Newman :)

Newman (I Love): Hoj likes to send me ideas. We had collaborated on ‘Nothing Else’ (one of the tracks on this EP) last year, to great effect, so we decided to collaborate on a couple of other tracks early this year, one of which is “Symptom of Sound”.

So Hoj sends me an idea with all the original stems. I’ll essentially remix the original idea, and then a process of back and forth happens whereby we make amendments to reach the final product. There is zero ego in the process, so it’s very easy to finish the projects.

EG: Hoj, let’s go back to the inspiration behind ‘Symptom of the Sound.’ Can you tell us more about how you use storytelling from friends to inspire your work?

Hoj: Maybe it goes back to my roots in film. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the craft of storytelling, and I try to apply those tools to music. So I try to have a sense of narrative in my DJ sets and in my work in the studio. The best thing about stories is – they are infinite. Everybody has tons of stories to tell. And I want to hear as many of them as I can.

EG: What are your studios looking like these days? Have you two purchased any new toys to play with during this downtime?

Hoj: My studio tools haven’t changed much. Still love my analog synths, my guitar, and my outboard effects. The biggest changes during the downtime have been a new desk and DJ booth along with some shelves to hold my vinyl. It’s nice to have my vinyl back in the studio.

Newman (I Love): My studio is very minimal, all software-based, very conducive to New York city living! Unfortunately, no new toys were purchased during the downtime. With no revenue comes no spending!

EG: Newman, you are booked to play a very intimate and presumably Covid-Safe event in New York. From your point of view as a DJ, what do you think is the best solution for returning to events in as safe a way as possible during this time? Where do you see clubland heading in the immediate future as we continue to battle this pandemic while trying to resuscitate the industry?

Newman (I Love): Your question presumes that there is some universal concept of safety. I think that each individual at this time has a different opinion as to what “keeping safe” is. I, for one, have no fear of the virus and as such, I am willing to travel and perform to wherever I am allowed while respecting the rules set forth. In the end, there is no solution to returning to events in a “safe” manner so long as the governing bodies will not allow it. Only they will dictate what is acceptable. It is a particularly scary situation since our industry has historically always been demonized by the governing powers. Look at how bars and restaurants are currently being targeted. As such I do not see any improvement for clubland in the near future for most democratic countries, as they are the ones struggling to deal with the virus effectively. The situation is not the same everywhere however, nightclubs are open in Russia and Sweden, and there was even a music festival in Wuhan, China back in August. If you are looking for a solution, we could use instant result tests to create so-called “safe zones” where patrons could interact freely.

“I like to follow ideas in the studio – wherever they take me” – Hoj

EG: What are both your thoughts on the live streaming phenomenon? Is it a trend that is here to stay, you think? And can it be a sustainable side-income model for artists, even when gigs return?

Hoj: I don’t know. I think it filled a need as venues shut down. They’ll probably stick around as a promotional device for DJs, promoters, and record labels. I’m sure some of the bigger streaming initiatives are making money – but I’m not sure how much of that money is trickling down to the artists providing the content. Content creators of all kinds are making a good living on social media these days, so it’s probably possible to monetize.

Newman (I Love): The live streaming phenomenon is at this time the only option to perform for an audience. I definitely think it’s here to stay, so as long as the streaming platforms allow it, as the current copyright infringement issue illustrates. At this point, people have grown accustomed to streams being free, just like music is perceived as a free medium, so I do not see how you could possibly reverse that trend. You would have to dramatically change the streaming experience and add some value to it in order to command a fee for it.

What’s a fun fact about yourselves you’d like to share that most people probably aren’t aware of?

Hoj: I just got reading glasses. They look a little funny on my face.

Newman (I Love): I am funny without knowing I am being funny!

Hoj & Newman (I Love)’s latest EP, ‘Symptom of the Sound’, is now available via All Day I Dream. Stream and buy here.

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