Photo: Press (Hodge)After all these years, the city of Bristol is still brimming with creativity. Collectives like No Corner and the ever-prolific Livity Sound or Batu’s relatively young Timedance imprint all draw on certain traditions of UK bass music, with the results varying stylistically from release to release. Having put out releases, on Bristol institution Punch Drunk Jake Martin became a regular on Livity Sound and its sibling label Dnuos Ytivil with a hard-hitting blend of techno and bass under the Hodge moniker while putting out record after record for Berceuse Heroique. After releaseing a record together with Laurel Halo, his latest EP saw him team up with Shanti Celeste for her own Peach Discs. His contribution to our Groove podcast is just as multi-faceted and intoxicating as his impressive back catalogue. Chances are that even he will be happy with it when he revisits it in a few weeks.
You first made a name for yourself within the scene of Bristol, however are not originally from there. When did you move there and what was the community like when you arrived?
I first got here around eleven years ago in 2008. I moved to Bristol to study audio technology at university and then ended up never leaving. Part of that was because of how supportive and welcoming I found the city. There was so much good music coming out of Bristol and the nights I went to were amazing, plus the smaller city created a real close feel which helps creativity so much, the community aspect of Bristol has always been super supportive and I try not to take that for granted.
As a producer you relied heavily on hardware and said that you had “so much respect for guys who can write music just on software because [you] don’t know how they do it”. What makes working with software so difficult for you?
Impatience mainly, anything fiddly can stress me out quite quickly and the impatience of learning the intricacies of a new VST kills me. It’s something I’m getting a lot better on though! Especially after working with Randomer. The guy is a machine and samples a lot of stuff and then processes it with software to get one of the best sounds out there. Over January, I sat down with a bunch of the Native Instruments stuff and had a mini-breakthrough via running the VSTs through multiple guitar pedals, recording the results and then importing back into Kontakt. That’s been really fun. Essentially anyone that’s met me knows how hyperactive I am and sitting still slowly tweaking something just isn’t me… If I’m using something physical, a hardware synth for example, there’s a box to engage with with buttons and knobs to play with plus a level of wildness and unpredictability I love, those random noises and essentially mistakes I make are exciting and therefore I get results much faster.
Even though your release schedule makes it seem that you are quite prolific, you have talked about experiencing writer’s block. Do you have strategies to deal with that?
Yeah, there are loads of strategies to unlock creativity and I sort of trick myself into accidentally writing music. One of my little tricks at the moment is to go into the studio and say to myself ‘OK, I’m not writing music today, I’m making a sample pack for myself to make music with in the future.’ It takes off all the pressure to have a track come out of a session and then every single time I’ve tried to do it I get about four or five sounds into the sample pack and then get distracted and start writing a track with those sounds. For me, the worst writer’s block comes from a lack of confidence. The moment I second-guess my self it’s all over. I quickly end up in a sort of existential crisis which can last for months, over-thinking everything from stylistic choices to the volume of percussion and what music is even meant to sound like. It’s really a negative mind state to get in, as it’s just stopped me writing anything for months on end.
You seem to be an avid reader and have mentioned that besides films, occasionally books serve as an inspiration for your music. What type of books are you interested in the most and how exactly does that have an impact on your creative process?
Sci-Fi books, cyberpunk preferably, and anything that has a human focus. I’m not too into anything that’s too mathematical or science-driven, I’m more into human stories told in a new and different setting. I think books help me so much writing, for example if I read for a while before writing music my consciousness is rooted in that book so that when my mind is wandering in the background as I write a track it’s thinking about something in another world, a much more limitless world than my own. That’s so much better for being creative rather than my mind wandering to what I’m gonna have for dinner or some mundane shit like that.
Recent releases saw you collaborating with Laurel Halo and Shanti Celeste, while in the past you have been working closely with Peverelist amongst others. What draws you to collaborations with others and what does it take to successfully work together?
I’m really social. I love being around other people and hanging out with mates for one, and everyone I’ve released tunes with I consider a close friend, so that helps. I also learn so much from working with others. A big thing is if you’re writing with someone else and you for example add some percussion to a track and they get excited like ‘Oh that’s great,’ then that gives you a buzz and reinforces your confidence and stuff just flows. Working with others you literally have another person to talk to about stuff rather than splitting yourself in two to question what you’re doing.
You recently described playing an ambient set in Shanghai and expressed a desire to play more intimate shows like these. How do you approach ambient sets as a DJ?
That was my first time playing out a fully ambient set at an ambient night, I actually was pretty worried as I wasn’t sure how to approach it or what to do. It’s confusing, as I had to translate what for me has been a very solitary experience into a live or performance setting… You can’t really look at it like you would a DJ set in terms of energy and crowd reaction. I chose the first track I wanted to play, a long playlist of favourite music and then the last track to finish on before I went there. Once I was there after the second track I felt really calm, it was almost like meditation and each tune I played chose the next track and paved the way perfectly for the next one. It came together really naturally and I’m really happy with the outcome.
You hold a residency at Berlin’s Mother’s Finest parties. How did that come about and how would you characterize their parties at Griessmuehle?
Franklin De Costa has been so supportive for me, he runs Mother’s Finest and has booked me very early on to play one of this parties and the set went really well, so he booked me again, and that happened a few times until we realised I’d played a few times a year for like two years. As a joke he said ‘You’re basically a resident’ and we both kinda paused and went ‘Okay… Let’s do this properly.’ I’m really happy to be a resident there, I love the night and the club, plus sharing a residency at a night that also has DJ Bone as a resident is mad, I mean… It’s DJ Bone! This feels crazy looking back as I play for three or four hours so much of the time now but when I first got to Berlin and met Franklin at the dinner he said ‘You’re gonna play for four hours, right?’ That terrified me at the time as I was from the UK and at that time I was used to playing an hour, maybe an hour and a half at most. I had to completely rethink how to play, how to use time and create tension in my sets for example. Skip forwards a few years and I basically consider it my home in terms of playing out now. I feel like I learnt to DJ at the Griessmuehle and the Mother’s Finest parties.
What was the idea behind your contribution to our Groove podcast?
I find recording mixes an absolute nightmare, I know a lot of people do but it’s like everything that can physically go wrong will go wrong when I record a mix, so the end result is tunes I could listen to over and over again and still be into. I think I’m really happy with it, I’ll know in a few weeks anyway.
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the near future and what are your plans as a producer?
I’m in the studio at the moment writing for my next releases and having a really productive time which feels amazing. My new record with Shanti Celeste has just dropped! Today I’m in Bristol playing all night at Cosies and tomorrow doing Fabric’s Room 2 for a Livity takeover with Pev, Kowton and one of Bristol’s best new DJs, Danielle.
Stream: Hodge – Groove Podcast 197
02. The Cyclist – Inhale Exhale (Bruce’s Deep Breath Mix) (Unreleased)
03. TV.Out – Further (L.I.E.S.)
04. Hodge – Beneath Two Moons (Berceuse Heroique)
05. Forward Stratergy Group – Infinity Circuit (Methodical)
06. Metrist – Eliot Mi Fi (Cadans Remix) (Neighbourhood)
07. Leibniz – Quake (Unreleased)
08. Ahadadream – Who’s Ready (More Time)
09. Randomer – My Ear’s Hurt (Dekmantel)
10. Lsdxoxo – Smoke the Skunk (Self-released)
11. Andrea – Future Atmo (Ilian Tape)
12. Hodge + Randomer – Slipping (Clone Basement Series)
13. Clouds – Terrace Track (Unreleased)
14. Call Super – Depicta (Houndstooth)
15. Hodge + Laurel Halo – Tru (Livity Sound)
16. Shackleton – Headcleaner (Woe to the Septic Heart!)
17. Duckett – Who Am I (Berceuse Heroique)