Photo: Kimi Otsuka (Hammer)
Ever since his early days as part of the Feel My Bicep crew and releases such as the Dahlia EP together with label founders Bicep, Rory Hamilton has been incredibly prolific. This did not change at all after the start of pandemic, on the contrary: with Remmah (geddit?) and Italo HIITS, Hammer started not one, but two new labels, releasing a (sort of) debut album on the former while also shedding light on up and coming producers from all over the world, and … well, the name Italo HIITS says it all, doesn’t it? Currently preparing not one, but two new EPs, one for Correspondant and the other one produced together with DART for Shall Not Fade, he somehow still found the time to record a mix for our Groove podcast. Over the course of one hour, Hamilton weaves together music from both his labels and also throws in half a dozen or so forthcoming tracks.
First off, how have the last two years been for you?
I’m sure like everybody else last two years have had their ups and downs, I was living on a tiny island in Scotland at the start of lockdown and I was really able to get creative in a different space but as the pandemic dragged on my brain was a bit melted.
You have played a few sets in the UK in recent months. How has the experience been so far?
There were a few nervy gigs at the start, the thought of being back in front of a crowd was a bit alien. But I’m back into the swing of things and loving it. I’ve played some of my old faves like Sub Club and Berkeley Suite in Glasgow, and also some new belters like my debut show in World HQ in Newcastle.
Throughout the past year, you’ve released a triptych of records, the Italo HIITS, a tongue-in-cheek reference to working out. What was the idea behind the series?
I was getting restless sitting at home but was inspired by the creative ways people, brands, and other artists were managing this mental situation in an online space. Hammer Hiit was a fun and fit live workout series inspired by those class 80s home videos. The artwork, adverts, my new Italo tracks and the Italo mix I made were a way to escape. We raised £2000 for mental health charity too, which was really great. I was inundated with messages about “I Wanna Be Like You.” It got so much love, that the idea of making more high energy, indulgent Italo felt natural and so, Italo HIITS was born!
You’ve started the label Remmah as an outlet for the music you’ve made during lockdowns and which reflected the situation – also the album Fonda was workout-themed. What was your motivation to start the project?
Fonda came about in the second wave of lockdown. I had made the workout video in the first one and wanted to develop the original workout project into something new. Lockdown wasn’t such a novelty idea by then, mental health and people’s well being were really taking a hit and exercise and mindfulness were really helping me at the time. So I decided to do ten days of ten minute workouts, and make a 10 minute track for each day, again raising money for the Mind charity. The project gave me a serious focus too and really helped me stay busy and happy too.
You’ve also thrown parties under the Remmah moniker and welcomed other artists such as DART, Anna Gram or recently Long Island Sound to its roster. What are your plans with the label?
The Remmah parties have been great, building a family is a lot of fun! Finding new talent and being part of their growth is amazing. Next up is an artist called Sublime Sound from Delhi with an amazing five track EP of huge lush synths and beyond that Stevie Cox and Fossil Archive from Sub Club have a deep, club-ready EP forthcoming. I’ve also been in the studio my good friend Ysanne, who is a really amazing DJ. I’ve been collaborating with Josh Kilimanjaro too and we’ve made some big tunes … so lots to come.
A few years back, you said in an interview that “limitations are what creates your sound, your synthesisers and drum machines own you just as much as we own them.” What’s your current set-up like and how does it shape your creative process?
Just before lockdown, me and my studio partner Alex spent 4 months building a new studio from scratch, we built new sound proof walls, a second door, 20 acoustic panels and fully rewired the whole set up. Timing wasn’t great as we went into full lockdown, but its been great and we have an amazing set up now. We share our equipment which works out well, I get to jam on his Yamaha CS-60 – the CS-70 was used to make the Blade Runner soundtrack – and he can use my CS1x or SH-101 for example, and Alex has some amazing old Roland flangers and Schippmann filters which can really reshape sounds. This all combined has 100% shaped my sound over the last few years, you can hear those analogue flangers in most of my pads and it adds such huge character. So many of my EPs over the years have also been heavily influenced by the Roland SH2 for big growling basslines, that just naturally happen when jamming in the studio.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I wanted to showcase some new Remmah and Italo HIITS music, they’re very different genres but I often combine those vibes in my sets. There’s also some of my favourite tracks I’ve been playing both over the years and more recently – that compliment both ends of that spectrum. That modern new wave and disco sound that can both dark and uplifting.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
Return to some sort of normality, put lots of energy into Remmah and throw more parties around the label. My plan is to push the artists on the label and support them as much as possible, not just release their music and move on. I’ve a big EP due out on Jennifer Cardini’s Correspondant label in March, she has been a real inspiration for me and I love the label so much. I also have a collaborative EP with DART due out Shall Not Fade in summer. I also have a debut USA tour in March, which I’m absolutely buzzing about!
Stream: Hammer – Groove Podcast 327
01. Long Island Sound – Komorebi (Remmah)
02. Hammer – Ski Sunday (Italo Hiits)
03. Terr – Tale of Devotion (Dub) (Phantasy)
04. Hammer + DART – Scope (Forthcoming)
05. Frangie – Rice & Beans (Tora Vinter Circumnavigation Mix)
06. Hammer Dance AM (Sedef Adasi Raw Remix) (Forthcoming Correspondant)
07. C.A.R. – Idle Eyes (Roman Fluegel Remix)
08. Fantastic Man – Diaspora
09. Amit Kedem – Bring The Fun Back
10. Jennifer Touch – No One (Jennifer Touch’s Michigan Mix)
11. Terr -Wings Of Time (Tornado Wallace Remix)
12. Hammer – Paraiso Tan (Italo Hiits)
13. Hammer + DART – Growler (Forthcoming)
14. Sublime Sound – I Can’t Run (Forthcoming Remmah)
15. Hammer – Strangeness (Italo Hiits)