With a number of quality releases trickling steadily through the deep house compass over the last two years, London based artist Hamid made an accomplished stride onto Murmur’s catalogue at the end of 2011 with the ‘If I’ EP. Featuring vocals from D.O.T.S singer Valentina and remixes from Retrofit’s Jay Shepheard and US trio Droog & Inxec, ‘If I’s’ discerning charm was its ability to penetrate the most pumping of dance floors whilst remaining sultry and equally well placed in our living rooms. Deep balmy percussion beds, intricate overlays and the swooning and sexy ‘If I’ lyrics made all of us, sit up, stand up and dance our asses off to Hamid.
Now, with a new release out on Tiefshcwarz’s Souvenir Plus, rumours of an ‘If I’ follow up and taking the role of creator for this week’s I Voice podcast, we spoke to Hamid about the unplanned moment of his breakthrough EP, how London’s scene has a lot to do with its dedicated ‘professional clubbers’ and how we should all stop whinging about SOPA...
You’re originally from France, was you’re relocation to London for musical reasons?
I moved to London in 2006, at the time I was bored of France wanted to experience new things. I came with a long musical heritage from my three sisters and one brother but being from a little town in the South East of France there is really nothing comparable to the music scene in the UK there. I’d say my in depth musical education most definitely started when I arrived in London, really intensely actually.
I studied Music Technology at London South Bank University but left after a year. I stopped because the degree itself didn’t turn out to be exactly what I wanted at the time. There was a lot of theory and writing and not so much practical work and I really wanted to learn the technical side, the engineering. I learnt a lot about music culture but I just didn’t feel like committing to something that didn’t fill the criteria I was looking for.
So after that point would you say you are self taught?
Yes pretty much although I had, and still do have a lot of great feedback and advice from friends. Producers like James What, DoubtingThomas and jozif amongst others. I also worked with Apple for a year which wasn’t essentially music focused but it was really technically useful, working with real I.T geeks. I’m a sponge in that sense, I like to ask questions and try to understand what’s happening around me. I learnt a lot there about computing which has been useful when it comes to understanding software.
You can make 100 tracks, have no plan for any of them and they’ll all be technically good but and for some reason one will just stand out. Music is all about trying to capture a mood and a moment...Would you say that moving to London in general, the clubbing scene, the people and the music culture has shaped the sound that you now produce?
Yes definitely. Back in 2007, when places like The Cross, Canvas and The Key were still open I used to go there a lot. I remember my first time in fabric. It was outstanding; the aesthetics of the music was very exciting and challenging. I was coming from a musical background where everything was pretty sugary, kind of funky house and nothing had that edge or quirkiness.
It was very different when I arrived in London so experiencing a club like fabric that has a sound system like it does... I was totally blown away. Coming across clubbing and professional clubbers in that way was something else...
Professional clubbers!? Hahaha!
Yeah – it’s difficult to explain but you go to some parties and its ok, not too bad, the music is alright but there’s something missing. That special edge is missing and the people who really love and understand electronic music i.e.: - the ‘professional clubbers’ are a really important part of that edge. I guess it’s something you acquire with years of doing it – haha!
You’re ‘If I’ release on Murmur at the end of last year was a real step forward for you as an artist - what do you think it was within the production structure of ‘If I‘ that raised a substantial level of attention in comparison to your previous releases?
I have a fairly modest studio but I’d say the Juno 6 I used really made it special. The use of analogue gear and of course the live vocals. Valentina and I didn’t have anything set, anything planned as such. She just came and started messing around with the mic. It was such a particular stimulation; working with a singer brought a different dynamic. We managed to capture a moment, I played some chords and she felt it, started singing along and the chemistry just worked.
You can make 100 tracks, have no plan for any of them and they’ll all be technically good but and for some reason one will just stand out. Music is all about trying to capture a mood and a moment and I really struggle to work on tracks over and over again, I’d much rather work all at once. Maybe after you’re gonna sit down and go over it slightly again, but to me it’s very important to capture a momentary vibe and emotion. Using live vocalists instead of taking something from a shared accapella folder online is definitely the way I like to work. It just makes the emotion go that extra mile.
Valentina is a very talented jazz vocalist, she’s incredible. She’s part of D.O.T.S which is collaboration with DoubtingThomas – they are doing amazing work using vocals, a drummer, a bass player, a trumpet player and more, They have an EP coming out on Mean actually which is really good.
Congratulations on your recent release on Souvenir Plus - How did you come to get involved with Ali and Basti aka Tiefschwarz?
Ali did a remix of a track of mine for a mix CD for a French magazine and we met when we played together last summer in Ibiza. We just got along, he’s such a nice guy and we stayed in touch. I was sending him music but on a very casual level as friends. And then he asked if he could release some of the music I’d sent so yeah, that’s how ‘The Getaway’ happened.
Where did the title of the EP ‘The Getaway’ get its meaning or inspiration from?
I’d say ‘The Getaway’ track itself has a kind of space connotation, the whole sonic panel. It felt a little like escaping with that track. I actually made them last February but as we all know, these things take time! It’s funny because I’ve only been making music for a relatively short time so my style is still really evolving. What I’m working on now is quite different from ‘The Getaway’ actually.
‘The Pump’ on that EP embodies a more upbeat and funky sound in comparison to ‘The Getaway’ and ‘After The Darkness’ which are very warm and deep house tracks – was the difference in sound intentional?
To be honest I wish I was that kind of guy who sits in front of the computer and says - Right today I’m gonna write this kind of track - but I don’t think in that way. ‘The Pump’ came from being at a friend’s house, he showed me this video of Arnie in an 80’s interview ». He has a really weird look on his face and we just found it so funny, it’s really out of order that clip! It made us laugh so much that I started playing around with it, it was very accidental. I don’t mean to do what I do most of the time.
You mentioned before using the Juno 6 – what’s the rest of your studio comprise of?
I have my Imac, a decent Focusrite soundcard, Mackie HRA24 monitors and a Juno 6, a Korg MS2000 and a Roland Space Echo which is brilliant. I’m really starting to get the right recipe, the right formula with my music but as I mentioned before, I’m not a trained musician so it’s taken some time to find that.
I wouldn’t wanna do a live set with just a midi controller & a computer, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not my style...Production aside, you’re also a DJ playing out regularly in London – does your style mirror that of your own productions?
I believe as a producer I tend to make music to listen to more than specifically dance floor orientated music. I’m touched by a much broader range of music than what I personally produce so as a DJ I try to be as diverse as possible. If I had to take influence from people it would have to be people like Craig Richards. Such a journey through sound with so much diversity and a real range of aesthetics within the music.
I’m really trying hard to achieve a diverse range of stuff when I play out. I love DJ’ing, it’s the ultimate sharing experience and triggers a different part of my personality and emotions. DJ’ing is sharing your musical vision just like production is, it’s just a different medium and way of doing it. Production and DJ’ing – it’s like the knife and the fork!
Have you considered becoming a Live artist?
Totally yes. I actually already have a live show that I wrote last year. I’ve never played it out in a ‘public’ space but I have some nice feedback from friends. I kind of decided that I didn’t want to do it because I really want to have the proper hardware to achieve the best I can with a Live set and at the moment that’s not the case. I would want my Live to sound a certain way, and I don’t have the equipment for that right now. I’ll wait until the time is right. I wouldn’t wanna do a live set with just a midi controller and a computer, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not my style.
What do you have coming up next in 2012?
I have a track coming up on a compilation for Metroline, they were the first people to ever sign me and I really like those guys, they are really sweet. I just did a remix for a track called ‘Why Can’t You Hear Me’ by Gwen Maze on District Raw which should be around at some point in the next few months. I don’t have that much unsigned material at the moment but here’s a few things that I’m finalizing, a couple of EP’s here and there – and I’m also working on a follow up of ‘If I’, very much the same concept and formula.
And finally a topical question for you – your thoughts on SOPA?
Well, I signed the petitions for sure because I believe in the freedom of speech and expression. I don’t think SOPA is going to help the battles with copyright that much, I understand why and how small labels are suffering because of over sharing online, but I think at the end of the day nowadays it’s just like that. I don’t write music to make money. I’ve seen pretty much every single or EP of mine online to download for free somewhere and in the beginning, the first time I saw that I was kind of pissed off but then on second thought and being really honest about it I had to tell myself that I have done that at times, downloaded music for free.
I’m not happy to accept that I’ll probably never make any money out of my productions, but I do accept it and think we just have to get on with it. I’m just a bit tired of polemic after polemic after polemic – so many people so angry about so many things... it’s just the way it is. If you’re music is found on a blog somewhere I totally understand why the label owner would be pissed off but at the same time, people are getting to hear your music, and through hearing that you might get a gig and with that gig the chances are you can make way more than you’d ever make out of a release anyway! I mean, if you wanna make loads of money, go and work in finance but music for me is about sharing. Maybe my outlook is young and immature because I haven’t been doing it all that long but I don’t think anything is perfect, ever. There’s pro’s and con’s in everything and let’s just try to see the bright side of it. People that for whatever reason don’t have the money to buy a lot of music can listen to it and people who have money will hopefully buy it.