Bristol’s Hyetal has been bubbling up in the bass-music scene for a couple of years now, scoring singles on Planet Mu and Punch Drunk, as well as earning a slot on Mary Anne Hobbs’ influential Wild Angels compilation. His 2010 collaboration with Peverelist, “The Hum,” turned dancefloors upside down with its unconventional take on UK funky, helping cement Hyetal’s reputation as an artist slated for big things.
His time, it appears, has arrived. Released this month, his debut album, Broadcast, finds him greatly expanding his ambitions and his range. Dark, punishing, clubwise throbbers like “Dimepiece” are balanced by bright, synth-heavy tracks with a faintly ’80s air about them; similar to his “purple” breathren but displaying more control, he shows a masterful melodic sensibility. His sense of timbre and texture, meanwhile, is as stimulating as a necklace made of electric eels.
We got in touch with Hyetal to find out more; read on for the full interview.
We know that you’re from Bristol, a city that’s played a huge role in the development of many generations of UK bass music. Is that where you grew up? How would you say that the city has influenced your musical development?
It’s not where I grew up, but it’s been my home for the last seven years. I think it’s had a big influence on my production, I’ve learnt a lot from meeting people here.
You started out doing tracks with pretty clear dubstep/funky elements, but the album shows a much broader range of styles, rhythms & textures. How would you describe your music? And how consciously are you thinking about styles and subgenres when you’re producing?
I’d try and describe it in the broadest terms possible. “Bass-heavy melodic music” I’ve used before, but that’s not exactly catchy, I guess.
I was definitely thinking about reference points stylistically when I was writing the record, influences I could draw on that I’d grown up with that I wasn’t hearing in other peoples tunes. I wasn’t particularly concerned with the album fitting into any specific genre though.
There’s a bit of a ‘80s vibe on the record; “Beach Scene” faintly suggests New Order, The Cure, even Siouxsie. And then of course “The Chase” seems to be a pretty clear Giorgio Moroder homage. (Plus there’s that Cocteau Twins tune that closes your XLR8R podcast.) Did ‘80s music play a big role in your upbringing?
I normally use synths at the forefront of my stuff, and for me, the mid ‘70s through to the end of the ‘80s was the peak for synth music. I was a kid during the ‘80s, so there’s a certain amount of those sounds having a nostalgic resonance. I like all the music you mentioned, especially Giorgio Moroder and The Cure, but what I tried to do was take influence from the music of that era and put it into a new context.
What kind of gear are you using? Is it mostly software, or a mixture of softsynths and hardware?
I’ve been shifting towards more hardware since starting work on the album. I’ve always used a mixture of the two, but I’ve been buying up a few more synths. The stuff I write next will probably be mostly hardware and I’ll sequence the audio in logic.
Would you ever consider doing a straight-up ambient project? “The Chase” and “Transmission” suggest you’ve got a lot of ambient ideas up your sleeve.
Not nessercarily ambient, but I’m definitely up for writing more stuff without drums.
You’ve done quite a few collaborations—with Shortstuff, Peverelist, Baobinga… What’s the collaborative process like for you? On a very basic level, how do you go about it—are the two of you generally in the same room, taking turns at the computer? Or is it more like sending files back and forth?
With the exception of the Shortstuff tunes, which we did over the Internet, its mostly been face to face. I still find it useful if I write some of my parts on my own, but I then I’ll finish everything with the other person there.
When you play out, are you generally DJing or playing live? And how would you describe your sets and your performance style?
It’s been DJing until recently. I’m quite varied as a DJ and I like to shift about quite a bit in terms of tempo. For the last year or so I’ve been playing a lot of house music.
I started playing live sets in April this year. I’ve only done a couple so far, but I love it. It’s reinterpreting the music from the album; there’s not really so much focus on the dance floor.
What are your thoughts on the current state and direction of the “bass music” scene? Where do you see it going, and how would you like to see it evolve?
I think it’s pretty healthy. As always, there’s shifts in style that happen where a handful of people make tracks that are really exciting, and a bunch of people imitate and make pretty mediocre music. I guess that’s always going to happen, though, and it encourages the producers who are innovative to move into new directions. As long as that continues, “bass music” will stay relevant.