Having spent the past two years in the studio with his brother Nu:Tone under their collaborative Nu:Logic moniker, Hospital’s finest emerges from the shadows with his new Polyphony album that has been sweeping dancefloors worldwide.
Returning to the classic Hospital sound that originally put him on the map, Kmag sits with the one they call Logistics for an in-depth look at his roots, writing process, and the secret to his success.
Talk a bit about growing up. What sort of music were your parents into? Were they particularly artistic or creative in any way?
My parents are both very creative, my Dad is an artist and screen printer and my Mum is a calligrapher. They are both big music fans themselves and as kids we were exposed to loads of different music growing up from people such as Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder through to Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young. Looking back I think this has had a huge effect on the kind of music I like these days.
When I was younger I used to gravitate towards what was in the charts, people like Black Box and Snap were big at the time and in a way I guess this was my first experience of dance music, albeit very commercial watered down dance music. It’s only once I got a bit older that I realised how much I loved some of the music I’d grown up on.
There was obviously something in the water as your family has become something of d&b royalty – remind us who your siblings are and what your parents think of your chosen careers. Were they hoping for doctors and lawyers?
The eldest is Dan aka Nu:Tone, then there’s Nick aka Other Echoes and then I have a younger brother who is an artist / illustrator called Tim who works under the name Mr Penfold. Musically, I think we’ve all influenced each other along way.
There was no real pressure to be academic, they tried for a bit to steer us towards regular jobs but they soon realised we weren’t cut out for that and encouraged us to do what made us happy.
Did you play any instruments? What sort of music were you listening to as a young blood and at what point did electronic music and drum & bass in particular enter the picture?
I played guitar and bass in bands a bit as a teenager although we were rubbish to be honest. At the time, me and my friends were really into bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and L7. At the same time I was listening to a lot of hip hop too, after that I became obsessed with trip hop and especially the label Mo’ Wax.
The first time I heard drum & bass was probably the obvious stuff like ‘Incredible’ by General Levy which didn’t really do much for me, but once I heard the ‘Music Box’ album by the Roni Size, DJ Die, DJ Krust and Bill Riley I was instantly converted and completely obsessed with it.
At what point do you begin collecting records and moving on into DJing? Were you old enough to hit the scene at this time?
I was about 15 then and bit too young to really go out to many nights but we managed to get in to nights like A.W.O.L and Logical Progression when they passed through my hometown and they were massively influential.
It was around this time that I decided that music was what I really wanted to do. From that point onwards, me and my best friend started buying and collecting records religiously and built up a huge collection of vinyl.
What were your early productions like? What sort of hardware/software rig were you using and what sort of advice can you give to someone starting out just the way you were back in the day?
I was working on my parents PC when I first started out which annoyed them like mad! To start with I was messing around with a program called Acid, which was good fun for just chucking loops together. I didn’t really know what I was doing but it taught me how to program patterns, what reverb did, what a filter was, etc. I then moved over to my own PC and switched programs, which meant that I had all the time in the world to work on music, which was really satisfying.
In terms of advice, I’d say just spend as much time as you can learning and perfecting your craft. The one thing that seems to equate to success with music is passion, if you have enough passion for it you’ll almost certainly get there eventually.
You’ve gone to a complete tear since then and have no doubt earned your place in the hallowed halls of d&b fame for eternity… What do you cite as the main reason or reasons for your success? Does it come down to natural talent, luck, work ethic, money, connections… ?
I think all of those have come into play at some point except maybe money; I was broke for a while when I first started making music but I was just so completely addicted to making music that that didn’t matter. I was working a boring 9-5 and then coming home and working on music until two or three in the morning and then getting up for work again the next day. I feel that one of the things that helped along the way was having a real idea of what I wanted to do musically and sticking to that even when other routes might have brought more immediate success.
I imagine after all these years you’ve worked out a sort of system or schedule – give us a sense of what an average working day/week looks like for you.
For a while now I’ve been really into the cycle of working in the studio during the week and then doing gigs at the weekend. During the week I usually get into the studio around 10-11 am and then work on music for as long as I can. This pattern can sometimes lead to working seven day weeks but that never really bothers me as I love what I do so much.
Obviously that changes if there’s a tour on or if there are deadlines but for the most part that’s how I tend to work. When I first started I was doing 20 hour studio sessions right through the night and into the next day but that made me totally chaotic in every other area so these days I try and treat the studio like a 9-5 where possible.
Give us a sense of the writing process you went through on this album. Do you stick with one idea at a time on through to completion or are you working on multiple things at once? Were there ideas or songs that were scrapped and didn’t quite make the final cut?
I’m always working on new music and this album came together right after the Nu:Logic album writing process. I really, really enjoyed working on the Nu:Logic album but I also crave full control as well sometimes so it was nice to go back to working on solo material.
I rarely finish tracks in one sitting and often bounce around between tracks. I was going through song files the other day and I think I have about 20 extra tracks that are at various stages that just didn’t fit the vibe of this album. I wrote quite a lot of dance floor stuff that got shelved as I really wanted this album to stand alone from that sound. I feel there are lots of other people doing that sound better than I am and I have to force myself not to get influenced by other music that’s out there.
An essential part of your success has been the support of Hospital Records – talk a bit about how you first linked up with the crew and how that has transformed into an almost family-like relationship.
My brother Dan was already signed to them and I’d sent a few demos their way when I was starting out but nothing had really grabbed them. I remember being down at Swerve one night and Fabio played a track of mine called ‘Replay’ and I think Tony, Chris and Tom were all there and the following day I had a phone call saying the wanted to sign the track. From there I kept on sending new music to them until they eventually offered me an album deal.
Part of Hospital’s philosophy towards its artists seems to be very open-minded in allowing them to sort of express themselves in a variety of ways. Especially on album-length projects, artists seem to be given free reign to sort of create and shape a “drum & bass” album anyway they see fit, even if it means dipping into different tempos and vibes. When you come up with a tune like “Homeward Bound” do you feel like you have to justify it in any way to the label?
That’s exactly how it is, they’ve never forced me to go a certain route with my music, it’s totally down to me what kind of music I make and it’s really good to know that the label backs what I do musically. With tracks like ‘Homeward Bound’ I sometimes feel like I have to justify myself with that kind of track as I know the majority of my listeners want to hear drum & bass but if they think it’s good and it fits with the project then that’s enough for them. I really try not to think how the music will be perceived, I just make what I want to make and hope that people will like it.
The buzz on the LP has been great. Take us back to when it was just a seedling of an idea in your mind. What was the overall frame or idea that you were moving towards? Did you have a working title for the LP while it was in process? At what point did you decide on “Polyphony” and what sort of special meaning do you feel it captures in terms of the project?
Well, the name was chosen in the end because I feel like the one constant through the album and my music in general is how melodies play off each other. The overall philosophy with this album was to try and go back a bit to my original sound that most people probably know me for. ‘Fear Not’ was a much more synthetic sounding album than this one and with it coming out in the summer I was really keen to give it a really laidback, summery vibe throughout.
Even with the uptempo anthems that you seem to knock out with ease, there is this very strong sense of loss and longing at the core that hits so hard. I’m thinking of tunes like ‘Transcending’, ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Sparks’, ‘Seasons’, etc. that evoke an emotional response out of me every time. Is there a specific structure or key change you’ve worked out that will unlock the “hands in the air” “tears of joy” vibes every time?
All of those tracks you’ve mentioned were written during last summer when we were having this amazing weather over here and that always seems to inspire me to write. I feel they all have a relaxed vibe to them but I’m aware all my songs seem to be interpreted in different ways. I tend to be drawn to music that treads the line between being uplifting and melancholy and I guess that’s just what appeals to my tastes.
I’m so useless with my music theory that I definitely don’t use specific key changes or structures that evoke those kinds of feelings. I mean obviously there are certain things that you know will work in a club or create a certain response but I usually just hit the keys until it sounds the way I want it to.
Now that the LP is finished, I imagine you’re already back in the studio cooking up the next batch of beats so let us know what we should be looking out for in the coming year! If you’re so tired that you’re just laying on the beach in Ibiza then send us a snapshot and that’ll do as well.
I wish I was on a beach in Ibiza right now but I’m in the studio for the time being. At the moment, I’m working on some new solo material and I’ve also just done a couple of remixes that’ll be out over the next month or so. I’m also starting work on some fresh Nu:Logic material that is shaping up really nicely too.