HUXLEY on the nature of the game

HUXLEY on the nature of the game

Ahead of his headline set at Chinese Laundry, we caught up with Huxley for a chat about his recent releases, mental health and the state of tech house...

RR: Hey Michael - welcome back to Sydney! The last time we saw you play was last year at Chinese Laundry, where you'll be performing again. What can we expect from you this time around?

Huxley: Good vibes and a wide range of styles. I like to mix it up and not keep things too linear. I’ve got loads of new music to play too so expect some exclusives! I love playing in the Laundry, the vibe in both rooms is amazing.

RR: Congratulations on your release, 'HotBOi Handgrenade' featuring Dances With White Girls - which has been climbing the tech house charts on Beatport. How did the collaboration come about? And what was the concept behind the track?

Huxley: Well basically the label, HotBoi Records, was started by a very good friend of mine - Option4 from Denver. He’s got great plans for it, so I jumped at the chance to be on it. When I made this track I thought it was perfect for the label. It was originally an instrumental but I thought it needed a vocal and Dances With White Girls was the perfect choice! I think he really nailed the vocals on this one.

RR: You also did a lethal house rework of Brett Gould's 'Late Night' on the 7Wallace imprint... can you talk us through the process you went through for that one?

Huxley: I’ve been a fan of Brett for a long time. We’d been chatting a bit online then met at The Egg a few months ago. It seemed natural for me to do this for him and with the added bonus that it was on Luther, which is Idris Elba’s record label. Because of the vocal, I wanted to keep the vibe angled a bit more around a classic house sound. Housey stabs, a punchy bassline and bouncy drums… I’m happy with the outcome for sure. 

RR: Your label No Ideas Original releases music from a broad range of styles spanning the house & techno spectrum, whereas many labels prefer to stick to a more defined signature sound. What are your thoughts on the two approaches? And what drew you to the former?

Huxley: You have to do what’s right for you - each person or label is different and there’s no doubt that there are pluses and minuses for both. I didn’t really consciously pick one, I just signed the music I wanted to and that took me down the more varied path. My tastes are always all over the place. In some ways I’m sure it would be easier to digest sometimes if it was all more definable, but I just get really bored of the same thing again and again. 

RR: Now we know you're a fan of UK Garage - can you tell us how the genre influenced you and your best memories from the UKG days?

Huxley: It’s influenced me a lot! From the swinging beats through to the stabs and vocals I use in my records. I go through stages of playing it or not, but my best memories of the UKG scene are actually away from the big events, as when I first got into it I was too young to go to any. Two of my friends and I use to run our own parties when we were 15/16 in the place we grew up. That’s my favourite memory of it for sure. 

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RR: You once said in an interview that you were "bored with the typical deep house sound". Tech house has been getting a lot of stick recently for heading in a commercial direction. Do you think that's a fair criticism?

Huxley: There are people who make great modern tech house like Detlef, Sidney Charles etc. but as with everything, once it gets popular you just get a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon and essentially copying their heroes or peers or whatever you want to call them just to fit in... and to try and ride the coat-tails of the people who have tried to pioneer a new sound. It happened with deep house and techno, and will happen again with whatever is next. There’s no doubt that the new tech house is effective in a club and some of it is great, but the issue is when everything sounds the same - what is there to set you apart from everyone else?

Finding your own voice in anything creative is one of the most important things if you want to be a real artist, be it in music, sculpture, writing, everything. Tech house is the new ‘love to hate’ genre too, so you will find people hating on it just to try and look cool or knowledgeable. The problem with this is no one has the right to tell someone their taste is wrong or cheesy or whatever, as taste is subjective. At the end of the day it’s all dance music and you need to let people follow their own path. If you don’t like it, just don’t listen to it. 

RR: Well-said. On another note, the electronic music industry is in shock after the sad death of Avicii. Have you faced some of the challenges he went through - like relentless touring schedules and being surrounded by drugs & alcohol all the time? How do you cope with all that?

Huxley: Avicii’s story was a very, very sad one. I actually watched the documentary a few weeks before his untimely death and you could tell he was in such a dark place when he decided to quit touring. It’s a shame to see that he was still so damaged that he couldn’t enjoy his retirement. I think the nature of the game is not good for mental health, as you mention there are many pitfalls for someone doing it full-time, but you just have to find a way to make it work for you. That isn’t as easy as it sounds though... and it’s always different for different people. For a long time I was definitely drinking too much to help with my performance anxiety and boredom and whilst traveling alone it can be very segregating. 

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RR: Thanks for the insight Huxley. Now of all the sets you've played around the world, which one really stands out in your memory?

Huxley: There’s a couple... but the one that probably stands out the most is Piknic Electronic in Montreal - unreal setting and great vibe.

RR: You've recently wrapped up a U.S.A. tour - how does the underground scene there compare to the UK? And can you give us your thoughts on the scene here in Sydney?

Huxley: It’s really healthy in the States at the moment, it’s definitely come a long way since I started going 5 or 6 years ago. I love playing there and the crowd is very responsive and always up for a party - it’s a lot like the Aussie crowd in that way. I like playing all three to be honest with you, they’re all good for their own reasons.

RR: And finally, what else is in the pipeline for you this year? Any releases we can look forward to?

Huxley: Lots and lots of stuff! The first is an EP with my friend, Skapes, on Solardo’s Sola. After that there’s loads I can’t talk about but it’s all very exciting!

RR: Sounds it! Great to chat mate, thank you.

Catch Huxley in action at Chinese Laundry tomorrow, details and tickets here