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Northern uproar

2020 Apr 02     
2 Bit Thugs

Hypho's bass-heavy productions don't always slot readily into any one musical pigeonhole – and in lockdown, he's stretching his wings even further

From Skream collaborations to multiple American tours in the last 18 months, the life of Hypho is certainly far from dull. A key new-gen artist on Loefah’s Swamp 81 imprint, and boss of his own label Manuka, his chiselled blend of dubstep, techno and garage is deliciously unclassifiable yet relates to, and connects with, pretty much any bass, beats or techno-centric line-up you throw him on. 

Having spent the formative years of his career in Manchester he’s since moved further north, to the outskirts of Carlisle. That’s where he’s physically based, but mentally and ambitiously he occupies a much more global territory. The burgeoning Manuka brand is home to a vital range of transatlantic acts, while his 2020 schedule includes more trips to America and tours of Australia and New Zealand. At least it did… 

Now under lockdown like the rest of the world, you’d forgive him for embracing the odd dull moment during this sudden, strange downtime many DJs are experiencing at present. Quite the contrary: he’s experimenting with even more styles of music, holding down collaborations with artists who inspired him as he got into production (such as Biome and Skream) and putting out dark technoid breaks like the recent Bandcamp exclusive Not That Safe.

We called him up to find out more… 

Not That Safe… a fitting title for the time! 

"Isn’t it just? That’s the musical vibe I’m drawn to now. I’d just come back from America on a big tour and I heard a lot of dubstep out there, and wanted to make something different. I came back inspired to make some different sounds and made about seven tunes in a week. Basically an EP which will hopefully come out on Swamp 81. The whole collection is along the lines of that same vibe. Then when Bandcamp did that thing the other week I picked this one out to put on sale on there." 

Bandcamp was a meltdown that day. Over $4 million spent on independent artists’ music. 

"Yeah, it was great! Mind you, all the money I made I spent on other people’s tunes! It was mad. I’ve never seen the new releases feed move so fast. It was nice to see. I think this whole situation has made people a lot more active with releases and streams and everything."

Take us back to the simpler times of February, and your American tour…

"I was out there for a month and a half, I did 22 dates and it was sick. Nights over here that would get about 300 people, over there it’s like 600 or 700 people turning up. These massive venues booked for dubstep and at the minute they’re looking at UK artists as people they want to have over there. You go over there and it’s rock star. So many places kick off over there. Denver’s Black Box was one of the best clubs I’ve played. They’ve got a great soundsystem scene out there. Have you heard of the Hennessey system?"

Oh yes…

"Dude, that system is insane! I've never heard anything like it. I stayed at the guy’s house last time I went over there and watched them making them. It was eye-opening. The whole thing is. Before I went over there I thought American dubstep would be all brosteppy, EDM vibes but there’s an exciting movement for the deeper stuff and soundsystems out there. They treat you like royalty out there. I’ve been out there three times in less than two years."

I think you first hooked up with Biome on your first American tour, didn't you? Even though you were both based in Manchester at the time… 

"That’s right, yeah. We did know each other just to say hello – I played for Rich Reason’s Hit N Run night, and they’re both in LEVELZ. But then we became friends on that tour and came back and made a bunch of tunes."

Was that the Encoded EP on Manuka?

"Yeah it was. We got more tunes to go, but we’ve been wondering when to put them out. I want to put them on my label, but I’ve got some releases lined up so maybe after that."

That was your first and only, release on your label – and it was 005. Most label bosses usually put themselves on the label’s earliest releases… 

"That’s right. I want to develop a collective of us who all share similar vibes or work around this type of sound. I’ve got a guy in America called Amadeo. He runs the US side of things and searches for artists over there and he’s killing it. He’s well into the deep side of the dubstep scene and we’re asking those guys to make 130 stuff which they’re doing and fucking smashing. It’s great: they’re trying something different, their fans are responsive to it so we’re getting it out there. It’s dope"

Love the collective idea. It makes it more of a movement.

"It is a movement, man, there’s a lot of people making really interesting things. I can start a set at 100 BPM and end it at 180 BPM. You can start with someone like Wallwork. He’s doing this mad slow stuff that mixes so well into the deeper techno stuff by K-lone, then something like Batu would go in after that and you just make your way up the BPMs and before you know it you’ve played every genre in the book!" 

Swamp 81 have always done that…

"Yeah man, it’s sick. Loefah’s started the label 81, too. That’s even more about bridging those gaps. It’s like this mad kinda 120 BPM trap but it’s got these kinda techno vibes."

Have you found you’ve started experimenting with different ideas, or making tracks that are less focused on the club, since the lockdown? 

"I think we’re going to see more of that across the scene for sure. I’ve done some different bits. I sat down with a singer just before the lockdown and started making some future bass/post-dubstep stuff. I’ve also been tinkering with techno. I feel like I’ve got much more time more than anything. Usually I’m focused on the genre I want to make and I set schedules because I’m so busy, but right now I can wake up and make something ridiculous… just because I can."

What’s coming up on Manuka?

"I’ve got a guy called Carter who makes some great 120 techno bass stuff. He’s sick. I’ve got a compilation coming out with loads of artists, that’s a collaboration with Silent Motion in Austin which I’m really excited about, and then I’ve got a collaboration with Squane."

You’ve worked with him before…

"Yeah, I have! We’ve been sitting on these for a bit but it’s the right time. I’m hyped to get them out, they’ve been circulating for a while."

Did I see you’re collaborating with Skream? 

"Yeah, literally this week. I was chilling one day making some tunes and I got a message off Martin who runs Keysound saying “check Twitter.” I’d had a follow off Skream due to Martin telling him I made a nice edit of a Missy Elliot track, so I sent it to him that day and I received a message back saying he liked the track and we had a good conversation for about an hour or so. 

"Next thing he messages me saying, “Want to collab bro? What’s the worst that can happen?” I was overwhelmed to be honest. I sent him two project stems for tunes which he is working on now. He’s a dope guy and very humble which was great to see. Big thanks to Martin for the shout, he made my year!"

Look forward to hearing what comes of that. What else does the world need to know about Hypho during this strange time? 

"I’m just going to carry on making music, enjoying it, not stressing myself out and hopefully people will enjoy what I’m putting out into the world. So yeah, just keep focusing on the music, my friends and family and the label. That’s all I want to do."

Words: Dave Jenkins

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Tags: Hypho, Loefah, Swamp 81, Biome, Skream, Hennessey Sound Design, Rich Reason, dubstep, garage, techno, bass music