One of the most exciting things about Hudson Mohawke’s music is that it’s impossible to categorise – filing it into a genre would be like opening a lock with a banana. Influenced by funk ‘n’ soul, rave, jungle, happy hardcore and highly skilled at turntablism, HudMo creates tropical and sprit-enlivening high jinx that definitely don’t sound as if they’re from Glasgow.
Hailed as everything from aqua-crunk to glitch-hop, wonky to psy-phy, only one thing’s certain: he’s altered the landscape of electronic music. In the last few years since his first Warp LP ‘Butter’ in 2009, HudMo (real name, Ross Birchard) caused a sensation with TNGHT (a collaboration with Lunice), worked with Kanye West, Azealia Banks and Björk, released two critically adored EPs and become a major global festival act. You can catch him this summer at the Parklife Weekender in Manchester.
In January it emerged that Kanye West signed him to his G.O.O.D Music label. We had a chat with him about the year ahead, what he’s listening to and how he makes things work.
NME: Recently you signed as a producer to Kanye’s label. How did that happen?
Ross: I’d been trying to get in touch with them for a couple of years. Doing it the official way, going through managers, but I’d never really had much success and then out of the blue they came to me about a year ago. They’d heard stuff of mine through Benji B, the Radio 1 DJ.
Hear ‘Mercy’, a HudMo-produced track from ‘Cruel Summer’ below
NME: So will Kanye’s project be the main focus in 2013?
Ross: No, I always want my own stuff to be the main focus. As much as I’m OK with working on different peoples’ records and the Kanye West album, it’s also important not to lose sight of your own stuff and identity.
NME: Why do you think TNGHT, your collaboration with Lunice, blew up so much?
Ross: Quite a lot of it was stuff that me or Lunice probably wouldn’t have ever released ourselves because both of us come from, in terms of our production, a little bit more left-field, a little bit more experimental, so we wouldn’t necessarily have created these big festival tracks under our own names.
NME: Any idea when your next album, the follow-up to ‘Butter’, will be released?
Ross: It’s going to be this year, definitely. I’ve been working on it for a while and taking my time with it. Every month or two I’ll go back and do another couple weeks work on it. A lot of it’s been me saying “Yeah, I’m definitely using that” and then I scrap it a month later because I don’t like it.
NME: Is it going to be a follow-on in sound from ‘Butter’, or are you experimenting with different things?
Ross: A little. ‘Butter’ was a collage of different stuff I’d done over the few years before that. This one is a bit more consolidated as a project. I want it to be like an album album, you know?
NME: Still sample-based?
Ross: Yes, but there are also live instruments. Strings, horns, trumpets…I wanted to make it more musical in general and less computer focussed. I want to step out of the electronic bedroom producer role and move into a musician producer role.
NME: Are you motivated to create brand new sounds?
Ross: It’s never been as if I have to be really different and out there and weird. I’ve always started out copying the people that I really admire but then just trying to go the extra step with it.
NME: Which are you most proud of?
Ross: The remix for Bjork last year (‘Virus’ on the ‘Biophilia’ remix CD). I always wanted to do something with her because I’d been blown away by her performances. I’m hoping to do some more stuff with her.
NME: So are you doing anything on ‘Cruel Winter’?
Ross: I don’t want to say anything about it basically. The whole projects been on and off a couple of times now so… I think they just announced again that it’ll be back on. What I’ve heard so far is pretty amazing.
NME: Are there any other collaborations coming up?
Ross: More TNGHT stuff.
NME: In the past you’ve talked about the influences of rave, hardcore, jungle and soul on your music. Can you pick out some favourites?
Ross: In terms of rave, Scott Brown and DJ Dizzle. Jungle guys like Dillinger, Headrush, Optical. And a lot of the stuff Quincy Jones did. Earth Wind and Fire. Debarge. The Orchestra. At the moment I’m into Redinho, he’s a soul producer but he plays other instruments. He’s almost like Prince or someone like that but he’s a geeky looking white guy.
NME: Your career has kind of grown incrementally and you seem to have quite a lot of control over what you do.
Ross: Yeah, there have been so many chances to do things the easy way or what people have suggested. Maybe to some extent it’s to my own detriment turning things down, but I’m glad it’s been more about building a career and having a longevity rather than taking every single opportunity straight away and burning out in like a year or two years’ time. I’m also happy it gives me the freedom to pretty much do whatever I want musically and I feel like that’s been a better way of building a sound. I’m glad I’ve done that rather than taking what could have been probably a much easier route.