“My self-confidence was at a point where I couldn’t even understand why people listened to my stuff.” Attack editor Greg Scarth meets Huxley in the studio for his most revealing interview yet.
On his newly released debut album, Blurred (launched at fabric on Friday the 24th of October), Huxley draws on his influences from house, garage, techno and breakbeat to create a collection that reflects the full spectrum of his musical interests. Collaborating with the likes of Roger Sanchez, Thomas Gandey and Yasmin along the way, the end result is a noticeable progression from the EPs that cemented his place as one of the rising stars of the house scene during 2011 and 2012. The garage-tinged sound of tracks like ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Box Clever’ is by no means abandoned entirely, but Blurred is an expansive collection with a stronger emphasis on song structure than the purely club-focused EPs that preceded it.
The album’s inception wasn’t a simple process. Having first begun work on a full-length project in 2012, Michael Dodman realised after completing six or seven tracks that he wasn’t happy with where it was going. “It all felt a bit forced,” he explains. “It felt like what people wanted me to make rather than what I actually wanted.” All but two of the tracks were scrapped and the whole process started again from scratch roughly a year ago, with things finally starting to fall into place around spring this year.
We visited Huxley in his home studio to discuss his frustration at allowing himself to be pigeonholed, the importance of online forums in helping him hone his skills, and why he’s continually striving to become a better artist.
(Check out the accompany My Studio feature for a closer look at Huxley’s essential studio gear.)
Attack: Let’s start with the obvious question: why did you decide to make an album?
Huxley: I was feeling a bit restricted with what I was releasing. It was my own fault, essentially, and I felt I was finally ready to make something that was… I suppose I was ready to make music that was bigger than just club music. Or something that was more meaningful to me than just club music. I never made it as an album to take you on a journey or anything.
What do you mean by something more meaningful?
Taking it back to writing songs again. Writing music that some people probably wouldn’t expect from me. Music that showed every element of what I wanted to make.
I guess at the time you started work on the album, around the summer of 2012, you were just on the verge of being pigeonholed as someone who just made slightly retro, garage-influenced house?
Definitely. I think so. And I think the records that I put out around that time did nothing to help that pigeonholing. I think apart from the Aus release [the Inkwell EP], and maybe the Hypercolour thing [the Bellywedge EP], the stuff that I released last year was probably stuff that I shouldn’t have. It was all a bit too obvious, all down the same route.
It’s really tough. People want you to do what you’re known for but then they’ll complain if you keep doing the same thing.
Yeah, exactly. It was easy, and people wanted that from me so I did it.
the stuff that I released last year was probably stuff that I shouldn’t have. It was all a bit too obvious
So for the new material you said you wanted to go back to writing songs. When did you last do that?
When I was doing the garagey stuff, a lot of it was song-based. At that time I was fucking around with writing the whole song, writing the lyrics. Me and my brother and a friend of ours used to spend time writing hip-hop and song ideas and stuff. That was ten years ago, around the time I was at university, so when I was about 18, 19. I mean, it’s terrible music – none of it was released, it was all just messing around – but the more song-based structure’s something I wanted to go back to. I think an album’s the best way to do that.
Do any of your friends from when you were younger still give you feedback on what you’re making now? The people you grew up with and learned to make music with.
Most of my friends don’t have anything to do with music but I have a few friends that I grew up with like Ethyl, who I used to make music with, and a guy called Jonny Cade. Probably after university, like 2008 or something, that’s when they really started giving feedback. Before that I was a member of loads of music forums – that was where I’d get my feedback. I’d post clips on there and try to build from their criticism.
The forum thing’s interesting. It’s become quite common now for artists to start out as a member of one of those online communities and then go on to be successful.
Yeah, you see a lot of familiar names and faces popping up. I think it’s a bit different these days because so many people use SoundCloud – it isn’t quite the same thing, because on a forum you build up a group of people who you interact with all the time, whereas SoundCloud’s just random people posting.
I was a member of loads of music forums – that was where I’d get my feedback.
It’s more about people trying to promote themselves.
That’s it. And it doesn’t have the same interaction. The forum thing was actually quite important for me, taking criticism from people who I thought were my peers at the time and building from that, turning it into better music each time. I’m from such a small town as well, so there was only a certain amount of people who were even into music, really. I mean, we used to run little parties but that was just an excuse for people to get pissed, basically.