New Zealand-born Hugo Barritt moved to London at the end of the last millennium to concentrate on enveloping himself in electronic music, and since then it’s been a slow-burning progression from playing some of the capital’s most committed promotions and a production career that’s come to fruition in 2011, with releases close together on Vitalik and Murmur. We caught up with him to talk about his music, what’s coming up in 2012, and why he likes dancing in warehouses.
So, how are you and where are you? I’m good thanks… these days I live in Hackney, East London.
What gigs and plans do you have over the festive period? Generally laying pretty low until New Years Day then planning for a daytime jaunt to jump on the bandwagon wherever the rave takes me, then ending up at No Fit state that evening to check out Move D.
You’d met Robert Owens back when you used to run the Journeys party in London in the last decade and he provides the vocals on You Are on Murmur. If someone had told you ten years ago that you’d be working with him and consider him a friend what would you have said? When I look back I feel blessed to have worked with Robert and build a friendship with him. Everyone who has met Robert would agree he’s such a down to earth person. One of the nicest guys you’d ever meet. I’d be pretty blown away if you told me about being in this place ten years ago.
You’re a busy man at the moment, with an EP out on Vitalik as well as the one on Murmur before Christmas. Give us a lowdown on both EPs….My style is generally pretty deep, which comes through with my tracks on both labels. Pezzner and Ethyl have done two really great remixes with the ep on Vitalik, making it a nice solid deep package. My release with Murmur has Efdemin and Tom Demac each giving a different flavour to ‘You Are’. It’s been really interesting to hear such talented artists take elements from my music and give it their own angle.
You’d already had a track on Vitalik’s compilation in the summer. How did you meet Ryan and how did the getting onto the We Love Vitalik mix come about? I got to know Ryan through a mutual friend. I liked Vitalik’s sound and he was interested in my music so it all happened pretty naturally once we got in touch. Ryan felt my track ‘Downtime’ would work well for the ‘We Love Vitalik’ compilation. The mix brought together a good combination of artists and sounds with established producers alongside new names. It was really great to be a part of that.
Londoners may be familiar with you from some of the parties you’ve played over the years in the capital: Retox, Players and Lo*kee. Not the standard Saturday night club experiences…. Very true – I guess as none of them were ever on Saturday nights. The Players in particular always amazed me. It was a Tuesday night at AKA bar in The End nightclub. All the people who worked at London clubs, restaurants and bars over the weekend would get together and enjoy their night off. It was always a great party, rammed with people enjoying music right through to the early hours.
Where can we see you playing in 2012? I will be doing a few things around London and also Vitalik in Ibiza during the summer, although producing is my main focus right now.
You’ve been concentrating more on your production work and it’s bearing fruit now. Do you feel it’s almost default for a DJ to be a producer these days and vice versa? Although it sometimes seems like it, I wouldn’t say it is default. It really varies for each person and I can only speak for myself. These days producers rely on DJing as an income more than ever before and DJs often need to become acknowledged producers to take things to the next level. A lot are also like me, enjoying bringing music to people through DJing and also needing a creative outlet so produce as well.
What tracks can we see coming out in the new year, or are there a lot of ‘work in progress’ bits in the pipeline? I’ve got a few new tracks finished, which I will start pushing out in the New Year, but there’s always work in progress too. I’m not really one to churn out large quantities of tracks as I’m a bit of a perfectionist and still developing my sound. I’d rather release less with the best quality I’m capable of achieving.
You were born in New Zealand, but moved over to London in the late 90s. Was that a conscious decision for your music career? You’d already been classically trained and studied engineering… It was a conscious decision for me to be in the best place possible to enjoy music I felt most passionate about. Leaving NZ was, in effect, ending my musical career as I knew it back then – The band I left was about to make it pretty big (by NZ standards) but I had an overwhelming urge to come to London and start from scratch; something really difficult with it being so expensive and knowing only one person at the time, but you have to follow your heart in these situations.
What was your first exposure to electronic music back at home? The very first exposure was through an odd neighbour who was an exchange student from Norway. He lent me some CDs with house, hardcore and Jungle so I checked them out. Around this time I also started hearing similar music that sound-engineering students brought into college. However the pivotal time for me was the first time Doc Scott played NZ in 1997. It introduced me to the immense energy of big bass lines and the solid rhythm/percussion sounds that can be achieved electronically. Listen to Dillinja’s ‘Threshold’ on solid speakers and you’ll understand.
You came over at a time of some of the best clubs in the capital being around – The End, Turnmills, The Cross, The Key – so it must’ve been quite a sea change from New Zealand? Yeah really different, having such a small population and being so far away really affects things. Over there you don’t get international DJs as often and there’s a much smaller scene in general with Auckland’s population only at half a million. There would still be great parties – but in London the scale of people and huge array of world-class artists playing at different parties, all on one night, is pretty incredible and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The End, especially, was one of the best clubs I’ve ever been to (and its closing party a legendary experience). Do you feel like the closing of that clutch of clubs was a watershed for the capital? Definitely, I was particularity sad to see The End close as it held so many happy memories for me… but there’s still loads of great nights going so it’s not all negative.
Where are your favourite nightspots in the capital now, to play and dance in? For going out and dancing – its definitely Fabric. The programming is world class with a good mix of solid staples, international artists and fresh talent. The sound system is unrivalled and for me, Fabric has remained a consistent experience since the first time I went when it had just opened.
There’s definitely been a move to less permanent and specialised venues in the last five years in the capital, with the likes of Mulletover and Secretsundaze obviously leading the charge with picking some weird and wonderful venues for their parties. Do you see that as more of a way forward, away from custom-built clubbing spaces? Absolutely. I like going to new places that have their own character. It brings a unique and special vibe to the party. It’s far more stimulating and keeps things fresh. London has so many amazing random spaces and it feels so right putting a decent sound system in there and playing some good music.
Who inspires you musically at the moment? Really hard to say as there’s so much inspiration out there. Lately it’s been Gwen Maze and Jef K, Fred P, Livio and Roby, Seuil, Dyed Soundorom and Ben Klock. I could easily go on though…
If you could have made a record with any producer past or present who would it be? Again, another really difficult question. There are many different producers I would love to make a record with…any of the above would be great.
What would your dream Christmas present be? A Tardis from Doctor Who. I would go back in time and buy lots of analogue synths when they were a bit cheaper.
If you had to give it all up tomorrow, how would you like to be remembered? I’m a pretty chilled guy and like to stay positive. If people remember me like that it would be cool.