Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Hudson Mohawke is an enigma. His music runs the gamut from hip-hop, to garage, to funky, to house and back and again. A child of the 90’s he quietly absorbed the manifold dance influences of that decade and has consistently reconfigured, reworked and re-imagined them in new and wildly varied contexts.

As part of the Glasgow based Luck Me collective, 24 year old Hudson Mohawke (Ross Birchard to his mum) has been part of an emerging vanguard of young, talented and musically aware pioneers who have dictated where UK bass music is headed for the next decade.

As a DMC finalist at the tender age of 15 and one of the youngest signings to the prestigious Wrap Records label in its history his future is brighter than most. While the immediate reaction of the uninitiated Hudson Mohawke listener continues to be “what the fuck is this?” the contented converts simply ask, “where the fuck will this go next?”

The Creators Project Despite: Despite Ding and performing all over the world you continue to keep your roots in Glasgow.
Hudson Mohawke:
Yeah, I’ve lived there my whole life. My Dad was actually from LA weirdly but for whatever reason that remains unclear he moved all the way from LA to Glasgow.

Your music is near enough impossible to classify. What did you listen to as a kid?
The first thing I guess I really obsessed over was crappy chart pop music. This was when I was about 6 or 7 and I would religiously collect compilations of chart dance music.

When did you first encounter underground dance music that wasn’t Top 40 bound?
I got in to hard UK rave music when I was maybe 11. Things like rave-y gabba and hardcore by people like DJ Sy and Seduction and Scott Brown that you would listen to on tapes that came in these huge tape packs. There was a rave seen in Scotland at that point but I was so young that I had no knowledge of it even existing so I didn’t really have any context to place all this music in but I was just so in to the music and loved it so much that I didn’t really stop to think about things like that.

When did you start DJing?
By that point I’d got my first pair of crappy belt drive turntables and I was also buying 12” records so I started making mix tapes of all this rave music that I had been listening to and buying. I would then sell them at school.

Where did you buy records back then? Were there specialist rave music shops in Glasgow at that point?
Not that I knew of. I just used to buy records in the Glasgow HMV. It had this amazing vinyl floor that was almost like a separate shop that had great stock and was basically as good as an independent record shop. It’s gone now.  It was in that HMV actually where I saw my first DMC video.

Was that what led you down the turntablism road?
Totally. There had been some scratching in the rave music that I had been listening to but it was more for effect and really fast without much technique. Watching the guys who were battling in that DMC video was pretty amazing at that age. I’d never seen anything like that before. The video also happened to be of the year that A-Track won the DMC when he was only 15, which was the age I ended up qualifying for the UK final. I saw that he was young and doing it so that was motivating and I just got way into Turntabalism and hip hop from studying that tape over and over again.

How did you make the jump from Ding to production?
In about 1998 or 1999 I got a Playstation, which came with a program called Music, which was followed by Music2000. Using those programs was my first experience of experimenting with actually making music and production. Music2000 had this feature where you could put audio CD’s in to the Playstation and sample bits of audio tracks which was pretty amazing to me at the time. I’d be sampling little drum breaks and melody lines and making songs. I was still doing DJ battles at that point but the production began to become the focus. When my family got their first PC, in about 2001 it just used to be in the living room and I got a cracked version of Fruity Loops and that was that. 

What do you use to produce now?
I still use Fruity Loops! I have used Reason and Logic but I’ve never found a program as immediate and intuitive as Fruity Loops plus I’ve spent so many hours in front of it that I just know it so well.

When did you start playing your creations out?
Back when the PC was still just in my parents living room and I couldn’t use it all the time I’d go to this internet cafĂ© about 15 minutes walk from my house to use the internet there. It was this weird sort of hippy-ish community centre place where people would hang out and they would stay open until 3am on a Friday night and there was a guy who would play records. I used to go down there with my Dad and he asked if I could play a record or two and I ended up playing out there regularly on a Friday night. That’s shut down now as well which is a shame.

How did you play your tunes out, were they cut to vinyl?
At that point I was getting a few DJ bookings but mainly off the back of the DMC stuff so I was kind of expected to play hip hop which restricted what I could play plus the technology wasn’t really there at that stage to play mp3 audio out. I used to record stuff from the PC to minidisc and then plug the minidisc straight into the mixer with an audio cable if I wanted to play any of my own stuff.  In about 2004 though I started to really focus on production in the same way that I had focused on Ding and turntabalism up until that point. Production just became this all-consuming thing. I’d get home from school and just be doing it all night.

Was there a scene in Glasgow at that point?
When I started making stuff there was no real scene and I used to post stuff online on forums and pretend not to be me and see what the reaction was. I’ve never really felt that I make particularly far out music but a lot of the reactions that I got then and even now have tended to be a bit like “what the fuck is this?” There were a lot of good club nights in Glasgow but everything was quite segregated. And we could not have played the stuff we were making at those kind of nights so a couple of guys called Dominic Flannigan and Martyn Flynn as well as myself and a few others started a night called Lucky Me at a tiny bar called Stereo that held about 60 people.

How did you come up with the name Hudson Mohawke?
When I started posting tracks up online I knew that I would really have to come up with a name so myself and a friend had a competition to try and send each other the most ridiculous name possible via text message and Hudson Mohawke was the stand out.

How did the Warp deal come about?
A few people in Glasgow had a few of my tunes early on and they’d been playing them at after parties and stuff and one of the guys that works at Warp is a Glaswegian. He’d heard the tunes and really liked them so took them into Steve Beckett at Warp and just hassled him about it and it went from there. It was a label I had a huge amount of respect for but it seemed like this huge beast of a pinnacle so far above anything that I could achieve that I had never even really considered being involved with it.

Is it weird being on a label with such a sense of dance music history?
I’m a huge Boards Of Canada fan so it was crazy being on the same label as them.  I was initially totally over the moon but after it settled the reality of the situation was filled with far more pressure and weight of expectation than the dream. I wasn’t sure that I could put myself up there next to all of those artists without doing something new and exciting and different but after all the panic I had a realisation that they had approached me because they wanted me to do what I wanted to do. If you look at any of the great albums in the Warp catalogue I am pretty sure that Aphex or Autechre didn’t sit there thinking “I’m going to make a classic album”, it’s just how it happens. You can’t over think things; it’s best to just do what you do. 

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