Q&A with iconic multitalented artist Hugo Race, delivers intense sonic soundscapes that merge folk, experimentalism, electronica and rock.

"The relationships between musicians are delicate and critical. Keeping your ego in check and your mind open to new patterns and pathways helps you to survive in a very difficult business. Staying true to your personal vision and ignoring the power of the market helps you retain authenticity. Respect the intelligence of your audience. Three little words – no sell out!"

Hugo Race: The Soundtrack of an Exorcism

Hugo Race, formerly of The Wreckery and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and now an internationally based producer, composer, performer and author, delivers intense sonic soundscapes that merge folk, experimentalism, electronica and rock. Originally from the 1980's Melbourne post-punk music scene, Hugo’s ever-expanding network of collaborations, bands and multimedia projects are spread over several continents. Hugo’s book Road Series, a kind of memoir, describes his musical journey over three decades. In the arc of three decades Hugo has left a mercurial trail of musical works spanning his many own releases and multiple international collaborations across studio albums, film and theatre productions, touring and festivals. Hugo’s new album titled “Dishee” (Helixed 2021). Hugo says: “The Melbourne winter of 2020 was a reality shift and my reality unfortunately shifted with it. For decades my life had been a continuum of reckless roadtrips, missed trains, packed intercontinental 747’s, dispassionate, haunted hotel rooms and maverick promoters. For years, I never stayed anywhere for more than a few months. I was searching for something to distract myself. And then I became truly distracted…                                           (Hugo Race / Photo by Alannah Hill)

March 2020 challenged me to implode inwards instead of exploring outwards. I studied ancient spiritual techniques and locked myself away to brood, meditate and smoke – anything to ease the crushing ache of lockdown and the 20-cent coin I now danced upon. I missed my old life. Everybody did. I was skeptical that meditation, chanting and searching within could produce a record. But then someone close to me went missing and my heart went missing with him. - we’d been taken over by a demon. This record, Dishee, is the exorcism of that demon from both of us. I recorded at night when quiet reigned and I was ready to channel meditational music that I knew had to be not only transcendent but slightly fuqed as well. I thought about what I was doing as a mushroom radar dish, it’s red fairytale cap pointing down at the earth, its inverted ribbed cup pointing up to receive messages from the wheeling stars and planets in space. But the signals were bleak. I bought a new guitar from Demonic Dishee town. The guitar was made in Japan the same year I was born and like many haunted vintage guitars contained unheard-of music waiting for the right fingers to set it free. I practiced snap freezing and distorting guitar sounds then started using the same treatments on my voice, paralyzing words mid-sentence. I inserted swathes of liquid ink into every irreverent guitar slide and vocal harmony, searching for a new sound rich with sonic grit and wild unpredictability. And then something incredible happened. During my nightly night terrors, my brand new Dishee murdered that child-snatching demon at a distance of forty paces with a millennium-old mantra and the practice of detachment. This record is the soundtrack of an exorcism.”

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Rock n' Roll Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

That’s a great question but its a vast terrain, I mean back in time the counterculture kind of rebel philosophy of Dylan and Burroughs and Kerouac and so many others, everything from the Beats to Dada to the Doors was my general background. Questioning everything, critical and magical thinking, taking risks sometimes. I tend to view the world as a very dangerous proposal in that it eats its young. 

"I try to move and inspire the listener and reinforce the spiritual connections that music creates with our minds and hearts. I think about the music I love as music for the soul. But first, before anything else, I write and record to express myself, then I think about how it might affect people – if it doesn’t move me, it probably won’t move anyone else. In terms of songwriting, I often find the most powerful statements and emotions are inspired by everyday events. Like, with Dirtmusic’s Bu Bir Ruya, the vibe of Istanbul permeates the recordings because that was the background of the sessions – but the tension is part of a global shift that we are all experiencing." (Hugo Race / Photo by Antonio Viscido)

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I’m a kind of maverick, I switch between musical genres - or not even switch, I blur the boundaries between them. I’m telling a particular story across each record I make. I think of them as movies. I like all kinds of music and I hear the continuity like a drone, and it doesn’t matter what clothes its wearing. I make albums driven by lyrics or by bands and I make instrumental records too. Resolving mysteries and crises is musical. Its drama. Music has always been a fundamental life force for me. It has been my constant companion and obsession and continues to be so. There are some kinds of music that I have only recently come to understand in any real sense.

It’s an ongoing journey, and I’ve always got my ears open for sounds I’ve never heard before. It’s strange, because of all the production work I have done, I now find it far too easy to analyze a piece of music. I like it when I’m in unfamiliar terrain and I really don’t understand what is going on. That’s the kind of musical passion that drives a band like Dirtmusic, or the creation of a record like Dishee.

What touched you from the ancient spiritual techniques and meditational music? What do you think is key to a life well lived?

Deja-vu! Ancient music forms feel really familiar, they supersede language. Its an organic relationship. Sound connects us to the divine, always did, maybe they’re the same thing. I spent many early years playing electric guitar in really noisy chaotic rock bands. Now I prefer less ego and more distortion. I can’t relax with serenity, I need imperfection. Life is beyond understanding. Look after family, the rest is a sideshow.

"That’s a great question but its a vast terrain, I mean back in time the counterculture kind of rebel philosophy of Dylan and Burroughs and Kerouac and so many others, everything from the Beats to Dada to the Doors was my general background. Questioning everything, critical and magical thinking, taking risks sometimes. I tend to view the world as a very dangerous proposal in that it eats its young." (Hugo Race / Photo by Corrado Lorenzo Vasquez)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts, and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

That would be much easier if we were in a bar, having a few drinks. Reflecting back across the decades, it’s difficult to remember exactly why, where and how I did the things in those years that apparently, I did do. I wrote a book called Road Series, published in 2016, and in that I wrote something about my memories of the early 80s and how I started working with Nick Cave. I guess it was really just some kind of destiny unfolding but how and where we met is really hard to say because my memories are scattered in some kind of dust cloud. But there was at a certain time in Melbourne a very intense and kind of original new music scene happening and Nick Cave and Birthday Party were very much the stars of that. I somehow became involved! My first show as guitarist with Nick was New Years Eve of 1984 and there was a radical energy flowing through everything that night, my band Plays With Marionettes also played support on that tour, and it felt like both audience and band were hell bent on burning the place down. The whole night blew my mind. Dirtmusic hold key memories for me too – travelling with Chris Eckman to Mali, playing the Festival au Desert at Timboctou, I met the band Tamikrest and we sat and jammed on the sand inside their tent while the African sun beat down. That was another life-changing moment, as was also meeting Murat Ertel from Baba Zula at his studio in Istanbul and creating the recordings that became our album Bu Bir Ruya.  We didn’t know each other all that well. In fact, Murat and I had never met before, but when we did, there was a sense of our different energies spontaneously fusing. We didn’t talk too much about what we were doing, preferring to just let it flow. Murat’s studio also contained strange and fascinating instruments and the sound of his saz was astonishing. It was December 2016 and we had watched the refugee crisis unfold to its breaking point. The coup in Turkey had happened only a few months previously and there was a sense of uncertainty, even danger, in the air. We drew on that atmosphere to inspire the record as a kind of direct response. There was magic involved, but I can’t tell you exactly how that works, just that it moves in mysterious ways.

"Deja-vu! Ancient music forms feel really familiar, they supersede language. Its an organic relationship. Sound connects us to the divine, always did, maybe they’re the same thing. I spent many early years playing electric guitar in really noisy chaotic rock bands. Now I prefer less ego and more distortion. I can’t relax with serenity, I need imperfection. Life is beyond understanding. Look after family, the rest is a sideshow." (Hugo Race / Photo by Corrado Lorenzo Vasquez)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I hate to sound like a twentieth century man, but it was way cooler before digital, for so many reasons. But who in 2021 wants to hear about that loss of innocence? Its maybe better if I explain what I hate about the chart music of these times - its perfectionism, its non-existent noise floor, its total unreality. But you can’t stop the new digital capitalism from destroying the arts, they call it progress! We are now operating in an unknown environment. I hope we can travel, perform and tour again but if we do, it will be in changed circumstances.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I’d delete the streaming platforms from the market and design a way for musicians to sell their music for its true value. If that happened, artists would recover so much that they’ve lost. But its just fantasy.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

The relationships between musicians are delicate and critical. Keeping your ego in check and your mind open to new patterns and pathways helps you to survive in a very difficult business. Staying true to your personal vision and ignoring the power of the market helps you retain authenticity. Respect the intelligence of your audience. Three little words – no sell out!

What is the impact of music on the spiritual and socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?                                           (Photo: Hugo Race)

I try to move and inspire the listener and reinforce the spiritual connections that music creates with our minds and hearts. I think about the music I love as music for the soul. But first, before anything else, I write and record to express myself, then I think about how it might affect people – if it doesn’t move me, it probably won’t move anyone else.

In terms of songwriting, I often find the most powerful statements and emotions are inspired by everyday events. Like, with Dirtmusic’s Bu Bir Ruya, the vibe of Istanbul permeates the recordings because that was the background of the sessions – but the tension is part of a global shift that we are all experiencing. Bu Bir Ruya is intended to be an album that can speak to anyone anywhere, you don’t need to know the context of how the album was made to get where we are coming from. Hopefully the music itself is a kind of universal language for your feet and for your head.

Hugo Race - Home

Views: 135

Comments are closed for this blog post

social media

Members

© 2021   Created by Michael Limnios Blues Network.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service