Artist Feature: Hodge
Post-dubstep, dark twisted techno, glimmering ambient – Jacob Martin, aka Hodge, refuses to be placed in a particular box. He just wants to do “honest music,” as he puts it. Residing in Bristol, he trusts a select few labels with his music – namely Punch Drunk, Berceuse Heroique, Tempa, Hemlock, Hotline Recordings, Livity Sound and Clone Basement Series – and since 2015 his schedule has become increasingly hectic. That’s seen him DJing around the globe, from Japan to Mexico, Russia to the US, often sharing bills with artists such as Actress, Adrian Sherwood and Jackmaster amongst others. For Carhartt WIP Radio the DJ and producer has prepared a mix that takes a look at his very own productions, blending early recordings and soon to be released stuff. To find out more about the multidimensional music world of Hodge, we also spoke to him about his art, his life and his town Bristol.
Hey Hodge, can you quickly introduce yourself to us a bit? How did you first get into music, DJing and producing?
Hodge: Hey, I currently write music under the name Hodge which was named after my friends dog. I first got into some easily accessible electronic music like DJ Shadow, Boards of Canada and Leftfield via my Dad and then more dance floor orientated music via late night roller disco sessions in my home town in Medway (from 8-9pm) at the local sports centre. I started making music after going to college to study music technology when I didn’t know what to do after I left school and around that time I bought my first decks and an entire collection of drum n bass and UK garage off a friend.
What is your creative process like? How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Hodge: I don’t really separate it at all, the two are combined. At the moment my creative process tends to be writing down notes mainly when travelling or watching films and chilling at home and then getting in the studio a few days a week, read a book and relax for a bit and then make some noise whilst referencing those notes and seeing where I end up.
You like to produce alone or with others?
Hodge: I love both. It’s great on your own to get locked into a kinda meditative space and get lost in a track and kinda snap out of it a bit later like, ‘Oh cool the track’s nearly done.’ On the other hand, it’s great writing with someone. I’ve learnt so much about arrangements from Peverelist and sound design from Randomer. It’s also really helpful being able to get some kind of reaffirmation on what you’re doing is actually sounding good, on your own it can easily end up in a bit of an existential battle.
Do you have any advice about arrangements?
Hodge: When I first started I was obsessive about having arrangements to suit the dance floor, you know 32 bars before something happens. The more I write and the longer I do this the more I wanna go ‘Nah fuck that, write how you want it to sound.’ So my advice for anyone else right now would be make the arrangement however you want, whatever sounds right to you, do that.
What do you want to accomplish with the music you produce?
Hodge: For a long time I’ve been really focused on tension in music, that moment where it feels like anything could happen. A lot of my music is just an exploration into that moment and that ethereal feeling really. I like getting lost in something. Looking forward though I’m slowly getting more interested in writing music to relax as much as to dance to.
What kind of music would you make in a world without electricity?
Hodge: Bad music.
What general advice would you give to producers, DJs who are just starting out?
Hodge: Make honest music!
"Make honest music!"
You produce different styles like techno, house and electronic. Why? Are you cautious about being put into a box?
Hodge: I like lots of different music, the idea of being limited firmly to one sound or genre would feel so trapped to me.
Do you see yourself as part of any scene?
Hodge: Bristol I guess, the music scene to me has been so inclusive and strong here. I hope it’s that way for everyone in Bristol. It’s been a really great place to write music and work from.
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?
Hodge: Firstly, I love both non-mainstream and mainstream music. However there’s definitely huge attributes at both ends of the spectrum in terms of different things to get out of listening experiences. Hopefully in time the natural progression in audiences’ enjoyment of music, combined with the overwhelming abyss of a material out there, will result in people digging deeper and searching for new music and eventually finding some non-mainstream forms of music that they enjoy where there’s perhaps some new depth they haven’t discovered before. I think the amount of money injected into mainstream music just simply in terms of visibility is obviously impossible to compete with for most non-mainstream focused artists…. So yeah to repeat the point, you just gotta hope people come and find it I guess. I recently saw Iggy Popplayed a K-Lone track on his BBC6 show, the music’s there for people to find.
What exciting stuff do you have in the pipeline?
Hodge: I have a 12inch dropping on Berceuse Heroique around this time of year, I think it may be the 12inch I’m happiest with so far, but then again I probably say that about most releases. Also I have a remix of Perc from his album dropping very soon and am in the process finishing a couple of projects with other artists to drop later next year. DJing wise I’m about to start organising another American tour and looking into getting back to Asia too.
Do you have a "wish list" of musicians you'd like to collaborate with?
Hodge: Laurel Halo, Tzusing, Shanti Celeste.
What’s the most surreal moment you’ve ever had during a DJ set?
Hodge: Had quite a few but one that comes to mind was when I was playing b2b with Pev and Kowton. I think it was in Oxford for a DBA night. It was getting right to the end and the bouncer was shutting it down, so we were just letting the last track play out stood back from the decks. The vibe was really good and everyone was dancing and then a guy, must have been 18, somehow runs round the side of the booth, asks to play a track as he plugs in his usb and grabs the headphones, I have know idea how he did it that fast but then he mixes in his own track (a grime thing) absolutely perfectly, the bouncer who’s meant to be shutting it down ends up allowing it to go on for another few minutes and everyone goes mad. It was amazing.
As a DJ do you prepare your set and know exactly what tracks you will play and in what particular order? Or do you just improvise in the moment according to the vibe and the crowd?
Hodge: I take loads and loads of time meticulously planning sets and then completely ignore it the moment I get behind the decks in a club.
How does the size of a venue change the way you read the audience?
Hodge: The size definitely does, sounds stupid and obvious and I wish it didn’t work out like this but I always tend to play deeper and more interesting in smaller rooms and then go for it in bigger rooms etc. I’m an idiot.
How do you react when the audience wants to move in a direction that's different from where you want to go?
Hodge: It’s a hard one because you want everyone to enjoy themselves but then you have situations like ‘play-harder’ guys. They are an absolute nightmare. It’s a frustrating situation as it can totally disconnects you from the music when you get some guy shouting play harder at you three tunes into a four hour set… It can totally throw me off. I’ve got better at dealing with that kinda thing now with some experience, and tend to just try and ignore it. These days the temptation for me is to play a much much deeper track at that moment, or just take out the bass until they walk off. One time I was playing a Shackleton track and someone came around the back of the decks and asked me why the breakdown was so long. The way I think now is, when I’m enjoying a set I don’t jump around or shout, so playing to just get that immediate over the top reaction from the front row of people is to be disregarding people like myself that may be enjoying the set silently dancing at the back.
Are there any key albums from your teenage or early years that you find yourself revisiting and enjoying in the current era?
Hodge: Three off of the top of my head are:
Steely Dan: Pretzel Logic (ABC Records 1974) Classic album I got crazy into with some old friends when really young.
Bone Thugs and Harmony: E 1999 (Ruthless Records 1995) Eternal. Me and some friends used to make a mix cd each and bring it around someone’s house on a friday night to chill and play Tekken when we were like 14, one time someone brought this album and it was always on repeat.
Jill Scott - Who is Jill Scott - Words and Sounds Vol 1. (Hidden Beach Recordings 2000) I love this album.
What is your favorite music video of all time?
Hodge: Ape: C.Giles showed me Some shit. This video is madness. It was made in my house and features loads of my friends. I’ll never forget getting home after the gym to them filming Dan Ossia in a goat mask fully clothed in the bath with a bunch of gossip magazines. Bizarre. I have no idea what people would make of this from an outside perspective, but I will definitely never forget it.
What was the best thing for you about 2017?
Hodge: It’s a total split between spending a couple of weeks in China, Singapore and Australia and my recent trip across America with my first visit to Mexico. Met so many amazing people and had so much fun. Big thanks to everyone involved in getting me out there!
If somebody give you a million quid and you had 24 hours to rinse it, what would you do?
Hodge: Ship me and a load of friends to an adventure camp type weekend somewhere… I’m thinking like those American summer camps you see on TV but a stupidly extravagant version, insanely nice wooden huts with super tacky jacuzzis, amazing food, maybe hire in some amazing chefs – there’d need to be Ramen. Oh and there’d be enough jet-skis, speed boats for everyone, loads of kittens and puppies about. Oh and small cliffs to jump off and amazing water slides, and a like game show wipe out type area… I think I’d need more than a million.
Who are you listening to these days?
Hodge: All sorts but I guess lots of music to relax to like Sakamoto, Arthur Russell, that Midori Takada's Through The Looking Glass album is still on repeat. I really like a lot of the Music From Memory releases. As I write this I’m listening to lury lech's song Baerreras and then on the same kinda mood I can’t stop listening to Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement's Ambient Black Magic. Asides from that I’m utterly obsessed with the Age of Empires soundtrack.
What's the best thing about the music scene in Bristol and the worst?
Hodge: Best thing is all the amazing music coming out of Bristol the worst thing is the lack of spaces to actually get together and do something, the latest venue to get shut down was the Surrey Vaults last week and that’s a huge shame as there was so much positivity down there and happening around that place.
What superpower would you like to have?
Hodge: Time Travel.
What ethos / motto do you try to live your life by?
How do you spend your time in public transport – with music, a book or internet?
Hodge: Always some reading. Some standout books I’d recommend that I’ve read off top of my head are Stoner by John Williams, Chess Story by Stefan Zweig, Ready Player One and The Wind up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, and I always have to mention The Sprawl and Bridge trilogies by William Gibson. Other than that, obsessively planning sets on my Mac.
Hodge: I’m in a good mood and listening to Arthur Russell so I’d say Paul Klee - Black Columns In A Landscape
Please name three records to start a party and three to finish one?
Start a party :
DJ Python: Yo Ran (Do) (Incienso)
Kowton: More Games (MM KM Rmx) (Livity Sound)
Tapes Meets The Drums of Wareika Hill Sounds (Dub)
End a party :
Peverelist: Dance till the Police Come (Hessel Audio)
Mark Pritchard - 1234 Ft Ragga Twins (Warp)
Ratty: Bells Of Dawn (Formation Records)
You are located in Bristol. What are your favourite spots and secrets in your hometown that you would recommend to somebody that comes for a visit?
Hodge: My favourite summer weekend would be :
Drink coffee and buy a plant in Emmeline.
Buy Records in Idle Hands.
Do the Harbour Side Walk.
Go Mountain Biking in Ashton Court.
Ride to Bath on the cycle-path and swim in the river.
Check out some hardware in Elevator Sound.
Eat at Pasta Loco.
Watch a film at The Watershed.