Interview: Five Minutes with HomeSick

Image credit: Meimei Cheng

There are may keywords that arise when thinking of this year – pandemic, protests, and politics all come to mind. However, HomeSick hits the nail on the head with his aptly titled ISOLATION TAPE EP (just released via BSTS) which features driving footwork stylings that will send your heartbeat skittering along your backyard dancefloor. The EP was created with machine learning tools and accompanied by a mind-bending audio-visual clip that merges images of people and place with drum machine patterns and synth lead lines. The result takes the stressors of this year, highlights them and yet still hands listeners a tool to cope with them. ISOLATION TAPE also comes in the physical form of a cassette tape which was designed by HomeSick himself and is now available via Bandcamp.

Despite being a student of the Red Bull Music Academy and featured artist upon numerous dancefloors around the globe – the rising experimental musician is still a man of mystery to many. Peel away a few of the layers in the exclusive interview below:

Stream / Download ISOLATION TAPE 

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

I’ve always been moved by visual and musical works and knew at a young age that I needed to be creative. I began learning instruments starting with piano at 6 years old and haven’t stopped since. I’m happy making music and intend to do this for the rest of my life. 

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

They’re kind of one in the same – all my music seems to come from an idea inspired by a sound or a sound inspired by an idea. My newest release was inspired by using new technologies on new mediums – an idea that came from my recent use of machine learning tools and processing audio using cassette tapes. 

Does your material feature any collaborations?

My upcoming release does not feature any collaborators but in the past, I have collaborated through remixes with artists like Sam Binga and Sinistarr. In 2015 during my time at Red Bull Music Academy Paris, I wrote and recorded the keys alongside London’s Corey K for ‘Just Fine’, a fun collaboration that included a bizarre combination of artists from all disciplines: Just Blaze, Sheila E and Mad Mike Banks.

What’s on your current playlist?

For listening, I’ve recently I’ve been revisiting my favourite Throbbing Gristle albums, Memphis rap tapes and Drexciya. For mixing I’ve been loving lots of Samurai Breaks, Hyroglifics, A Fruit, Itoa, Philthkidz and the new stuff coming out on Hoover Sound. 

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

I find making music like this in the 160bpm community, our people are niche and share the same intrigue of energetic fast-paced music. Honestly, it’s rare that I feel like I can really let loose, but at festivals like Bass Coast or clubs like Razzmataz, I really feel understood and absolutely love the energy that I can share with the community.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I’ve been delving into Machine Learning (ML) as it applies to visual and musical production lately. It’s been a challenge, I’ve had to learn how to navigate new technological spaces and learn new coding languages, but I believe tools that are being developed now are going to be production-staples in 5-10 years if not sooner. I’ve been experimenting with ML midi generation for drum machines and synth arrangement, using it to generate lyrical content and using it to create audio visualizers that let the viewer navigate neural networks using the input of the music itself. 

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

After an aggressive amount of meditation and coffee, I usually mess around with whatever is newest in my toolkit and play around with it. Somedays I’ll spend the whole day doing that, somedays it will turn into a track. Or two. Or four.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

Yes! My first ever gig was in this suuuuper sus club in my home town that I will not name. I went there every weekend for the drum and bass shows, and eventually got asked to throw my own night one time and 21 year old me managed to pack the place for a chaotic ableton jungle set with some probably ill-fitting live guitar and keyboards. In retrospect, it was mega cringe, but I feel like my whole career I’ve just been chasing that same energy. 

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

I always seem to keep a strong drink nearby. 

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Samurai Breaks, Sigrah, d’Cure, Jake Robertz

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Coffee! Always coffee. 

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

Right now, I’ve been working with a Prophet rev2, Eventide Timefactor, Volca Sample, Volca Bass, A collection of distortion petals and using Ableton as a DAW. Lots of software drum machines and synths including Diva, D16 Nepheton and Serum. 

Any side projects you’re working on?

I am always producing all kinds of different music, hoping to see them materialize into a side project or two in the future. 

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

Between Red Bull Music Academy in 2015 where I was mentored by dance music’s elite, I continue to surround myself with lots of producers and performers that I admire. These people have been instrumental to my continued growth as an artist. 

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you next year?

I’ve been spending this time of isolation producing a ton of music and can’t confirm what it’s going to look like in its final form, or how many albums will come of it, but I’ve got a ton of new music I am absolutely pumped to share with the world. All festivals and club nights as we know them are on hold for the foreseeable future, but I’m still producing music for those spaces and hope that I can bring everyone back into the comfort of the familiar with my upcoming projects. 

Famous last words?

Much love

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By Sarah Britton