PHOTO CREDIT: Neil Chapman
Hypnosister is the moniker of Damian Hughes. I have been asking him about the new Hypnosister E.P. and his latest single, Scribbles. He talks about moving from the band Allusondrugs and stepping out solo; what sort of sounds and artists he is compelled by – Hypnosister reveals tour dates and how he spends his time away from music.
The musician discusses recording D.I.Y. and which new artists we should check out; which act, if he had the chance, he would support on tour; the advice he would give to artists coming through – he shares a rather cool, if niche, memory from his career so far.
Hi, Hypnosister. How are you? How has your week been?
Hiya! I'm doing great, thanks for asking. This week's been mega-busy: lots of rehearsing for the summer gigs and writing new songs. Everything seems to be moving forward quite nicely. It's been bloody hot though, hasn't it? I don't do well in the sun - I'm more the reclusive type, more of a cave-dweller!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Damian Hughes; a songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Leeds, U.K. After leaving my old Psych-Grunge band Allusondrugs, I launched a fuzzed-out Space-Pop project called Hypnosister. I mix the fuzzy, spacey guitars of My Bloody Valentine with the big, Rock choruses of Nirvana and the deep cutting lyrics of Neutral Milk Hotel to make a big noise!
How did your project come to life? What does ‘Hypnosister’ represent?
I started putting Hypnosister together as soon as I left my last band. I've always had a very clear vision of what I want to express, so I just rolled up my sleeves and started working on it. Hypnosister is about showing the world to itself; holding a mirror up and saying: “This is what we really are”.
You were part of the Yorkshire band, Allusondrugs. Was it hard transitioning from band life to doing your own thing?
Like I said, I started putting Hypnosister together straight away. The month after I left I was on tour in Europe playing guitar for another band and I wrote a lot while I was there…so things started moving forward straight away. I've always done my own thing anyway. Over the years, I've done countless projects that I've never put out into the world, just for the pure joy of making music.
Scribbles is your new song. Can you reveal how it came to exist and what inspired it?
Scribbles goes a bit deeper into where I’m coming from. It's about becoming more open-minded about life and starting to see the hidden dangers and the traps laid for us. We currently in an age where it's the norm for us to be constantly glued to our Smartphones and, in doing that, we tend to spend a lot of time on social media seeing the ‘best of’ of other people's lives and creating a false impression of how our lives should be.
We start holding resentment towards the people we perceive to be doing well and end up in a negative spiral - which stops us from focusing on our own lives and our own needs. It's very easy to just submit to the negativity and allow ourselves to be sucked further and further into the rut. We need to pull ourselves away and give ourselves the space to recognise our own self-worth.
You have an eponymous E.P. which arrived on 27th July. What sort of themes and stories went into it?
It's mostly about what I've learned about myself and the nature of people in general over the past few years. It's about how we're led into invisible cages; willingly allowing ourselves to be locked in without really understanding the magnitude of what's happening. My friend Liam, who lost his life in 2013, often appears in my songs in one way or another: he saw all of this happening clear as day and would tell me all about it. I became sober three years ago and, since then, all this stuff has been making more and more sense.
The E.P. is self-produced and D.I.Y. Do you think it’s important to have control and produce a more natural, personal E.P.?
I like to be as hands-on as possible when making music. I think it's great for anyone to learn the skills they need to be able to do as much as they can on their own without having to rely on other people. Also, the more capable you are at making things happen on your own, the more freedom you have to express yourself in the way you want to; the keys you can forge the more doors you can open, right?
With that said though, it's not that I think this is, necessarily, the best way to do things. There's a LOT to be said for collaboration: I've collaborated with other people in the past and it's turned out amazing. Some of the best music and art in the world has come from people working together. But, right now, working alone is what works for me.
I get hints of 1990s Shoegaze in your sounds. In terms of your childhood tastes; which artists were important?
My influences have always been really diverse and eclectic. As you've spotted, I do draw from a lot of Shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins but, all through my life, I've gotten deeply obsessed a lot of different kinds of music. As a little kid, I was really into music from computer games, old ones - Commodore Amiga and Super Nintendo. I'd put the games on and just sit there listening to the music, not even playing the game.
When I was eight-years-old, I owned three albums: Blur's Parklife, The Offspring's Americana and Erasure's Pop! The First 20 Hits and I would listen to them religiously.
Then, I started high-school and discovered the music television program, Kerrang!, and the file-sharing platform Napster and I felt like I'd won the lottery! I could see a band I liked on Kerrang! and then go and download all their music on Napster. From there, I got obsessed with all kinds of music. Mental bands like Slipknot and Obituary; Alternative bands like Biffy Clyro and Hell Is for Heroes; Folk music like Simon & Garfunkel; Electronic music like Aphex Twin and Clark and Classical music like Beethoven and Erik Satie. There's been a lot of important music - and I'm still looking for more.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
I want to get more music out! Right now, I'm putting together a huge amount of music that I'll be putting out over the next year or so. So, get ready; there's gonna be a lot of it.
Will there be any tour dates? Where can we see you play?
You can see me play at any of the following dates across the U.K.:
2nd August - The Washington, Sheffield
4th August - The Exchange, Keighley
11th August - The Swan, Worksop
18th August - Little Buildings, Newcastle
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
There's been a lot of big moments and times where I've felt proud but, right now, my mind's gone blank. The only thing that springs immediately to mind is the time that I successfully pulled off the guitar-spin move on stage.
You swing your guitar all the way around your torso then catch it and carry on playing. Many have tried and failed, ending up with broken guitars, but I did it. In that moment, I was more proud of myself for that than anything else I'd ever done in music. It's the little things!
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say?
This changes all the time but, right now, it's probably these three:
Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
I know this is a bit of a cult favourite but I only discovered it about six months ago, at a time when I was feeling really uninspired and completely bored of all the music I was listening to. The album opened me back up in a huge way and now I'm hearing stuff in music that I didn't hear before. I'm not sure how, but this album did something to my wiring.
Clark – Throttle Furniture
This one really opened me up to Abstract music. I picked this up at a 65daysofstatic gig where Clark was the support act. His set blew me away so I bought this E.P. on mini-C.D., which I've now lost sadly - but I always make sure I have a copy on my hard-drive. Clark's music is beautiful. It's like someone took a bunch of elaborate paintings and transformed them into sound.
Cardiacs – Sing to God
This album is just a masterpiece. It's the most exciting, most melodically rich; most tastefully eclectic album I've ever heard from any Rock band ever. It's probably my favourite album of all time. If you haven't heard this album then stop what you're doing immediately and go listen to it. Also, their genius mastermind songwriter Tim Smith is really poorly and needs help with treatment costs; you can buy their merch, which all goes towards Tim's medical costs, here.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Probably Cardiacs - on an alternate universe where Tim Smith is well enough to perform.
My rider would have good coffee, Smartwater and good, thick notepad for me to take notes on Cardiacs' set so I can learn from the masters.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
My advice would be to learn to do as much as you can on your own; make sure everything that happens does so on your own terms. If you have a band, make sure you have a band agreement IN WRITING.
IN THIS PHOTO: Benjamin Clementine
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Benjamin Clementine is blowing me away right now. He spent years, homeless, playing music around Paris. He's got such a good, unique voice and is a fantastic songwriter and piano player. All his songs tell vivid stories that are properly gripping.
Louise Distras is another singer-songwriter with a great voice. She's got an album coming out soon. All the songs on are quality, so keep an eye out for it.
Youth Man is a wicked Punk band from Birmingham - probably the best Punk band in England. Kaila, their singer, is vicious on stage. Definitely, a band to go see if you can.
Also; I've recently found this new record label called Love Love Records which is full of what they call ‘High-Quality Weirdo Music’. It's mostly Electronic music but they do have some other stuff on there. If you're into very abstract-sounding music then check out this label.
IN THIS PHOTO: Louise Distras
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I meditate in the morning, sleep at night and eat food twice a day. Every other time, I'm either working on music or working on something else. I'm not sure if you can really call that a balanced life but it's working for me right now. Stay tuned for my inevitable meltdown!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Cardiacs – Dirty Boy