Ever since he rocketed into the spotlight with his left-field leaning Soundboy EP—released on Proximity Recordings only two short years ago—the Surrey-based Matt Harris (aka Hyroglifics) has continued to move from strength to strength with his unique, genre-bending take on the 170 BPM drum & bass sound.
An outing on Critical Music’s Binary series in 2014 marked his initiation into the ever-impressive crew that label boss Kasra has pulled together, but his No Drama EP (out now!) promises to elevate him from “one to watch” status into the elite upper echelons of the bass music scene.
Featuring collaborations with bass-killers like Sam Binga & Redders, Halogenix, and Bogues from the UK hip-hop act Jabu, the EP marks a turning point in the young artist’s career that not only reveals the way that his formidable sound continues to impress but reflects a broader maturity evidenced by his fearless forays into genre-blurring experiments that continue to push the sound and culture forward.
With even more heavy beats brewing in the lab, Hyroglifics gave us a glimpse at what the future holds.
I remember tuning into a pirate radio station in the car on the way home from a party when I was around 15 and stumbling upon some drum & bass and thinking, “What is this!?”
Introduce yourself to the Bassrush masses!
Yo! I’m Matt Harris also known as Hyroglifics and I’m signed to London-based record label Critical Music.
What were you working on when we popped in for this little chat?
I’ve literally just finished my DNB60 for Friction’s show on Radio 1. Apart from that I’ve just been trying to get as much done in the studio as possible; currently trying to write some new material to test out at Outlook Festival next month!
Take us back to the old days—what kind of music were you listening to growing up?
I think my first foray into building a music taste of my own was when I was around 12 or 13 [and] I started listening to rock and metal bands such as Metallica, Nirvana, Deftones and Linkin Park with my friends. My family has never been much of a musical family in terms of ability but my dad has a huge record collection from when he was my age, which he kindly lent to me to dig through and sample from. I started off playing guitar in bands when I was 13 and it all sort of evolved from there really.
At what point does electronic music, drum & bass in particular, enter the picture?
I remember tuning into a pirate radio [station] in the car on the way home from a party when I was around 15 and stumbling upon some drum & bass and thinking, “What is this!?” I then discovered the Fabriclive mix CD that LTJ Bukem had done and had that on repeat in my mum’s car for quite a while. I just couldn’t understand how these guys were making this music sound so hypnotic and desperately wanted to try to recreate the rhythms. I think at this time I didn’t even know what a break was. I remember Eveson’s “Kodama” being a huge favorite from that CD. I think a lot of these sounds have subconsciously crept into a lot of the music I have been writing recently.
How do you describe your sound or what you do to people outside of the scene? Does “drum & bass” fit or has that kind of become a limiting term in terms of what you do?
I’m not really sure. I mean predominately it’s drum & bass, but it draws upon influences from elsewhere whilst still fitting itself into the realms of 170. I think a lot of people within the drum & bass scene now have become a lot more open to experimentation especially within the new hip-hop, juke and beats-influenced tunes.
Your music has often been called unorthodox, progressive, innovative, unusual, unique; what does it mean to be considered forward thinking?
I guess it just means to carry on the progressions that have come before. I’ve always liked experimental dance music and tracks that throw you off a bit, so it’s natural to want to carry on the sound and explore it further by incorporating new sounds to the 170 palate.
First the Binary series and now this mind-blowing No Drama EP for Critical. In many ways this feels like a test run for a larger, album-length project that we hope is in your near future. Is that true?
I would love to do an album but at present I don’t feel quite ready. I feel like I’m still maturing as an artist and an album takes a lot of work and dedication which I don’t think I’m fully able to devote myself to yet.
“Each & Every” is so funky and beautiful. “Astraya” feels ethereal and otherworldly. “Cloud Cover” has that nice jungle feel to it. Each tune feels so unique; are you working on one tune at a time or do you find yourself bouncing from project to project in the course of a session? These feel so unique that they feel as if they could have been created by three separate artists or in entirely different time periods in your life.
I’m usually just working on one track until it’s done, as I have to get a vibe down pretty quick to be able to sculpt the sound and know where to take the track. Each time I open up Logic I often start with a blank page and just go from there. I try to be conscious of my decisions in terms of not re-using the same sounds over and over, as its more interesting for me starting fresh compared to doing something I know that works.
Lots of collaborators on here as well—Sam Binga & Redders, Halogenix and Bogues. Walk us through each of these tunes.
Bogues is one half of Bristol-based Jabu who I’ve been really feeling for a while now, especially their Kwaidan EP on Ramp, so it was a big honor to have him feature on “Little Heart.” He knew exactly the vibe I was going for and way surpassed my expectations. The collaboration with Halogenix happened late last year and had been floating around on various mixes since then. He’s a really talented producer and general all round great guy, so it was cool to have the opportunity to hang out at the infamous Ivy Lab with him and work together on a track.
The track with Sam happened back in March when Critical Sound hosted a night at the Marble Factory. I stayed up in Bristol for a few days after and wrote about three to four tracks in three days at Sam’s Studio; “Thoroughbred” with Redders was one of them. This was just after Sam had finished his LP so I think he was glad to have some downtime after I left.
“Little Heart” actually reminds me of that clip “Scenes” you posted a while back. I’m still curious about the meaning behind that one. In a way it seems to work as a sort of manifesto or call to arms for the drum & bass massive. Was that your intent?
Yeah, I guess it can be seen in that way. It was just an expression of how I was feeling at the time. The voice is sampled from an interview with Lemon D & Dillinja a few years back from the Killa Hertz DVD about their thoughts on the scene at the time. I think some parts of the DVD and the interviews are on YouTube, so if you’re interested you should check it out.
Grime, jungle, footwork, hip-hop, half-time beats—genres that continue to be fairly fluid these days—what do we call this new wave of sound?
I’m personally really enjoying this fluidity at the moment and think it’s really healthy and is breeding some creative music. I don’t like to whittle myself down with genres or subgenres so I don’t really know.
For those of us stuck in 170+ mode, who are some artists outside the usual genre confines that you think we’d appreciate or may even give us a glimpse into what’s impressing and influencing you at the moment?
I’m really impressed with what Kahn & Neek, Commodo and Gantz have been up to. They are a few of my favorite producers and constantly kill it every time they bring something new out. They also have a new collaboration LP due out this year that I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on.
I’ve been a big fan of all the Low End Theory guys for time and was lucky enough to catch GLK and FlyLo at Glastonbury this year. Their sets were incredible. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to go out to L.A. soon and catch a show.
I know you’ve got the Red Bull Music Academy coming up soon—what are you most excited to get into with that? Any other projects or big gigs on the horizon we should be looking out for?
I’m pretty honored to have the opportunity to be spending a few weeks in Paris surrounded by musicians from all across the globe and really excited to get involved in some new and exciting projects whilst I’m there. I’m also playing at Outlook this year with the Critical crew. We’re hosting the Moat Stage on the Thursday night and then I’ll be going b2b with the Ivy Lab boys on our boat party the next day, so if you’re at Outlook this year come and check the Moat!
As drum & bass continues to evolve, where do you see the genre or genres in general headed? More importantly, where do you see yourself fitting in as we move forward?
I’m not too sure; hopefully just keep progressing over the next 10-20 years. I like how the envelope of 170 is being pushed at the moment but I think there’s still plenty that can be done within the tempo of 85/170. I just want to keep experimenting and seeing where I can take my sound as I mature as an artist.