Wed, 28 October, 2020
Interview: Chris Murray
Photographs: Amadeus Brzezinski
Hngwy [Adam Zarecki] is a Glasgow based producer whose work demonstrates a painstaking attention to detail. Uncontent to linger in the realms of disco based house, Adam’s sound has transitioned into forward thinking jungle and IDM; exhibiting his comprehensive knowledge of dance music’s development and culture.
We visited Adam’s sun kissed studio for a chat about what inspired his departure from the world of disco, his early days of clubbing and the breakbeat revival.
Hngwy – Xing (2020)
C: Hi Adam.
A: Hi Chris.
C: Welcome to the Front Left podcast.
A: Thanks for inviting me on.
C: When do you first remember becoming interested in music?
A: Ages, ages and ages. I was lucky that when i was growing up my Dad was involved in music a lot, for as long as I can remember. He did traditional music, was involved in bands and that. It’s still like this, whenever I go visit him there’s every kind of string instrument and drums hanging from every wall. From the age of being able to look up and try grab them he’s always been encouraging me to have a go, have a bash. So probably from then, that’s when it started. Very young, very very young. Obviously that developed into me acquiring my own taste, but it definitely helped.
C: Have you ever had the opportunity to see him play?
A: Yeah, growing up he was in quite a successful folk band. He always used to gig. Some of my earliest memories are being at ceilidhs, he headlined the ceilidh tent at T in the Park. Big names, big time.
C: What was his band called?
A: Taplsalteerie proper trad, rad trad. So yeah he’s always been really encouraging with learning any kind of music. I started out learning guitar and bass and a wee bit of drums, whatever was lying about. Then kind of stayed with that through school cause it was quite a skive and you enjoyed doing it anyway, at that time started reaching out and discovering new sort of stuff. Going out, making pals, getting on it - drifting from the sort of nice trad music.
Adam Zarecki - Yesterday's EP (2018)
Roots For Bloom
C: What was the early dance music you got interested in?
A: Growing up in Edinburgh, it still is to an extent, but especially then - 2010 give or take a couple of years each way - it was definitely a massive dubstep, jungle and grime scene in Edinburgh. Being at school and sneaking into various clubs, exploring that side, that was definitely my biggest electronic music influence, you know those sort of things.
C: So on a bit of segway… you’ve just gotten up, you’re running late for the bus and you need a track that’s going to get you to the bus stop on time, what are you putting on?
A: There’s no chance I’m getting there on time, I’m forever running late, forever. Yeah not much will get me moving in the morning especially, I’m not a morning guy at all. I would say for a laugh something that would make it more fun - Mission Impossible theme tune or something. I know I’m not getting there on time but I can at least pretend I’m trying, or something quick, something fast. Some gabba, Abba gabba! Something to get the heart going, audio cup of coffee, a real boot up the arse. You need it. Abba Gabba, that’s the one.
C: How did you come to start making and playing music?
A: Again, as I said, from a very early age but this realm of it, I probably started playing music first - music that’s danceable in the sense we’re discussing. When I first moved to uni, got a wee controller, started messing about with that, doing the parties. It’s good fun, something to do and something social. I think it helps, if you’ve developed quite an acquired taste it’s good to put it into practice, even if it’s just what you perceive to be good taste, to get the opportunity to put it into practice is a lot of fun. So probably, what, eight years ago I started playing after that.
I remember it was one of my birthday parties, my pal AJ - big ups AJ… I had a party through here and I had a bunch of friends from uni and a bunch of friends from back home come over for it and everyone rocked up with, you know, various intoxicants as a gift for my birthday. AJ hands me a USB, and at first I was like “ah cheers mate… cool” and he went, “there’s Ableton on that, a good cracked version of ableton”. So still I was like, “cheers thank you so much” you know, where’s the drink? In a couple of days, when I’d recovered from it and actually started bashing away on it, I was like this is the best gift anyone’s graced me. Instantly, I was like this is quality, this is so much fun. So I just started messing about with stuff then, which was probably about 7 years ago.
C: Did you start off by collaborating with people like AJ at the beginning?
A: No not really, I think the best way to go into it, especially with something like Ableton where the software is so versatile and the possibilities of it are unreal - literally limitless - it’s kind of good to go in and just be self taught and just have a bash at it, keep at it yourself and develop your own wee ways of working. There’s so many ways to get to that end result of a track, within that software that it’s kind of good just to sit at it yourself. What I would do, especially in the early days and still now is bounce a lot of ideas back and forth, especially to him [AJ]. He is an absolute wizard, especially with anything audio production. It was good to have someone who is a more experienced ear to bounce ideas off of, just having that feedback from somebody that’s led you into that.
C: Your style has gone through pretty significant change since the early record you put out on Roots for Bloom, Bolting Bits were describing you as a 'disco don', to the stuff you were sharing with us - even just before pressing record on this - which is jungle led and interesting dance music.
Could you tell us a little bit about these and what’s inspired this change?
A: I love a good bit of happy-clappy disco as much as the next man, still do, I love it, it’s the ultimate feel good music. It was a great entry for me, kind of incorporating tunes you would like to play and what you can bring to them, what you can sort of add your own wee thing to. But I did find myself after a while, when it came to producing, finding myself within quite strict parameters. You’re essentially editing a track, as opposed to making it from scratch. A lot of people do make it from scratch, but I wasn’t - I was just looking for sample based stuff.
A lot of my stuff now is still heavily sample based, but you’re no longer limited to somebody else's work. Maybe that was just my way of approaching it, I was able to make these great edits that were fine but eventually I grew bored of that process. I started wanting to make other stuff and try my hand at other stuff, no longer base a track around ten seconds of what’s already a track. Instead go with a blank sheet, doing everything, starting from where you want as opposed to what’s been led for you.
C: Is there a process that you still follow that gives you that first idea of a track? Or do you kind of jam and find something along the way?
A: Definitely, I think that my main start for a track is definitely starting with a beat, starting with drums. I tend to start backwards with tracks. I don’t know if that’s the way a lot of people do it but I tend to build something that can be stripped back and led to that point. The main part of that, for me, is definitely drums. A lot of sampling and cutting and manipulating samples when it’s just purely drum based or using the groove box and drum machines I’ve got about just to add to them or substitute if there’s bits I don’t like.
I’m obsessed with overcomplicating things right now though, trying to get “ooh it’s got to be an interesting rhythm” based purely on what I’m doing. I think that’s probably from making disco edits, I wanted to stray away from that so it’s got to be overly complicated for me. Everytime I let someone hear a track, they’re not aware, it’s like a wee in joke with myself that’s not funny. I spent so long on this and I could have got the same track in half the time with half the effort but to me I need to be a bit odd with getting there, even if the end track is not that whacky the process has been a journey [laughs]. You always grow to hate them, by the time they're close to being done you’re sick to death of it - especially if you drag the process out like I tend to do.
C: It’s interesting because you’re obviously as passionate, if not more passionate, about the making process and the different technicalities and ways you can do that, than you are about having a finished tune…
A: Yeah that’s the downfall, it’s never going to be quite right. It’s always going to be ‘hmm nah’, I can hear this off with it or that off with it. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter, you need to just - and I say you, this is me talking to myself as much as anybody who might be listening - you need to start chucking them out. That’s advice that I throw about as well and never listen to. As long as it’s a good track that people might dance to, even if it’s nodding their head along with it. When it’s done it’s done, don’t overcomplicate and chuck too much at it cause it’s never going to be absolutely done, you’ve just got to nip it in the bud at some point. Get it out there, get it sounding good. Once you’ve got an interesting idea, developing that into a song arrangement and then making it sound half decent. That’s it, don’t sit and ruin it for yourself before anyone even hears it, you’ll end up like everybody I’m sure who produces with far too much music that’s sitting on the shelf half finished, not doing anything. What’s the point in making it if you’re not doing anything with it you know.
C: Do you feel that the music and the sound that you’re making now is truer to what you want to be doing?
A: Absolutely, I think the stuff I’m doing now is a lot more influenced from my early Edinburgh clubbing days, it’s a lot more bass and rhythm driven. Again, I love house and disco and that, it’s fine, it’s a good time, it’s good time music but it’s kind of nice because there’s been that massive resurgence. Jungle is coming back, breaks are coming back, even trance is coming back you know, all these things that people thought were dead old genres or almost novelty now are making a serious comeback. Whether it’s just straight up revival or an influence influencing something else it’s nice to see these things that initially sparked my interest in going out clubbing and wanting to play music and make music making a comeback. It’s nice for me then to be like I can take influence from my first love of dance music and I can see elements of it in so many releases just now that it’s nice to be able to have the sort of retrospective approach.
Pessimist - Love In The Jungle
C: Is there a tune you can think of from those early days of clubbing that really feeds into what you’re doing now?
A: I wouldn't say necessarily a tune, at the time it was a good bunch of artists and labels, especially the sort of old dubstep stuff. There was a lot of you know, Skream’s early stuff, Loefah’s early stuff and all DMZ - those were the sounds of old Bongo and all that grittiness, yeah it was class. There’s loads of that coming back, though they never really went away if you look at Loefah, Swamp 81, Livity Sound and stuff like that, all these labels are just sort of evolved or developed out of these old sounds. They didn’t really go away; they're just getting a wee resurgence under a new hat.
A: There’s so many, so many. It’s unbelievable. This whole thing as well it’s what I was talking about, it’s almost a resurgence but more like a reimagining. The fact that there’s so many jungle tracks coming out right now that are 140 [bpm], 140 jungle is now a thing, it’s no longer needing to be pushed up that extra 20 bpm. From that it’s taken such influence, as far as people writing their music, you’ll get such techno influence or whatever, so much bleeding into this reimagining of old genres and stuff. I’d say, I love Pessimist, Pessimist’s stuff is unreal just now, his new Ilian Tape is class - it’s so good. There’s just an absolute abundance of it, almost every second track I listen to, new track that’s coming out, has got some sort of breaks or bass influence. It’s nice to see. It kind of gives me license to go back to what it was I was originally interested in.
C: So that wave of this stuff being reimagined, is an inspiration for you as well?
A: Yeah absolutely. It’s almost going at it with that nostalgic aspect where it’s stuff that really interested me when I first started wanting to play and make music and go out to witness people play and make music. Now it’s almost accepted again - not that it was ever shunned, it was just shadowed out by something else - because music works in trends.
J-Zbel -How I Made My Mom & Sis' My Sexbot Slaves (2015)
Brothers From Different Mothers
C: Could you pick out a favourite music or dance floor memory?
A: So many, I mean so many. How many times have we been out that’s been mint? It’s what we used to do, pre the end of the world, go out at least once a week and have a good time. The thing is it’s the way we treat going out, it’s not like let’s go to Spoons and get smashed on 50p Jägerbombs or whatever, we treat it like going to a gig. It’s either your local friends or promoters you’re supporting, they’ve booked in someone you’re genuinely interested in going to see - they’ve had a great release recently or whatever and you’re buzzing to see them. It’s a much nicer way to approach going out clubbing I think as opposed to just going out and getting steaming and trying to chat up somebody or get in a fight, I don’t know. Whatever young people do these days. It’s much better to go and have it music orientated, especially when you’re supporting the local scene as well. Whether you’re friends with them or not it’s always nice to support these people who are throwing time, money and effort into throwing a good party and getting artists in that other people are really interested in just now.
C: Have you got a tune that you think you could pin down, having one of those music orientated moments around?
A: One recently, I think would probably be when me and Mr Deus [Amadeus] were at Dekmantel seeing J-Zbel live, Brothers From Different Mothers had a whole label showcase at the Red Light Radio stage. I’m a big fan of theirs anyway, it’s the perfect tongue in cheek, almost pisstake, mish mash of every possible genre; done right and done well. J-Zbel were doing a live set, I remember we were being proper geeks. Me dragging them all along, go crazy these guys are crazy. Us being proper geeks and having a peek over, how does this sound so good with minimal gear and they put on a proper show; they all wear masks, one’s in a stab proof vest and they’re going pelt, more so than the crowd. We’re peering over the partition just wondering how are they doing this? That was unreal.
That was a nice moment because we were there for the music aspect but also appreciating what they were doing behind the curtain so to speak. Yeah that was a good time.
C: So lastly, what’s next for you?
A: I don’t know, something hopefully. Hopefully not nothing. Just got to keep finishing tracks, hoarding a lot of tracks right now and just punt them out, get them about. Right now’s not the time to be chasing releases or anything everyone’s struggling and getting by, trying to do their best. Especially when it comes to putting out music and stuff. I’m just happy to try and get them into the hands of people who might appreciate them and use them for whatever you know. Everyone’s keeping busy right now, whether it’s livestreams, podcasts, mixes or whatever. Even if you’re just listening to it for fun, not even putting it to use, just trying to get it into their hands; not really bothered about getting out there in an official formal sense, just need to start punting them about otherwise they're just building up on my computer.
C: Well you can keep sending them my way, that’s for sure.
A: I will, don’t worry, of course. Just ask anytime. In fact, don’t ask, I’ll just bombard you.
C: Thanks for talking with us Adam!
A: It’s alright, thanks for talking with me as well, it’s been lovely.