Huxley is set to return to Ireland this weekend to headline Boxed Off Festival in Fairyhouse Racecourse. Check out an interview we did with him as he talks music and mental health.
Q: So to start off, I was curious, how far away from London did you grow up?
A: I actually grew up in Tring, which is about half an hour on the tram line and about an hour drive away so not too far but it’s pretty isolated when you’re 16 years old.
Q: You started off at an early age with your productions and even DJing though didn’t you?
A: I got my first set of Decks when I was about 11 or 12 or something, and then started making music when I was about 13 or 14 so I was pretty young. I was graced with a musical family so I basically saw them doing it and wanted to do something myself.
I tried to play the guitar when I was really young and I wasn’t very good so I gave it up and got some decks instead. I found my way back into productions through my brother who used to do it himself.
Q: Growing up on the periphery of London, did you travel to the capital often to go clubbing?
A: The first kind of experience in clubbing I had to was going to raves and they were in Milton Keynes which is about the same distance to London but the other way from where I grew up. They were thrown in these big warehouses when I was about 15 or 16 at the time but when we got to 18 or 19 that’s when we started going to London to clubs where we really spent a lot of time of the younger adult years.
Q: Did growing up outside of the city in an isolated area have a positive impact on your productions in your younger years?
A: I think so. One of the main things living away is that you have radios and magazines and stuff so you can follow everything a bit but you don’t necessarily get the trends that are going on in cities like London so you’re kind of forced to make your own decisions and follow what you’re into and want to follow, because you don’t have other people telling you what you like I suppose.
Q: When did you decide to relocate and further your career in music?
A: I actually lived in a fair few places like Portsmouth where I went to Uni. I stopped DJing for awhile when I was focusing on producing and I wasn’t really getting any gigs at that time. One of the bad points coming from where I was from is that you don’t know any of the promoters when you’re first starting out so you don’t get as many gigs. But when I went to Porstmouth I hooked up with these guys called the Wide Boys and played a few gigs down there while I was playing garage. I moved back to where I grew up in Tring until I started floating around between London and Bournemouth. I find that especially these days, location doesn’t really matter as much anymore.
Q: Absolutely. The internet allows you to get comfortable in a place and continue on expanding your career.
A: Exactly! I have a lot of friends in London and stuff but when I was living there I was finding that I wasn’t necessarily writing the music I wanted to write and I felt a bit stifled by it. Growing up in a small place as I said made me not used to it as much. So I moved back away. I still see my London friends but not being surrounded by as many musical people actually gives me more ideas and freedom.
Q: Speaking on your friends, you met Tim Hopgood in the early stages of your career. Can you explain a bit about who he is?
A: He actually grew up in the same town as me. He literally lives about two roads away from where I did so I’ve known him for a very long time. Tim produces under the name Ethyl. We always spoke about making music together and it happened. Me and Tim used to release music under the name Ethyl & Huxley. Our first release was on Nick Curly’s old label Sushil Numbers and then we did some stuff on Tsuba as well. At that time we were very much in the same head space musically. We both went in slightly different directions. He went a bit deeper and I went a bit more down the garage route. We still keep in contact and we even spoke about making some music together again at some point but it just hasn’t been the right time recently. His new music with Flori is really really good so check that out!
Q: It’s good to see you having a close bond in dance music with friends starting from such a young age. Both of you being able to continue to pursue and follow your goals creatively must give you great satisfaction.
A: It’s great! We come from a very small town. Because we’re all in the same position of being people who wanted to follow this music thing made us quite close. One of my friends, Johnny Cane is actually the drummer for the Maribou Statelive shows and he comes from the same town as me. Even though it’s a small place it was rich in culture for people who wanted to do what we wanted we do.
Q: Being a DJ is perceived as one of the best jobs in the world but it’s well documented how difficult it can get at times with touring and the lifestyles that go hand in hand with nightclubs. Most recently (and commendably), Ben Pearce has came out with a really positive action about his battle with depression. How do you keep your mind grounded and in healthy place?
A: To be honest sometimes I don’t. I think it does take its toll, even on the most level headed people. The long nights, too much drink, traveling around and even being on your own a lot as well – it all adds up. It can be very, very hard but the thing that really helps me is calming down from drinking and taking some more time to sleep. Just taking a step back from music and try and take a few days off. That really resets me personally. I know it doesn’t work for everyone but I think sometimes it’s good to realise that music is your whole life but it doesn’t have to take over your life.
Q: Mental health is still seen with a stigma in some areas with people feeling that they can’t speak out on it, how good is it that people like Ben are able to make such brave public statements?
A: Ben is a good friend of mine and to see him take a step back and actually cancel all of his gigs was definitely the right thing for him. The last few times I’ve seen him he was having a few problems and stuff but he seems much happier now without the pressure of it, so for him it was the right decision at this moment of time.
Q: It sounds like a very hard thing to go through and giving up what you love to do because of the consequences.
A: We meet a lot of people but there are only a fair few people that you become close to. He’s a great guy.
Q: This weekend sees your hat-trick Irish festival performance this Summer with you set to play Electric Picnic. Musically, it’s a really well-rounded festival, do you prefer to play at dedicated dance music festivals or at festivals with mixture of everything?
A: It depends really. They both have their merits. Obviously when it’s more dance music orientated the people there sometimes aren’t as open minded, they know what exactly they want to hear. Well-rounded festivals might be a bit more open which is great, but then again at dance festivals the crowds there are a lot more passionate in terms of having fun. There’s pluses for both but I wouldn’t have a favourite. That questions quite a tough one to answer because I’ve never really thought about it.
Q: With the more dance music-orientated festivals you have the die hard clubbers but with the more broader festivals with the likes of LCD Soundsystem playing gathers a different mixture of people if you get me?
A: Yeah for sure! I think these days musical boundaries are blurring a lot more so. I would say that you see a lot of the same people getting into LCD Soundsystem now that are into other style of dance music. I think music is a lot more available to listen to and that their being subjected to this anyway through social media or whatever.
Q: How have you been balancing out your time in terms of running your own label, touring and your own releases?
A: It’s taking up a fair bit of time. I’ve always ran labels in the past but with other people, and although this one is on my own, I have a great team around me. I have my manager who helps, I have my label manager and it’s also kind of ran with some guys like !K7 who distribute it which is pretty good as well. For me I’m really enjoying finding new music from people who are established or new up and comers. People like Boxia and Pierre Codarin. People who I think will have a big future in this scene.
Q: The sound you’re playing now is a bit darker and heavier than what you used to play. When was it that you made the switch from your old Garage influenced sound to a harder sound?
A: I think it was just an evolution. Don’t get me wrong I still love the Garage stuff and it’s a big part of my history but I was just getting a bit older and a lot of people were doing the Garage thing and just hearing the same thing over and over again. I just got a bit bored of it really. So I decided it was time to push myself into a new direction and push myself as a producer as well. There’s so much great music, be it Techno or Tech-House around at the moment so it was just feeding off that but doing it in my own way basically.
Q: Finally, what’s it like returning to Ireland and performing here?
A: You probably get this a lot but I mean it when I say Ireland is one of my most favourite places to play. You don’t get such a huge amount of people who are up for the craic as much as Ireland. They all want to have a good time and do their thing so that’s what so good about it.