The staunch attitude of Manchester-based DJ, producer, and label owner Habgud is strongly steeped in the spirit of the golden era of techno, a sound that represents more than period of time but rather, a way of life. His dedication to producing simple yet nuanced techno has led him to some of the world’s most illustrious booths and seen his name splattered on vinyl via labels such as Clergy & Ear To The Ground.
With over a decade of experience in the studio, Nottingham native Habgud has become engrossed in the craft of making stripped-back and dynamic high-octane techno. Dom subscribes to the idea that great techno is best served with no bullshit, and naturally a side of snarling distortion.
Over the years the Burned At Both Ends [B.A.B.E.] boss has been leaving his fingerprints on various pieces of hardware, learning the nooks & crannies of each piece of kit and immersing himself in the rich textures of analogue sounds. Dom’s music and ethos are rooted in the principle of fully immersing oneself in the machines and extracting their maximum potential. This unfaltering will to craft painstakingly unique club music is dear to him, and he has never wavered from it.
Dom is practically an encyclopaedia of UK techno, often wearing his heart on his sleeve about his influences, idols and aspirations. These endearing qualities show a truly transparent artist who has been leading his career with an unwavering attitude to what he wants and how he can achieve it, since day one. From idolizing artists such as Cleric & Gareth Wild to playing alongside them & releasing on their labels, Dom’s ascendancy throughout the scene can be attributed to his relentless lust for achieving his idea of success and nobody else’s.
We speak with the now-Manchester-based musician about his recent release on Cleric’s Clergy label, as well as his label Burned At Both Ends’ fruitful year and more.
You recently relocated to Manchester, how’s things up North?
To be honest, now I’m here I’m kicking myself thinking I should have moved here about 5 years ago! Having a lot of like-minded friends and artists on my doorstep has been big for me, and I’m sure that will reflect in the work I put out over the next year. Nottingham’s electronic music scene pays no mind to techno (especially the kind I do) so coming to Manchester has been really inspiring with so much going on.
You’ve also just moved studio, I know relocating house & studio can have a knock-on effect on creativity. How are you finding this new chapter is affecting your musical output?
Moving from my studio in Nottingham was hard, to be honest, shout out my guy Adam for putting together a real special space in Notts, where I spent a lot of time this year. Having access to so much amazing gear that Adam has amassed over the years and being able to experiment and learn at my own pace was ideal.
At the moment I’ve not been that productive with techno since I moved, I think having some free time over the next few weeks will change that. I’m not one who spends weeks hyper-focusing on one track, if everything goes well I can get 2 or 3 tracks down in a day, then just tweak them here and there before they are ready to be released.
Congratulations on your debut release on the formative techno imprint Clergy, a milestone that has been a long time coming for you. How are you feeling post-release?
I feel vindicated in a way, because after many years of working on my own label and slowly chipping away at becoming a better producer – it has all led to a release on a label I love so much. I’ve had Clergy records in my collection since the very first release and it’s home to some of the best techno EPs of the last ten years in my opinion. When I first started getting into techno it was the label and sound that shaped everything so it’s been quite a crazy experience seeing my own record now in the catalogue.
I hope that this record kicks a few doors down in terms of playing a few more gigs, but to be honest, promoters that book artists based on music/releases are a rare breed now. It’s probably more beneficial for an artist’s booking schedule to play the game and focus on social media or release hype music – but it’s not something I’ve personally been interested in. I know when I look back on my discography as an old fella, I’ll be happy with it.
We spoke last year about the record, and you mentioned that you were still very much in love with the tracks despite sitting on them for a long period of time prior to the release. What about these certain tracks keeps you captivated to this day?
I think the tracks are quite raw, they aren’t trying to pretend to be anything mad introspective or ethereal. They are very pure club tracks made from classic hardware sound sources like the JV-1080, Prophet and the Orbit, and this gives the tracks a decent amount of depth without making them overly complicated or reliant on cheap tricks. Because the tracks have been a feature of my own DJ sets for a long time, it’s nice to finally release some secret weapons that I often get asked about.
The record is made up of 4-club orientated techno tracks & two locked grooves. Can you tell us a bit about why you chose to include two bonus loops?
It was a decision made by Cleric to put them on the record, it’s something I’ve done a couple of times before in my early records for Gareth Wild’s EarToGround. I enjoy the process of making locked grooves because it’s the most fun part about making techno – literally, just make a great loop and bounce it!
Clergy has been a pretty influential techno label over the years. Can you give us an insight as to how the imprint has helped shape your sound?
The first time I ever played in a club was 2015 (in Manchester) and the headliner that night was Cleric. Since meeting Jorden then, basically being like family now has been a journey and taught me so much. From production tips and tricks to showing me classic records at after parties, the influence from Cleric (and therefore Clergy) has been immense on me.
Iconic records from Clergy like early ones from Cleric, Dax J and Reflec – to some of Stef Mendesidis‘ Clergy / Projekts releases, have set the tastes for a lot of techno fans throughout the years. I think the diversity of sound throughout the years and the constant pursuit of new interesting producers has helped Clergy not get stale like other labels tend to after a while.
Aside from your latest release on Clergy, you recently released ‘B. A. B.E Station – Season One Compilation’ on your Burned At Both Ends label. The various artists release see works from ANNĒ, Cleric, Cressida, Dylan Fogarty, Arkane, yourself and more. Can you tell us a bit about the concept for the new compilation series?
The idea was pretty simple – start a mix series that features all my favourite producers, and halfway through the series release an EP featuring tracks from the artists involved. I’ve been delighted with how the mix series has been received, and of course, delighted with the quality of tracks people submitted to the compilation.
In August you released a split EP with Stanz Amor on the label, a release that sees you lean into a classic style of techno production on the A-Side. Can you give us an insight as to the key components used for producing this powerful minimalistic style?
For me, any good old-school Techno is fairly simple in structure, but with lots of subtle changes, im not an expert at this at all but my way of achieving subtle changes is through the use of sends in Ableton. Also, I think as I said earlier, getting your source sounds from rich analog gear provides a great platform and they come with so much character compared to sample pack loops etc. My friend Reflec told me once that making techno sound good is like fine Italian cooking, a few high-quality ingredients used in the right way.
The label has been on a winning streak as of late. What can we expect in the coming months & years?
In 2024 I’m sticking with the split EP format, releasing a couple of records that have one side tracks from me, and the other side from a new producer that is catching my ear. I think sometimes it’s a bit self-indulgent to have a platform like a record label and only release music from myself, especially considering I get sent such great music from producers all around the world. I want to look back on my label in years to come as a place that gave people a chance to shine.
Coming back to the Clergy release for a second. The production quality and sound design is pretty distinct throughout the ‘Thermal Dynamics EP’. How long did it take you to craft the EP & were the tracks made within a similar timeframe?
‘Desire’ was made 2 years ago during one of many lockdown studio sessions, I knew straight away this track fit the sound for a Clergy EP and I basically built everything else around that. I then got into a strong workflow in my last studio using a lot of the percussion cards on the JV-1080, and running them through granular programming units like ‘Portal’. I then knew I had a certain style that could work. From there the other 3 tracks came together in the space of about 2 really productive weeks in February this year, with a few tracks not quite making the cut.
We spoke a little bit about your debut at Tresor a while back – a definitive moment for many DJs. How was that experience?
To play at Tresor as my first international gig was a dream, I remember visiting as a 19-year-old kid watching Zenker Brothers and being in awe of the space, the sound system and the crowd. It was a strange experience as I played at the last night Tresor was open before the pandemic, so the club was busy but the trip also had this weird atmosphere of uncertainty. For me personally, it was the memories of that night that drove me forward during that time when everything was closed, this is one of the reasons I started the label.
You, Cleric & Arkane have been working quietly in the background on a non-techno project. Can you give us any insight into the project?
I think they both might kill me if I divulge too much, but what I will say is that it’s easily the best musical body of work I’ve / we’ve ever done. How we launch the project is all still up in the air, so yeah that’s all I have on that…
Can you share any news on your Habgud project as we approach 2024?
A new full EP in the first half of 2024, for a label/crew I am a big fan of, a collaboration with one of my favourite artists, and a couple of new split B.A.B.E EPs – BUSY!