Desire For Change: Hackman

Hackman has been around for a minute now, initially turning his hand to drum and bass before venturing into dubstep after hearing Skream’s dubstep sound circa 2005/06, which he considers the best material to come out of dubstep. The shifting sands of 2009 saw him lean towards funky, influenced by Roska’s two early eps, ‘Elevated Levels’ and ‘Climate Change’.

More recently he has stepped towards a slowed, rhythmic house template, winning over fans within UK house and bass circles alike. We contacted Ben Hackman to talk over some of his favourite records, his desire for change and his forthcoming debut album.

So, tell us a little about yourself?
My name’s Ben Hackman, and I come from a sleepy village in rural Hampshire. I was studying music production in Leeds for 3 years, and now can either be found in Bristol or a small town called Colyton in Devon.

How would you describe your sound in five words?
Melodic, synthy, deep marimba house.

Can you tell us about the course of your musical background? Who and what got you involved with music?
My parents both used to play instruments so were keen for me to start learning from an early age. I started on the piano when I was about 5, and started the violin a few years later, and the guitar a few years after that. All I used to listen to up until I was about 10 I guess was classical music; I remember getting the piss taken out of me at school because of it! As I progressed through school I got involved with playing in orchestras and smaller ensembles, as well as a few bands. There came a point though where I started to hate all the classical stuff because it had been such a focus for most of my life. It was about then when I first heard drum and bass, probably the first experience of electronic dance music I had had, and that was pretty much it for me!

Who are some of the artists that have influenced you, inside and outside of electronic music? What are some records you never get tired of?
I used to listen to a lot of Led Zeppelin; they’re probably the one band I listened to religiously. Also Joanna Newsom I’ve always loved. Inside electronic music I’d say early Skream (05/06) has been hugely influential, that’s still the best to come out of dubstep for me. Then stuff like Ghost recordings, which linked me to garage properly for the first time. Now there’s so much good stuff about it, old and new, that I’m constantly inspired. Obviously, classical music has been a big influence as well: Baroque composers like Vivaldi through to the Romantic composers like Rachmaninoff and Liszt.

Hackman & Tessela – ‘Now I’ve Lost My Number’ (clip)

With track titles like ‘She’s Smoking Meow’ and looking at the artwork to your recent ‘Close’ EP it’s clear you don’t take yourself to seriously, what’s your thoughts on this one?
I take myself very seriously! Haha, but my music I don’t take seriously at all. I don’t think a lot of people take dance music seriously, as they’re just there to dance. Track titles and artwork aren’t that important as long as people like the music, so I feel I can have a bit of fun with it.

Your sound has evolved dramatically since we first heard about you circa 2008/09, from dubstep into funky, then onto your individual take on the 130ish bpm spectrum. What have been the main factors that have driven your sound into new places?
Just a desire for change really. Doing the same thing for too long just becomes dry fairly quickly. Also how in the UK scene new things are happening all the time, which readily gives you a lot of inspiration for new ideas. I started producing with d’n’b, then dubstep, followed by a bit of experimentation with garage, before moving to funky, more recently straighter house, and now I do some slower stuff at around 100bpm. It’s just been a musical progression of getting slower and slower, so probably my age has been a factor in moving me on to new genres. I can’t dance to drum and bass anymore, it’s too fast!

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
Would be amazing to produce a track for Joanna Newsom! The style she has with her voice is so different to most vocalists, and the harp is my favourite instrument.

Hackman – ‘Agree To Disagree’ (Radio edit)

An announcement was made this week that you will drop your first album via Ramp sub-label, PTN later this year. Have you found the album concept a daunting challenge and have you approached it differently to the releases?
Not been daunting at all, it’s been a gradual process of sending stuff to Tom over the last year. There must have been about 25-30 tracks maybe, but we’re down to about 14 potential ones that are all finished, and now we’re just waiting for various vocals to come back.

Asides from the forthcoming album what else is scheduled for the rest of the year?
No more releases til after the album, but a fair few remixes dropping soon, which I’ve done for the likes of TEED, Birdy, PNAU, Ximena Sariñana, and The Crystal Fighters.

Where can we catch you playing over the next few weeks/months?
Tomorrow I’m off to New York, which I’m very excited about! Also over October and November I’ll be playing in Liverpool, Paris, Amsterdam, Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham and more.

What does Hackman enjoy in his down-time?
If I wasn’t a producer I’d definitely be involved in cooking.

Interview: Josh Thomas