Huminal

The 209th episode of our 12 Questions segment features production duo Huminal.

Huminal

1. How old are you? Where do you live? And how long have you been producing and DJing?

We’re both 25 years old and live near Amsterdam. We started messing around with turntables around the age of 12. About a year later we began our production journey and have been hooked ever since.

2. Where do your musical roots lie? What are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know that you wanted to pursue music seriously? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself “this is what I want to do?”

We know each other from high school but have different backgrounds in music.

Paul: My dad has been the biggest influence on my musical preference. He bought me a lot of albums and took me to concerts where I got to listen to a whole range of music genres from drum & bass to classical music. There were works by Ligeti, Frédéric Chopin, Massive Attack and Propellerheads. Jazz was, and still is, a huge inspiration. Artists like Miles Davis, Nils Petter Molvær and Quincy Jones reverberated through the home speaker system on a regular basis. And we still go to the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam every year.

My first memories of electronic music must have been Jaydee’s ‘Plastic Dreams’. Or anything from The Prodigy or The Chemical Brothers. I can also remember being mesmerized by Aphex Twin’s ‘Window Licker’ which was way ahead of its time. I still have nightmares about that frightening face from the end of the video clip.

There was no specific turning point I can single out. Mine was a natural transition from a consumer of music to creating my own. It has been a shift from a passionate hobby to a more professional state of mind.

Jelle: I guess my father also had a big impact on my musical taste. He used to play in a rock & roll band and had his own shop where he sold his self-made guitars. There was always some kind of music being played at our house. A lot of rock and blues, but I was also exposed to a lot of classical music at concerts with my grandparents.

When I was a little older I started to listen to a lot of hip hop with the more old school rough sampled beats being a particular favourite. Artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and Gang Starr were part of my daily ritual. Apart from the great punchy beats, I really liked the fact that they were rapping about their colour TVs – rather than their ‘bitches’ or ‘32 inch rims’.

My first encounter with dance music must have been at a very young age as this genre has been pretty much mainstream in Holland all my life. I really started to like it when I got some CDs from my uncle that included tracks from Boards of Canada, Massive Attack and Moby. There was no set moment in my life where I decided to go for it – my interest in writing and performing music just continued to grow. Ultimately, it was inevitable that I would pursue a career in music.

3. How difficult was learning to produce in the beginning? Did you participate in any audio engineering programs or production courses to help you out – or are you pretty much self-taught? And did anyone give you any advice early on that really helped?

In the beginning we were just playing around with software like Magix Music Maker and later on Fruity Loops. We mostly made bootlegs and mashups, but nothing serious. We worked on a poor-quality laptop with speakers which were even worse. We might share some of our projects from that time some day. But we ended up using Logic and Ableton (the latter has been a favourite of ours for the last couple of years).

We both studied at SAE Amsterdam (electronic music production and audio engineering) in order to gain more knowledge about the technical part of producing and to learn about the music business in general. From recording bands to sound design for film, from musical rights to orchestral music, it pretty much covered it all. But besides that, we really did a lot research ourselves. It’s great to have a backpack full of knowledge, but when producing music yourself the hardest part is to deal with the creative challenges.

As newcomers to the industry we let a lot of people critique our tracks and took their feedback very seriously. We’ve learned to trust our perception of quality throughout the years. Nowadays there are a handful of people whose influence and feedback is precious to us and will not distort the creative process.

4. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When do you hit a creative wall and what helps you overcome it?

In the past we’ve had huge problems finishing tracks. We have 1000+ ideas on our hard drive but we have come to realize that one complete track is worth more than all those ideas combined. We have learned that completing a project takes a lot of perseverance, discipline and above all time. The easiest part is to come up with a cool concept – the hard part is to make a complete track out of it that can hold your attention for six minutes. Most of the time these small concepts never see the light of day unless the project is finished.

When we are stuck on a track, we need to take distance from it for a while. Most of the time the ‘eureka moment’ happens when we’re doing something completely different. The subconscious mind works day and night but passes along the vital information at random, when doing the dishes for example. It’s like a door that only opens very briefly and inconsistently. So when that ‘brilliant idea’ comes into our heads, we try to put it to work as soon as possible.

5. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside the world of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?

We try to spend every waking hour on music. We’re not the fastest producers because we set the bar pretty high for ourselves, we choose quality over quantity but also try to maintain a constant output. The music business can be terrifying, it’s hard work and not everything is as much fun as it would seem. When throwing yourself into the music industry there are a lot of tasks you need to do besides working like a monk at the controls. Nowadays you have to be a businessman, marketer, copyright expert, have great social skills and have a high level of perseverance to accomplish anything. So it depends – we wear many hats on a normal day but our happiness lies between the notes.

On our down time we love to watch movies and spend time with friends and family. Now and then we do something impulsive for a thrill as this sometimes leads to creative thoughts. Because we love cinema, we also like to shoot our own videos. So sometimes when we go out we bring our camera with us to capture the moment. You can see the results of some of our efforts on our YouTube channel under ‘Studio Distractions’.

6. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside electronic music? Do these genres or artists have a direct effort on your own productions?

We are huge fans of music in films. There’s a bunch of movies out there that have had a tremendous influence on our sound. There’s just something magical about moving images combined with great music. We really like that kind of synergy and it inspires us again and again. Movies such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, ‘Inception’ and the movie bundle from Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi) have had a big impact. The latest one is ‘Ex Machina’.

Other than that we like to listen to a lot of jazz, old groovy disco and hip hop. It’s hard to identify the elements in our tracks which are directly influenced by these types of music. People would probably compare us with other electronic artists, but we believe that these non-electronic genres have had a huge impact on our sound. We think it’s very important to feed your brain with all kinds of music and keep an open mind to anything new. Versatility is a must for us.

7. What was the first and last physical piece of music you bought (CD, vinyl, cassette etc.) ?

Our first physical music album must have been the first Spice Girls album (1996) and the first Backstreet Boys album (1996). The last album we bought was the soundtrack to Mad Max: Fury Road by Junkie XL

8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?

A few years ago when working for a promoter, we were arrested for illegal marketing in the centre of Amsterdam; hanging up posters all around the city. Unfortunately for the police, we had already been doing this for three days, so the damage was already done. Yee-ha!

9. Which producers in your opinion are constantly overlooked?

Jan Jelinek uses old jazz samples combined with deep bass and glitches in a minimalistic arrangement.

Datassette captures that 80’s disco vibe and merges this with complex grooves and tingling percussion elements.

Peter Horrevorts has made a number of amazing tracks. A really original sound with unusual elements yet managing to remain very dancefloor effective. Unfortunately he no longer active, but in our opinion is still one of the best producers from Dutch ground.

10. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?

Trentemøller’s ‘The Last Resort’ & ‘Chronicles’ albums. Mr. Møller’s eye for detail and dynamic arrangements are out of this world. We love the way he glitches and lets the music breathe. Just listen to ‘Into Your Skin’! His newer works have a more acoustic approach which inspires us on another level.

Boards of Canada has light and sweet melodies combined with some lugubrious sound design, which really stands out. The perfect music for a lonely rainy day.

Hans Zimmer -, the man is a living legend. He is spot on when it comes to writing for motion pictures. The combination of the orchestral elements fused with some delicate synthesizing is breathtaking. We had the privilege of meeting Hans during his last visit to Amsterdam Dance Event.

Besides other composers we get a lot of ideas from analogue gear, we noticed that this inspires us in a very different way than when we use soft synths. Hence we have also started to assemble some acoustic instruments to physically produce the sounds and experiment with somewhat more unusual sounds. As an example; we recorded the sound of a space hopper and used this as a percussion element in one of our tracks. You might be able to identify it if you listen carefully!

11. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?

Keep an open mind, let all kinds of music genres inspire you and spend lots of hours making music. We believe that your taste in music can help you synthesize your own musical signature. Listen to five of your favourite tracks from different artists and try to find the elements which dazzle you and try to incorporate these within your songs. Every great track was inspired by a previous one, so why not use these great elements and create something new from them?

Patience is key. If people tell you that you need to start releasing your songs but you’re still not 100% confident about your sound, then it’s best to wait and keep working on your production skills and elevate yourself to the desired quality. Producing music is a craft, the more you do it, the better you become. It took us a while to perfect our sound – only then were we confident enough to share our material with the world.

12. If the final DJ/live set of your career was to take place next week what would your last track be?

For this special occasion we would try to create something memorable ourselves! If it was the end of everything it would be Hans Zimmer – Time 😉

segment collected by Benjaminas Bagdonas

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  • Mitch Alexander
    Mitch Alexander

    WRITER @ C-U

    Mitch Alexander is the owner of microCastle | Beatport "One of the most influential, tastemaker labels out there and also part of our genre committee."