The audio-visual artist discusses package holidays, Cream CDs, the hardcore continuum, the tragedies of youth and how to say farewell to unfinished business with The Wire Online Editor Daisy Hyde
Based, he says, in “North West Essex, aka The Witchy Bit™”, audio-visual artist Sim Hutchins has just released his new album Clubeighteent2thirty via Local Action, following earlier records on No Pain In Pop and UIQ. Though he describes it as a requiem for rave, he adds that Clubeighteent2thirty is less about nostalgia than a realist retelling of clubbing days gone by.
Daisy Hyde: How long have you been making music?
Sim Hutchins: Seriously since 2014, but I've had a cracked copy of Fruity Loops since before MKAT was illegal.
Your new release is called Clubeighteent2thirty. How did this concept come about?
I wanted to make a farewell record to the dance music I'd been raving to these last ten-plus years of my life, and for me it was a very personal experience revisiting these moments. Having never really musically stayed in one fixed point or been a part of any scene for long I had the freedom to draw from loads of influences. There's a lot of fragments of older tunes I thought I could never finish, and this was my chance to give them the viking burial they deserved (albeit with the level of respect akin to that which is given to the neighbours of drunken poolside lads who light rockets out of their arses and make it their Instagram stories). Confirmation that I was onto something came in the form of the first person I played “No More Propofol” to saying it conjured images of taking a flight on a low budget airline. This idea gave birth to the visual campaign.
Can you tell me a bit about the visual element in your work?
Maximalism/minimalism, it can be either/or. I like to inject a lot of humour into my stuff, and that goes from the extremely subtle to the outright ludicrous. I also like to get up inside what makes a visual piece provoke a certain emotion and to channel that. Tears of sadness or tears of joy, they all run down your cheek the same way in the end. Some of the main inspiration for the visual design came from things like Kiss in Ibiza and Cream CDs – check the clip at the end of “Her Lazer Lout Eyes” – as well as lots of footage appropriated from contemporary EDM raves and text or CG scenes I've created myself. The trashiness of the package holiday plays a big part. I tried hard to not resort to rave pastiche, or this kinda pseudo nostalgia lo-fi vibe you get when people just rip footage of acid house raves. It's less “Acid Ted” more “Lad's Own”.
In the press release you say this record is “a nostalgic record devoid of nostalgia”. Can you explain what you mean by this?
Wanting to avoid the conventions of what a rave record is was very important to me, so this statement is me making that declaration absolutely apparent. There's no breakbeats, there's no airhorns, and though at times I may allude to the kind of sound palette we all associate with that era – think the hardcore pianos in “Bath Salts In The Saccharin” – I never fully allowed those conventions to emerge. The hardstyle synths on “Lost Squat Dog” point not to the fairground rides of Milton Keynes Bowl, but to the dripping ceilings and broken window panes of a warehouse party in Polar. “Let's Commodify Our Love” is a Dear John letter to the EDM trap brostep that ruined my relationship with dubstep. It goes on and on.
The cyclical nature of the hardcore continuum means certain sounds are forever being rehashed, to the point where they maybe lose their attachment to an era after a while. I outright avoided using 808s and 909s on my first LP as some sort of minor rebellion against people seeming to draw from these kits to get an easy result. I relaxed my stance on C18230 [Clubeighteent2thirty], and embraced using some of these tropes, but they’re all submerged in my particular way of presenting sound and imbued with personal history. That history can be anything from processed voice clips or stems from my old project files, but this idea of looking back was more me trying to remember things like hearing Burial's music and feeling the way I felt (when I was ten) about UK garage again.
You note that the present holds no optimism. Is this something you feel has changed in club culture? Or do you see it as a general state of affairs?
I'm absolutely not a nihilist, and I'm definitely a ‘the bottle of Smirnoff Ice is half full’ kinda guy. Saying that I do think maybe there’s something wrong with contemporary club culture in London, and maybe we’ve all been dancing around the idea of addressing what that actually is. I saw a really heartfelt tweet last week about how an artist found themselves in Berghain dancing ‘like, properly dancing’ for the first time in a while and I felt what they were saying. Having travelled over Europe to play has loaned me that experience on almost every occasion. I smoke like the exhaust of an XR3i so me being outside most of the time is definitely how I play my part in facilitating in the decline of UK nightlife. Bring back smoking and ban fog machines in my opinion.
The video for “Her Lazer Lout Eyes” is humorous and totally kitsch, and yet in Clubeighteent2thirty you do raise some serious issues – death and drug abuse, for example. Can you expand on this?
There’s a lot of tragedy that goes with youth, especially when you’re part of larger networks that have a wider circle of less than savoury characters, and who take more risks. Young people are more likely to die in road accidents than anything else, and that's happened to people close to me. Also suicide and accidental overdoses. My way to deal with these themes as a young person was to pay tribute to the people I lost, whether that was shouting their name out on pirate radio, putting on parties in their honour, or to add a part of their voice somewhere in my music. Using kitsch notions is a very working class way to get over tragedy, funeral wakes often turn into some of the funniest times you've had collectively, and I think it's also a very fitting and fond way to remember someone.
It’s interesting. The text statements in the videos are spot on – they're relatable to any clubber. Even if you've never been on an 18–30s holiday, the majority of these statements could just as easily have been made after a weekend bender in Milton Keynes or some two-day bank holiday rave in London somewhere. Things get messy. Yet there are negative connotations that come with 18–30 holidays – the idea of Brits abroad and programmes like Sun, Sex And Suspicious Parents featuring drunk teens chugging back Vodka Coke in some sun drench part of Europe, getting naked, raving, sunburn, sex with strangers, etc – there is a vast amount of cultural snobbery around that kind of party. It made me think about what the actual difference was between getting shit-faced in Ibiza on a package deal and getting shit-faced in some industrial basement in the middle of nowhere (also featuring getting naked, having sex with strangers etc) albeit to different music. Yet the latter gets sold as some kind of act of rebellion.
What do you think? Is there an elitism? Do you think there is a difference between raving in an 18–30 club versus some dingy basement with throbbing sub-bass and sweat dripping from a camo net attached to the ceiling?
I love your descriptions here of these dualities and their similarities. Both groups look down their noses through their designer sunglasses or tortoise-shelled spectacles at each other. Often the latter group can ghost in plain sight with more ease; think a few black-clad clubbers versus a train full of coked up lads on the way home and you can imagine who gets the most tuts and side-eyes from the suited commuters at 9am. Being working class and from Essex you experience first hand people's pursuit of decadence, and there's definitely a striving for social mobility but it's never fully realised in a way mainstream society would approve of. I've pondered this through the aesthetic of ‘lads on tour’ being seen as a right of passage in my video to the track “No More Propofol”, and I think the public tuning into the programmes you mentioned and looking to be outraged does smack of an underlying disapproval that's present. You'd never want to be the parent. Luckily for me my parents knew not what I got up to under these camo-netted ceilings, so...
What do you make of projects such as The Caretaker’s Death Of Rave?
I've had a few people comment and suggest similar conceptual releases, and I feel that C18230 was never meant to sit alongside these records, let alone add to what could possibly be a sub-genre one day, lord help us (just kidding lads, you're alright). I think a lot of people set out to retell other people's stories in their work, but I've always just wanted to blab on about my own, and in an unbridled manner, like telling strangers in the chillout room your life story, it just sort of happens.
What do you think about this idea of travelling to a different country to go raving?
I think it's a testament (and credit to) the people of these countries. I've spent time in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, and besides the fact the pound goes a long way, there's this duality of excitement and possible danger that seems to trump any feeling that you could experience the same thing on home soil. Also trying to score drugs in a foreign language is both scary and culturally enriching.
If you were asked to describe the act of clubbing to someone who has just landed on this planet, what would you say?
If your name's not down you're not getting in.
Finally, what are you listening to at the moment?
Lots of noise and black metal, and lots of trash rap.