Hyper discusses representing the cyberpunk genre on a global scale

By February 8, 2021 Features, Interviews, News

Acclaimed DJ Hyper (Guy Hatfield) talks us through how his career has changed and developed over time…

S] How are you doing today, man?

I’m doing okay thanks today. I think it’s fair to say we’re all having some better days than others right now.  Today is a better one.  Been working so much of late, and finally getting on top of it again

S] What are your plans for this year?

Where to start? I’ve just finished my new album so we’re talking to labels right now about that.  This will be out this year for sure!  I’m extremely excited about this.  It’s my best and most original work by far.  It features amongst others, Starscream from Slipknot, Dread MC (Redlight and MyNuLeng), and Wargasm.

The big news short term is that the Cyberpunk 2077 anthem ‘Spoiler’ is coming again and features the band also.  I’m so excited for this track, and there are a plethora of awesome remixes too. I am currently working on a Hyper Trailer EP. This is basically an EP for movie trailers based upon how I think they should sound.  This is how I wrote ‘Spoiler’ also, having become fed up with them all sounding so generic.

The HyperScape game that I’ve been scoring for Ubisoft is about to enter season 3, so I’m also working on new cues for that.  I have really enjoyed this project and feels like a natural extension of my sound. It has been a really great challenge with a really great team.

When the dust settles on that, I’ve made a start on a collaboration album with some of my favourite artists – from Le Castle Vania, The Crystal Method, Health, I Think I Broke Something, and more. Wait, is that a year’s worth already?! I’m feeling daunted now all of a sudden!

S] How have you changed and developed since the beginning of your career, and ‘We Control’ until now?

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently! ‘We Control’, the track was always a risk for me at the time. I’d never felt entirely comfortable just being in the electronic world as my roots were so deep into punk, industrial and grunge. ‘We Control’ was the first time I fully embraced bridging the two worlds and the album of the same name also was me wanting to head in a direction of more live-orientated tracks.

‘We Control’ was extremely successful for me in opening up my sound beyond clubs and into films, TV, games, and more. It was also a validation somehow of this direction I’d chosen  – even if it didn’t serve my DJ career particularly well, which at the time was of concern…

I had only just started in the production world also – I’d been thrown into after the success of Y3K/Bedrock, meaning I was getting approached for remixes and pressured for singles.  This meant that I was always working with producers to try and deliver my ideas, which, along with my insecurities around my own abilities, also meant that I was compromised to a point as to what I could deliver.

Gradually, from here I taught myself to produce and gained confidence. The breakbeat sound I was kind of tied into then started phasing out of popularity but thankfully, the new direction continued to deliver beyond a scene, and after some self-doubt, I made this final realisation that I could finally just do what I wanted  – and frankly, that it wouldn’t matter in the ‘dance scene’ as we were all kind of irrelevant at this point anyway.

I wrote my track ‘Clockwork’ on my own in a day for the ‘Lies’ album having decided to embrace what I wanted to do fully (which also saw drop in tempo from mainly 130 bpm to 100bpm) and bring in all the sound design and textures and subtlety I love, contrasted with a kinda loud/quiet dynamic of the Seattle sound of some years earlier. This track explodes into a ferocious guitar edged (no guitars), distorted onslaught.  This also brought about ‘Spoiler’ which featured on that album too and has finally been validated some 6 years after the event by becoming a kind of anthem amongst Cyberpunk 2077 fans having been included on its iconic 2018 trailer!

Since then, I’ve been learning more about myself and what’s important to me musically, and more importantly, who’s opinion and what genre rules should affect what I’m doing musically. I finally now have realised that the answer to that, is no-one and trust yourself and stand by what you believe.  When you write like this and take all else out of the equation, not only do you get the best results for yourself, but I believe people can hear and feel that too.

S] What have you learned about yourself over this period, both personally and professionally?

Professionally, it’s been a watershed moment in terms of my own production and direction as I’ve touched upon.  I think on a personal level, I’ve not so much learned about myself, but rather confirmed what I already knew.  In terms of Covid, I can say that the years spent in my room as a kid reading books on my own, have stood me in good stead for lockdown and the subsequent restrictions.

S] What would you say the biggest challenges you face as an artist are now?

At the minute, the challenge and the ambition, as ever, is to try and somehow bridge the gap between the scenes and sounds that I love without them having to be seen as separate. Black and white shouldn’t need to be how it is.  I don’t accept that you have to be either a rock artist OR an electronic artist, or that you have to be pigeonholed further within those scenes. Why can’t electronic/dance mags and fans, cover and embrace a crossover which clearly sits in their field and vice versa?  Good music is good music to me and shouldn’t be just ignored because it has guitars or synths in it. Feels childish to me, and drawing that line in the sand could mean missing out on some great music!

S] Talk us through the different creative processes when you are creating a soundtrack for a video game like ‘Hyper Scape’ compared to a track like ‘Spoiler’?

This is an interesting one, because ‘Spoiler’ came about because I was fed up of working on trailer music and people saying add this that and the other here and there, when I just didn’t feel it necessary

I wanted to embrace all of the things I love about trailer music, guitar distortion, and I decided I was going to write a track that covers the three stages of a trailer (sparse start to set scene/dialogue, groove or main body of the track and then the big ramp up towards the end) but on my own terms to achieve the same goal, which is why the arrangement to that track is the way it is.

Obviously, when you’re writing your own music, you have the freedom to approach that in any way you see fit so that’s that. With score, often you are writing to the mood of the action so there’s one distinct difference that will affect the arrangement. Secondly, there will be a brief and notes from the software co or the production studio or director, etc, so there may be a guide to the mood they want to convey.  This is common sense really but, it is obviously more restrictive than writing your own music where only you decide what you’re trying to achieve and when something is finished.

I decided a while ago, however, that I didn’t want to work on any score projects that didn’t at least allow me to achieve these goals by means of my own sound and style.  In this way, you remain somewhat in control of the output and within these boundaries, you can still do something really artistic, creative, and different.  Although not the same sound-wise necessarily, the Reznor and Ross approach to scoring is the way I want to do things – achieve goals artistically and with your own style and unique flavour. Ubisoft had allowed me the freedom to do my thing on Hyper Scape game score and I enjoyed that freedom. It allowed me to be creative in my own way while achieving the goals required of a game score.

S] How do you look back at the success of ‘Lies’ as a collection at this point?

I look back on that album fondly now overall.  It was an extremely difficult time for me, and it’s clear within many of the tracks, I think. I was getting divorced.  It inspired much of the direction and expression within the album. This was the point where I started to turn a corner with regards to embracing things like strings in a much more cinematic way.

I’d never sat down and just tried to express my feelings like that and strings and orchestra are second to none in terms of achieving that emotion. I’m in no way classically trained and it took me a long time to get that track right. The whole album took ages because I found it very difficult to actually find the energy to write anything at all, but what I lost perhaps in sanity for a while, I feel I gained in the quality of that album

‘Clockwork’ you could say has a certain amount of anger, emotion, and aggression in it. I can thank my ex for the depth of the album, which I feel was greater than ever before, and also the title! I’m extremely proud of that album and it really marks the beginning of the journey to where I’m at now.

S] You’re in Seattle now, man – how has that helped your creative process, if at all?

Well, if I tell you that Punk has always been the biggest musical influence in my life, I saw Sub Pop records as the blueprint for what I see as the punk of my generation, I was a member of the Sub Pop singles club, have extremely rare vinyls from that period, though that Mudhoney and Bleach by Nirvana were the best things ever, the first thing I did when I got here was to get a ticket for next Mudhoney show, you can probably gauge the answer from that…

S] What’s motivating you outside of music, think specific people and places?

Work has been keeping me motivated on the whole of late and since I’ve been stuck indoors and Gabor, from Ayra and Evan Gamble Lewis, have been incredibly important in regards to keeping me from doubting what I’m doing and also helping me get through tough mental times.

My daughter is currently especially motivating me.  She always does anyway, but she’s got her GCSE exams this year and she’s dyslexic, so has found the big two of maths and English incredibly tough to catch up on, which she has in the last 6 months and passed all of her mocks but also those.  I’m incredibly proud of her! In terms of other people I admire outside of music..  I’m a bit of a politics junkie (so it’s been fun) and I really respect these people in the face of the constant abuse they get (mostly from people who have no idea what they’re talking about) and stand by there beliefs for very little pay really, and stand up for what they believe is right. Whether I support their party or not, I have every admiration for them on the whole (the obvious career/limelight politicians maybe not).  I see myself as a pretty objective person politically and I think it’s really important to be able to see and acknowledge when an idea seems like the one that makes sense to you regardless of which party they belong to. In that vein, politicians also stand up for what they believe, even if it goes against a party line, and stand by their opinion regardless. These people to me are admirable.

Place-wise, I would say the people standing up against the government of China in Hong Kong, and the people of Belarus who are faced with something similar.  Lastly, I always admire anyone who remains positive, even when the chips are down. It’s a trait I have never, and likely will never have.

S] Weird question now that I haven’t used in a few years – if you could come up with a Frankenstein’s monster for your influences – the head of Black Flag, the arms of Daft Punk for example, what would it be?

Another tough one and a good one!  I’m going to go for the Beastie Boys and Trent Reznor (for now).  I’m going Beasties as they’ve always been inspiring in the way they have gone about their career. Starting as a punk band, I can use them to represent all punk music (cheeky) and also because of the way they turned their career from there to becoming a joke hip-hop group (‘License To Ill’) and then become possibly the coolest, untouchable and pioneering (WHITE) hip-hop artist, while also using guitars. ‘Check Your Head’ and ‘Ill Communication’ are really special albums for me. Secondly, it’s Trent Reznor. It was tempting to go for someone more electronic-oriented, but, apart from the fact I think his sound is amazing, his single-mindedness in completing his debut album by playing everything himself and how he’s also gone into scoring and put his own stamp on it is something to aspire to…

S] Thanks so much for your time!!