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Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Tuesday 25th September, 2012 8:34AM

Spanish-English multi-vocalist Hyperpotamus is heading to New Zealand at the end of this week for a north island tour. UTR caught up with him to discuss his unique sound, how it came about and how he translates it into a live performance.

Before Hyperpotamus you were a drummer in a band. What made you want to go solo?


Well basically I’d been in bands for a bit too long and I was a bit tired of being part of a team, and I wanted to do something on my own. I thought the best way to do something on my own and make it viable was to come up with something that involved just singing - just doing vocals. It wasn’t something that I really thought out, I just had this unique idea of how to record vocals and everything else just kind of clicked after that.

When you first started out, where did the idea to use multiple vocals come from and what inspired the project?

Well to be honest it’s hard to pin down any influences because I’m very eclectic and listen to all sorts of stuff. This vocal thing is pretty new to me and the reason I did this is because I didn’t know any reference prior to this of anyone doing something similar. The first time I came up with it I had gone through a really long working day – I’d worked 36 hours at a music festival, and I’d got stung by a jelly-fish and gotten driven home by someone who was in jail, it was this crazy long day. When I got back home I was jet lagged - you know when you’re in between sleep and being awake - and my body had just suffered so much, and I’d gone through such extreme conditions that my mind was somewhere else. In that state I started to record myself, not really thinking about anything. I just laid down some ideas and when I stopped I was like “wow, this is the best thing I’ve ever done”. I knew at that point it was something special so I just carried on doing it after that.

It sounds like you got into it through emotionally stressful circumstances: is it still a cathartic experience?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no - it depends on the gig. I actually make a big effort not to use it as a release. My first inspiration for this was that I had a great sense of independence at the time I started: I’d just moved out of my parents house, I’d got my first job and it all came at the same day and it was a very special time for me. Nowadays I’m used to independence but when I’m traveling or if I’m playing in New Zealand I’m like “wow it’s taken me this far” so it’s still thrilling and exciting.

What do you enjoy about being a solo musician as opposed to being in a band?

Well, first and foremost I get to decide everything and control everything and I think I can get my ideas across better this way. Also, decisions are made much quicker whereas in a band – depending on what band you’re in – there’s more or less democracy and you have to ask other people. I don’t have to ask anyone, I can just do things and get on with it. Of course sometimes I do miss the comradery you have with a band but being solo is a really enriching experience and it drives you to be a better person.

You released a new album at the beginning of the year: Delta. Tell us a little bit about writing and recording that.

It was recorded at an old Victorian household that belongs to my publisher and he was generous to give me a copy of the key to his house and was like “I’m going to be traveling for the next month so if you want to use the acoustics in the place which are great, go ahead.” So I made use of them as much as I could. What I did was record as they did in the old days where they had one microphone and whoever was recording would move the instruments back depending on how loud they wanted it to be. So for example if there was too much bass drum you’d literally move the bass drum back away from the mic. What I did was place a mic in the middle of this place and depending on the arrangement I would move closer or father away or climb up the stairs to have it sound different: making a sonic picture as I was going along.

Do you write your albums around any themes or concepts?

No not really, I don't really think about that. Lyrics are the last thing I have in mind or get down to doing. You can say that lyrically it’s a summary of the last two years of my life and getting to grips with something you're doing on your own and traveling on your own. There are a lot of things that are important to me, some are obvious while some are more personal.

Tell us about translating your sound live: there must be a few challenges presented by that?

Yeah that’s a very good question because that comes up a lot. When you start recording something you can either think “OK I’m going to record it how I’m going to perform it live" or "I’m going to record it how I want it to sound and then work it out when I go to play it live”. When I perform it’s quite different to the recording because what I do is record everything live loop by loop and I’m almost showing people in the audience how I make music: It’s almost a workshop – slash – performance. I just multi-track as any band would do when I’m recording and when I play live I have to go “what’s the minimum that I need to record this song that I have recorded” and work it out.

It must stressful doing it that way – like an ‘anything can happen situation’?

Yeah it is but I like it that way, because otherwise I’d just get bored and call it quits.

So what are the future plans for the project?

Well, my goal right now is to survive all this traveling and then after that I’ll have a break at some point and integrate some other instruments into the mix. Whenever there’s drums available I add drums into the looping and it creates an entirely new sound. To be honest I don’t really know, something will come up I’m sure. Playing and showing my stuff as much as I can around the world.

You mentioned before that you’re trying to survive touring. Is it a stressful experience being a solo artist?

Yeah well first and foremost I don’t want to sound like I’m whining because I’m lucky to be working and traveling. But yes there is an element of stress. When you have to wear all the hats – I’m my own manager, my own booking agent, I organize my flights, book studio time – it's good because you can do what you want to do and control everything but it’s also pretty stressful. It’s like having my own company: I own a solo company and am a musical entrepreneur in a sense. To be honest though being independent hasn’t deprived me of anything.

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