Huerco S Explains Why Dance Music Is More Punk Than Punk
The Oneohtrix Point Never-endorsed experimental dance producer dishes on the eclectic interests that influenced his debut LP
For Huerco S. (born Brian Leeds), gritty recordings are a form of rebellion. The Brooklyn-via-Kansas City producer’s degraded textures and ambient-leaning arrangements are an act of defiance in today’s dance-music landscape, where digitally pristine sonics are the norm. The 22-year-old has already racked up plenty of interest and accolades with only a handful of rough-hewn EPs; this week, Oneohtrix Point Never’s Software label unleashed his debut full-length album, Colonial Patterns. The LP challenges traditional house structures and polished productions with on-again, off-again beats and crackling recordings that propel his sketches toward the realm of noise tracks and what he calls “non-musics.”
Clearly, Huerco S. draws inspiration from unusual sources, so he called from his new home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to explain how hardcore punk, Enya, and ancient Native American culture informed his artistic process.
Native American Tribes
I didn’t really get into Native American studies until a little before I started making the album. I found out that they had pretty crazy infrastructures in terms of trade going up and down the rivers, and building huge cities. I looked at these geographic structures, and the way they built structures and applied that to sounds using a very sculptural process for making music. I’d go into these really repetitive processes, just to slowly build up a structure, kind of in the same way that someone would keep digging all fucking day in the dirt, bringing baskets of earth and dumping it on a pile and doing it over and over again. It’s really mundane, it’s a really simple task, but that approach kept me going.
His Dad’s Ambient CDs From the ’90s
His musical taste was all over the place. He was into classic rock, but for some reason he randomly had all these Enya CDs and ambient compilations, and I thought it was kind of funny. This was the first exposure to non-traditional musics, in the manner that it’s more often than not viewed as “art” or “non-music.” That changed the way I perceived sound and challenged my ideas of what we consider to be a song in the most traditional sense. Having been opened to non-traditional song structures by ambient music, I was free to create whatever I wanted. Before I started doing dance music, I had a project where I would make noise and ambient music, and then I discarded that project and found some of the stuff I had made in 2008. There were a lot of similarities between the stuff I was making in 2008 and Colonial Patterns.
Propaganda and Sci-Fi Movies
I was looking at these sci-fi films — I don’t know if they were necessarily propaganda, but they were talking about the New World, and how the New World would have been in the 1600s, and how the “New World” now is technology and space. Some of it’s really interesting, like random sound effects. Those are things that I was interested in sampling — unconventional sound sources, not necessarily concerning myself with only sampling from music. It’s really strange that people will just resample other music to make music. The entire concept of sampling is limitless, so why put this constraint on things? I thought it was way more interesting to sample things like documentaries or old advertisements. It seemed more interesting to appropriate something and recontextualize it than to sample something that’s already been done.
Punk and Hardcore
I started out doing punk and hardcore, getting together with my friends and writing really shitty songs and recording them straight to the computer. We always recorded the shittiest stuff, because we didn’t have anything and we didn’t know how to record. That influenced my recording processes and, just, like, not being so concerned with, ‘We need to make sure the drums sound perfect.’ That was never the idea. It was more impressionistic — getting the idea down and moving on to something else. I was interested in transition from that to electronic music, because it’s completely different, but I still wanted something aggressive, with kind of strange sounds. I think dance music, experimental music, is more punk rock than anything else, because it’s rebelling or going against what is considered a “song” or a “standard.” When I got out of that scene, it kicked off, and it’s been doing the same thing forever.
The Midwestern Nightclub scene
There were some people playing dance music in the Midwest. It was never anything I was into, but that’s fine. In terms of the club scene, it was always a bit of an older crowd, so you would never see young kids going to dance parties. If you were, it would be kids with furry boots and glow sticks. I would normally go to punk and noise shows, because that was a bit more interesting than going to a bar and hearing some tech-house. I think in terms of being informed by the club, I guess it’s like, since I never did a lot of that, my music isn’t really geared toward the club. I never make a song and think, “Oh yeah, this is going to be a club banger.” If the songs aren’t aimed at the dance floor, in my mind, they tend to be more abstract and experimental. This is what I focus on mostly: pushing the boundaries of music and reconfiguring the ways people perceive “dance” music.