Exclusive Interview with Him_Self_Her
“We definitely bounce off each other in the studio and we always try to have fun, in fact we act like idiots most of the time so we are hoping no one ever asks to come in and film us at work!”
Him_Self_Her are a British duo consisting of Claire Spooner and Leon Baggotts. Together, this dynamic duo has had house heads in a spin over the past year or so, with their fun-filled, ornate take on the genre endearing many, not least seminal labels such as Circle Music, Crosstown Rebels and Love Not Money. With their debut outing for Andre Crom’s OFF imprint having just surfaced, we thought it a good time to pick the brains of the duo.
So you first came to our attention through your track, ”Gone Too Long”. When you finished it, did you ever expect it to be so popular?
Well it was only the second track that we ever made together, so we definitely didn’t set out for it to be the massive hit that it was! We really just got into the studio to have fun and try and make music that we loved and could play out in our sets. Once we had finished Gone Too Long we were pretty sure that we had something special, but we never imagined just how far that track would go.
How do you guys approach production then? Do you have to be in a clear frame of mind when making music?
There is definitely a benefit to us working as a duo, because if one of us isn’t feeling the session or the music, then the other can bring some new energy and ideas to the table to get the project back on track. We definitely bounce off each other in the studio and we always try to have fun, in fact we act like idiots most of the time so we are hoping no one ever asks to come in and film us at work!
What pieces of kit do you always rely on? Is there one piece of software or hardware that’s always at the heart of a Him_Self_her tracks?
The heart of the Him_Self_Her studio is Logic, which is the foundation of all our projects, although our vocal recording and editing is done in ProTools which is a lot more intuitive for vocal production. We then use a whole bunch of plug-ins, which will vary greatly depending on the style and sound of the track, but can often include Logic’s own instruments which are actually really powerful, or some cool external synths like Sylenth, Massive or FM8. There are too many others to list! Our process is mainly software based, although we have recently added a Native Instruments Maschine to the set up so we can get a bit more hands on with sampling and composition. And with news of Roland re-issuing the 808, that might just have to be the next addition!
Were you producers or DJs first? And how do you help one another in the studio?
We both started out over ten years ago when there was not really a need to be a producer to make a name for yourself. You could just be a really good DJ and earn your money playing other people’s records; you were booked based on your tune selection, technical skills and ability to work the crowd. Over the years we have watched the industry shift towards production and it has now reached a point where DJ skills are not so important any more! However we both agree that those years of working hard at our craft are definitely paying off now, as we use that knowledge and experience in every production and we know instinctively what works on the dance floor.
We have definite roles in the studio but we work on all projects together from start to finish. Claire takes a more technical role as her background is Music Technology, and Leon has a strong creative role with a background in DJing across a wide variety of genres. Most importantly we bounce ideas off each other, and of course we argue a lot over who makes the coffee!
Your tracks are quite unique, which isn’t something that can be said for a lot of producers these days. What else do you think are the biggest challenges facing modern day producers?
Obviously the industry today is completely flooded with DJ/Producers, compared to that of 10 years ago. Although it is harder for new producers to get a break, this level of competition is not necessarily a bad thing, as it encourages people to push the boundaries of production and gets the music out to a wider audience.
It seems the problem at the moment is that only a handful of producers stay true to what they love and the style of music that suits them. We make any style of house music, depending where each project takes us, as long as it has feeling and emotion we don’t really care what sub-genre it fits into. But just lately we are noticing some producers coming through making whatever the ‘big’ sound is at that time, because it’s cool to been seen doing that. We definitely think the most important thing is to be yourself and make the music that you love.
Do you prefer DJing or producing then? And have you had to alter your style or compromise with it since you started out as a duo?
We definitely love both! As we have said, we started out as DJs and knowing what the crowd want is so important when you are in the studio. But there is nothing more exciting than actually working on a new project, knowing that you are making a track you can play out at the weekend and watch people’s reactions and emotions when they hear it.
Style wise, it was pretty easy for us to team up, as we had performed at a number of events together and we knew were on the same page musically. We do have different backgrounds when it comes to musical genres growing up, but we would like to think that variety shines through in our productions.
Speaking of, whose idea was it to become Him_Self_Her in the first place? Where was the idea born?
The idea was born in the studio one evening, when we had finished making Gone Too Long, plus a few other solid tracks, including one that had been signed to Bubba’s label ‘Running Wild’. We knew that we needed to make it an official partnership and that we needed to come up with a strong brand to go with the tracks, so we spent a loooong time thinking of names and even pretending we could hear Pete Tong announcing us to see if it sounded cool! When we finally came up with Him_Self_Her we just knew it was right, as it describes everything about us – a male/female duo working together but with our own individuality.
You just made your debut for OFF. Have you been playing their records for a while?
Yeh OFF came to our attention early last year and we have been following them ever since. Some of the releases they have had so far are absolutely massive and they have built a huge following, so we are delighted to have our name on the label with so many other great artists.
How would you best describe your own sound and that on the Heartstopper EP?
We always struggle to define our sound as we don’t think it fits into any particular genre, so we just describe it as ‘house music with feeling’. Heartstopper was one of those tracks where we had no particular plan for it – we recorded the vocal over a very rough loop and then made a new backing track to fit around it. The result we got was a little different from our usual style, with tinges of acid and electro, but we definitely made it with the dance floor in mind and we are really pleased with the reactions it has got so far!
What 5 tracks are currently rocking your bag right now?
Him_Self_Her Ft. Kieran Fowkes – Heartstopper (Original mix)
Volkoder – Detroit
&ME – Blitz
Green Velvet and Riva Starr – Robots (Mind Against remix)
Andlee & Kollektiv Klanggut – Hit me (Him_Self_Her Remix)
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What’s on the agenda for the next year for you guys then? Many more shows or EPs planned?
Obviously the biggest release for us right now is our single on OFF recordings, but we are really excited to have a lot more original material coming out soon, including EPs on Resonance Records and Underground Audio, plus the follow up single to ‘Gone Too Long’ which comes out later this year on Crosstown Rebels. We have a pretty heavy remix schedule too – with forthcoming releases on Love Not Money, Nueva Deep, Karera, Gotham City and Chronovision!
Our gig schedule for 2014 is looking great so far, with bookings in Russia, South Africa, Manchester and Dublin in the next couple of months, plus we continue our residency at Egg London for Night Train which is always a great party. We hope to see you all on a dance floor somewhere…
Sounds good. Wish you the best of luck with all of it!