Known for energetic and fully skitz morning psytrance sets at parties up and down Northern New South Wales, Purple Hayes (Hugo Hayes) sets are increasingly becoming a fixture of doofs in the Mid North Coast and Northern Rivers regions. Dreamland caught up with Hugo at the SAE Institute in Byron Bay, where he studies a Bachelor of Audio Engineering, to discuss his involvement in the doof scene, what inspires and influences his music, live performance, and many things in between.
D: What and when was the first party you attended?
H: My first doof was Daytime Playtime I think. I was about 16 and it was kind of just the crowd I was hanging around. I didn’t even know doofs existed till then.
D: What was it that made you switch from parties to DJ-ing and producing?
H: When I started partying and drinking I was around 16. Or was it 15? I started attending house parties, and getting into club music. David Guetta and that shit. Back then I was like, “Wow, this is really cool and funky.” But now I look back and I’m like, “Wow, this is pretty shit house.”
I’ve been into music since I was four, played a few different instruments, none of them very well. I got this guy I know to install Ableton on my computer and started fucking around. After six to twelve months, I was just trying to write a little trance and that sort of stuff. Then I went to my first doof. I’d never really been to a party like that before. Just to house parties and stuff. It was my first experience of staying up all night and listening to that kind of music (psytrance) on a massive sound system. Hearing it on that sound system I was like, “Woah, that is sick.”
So I started to go to more of NNSW doofs where psytrance was the focus. I realized it was a psytrance scene and I fell in love with the music and the whole vibe of psytrance as opposed to electro house and shit.
That’s the good thing about psytrance, it doesn’t matter who you are and what you look like. All kinds of people are at the parties. No one’s there to judge. Like the traditional kind of doof vibe. Everyone’s there just to hang out, meet some people, have a good time. Listen to good music, have a mad weekend.
D: What kind of artists originally influenced your sound and your music?
H: One artist who has been enormously influential is Twilight – particularly his older style stuff. For me, and some of my close friends as well, just like Levi (Surge) and River (Dreamstate), Javier’s Twilight project was this pinnacle and we wanted to reach that. More recently I’ve become interested in more traditional psychedelic stuff like Avalon. Zen Mechanics has blown my mind. But originally it was the local NNSW guys rather than the psychedelic stuff: Javi (Twilight, Unseen Dimensions), Multiverse, Creten, Beatrix, etc. Then I got exposed to like Mystical Complex, but I never really tried to go for that style. Because it just seemed like a mix between electro house and psytrance whereas I like the North Coast sound.
So mostly the local guys but more recently the international stuff like Zen Mechanics. Obviously the progressive trance thing has taken off and that’s had an influence for sure. People like Neelix, I think the whole off beat prog thing was good, still is good at times, but gets very old super quickly when played again and again and again.
D: What’s your ideal party progression?
H: A few parties are playing off-beat prog at night now, which I find really strange but at the same time it’s very commercially acceptable so I guess it makes sense. I think a good party starts with a bit of chilled glitch and dub step in the afternoon, shifts to electro around mid-evening. Midnight should kick over to psy, have local NNSW stuff (chunks) or full on, pumping, Israeli style night time psy like Mystical Complex. As soon as the sun comes up the music should switch to more progressive sounds. But I really think that the whole offbeat thing should be like mid to late morning. Not like, right as the sun comes up. Everyone’s just gonna want like pumping beats, cruisy, not too intense at 6am. Which I guess is why off-beat can work at that time too… I dunno, I’m not a promoter haha.
D: So what was your first party and what was the feeling of playing your first DJ set like?
H: I can’t remember the name of it actually. But Lisan and Rhett Grantham-Smith put it on. It was on the same site as the first doof I went to (Daytime Playtime in Northern NSW). It was cool because I was at a point where I thought my music was decent enough to play (that thought lasted all of two minutes), it just felt right playing at a party that was at the same spot as my first doof. I’d been DJ-ing at house parties, just for friends and that kind of stuff. And it was fucking pretty hectic. I know you get a reaction from a doof crowd that you don’t get from a house party.
It was really cool, really interesting, something I’ve never felt before. I can’t quite explain it. I also managed to get progressively looser through the duration of my set, so everything kind of blurred in. I had some DJ’s like Brodie (Mult1verse) that I’d really admired come up and congratulate me after my set.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to play all my own music. So I was playing some other stuff like Black and White. But I was fucking really bad at mixing and that just got worse as the set went on. But nah it was cool. It was an interesting experience and playing in front of a whole bunch of people you’ve kind of idolized is really cool.
D: Nice. So do you have any really awesome or memorable experiences from your career DJ-ing and producing?
H: Getting “signed”. Yes, I put that in quotations because “signing” in the psytrance scene doesn’t necessarily mean shit. But back in the day, it was really awesome having someone go, “We really respect what you’re doing, we want you as basically part of the family, and we want to release your music and get it out there”. Having a producer you really like saying, “Yeah we really like what you’re doing, you’ve obviously got a while to go but you’re on the right track” was really cool. That was definitely a standout.
Also, meeting Ivan (Audiophonic) this dude from Mexico. I don’t know how he found my music, or what the fuck. It’s hectic that the internet does get you out there pretty crazily. Having him, even though I’d never met him, standing by me. Like even when I had my whole accident he was always there. I was like “Yup, I’m going, I’ll be away for a while, I’ll be back, and we’ll sort out some stuff then”. And he was like “Good luck with it all” and was just super supportive throughout it and has been incredibly helpful recently too. Getting to know him and his respect for my stuff has been a kind of pinnacle.
Being signed to Airglow Records was sick as well. Twilight, him being the (musical) pinnacle for ages, to have him wanting you on his label, you know you’re doing something right.
Writing the “Feel Good” remix and getting a really sick response for that, that was really cool. At the time I was like “YEAH!” because I’ve always kind of loved the Gorillaz. They were fucking just…in their time no one else was really doing what they were doing. They just went out there and did what they wanted to do. I think if I was going to look back at electronic music as a whole they’d be one of the stand out groups just because they didn’t conform to the normal shit.
D: So, on the stream of Gorillaz, are there any other artists, non-electronic specifically, who have influenced your sound?
H: I love reggae. There’s one band, in particular, I was shown by a heap of old schoolmates, called Rebelution. They’re this wicked American band and are just ridiculous. That’s the cool thing about reggae. It’s about getting a point across, each song had a point to it. I find that every one of their lyrics in every one of their tracks has that kind of story. It’s something I can really get into. But yeah, Red Hot Chilli Peppers because I used to play bass for a while. Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Santana. Victor Wooten, this bass guitarist, I got to meet him which was amazing.
Who else? Rage Against The Machine. I played in a jazz band back in the day. Because I played double bass and cello. I was also in a little ensemble thing and we did a little tour to Sydney and shit. So I’ve been exposed to a whole range of genres and styles of musical performance.
And man, I love all music. If I hear something new and different, I’m not just gonna go “that’s straight up shit”. I’ll listen to it and see what I enjoy about it. Think about metal. I’m not a huge fan of metal but from the production side of it I’m starting to understand what goes into it. In particular, I’ve always, always admired the drummers in metal – just the technicality of it all.
D: I’ve started to think about rap like that recently. People say “Oh it’s so simple, it’s so shit”. But then you think of what would go into a really awesome, banging rap beat…
H: That’s the thing about rapping. There’s the rapping and there’s the beat. I’ve tried to write stuff with rappers before. Any kid can wanna be a rapper and write lyrics that rhyme. It’s not really that hard. But good rappers have a beat ingrained into them. That only really happens after years of listening to and playing music.
I find drummers amazing. Good drummers tend to be good rappers because they don’t need a tone or a pitch. It’s about being solid with the pacing of words. I’ve got one friend in particular who I used to be in a band with who is fucking amazing. His English skills are amazing. And he’s a psycho drummer so his raps are just spot on. He raps about the most random shit like just eating dinner. But he’s got the kind of musicality ingrained into him and that rhythm is just natural for him.
D: I think your talent, what you naturally just can do, kind of comes from birth? I tried music when I was a lot younger, but I’ve always just been more natural with writing.
H: Your natural talents and abilities are also backed up by your influences. I have a mate who can figure anything, push through it, because he works his fucking hardest. He may not be the best at it to start with, but he’ll get it done. And he’s pretty much nailed everything he’s had thrown at him. Those kind of people do exist.
But certain things would be ingrained in certain people, and they find those things easier than other people do.
D: Yeah I can read and write and whatever. But I couldn’t write a banging psy track for the death of me. Maybe in five years.
H: Yeah I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for five or six years. So I have a little experience with it all.
D: Where do you see the Purple Hayes project going and how do you want to develop your sound into the future?
H: I don’t know how long it’ll last to be honest. You get to a point where you’ve had five years writing the same shit. This is getting to the point where I’m thinking that I may do something else. I may not necessarily change the project but I may change the style. But that’s why I think a lot of producers have a lot of different projects. When you start out you are like “Yeah this is my project, I’m gonna nail this one”. But after a while you start to go “this can be really restrictive”.
When I was in my third year of writing I was like, “Yeah I’m making progress, this is sick!” I used to sit down every time and smash out like half a track and be like, “Fuck yeah, killing it!” Now it can take me for fucking ever. Some days I’ll be like, “Lost it totally, getting fucking nowhere”. Then other days, I finish a good two to three minutes of a track and I’ll be like “Fuck yeah!”
But with the Purple Hayes project, I’m kind of trying to change the style a little bit so it’s a little less melodic, a little more groove based. I’ve been chatting to a lot of people and their opinion is that it tends to be a little too melodic. And I’ve had it explained like this: “Melodies are like an emotional connection.”
When you write a melody you are giving a part of yourself to the song. With psytrance for instance, you’ve got like an hour’s set and you’ve got your emotions in your songs, but the people on that dancefloor aren’t going to want to be connecting with that for a whole hour. It’s often this hectic, full-on emotional shit like, “This is the crap I was dealing with at the time”. And not everyone’s gonna want that.
Obviously, electronic music isn’t something I’m definitely gonna be doing forever. But I’m enjoying it while I can. So yeah, I’ll just be developing my stuff and I’ll see where it all goes.