I got the chance to interview Vincent Villuis (Aes Dana) and Magnus Birgersson (Solar Fields) from H.U.V.A Network. This is what came out.
Please introduce yourselves.
Magnus: Hello my name is Magnus Birgersson, I compose music for a living and I like it.
Vince: Hello my name is Vincent Villuis, I’m composer-sound designer and ultimae label co-owner.
I am going to begin with asking you about the name you did choose for this collaboration. Most know what H.U.V.A stands for, Humans Under Visual Atmospheres. But how did you come up with this name and what does it signify for you. Does it have any religious reference as to ZenBuddishm? Or is it just some idea that you have developed yourselves? Please elaborate.
Vince: Oki, we kill the myth. ”Huva” notion was a word we used always between us when we met us at the beginning to signify ”hello”, ”good”, ”superb”... a lot of meanings in fact. The term Huva is also a notion of secret, masked... It was like a mini contextual code. When we searched a name for our first musical collaboration, we were far from each other and Internet was the link for exchanging, sharing ideas and keeping in touch. The ”Huva Network” became evident. The work of meaning around the initials ”Human Under...” is more like a private joke but working well, isn’t it?
Haha, yes it sure is.
Could you tell us in short how you first came into contact with music and finally ended up working with Ultimae?
Magnus: I’ve been in music since childhood. This is a family affair. I’m a multi instrumentalist and familiar with various musical genres in fact. About Ultimae, I don’t know, these guys have been following me in the streets and airports for 9 years now. I don’t know who they are!!! (hahaha)
Vince: I started my affair with music as a teenager, bass guitar, singing, drums and worked with various hardcore, thrash metal, gothic bands. I was attracted by machines, especially sampling and drums programming and I concentrated on this aspect of music, working more and more in the background of some industrial and extreme music bands, sound design and post-production. The last band split tragically and I stayed alone with my machines and computer...electronic music was a normal way to follow, my axis. I set up Ultimae 10 years ago with Sunbeam for a total freedom of creation.
Could you roughly explain how it works when you are making tracks together? Are you anytime sitting together composing or is it solely by sending ideas and half finished tracks to each other?
Magnus: We travel Sweden-France to each others’ studios and compose together. We do quite long sessions each time we meet.
Vince: The first album was made more with Internet exchanges, the second like Magnus said, was long electronic jam sessions, really intensive but the keyword is to keep the fun and be happy. At the last meeting, Magnus suggested another way to work together and I totally agreed with him. It will be more creative and also more adapted to our busy respective lives. We will explain in time :-)
When listening to the Ephemeris I felt as if you had merged even better than on Distances, am I right? What are you're feelings about both albums?
Vince: Personnaly, I like both, at the same level of pleasure. Ephemeris is 5 years younger than Distances, so yes, it sounds more fresh and connected with these present times. We added new treatments cause we search during our sessions ”new” sounds. But the initial spirit of doing something more trip-hopish, electronica jam is intact. It is hard for me to compare.
In your music do you have any message you are trying to reach out with or a goal, or are you just doing it for play expressing yourselves?
Magnus: I compose music ‘cause it’s vital, normal. It’s hard to find the words to explain why I do this and not that. I express myself for sure.
Vince: It depends what you mean by “message”. I don’t like so much art expression which talks frontally about politics or religion. I prefer when art takes a subversive way. Paradoxically I feel a strong power of suggestion in the music creation, the fastest artistic way to give sensations, dreams to people. The leitmotiv message is feeling-depth-emotions-inner journeys. But please don’t categorize us in the New Age genre for that (hahaha)
The psy scene has been growing bigger and bigger, with both negative and positive consequences, but the downtempo side of it has not really been growing as fast, do you feel that you are reaching out to more people these days than you did a few years back, and have you're releases been getting more attention? Have you noticed anything negative following the growth of the scene?
Vince: Sincerely, I don’t know how the psytrance scene is growing... I’m not a specialist at all. About down tempo-ambient, the problem in my opinion is that there is not a specific scene...
It seems to be considered as a side thing by the psy scene and not given much credit. What I know though, is that more and more people buy the Ultimae releases and that’s positive. Can’t say about the other labels, we don’t tend to discuss figures.
With track names like Dissolving time, Access to the long fields and Road to Nothingness. And while it's common in the psy scene using samples from known philosophers such as Terence McKenna, Alan Watts and also other pioneers within the psychedelic ”region” as Albert Hoffman. Even on Ultimaes official site it states ”Panoramic music for panoramic people” so you are clearly distinguishing yourself as a group. Would you say that the scene draws people with a different view on reality than you're ordinary rock, pop listener?
Vince: I don’t know if we could claim to be like “a group”. This is a little bit pretentious. We used this notion of panoramic cause we are attached to create something dreamy, large soundscapes, a feeling of cinematic. The notion of panoramic people is attached to open-minded people and travellers- either “sofa travellers” or the real ones. A category of people who should be more interested by our kind of releases. That doesn’t mean that rock and pop listeners can’t feel panoramic too.
One could argue that music in itself is self-fulfilling as a play or dance, but I believe that music can affect people in huge ways and that it is a kind of higher form of communication. What is you're take on that?
Vince: I agree with you, there is something intangible in music listening, an invisible communication, skipping words, distances and languages. I can’t explain how and why, I just feel it everyday when I compose a track or play in live or DJ set.
Magnus, you are also working solo under the alias Solar Fields where you're later albums have been praised among the community. I think I haven't read so many positive reviews and seen so much feedback on any of your albums as on Movements. My conclusion was that since you managed to stick your whole Leaving Home on one track Sol, why not play around a little bit instead. So this is little less hard digested and easier to enjoy than, for example Leaving Home, though also less rewarding to fully experience. Do you agree? And if so was the step towards a more, excuse the term, ”commercial” appealing sound a conscious choice or just a natural development?
Magnus: I never plan how it should sound, this is how Solar Fields sounds in 2009, I can’t sit down and do another Leaving Home album or another Blue Moon Station one, this is in the past and I and always looking forward, trying out new ways and ideas.
If you feel that it is more commercial I have no problem with that. For me it’s music. As I said this is how it sounds now, in the future Solar Fields maybe will go Drum n Bass, if you understand me...
Magnus, you have produced an incredible amount of music in such a short period of time, and you're sound is always evolving drastically yet always keeping that unique touch. Are you ever afraid that this pool of creativeness is going to slow down and falter?
Magnus: I’m not afraid at all, when I am in a creative period I just compose music. When I’m not in a creative period I don’t compose, it’s simple. If I’m not in the zone I know that it will not be any good. Maybe I just do some sound design instead, and suddenly I hear a sound and start to create a track around that very little sound.
I would also want to ask you Magnus what you are currently working on and if you could give us any hint as to what direction you're current musical path is going. And do you think that you would ever produce an album again in the Leaving Home style with a more profound storytelling, long build-ups and massive peaks?
Magnus: I have no idea how the next solar fields album will sound, I never plan that I will go in some direction or so, things just happen, it might be a reflection about the period of the life I’m living in at the moment I’m creating.
Vincent, you once strayed away from you're general formula and did a complete ambient album, Aftermath, which was awesome. Do you have any plans on working on such a project again? Or maybe even trying other directions with you're music.
Vince: Thank you for your consideration about Aftermath. I’ve been working on more ambient stuff for a movie and for unique sound design events. These last musics are ”ephemeral” in the sense that no CD will be released for these creations. I’m working actually on another album between ambient and ”classical music”, less downtempo, more ”sacral music” oriented. I will explore more the beatless and acoustic way, but I still want to keep a step in downtempo and morning electronica ’cause this is pure pleasure. The future will let me know. In fact, I can compose various musics, it is more a question of time and synchronicity.
Vincent, can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming album. Will you surprise us listeners or are you sticking to a more ‘safe’ road?
Vince: My next album, [Leylines ">, lived a certain story. Because the initial one was supposed to be released much earlier.... I had a disk crash after announcing the release date...and I needed to start from zero the creative process. So, after one month trying to start from the backups, I felt the soul of the tracks disappeared. It was more like trying wrongly to keep the tracks alive. I deleted all and started with new sound designs and architectures. About the final result… I think it will “surprise” but to be honest, I’m more in a search of sculpting fluid journeys than being surprising. There are 4/4 tracks, electronica ones, beatless ones. That’s not a safe road album but fans will let us know. By the way, for some people nothing is surprising...
Vincent, I want to ask you as someone having a big role in the Ultimae staff. What are you're hopes for the label in the future? Becoming big or just being able to put out great music? Even if someone does something because of interest isn't always the money a little tempting?
Vince: Become big and put out “great music” at the same time could be cool, don’t you think?
We invested in the last 9 years a lot of time, energy and money in getting Ultimae to grow. 2009 will see a lot of evolutions (digital store, new website, quiet a lot of releases and e-releases, real music store...) We have the same passion since the beginning, we’ll see what the future holds, but in the meantime, we’ll carry on planting our seeds. The day the passion goes, so will we.
If you had to pick one and only one favourite album that you have worked on which would it be, and why?
Magnus: The Mirror’s Edge score, the biggest challenge ever.
Vince: All the projects have their own importance in my mind, as they are relative to a certain period, mood, experiences. I don’t have a hierarchic brain. Of course Ephemeris and Leylines touch me more right now because they’re fresh, but older tracks can still open some doors...
When can see the next H.U.V.A Network, Aes Dana or Solar Fields album??
Magnus: The next Solar Fields release will be the Mirror’s Edge soundtrack that will be out now in May 2009. 10 Solar Fields tracks will be out on that album.
Vince: My next album Leylines is just finished and gone to the manufacturer. It will be available in the end of May 2009.
For Huva Network, we need to wait a little bit. We want to take our time :-)
Well that was all of my questions, thank you for taking the time to answer them. Is there anything you would like to add before we end this interview?