If Scottish producer Hudson Mohawke’s grand, conceptual new album Lantern can be reduced to a single descriptive tweet, then leave the 140 characters to one of the men who know him best.
“The crazy thing about the HudMo album is he can’t remember 2012, so some of these tracks came from deep within the beast,” tweeted Joe Shabadu (aka Joe Coghill) right before Lantern’s release.
These days, Shabadu manages Montreal’s own Jacques Greene, but back in the whirlwind year in question, he was Hudson Mohawke’s defacto handler on a world tour that left the producer, real name Ross Birchard, in a dire state.
“Some of the record was made during that period, when we were on the road going insane,” Birchard says, calling in from Évreux, France. Turns out he and Shabadu have known each other since they were 16, and Shabadu lived in Montreal for a spell.
“Back then we were basically going around getting really fucked up and because they were DJ shows, we didn’t have to actually keep our shit together. You can turn up and play some records.”
Mohawke’s self-prescribing back then landed him in the hospital. Since then, his TNGHT EP with Montrealer Lunice became a trap night staple and he was one of the hot shot producers Kanye West called upon for his Yeezus album. Now Mohawke is making his long-awaited solo statement with Lantern — one that says he’s more than just bangers.
“I wanted to put across a story of day into night with the club tracks at the end,” he explains. “I didn’t want to make songs that people can put in their DJ sets – I wanted a record with songs people can listen to.”
Mohawke also wanted to move on from just doing DJ sets. He has a drummer and synth/sampler player now, and their gear is fed through Mohawke’s equipment. “I can remix and redo on the fly,” he says.
The album also features vocalists – not rappers, as one might have expected. Plenty of big voices, though, including Antony, Miguel and Jhene Aiko. “Those guys could have as many #1 hits as they want,” he says. “But they intentionally play it a little bit left-of-the-centre. I appreciate that about them.”
At its core, Lantern still does sound very much like Hudson Mohawke. Most notably, his Imperial March computerized horns are at their cinematic peak on “Scud Books.”
Mohawke explained that his love of brass came from movie soundtracks, although it was Arthur Russell’s melancholic Tower of Meaning that really set Birchard on his current path. When asked if D.J. Rogers’ “Watch Out for the Riders,” the track he unmistakably sampled on “Ryderz,” came from a similar place of reverence, he replies:
“When you hear a particular part of a song, you can already make out in your head what you’re going to do to it. That sample didn’t need to be fucked around with – take the straight up sample, add the hardest drums possible and it will make itself.”
Once his touring is over and Lunice finishes making his record in New York, the two of them will eventually reconvene to work on new TNGHT music. Birchard’s upcoming Osheaga performance will be a long time coming for Igloofest fans in 2013 who expected to see TNGHT perform live, but on the dayof were told that Lunice was playing solo.
Birchard still remembers the incident: “You know what happened there? The TNGHT show was this whole production, and we found out the day before the show the festival stage couldn’t accommodate any of our show. So I thought, is there really a point of me flying to Montreal if we can’t put on the show to the full degree? It would have been a half-assed show.
“There will be a Montreal TNGHT show, but we’ll do it somewhere that can accommodate our set-up.” ■
Hudson Mohawke plays the Osheaga music festival at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Saturday, Aug. 1, SOLD OUT