Truancy Volume 84: The Range

When we heard from the guys over at Donky Pitch that their boy The Range was releasing an album on the label a couple of months ago, we jumped at the opportunity to speak to him and were delighted at the chance to have him feature as our eighty-fourth Truancy Volume. James Hinton, the man behind The Range, has been causing quite a stir recently, especially with the much anticipated Nonfiction LP dropping in October. Albums like Nonfiction don’t come around very often; by which we mean, the ones that hit you in a way you never expected at 4pm on a grim afternoon in Yorkshire, or blindside you on the bus as the all too hurried world passes you by. Because that’s what James does, he stops time. Not in your conventional ‘Bernard’s Watch‘ kind of way, but in a way that makes you more aware of your surroundings, that makes you consider them in ways you might not have before. It’s so meticulous, so perfectly rendered that it’s obvious to even the most unattuned ear that this project is one to take notice of.

As you can imagine then, everyone at the Truants Mansion were pretty happy when the tracklist from The Range’s Truancy Volume hit their inboxes. We managed to catch up with him after his first UK/EU tour and the release of his beautiful second album ‘Nonfiction’, which meant we had an abundance of questions to throw his way. James waxes lyrical about the English accent, talks about the album format, and presents us with a mix that is both punchy and delicate; proving to us (like we ever needed proof) that he is one talented man.

Stream: The Range – Telescope (Donky Pitch)

Hey James, how are you? First off, for those who might not be so familiar, can you tell us a bit about yourself? “I’m good! I’m James Hinton, I currently live in the US in Providence, Rhode Island. I make kind of footworky breaky stuff and have just released my second album, Nonfiction on Donky Pitch.” I read that you’re actually a Physics and Economics specialist that graduated from Brown? If you weren’t making music what do you think you’d be doing? “Haha, it’s hard to imagine but probably working in a Physics lab! Hopefully with a supercomputer. Maybe “Titan” if I was lucky.”

Tell us about the alias Stegosaurus; whilst at Brown you produced two albums under that moniker, ‘Quill’ and ‘Cower’, is that right?  “Yes, I started Stegosaurus my sophomore year at school, so that would have been Fall of 2008.  Quill was somewhat abstracted Baltimore Club, a lot of breaks and strings and horns.  Cower was similar in its focus on harmony, but with a more two-step percussion feel.” The Range is an interesting name; it’s relatively un-Google friendly unlike a lot of bizarre stuff you see these days, what’s the story behind it? “It stems from my interest in math and distributions, range has always been an interesting quantity to me. In some situations you might use the range to describe a boundary condition, but in other cases it might be used to describe the full uncountable set of numbers in between those boundaries. I’ve always been interested in the subtle difference between those two views.”

Prior to the album, you’ve released two EP’s on Donky Pitch over the last 18 months; how did that relationship come about? It seems to be very well-fitting. “I was first in touch with Donky Pitch just after I released ‘The Big Dip’ on Astro Nautico in December 2011.  They asked me to do a mix for their radio show and I put a lot of unreleased stuff on there that I think they were interested in possibly releasing and we took it from there. Its been amazing working with them, we are completely on the same page musically.”

Nonfiction is the second LP for you after The Big Dip on Astro Nautico, and the first for Donky Pitch, are you happy with how it’s been received so far? “The reception has been great, I’m so happy that it’s definitely being seen as an album and not just one single. My friends all seem to have a separate favourite which is always a good sign!” Tell us about the process, did it differ from that of The Big Dip? Did you produce the tracks with an LP in mind as the final outcome? “There are certainly similarities between the process for The Big Dip and for Nonfiction. I made a lot of the tracks knowing that I wanted to put out an LP each time and in both cases I went through a period where the puzzle pieces came together and I knew there was an album. On both albums I had tracks that had been started well earlier than others and I like the fact that they can all come together as one whole.”

You mentioned in an interview with The Line of Best Fit that EP’s can fall into a trap of simply becoming a collection of singles; is this why you side towards the album format? “I think they both serve a certain purpose – to me an EP is at its best when it focuses in on one or a few of the artist’s interests whereas the longer format can capture more recurrent themes. An album is able to show the connection between tracks made in proximity and allow for an evolution in style since it necessarily takes longer to make than the shorter release. So, I wouldn’t say I side towards either length of release, but I do think there is an exciting potential for an album to retain the traces of the progression of the musical process. An EP is more of a snapshot, potentially fresh and specific, but limited in scope.”

The first time I heard the album I was out on a marathon training run and it seemed perfect; firstly because of the tempo and secondly because running can be quite a solitary, introverted activity, and the album struck me as quite an emotive journey in itself. Was there an intended environment for the album and what would you like people to take from it? “The whole album is very personal. It’s always been important not to shy away from harmonic intervals even while maintaining some fragments of freneticism. I think if anything I’d like to have people feel that juxtaposition and internalise those two parts of my music as consistent when together even though they might be independently unstable. I feel that inherent instability when I’m making my music and I hope it comes across.”

I showed a colleague at work the album art and he said it reminded him of ‘Xavier: Renegade Angel’… “Ha, I forgot about this, the opening scene is definitely in the ballpark of what Ian was thinking for the album cover. I have to show this to him, I’m sure he’ll love it if he doesn’t already.”

Stream: The Range – Metal Swing (Donky Pitch)

There are a plethora of really great samples (as in everything you release); I was especially taken by “Jamie”, and obviously “Metal Swing”, have you a favourite and where do you grab inspiration for these from?“I think “Metal Swing” is definitely my favourite sample, I think it ties the whole track together and the song wouldn’t be the same without all of the qualities that the sample adds.  I mostly get inspired from falling into Youtube holes for long stretches of time. Its really amazing how much is out there and how many gems are perpetually added to Youtube. I know it’s a cliche to say that but I’m still surprised every time.” My ability to judge accents might be totally off-base here but the ones that stand out to me seem to be mostly English accents… “I suppose that is empirically true, I think it’s a happy accident that I ended up with that coming through on the album but not a direct intention. I think there is certainly a bit of grittiness that exists in those samples but I don’t know how much I would attribute to them being English in syllable tempo.”

You’ve just finished your first UK/EU tour, congratulations, how did it go? I heard good things from the Tuff Wax crew! Where was your favourite place to play and what do you think of the UK music scene? “I’d have to say Aberdeen with the Tuff Wax guys was the most fun, we played in a packed cellar with a great energy. But really the whole trip was amazing to me, I was so excited to be over there. I got to see Berlin and London. Berlin clearly has something special going on over and above what has historically popped off, people are so excited about what’s going on in all of electronic music there which I wasn’t necessarily expecting.”

I know that tours can range between two extremes; the high of the night, and the boredom of travel and getting prepared. Ryan Hemsworth’s tour hotel series has been pretty jokes; what did you get up to in between shows? “Ha yeah, i’ts so funny! It was my first time hanging out with the Donky Pitch guys, that was so so fun. I hadn’t met them in person before that tour and Dave and Pete were great to travel with. I had my first Fish and Chips in Brighton and took in the full Donky Pitch history, and getting to meet a lot of online friends in person brought a lot of the last 2 years full circle.”

Speaking of Ryan, you played with him at a CMJ event on the 19th, along with some other great DJs. What else have you got planned now the tour is over? “I have a lot of shows coming up that will hopefully be announced soon! I’m working on more music for some releases for next year as well.” If you could play anywhere with anyone, where would it be and who would you bring along for the night? “I would have to say a Crown Heights house party with friends! Nothing beats that feeling for me.”

Can you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve recorded for us? “On this mix I tried to both frame my own music in a novel way and show a little of what I play when I am at a show. I tend to whip the tempo around a lot so even though one of the tracks was intended to be played at a particular tempo it may be completely shifted into a new space. But yeah, its all over the place, hopefully in a good way!” There is a massive variety of tracks in here; how do you approach a mix like this? “I would definitely play a lot of what’s on this mix out but some of the tracks really interest me in a headphone context as well, so I tried to make the mix operate on both levels. Sometimes I get stuck but for the most part I just build the mix as it goes and try to play something somewhat unexpected at each juncture.”

You can definitely see some Rap and R&B vibes creeping through, but also you’ve thrown in tracks like “Steal My Sunshine”, can you tell us a bit about your influences? There must be some Grime ones judging by the vocals on the new album. “You’ve nailed it, I think those are all touchstones for where I see myself musically, I think footwork, rap and R&B share a lot of structure, albeit sometimes in non-obvious ways. For example, I absolutely view the ability for each of those frameworks to transition to and from half-time fluidly as a backbone for each and a means to connect songs in interesting ways.”

I was going to ask you a load of range-related ending questions but I think I’ll stick to the Truants faves; what is your drink of choice and when was the last time you danced? “Haha, yes the drink would statistically have to be Coffee and the last time I danced was maybe in my studio (a circle of monitors in the corner of my apartment) today to this.”

Truancy Volume 84: The Range by TRUANTS

Tracklisting:

MssingNo – xe2
Rod Lee – Baby Come On
The Range – New Low
Joe – Stutter (Remix)
Zendaya – Replay
Unknown – NRG
Pimp C – Low
Rod Lee – Work 2007
The Range – er
Group Home – Supa Star Instrumental
Aphex Twin – Alberto Balsalm
Gang Starr – Battle
Sigur Ros – Með Blóðnasir
Case – Missing You
The Range – Jamie
Mogwai – i know you are but what am i
dj sega – Ironside
The Range – Promises (Edit)
Aaliyah – Try Again (Instrumental)
Johnny Jungle – Killa Sound
Len – Steal My Sunshine
The Range – Over You

Photo credit: Evan William Smith

Jess Melia
Jess Melia

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