Interview: Sim Hutchins

Sim Hutchins is a relatively new name to us. He first caught our ear when he featured on The Bedroom Club III, a mini-compilation put together by No Pain In Pop a few months ago. This feature preceded an album, I Enjoy To Sweep A Room, which was released last week. It’s a gloriously dark affair, all decomposed beats and abrasive washes. The Fader ran with a headline that “Sim Hutchins’ Debut Album Is 2015 AF”, so it was appropriate that we had a lovely conversation over Google Chat recently. He told us about the album’s concept, how he loves to make music with lo-fi gear, and how if something’s not on Discogs, well it just doesn’t exist.

Hey man. “How do? Just been working on some new projects today.” Can you shed any light? “My good friend Owen, a fellow video artist, poet and outsider-folktronika hero (recording under the name O.D. Davey) has vocalled something I sent him, we’re looking at doing an EP of sorts. He had an album out on Tomlab this year.” Oh sweet. How do you see that collab going, would you meet up and sketch things out or just send files back and forth? “We live pretty close to each other, but he’s pretty much recorded all the vox in his bedroom and the track’s practically done now. He has an amazing work rate, which I would struggle to match if I tried to do even a quarter of the stuff he accomplishes in a month! I work in a more ponderous/obsessive manner.” Does that mean things take their time in seeing the light? How long ago did you start working on (what would become) I Enjoy To Sweep A Room? “Yeah definitely, I do like to just mull things over for a while after they’re done. The album was about two years in the making, but a lot of the tracks I ended up shelving and that became the Ecology Tapes release. “Tie Me To A Rocket” was the first track I made for it, and it was actually a demo I sent to No Pain In Pop when Tom K originally contacted me.

That’s interesting. I was going to comment that the Ecology Tapes release seemed a lot more hazy and abstract, but I guess you just put each bunch into different groupings, for want of a better word? “Yeah totally. I mean I Enjoy To Sweep A Room is kinda electronica-based tracks punctuated with ambient interludes, and that was my plan for the flow of the record to be fair. It’s weird as you do have to work a little to time constraints for a single 12″ vinyl so I did bear that in mind as the record came together. “Nihilism Was Not Sustainable” could have been 25mins long!” Was it always in your mind that the album would be getting a physical release? “Yes, because of the label that was putting it out. I love how NPIP are really into the physical product side of the label, they’re on their 49th release now and I’m pretty sure that every one was either 7″, 12″ or a CD. I was a huge fan of them before I even pondered the thought of releasing a record with them.”

I actually have in my ~notes~ that “Nihilism Was Not Sustainable” is ‘epic length’ so it’s funny you say it could have been almost three times as long. “Haha, yesssss. Originally I made the track to fit around two video loops from a Boiler Room clip. How does that fit into the album narrative? Well this track is supposed to represent a sort of process of death, it’s the track before “Brick Through A Church Window”, where you’re kind of experiencing the ultimate destruction of past ideals. It’s a kind of leitmotif for either staying in the past (one that’s fraught with a perpetual pain of sorts) or moving into the light, so to speak. The fact it could be twenty-five minutes was because I picture a kind of purgatory scenario happening, and that scenario takes place in a club.” That’s quite beautiful. Those piano sounds are quite shrill and haunting, I totally get that.

How much of a concept is there to the album? Without giving too much away of course. “It was quite conceptual in a way. I mean I’m pretty much going to paste you what I sent the label after I finished it, as I don’t think I could just explain it quick enough.

The first four tracks experiment with multiple assumed personalities, like how the paranoia in “I Felt Like A Fox” conflicts with the unflinching rebellion of “Isolationist Revival S.Q.U.A.D.”, the blind serenity experienced in “Concrete Over Roman Gardens” is in stark contrast to the simultaneous fluxus of the self on “I Will Unite The Hood Through My Vision”. Meteorically you are slowly sealing yourself into the bell jar. The next four mark narrative of assumed control, loss of control, denial and refusal to acknowledge that these ideals have been followed in vain. Finally, through “Brick Through A Church Window”, we experience the ultimate destruction of these past ideals. I see the final track as a post-Room 101 scene, that the forced-conversion has taken place, and so can begin a metamorphosis and transcendence into the unknown, one where your previous values are rendered meaningless and that’s okay. It is submission in a different way to nihilism, less ‘nothing matters‘, more ‘what does it matter?’

“A side note is that the piano sounds on “Nihilism” come from a toy Casio keyboard, I’m really into using plastic-y horrible sounds and making them seem legit.” You used that Casio a lot, is that right? “This was some little one, but the CZ was the main instrument for the whole LP it seems (minus drum sounds and maybe some bass lines).”

“I Will Unite The Hood…” featured on the NPIP Bedroom Club Comp — that was a nice teaser for the album I thought. Was that the plan when the track was picked for that release? “Yeah we did talk about how it would be a great introduction it being part of that comp, and it’s one of my favourite tracks off the LP (my one, not the comp — lol).” Whatever about the attendant baggage of the term, would you consider yourself a bedroom producer? “Yeah totally, I mean my studio IS in my bedroom. I think maybe that tag is fraught with prejudice, or maybe people use it as a sort of apology of sorts — ‘oh I just make tunes in my bedroom’ — I notice that also with things like Fruity Loops. And I think that’s why I like the idea of using ‘toy’ Casios, knowing that these things that kids bash about have produced sounds that are coming out of club PAs is hilarious in a way.” An in-joke with yourself? “Yeah totally.”

Just to go back to the Ecology Tapes for a second, did you have any dealings with Joe Shakespeare, who featured as Klaar with O.D. Davey on the other side of your tape? How did that come about? “I’ve known him for years, we met at a house party. Honoured that his work was on the other side, he’s a super talented producer, just too humble with it.” Has anything happened with that label since? I know you said they put it out with little fanfare.” Yeah there is a second one now, actually really fucking good.” Oh someone’s been slacking, it’s not on Discogs. If it’s not on Discogs it doesn’t exist. [We type simultaneously] “It doesn’t exist then” — “completist. looooool snap basically.” Although the Bedroom Club Vol III isn’t there yet either. “Oh shit really?” Not that I could find, no. “Some nerd’s been slacking.”

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Parts of the album (“Concrete…”) felt a bit like a more computer-minded Forest Swords — and then I clocked he had released on NPIP too. Was that coincidence? “I really like and admire his work, and maybe that crept in, but I recently found a tune I made in 2009 that Tom K said sounded like early Forest Swords demos. Naturally I hadn’t heard of him at that point, so maybe we just share a similar taste?” Interesting! I think it was largely this one moment of guitar shred. “Ha! Yessssss I know what you mean! There is figuratively no guitar on my record, I just faked it with distortion.” Oh even better! Last thing. “Wasp Cell” has this sound of electronic, digital rain, it brought to mind the imagined sharks in The Raw Shark Texts and the weird cyber-dogs in Vurt. I don’t really think this is a question, but I guess it ties in with the broader narrative you mentioned earlier. “Yeah totally. It was definitely imagined first, I wrote it in a half-awake state just after waking up/being half awake. I quite like doing music like that.” Amazing. It’s cool to hear about music being made like that. “I read a great article about it once. I really like that weird hazy feeling after you’ve passed the drastic-need-for-sleep stage. I think that’s a really creative place.”

The artwork is deliciously basic. Is this tying in what you said about the plastic sounds, foregrounding something basic and rendering it legit, as you put it? “Yes totally, I found Simon Stage (the artist behind the cover artwork) on Twitter. I was really into his work as he shares a similar outsider-artist mentality, occupying an obscure corner of twitter and utilising techniques that seem dated as of 2015, all with a sort of retro-futurism feel.”

Sim Hutchins – I Enjoy To Sweep A Room is out now on No Pain In Pop. Buy here.

Aidan Hanratty
Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ... @adnhnrt | @Bandcloud

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