Chris Hoy has been in the dance music business for some time. From the humble start of producing his first album and selling 20 copies to friends under his Shift moniker 12 years ago, he is due to release his 6th psytrance album and has a bunch of other projects on the go; he’s a busy man and whilst many of his colleagues have become 9-to-fivers, this father of two [he married his school sweetheart] continues to forge a career in music and ain’t packing it in anytime soon…
“It takes a lot of drive, faith, and focus to make a living in this industry, and I’m not likely to give up on it anytime soon. Besides, my mother says I’m unemployable, and she would know!”
So, another Shift album due out this year! Got anything new planned?
Well, there’s been a progression in my style over the years towards a more accessible sound, but essentially it’s still got the pounding rhythm and searing leads that I’m known for – I’m always up for experimentation and I guess there is a bit of a Dubstep influence in this one, though it’s nothing too drastic. The ‘fans’ don’t like it when I deviate too much.
Having moved on from just producing psytrance (more about that later) would you say the experience garnered from all the other productions has influenced your psy-sound?
Hugely! It’s been an important part of my development as a producer to work on other styles. It’s given me insight into new grooves, sounds and moods that I wouldn’t have put to use in my psy if I hadn’t been doing these ‘experiments.’
Ever tried writing a 138 [IDM] or slower psytrance track?
Yes, but it’s not for me… I like my psy quicker; if I’m making slower than 140 its going to be something else. If it’s that slow it’s really progressive (but you can’t argue with Beatport eh!)
The trend seems to be towards EP’s (tailored for Beatport etc.) as opposed to full length solo albums these days. You are bucking the trend a little by putting out a full length. Wouldn’t it be easier to bang out a couple of EP’s?
I’m old school, and I have the tunes to do it. Yes I’m no longer constrained by having to fill up a CD, but on the other hand if I have the tracks ready then I’ll just put them out together. Honestly the sales are dismal compared to what we used to get so I don’t really think about it in that way. It’s just a big business card for gigs, and so the more music I can put out the better.
Other than the satisfaction of producing another body of work, what’s the payoff?
The gigs, the recognition and it’s a force of habit.
When writing psytrance do you have to make a point of not re-hashing all your old producer tricks to sound fresh or do you always have a new bag of tricks?
The bag just gets bigger.
You’ve done some high profile remixes, on a more mainstream tip, for Just Music. How did this link up with the label come about?
A cold call email would you believe? I wanted to remix a Zebra & Giraffe track so I mailed them to see if I could get the files. Most labels don’t even read, let alone respond to these kind of requests from people they don’t know, but Karl Anderson [label head] threw me a bone, and from there on its been a great working relationship.
So is ESC a production name you use exclusively for the Just Music remixes?
No, although almost all of my remix work for them is done under that name, I’m not limited to working only with them. They’ve taken an original single from me recently (on a Ministry of Sound compilation) and I’ll be doing an album for them this year too; Stadium Dubstep, D ‘n B and Electro in the mould of NERO, Chase & Status, Magnetic Man.
Other than what I assume is paid-for remixes, in this tiny little cyber world we now live, is there any exposure value left in doing remix work like this, such as the possibility of getting a call from some massive international artist’s management for example?
Well locally I can’t really do much bigger than those I have already done (Locnville, Flash Republic, Zebra & Giraffe, Pascal & Pearce etc.) and I’ll keep pushing for the bigger ones from overseas. Just Music have been very helpful in getting me opportunities so far and they believe that I have the ability to take this commercial skill international. You won’t get anywhere without dreaming about it… so far its working for me.
I often hear producers say “Oh I could write a commercial track if I wanted to for the money, but I’m not into that!” Could you? Do you think writing a mainstream dance hit is any easier than more underground stuff?
No way! I may have thought so at one point but indeed it’s more difficult than most would imagine. Underground music is really much easier to make. A lot of it is crap anyway. Otherwise we’d all be living the life on our yachts.
You also dabble in electro, Dj’ing under the moniker of USB Human – do you DJ your own stuff or is this just an outlet to play out your more underground tastes in electro?
I occasionally play some of my own productions, but mostly it’s for a bit of fun and research into what’s going down on the dirty floors of Cape Town. Definitely more underground.
And you’ve done some pop production work too; Louise Carver and Die Heuwels Fantasties both come to mind…
Yeah the Heuwels track I wrote with Neil Basson from Foto Na Dans (I got friendly with them while working on a SHIFT remix on their last album) and the Louise Carver work came through a reference from a mutual friend. She took a chance on a new direction for her next album and I’m pleased to say that I have produced half of the tracks on it. A few commercial dance tunes and some more down tempo moody tracks. Hopefully some will be playlisted on radio stations this year.
Last question; you’re a family man, wife, kids and all. Not too many can do music full time and still pay the bills. Ever considered getting that ‘9-to-fiver’ like so many of your colleagues have?
Never! No, I’m lying; the thought had definitely crossed my mind on more than one occasion when things have been hard. But every time it looks bleak I push harder, try more things, speak to more people and put myself out there. It takes a lot of drive, faith, and focus to make a living in this industry, and I’m not likely to give up on it anytime soon. Besides, my mother says I’m unemployable, and she would know!