The follow up to 2015’s Break Free, Go Don’t Stop is the new album from longtime soulful house champion Husky: a life-affirming celebration of the power of songs, collaboration and positivity across 11 unique and timeless tracks.
Let’s be honest: 99 times out of 100, it’s the songs that stay with us. 20 years ago house music was full of songs, but over time they’ve become less and less prevalent, to the point that you might go out raving without hearing a single fully-formed vocal at all. House music was born from collaboration, experimentation and from providing a hedonistic release from the monotony of the 9 to 5. House music without those sing-along anthems wouldn’t really be house music at all.
Step forward Husky with his first album for half a decade, and a healthy dose of vocally-charged, glorious house music we could all use about now.
Husky is an artist who lives and breathes house music, and has over the last 15 years or so become one of the world’s most celebrated proponents of quality soulful and vocal house. Releasing on leading labels such as Defected, Salted, Dvine Sounds and Vicious Recordings, Husky had forged a unique path with his warm, intricate and affectionately produced records on the aforementioned labels and via his own Bobbin Head Music and Random Soul Recordings imprints.
Welcome back to 6AM Husky! Aside from the obvious, how’s your 2020 been so far?
Yeah pretty heavy isn’t it. Hard to stay focused, to be honest and I found March-May quite tough. Having said that, there’s always got to be a silver lining, and having extra time away from gigs and clubs meant I could properly mix my album and finish up some extra music whilst focusing more on my label also. I have a 20-month-old son, Forrest too so having a bit more time with him has actually been superb, Not to mention we have another baby due on September 14th also! So really this year has been just as hectic as any other but in other ways.
What have been some of the personal highlights from your career to date?
They have been so many! Hard to ignore working closely with house music legend Sandy Rivera, remixing a Frankie Knuckles record and of course releasing remixes and releases on labels like Defected, Salted Music, Large Music, Vicious Recordings, Divine Sounds. However, I think the greatest achievement is always playing shows to house music fans around the world. There is no better feeling!
For someone who makes their living DJing, this year must have been one of the toughest yet. How much has the pandemic affected you, both personally and professionally?
As I said above it’s been really heavy. I really struggled when things first got shut down. Creatively I was toast, and just had no inspiration in the studio. Luckily I had some great records in the pipeline from other producers on my label and that kept me busy, but I was really not coping well at all, personally.
Like anything though, the perspective changed a few things and It became very good timing that I had this album project rolling, because I had things in motion already and I wanted to complete it, even if it meant that I would be losing a lot of money. If I had nothing on the go, I probably would have thrown in the towel. And that’s the truth. Being a career DJ/Producer is a very hard slog and it comes with a lot of sacrifice, and Covid definitely bought a lot of us to our knees.
I really had to start considering my options for income. With a toddler + another baby on the way, I am the sole provider of the household at the moment and we had just bought a house in 2018. So for the first 2 weeks of clubs being shut I started looking at my options and even took some shifts working with my father in law at his sports store business. I used to work retail and don’t mind jumping back on the floor to sell some shoes, but it’s certainly not where I thought I would have been even 3 months before. However, it’s best to swallow your pride in these moments to keep some cash rolling in. I have to say though, in Australia we have been pretty lucky in a few ways, the outbreaks have not been as serious as most other developed countries, and our government support has been a lifeline, although it could always be more.
Once June rolled around, restrictions started to ease here and some gigs came back. We have had some hiccups along the way with outbreaks and tightening restrictions again, but I am confident that I will be back doing 2-4 gigs a week at least by October.
So personally, like many others, it’s been challenging and stressful, but at least we’re all in it together. Literally, hundreds of industries and tens of thousands of people have lost a lot more than I have, so I consider myself lucky. I have some real inspiration to just create some fresh music and use these quieter times for my family and some much-needed self-reflection. Hopefully, we will come out of this reinvigorated and certain aspects of our lives and careers will be more in focus.
Let’s talk about your new album… is this something that’s been produced this year, or has it been brewing for longer than that?
No this album was conceived about 4 years ago. I had a few records that I was working on that needed a little more flair and I thought if I was going to spend some money on them and get some live instruments, session vocals etc perhaps I should just put them all together and make them a new album, since it had been a while from my 1st album (Break Free – 2015). So then I started tinkering with tracks slowly and putting them to the side as other projects and remixes came in.. and then I would come back to them.. and that’s the process that got me to May this year when I finalised the last track.
There are a couple of proper disco bangers on there! Who are some of your all-time favourite disco producers/records?
Thank you! Well, it’s hard not to draw inspiration from music you heard while you were growing up and starting out as a DJ. I was lucky to live in a house of diverse taste too. I remember fondly listening to everything from ‘The Singing Detective’, Simply Red, Anita Baker, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, The Police, Sade, Phil Collins and the list goes on and on.
As a DJ, I was always drawn to tracks with vocals and guitar and string hooks. So artists like The Shapeshifters, Dave Lee (FKA Joey Negro), Mousse T, Miguel Migs are always heavily featured as my inspirations. Records like The Shapeshifters ‘Lola’s Theme’ or Joey Negro’s ‘Make A Move On Me’. I just always wanted to make records that stood the test of time, much like the names mentioned above (along with many others!)
Are there any interesting stories behind any of the tracks, either in terms of inspiration or how they came together?
They all seem to have a bit of a story behind them. But I think the best is actually the lead track on the album, ‘Do You Like It’ as this shows that perseverance with a record is just as important as knowing when something isn’t working. Having the ability to identify both of these fundamentals is key to creating something special, in my opinion.
Alyson Joyce and I have been working together since we made a track in 2012, however we don’t work that frequently. She emailed me out of the blue in July 2019 letting me know she was back in Brisbane (from Papua New Guinea) and had access to a studio, she had a hook idea and wanted to share it. This always helps me as I am not that musical personally, so when someone sends me a vocal already with melody and rhythm I can build around that faster than having to create it myself. When she sent through the early idea for ‘Do You Like It’ I was blown away. The piano hook was amazing and (as always) so was Alyson’s melodies and vocal layering. The verse needed a little work, but I was hooked already. We bounced around ideas for about 3-4 months and thought we had finished the track, but vocally it was still just missing some sparkle, so we went back to the drawing board a bit and changed the verse lyrics for a third time while keeping the hook. It wasn’t until April 2020 that we were satisfied with everything vocally and that I had also added the right sounds to surround her beautiful vocal and piano melody. I got some live bass and guitars put down by Marc Malouf, which added some extra melodic content and warmth. Now ‘Do You Like It’ sounded like a finished product to me, so we were finally both happy with it.
You work with singers on pretty much all of your records… do you think that vocals are an essential part of house music?
Essential, no. But some of the most memorable records are usually vocal lead, as they help to tell a story. Without a vocal it’s often more difficult to convey that message. Having said that, I love many tracks that are dub’s or have no vocals entirely. The melodic content of a vocal creates so much emotion and energy in a song so when taking that element away, all the other parts in the track really need to be working cohesively and also offering interesting melodies as a replacement. A great example of a track that does this would be Todd Terje ‘Inspector Norse’ – I could listen to this record over and over with its lush melodies and lovely sounds and there’s isn’t a second of vocals in it!
I think it’s fair to say that soulful house, despite being arguably the first form of house music, has been overtaken by tougher sub-genres over the last decade or so. Do you agree? And if so, why do you think that is?
Yes, I think it has. But I don’t think that it’s taken over completely nor do I think it’s a negative thing because everyone has to start their journey somewhere. When I think back to what I was listening to when I was 17 it was horrible. As a young kid though that’s what I had access to and If it wasn’t for that early introduction to clubbing and music I wouldn’t have found ‘house’ at all.
So I don’t hate on harder-edged music, especially for younger clubbers. Because this is often an entry point as younger kids seem to like music faster, with more energy. I think that’s what originally hooked me when I was 17, the energy and power of the beat.
We spoke with Mark Knight recently who was calling for a return to proper songs with lyrics that mean something… that’s clearly something you subscribe to as well. How do you work with your singers in terms of contributing to the lyrics? Or do you send them a track for them to write a song for?
I certainly agree with Mark here. I think we went through a phase about 5-7 years ago where you couldn’t get away with playing a vocal record on a dance floor. Now things have come back around and crowds are crying out lyrics and vocals at the top of their lungs on dance floors. These are the moments that are the best, so why not try and recreate those!
Plus adding something new and fresh to the scene is what is keeping it moving forward. Remaking old songs is great, but nothing is more interesting to me than hearing something amazing for the first time.
Personally I work both ways. I am happy to let a singer do their thing and lay down a complete vocal, but I often find that I’ll help with a few subtle adjustments along the way as I hear something slightly different as a hook or lyric. I think the best results come from a few heads working together on a ‘song’ meaning. So I always prefer working in the same room with something and find this to be a lot quicker. I think the end result can also be better. BUT, sometimes things just click, and it doesn’t really matter how you got there!
Given that it doesn’t look like many of us will be dancing in clubs together for a while yet, what purpose do you think ‘dance’ music has over the coming months?
If anything it has more importance than ever. The feeling people get from parties and events is mostly driven by the music (I think ), so keeping those feelings moving with new music and exposure to music can’t be more important during times of distance.
The purpose of music is not just to move physically, but emotionally. I know for me, making music has a very therapeutic quality. So if I can pass that on to a listener through one of my records then that’s a beautiful thing.
What would you like to see change in the industry once things have returned to ‘normal’?
Id love to see more equality across the board. I think I have received 1 demo from a female artist since starting my labels in 2010. I don’t know what is holding ladies back, but I hope I see more female producers and artists emerge from the lockdown dust.
Finally, what one message should people take away from your album?
Good question. I doubt many artists even consider this when putting together an album including myself. I think acceptance and appreciation would be good. Appreciate what it takes to put this kind of records together, working across countries, music styles and even personalities. Acceptance that everyone’s taste in music is different. Some people like a broad mix of styles and others are really passionate about only 1 style. Let people enjoy what they enjoy and listen with an open mind.
Personally, this album is a collection of tracks that I was feeling as an artist and DJ. I always want to make music that I would be happy to buy and play myself and hopefully, that translates to any house music fans that pick up this album.