Henry Saiz interview: Music and psychedelia

Henry Saiz spoke to Marko Kutlesa about his interest in field recordings, his personal appreciation of psychedelics and his debut album.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 13th Jun 2017.
Originally published: 23rd Sep 2016

Henry Saiz is a Madrid based producer/DJ who, after releasing music on labels from his home country for a couple of years, was noticed by heavyweight UK imprints. In 2008 the first of these, Renaissance Recordings (founded and named after the club) released the first of several EPs they would support from Henry.

Over the next four years Bedrock Records (co-run by John Digweed) would follow suit, issuing two plus the famed Henry Saiz remix of Guy J's 'Lamur'. 2008 would also see Henry founding his own label Natura Sonoris which has held a prolific release schedule since then, issuing both his music and that of many other artists. It won DJ Magazine's ‘Best Label’ award in 2011.

In 2011 he was invited to record a mix for the esteemed Balance series and managed to produce one of its standout instalments in 019, utilising in the mix some field recordings he made as a child and as a teen. He continued to explore this use of field recordings when it came to producing his debut longplayer Reality Is For Those Who Are Not Strong Enough To Confront Their Dreams (released 2013) by inviting his fans to send their own recordings for use on the album. 

His association with Bedrock and Renaissance catalysed a worldwide fan base and ensuing tours to several continents although he is a much more versatile DJ than his links to those labels may suggest, capable of pleasing crowds with disco, soul and deeper, more intimate house music (indeed he produces more disco orientated material under the name Hal Incandenza and is one half of a music duo with good friend Eloy Serrano that was previously known as Tyrane). 

Henry's influences range from those genres through the full range of electronic music and even to metal, indeed he used to play in a black metal band. He has curated and currently plays in a live band nowadays that is much better suited to disco dancing and tours with them when not recording or Djing.

Prior to his return to Liverpool for 303's summer party, we spoke to him about the message in his music, and a little about his background in sound design (Henry used to work in sound for TV shows, documentaries and commercials).

What kind of field recordings did you make when you were young? How did you become interested in doing that, what kind of equipment were you using and where did you get this equipment? It seems like an unusual hobby for a young man who grew up in the era of video games!

My first contact with music was with cassettes. I remember the car trips with my family, and there was always a cassette playing. What fascinates me about cassettes is the fact that they are manipulable, so of course I was always creating my own tapes. Not only music tapes but also recordings of family conversations or phone calls to strangers. Although the technical possibilities at that time were limited, I was lucky that my father also was fascinated by that world so I usually borrowed his recorders.

You are quoted on your Wikipedia page as saying, “I believe that electronic music can, and should, have a message.” What should that message be and what is the message in your electronic music? 

Obviously, each artist must discover what his own message is. With this statement I do not mean necessarily the music has to talk about deep or philosophical issues. When I say “message” I mean I prefer music that expresses something: from the most sublime to the most banal.

I like when music has an intention and is not simply an empty shell. I don’t think I can put into words the message that my music is trying to convey. And it is not always the same message. Each track is the result of a particular moment, a mood. One of the most important intentions in my music is to arouse the curiosity of the listener; to force him or her to explore realities that you are not used to. If my songs manage to excite the imagination of the listener I already feel satisfied.

What elements of your work in sound design have you brought with you to your productions of electronic dance music? What edge does that experience give you over producers who haven't done that?

In the world of music and sound there are thousands of ramifications that I find very interesting to explore. I think one of the ways to get to have an original style is to have experiences that go beyond producing the same music over and over again. Obviously, working as sound designer gives you technical skills that are very useful if you apply them creatively. It also helps you to value and appreciate the texture of sound, the physical effect it causes.

But what has helped me to improve as a producer is not just that. I've played in bands when I was a teenager, I have my own radio show, I've written songs of practically every style you can imagine, I made music for commercials, documentaries... All this has enriched my vision as a musician and producer.

How do you think the music you produce has changed, if at all, since the time you started making electronic music, through your early releases to your most recent releases?

It is obvious that my music has been changing in the last years. I myself have evolved so it is logical that my music will too. The most obvious at first sight is the change in BPM, although that is something that has affected the electronic music scene in general.

Sometimes I listen to my old songs and I`m overwhelmed because of the speed haha. I think I have been trying to run away from any limitation; I have incorporated elements of styles that fascinate me, like pop. My album Reality Is For Those...  was a step forward because I included a lot of vocals, analog sounds, real instruments. I guess over the years you lose the fear of experiencing and your music gets more honest and unprejudiced.

You asked fans to send you samples and recordings to be included as part of your debut album. How many were sent? How many were used? Were you surprised by anything you were sent? What were the strangest and what were the best things you were sent?

Asking my fans to send samples was an idea I am really proud of. The experience was amazing because the participation was huge and it was a way to involve fans in the album composition. I don't remember how many of them I used because they are so integrated into the album that now they are an inseparable part of it.

I received animal sounds, voices, exotic instruments... A sample that is really special to me is a voice memo that, after many sound design processes, ended up becoming the vocals on the track 'Spiricom'.

Is an experience of psychedelic substances necessary to fully understand what psychedelia is? What does psychedelia mean to you?

Yes, I think it is impossible to understand psychedelia if you haven't had psychotropic experiences. It's like trying to explain to someone who never had sex how it feels like. Being so subjective and personal experiences they are really difficult to translate into words. For me, psychedelia is knowledge.

Knowing and understanding yourself, realising the complexity and potential of your mind. And of course it is also inspiration. When you compose a track you try to give the listener a psychotropic experience somehow. Music and psychedelia are in many ways the same thing.

What plans do you have for future work or releases under your Hal Incandenza alias and as part of Tyrane?

I'm glad you asked this because the Hal Incandenza debut album is about to be released. My plan is to release it before the end of this year and I'm really excited to see how the public reacts because it is a truly unique album. It is very difficult to describe the style of the album, but I can assure that it will not leave anyone indifferent and that it was composed with absolute creative freedom.

The first single will be out very soon, along some great remixes. Regarding Tyrane, this is a project that is in continuous metamorphosis; even the project´s name has changed haha. We have a lot of recorded material and we are just waiting for the right time to share it. 

Do you ever miss the release of aggression and the alternative emotions involved in playing metal music?

Metal is one of the major influences in my music. Although I don´t use distorted guitars or growling vocals, I always try to reflect that kind of energy in my songs. Getting the intensity of  metal doesn´t mean to use fast tempos or an aggressive sound. It can be done in a subtle way.

Some genres of electronica, like dubstep, have managed to capture the essence of metal and reshape it, which is very interesting. Anyway, I know when I have some free time (if that ever happens) I will record a black metal album. I've always had that in mind.

What's next for Henry Saiz?

This will be an extremely busy year. First, I will record my ambitious album that was funded through the Kickstarter platform. I will be traveling around the world with my band members, recording and filming material. The release is scheduled for late summer of 2017.

As I said earlier, Hal Incandenza album comes out in the next months and I would like to offer some live concerts with this project. Another project for this year is a new label that I´m going to start with my collaborators Eloy and Luis, so you will have some news soon. If you add my gigs as a DJ and with my Live Band you can tell that this year is going to be crazy.

Catch Henry Saiz at Constellations for 303's summer party on 1st July. Tickets are available below.


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