DN:Talk about your record. Where did you get the idea from? What is the inspiration behind this album?


SH: I started recording the album in the autumn of 2006. The title for the album has a kind of double meaning, either "escape", which seemed to resonate with my personal circumstances at the time, or "electronic scape", which has obvious connections with the kind of music I make. The concept for the album is to do with escaping, but different kinds of escape. Escape from circumstances, physical limitations, even the self (through some sort of transformation). It’s not essential for the listener to be aware of this, of course, the concept is just there to inspire the creative process and help me figure out the song titles. I try to keep the titles fairly ambiguous, so that the listener can form their own images and associations with the music. As for the composition/recording process...there’s a lot of improvisation, both in the playing and the composition. I usually start with the drums and bass. Once I’m happy with the groove, i start improvising textural elements over the top and then I tend to work very quickly, pulling the all the different layers together and arranging them. I then spend a lot of time adding more layers, melodies and arrangement ideas and then mixing everything together.


DN: Who are the musicians that play on the record?


SH: It’s just me, but I did ask my good friend and musical brother Jason Rogers to play bass on After Night Falls. I did have some programmed bass on there originally, but dub has a particular sort of laid back feel that Jason excels at and he did a really great job on that track and added a lovely bass solo too.



DN: Who are some of the bands that influenced you when you were growing up?


SH: I grew up in the 80’s and I was caught up in the whole New Wave of British Heavy Metal. I loved all the British bands around at the time and all those great bands who were around in the 70’s too. Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Deep Purple, Rainbow - all the classics. Once I started to understand a bit more about the guitar, I really got into some great players...Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck, Richie Blackmore. Then Yngwie Malmsteen came along and it was all the neo-classical stuff...Tony MacAlpine, Vinnie Moore...and then after that Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Then I heard Chick Corea’s Elektric Band and heard Scott Henderson, which sent me off on a fusion direction for a while, but it was when I heard Khmer by Nils Petter Molvaer that I think I really found what I was looking for. Great gooves, incredible textures and a whole new sound. Very inspiring, especially the guitarist Eivind Aarset, who has since become one of my major influences, along with Robert Fripp, Michael Brook and Allan Holdsworth.



DN: Do you have any projects that you are working on right now or any in the future? Any plans to tour?


SH: I’m taking a short break from recording at the moment, mainly because eScape took so long to do, I just need to recharge my creative batteries, but my next solo project will be a quartet of ambient albums, each containing four tracks, which will be released simultaneously, probably towards the end of the year. I’m constantly working with a recording project called Zillo, run by Jason Rogers and we’ve got about three albums worth of material to finish off and release. We’ve just started work on rehearsing a live set, which will feature two bass players, percussion, keys, guitar and trumpet, which is sounding amazing and will be out playing towards the end of the year as well. After that, I plan on doing an album featuring real bass and drums, which will involve recording live improvisations as a band and then editing and augmenting them in the studio...should be fun!


DN: Any interesting stories you would like to share with us about the recording process?


SH: I’ve been asked a few times who the drummers are on the album, which is very flattering for me, as there aren’t any! The drums are a mixture of loops (usually regrooved or chopped up), midi programming and beatboxes found in Native Instruments’ Reaktor. I’m especially pleased with the drums on The Space Between Breaths, because I programmed them completely from scratch. I bounced them down to a stereo file and we ran them through an old reel to reel at Hafod Mastering to try and capture some of that old school tape compression. Apart from the bass and drums, all the sounds on the album are guitar, which may surprise some people who maybe havn’t heard my music before. There are however, some string samples on The Second Realm, a Rhodes on The Space Between Breaths and the Reaktor Dronemaker on Into the Light, but that’s it. I’m using a combination of outboard gear, like the Eventide Eclipse and TC G-Force to create the basic guitar sounds and then there’s some processing going on in Logic. The Moon at My Window is a good example of this “post-processing” with plugins. I’ve also been complimented on the guitar solo in To Gather Up One’s Shadow, but I can’t really take the credit for that - I actually sampled myself and then triggered all the notes via a midi sequencer. It sounds a bit mad and it’s completely impossible to actually play on a guitar, but that’s the effect I was going for! In retrospect, I wish I had made it sound even crazier, so that people would know instantly that it wasn’t a real guitar player. Allan Holdsworth might get pretty close to actually being able to play it though!


DN: What was the most challenging part of making this record?


SH: Coming up with new ideas. I hate repeating myself and always try to come up with something new for each tune I record. It could be a new sound, a different way of working, or even just an interesting chord sequence. I went through a big confidence crisis in the middle of making the album, where I couldn’t seem to break free of old patterns and it really crushed my creativity. A combination of letting go and just doing it seemed to break the block and I came through with five tunes towards the end of 2009 to finish the album off. A great relief, I can tell you!



DN: Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge for offering support?


Pretty much everyone I know, to be honest! I had such great support and encouragement from friends, family and fellow musicians during the making of the album and I don’t think I would have ever got it finished if it wasn’t for them!

 

Here is a transcript of an interview i did with Digital Nations in 2010...