Mind Music interviewed Hammy Havoc and Lost & Found who founded Voidance Records together, and are musicians in their own right. Read on to find out their influences, thoughts on the music industry and more edgy topics such as freedom.
Chiffvone: How did you both meet and how did you become business partners?
Hammy Havoc: How we met is actually a really interesting story, well, depending on how social you are expecting social media to be. I was actually the first person Ali didn’t know that gave him feedback on his music as Lost & Found—it’s just so different to everything out there in the scene.
Ali Amel: Yeah, it was crazy ’cause I ended up selling H my Native Instruments Maschine after that, so for me I won twice. [Laughs]
Chiffvone: How did Voidance Records come about?
HH: Other people around us have some great record labels, and Ali’s had a release on several of them before. Big shout out to S.E.F., owner of Switched On Records, they’re releasing some great music. There’s no rivalry between the labels of friends, in fact we’re all very supportive of each other, and we release on the labels of each other, but there was nothing around us that really represented the values that we had, it was intelligent dance music and very experimental stuff.
AA: The standing for something we believe in is the major thing for me and H. I believe as a label, as well as an artist, you have a degree of social responsibility, and with Voidance we aim to give back as much as the freedom that we are a given via our work.
Chiffvone: Why the name ‘Voidance Records’?
HH: We voided our contracts with society, the label was a permanent record, and a public statement of this. We encourage others to do the same because society is bullshit and not something that intelligent people should want to be a part of; it’s dangerous to creativity. There’s also an unfunny pun of having the word ‘dance’ in there.
AA: We encourage different, normal is everyone. If you were born then you are normal in every shape and form, very simple. Forget what society tells you, focus on the inner person, what your beliefs are, and trust yourself.
Chiffvone: What makes Voidance Records stand out from other record labels?
HH: We allow anyone to freely modify and redistribute our material through a copyleft license provided that they retain the original license with their derivative work. We are also going to be open-sourcing project files and synth settings for our records to give something back to the music community. We embrace the values of the GNU Project and the EFF, we apply it to what we’re doing wherever possible, and it’s something we’re going to be taking forward by eschewing DRM and selling directly to consumers with a pay-what-you-like system. Libre music production is something we’re heavily researching.
AA: Well, what can I add to that?! A state of self-sufficiency is what we aim to reach. I believe there is no reason why all other artists can’t take power instead of waiting for someone to come and hand them shit, which they ultimately have no power over. Technology is our weapon and tool, and we have to use it to the fullest.
Chiffvone: Why would you make the choice to make your music available as pay-what-you-like?
HH: We’ve had some really negative experiences with distributors since the beginning in terms of releasing music, from dishonesty with sales figures to straight up not doing what they’re paid to and have agreed to do for us as a service provider. Streaming services killed the traditional music industry with an all-you-can-eat consumption model for consumers, it’s worse than piracy ever was. I’d rather eschew the $50 from Spotify for a million plays and starve them of what my music makes; if enough music artists and labels do this then things will change as the only content available will be that of major labels—nothing cool and of substance. If what’s cool isn’t there then consumers won’t subscribe, and these corporations will be forced to change or wither by the wayside.
Chiffvone: Do you feel it’s a good time and place to be a music artist?
HH: Not in the slightest for people who only understand how to make music with no business skills to promote themselves and their art. I think it’s harder than ever to be a music artist because there isn’t a business model that you can apply to both ends of the industry, especially with things coming and going at such a fast rate in terms of apps, social media, and devices. Nobody wants to buy into a DRM-ridden eco-system for their music as they’ll probably swap to another phone or platform before long, so people prefer to stream. We try to go beyond just offering music at Voidance Records with experiences, tangible goods and information. The UK also isn’t conducive to creating music anymore.
AA: I think it’s a great time. It is as hard as ever, however it’s just different. The opportunities you have with your music now is unreal. OK, you can’t make money off your music directly, however people all over the world have access to some medium which can listen or look at what you create, your music isn’t the only possible source of revenue for an artist, that’s the power. The problem for us is the Twitters, Facebooks, Instagrams, Snapchats et cetera making money off of artists’ hard work, and none of them are getting paid what they should be. Therefore, we as artists should connect with fans directly and see how different the scenario would be without social media.
HH: If something is free, then you are usually the product. Corporate surveillance is the name of the game.
Chiffvone: Would you consider moving to Berlin to join Lost & Found?
HH: Of course, the UK is FUBAR, especially following the Brexit drama. The country is done. Abandon ship. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight.
AA: Err next question please. [Chuckles]
Chiffvone: What or who is The Orion Correlation?
HH: The Orion Correlation is the name that I’m currently performing and releasing electronic music under, but I’m about to release two EPs that are pop-punk and almost ambient 80s style pop– similar to Depeche Mode.
Chiffvone: We noticed Voidance Records now has a clothing range. Are there plans to expand further?
HH: The popularity of the merchandise was somewhat of a happy accident—completely unexpected. We never liked to consider ourselves just another record label, we always considered ourselves a creative collective as the music was just a part of a larger picture.
AA: Yeah there’s plenty of ideas, but like everything else, the planning is the brunt of the work– so all in good time.
HH: Our next season of clothing is going to have the slogan ‘DO YOU LIKE BREAD? I LIKE BREAD’. I think it will be very popular amongst other like-minded people who like bread.
AA: H, we need to talk bro.
Chiffvone: Lost & Found, what was the last song you listened to on your phone?
AA: “Moving” by Bugzy Malone, he’s had a great start and I hope as an artist he grows and keeps it going with his music. The energy is crazy.
Chiffvone: Why that song?
AA: Because it’s a good song obviously. 🙂
Chiffvone: Hammy, what was the last album you listened to?
HH: Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92. It’s a real classic and way ahead of its time. Even now people struggle to make music like this. I always come back to this record because I felt like it was the first record that I really listened to rather than simply heard; all those polyrhythms, and all that intricate sound design!
Chiffvone: How about you, Lost & Found?
AA: Mine was Kaytranada’s new album 99.9%, the track with Craig David is bad as fuck. I also just made Schoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP available offline and about to get real stuck into it.
Chiffvone: Lost & Found, tell us about the first musical instrument you bought?
AA: Native Instruments Maschine was the first thing I think I bought.
Chiffvone: Why that one?
AA: Well for various reason to be honest. It’s a complete workflow– the hardware interface, flexibility, and the speed of getting ideas down just to name a few.
Chiffvone: Hammy, we notice your creativity goes beyond music, please enlighten our audience?
HH: I really enjoy creating in all forms, and I’m constantly trying to find new ways to express myself. Lately I’ve been obsessed with improving my culinary abilities. But you’re probably more interested in the business side of things.
HH: I run Split An Atom and Previous Magazine outside of Voidance Records. Split An Atom is an integrated marketing agency where we keep everything in-house because we’re mean. We recently launched our content writing service, which is really exciting as we have a very talented half-American micro-fiction writer called Mary Ann Mahoney aboard who wrote a dark piece of micro-fiction, Mr. Skip, which I’ve created a soundtrack EP for, out next on Voidance Records.
Chiffvone: And Previous Magazine?
HH: Previous Magazine is where I and a bunch of like-minded nincompoops air our bastardized opinions on a variety of topics and tell you what we think is good. Half a million people give a shit about what I say every month—which is good, because I don’t.
Chiffvone: Tell me about you and Ali’s plans to stream live video together to the internet!
HH: I dabble in streaming gaming and audio production in the studio on my Twitch channel, apparently people like to watch. I use a bot that gives away my first EP as The Orion Correlation, Divine Debris, for free to anybody who can stand more than 3 hours of the sound of my mechanical keyboard and my irritating voice. Not kidding. Lots of people have gotten my EP this way. Shocking, I know.
AA: This is gonna be off the chain. Again it’s something which has been done before but it’s just not being done enough, this is direct contact with your fans. It’s also a massive potential revenue stream. I’m also concerned with a lot of artists relying so hard on DJing as a source of income. It kind of kills the balance of playing for the love of it versus playing ’cause you need to get paid.
Chiffvone: Lost & Found, can you talk us through your current studio set up?
AA: I’ve always tried to maintain this balance of analogue versus digital. I love both as they have strengths and weaknesses, but together make a bigger picture. So of course I run NI’s Maschine along with Roland’s TR8, a Moog Sub 37, Nord’s Lead A1 and I just got the Roland TB-3 to mess around and have fun with. I also use PreSonus Studio One 3 as my DAW of choice.
Chiffvone: Lost & Found, we have noticed you like RnB, hip-hop– is this to chill you out sometimes, or did you grow up listening to this?
AA: Both, I grew up in an area in West London where dub, jungle, garage, RnB/hip-hop and pop music played a massive influence in my social surroundings and of course influenced my style and taste today. I grew up in Portobello which also houses the Notting Hill Carnival so you can imagine the amount of different races and cultures I was exposed too. I moved from Iran to London when I was one and grew up with nearly every race and culture you can imagine, that was special. All of this is what L&F and Voidance stand for.
Chiffvone: What were your musical influences growing up, do they play a part now?
HH: Do you remember the Grahams breakfast cereal advert featuring the two children arguing about whether garage or nu metal was better? Well, that’s how Ali and I would have been had we met a decade sooner.
AA: Well, I remember obviously seeing MJ for the first time and was in love. He was like this man who just had this special gift like no other, and never again will there be anyone as great as him. He made superstardom what it is today without internet– imagine. I obviously had the Iranian influences from the family of course but then came pirate radio which was like my main wow factor, I was listening to Garage DJ and MCs on the radio then finding out where they were performing and sneak out of my mum’s to go and see them perform and kill the dance. Then around the same time I was watching MTV with videos of RnB and hip-hop with the likes of Snoop, Jay Z, Aaliyah, Biggie, Toni Braxton, Busta, Missy, Timbaland and the list just goes on. On top of that I had my older brother Arash coming home from clubs with glow sticks, which was where he would hear people like Laurent Garnier, Carl Cox and Sven Vath then slowly introduce me to another realm of electronic music. All of these are what was the foundation for what I create now. However, we never stop learning and evolving which I why I love art, it’s a creative way of documenting your life.
HH: As a kid, I was really into punk-rock like Wheatus, Green Day and Bowling For Soup, and also turntablism like DJ Qbert, Dan The Automator and Cannibal Ox, then I became really interested in chiptune as I played way too many retro JRPGs. My teen years were all about various sub-genres of metal that I didn’t really care for in actuality, and hip-hop. I’m still interested in the cross-over between underground guitar-based stuff and the mainstream though; I find bands like Mako and Late Cambrian to be really inspirational as they’re doing their own thing without any care for what’s currently the flavour of the month hipster-infested crowd-pleaser.
Overall I’d say that my taste in music now involves a lot more experimental stuff, especially electronic and jazz– I’m really fascinated by non-standard time signatures that bands like Radiohead use. XL Recordings can be cool; Hugo Massien is a friend and influence. I really dig a lot of the stuff on Warp Records like Autechre and Boards of Canada too for ambient that’ll be relaxing yet intelligent if I really listen to it; so I’m quite into IDM as well as being a walking cliché. I still really enjoy listening to Nine Inch Nails as Trent Reznor has really evolved as a musician over the years with his involvement in film scores. Still really into 16Volt and other coldwave, industrial rock artists—anything that combines genres and cultures.
Chiffvone: Do you both enjoy a similar taste in music or are you both completely different?
AA: I love Hammy because he was from a completely different world than me.
HH: Yeah, Libertaria— the internet!
AA: But we are so similar it’s unreal. He’s one of the only people that I would trust to control the aux cable and believe me that’s a serious responsibility that not many people have the honour of! 😉 We are always sending each other new music we hear, and without a doubt it’s always something that we both like even if it’s for different reasons.
HH: Whenever Ali and I are driving around in Berlin or chilling in the studio together, we usually have music playing, we love the culture that surrounds sharing music with others, especially introducing people to things they haven’t previously been aware of. We’ll go from listening to 50 Cent, Com Truise, Hot Natured then follow it up with some GoldLink, Aphex Twin and Marilyn Manson. Big fans of Prince too.
Chiffvone: Who are some of your heroes outside of your family members? Musical or otherwise.
AA: Of course my chosen family like Hammy, S.E.F from SOR, and Krystal from 10 will always be the reason I do what I do. Musically, there would be a list too long, but I think I’m more inspired by anyone who is genuinely in their heart happy with their life and are grateful for anything they have. I’m striving for that!
HH: Lost & Found! But we’re so close that it counts as family. I’m really inspired by the work that Richard Stallman (RMS) does, the world needs more people like that to say ‘fuck you’ to BS in the world of technology. Richard Stallman is punk in the most positive sense. Julian Assange too. I proudly identify with the cypherpunk movement.
Chiffvone: Can you elaborate a little more on that?
HH: I don’t like being at the mercy of others in any capacity, especially with sensitive information. I also don’t feel okay about encouraging others to bury themselves within a closed eco-system that doesn’t respect them. I recommend that everybody starts to take their privacy seriously, beginning with stopping browser fingerprinting if they can. Start using PGP in an email client such as Thunderbird, maybe even Nylas N1 if you need touch support. Get away from closed-source black box solutions that don’t allow you to see and understand their inner workings. Try to use software and hardware that allow you to modify them freely. This is going to be very difficult for people that make music, but Voidance Records is going to be at the forefront of endorsing libre, open, and non-proprietary software and hardware solutions within the creative, business and consumer spaces. There’s a big difference between open and libre, but I’m willing to compromise and accept open-source in place of libre until we get to the point where everything we need allows freedom as people can view what’s going on in the source code to make sure developers aren’t taking the digital piss.
AA: Whatever H just said, I’m with him side-by-side waving flags and shit!!
Chiffvone: What’s the official record label stance on cryptocurrencies?
HH: We’re very happy to accept cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin in exchange for what we create. Technology like this is the way forward, as was predicted in 1994 by The Cyphernomicon. It might not be Bitcoin that becomes the replacement for our current money system, but it’s going to be something like it if this isn’t it. Governments hate it because it is an unregulated currency, and it is in the hands of the people. You don’t get many things like this in life, so embrace it. Freedom is everything.
Chiffvone: How do you both live your lives outside of music and business?
AA: Like most people won’t!!
HH: I don’t smoke or take recreational drugs– and I don’t drink alcohol anymore. Stopping has been one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for myself and those around me. I’ve got a lot of things to do in this lifetime, so I need to live as long as possible to get it all done.
AA: Yeah, yeah, here’s Mr. Clean Clean!!! 😉
Chiffvone: How can people void their contract with society?
HH: Subscribing to the Voidance Records email newsletter is a good start.
AA: We can guarantee that we’ll always be in control of that, and that there’ll be no censorship of our ideas.
HH: We’re on social media too, but for how long is anybody’s guess. I’ve already been suspended from Facebook recently for showing people the truth about their privacy invasion.
AA: What a bad boy Hammy is, this is what I have to put up with, it’s criminal, I swear!!!