Composer and production wiz Hugh Jones (aka Crewdson) may have spent half a decade on his new album Toys, but he built most of the instruments that feature on it, so it’s no wonder.
He first emerged during the dying embers of post-dubstep, releasing his debut LP Gravity on experimental imprint Slowfoot Records.
Spilling over with glitchy beats and concrete soul, it drew huge acclaim from Gilles Peterson, The Fader, XLR8R, Clash and more on its release in 2011.
Fast forward six years and Hugh has swapped South London for the South Downs, and now helms Matthew Herbert’s Accidental label.
He’s also become a permanent feature in Herbert’s live and studio output, and has put together remixes for Ninja Tune, Brownswood Recordings, Sunday Best and more.
His sophomore album Toys, which dropped last month, sees Hugh plunge into a whole new soundworld, with homemade instruments like the Concertronica, the oddbox and the eggiophone fuelling his creative fires.
Leaving behind the glitch and grime, this time round he’s skewering his musical impetus with homespun harmonics and time-stretched folk.
Enthralled with his new sound, we caught up with him to learn more about its incubation…
What are your first musical memories?
Both my parents and indeed my whole family are very musical so it’s something that has always been there in my life. My first solo exploration into music though was simply delving into my Dad’s record collection and getting hooked on playing with the record deck and EQ settings on the amp (which I still use to this day in my studio).
Who or what inspired you to start making music yourself?
I have always played instruments growing up and played in a whole bunch of different punk bands as a teenager but the thing that really clicked with me and opened up the world of writing and recording my own music was the technology. Once I got hold of a ropey PC computer and some cracked copies of Cubase and Fruity Loops I spent all my time making tracks. I just loved the fact that I could do it all on my own without having to rely on other people or having to find a rehearsal space etc. It was totally liberating.
What’s the thinking behind your new record?
The title TOYS is a comment on a couple of different aspect of the album. On one hand its describing my self-built DIY electronic musical instruments that I used to make the album but I also realised that much of the lyrical content reflects back on my life and in particular my childhood and teenage years so it’s a nod to that as well.
Can you tell us more about the custom-made instruments you used?
They were all initially developed as a way of being able to break out from the confines of the laptop when playing live and to bring a more theatrical and tangible aspect to my performance. They have now fed back into the writing of my music as they are now used in the studio as much as they are on stage.
What was the inspiration behind them?
The tracks all came from different times and places (I moved house three times since my last album) so it is a collection of somewhat disparate pieces of music that when placed together form a chronology of my experiences over the last few years. One of the key inspirations that I think translates over into the writing was my moved out of London and into the Sussex countryside.
How has sound evolved since your first album in 2011?
A great deal, I have gradually been getting into English folk music in a big way and there is an obvious shift towards a folk style perhaps at the expense of the more jazz leaning tip of my debut (although elements of this certainly remain). The tracks Eyes in the Back of Your Head and Funny Games in particular showcase my new sound from this album.
What’s next for you?
I have an album launch show in London on 10 August at Total Refreshment Centre that I will be bringing all my crazy instruments along to. I’m also doing a fair bit of touring with Matthew Herbert and Sarasara. I have another album gradually coming together with my duo Crewdson & Cevanne which will be appearing next year so keeping busy.
What’s the best new record you’ve heard recently?
Y U by ILK. I’m loving everything I hear from these guys. A really interesting mix of electronic production and gorgeous organic sounds. Lovely stuff.
Crewdson – Toys is out now on Slowfoot Records.