Your Gateway to Music and More from a Christian Perspective
Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
It's tempting to think that Andy Hunter's roots in British dance music make him a primarily European artist, but two of his biggest breaks came from Hollywood and an American worship festival. The latter was a Worship Together event at San Jose, which led to Sparrow Records signing him; while a couple of years later his music was being used on trailers for such films as The Matrix Reloaded and Tomb Raider 2. Add to that a performance at the Digital Entertainment Anywhere launch in Los Angeles, hosted by Bill Gates, and it is clear to see that Hunter is an artist whose music appeals worldwide.
With his latest release Colour this appeal is set to widen, as he introduces more mainstream songs to the proven formula that has featured extended trance tracks with an instrumental bias. In a phone conversation to the States, I asked him whether the new, more song-based approach is from his heart or more of a calculated career tactic.
"I felt the need for a change, just because I didn't want to keep making the same kind of music. I wanted to stretch myself as an artist and a musician. Things like 'System Error', 'You,' and 'Sound Pollution' definitely reflect 'Go' and 'Come On'," he explained. "I guess as well, that type of music would be more of a career choice, because that lends itself way more to TV, films and action. You certainly find those pieces on the album."
But he insisted that the newer style is just as much from his heart. "I'm not just a dance-head; I like all kinds of music. That obviously comes out in my music, which sometimes disappoints the straight-up DJs, because I'm too eclectic in my genres. I just spread my wings and challenge myself."
His debut CD Exodus was full-on trance, with incessant rhythms and break-beats, yet conveyed the idea of being released to freedom, as the title suggests, while using minimal lyrics. I was intrigued by how he creates his music, as the compositional structure sits somewhere between classical and singer-songwriter, without being close to either. I wondered how much of the finished article he hears in his head as he composes and how much he has to work bit by bit to achieve the result.
"A bit of both, really," he explained. "Sometimes I'll have a little hook, or I'll strum about on my guitar and come up with a chord progression. I then start to programme up. Or I get a little lyric idea or a little hook line idea, and try to get it down as soon as I can. With up-tempo things like 'Sound Pollution' or 'Out of Control' I tend to write the beats and the bass and the feel of the track before I develop it into the full-blown thing.
"A good song with good lyrics brings a lot of depth, but for me it's hard to explain what's going on in your head just with lyrics. I think sometimes that's the beauty of dance music: it's not a cop-out, but you don't have to work to a format. Sometimes I find it's easier to use music and try to capture the essence of the message or that atmosphere."
That intuitive approach is a far more endearing way of communicating his faith than many Christians would appreciate (at least the sort that measures success by how many scriptural or jargon words artists fire from their spiritual-lyric machine guns). Many outside of his faith respond far more appreciatively to hearing him live it in his music.
"I think I've just learned that," he agrees, adding that he is happy to talk about his beliefs, and readily stating that his faith "goes through the core of who I am." But he finds that people are more ready to listen to him through his passion for letting that faith inspire his music. "At the end of the day, no one wants to be preached at. There've been times when I have played in clubs, where people have said, 'You're different from other DJs, you bring a different atmosphere.' I want to be a positive influence within that scene and use my music to help me do that."
Much of this new release has been co-written and co-produced with Robbie Bronnimann, a colleague from the days when Bronnimann was in a band called dba and Hunter was doing their lighting, while both worked under the umbrella organization New Generation Ministries. Bronnimann invited Hunter to work with him in the live expression of a subsequent band, Hydro, by deejaying and doing the links.
Bringing the story up to date, Hunter said, "We did 'Sound Pollution' together. After all these years, I wondered what it would be like. We'd kept a friendship going, but we hadn't worked together for a good ten years. It worked really well.
"Normally, I get most of my song and track ideas in my studio and build it up, then towards the end, after about three-quarters of a year to a year of writing ideas, I get it quite solid--you know, all the beats and all the little bits and bobs. Then I work with someone like Robbie, who's really good in terms of orchestration, chord progression, other little hook lines and recording vocals. I guess he takes a rough diamond and really brings it out with his skills.
"It's great to be in a two, and for the last two albums I worked with Tedd T. in a similar way. You can learn a lot from people like that, who are all-round geniuses. I still learned a lot from Robbie doing this album, but I think if I ever get as skillful as those guys in terms of mixing records and producing, I'd still like to pull people in, because it's good to bounce around ideas and your tracks become better for it."
The partnership plainly worked well, because they have shared work on film music, being credited together for producing the score for Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed_ But Hunter still spends a lot of the recording time on his own. He acknowledges that it is quite difficult to know exactly when a track is finished, given that each one has so much content and so many possible mixes, and has been grateful to have had flexible deadlines.
"There are tracks that you can get to a certain point, where you think. 'That's it!' Then you leave them for maybe three weeks without even listening to them, which I find is a great test. Then when you go back you've got really fresh ears. Then I'll just pick at it and delete some parts, maybe mute some parts. Or I might come back and think, 'It just needs something else here' and add a new hook line to lift it. I tend to do that a couple of times. On the final mix I sit there with a note pad and go through it: close my eyes, listen, write a few notes down. When I've got through my list, I know I'm there."