“I’ve always liked small cosy spaces. When I was a kid every nook and cranny in the house was some kind of imagined cockpit or secret hideout of one sort or another. My mind would travel great distances without having a lot of stuff around me. It’s not that different now when it comes to my music room, or my music for that matter. I have the smallest room in the house and a fairly basic set up for recording – a Mac, some speakers and a few half decent mics. There are lots of shelves set behind me which are filled with an assortment of eclectic instruments from all over the world. There are also lots of toy instruments which are just as relevant to me as the proper ones. I’m not about mastering these things and working in a tradition – there are plenty of people who have been doing that brilliantly for eons, I prefer to simply muck about naively. I’ll try to extract as many possibilities from something as I can and then hopefully produce something which is new sounding to me and which lets my mind travel in that same way it did when I was a boy.
I have a big thing for zithers, they are just the most magical and wondrous objects to me. I have a few unusual types which I picked up on my travels. There’s a marxophone which I bought in Greenwich Village, New York; a kind of miniature honky tonk piano in zither form, it’s very versatile, you can play it like a piano with it’s attached keyboard but you can also produce sweet trills and dulcimer sounds from it. I also have a nice old ukelin, which is a cross between a ukulele and a violin, they were originally invented for the purpose of teaching people to play tunes easily and quickly. It’s not a musician’s instrument but it’s an extremely musical object, kind of magical, perfect for me.
I tend to stay away from guitars in general but I have a regular ukulele and a charango. The original charangos were made with armadillo carapaces! Mine’s just plain old wood. The latest thing I’ve acquired is an American vintage toy piano, it’s for my recently born son. Two octaves of loveliness await his little fingers, although I may have to borrow it for a little while first. I also have a collection of music boxes, a khene from Laos and a hurdy gurdy which currently sits mocking me, it’s a beast yet to be tamed.
Even if I’ve recorded a lot of musicians on a project, it’s really just me and the computer in the end. I’ll spend countless hours sifting through the material looking for shapes and forms. It’s similar to a sculptor’s process. Sometimes I have to persevere for a long time before something emerges, but when it does come, it usually takes on a life of its own, I just need to be careful not to overwork it – things can slip through your fingers that way. Themes and backdrops tend to form in my mind at the beginning of a project, I think it’s because my music veers towards the abstract, I need some kind of hook to draw me in and push me on to finish it but also, on a very primary level, there seems to be something visual about my music, which I’m happy about. Again it’s something from my childhood – an obsession with films from a young age I think – and it’s something my dad gave me as I wasn’t much of a street kid; a full time dreamer to the end.”
Hulk is an alias for music producer and collaborator Thomas Haugh. His debut album Silver Thread of Ghosts was released in 2005, and since then he has worked with a number of other artists including Efterklang and Adrian Crowley. His follow up album, Rise of a Mystery Tide was released on Dublin-based OSAKA records this week. It involves an ensemble of musicians playing strings, woodwind and brass and “was conceived as a kind of soundtrack to dreams – oneiric and expansive in nature, it’s a late night/early morning slowburner”. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/hulkmusic.