Steve Young’s music as Hedflux has seen him combine Breaks with the jumped-up sounds of Tech, Psychedelic, and Funk. The sound fits perfectly with the surging popularity of UK bass music in recent years. It has been a long journey but one that I get the feeling has fulfilled a creative and spiritual need for him.
Based in Southern town of Norwich – traditionally the second largest city in the England after London – Young can barely contain his excitement about his impending visit to Australia.
“I have dreamed of going to Australia and New Zealand since I was about 5 years old, and right now this is what its all about for me. I’ve got a load of brand new tunes and just can’t wait to get there and see the sights and meet the people!”
Young’s musical tinkering started in the early nineties with production experimentation on Amiga computers plus a start in DJing. “As the technology progressed I got more and more into it, although it was always just something to play with in my spare time at school and university.”
But around five years ago things became more serious: “It wasn’t until around 2005 when I left uni and got a job that reality hit me – I either had to suffer in a soul crushing job for the rest of my life, or hone my production skills and try to go full time doing something I love. I worked in IT for about 5 years, and was generally pretty stressed and pissed off a lot of the time. Learning music production was where I channelled all my energy and frustration, and then finally at the beginning of 2010 I took the leap of faith and quit my job and I haven’t looked back since.”
That confidence was due, in no small part, to Young joining Broken Robots Recordings in late 2008. Music Is My Weapon was an explosive track that launched his career with the label. It also saw him play sets at high profile festivals like Glade, Waveform, NewFoundLand and iBreaks, as well as headlining at numerous club nights across the UK and Europe. “That was really when I started to get wider recognition, and more bookings at psychedelic parties in the UK and abroad.”
“Until then my experience with labels had not been very encouraging, but Dom Smart (Neurodriver) saw a lot of potential in my music and really helped me to refine my sound and break it to a wider audience. It makes such a difference to have someone in the scene who believes in your music and is willing to help you, i’m enormously grateful for that and hope to do the same for young producers who are coming through now, writing music in this style.”
UK bass music has made quite an impact in the last few years which in some ways has helped Young and he even feels it may see a resurgence of Breaks. “The breaks scene in the UK has pretty much dissolved, I’m not sure there is anyone left running breaks club nights any more, but in the few places where it is played, there is usually also dubstep and electro.”
“I get a lot of production techniques and ideas from dubstep, it has some very talented producers and a wide creative spectrum, and I like it in small doses. It has a lot of impact, but usually its just that – impact, impact, impact – with not much emotional dynamic or subtlety. When I hear it played out I get bored of it very quickly – I just can’t sustain that level of intense aggression over and over and over – I like my dance music playful, progressive and groovy.”
“But I do listen to a lot of deep chilled-out dubstep at home. Interestingly though, I have played at some events where younger kids who have grown up on dubstep are hearing breaks for the first time and getting excited by it as a fresh new sound. So I think it’ll come full circle again.”
I unlock Young’s history outside of music when we start to talk about inspirations. “Spiritual teachings and experiences are a big inspiration for me. But I am not talking about religion here, I am talking about direct, lucid experience of being in-spirit, whether that is in dreams, meditation, astral travel, shamanistic or psychedelic journeys. When you are disconnected from your body and exploring an internal space beyond the consensus physical reality, you learn a lot about who and what you are, and the nature of life and death. Inner space is the source of all creativity, but in our culture we rarely dive in and confront it head on. I’ve had a number of shamanistic journeys with Ayahuasca which have been the most inspirational and transformational experiences of my life. I believe that direct spiritual experience of this kind – which are so central to all indigenous cultures – could really help to heal and transform modern western civilisation. When i’m not writing or listening to music, i’m often researching this kind of stuff. Of course, my gorgeous baby daughter Ava and beautiful wife Carrie are also a massive source of inspiration!”
Young explores these ideas in his Soulflux column for LSD Magazine. “During what seems like a lifetime ago, I studied quantum physics to degree and PhD level. For me this was a quest to understand myself and the universe. Ever since I was a kid I couldn’t stop questioning things, and physics and maths seduced me as they promised to hold all the answers. However by the end of my PhD I had much bigger questions than I started with, and felt that the answers given by science were quite shallow, and all designed to reinforce a dis-empowering worldview that the whole universe is just a series of random accidents.”
“I always kept this part of myself quite separate from my music interests, but during an interview for LSD magazine, I was asked a lot of deep questions relating to this stuff, and I could barely contain the words. It just poured out. After that interview, Cyrus ‘Sirius’ Bozorgmehr – the creator of LSD mag – asked me to do a regular column. In it, I have tried to show how science is a construction of the mind – like a map of reality – and just as the map is not the territory, so science is not reality. The minds which created science were rooted in particular kinds of thoughts and beliefs which no longer stand up to reasonable questioning. I’ve introduced a lot of spiritual ideas which I have found to contain deeper truths than any scientific theory, and I try to show how a shift of perspective out of the scientific worldview can give a person more power and compassion in their lives.”
“I’m not saying science is ‘wrong’ as it were, obviously it has given birth to a lot of wonderful things and advances in understanding, I’m just trying to show that its not the leading authority on truth, as it so often claims to be, and in many ways it stifles the truth. It’s not for everyone of course, there are those who don’t care, those who don’t understand, and those who just flat out disagree with it all. I am just writing about my own experiences and what works for me, and I hope it finds the people who are open to it.”
“For future columns I am keen to explore how the scientific and spiritual worldviews converge in music, since it is through music that I have found the greatest connection to myself.”
Young is looking to take things even further in 2011. “I’m really excited about 2011, not least because my first tour of Australia and New Zealand is only days away! I feel like in 2010 I laid a lot of groundwork, and defined a new sound, and there are now a lot of new artists coming through making tracks in this style.”
“There is a lot of buzz and we have some exciting things planned for Broken Robot, including a compilation album featuring lots of fresh new talent. I want to arrange more tours and generally take my sound to the next level. I am hoping to see a migration of talent back into breaks, as the electro, techno and dubstep genres seem to be saturated with derivative music just now. I have faith that breaks will rise again, but with a much more refined and cutting edge sound.”
Check out the Australian & New Zealand tour dates on the Hedflux Facebook page.