Interview: Human Future
The only concern really being that even bigger divs might think this is an album in support of Flat Earth beliefs. Please be aware, if you think that, you are very silly.
Last 2015 hardcore band Human Future released their album Spectrum, which was also the first release on the band’s own Truthseeker Music. Now they’ve announced their follow up release, which again will be released on Truthseeker Music. Sander van den Driesche caught up with the band to find out more about their new album, what they did in the past 2 years and more.
(((o))): It’s been over 2 years since you released your last release Spectrum. What has happened in those 2 years?
Stephen: We have been fortunate enough to play across Europe, supported the absolutely incredible Mare on their reunion tour and joined our label mates, Torpor, at the Incubate Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands. I also made the switch from drummer to 3rd guitar, synth and backing vocals. However we’ve regularly faced the realities of being a 6 piece band, all employed, spread out over the country, differing relationship statuses, different ambitions. Luke, the bassist since recording Anachronism, sought pastures new. For myself, Alex and Phillip there is Truthseeker Music to run together so a lot of time has been spent there. Without going too in-depth, it’s been a tough few years for me, which means I appreciate all these good things that have happened to us and our friends.
Alex: Running a record label is such an interesting challenge. Spectrum was the first release on the label and we didn’t have a clue what we would release beyond that; you are always relying on either someone to send you something fantastic, or hoping that you can persuade a band to trust you to release their album. Whilst Human has been quiet with output for the last 2 years, I have found that running a label and everything that comes with it has been able to fill that creative void.
Will: Work and life in general have kept me extremely busy these past few years. I have the most un-punx job working as an engineer for a luxury car company and that has me shooting off around Europe and other parts of the world. It makes things tricky with Human Future, but I think we make it work.
Phill: During the stop/start writing and recording process of the new release I helped Alex and Steve with Truthseeker, which has been most fruitful and extremely rewarding. I also found time to work on material towards a solo endeavour.
(((o))): What is the new album called and does the title have a specific meaning?
Stephen: The record is called Flat Earth Blues, concocted as a reference to the book by Nick Davies, Flat Earth News. I’m always keen for some hidden depth and sly humour, just as long as it remains relevant and doesn’t make me feel like a complete div. That it almost sounds like it could be a Philip K Dick novel is another bonus and the only concern really being that even bigger divs might think this is an album in support of Flat Earth beliefs. Please be aware, if you think that, you are very silly.
(((o))): Spectrum was described as “…a plethora of genres such as hardcore, krautrock, black metal, post-rock and electronic music”, is this how you would describe your sound on this new release, or have you evolved your sound over the last 2 years?
Stephen: I try to keep genre titles simple, so I call Human Future ‘experimental hardcore’ – that’s all your bases covered! The original influence was hardcore, but considering the breadth of influence each of us has as musicians/artists there’ll always be a blend of genres, often around those aforementioned styles. I nurtured a very particular and personal idea of what the band is and since the writing of Spectrum that band dynamic has been more collaborative. Considering this is the last release that Luke worked on with us before leaving, I hope this is a fitting send off and that it will represent a natural progression in our sound.
Phill: I think by being more collaborative this time around we were able to explore new avenues of sound and in turn giving the songs more space for ideas to flourish, there are a few passages on Flat Earth Blues that were certainly more improvised and spontaneous than previous material.
(((o))): Tell us some more details about the new album, like how many tracks? Is there a theme on the album?
Stephen: The theme can be loosely described as media corruption. It’s a concept album in that the ambient pieces are attempts to represent particular things and each song deals with an individual scenario/idea relevant to the larger theme but not in a daft, Dream Theater ‘Scenes From A Memory’ way. You don’t need to read it to decipher some deep, hidden code behind this, but I do recommend reading/audiobooking Flat Earth News’ by Nick Davies. I imagine It’s safe to assume everyone is well aware of the recent history and current state of journalism and news reporting. I remember I used to watch Alex Jones and David Icke to amuse myself and as something to help lure me to sleep. Now they’re actually able to exert influence on a concerning scale. The interaction between the 4th and 5th estate is so fresh and it’s often, like many things these days, played out online.
Will: For me, this record feels a little more “personal” if that’s the correct choice of words. The first track on the record, while also in-keeping with the overriding theme, is exceptionally emotional and personal to me as it draws directly on something that has happened with my close family. In the past we’ve been much more collaborative on lyrics but with this, I wanted to draw on our collective personal experiences and create something that we all related to.
(((o))): What was the writing and recording process like?
Stephen: Sporadic and occasionally depressing for it, but every recording experience was great. We recorded drums with the chap of all chaps, Lewis Johns. Jesus christ.. That Black Lodge can’t be beat for drum sound – Bob himself would even be content. The cherry on top was finally meeting Lewis’ delightful pooch, Olive. Vocals and bass were recorded with Luke’s friend, Mykel Dunn and that was a cool process where we naturally started functioning in a way different to how we were making Spectrum. We knew we wanted to try some new things vocally and have more of the band involved in putting down layers so we discussed, debated and recorded a whole bunch of things over a couple of weekends. The remaining parts were done at my house and we utilised my Kemper Profiling Powerhead amplifier to get the guitars down – it’s a fascinating bit of kit that, despite having watched countless testimonials and so on, still surprised me that it sounded so good. At the beginning I knew I wanted to take a more hands on approach of the recording, to better understand how to use my equipment and practice some workflow tips I’d observed from Lewis. When everything was recorded I think we had something like 180/190 tracks. We worked it down to a more modest amount, 120 or so, just to spare Lewis during the mix and master. Should’ve been at least 200 tracks, very disappointed. SAD.
Alex: Recording elements at home and recording with Mykel definitely had some benefits. There were a few sections that we were able to spend far more time on developing, changing, and reworking until we were happy. However, not having a set number of days booked into the studio meant that we didn’t have the focus and sense of urgency we might otherwise have had with a typical recording deadline. Whilst it was really good to be able to experiment with other engineers and see what we were capable of doing ourselves, I don’t think its a process I would want to repeat in the future.
Phill: One of the positives of recording the way we did was myself and Steve were able to take our time and find a shared headspace while recording the more lead focused parts, it was a very freeing experience.
Will: We were able to take our time to record vocals and experiment much more this time round. When we recorded Spectrum, I had a massive viral infection so I had to cut short recording and go back to it, which had its bonuses, but not something I want to repeat; thankfully, for Flat Earth Blues, this didn’t happen but having that time to play around much more meant we got some cool things down.
(((o))): Was the album artwork done by Vi Shu again, who did the amazing artwork of Spectrum?
Stephen: Discovering Vi’s artwork was a fortunate ‘accident’, where we happened to find a painting that we all agreed we liked and that we felt could represent what we wanted. She’s a great talent and incredibly humble, I felt an affinity for her art and it’s motivations. This time we commissioned Luke Oram to make us an original piece. We wanted something brighter than anything we’d gone with and what Luke came up with looks like the best edition of Sim City ever.
Alex: In part, a large amount of the delay with the release of the record was due to uncertainty about the artwork. I initially thought I could take on the challenge myself, but quickly found that I only got a B in GCSE Art for a reason. Then I thought it would be best with a very clean graphic design look and spent some time trying to create that, but again couldn’t find anything I was really happy with. After seeing the artwork that Luke Oram created for Regurgitate Life, Stephen contacted him with a brief description and a sketch which Luke developed into something really incredible. Check his stuff out here.
(((o))): The press release for Spectrum concluded with “This release is just the first step…”, obviously this new release is the next step. But what other plans do you have for the future?
Alex: That particular line was intended as part of the mission statement of the label itself, but was added onto the press release for Spectrum. Having said that, in the short term we are hoping to do a handful of shows this summer, and beyond that only time will tell. We have a few song ideas that have yet to see the light of day, and I hope we can find the time in our increasingly adult lives to work on them in the not too distant future.
(((o))): You’re releasing the new album on your own label Truthseeker Music again. Is there a specific reason for this?
Alex: Like with a large number of labels, part of the inspiration behind setting it up in the first place was because as musicians we found it so disheartening to try and find a label that felt as passionate about our music as we did. We have been fortunate enough to work with a number of other labels in the past (Palm Reader Records, Holy Roar, Through Love, Moshtache Records), but it makes sense for us to continue releasing our own records so we can work to our own schedules and not have to worry about differing opinions on any of the minor details surrounding the release.
(((o))): The state of the world and the UK and US in particular has changed a fair bit over the last couple of years. How does this reflect upon your band name ‘Human Future’?
Stephen: A bit of trivia – our name comes from the full title of Carl Sagan’s most notable book, Pale Blue Dot. The full title being Pale Blue Dot: A vision of the human future in space. Ever since the calamity that has apparently been “Brexit”, alongside Trump’s campaign and presidency, it seems like years of events have occurred in a matter of months. Maybe all this focus on Fake News will no longer be relevant by the time everyone gets to hear this record! The glut of information is almost overwhelming in terms of making creative decisions – what should you even focus on?! There’s so many things that could be tackled with real fervour but will equally likely drive us mad. As for Humanity’s future? We’re sophisticated apes that have increasingly complex technology that many struggle to control their more insidious instincts on – left, right and centre. Echoes of the past seem to be rearing their heads but everyone seems to be perplexed as to the new role the internet plays in our lives, increasingly more obvious in politics. My vision of the future is that humanity is unlikely to survive beyond this planet. I mean, best of luck to us… But sorry, Carl. We didn’t make it.
Alex: In retrospect, ‘The Demon Haunted World’ would probably be a more suitable band name at this point.
(((o))): Do you have any near gigs or tours planned?
Stephen: Yep. In June we’ll be playing north of the border in Scotland with the masterful bunch, Pijn. Joe Clayton, the man behind Pijn, Old Skin and Esoteric Youth, is someone I’ve admired as an artist for a while and having the opportunity to play further shows with him is always an exciting prospect. Beyond that, it looks like something interesting is shaping up for August. The most realistic way we’ll be playing shows though is if we are offered Festivals, one-off smangers and can arrange some weekenders. We shall see what happens!