You don’t have to be smart to know the list of musicians with a PhD is very short. But Steve Young, more commonly known as Hedflux, made the decision to become a full time producer and performer ten years after receiving his PhD in Quantam Physics and working in the corporate industry. Looking back, it seems it was the right decision, as he’s won numerous awards and changed the face of Psybreaks since his first release in 2010.
Psymedia : Hey Steve! Give me a brief rundown of your background, and how you settled on a fusion sound between Psytrance and Breakbeat?
Hedflux : Hey, thanks for the opportunity! Around 2005 I first heard Psytrance properly on an outdoor stage at Glade Festival, I loved it, and got swept up into the Psy culture. I had been pushing the Nu-Skool breaks sound since about 2001, in particular the more techy progressive sound, and the kinds of noises I was hearing in Psytrance just really appealed to me. Artists like Far Too Loud and Rex had already demonstrated that the two styles could be fused to amazing effect, so I was really hyped by the potential of this sound.
Psymedia : Was it a hard decision to quit your job and focus entirely on music, especially during the birth of your child?
Hedflux : After leaving university, through my mid twenties and into early 30s I was doing a lot of soul searching, trying to find some purpose to my working life (other than to make money for myself!), I thought a lot about what I wanted from a career, and looked at so many different options, but kept coming back to being a music producer – it just ticked all my boxes, it has always been the most exciting thing I could imagine doing! It’s my longest standing passion. I never believed it would be possible though, and it was turning that belief around that was the biggest challenge for me.
There was a confluence of factors around the time my daughter was born – the company I was working for was falling apart, I was a stressed out mess, but I was in a strong position financially to make a change. My track Mindcell was released and it totally blew up, which was a big sign! But the thing that really made me do it, was thinking about what kind of a Dad I wanted to be! I wanted to be the best version of myself for my daughter, and the truth is I am at my best when I am doing what I love to do. And working from home I get to be with her much more than I would if I had a regular 8-6 office job, even with traveling at weekends and occasionally touring. It is not without its challenges of course, but it’s definitely been the right decision!
Psymedia : You joined Neurodriver’s label Broken Robot Records early on. I believe at the time you were struggling to get your music out on a label. How important was it having the support of Neurodriver and Broken Robot in the success of your project?
Hedflux : Massively important. Dom recommended I release something every 3 months for optimum rate of growth, and this was great advice. He also invested in good promotion for me, getting my name into print media as well as digital. A really good crew of artists began to converge around the label, all striving to make better and better music in this style. It’s now without a doubt the best label in the world for the music I make, and has a strong and loyal following. Some seriously amazing new releases to come this year too!
Psymedia : How does the structure and concept behind Psybreaks differ from traditional Breakbeat?
Hedflux : I think it is deeper, more fluid, hi-tech and progressive. There is less reliance on looping hooks, vocals, and Breakbeat samples, and more emphasis on call and response, interaction of sounds, one-off moments and complex techy phrases. There is also a spiritual intention/dimension to it, common to Psy and new age music, but not found so much in Breaks, which tends to have more of an inner city, clubby vibe.
Psymedia : Does your style of music open you up to a wider variety of bookings? Do you performances differ depending on event? Which culture does your music best resonate with?
Hedflux : Yes, definitely. At first I played only Breaks parties, and now I play mostly Psy parties or multi-genre events. It’s quite rare to play at an event which is all Breaks anymore, but when I do, it’s usually all Psybreaks, which is awesome! So it definitely resonates more with Psy culture now. With DJ sets, I’m generally quite spontaneous and just take it one track at a time, my main focus is on ensuring the set progresses in such a way as to keep people magnetized to the dance floor.
Psymedia : You’ve picked up Breakspoll awards, alongside huge Breakbeat artists, and played the biggest trance parties. Do you see yourself making a bigger impact on the Breakbeat or Psychedelic scene?
Hedflux : The biggest impact has been in the Psy scene, and this is not surprising as the Psy scene has had the biggest impact on me. I have been welcomed warmly around the world, at first playing the alternative stages, and increasingly playing the main stage. I try to express ideas of fluidity and unification in the music, so I would hope that it will bring people together from different scenes, and that pretty much anyone who likes to dance can get on board with it.
Psymedia : When collaborating and remixing, do you prefer working with someone who is a Breakbeat artist, or a Psy artist?
Hedflux : I prefer to work with people who are trained in the Psychedelic arts. There is a certain distinctive emotional vibration which I crave in music, it’s difficult to define, but I believe it is an expression of that inner light and fluid geometry that characterizes a visionary experience. It’s like the sonic equivalent of visionary art. I like to work with people who get this.
Psymedia : I believe you’re still toying with the idea of an album. How far are you with that? Are albums still viable, considering the current music landscape?
Hedflux : I have actually decided to not release an album this year, but to release a series of 4-track EPs instead. This feels like a much better way to package the tracks, and more appropriate for where I am now. I will release an album eventually, but I want to make it as a singular concept rather than a compilation of tracks.
My plan is to continue putting out releases on Broken Robot every 6 months, focusing on the style I’m known for, then in between those I will release EP’s on Bandcamp, which are going to be about diversifying the sound, exploring different tempos and rhythms etc. The first EP is scheduled for October.
I’m not really concerned whether albums are a viable format or not, it’s something I want to do for the experience of doing it. I’ve always wanted to create a definitive body of work with a wide range of musical expression, a CD length musical journey that people can enjoy at home or on the dance floor. I’m not thinking about the rewards, or whether the industry deems it appropriate. It’s a gift!
Psymedia : This will be your first visit to South Africa.
Hedflux : I’ve heard great things about the South African scene, and I love a lot of the music that has come from there. One artist in particular – Headroom – has been a huge influence on me, probably more so than any other Psytrance artist. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to perform at Alien Safari, and closing the festival is a huge honour! I think Psybreaks has a lot in common with Prog, they blend very well together and have a similar energy, so I’m confident the crowd will feel satisfied on multiple levels.
Psymedia : Tell me about what you do with Sample Magic and Sounds/To/Sample, and how, if it all, influences the music you make?
Hedflux : I’ve worked with Sound Magic for about 8 years now, producing sample CD’s in various musical styles. It’s been a great way to supplement my income, and to learn a wide range of sound design techniques. It affords me the time to experiment and to focus on making sound without the added pressure of making music.
Psymedia : And you also teach music sometimes
Hedflux : Yes, another big component of what I do now is teaching. I started this about 18 months ago, I designed an 8-hour crash course in psychedelic dance music production, which I conduct over Skype, and the response has been amazing. It’s rewarding on so many levels, hearing how the students develop their skills in response to the course, and how my awareness and understanding of music evolves as I begin to think more like a teacher. I have also delivered some of the course as a lecture series to music schools in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. I love it, and plan to develop this into a more comprehensive online school over time.
Psymedia :Thanks for the interview! See you at Sprung! Anything to add before we finish off?
Hedflux : Thank you again for the opportunity to talk to you, and for the excellent interview questions. See you soon!