Monaco-based duo Hardcore Anal Hydrogen may, admittedly, utilise a name that originates from a fart, but their latest album, HyperCut, is less snigger-worthy than their title. That’s not to say it isn’t brimming with smatterings of their eccentric humour – from sampled duck quacks to random burps – but it’s also full of bizarre, mathy experimentation with zero regards for the established rules of the genres they claim to emulate (death metal, jazz, hip-hop, rock, electronic, black metal, etc.).
In truth, their sound is more reminiscent of cybergrind (or even breakcore), and walks the line between being an utter shambles and genuinely ingenious. But, whilst some of their previous efforts have undoubtedly flirted with the former, HyperCut takes the band’s eclectic sound into a more cohesive place, somehow finding a loose strand that connects the entangled amalgamation of varying ideas.
That’s quite an achievement, given that it’s an album that flings from 30-second freak-outs to nine-minute kaleidoscopes of sound, utilising bursts of industrialised extreme metal fury as often as it does moments of unnerving serenity, with the ever-looming threat of madcap sampling techniques (à la Igorrr) only adding to the thrill. Trying to second-guess what will come next is a fruitless endeavour – it’s best to just sit back and let the record pull the rug out from under you more times than you can count.
The mishmash of ideas that collide together on HyperCut will well and truly mess with your mind, but there’s a certain unquantifiable accessibility to it that puts across the notion that there has to be a method to the madness. To find out what it is, or if it even exists, we had a chat with members Sacha Vanony and Martyn Clement.
Your sound is certainly distinct, was this important to you when you first started as a band?
Sacha: When we started this band, we didn’t really know where we were going. But, we knew we wanted something original: a new sound. So yeah, in an unconscious way, it was important to have a distinct sound.
I think that the colour of our sound is due, in part, to the fact that we record and mix our albums ourselves. We are – as are a lot of contemporary musicians – composers, interpreters, but also sound technicians. So we totally control our sound, and it clearly gives it an original colour. And to be really honest, it was a pain in the ass to mix Hypercut, it took us a lot of work, and a few headaches.
People often struggle to classify your sound. How would you define it?
Martyn: As we play different genres of music, it makes no sense to classify it as a particular genre. We can always say that the most of it is death-metal/electro, but we’re really attached to always doing what we like, and maybe we’ll write totally different music later.
Sacha: Ah! Trying to put music in boxes… I personally don’t try to classify our music.
Do you think it’s important to do something new in modern metal?
Martyn: Of course it’s important to experiment, and not only in modern metal. Sometimes we just start writing basic hardcore riffs and when it starts sounding good, the idea is to make it sound different by finding a new approach. We often end up really far from the original idea, which is cool.
Sacha: Yeah, I think it’s important to do something new, as long as you do something artistic. I think that it’s the essence of arts. So, of course, this is important in modern metal, but also in any kind of music. I have no interest in creating something that has already been done.
Your tracks are lined with bouts of comical elements. Do you think it’s important for a band to not take themselves too seriously?
Sacha: Yes, clearly, but we didn’t plan some of the comical elements, they came by themselves. We really have fun when we meet together in the studio to create this music, and that’s why you can find some funny things. It just transcripts our joy.
Martyn: Having fun is the most important thing in music to me. It’s not about necessarily being hilarious all the time or making jokes, but at least enjoying what we’re doing. Don’t we say “playing” music? Of course, when we have something fun in our music, we will take it seriously and work the idea until we think it works.
With a sound that draws from so many influences, can it be hard to make an album sound cohesive?
Sacha: Yes, that’s one of the difficulties of this project. We work a lot on this cohesion, sometimes working on a few seconds for hours and hours.
Martyn: The big thing that helps a lot is having the same sound on each track. The mix doesn’t vary on the album and that’s an important thing that brings cohesion between tracks.
You’ve noted that greater cohesion was a target on this record, how did you go about achieving it?
Sacha: We don’t have a way to do it, or a recipe; we always have to find a different way to make different genres/rhythms/etc. fit together. My roots are in contemporary music, so I’m kind of used to navigating between strange sounds.
Martyn: The secret is to eat a lot of pissaladière for weeks.
You’ve mentioned your diverse range of musical influences before, but did any specific artists influence the writing for HyperCut?
Sacha : Yes. A lot of tracks are directly influenced by specific composers or genres. On ‘Jean-Pierre’, you can hear things that come from Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, but the end of the track is clearly influenced by Jean-Michel Jarre, G.A. Romero, or Vangelis. We used a lot of old-school synths on this album. In ‘Coin Coin’, you can hear some John Zorn, and some Roland 808 (we also are influenced by technology). ‘La Roche Et Le Rouleau’ is influenced by rock’n’roll. There are too many artists to name them all, but artists like Little Richard are also in the list. ‘Paul’ is a tribute to McCartney, and The Beatles. But, you can also hear that fucking autotune. ‘Phillip’ is a tribute to Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and minimalist music in general. The ‘Murdoc’ intro is a tribute to MacGyver, the TV show. And there’s a lot more.
Martyn: Without naming particular tracks, you can find influences from The Devin Townsend Project, Strapping Young Lad, Dillinger Escape Plan, Melt Banana, Cardiacs, Slayer, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and all the mentions above.
What’s the music scene like in Monaco? Was it hard to make a name for yourself?
Sacha: Studio Phebe’s is the place where nearly all of Monaco’s alternative music is produced. It is a place for creation and artistic research. We composed, recorded and mixed HyperCut in this studio.
Monaco has great bands such as I.M.M.O.D.I.UM, GUEST, or Joe La Mouk, but this isn’t a place to put on alternative shows. So we have to do extra work and travel to play our music.
With such bizarre instrumentation, it’s easy to forget the lyrics. What kind of topics do they cover?
Sacha: Ah-ah! There’s actually no lyrics. The vocals were written as an instrument. The idea is to use vocals differently, not as a lyric dispenser. This is why there is a lot of effects on the voice.
Martyn: Actually, there are some lyrics somewhere. We offer a CD to the first person who can find more than three consecutive words that make sense.
HyperCut is out now. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr