XXY in Conversation: Hugo Harrison and Chris Barrance

XXY in Conversation: Hugo Harrison and Chris Barrance

As we grow older, it can often be difficult to remember past times and periods of growing up become a bit of a blur. There are certain things however that seem to stick with us, such as our first snog, the worst teacher at school or even the strange contents of our childhood lunch boxes. Another thing most of us seem to remember is the first single or album we ever bought. Whether it was Black Eyed Peas, AC/DC or Ziggy Stardust – ‘the first single’ seems to be a landing mark in our musical sphere and it says something about how our musical taste has developed and evolved over time.

I caught up with instrumental hip-hop, funk and soul producer Hugo Harrison (AKA Vanilla) and techno, funk & soul DJ Chris Barrance – to delve deeper into the concept of ‘the first single’ and to see whether it marked a precious point in their musical lives that even they were unaware of.


Louise: What was it about the first single/album you ever bought that has stuck with you today and do you think it is representative of the path your music has taken?

Vanilla: The first album I ever bought was Pump Up The Valuum by NOFX so, I think it’s fair to say that I haven’t really followed suit. But it did inspire some of my very early ‘songwriting’ and chord progressions and so on. I think any music you consume and enjoy helps build a sort of musical foundation, even if it’s not apparent in your own music.


L: Would you say the music you listened to growing up has influenced your musical decisions today?

V: One thing I’ve tried to take from some of my favourite albums growing up and put into my own music is a sense of concept and continuity. From albums like Dark Side of the Moon and OK Computer to Donuts and Chinoiseries – they all have a strong thematic consistency and it really feels like all the tracks are tied together so that the album is really best experienced from start to finish.


L: How has your music taste changed over a period of time and what do you think this is dependent on?

V: I started out liking 90s punk and rock bands primarily, which transitioned into electronic and hip hop music as I started to widen my tastes. I think it has a lot to do with becoming more open minded as you get older and also the people you meet and the exposure you have to the world generally can really inform your preferences.


Louise: What was the first single/album you ever bought?

Chris: The first album I ever bought was Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled album – an obvious result of our classic skater/hip-hop culture.


L: How would you say that has changed from what you listen to now?

C: Musically, it’s a bit of an island compared to the dance music I have largely listened to for the last 10 years or so, but it definitely shares a subversive nature. However consciously, you would struggle to be heavily involved in rave culture without picking up on altruistic forms of dissent towards large chunks of western civilisation, politics, economics etc. And this is obviously the clear mantra of Rage Against the Machine. The exact cultures I’ve been part of have changed from a more American hip hop culture to the very European open minded rave scene, with huge changes in the music involved, but the same counter-culture nature and music to represent that.


L: What has been the biggest influence on your music taste and the way it has developed?

C: My music taste changing over time has been massively down to friends. Actually, one particular friend of mine, who sold me my first turntables, took me to my first raves and brought me into the early dubstep scene circa like 2005. Once (heavily!) involved with that, my musical tastes became a bit more my own.

When dubstep died around 2009 or so, I was left at a bit of a loss for where to go. Luckily, the ever faithful house and techno scenes (always running somewhere regardless of changing new trends) became the only logical conclusion to a life spent looking for good things to dance to these days.


L: And what about the music you DJ? What is it you like to achieve when playing music to people?

C: I’m a bit of a chameleon I guess, I’m finding myself more and more eclectic these days. I think in terms of DJing dance music, it’s mostly techno, but it’s just the sound that I’m looking for rather than genre. When I’m DJing I really just want to make people have a nice time – I know that my favourite thing to happen on a dance floor is to get taken away into another world, so I definitely aim to do that! The floatier the better.

What’s really special about one’s ‘first single’ is the fact that there was a conscious effort made to actually buy the music – something which has become a rarity. In this tech-savvy time with easy-access media files, streaming and downloading. It showed commitment to the artist and it was an exciting point in one’s life as you were growing up and discovering more about yourself. Whether it was a reflection of your hormones, what you looked up to, or whether it was just because you fancied the artist in question – the act of buying your ‘first single’ seems to say more about oneself than you would think, or it can at least show how much one’s musical taste has changed over the years.


Written by Louise Harrison,

Music Contributor

Header shot by Matt Pugh, photography not owned by XXY Magazine LTD

first single first single 2 dw-recordstore-041609-p3 kristina-records-dalston higer res (1)