Interview: Australian house artist Husky on his vocal-led new album

Let’s be honest: 99 times out of 100, it’s the songs that stay with us. 20 years ago house music was full of songs, but over time they’ve become less and less prevalent, to the point that you might go out raving without hearing a single fully-formed vocal at all. House music was born from collaboration, experimentation and from providing a hedonistic release from the monotony of the 9 to 5. House music without those sing-along anthems wouldn’t really be house music at all.

Step forward Husky with his first album for half a decade, and a healthy dose of vocally-charged, glorious house music we could all use about now.

Thanks for talking to us today Husky. For the uninitiated, is there one particular record or aspect of your career that you’re best known for?

My pleasure. I don’t think I could say I’m best known for any specific record or DJ set. But I’d like to say I’ve written and produced some memorable songs over the years and I often get surprised by people who say ‘Hey I really loved that record you did’ and it’s NOT the record I was expecting haha.  

The last 6 months or so have been crazy, and not what any of us were expecting. Is there any aspect of the pandemic in particular that you’ve found it tough to deal with?

It’s been very odd. I think it’s just caught everyone off guard. No one could have predicted this would have happened with such severity on a global scale. Personally the first few months were really worrying. I have a toddler + I had another baby on the way (born last week) so I am the provider in the house at the moment. With no gigs and future income that really worried me. Sadly there isn’t much money that filters through via music sales and royalties, certainly not at a volume that’s reliable anyway. So I started to consider my options to make ends meet. With this stress it took me away from music and I lost my mojo. Luckily in Australia the government has supplied some assistance, but I hate not earning my own way. So I am itching to get back to playing regular gigs again. A few gigs have opened up here in Australia so I am confident there will be somewhat of a return to more regular and consistent work soon. But not having financial security during this time has been rather stressful. 

Was the months in lockdown or restricted social activity what spurred you on to make the album? Or was this planned long before any of this kicked off? 

I wish I could say I worked that fast! No, these tracks were mostly started years and years ago. Some I finished during the pandemic and perhaps it sped the project up a little as I had that time with less live gigs. But with a lot of these tracks they take time to put together, and I don’t like to rush them along. Multiple artists and their schedules need to line up. Not to mention the live musicians that then added to the release, plus then mixing time on each track. 

The way things are going though, I should consider starting another one!

Onto the album then… as our name suggests, we’re big fans of the ‘love’ aspect of house music. Has that positive vibe always been something that you’ve wanted to get across with your music? 

I guess it depends on the song and the meaning of that song, but yeah for me house music has always meant a good time. I used to love going out clubbing in my early 20’s and just watching the DJ’s and the crowd, and of course I loved being in the crowd. For me that feeling was euphoric and I wanted to carve out my own little slice of that. I didn’t have grand plans to be a producer in my early days, but I think it’s just a natural progression of a DJ (not all). I just got to a point where I was playing a lot of soulful and melodic music and I always wanted to try and make my own to see if I could do it. 

You’ve collaborated on pretty much every track on the album – is that something that helps with your own creativity? Or were the tracks pretty much fully formed before you get people to add vocals? 

I absolutely love the collaboration process. Personally I am not a musician, nor would I ever claim to be. A producer on the other hand can take elements and put them together, so I would definitely consider myself that. Because of the lack of skills in the musician department I often find collaborating get’s more out of me and also takes my tracks to new heights through other people’s musical skills. A lot of the tracks on the album I had got to about 60% of what they are musically now. So once I have a vocal with new melodies and ideas I can then expand on the music and decide whether new live instruments are needed or fresh parts. 

I think for anyone reading this that is hesitant to start producing because of their lack of musical knowledge, I’d like to say, get stuck in! Learn how to make beats on your software first and then the music can always be added in via samples etc to get started. Then once you have grooves laid down with some melodic content, it’s very easy to send to a singer to see if they can add their vibe to it. 

What challenges did you face when working with so many different vocalists on the album?

I guess time is a hard one. When I was playing local gigs and touring it was very busy with 5-6 gigs a week usually. So then to be able to concentrate on a track during the week + run 2 record labels and social accounts, it’s a challenge to take that time to be creative and focus on 1 particular song. I felt like I might have let a few people down during this process as the tracks did take years to complete. BUT, I would also rather put something out that’s memorable vs something that’s glazed over and forgotten in 2 weeks, just for the sake of putting out content.

Singers also have their own lives and careers going on too, so it goes both ways and I often had to wait for files to be delivered even though I was ready. 

I often find that not being in the same room as someone can be a hindrance. Especially if you have a specific idea you want them to try but can’t really articulate it very well over Zoom or whatever. So collaborating remotely can mean you often have to go back and forth a few more times to get something ‘right’. 

There are a couple of pretty much straight up disco cuts on there. Was disco something you listened to when you were growing up? Any particular favourite tracks of artists?

Absolutely. My parents had very active social lives when i was growing up, so we often had dinner parties and people over, plus we were getting dragged to other people’s houses. I remember a lot of Bee Gee’s, ABBA, Chic, The Commodores, James Brown, Queen, Simply Red, Phil Collins, Anita Baker, Rolling Stones, The Beatles etc etc. I loved a lot of the diversity in music, but was always hooked on a rocking guitar hook or strings in a track. That always made me tap my feet and I always wanted to make something with those elements for sure. 

What have you missed most about being able to tour this album, or play the tracks in a live setting? 

I road tested a few of them at some gigs last year actually at ADE in Amsterdam + the Defected Sydney gig in February, so I was lucky enough to get to play some of them. But yeah, there’s nothing like a crowd reaction to something you have been feeling in the studio yourself. I do miss that. But I am also lucky enough to keep playing a few smaller bar gigs during this time where we create a nice ambience in the venue’s and a lot of this album really works in that setting also. So I have been able to keep playing it out and was pleasantly surprised when a lady sitting close by Shazamed my track and had to ask if I was that guy on her phone (as I was wearing the same hat and shirt as the cover art of the song! – Husky & Rion S ‘People Get Ready’ ) – You can’t buy those little experiences and I love connecting new fans to music. 

I was really hoping to get back to touring a bit this year especially around this album, as it would suit perfectly for beach bars in Bali and some cool little clubs in Europe. But hey, as long as the music is well received and it lands in the ears of some house heads around the world, that’s all I can ask for during these times. 

We hear you have a new arrival to the family… congrats! How much music making do you think you’ll be able to get done over the next few months?

Thank you, Yes welcome to the family little Finn! Haha well, with 2 boys now I’ll be honest and say it’s not going to be easy. But that’s only for the short term. My partner is very understanding and knows that I need to keep productive to keep the music flowing, so I know i’ll be back into the studio soon. I have 2 remixes to finish + I also have some new originals I have been working on slowly, including collaborations with Dutchican Soul and Dave Mayer. So although I am enjoying some time with the boys, it’s going to be great to get back into it! I am hoping by mid October I’ll be back in at least a few days a week.  

Finally, for you, what’s the greatest house track ever made and why? 

Gosh, very hard question. There are literally hundreds upon thousands that could make that statement (and deservedly so), But music is also so subjective. What I like isn’t remotely what someone else will. Personally though, it has to be something you could just listen to over and over in any situation. It’s usually the simple tracks too. I still love the Frankie Knuckles remix of Hercules & Love Affair ‘Blind’, Amma ‘On My Own’ (Kaskade Remix) and Moloko ‘Sing It Back’ and would listen to these for eternity. So there you go, have 3 haha. 

Go Don’t Stop is out now on Bobbin’ Head Music – listen & buy