LA-based creator HMU burst onto our radar nearly half a decade ago with standout tracks like ‘Prehistoric,’ ‘Icaro,’ and ‘Grit.’ His style is right at home on FUXWITHIT, mixing hip-hop influences, experimental sound design, and a distinct bounce. After making noise with his releases and leading the impressive Don’t Die At Work Collective, things went quiet from 2020 onward. So when HMU landed back on our radar with ‘Hive Mind’ and ‘Stacks’ a few months back we were excited, to say the least. So much so that we felt it was due time to tap in with the producer for an exclusive guest mix + interview. The interview covers his time off, the return of Don’t Die At Work, his visual art, and more. The mix is a bangin’ half-hour of his originals and tracks from some of his personal favourites. Check both out below.
What was your vision when putting this mix together? What should fans expect when they press play?
I wanted to shed light on some of my favorite producers right now and share some tracks I’m really feeling at the moment. At the same time, give a sneak peek of the direction the HMU project is headed. There’s a bit of west coast bass, trap, halftime, and twerk/bounce stuff, and just some straight-up beats. Lately, I’ve been exploring more minimal, bassline focused tracks with emphasis on morphing and evolving analog-style sounds.
You took a bit of hiatus over the past two years. What prompted the break from releasing music?
Honestly, it was a mix of not feeling inspired by what had become my ‘sound’ and having a hard time balancing work.
By day, I work in the video game industry as a creative director, and work really ramped up over the past two years. It’s a great place to be because it lets me put together music, visual art, animation, coding, and all sorts of things I like to do, but it sucks a lot out of me creatively and I was feeling the burnout.
At the same time, I was trying to force the style and nervous to put out some different-sounding stuff I had written. After 2 solid months of writing I had 5 tunes I was finally proud of and decided it was time to come back. It all came together for me after returning from LIB this year and watching so many producers I love shred The Stacks. I came back from that and immediately wrote ‘Stacks’ which just dropped.
It’s definitely a difficult part of producing to depart from your bread & butter creatively, but I hope listeners can see the vision and come along for the ride while I work to redefine the project.
What brought you back?
Seeing what artists like Sømething and Karezza were doing with the new wave of bounce-style bass music was a big inspiration. Also learning more about synthesis and watching some of the Eprom & Alix Perez Twitch streams. Hearing them talk about sampling modular gear and learning about their process got me back into the technical side of producing which has always been my favorite.
From there I started experimenting with different style baselines and percussion sounds I don’t normally go for. In the process, I changed my approach a bit from trying to copy my own sound and just started taking ideas to completion. It’s definitely a difficult part of producing to depart from your bread & butter creatively, but I hope listeners can see the vision and come along for the ride while I work to redefine the project.
Can we expect regular releases moving forward?
Yes, I’m a couple tracks ahead at the moment and working on artwork for future releases. I’ve got two collaborations with Kid Alien dropping before the end of the year. 2 originals in the works and a few other collabs I’m looking forward to releasing. I’m really feeling the music again and looking to pick up some more gear, hone my production skills, and get better at collaborating to learn and blend styles.
You’ve found that perfect balance between keeping it weird and yet maintaining a groove and keeping it approachable. What’s the secret to pushing the envelope without making music that’s too alienating?
This is always something I’ve thought about when making tracks. I love some really weird stuff that would definitely be considered ‘alienating’ and that’s what helped me find the whole experimental bass scene. It was exciting and focused on sound design which made it interesting to make. At the same time, when I started producing I was making hip hop, and I love pop music so those definitely show through in what I’m going for. It’s always been about making the weird stuff accessible so I can convince my friends to listen to it! Some familiar hip hop samples and beats usually do the trick and allow you to introduce some wonky stuff and break the rules without being too jarring.
I just drag in an infinite amount of samples into the project and sometimes end up with hundreds of audio tracks, that’s why it cracks me up when I hear my music is considered minimal.
Your tracks also pack such an awesome bounce. What’s the key to bringing the bounce?
I love percussion and it’s probably the part of music I’m best at. I just drag in an infinite amount of samples into the project and sometimes end up with hundreds of audio tracks, that’s why it cracks me up when I hear my music is considered minimal. It’s the only way I feel like I know how to keep things interesting by making fills or adding layers of percs. This, mixed with those classic New Orleans bounce drum patterns make for a great combination. I usually keep my processing pretty dry, not using a lot of delay or reverb because I like the tight, short percussion and making use of empty space, though lately I’ve been introducing a bit more swing and verb.
You create some pretty epic 3D art. How did you get into that space and how has it evolved over the years?
Thank you! Seeing the art that Chadwickmak was making for Hucci and Skrillex back in the day really sparked my exploration into the 3D art world. I had to know how it was made and I watched a bunch of tutorials and learned Cinema 4D over the next couple of years via YouTube. I dove in head first into what I discovered is a massive world of 3D modeling, materials, lighting, physics simulation, camera movements the list goes on. It’s a bit mind-boggling at first but over the next 6 years I started to get the hang of it and most recently learned Octane, one of the industry standard render engines, which really leveled up my game. The next step is to go from visual loops to some more cinematic-style animations and VFX! You can check out my work here: https://hmu.graphics/
Some great designers and big inspiration to me right now are: Safehaven HQ, Alec Maassen, Achuray, Ash Thorp, Blunt_Action, Karlifetz and Sillygabe to name a few.
What’s new with Don’t Die At Work? I heard there may be a new compilation on the horizon?
Yes! We are currently listening to a bunch of demos and scouting for our next compilation which is due at the end of this year/early next year. I’m working to spotlight some awesome artists and bring back the collaborative energy and community we had when we started off. It’s helped me get in the habit of listening to a lot more music and collaborating with others in the music industry and I need to do more of both. The team is currently coming up with the theme and vision but I hope to get more people involved and make some announcements soon.
What do you enjoy most outside of music and visual art?
Definitely a tough question because those are the biggest parts of my life, but I appreciate it! There’s a ton of stuff I’m always tinkering with when I find the time like game development, toys and collectibles (I love building and painting gundams), film production & VFX , animation, and web development. I try to always stay learning and creating but I’m also a massive fan of Pizza and love a good tennis match.
I’m finally accepting that art is more of a journey than it is a sequence of perfect works, and it feels great to have the artists I love and support be a part of that journey.
Any final words?
Thank you for the support over the years. Sometimes I feel like my art doesn’t really have a place in the scene that I’m a part of but I’m so unbelievably thankful to have an audience of eyes and ears for it. I’m finally accepting that art is more of a journey than it is a sequence of perfect works, and it feels great to have the artists I love and support be a part of that journey.
ANKA – ghettogospel
detre – Cru
FRQ NCY – Echo
Saka – Shaolin
Hamdi – Skanka
Snuffy – Tamarack
Sumthin Sumthin – Magenta
HMU – Stacks
X&G – Aces
LYNY – Reason w/ FLY
Nik P – Deflect
HMU – Sizzle
anti. – user
HMU – Hive Mind
Shöckface – METANÖIA
Karezza – ID
HMU x Kid Alien – ID
$ayonara. – KENDO
whereisalex – matrix