Few electronic artists have done more for the Toronto music scene than HNTR (formerly known as Hunter Siegel). As half of the Killabits, and alongside Zeds Dead, he brought Bassmentality to life and helped bring dubstep and bass music to the city. A few years later as EDM began reaching peak levels of corniness in the mid 2010’s, he gave us No Neon; an underground escape known for iconic impromptu B2Bs, open to close sets, a multitude of special guests and ravers draped in blacked out clothing. With the closure of the iconic venue The Hoxton, the Toronto electronic music scene took a massive hit, but thankfully HNTR and No Neon stood strong keeping their vision and the electronic scene alive. There’s been a lot of change in the past decade but HNTR has been one consistent force.
More than a local favourite, HNTR is also world renowned for his music, crafting bangers with a myriad of massive artists such as Zeds Dead, Wax Motif, Autoerotique and many more. Never one to stagnate, HNTR has been evolving as an artist and exploring uncharted territory. His last EP I Might Forgive, I Dont Forget saw him drifting into the darkness and emerging with a full out techno release. Gritty, industrial and pulsing, it’s the sound of late nights in basements… a sound that comes from years spent in that very location. With a recent rebrand and the launch of the No Neon label, the future is rich with promise even in these dark days.
We caught up with HNTR to discuss his rebrand, new direction, the label, the Toronto music scene, what’s next for him and much more. He also blessed us with an hour long guest mix filled with gritty late-night vibes. Dive into both below and look out for his upcoming single ‘Waiting Up (Reprise)’ out on May 15th.
You’ve transitioned your sound from house to techno as of late. What prompted this change?
Well to get into what will undoubtedly come up later, I have a bunch of music that def blurs those lines on the way. If you’ve been following me this whole time you would probably have noticed me sprinkling in techno here or there or closing out the whole set with a bunch of it. As my interest in the genre grew I was exposed to a DJ named ANNA and seeing her play was a huge moment for me and really inspired me to want to try to make the music. The first time I tried felt so fluid and expressive that I fell in love with the process. It really allows me to combine all my influences in a way that makes a lot of sense. I joke but it’s probably more true than humour that once No Neon moved to Coda it was only a matter of time.
It was a tough decision but when I listened to the music it felt like this wasn’t the same artist anymore.
The new sound also came with a new name. What does the new evolution mean for you as an artist?
It was a tough decision but when I listened to the music it felt like this wasn’t the same artist anymore. I had been through a lot of musical transitions and had been doing so many collabs I felt like I had lost sight of what the sound of my previous project even was. It felt important to differentiate things, I have always loved when artists have diff aliases and you find out later, it really just felt right so I did it.
What have you been working on lately?
I’m the type to never really feel like I have a lot going on but when I step back and think about it, a lot. Running the label, a bunch of new music including a follow up EP, working with our Art Director (@Young.Rahb) on getting an audio visual livestream put together that we might try to finesse into a live show once those are back, ton of new merch, and still trying to push the event brand forward with new ideas for whenever the return of shows is! It’s def a lot of stuff when I write it all out.
What’s the hardest part of playing open to close sets? How do you prepare to DJ for 5+ hours?
The hardest part is maintaining the restraint you need to create a real journey for that long. Its easy to go too hard too soon and leave nowhere to climb to. Finding 8 hrs of cohesive music you actually love all of and then remembering how all the songs are structured and how hard or soft each one is can be a bit of a challenge, you really need to know your records and be as prepared as possible with good programming that’s modular enough to change if the mood shifts. I def have a love/hate relationship with it, so much fun to do if you put in the work.
The Hoxton was like a second home to you and a ton of artists and fans in Toronto. What made the venue so special in your opinion? Can you share your favourite memory or story?
The Hoxton was where I got my start as a solo artist and as such it’ll always have a very special place in my heart. It’s interesting to reflect on because when I started No Neon there it was a pretty commercial club and there was a lot of pushback about playing underground music on a Saturday night. As No Neon grew the club started to shift towards a more underground sound and by the end of its life Saturdays and Thursdays were one and the same. It’s hard to say what made it what it was, the place was just insane, you can ask anyone who played or went there and they’ll tell you the same thing. Name another club that a ton of people got tattoos of after it closed. You just had to be there.
Since the closing of The Hoxton, it feels like the Toronto electronic music scene hasn’t been quite the same. Do you feel things have changed (for better or worse) since then?
I think the scene in Toronto has and always will be better than people give it credit for. Pretty much every subgenre imaginable has some form of representation and that’s pretty rare. I think the main thing here is that we lack venues and the city has a tough time keeping them from becoming condos. They really seem to want to regulate fun into oblivion at times.
I stick to a pretty simple formula: throw the kind of party you want to attend. Events need to evolve and that’s why we’re constantly testing new ideas and concepts of how we can do things differently.
From your annual boat party to the regular No Neon events, you’ve kind of been bearing the torch and keeping electronic music fun and exciting in the city. How did you find yourself in this position? Are you enjoying it?
I’m honoured to be considered in that way. I think the key to what you’re talking about is that from the beginning my partner (my manager Noah) and I stick to a pretty simple formula: throw the kind of party you want to attend. Events need to evolve and that’s why we’re constantly testing new ideas and concepts of how we can do things differently. I’m really not sure how I’ve found myself in this position, I have always just tried to bring something different to that table and only put together a party I would love to attend with music I want to hear. There’s no real secret to it.
What made you want to expand No Neon into a record label? What makes No Neon standout from the fray of other artist-run labels?
The decision came from a want to be in control of how and when I release my music. Working with labels is great and something that’s super important to growing your reach but it comes with having to be on someone else’s timeline and you sacrifice a bit of freedom with it. Standing out in 2020 is def difficult but we’re dedicated to be music and art above all else, we’re not looking to force releases out to maintain relevance, we’re focused on music that fits an aesthetic rather than being defined by a genre and I believe when you lead with a certain quality music that you truly believe in it will always cut through the sea of mediocrity.
The big takeaway from this experience should be that you need to be in control of as many aspects of your brand as you possibly can and that a direct line to your audience is so vital to surviving.
How do you see the music industry changing as a result of Coronavirus? Do you foresee any long-term impacts or shifts?
The future is extremely uncertain at the moment so anything I could forecast would be purely speculation. I think the big takeaway from this experience should be that you need to be in control of as many aspects of your brand as you possibly can and that a direct line to your audience is so vital to surviving. Cutting out the middleman everywhere you can is something you should def be looking at and I hope this ushers in a new more ‘direct to fan’ era.
It took me way too long to learn this lesson but you need to only do what you really love and make all your decisions thinking “would I still do this even if it made $0?”
As someone who’s been the industry for 10+ years, what advice would you give artists around staying power and longevity?
It took me way too long to learn this lesson but you need to only do what you really love and make all your decisions thinking “would I still do this even if it made $0?”. That’s the real secret to longevity in my opinion.
What should we expect from the mix?
A bunch of music from my label mixed with some stuff I’m feeling at the moment. I tried to mix it up a bit but still keep it deep dark and moody! Recorded it live to give it a real feeling, much prefer doing mixes that way!
Any final words for fans?
Thanks for coming on this ride with me and helping me continue to live my dreams. I’m stoked to keep feeding you with music I’m truly passionate about and I am blessed to have a crew of followers with open minds that let me do my thing. You guys rule, love you 🖤. Wear some black and keep it dark.
Will Clarke – U Take Me Higher
Craig Williams & Pantheon – Division
Transcode – Ascension
HNTR – Love Loss
Adana Twins – Origo
Wehbba – Dove Rush
HNTR – I Dont Forget (Feat Roshin)
Desna, Metodi Hristov – Call If Found
Raxon – Loop Machine
Demuir – Something Inside of Me
HNTR – Waiting Up (Reprise)
Matador, Artbat – Visitor
HNTR – Away Too Long
Jay Lumen – Meteo
Marco Farone – Matter of Perspective (Mike Huckaby Remix)