His debut solo album, Critter Party, which landed this autumn, is teeming with extra-terrestrial life and mind-melting sonic patterns – making it one of our favourite records of the year.
Somehow, Dan’s loose-limbed approach coolly assimilates acoustic noise-making with auto-production, pop, noise and shapeshifting techno.
The results are an alluring detritus of unhinged beats and blips which continue to surprise and overwhelm on each listen.
This is seriously inventive stuff, birthed from a truly eccentric electronic talent.
We recently spent some time with Dan to learn why cheap kicks and transcendental episodes are order of the day, and why being miserable in music is dull…
What music did you grow up listening to?
I grew up in the eighties listening to pop music on the radio. Madonna, Prince and Cyndi Lauper. We had a band playing bits of polystyrene and pots and pans. We were about nine or 10. My friend and I made comics about Bucks Fizz. I can't remember much about it except that we had some kind of problem with Jay, who was always running into trouble, like she'd go to prison and the others would have to bust her out. After Bucks Fizz we were into The KLF and the Sugarcubes, then Alternative Tentacles and Shimmy Disc stuff, then rave/jungle and techno.
How has that affected your own music, if at all?
I'm into pop spells, cheap kicks and transcendental episodes. It's rubbish that miserable self-regarding drivel is equated with emotional authenticity (but I love country). I think joy and celebration are under-appreciated qualities in music. I want to focus experimentation into a coherent point.
Realising that the key to it was maximising the possibility of musical events occurring without my conscious instigation. Favouring reception over composition.
What’s the thinking behind your latest album Critter Party?
LTR Records invited me to make a 'solo album'. I'd been working on tracks based on guitar and percussion and I took the chance to hone them into sure fire money makers.
When and how was it recorded? How do your tracks start life?
I've tried to capture emotion and feeling in raw performances, the directness of that, and keep that present throughout a process of electronic manipulation that warps the material into unexpected forms.
It was recorded on very basic equipment. Mostly acoustic guitar and a few bongos and broken bits of an old drumkit. Hot signal into an Akai 4000D stereo reel-to-reel tape recorder. I was on my own and trying to get tranced out on it. Never more than one take of the basic performance. Either it works or it doesn't. Record a few minutes of improvised percussion or guitar, maybe using tape echo to get a steadyish tempo. Then pause the tape, swap instruments or think up another part that might work superimposed with what was just recorded, but not listening back so just guessing. Press play, record, repeat to end of tape. Transfer tape to computer and layer up multiple looped copies of the tape with different start points, so you get this moiré of elements, shifting over each other, and you listen for the song to appear.
Some of these tracks could have been 20 minutes long, different configurations emerging and falling apart... It was fascinating being there while it unravelled in the studio. Music and non-music.
How does this project differ from Sculpture for you?
The idea of shaping something temporarily coherent out of a chaotic flow is common to the two projects. Sculpture works more with programmed electronics and media manipulation. This is more about performance feels. It's a take on a guitar album but fed to the machines.
Sculpture is equally about the audio and visual elements – how do you think the two together alters the listener/viewer experience of the music?
Sculpture is multi-sensory music. The elements work like a rhythm section, drums and bass, or sometimes I think of Reuben's visuals as the singer in the band.
Dan Hayhurst's Critter Party is out now on brand new imprint LTR Records.