Hudson Mohawke

Hudson Mohawke

Straight outta Glasgow—the creator of 'aquacrunk' is on his way


Originally published on on November 2009

Courtesy of Beatink

Courtesy of Beatink

When talking about the musical possibilities unlocked by broadband internet and ever more affordable production gear, writers normally point to globe-trotting acts like M.I.A. Diplo and The Very Best. Yet there’s something no less remarkable—or oh-so modern—about a producer like Hudson Mohawke.

Consider “Joy Fantastic,” off his recently released debut album, Butter. A slab of libidinous funk-pop, it sounds like the kind of tune that Outkast’s Andre 3000 might have rattling around his head as he’s trying on feather boas. Yet its creator hails not from the Dirty South, but the far chillier climes of Glasgow, Scotland. A city hitherto best known for guitar bands such as Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub and Franz Ferdinand has in recent years become a hotbed for a strain of outlandishly odd hip-hop, dubbed “aquacrunk,” of which Hudson Mohawke (real name Ross Birchard) is but the most prominent proponent. How did that happen?

“There were always hip-hop nights and stuff going on in Glasgow, but when I was starting out, I wasn’t really aware of anyone—I was kind of just doing it on my own,” says the 23-year-old over the phone from his hometown. “I was just 12 or 13 years old, and wasn’t able to go to any clubs or [get] involved in any scene. There are quite a few people in that same situation in Glasgow.”

He’s since managed to recruit most of them. Birchard is a founding member of Lucky Me, a collective of Scottish musicians and artists who throw their own parties, make their own T-shirts, and release free mixtapes via their website ( Thanks to a strong online presence, the group’s name has traveled far beyond the confines of their hometown—a phenomenon that Birchard has also experienced with his own music.

“I think a lot of my success has come from the internet,” he says. “Before I was releasing anything, or even had any plans or ideas to release stuff, I just put some music online. I didn’t really give it to people, I just put it on a MySpace page, and it managed to travel around, and ended up on some fairly major radio stations. It’s the same demo that got me signed for my album deal.”

Along with fellow Lucky Me cohort Rustie, Birchard’s debut LP comes courtesy of Warp Records, the label behind such pioneering electronic artists as Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. “By the time that they actually approached me, I was pretty taken aback,” he says. “It took me a long time before I even started working on the record, because I couldn’t really accept the whole idea.”

The resulting album is likely to divide opinion among even the most dedicated Warp fanboys. Housed in a sleeve whose lurid collage of eagles, iguanas and hippos even Prince might reject as too gauche, Butter makes for queasy company. The music sometimes recalls the off-kilter psychedelic hip-hop of Flying Lotus, but it’s far more anarchic, and laced with parping synthesizers that are more redolent of supermarket muzak.

“It was influenced by a lot of progressive jazz fusion-style stuff,” Birchard admits. “I’m sort of aware that it’s extremely uncool music, but there are elements of it that I actually really like. I really like the flamboyance of it, how ridiculous some of it is.”

He’s similarly unabashed in his affection for pop. One of the first Hudson Mohawke releases to attract widespread interest was a bootleg that hijacked the vocal line from Tweet’s 2002 hit “Oops (Oh My)” and lashed it to a sluggish rave bassline, to delicious effect. Butter pushes the envelope even further, sketching out an alternative vision of pop that is, at times, more addictive than what’s currently heard on the airwaves in the UK.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be very, very widely accepted, but it’s my interpretation of a pop record, basically,” Birchard says. “I don’t think it’s going to be Number One material, but I’m trying to get there at some point.”

The Warp label celebrates its 20th year with Hudson Mohawke, Battles, !!!, Chris Cunningham, Clark and others. Nov 21, 9pm, ¥8,500. Makuhari Messe, Chiba. Tel: Beatink 03-5766-6571.