Bradford producer, HashFinger, has been putting out quality instrumental projects for a good few years now and is arguably one of the country’s most prolific artists. He has become a favourite among fans and peers alike, thanks to the largely sample-based beats he creates. I caught up with him for a chat about crate digging, taking his music to Israel and his plans for future projects, among other things.
G: What made you first want to start making music and was it always going to be production that you got into? Did you ever have ambitions as a musician or a rapper?
H: I was fortunate that my parents got me playing instruments from a young age – but I’ve got a lot of early memories of skiving off from my music lessons at school [laughs]. I never really took it seriously and learnt basic bits, but never stuck with it. Some time around 13, 14 I got back into it and started teaching myself the guitar and then the drums, which I love.
Around that time is when I got heavyily into hip hop – I missed all the gold from the 90’s and got introduced to all that plus everything that had happened in the UK with Low Life etc. That really inspired me and I started making loops with Reason and Fruity Loops.
At that time I was actually rapping in a group with my friends Lunar C and Angry Nik. It was pretty terrible, but we had a laugh and played a few local shows. After that I gave up trying to rap and concentrated on making beats.
G: I know you’re a big vinyl fiend and crate digger. Where’s the best place you’ve been in the world for digging?
H: I’ve been lucky and have been shown some incredible spots; last year in particular in Sofia, Bulgaria and in Athens, I came back with some incredible records. I still think the best place I’ve been was in Dublin – have to shout my Dublin crew, they took me to some secret lockup that I lost myself in!
G: Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
H: I’m struggling to remember, but I think it was probably some local hip hop. I never really had a record player till later on; I remember getting my first student loan in Notts and that same day was the final closing down sale at one of the local record shops. I went in and bought everything and anything that looked half useful! That was the first time I had seriously bought records to chop up and just caught the bug from there.
G: Is there a particular genre outside of hip hop that you turn to for inspiration? Or is it more sporadic than that, like you come across a gem and that sets you off?
H: There’s no specific genre I turn to really, I have a really random mix of records – mostly from trying to find the sections labelled ‘odd’ or ‘weird’ and picking stuff up from there. I got into a lot of early soundtracks from 60s/70s cinema from around the world; a lot of that incidental music is mad.
G: You use a lot of samples to create your music and I know you also enjoy drumming. Do you prefer creating your own drum loops, or are they mainly sampled?
H: A lot of the time I’ve been using a mixture of both. At first I couldn’t really get the heavy sound I wanted from recording my own kit, so I would just layer it over sampled drums. More recently I’ve been creating a lot of my own hits to make my own drum kits and I feel like I can get a much stronger sound now.
G: You’ve produced a lot of beat tapes and instrumental albums over the years, but we’ve never heard an album from you with vocalists. Is there a reason you haven’t done it? Is it something you’ve ever considered?
H: Yeah that’s a good fucking point! [laughs] There’s no real reason for this, I’ve worked with and know some crazy vocalists – I’ve never really seriously considered putting something together featuring other people though. I love to make instrumental projects; some people can’t understand why I just release beats with ‘no words’ on – I don’t think they get that people smoke out and listen to beats [laughs]. I would love to put together a feature album though; definitely something I’ll try and piece together in the future.
G: At one point you were putting out an EP every month, so I’m guessing you’re one of those people who is always working and creating stuff?
H: Yeah I make beats all the time, I just love chopping up samples or messing about on synths. I’ve been lucky recently to pick up jobs making original material for sample packs and also background music for film, TV and radio. That’s been a bit of a challenge, but has also helped me to move towards creating stuff without samples, or playing the instruments myself and sampling that.
I have a crazy backlog of beats from the last year or two, so the main focus at the moment is to release all the best bits from that so I can move forward with some new stuff. I’ve made a full project of beats using no samples and I feel it’s some of the best I’ve made by far – just trying to get through these releases and get that out!
G: I remember you played some shows in Tel Aviv last year, which isn’t somewhere I’ve ever really associated with UK hip hop before. How did that come about?
H: I was just lucky with the first show there, a promoter loved my music and said he had to fly me out for this show he was putting on. The second time I managed to get two shows out there in a different club – just lucky really. I think its mad that my music has reached that far!
G: And was it a good response you got from the shows?
H: It was incredible, probably the best show I’ve played. It was mad to see such a positive response to some of my music and others from the UK. I think we have this idea that they are some how cut off from the music scene or whatever, but in a lot of ways they are ahead of us. Tel Aviv is full of well travelled people from all over the place, a lot of them have been to many more capital cities and are more in touch than we are.
G: Elsewhere is your new LP. How would you best describe it? Much breaking into new territory, sound wise?
H: Elsewhere in a way is the last in the series, following Lessons and Kites, even though none of them were intended as a series – it’s just panned out that way. I’ve got a lot of beats that are made with no samples, so that will be a slightly different direction for me moving forward – even though I dropped a taste of that with the free Over & Out release.
Elsewhere really rounds off the smoke out chilled beat tapes I’ve been dropping on vinyl. I still have a load of beats made with samples, but also want to go down a stranger route with those too. It’s refreshing for me to explore all these different styles really, but at the same time a lot of people want to hear that classic head nod style from me.
G: Have you got anything else lined up in the near future?
H: I’m looking to put out some more releases very soon, I have a full sampled project of weird stuff which I’ve wanted to drop for a minute now and also the full electronic project with no samples, which I feel is my best shit. It will take a bit of planning but they should both be out in the next few months.