"I came to this point where I didn’t want traditional stage lighting – it didn’t fit what we were doing. I wanted to do more of a cinematic thing, so if I combine cinematic elements, and punch up the effects, colours and flashing, I can basically use the projector – if it’s strong enough – as the stage lighting."
Scott Hansen, better known as Tycho, will be coming to Australia for the first time in late November, finally living up to the promise of reuniting with a college friend from Canberra – something until recently he simply hasn't had the time to do.
The Ghostly International artist is all too aware of the unrelenting challenge many ambient and electronic artists face, in making their live shows engaging for an audience. Unlike the bravado of a rock show, or the visual extravaganza of a pop concert, electronic music is founded on production, with the visual element often taking a back seat. In particular for Tycho, he has noticed that the crowd's response can vary quite dramatically.
“We've been tending to play towards much more energetic crowds in the last year, whereas before it was the music appreciation, chin scratching, mellowed out types. You'd see clouds of smoke up everywhere, everyone tranced out in a stupor. [But now] we've almost got too used to that energy, and you do really feel it. It's just two different experiences, and they're both equally as rewarding for us.”
In Hansen's opinion, the catalyst for the increased energy in the Tycho live set was the inclusion of a band, comprising a drummer and bassist. “The whole idea of the live band is to add a kind of visceral level and add that energy to it. To me, there's this real energy [to my music] that somehow people don't notice. It's like 'Hey that's a crescendo, the song just got really intense' – I'm not sure if people pick up on that.”
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The San Franciscan continued, saying that “the cool thing with the band is that we can put an exclamation point on all the dynamics of the song, the buildups are much more pronounced and there's definitely more of an edge to it.”
What really allows Tycho to stand out from the slew of other electronic artists is the integration of reactive visuals into his show. On top of the Tycho project, Hansen has also spent years as a designer and photographer, working under the moniker ISO50. It's this design background – which he has gradually retracted from – that has allowed him to realise his fully-fledged audiovisual vision for Tycho.
“I came to this point where I didn't want traditional stage lighting – it didn't fit what we were doing. I wanted to do more of a cinematic thing, so if I combine cinematic elements, and punch up the effects, colours and flashing, I can basically use the projector – if it's strong enough – as the stage lighting. I think in that way it's more engaging, because you're part of the visuals. It puts us as the band out of the spotlight, and we all become one as a solid cohesive unit.
It seems as if the artists who are garnering mass critical acclaim in the new millennium are those who seamlessly blend varied influences, effectively creating entirely new hybrid genres in the process. In some cases, artists find themselves listening to styles that are almost polar opposites of the music they create, which quickly became apparent in Tycho's case.
“I listen to metal, rock, classic rock, psychedelic, [and have] all my life. When I was about 18 through 20,” explains Hansen, “I went away to college and I got exposed to actual hip hop, not like the garbage video or radio stuff, but real well produced stuff from the '90s, then I started listening to drum'n'bass via that, DJ Shadow and all of that. But somewhere along the line I got really back into rock and I kind of never looked back.”
Having recently completed a tour with fellow Californian artist The Album Leaf, it seemed there was a flourishing ambient electronic scene in California, but Hansen surprisingly remarked: “If there is, I'm kind of insular and don't know about it. I don't really listen to much electronic music, so I don't understand the scene that well. I'm sure there are a lot of people doing it, but most of the stuff I was listening to, back when I was getting into it, seemed to be from the UK.”
As an evident overachiever, he has forced himself to focus purely on his audiovisual passion, in Tycho, pushing aside other hobbies and pastimes. And with that focus also comes the ability to expedite his album in the making.
“Every album's different, and the last one took a year. I think this one will go a little quicker because now I'm 100% focused.”
Tycho will be playing the following shows:
Wednesday 21 November - The Hi-Fi, Melbourne VIC
Friday 23 November - Strawberry Fields Festival, Kawarren VIC
Saturday 24 November - Land Of Giants, Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW