Be Where I Am
The US has seen a significant uptick in electronic artists emerging in recent times, many with vastly different approaches to how they write and produce. The cultural differences between America and the UK/Europe also help to mould those styles to some extent, particularly when the range of influences is so different.
Huguenot, aka Richard Fleming Hagerty, is a producer and singer/songwriter based in Los Angeles whose catalogue aims for uplifting music that embraces themes of relationships and identity, along with a nod to the spiritual. His compositions strike a balance between dance and pop, but also with a breezy sensibility.
That approach is perfectly encapsulated in songs such as the summery vibes of ‘Destroyer’, a deceptively simple composition whose strengths lie in Hagerty’s impressive vocal talents. Also airy outings such as the wistful ‘Country Boy’ up to the bolder beats of latest release ‘Gender Bender’.
In his formative years in South Carolina, Hagerty developed a love for rock opera through exposure to the likes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (“I think I did the time warp 1000 times before I was ten”). That blend of theatre and music certainly made an impression: “It was very formative in my musical lack of taste/demand to put on a show”, although it wasn’t the only music that he picked up in his youth.
“My father was a painter” comments Hagerty looking back, “and we would often turn his studio into a roller skating rink and listen to David Bowie, Morrissey, Billy Idol while he painted. I was a huge fan of these headliner stadium band larger-than-life boys. They were poets and spoke to me at an early age.”
Having developed a fledgling appreciation of rock music, it wasn’t until he moved to New York that the electronic music bug really bit. He bought his first synth (a Microkorg XL) and was introduced to the likes of Soft Cell, Kembra Pfhaler, The Tiger Lillies and Hedwig. “I was hooked. It wasn’t until I really dug into Soft Cell that I felt that, hey, I am really connecting with this kind of music and maybe I could try and compose something of my own.”
After learning about production during his NYC days, Hagerty then moved west to LA where he took advantage of the creative atmosphere that the city offered up. “LA is a great place to hang low and be with yourself” he suggests, in contrast to the pressure in New York. “There’s a lot of time to create in LA, whereas NYC I felt pressure to be making money and getting laid. I didn’t make time to be creative there.”
Adopting the moniker ‘Huguenot’ for his music also gave the music an identity of sorts. As you would expect, the name is adopted from Hagerty’s French ancestry. “I always liked the word ‘Huguenot’, felt really big like Morrissey or Madonna and no one had claimed it. It was trademarked in the 70s to a company in South Africa who made dishes which is long out of business and abandoned, so I snapped it up and stepped into it as my alter ego.”
Alongside his Microkorg, Hagerty also utilises a Roland Juno-Di and employs Logic to record vocals, augmented with Ableton for live ventures. Obviously, the vocals are a vital part of Huguenot’s sound, so it’s important to get the right kit: “I use an SM7 Shure Microphone which is the same mic Macy Gray used to record ‘I Try’ and what Michael Jackson used for Thriller.
The results of that setup are tunes like the sublime ‘Country Boy’, a bittersweet number about a first love which draws from Hagerty’s SC roots (it’s a track that also rocks up on one of the bonus discs of Conzoom compilation Electropop 16).
Meanwhile, ‘Run’ tracks a more familiar synth-pop path with its tight melodies and engaging rhythms. In fact, ‘Run’ has brought Huguenot into close proximity with some more familiar names in the electronic community. A series of remixes of the track saw the likes of Parralox, Graflex, Fused and Static Shore work their magic on the composition.
Huguenot has also worked with the likes of electronic musician DarwinMcD, trance/synthwave artist Fiben and Dutch composer Arystona. ‘It’s Easy’, which was released earlier this year, combines Arystona and Huguenot’s talents together for a more muscular slice of EDM.
But Huguenot can dart between several different approaches, such as the shimmering electronic reverie of ‘Be Where I Am’ or ‘Sell Me Love’, which dips into club culture. Similarly, latest outing ‘Gender Bender’ opts for a more energetic workout. It’s a thumping floor filler marked with some pointed lyrics about identity and finding your own way in life (“I’ve never been prouder of who I am”). A remix by Diego Fernandez is also due out at the end of May (designed to coincide with Pride in June).
Originally, Huguenot was due to appear at the planned Artefaktor Live 4 performances this year, but the current Coronavirus crisis unfortunately put paid to that. Instead, Huguenot’s set was streamed online – which also provided an opportunity to appreciate how Hagerty weaves in personal stories attached to his songs.
“I am a chameleon musically, crossing genres starting in synth-pop and now in EDM and dance music, but my voice is still the same. Huguenot is a feeling inside me and each song is just kind of a socially acceptable way of dealing with those feelings.”
Broadening his horizons, Huguenot also featured in the soundtrack to feature film Are We Lost Forever, which saw its premiere at the Goteborgs Film Festival in Sweden in January this year.
Now with the release of ‘Gender Bender’, what does the future hold for the LA-based artist? “My musical vision is to just make Huguenot bigger and more explosive in every way. I am not making music to please anyone, it’s for me, so expect raw realness. We only walk this earth once so why not try and do something cool and big.”
‘Gender Bender’ is out now.
‘Gender Bender’ (Diego Fernandez Remix) is out Friday May 29th.