PSYCHIC EQUALIZER: Music with Freedom

Hugo Selles

Psychic Equalizer is the project founded by pianist and composer Hugo Selles in November 2011. “The goal has always been to approach music from new perspectives: mixing different styles, experimenting and trying to find new sound qualities,” the composer says in the biography. ‘The Lonely Traveller‘ is the most recent release of the project, and Prog Sphere sat down for an interview with Selles to talk about his mission, the record, and more.

Define the mission of Psychic Equalizer.

Since the foundation of Psychic Equalizer, I have always wanted to feel completely free with the music I make. I don’t want to put any labels to it: sometimes is rock, sometimes is jazz, sometimes is something else… The day I see I lack of this freedom, that would mean the end of the project – which I wish never to happen.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your new album The Lonely Traveller.

I had already composed some of the music some years ago, almost at the same time that I released the second EP Madrid [or Suite For The Solitary Contemporary Citizen]. I remember that for instance, during a break in the mixing, a painting by Jeremy Geddes showed up on someone’s Facebook. I was so impressed by it that I went straight to the keyboard and my hands started to play the music like from out of the blue. A Visit To Adelaide was indeed conceived in Adelaide and something very similar happened. After a week or two being there, I just loved it so much that one morning I sat in front of a piano and played it. Other songs took a more in detail compositional process as I wanted the whole album to be based on the same melodies and harmonies. The idea of relating the music with the story of how a teenager opens his or her mind to the good and the bad things of the surrounding world is something that appeared a bit later – I guess that somehow influenced by the surprising political events the world is going through.


The Lonely Traveller

What is the message you are trying to give with The Lonely Traveller

No person in this world should feel rejected from society just because of the colour of the skin, sexual orientation, gender, country, language, religion, or any other factor. I can’t believe that already in the 21st century we still have to cry it out loud!

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I usually write down some drafts on a notebook or on the phone, but most often I memorize everything I improvise straight away. Although for this album, since there were a lot of instruments, I had to record several demos and write down all the arrangements.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

It is indeed. There’s a lot of doubt, anger and melancholy in the first half of the album. It is more turbulent, even hectic, as it shows how the teenager is growing up and experiencing the surrounding world. Towards the second half, the album calms down as ideas and thoughts are starting to set in the young mind. The ending brings out enthusiasm and hope. In a way, it is very cinematic.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Since we had just a week to rehearse and record the whole thing, Quico Duret and I decided to make most of it live: there’s only one take of some of the songs in the album. In this sense, we were very focused and we approached every single section with the right character. I guess having on board such an astonishing drummer as Morten Skøtt is helped a lot. Some keyboards, additional percussion and voices were added six months later, during the latest stages of the mixing process.

TLT_booklet

How long The Lonely Traveller was in the making?

Relatively long, as I usually had to stop working on it due to my studies or because of other projects that I had to prioritize. It took me more than a year to get into the studio, also because it was a bit hard to find all of the musicians to play. And since we wanted it to be great, the album was sent for mastering almost seven months after the recording; although it is true that India Hooi and I decided to give our ears a rest from it and we didn’t start to mix it until March or April 2016.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

I remember that I was listening to a lot of Anathema‘s latest stuff and the first era of Genesis on the previous months before the recording. You can appreciate a bit of that in the album. I had also recently discovered Mathias Eick‘s album The Door and remember being amazed by the brilliant production. I was playing a lot of Rachmaninov at that time too, as I had done my final Masters Project on his music. You can definitely hear the influence of his long-line melodic constructions and the beautiful chord progressions.

What is your view on technology in music?

Depends on what exactly we are talking about. I do enjoy experimenting with synths, effects and noises – quite a lot in fact. But if we are talking about the use of technology in the mixing process… Well, I think some people simply abuse of the resources we have nowadays. It is good to be perfectionist and to have high expectations, of course. But I think that we, musicians, have to be conscious of the advantages of going home and practice, instead of expecting the sound engineer to do everything for us. Apart from not being honest, it just simply doesn’t sound good!

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

That is my biggest goal. What’s the point of making music if not?

What are your plans for the future?

I am working on many different projects and composing quite a lot, which is great, because I kind of stopped creating new things for a while. I am planning a summer tour with Psychic Equalizer too and organizing the next already-composed album recording. I will also finish my studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in a few months. Exciting times ahead!

The Lonely Traveller is available now; order it from Bandcamp. Visit Hugo Selles’ official website for more information.

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