June 11, 2013

Where are they now? An interview with Hydragenic

402645_211953572231411_1548112870_nAre you living in the same place as in 2004/05?

Still London. Back then I lived in its south-eastern suburbs, whereas currently I’m north of the river and more central. I’m enjoying this immersive experience of the capital, after 19 years of commuter and pseudo-commuter life.

Would we recognise you if we passed you in the street?

Crows have wandered across my face, adding footnotes to my story. Some days I barely recognise my own reflection, with a greater number of “Who’s that old bloke?” moments each year. In general: yes, probably.

What do you think is the best/most important new technology/online thingy to have appeared in recent years?

This is probably stretching the definition of “recent” beyond the limits implied by the question, but I feel I should avoid citing smartphones once more, purely for the sake of variety. So, a broader view: the internet.

We’ve witnessed and participated in a phase of history arguably as fascinating, disruptive and significant as the Industrial Revolution. May you live in interesting times, as the purported (and quite probably apocryphal) Chinese curse goes.

We all had a blog back then. Do you still have one, or are you mainly present somewhere else?

Hydragenic petered out towards the end of 2010. I rebooted it earlier this year, after finding myself writing an increasing number of wordy Facebook status updates that didn’t seem to ‘sit’ well in that environment.

I’ve been elsewhere too, both then and now, alongside the inevitable social media presences. A mixture of copy-writing, ghost-writing, anonymous, pseudonymous and credited involvement in a variety of creative and work-related projects.

What achievement of the last 7 years would you most like to celebrate here?

Leaving my full-time job of sixteen years in 2006. It had become a comfort zone that was no longer comfortable. I’ve since done things that I neither could nor would have done previously, both professionally and personally.

This itchy period is best described as my mid-life crisis. I’m fine with that. Forget the English-speaking world’s typically alarmist, risk-averse implementation of the word; its Greek roots can simply mean “decision” or “turning point”.

Vaughan wanted us to ask you a few questions, and I hope he won’t mind that I have edited them slightly for the sake of brevity…

What kind of blogger (if any) did you think you were back then? And what about now?

I started blogging in earnest in 2002, with no particular aim other than addressing an insistently emerging need for some form of self-expression to counter-balance an increasing sense of personal unease and global unrest.

I’ve written about whatever I’ve felt it necessary to explore at the time. It has often been an exercise in self-discovery, frequently highlighting that the “Who am I?” question tends to breed only further questions.

Why do you keep disappearing? Is it do with your how your life is at that moment, or just because you haven’t found entirely the right medium for sharing your thoughts online?

I experiment with different outlets. There’s rarely a plan; stuff will out, wherever and whenever it needs to. There are also periods when I feel I’ve placed enough narratives and images into the world for a while.

From my perspective, of course, it’s not disappearance; simply an ongoing pattern of occasional shifts of focus towards different areas. It’s like an endlessly morphing Euler diagram. Trying to stage-manage it would be exhausting, so I don’t.

Has the easy availability of just about any music lessened its value for you?

Music seems as valuable as it ever was. Where forms of art are concerned, nothing moves me more, except occasionally the written word. However, I definitely listen to less music these days, since it’s always “on tap”.

I take it for granted, like the easy availability of clean, piped drinking water. That doesn’t mean I value it less. Like many others, I appear to grow carefree and careless; however, the fact remains that I still care.

Is there just too much music out there now?

I’ve floated this heretical thought myself, several times in recent years; its opposite too. The mixed blessing of increasing choice often encourages you to examine and to re-define how you relate to previously ‘scarcer’ phenomena.

I don’t think quantity is specifically a problem. The issue is more about how you address overload and fragmentation, particularly online. In my case, this has helped me to consider more precisely what I ‘want’ from music.

How many bands/artists would you say you get really excited about in an average year?

A decreasing number, since I reined in the insatiable yet largely disposable nature of my music habits. (Disclaimer: I wouldn’t recognise an “average year” if it slapped me across the face with a slab of 220 gram vinyl.)

Single digits, recently. Generally friends’ projects, rather than new music purely for novelty’s sake. It’s a different starting point – and level of engagement – when it springs from the basis of an existing relationship.

Who would you like us to interview next, and what shall we ask them?

@goldfinsch, possibly formerly better known to many ‘Class Of 2004/05’ UK bloggers as qB of frizzyLogic. I’d like to hear her thoughts on: 1) pseudonyms and alter egos; 2) words versus pictures; 3) whither personal blogging?

Two of these are not direct questions; all three are admittedly very open-ended. They’re areas that we have debated regularly over the years. I’d be fascinated to see her sum up her current feelings in a mid-2013 snapshot.


9 thoughts on “Where are they now? An interview with Hydragenic

  1. We love it too, despite what that disrespectful philistine of a bot might say.

  2. What a thought-provoking interview. Very much enjoyed it. And the very necessary sub-editing of my questions was extremely skilful, too. 🙂

  3. I can’t take all the credit, I think Mr Hg tweaked them as well. Thanks for the good suggestion.

  4. Thanks for the kind comments. I don’t know what more to add at the moment. Unused to having the spotlight swung in my direction, I suppose. I did enjoy the interview experience.

    For the record: the mercurial Hg is gone. I impaled him on the railings of Regents Park in the early hours of a cold November morning in 2010. I still have the scar. A story for another day.

  5. Surely a mercurial Hg would be liquid at room temperature, and thus unable to be disposed of in such a way. You’d have to pour him into a vat of molten steel, like the T-1000.

  6. Regents Park at 3am in November is definitely not at room temperature! Although the policemen clearly didn’t think it was dangerously cold enough to invite me into their nice warm car.

    However, this was not the final moment of Hg’s dissolution. It was an ongoing process, continuing a few weeks later in the snow in Sheffield, then for several months thereafter.

    There were a couple of blog posts about it at the time, probably impenetrable to anyone but me. One of their titles was ‘Minus Thirty Eight Point Eight Three’ – the freezing point of mercury.

  7. Thanks for doing the interview, Stuart! I enjoyed the read. I am following suit on the initial thingy.

    I wonder how people are actually *finding* their music now? I have an Rdio subscription and occasionally just fall down a search hole, like you can on Wikipedia…that or the 10-15 minutes of 6Music I listen to each morning are really my only exposure to new stuff.
    I get the impression that the generation of the 50s onwards (after pop kicked in) generally phased new music out of their lives as they grew older…I don’t actively seek stuff any more, but I think I still allow my taste to progress and get into things every now and then.


  8. Glad you enjoyed it, Stuart. I kept my music responses deliberately brief, figuring I could waffle at greater length in the comments should the need arise. So here goes…

    I’m probably the last person to ask about new music discovery these days, because most of my efforts in that direction tailed off a while back. I just don’t put in the time anymore.

    Partly due to a growing feeling that I had gorged on music for so long that it had begun to become meaningless… more about the search for ‘the new’ than about the music itself.

    (I wrote about this at the start of last month.)

    Partly because befriending and working with musicians changed the dynamic for me; since then, I’ve found myself less interested in stuff by people who I don’t already know.

    (Aversion to asymmetric relationships?)

    Partly simply because I’m getting older… an increasing sense of “heard it all before”. I hoped I was going to swerve that phenomenon, but it seems to have caught up with me after all.

    (Savages = Joy Division + Sinéad O’Connor)

    One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve always initially preferred to encounter new music via reviews (The Quietus is a great site), rather than via traditional radio or Rdio/Spotify playlists.

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