Hugo Kant’s album I don’t want to be an emperor is a real gem. I had not listened to such a refreshing electro jazz downtempo album since a Ninja Tune compilation I had purchased in the late 90s. Hugo Kant, aka Quentin Le Roux is a talented multi instrumentalist and trip-hop artist on the rise.
Despite his busy schedule composing, remixing and performing on stage, Hugo Kant took the time to answer a few questions about his music and upcoming projects.
Who is Hugo Kant?
It’s the stage name i have chosen. I had to find something and thought “Hugo Kant” sounded good for this purpose! It’s my first solo project since i began playing music.
Many downtempo/trip-hop producers admit having little or no formal musical training, but it’s clearly not your case. You have attended several academies. How has this classical training shaped the music you make today?
Well it’s hard for me to know how my music would sound like without all this classical music trainings !
When you learn things as a child, they become a part of you and you use them afterwards without even noticing. With the training I received, I was ready to learn other instruments by myself later and could approach other music styles with ease. It clearly helped me a lot to in doing what i want to hear in my music today.
How many instruments do you play?
Haha, many! I would say about 8, but of course I play some better others. More recently, I have been playing mostly the flute, keyboards, clarinet and flugelhorn. These are also the instruments that I use for my live sets. I also really enjoy playing bass and percussions like drums or cowbell!
You founded a jazz-rock band back when you where a teenager. What kind of tunes did you guys play ?
That’s right. I played in a band named “Gus Weg Watergang”. I was not the primary founder of the band, it was more like a band with group of friends that progressively evolved into something more serious over time. At the beginning we were doing a lot of covers of songs by Bob Marley, Herbie Hancock, Brian Auger, The Doors, Jimi Hendricks, etc. Eventually, we began writing our own tracks and worked on the arrangements as a team. The music we made was inspired a lot by our favourite bands from the late 60s and 70s like Gong, Magma and King Crimson. You can listen to one of the latest track we composed in 2001 on our soundcloud page.
Have you completely departed from the kind of music you and your band used to play?
No, not completely. There are elements in the music we used to play that are still present in what I do now. For instance, the use of samples, the combination of jazz sounds with other musical genres. Back then, I had an old Yamaha sampler that we used on stage to trigger keyboard sounds and sound FX, which we would mix with drums, bass, guitar and saxophone. However, you could say that my musical tastes have changed over time. I listen to more trip-hop, downtempo jazz genres. I’m also more skilled at producing and mixing music.
Readers have probably heard of the beautiful city of Marseille, in the south of France, yet it’s not a city that is typically associated with jazz or electronic music. Can you tell us about the music scene over there ?
Actually, the jazz music scene in Marseille is quite active. The city has been a hub for lots of great musicians. The electronic music scene is also flourishing. A number of prominent artists like Chinese Man, DJ Oil, 9th Cloud, Watcha Clan come from Marseille. Let’s not forget about Troublemakers back in the days.
The problem with Marseille is that it can be difficult for many local bands to get out of the city and get international exposure.
You have collaborated with a number of musicians and experimented with different genres such as electro jazz, Ethiopian jazz, latin jazz, trip-hop – can you tell us which artists you’ve particularly enjoyed working with?
Yes, I have played with many musicians since I began making music and I enjoyed playing with most of them. I think the one that has been the more influential for my music is Simon Fayolle aka Braka, who was the drummer in my first band. He really has a unique musical vision and always wants to push the boundaries. That state of mind kind of stayed since then.
You’ve finally decided to start a solo career as a trip-hop artist a few years ago. Why trip-hop?
That’s a good question! Most probably because of some influential artists like Portishead, Bonobo, Wax Tailor or The Cinematic Orchestra, all of whom Ibegan to listen to a few years ago. In addition, I think I made that choice because I naturally write sad music, or music that transports you somewhere else. I love the attention that is given to the production aspect in trip-hop.
You have been acclaimed for your remixes of Metaform and Zero 7. How different are the processes of composing and remixing songs?
Remixing and composing are not that different after all. For instance, these two processes require that you record and add parts of a track and make decision as to the proper structure of the track, among other things. However, it’s often faster to come up with a remix because most of the track is already there. You also have the general mood of the track to play with. Unlike a track that you’re composing from scratch, there are elements from the original song that can be a source of inspiration.
More recently, you have collaborated with U.S. beatmaker Jenova 7. How did you guys get together ?
He stumbled upon one of my tracks on youtube and then contacted me via Soundcloud because he liked what he heard.
Soundcloud is a great platform to follow and connect with other producers, I have made some great connections there.
Jenova 7 had also joined the Dusted Wax Kingdom netlabel around that time and I follow most of their releases. There are a lot of great producers who signed with this label.
Are you trying to break into the North American music scene ?
No, not really. I’m not trying to target any country in particular in terms of promoting what I do. I try to make my music available any where I think people are likely to find it and enjoy listening to it.
Thanks Kant for taking the time to do this interview. Many readers are impatiently waiting for your next project after your brilliant debut album I don’t want to be an emperor, which you released last year. What can you tell us at this point?
I’m currently working on some new tracks. I don’t know when the next full length LP will be ready but, in the meantime I will release a first remixes album, and hopefully a vinyl edition of the album. I have also been busy doing remixes and collabs lately, some of which have been released like my remix of “Hip To The Jive” by Renegades Of Jazz. Others will be released in the near future. Stay tuned!
You can download Hugo Kant’s music from his bandcamp page.