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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Are You Free?" An Interview With Patrick Hodge of Human Hymn

Human Hymn is the psychedelic dream pop project of Chicago musician Patrick Hodge. His debut self titled E.P. (available now at is certainly one of our favorite releases so far in 2015. Patrick joined us to discuss his early musical memories, who inspired him to play guitar and how he's evolved as a musician. Have a listen to his track "Are You Free?" and enjoy the conversation.

CMM-What's the first music you remember hearing as a child and what artist or band made the biggest impact on you?

Patrick-The first music I can vividly remember is probably the soundtrack from Toy Story. I remember coming home after seeing that movie and creeping downstairs to the toy area in the house. I turned on the lights fully expecting the toys to be alive. They weren't. Maybe they were just quicker than me. I also remember hearing TLC's "Waterfalls."

As far as the artist/band that had the biggest impact on me at an early age, I'd have to say BB King. He was the first artist I remember hearing and thinking that I wasn't just listening to chords and melodies, but listening to human emotion through music. I ultimately bought a Gibson ES335, partly because of him and partly because my grandfather played one.

CMM-When did you start playing guitar and singing and how has your playing and singing developed over the years?

Patrick-I started playing drums in college and eventually switched to guitar when I was about 20. Though I listened to a wide variety of music at the time, I found myself playing blues songs initially because they were the easiest to join in on. I learned to improvise and play fingerstyle through blues which was a wonderful foundation to the boundless art of playing guitar. I began singing shortly after I picked up the guitar because I knew I wanted to write songs and I damn well better learn to sing them. The expression "finding your voice" is very widely used, but is a very real and painfully awkward thing. I went from singing and playing blues and soul music (not very well) to garage/surf/powerpop songs with a group in Chicago and now I'm playing and singing psychedelic dreampop songs. It's quite funny to look back on, but I feel like I'm getting closer to whatever it is that I feel is authentic and genuine expression. Whenever something starts to feel disingenuous, I abandon it immediately. Perhaps it's a never ending pursuit. It's challenging - forces you to look at yourself constantly and ask, "Who am I?". I see the music I create as the ultimate representation of myself.

CMM-You recently released your debut self titled E.P. what was the inspiration for these songs and what was the recording process like?

Patrick-There wasn't a real concrete inspiration to creating these songs - I really just wanted to selfishly create soundscapes and songs on my own and see what would happen. I've had a lot of ideas that were unusable to projects I was involved with over the past couple years and wanted to finally sit down and flesh them out on my own. It was great fun to hear them take shape. I've gotten into production over the past few years but certainly have a lot of room for growth. There's so much to learn! I recorded both of these songs on my own in my apartment in Chicago. Getting into production really gave me a sense of how it is truly an art form in itself. It changes the way you listen to music. I have so much respect for the producers who work with very little (in terms of equipment) and can produce a sound that has it's own charm and character

CMM-When did you first really start singing and how did you settle in to the vocal style you have now?

Patrick- I think you're specifically referring to going falsetto. Singing in falsetto allows me to retain a wide vocal range while singing at a lower volume which I like. I don't really like the tone of my full singing voice so it was a natural progression really. It may change down the line though - whatever I feel is best for the song.

CMM-What recording program did you use when making the E.P. and what's your current guitar set up like?

Patrick-I used Mac based recording software. I play through a VOX AC30 and use both a Gibson ES335 and a Gibson Les Paul as well as an Eastman Acoustic. I also used a MicroKorg to layer some keys. As for pedals, I use a variety of overdrive pedals and actually manipulate some of the sounds further by using the recording software to get tones that marry well. I use a lot of different Mics and techniques. I'm sure real studio technicians would be appalled at some of the choices I've made in capturing sound, but I don't always necessarily care about a recording being high-fidelity, I care about the sound having a personality and sometimes that means recording through a really cheap microphone in an odd acoustic setting. I think taking chances is how you learn.

CMM-The cover of the E.P. is stunning. How did you come up with the art work for it?

Patrick-Thanks! It's actually a photograph I took from the underside of a Chandelier. I enjoy photography as well and am into simple, elegant and classic beauty. As for the "Human Hymn" lettering, I sketched that out and layered it on the image.

CMM-What's next for Human Hymn? Do you think you'll do live shows? Any new release that your planning for?

Patrick-Live shows are definitely something that will happen in the near future. My brother Nick (drummer) and I are planning the live approach and are recording material together. As for a future release, I can't really pinpoint a day that something will be released next. I write new material everyday - sometimes it takes the form of a new riff or progression or a sentence that I think is interesting. Sometimes I'll have a full instrumental song written and will finish writing lyrics several months later - other times it all happens in the span of an afternoon if I get an idea and HAVE to get it down that moment. I don't have a specific approach to songwriting but I definitely don't like good ideas to go unfinished. It's easy to come up with progressions and riffs here and there when inspiration strikes but it takes serious discipline and work ethic to create a finished product. With that said, a full length record is probably on tap next - I have a lot of ideas put together and am very excited for what is to come.

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