ILLUM SPHERE INTERVIEW: “MONEY JUST GOES, RIGHT?”

By Naomi Stanley

First published by Dummy Magazine 15.04.13

Often referred to as a DJ and producer who nods to the unusual, Illum Sphere is known for creating unapologetically unique sounds with relentless energy. “I don’t do too many interviews,” he tells me, when we meet for a chat in a Carnaby Street cafe on a punishingly cold day. “Would you if you were asked the same shit?” I nod as we steer through tables, chatting about his upcoming album released later this year on Ninja Tune. Ryan Hunn’s music offers only so much insight into what makes him tick – when you meet him, you realize his basic ethos is blunt. This down to earth attitude is cemented later as he frowns, “I don’t want to be spraying champagne all over some girls in the front row being like, ‘I’m Illum Sphere, fuck you’. I want to play music that I really love to people, and make them dance to it.”

While I recover from that particular image, I ask Hunn what he thinks of being referred to as a DJ with a “disdain for convention.” He stares at me with brief confusion and tilts his head, glancing around the room. “I don’t really know what that means.” Grinning, he continues: “I guess it’s where the individual aligns. I play techno, but also disco, African or Brazilian records, hip hop and grime within an hour, whereas others start and finish with a similar tempo. Maybe that’s the reason?…When people say nice things about my sets but their general thread is: ‘wow, that’s crazy!’I struggle with that idea as it doesn’t feel like I’m trying to do anything unique to be noticed. It’s more… I like hip hop so sometimes I’ll start with that, sometimes jazz, dub, whatever. I think people can be unaware of how much music actually works together, but that’s not a criticism.”

Could this be because people stick to what they know? “Not necessarily…” Hunn shakes his head, leaning back and visibly settling into a flow. “I’ve never really felt part of one scene. Not in a lonely way. I don’t sit at home crying ‘no one understands me man.’ I appreciate a lot of different musical movements. For me, it doesn’t matter if music is old or new, popular or not. Say I came to see you DJ [I raise an eyebrow and assure him that would never be allowed] I want to hear what you’re into, why you’re up there, not necessarily what the hottest new label has just released. People can fall into a pattern, I guess.”“The goal at the end of each gig is to know that I gave an honest account of me… I did my thing. Otherwise, I shouldn’t be there.” – Illum Sphere

Illum Sphere has evolved steadily, releasing through Fat City records, Marytn’s label 3024 and Pinch’s Tectonic, before dropping his latest EP ‘Birthday/h808er’ with Young Turks late last year. Hunn speaks about his first album venture with a mixture of excitement and exasperation, elucidating a wish to only use worthy sounds. “If I played one amazing piece of techno in between a string of mediocre techno, then the one piece I give a shit about would be lost.”