It is fitting that Huxley has been made to wait for our coveted Best Producer award until this year. You could argue that the Tring born-and-bred DJ and producer has deserved it in the past, simply because of how many bangers he has churned out in the last five years. Tracks like ‘Let It Go,’ ‘Bellywedge’ and ‘Inkwell’ on labels like Hypercolour and Aus Music all predated the garage house revival, but more than that, it now seems that they helped ease us, and likely many others from Gorgon City to Disclosure, into the polished, big room house era in which we currently live.
In 2014, though, the low-key producer stepped up his game and came perfectly correct with his finest and fullest artistic statement to date, namely 'Blurred'. Landing on Will Saul’s Aus label, it was a debut album packed to the brim with effusive house, groove laden d&b, deep bass and even some pop-leaning but still resolutely classy vocal anthems. Despite the ensuing success and non-stop global touring, the man born Michael Dodman is still delighted to receive the award.
“It feels amazing,” he beams. “Being nominated was praise enough, but for people to actually vote me their favourite means the world to me.” Although this is a Best of British award, Huxley can truly say he has fans around the world, having played all across America a number of times, as well as heading Down Under and even to Asia. Not bad given that, actually, 2014 saw him release less than in previous years.
“My album is what stands out for me. This year was the first time in a long time I’ve taken a step back away from the EP format and made something with a bit more depth. I've just tried to go with quality over quantity.” It’s an approach that has certainly worked, as evidenced by the sonic richness, unmistakably bold bass and genuinely catchy hooks that litter 'Blurred'. From the throwback US house swinger ‘Callin'’ featuring Roger Sanchez (“Working with him was a childhood dream come true, and what a gentleman!”), to the elastic grooves and buffed neon melodies of ‘Say My Name’ via the sensitive, insular and sombre vibes of ‘Reassign’, everything on the album jumps out of the speakers and makes you feel with your heart as much as dance with your feet.
“I think it taught me things that I’d forgotten about myself, really,” says Huxley about the album writing process. “It taught me I don't just have to do dancefloor records and that I actually enjoy making more melodic music as well. I think my attention to detail has also increased — I’m a lot less lazy than I was before. Another thing: it finally forced me to plug in all the hardware I’ve acquired over the last few years. It's been fun, and in all honesty, quite difficult to modify my working process to fit them in, but I think now I’ve got a happy medium.”
On 'Blurred', Huxley also set to work with vocalists once more. They include FEMME, a singer in Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich's band, Ultraísta; Yasmin, who is no stranger to chart success thanks to working with Gorgon City, as well as Thomas Gandey and fast rising star Obenewa. It’s clear now that Huxley mastered this new skill, because rather than layering lazy motifs on top of his finished beats, the vocals seem intrinsically worked into each arrangement, and tracks soar as a result.
“It's always fun working with other people, bouncing ideas back and forth and getting some proper input,” he explains. “Sometimes, when I'm sat on my own, I find I second guess a lot of the stuff I’ve done. I’m sure I’ve passed up on more than a couple of good ideas this way, so working with someone can instantly either validate your idea or make you realise it's not a path you want to go down.”
This year, though, he chose exactly the right path and already promises that 2015 will see him work on more singles, a “tougher” Groove Armada remix and “probably” more vocal projects.
SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO