Not many music greats are quite as versatile and talented as Hallex M, the producer, promoter, label head and DJ who’s been cutting his teeth in the industry since ’96.
Alongside heading up his own label, United Music Records, which is currently home to 75 releases from the likes of DJ Spen (Basement Boys) and DJ Spinna, Hallex M is the co-owner U Entertainment, an events management company based in Hong Kong.
Since his first release, ‘Mi Casa’ in 2010, he’s worked with artists such as Omar, Monique Bingham, Marc Evans, Mr V, while playing alongside house icons like Louie Vega, Kenny Dope, Ultra Nate, Todd Terry, Soul II Soul, Terry Hunter and Barbara Tucker.
Now it’s exciting times for us all here at Groove Odyssey, as we are set to unleash Hallex M’s debut album ‘Soul Odyssey’ on 13 November.
Ahead of the release and launch party at Ministry of Sound, we sat down with Hallex M to get the low down on what the album’s all about…
Hallex M, how have you been?
I’m very good thank you. Pretty excited for this upcoming album release and playing at Ministry of Sound to introduce it in the UK and see my British and European friends.
So your new album, Soul Odyssey, is out on Groove Odyssey on November 13. This is your debut album, right?
Yes that’s right, it’s been in the works for a while, so I can hardly believe that there’s finally the light at the end of the tunnel.
How difficult, or easy, did you find the process as a whole?
Of course a project like this comes with its share of challenges. Also, I’m a perfectionist so that makes the process even more lengthy because I’m never satisfied… there’s always something that could be better, something to tweak, or even change completely and start from scratch – I’ve done that a few times [laughing].
Could you have predicted the direction the album would go, or did the concept change and develop while you were making it?
I couldn’t have predicted it at all. I knew I didn’t want to create an album that was linear, or a certain style that those who follow me would come to expect; I wanted to create something different, and essentially give listeners an insight into my universe.
At first, I had a number of tracks I had made before that I thought would be perfect for the album, but I’ve taken some out, redone some, added new ones in… it’s been like putting together a puzzle. Then just when I thought I had it all on track, I received the artwork for my album cover from the artist XSULLO (USA) and that inspired me to create something totally new [laughing], so I reworked it again. On top of that, I didn’t want to delve too deep into my experimental universe as I also needed to follow the vision of the label.
So, no, I could never have predicted the direction of this album, and all its twists and turns.
Tell me a little bit about why you chose to lead with ‘Transmission’ featuring OVEOUS?
This one was the most inspired by my album cover design. Once I saw that spatial, alien, cosmic vibe Xsullo created for me, ‘Transmission’ was born. Actually the intro and outro of my album were both recorded in my home in Bali. OVEOUS and QVLN were staying with me after a gig we did together here, and one night they were just inspired and we recorded it and it was great. So OVEOUS did the vocals for ‘Transmission’ and then QVLN did the outro track for the album.
The first single off the new album is ‘Getty Getty’, featuring the one and only Omar. Why did you decide to make ‘Getty Getty’ the first release?
Well, quite simply it was the first track that had all the components ready. Again, Omar was here with me in Bali and we had a performance together, so I took that opportunity to shoot the music video for the track. Everything fell into place and I feel this track has a good energy to be the first single.
You’ve worked with Omar quite a bit in the past. How far back does your relationship go?
I first met him in 20, when I booked him to perform in Hong Kong at Armani Prive. He was really cool and down to earth and I really wanted to ask him to do a track with me, but I was a bit shy to ask him because, come on, it’s Omar! Then after his performance, I was going to ask him, but he actually approached me and asked if I produced music. When I said yes, he asked if I had anything he could listen to, so later DJ Fudge and I went to his hotel room in Hong Kong so he could listen to some beats that we made up on the spot. Omar started singing ad lib and that’s how ‘Simpatico’ was born.
Since then we’ve done several performances together in Bordeaux, London, Philippines, Hong Kong, Bali. We’ve also done a few tracks now including ‘Ding Ding’, ‘Simpatico’ and ‘Getty Getty’, and I have a new on one the way with an Omar and Darien duet, so look out for that. We’re actually going to shoot the music video all together in London in November.
What do you like most about working with Omar?
He’s one of the easiest artists I’ve worked with, especially creatively. He and I always seem to be on the same page and he gets what I want immediately – without me having to explain too much about what I need from him. He’s a real pro and I feel grateful to have had the opportunities I’ve had in working with him.
Next single off the album?
We’re not going to release any more singles as it’s so close to the release date now. However, we will release 5 EPs on vinyl, and we’ve got some dope remixes from the album coming out early next year.
What was the trickiest song to make and why?
I’ve had a couple of troublesome tracks on this album because sometimes the direction changed. What I mean is that I would create a track with something in mind, then once I received the vocals, it inspired me to take a different direction. Because of the world we live in today with technology and how we work, I rarely get to work in the same room as my vocalists. Everything is done online and internationally. So I often get that happening, that I make a track and send it over to the singer with my notes, then when they put their vocals on it, it ends up becoming something different than I had envisioned, so I rework it and it often becomes something even better – I think [laughing].
What do you want listeners to walk away feeling after hearing the album?
I want them to feel like they’ve had an album listening experience, that they’ve gone on some sort of journey with me, rather than just listening to a string of house tracks. I want people to feel like they didn’t expect that from me and that I’ve surprised them in a way. But, of course, the album does have a “house” orientation as I have been a house DJ for more than 20 years, so those who know my sound will still see that in my production, even if it’s different from what they may be used to hearing from me.
2017 has been a pretty strange year; we’ve seen the inauguration of Donald Trump, mounting pressure in the UK regarding Brexit, as well as a lot of tensions growing elsewhere in the world – how do you think this has affected your work, if at all?
Personally, current events in the world haven’t affected my productions. I do stay up to the date with international news, but I guess living in Asia, mostly Hong Kong and Bali, the ripple effect of Donald Trump and Brexit aren’t really felt. With Donald it’s mostly just entertainment and it seems like we’re watching parodies about the US rather than reality, so I do feel for my American brothers and sisters. But honestly, this does not really have any influence on my creative process or my music.
There are so many terrible things happening in the world, one can easily turn to negativity, especially with media constantly bombarding us with tragic stories. So I try to make uplifting music that fills people with positivity. I mean, music is found everywhere in the world, in every household, every culture, and every religion has some form of music – it’s vital in our lives. This album is my way of contributing a message of peace for all.
What did it feel like when you finished the album?
It will never be finished [laughing]. Just kidding! Now that’s it’s done, I’m excited to share it with everyone and I’m hoping people like it and will enjoy going on this journey with me.
Finally, do you have anything coming up following the launch?
There will be that new single with Omar and Darien that I mentioned before, as well as a new EP featuring Carlos Mena and Gabriele Poso and a new single with Jocelyn Mathieu and more and more and more!
Watch the music video to ‘Getty Getty’ featuring Omar here.
Buy tickets to the album launch and Groove Odyssey’s 8th birthday on 11 November here.