With seven genre-defying and emotionally arresting full-lengths in as many years, Stephen Hummel (aka subtractiveLAD) has established himself as n5MD’s “flagship” artist and the embodiment of its “emotionally experimental” credo and ethos. Combining the warmth and warble of classic analogue hardware, a vast cache of original instruments and plug-ins and an improvisatory compositional freedom gained from over a decade in jazz, subtractiveLAD creates a sound both cathartic and escapist, highly personal yet universally accessible, with an emotional depth rarely heard in the often cold, cerebral world of "armchair electronica."

As a classically trained vocalist, accomplished jazz saxophonist and Fine Arts student (with a major in English Lit.), Hummel had already accrued an impressive set of influences and inspirations when he decided to pad his resume (and wallet) by founding his own patch/plug-in company, “Wavelength Devices,” in 1999. Finding the same “thrill of discovery” in tweaking parameters that he’d relished in improv jazz, he spent the next four years creating custom instruments (with a special emphasis on analogue emulators), shedding his acoustic roots as he amassed the unique “sonic arsenal” that would become the bedrock of the subtractiveLAD sound. When business slowed in 2004, Hummel donned his new moniker (a nod to his favorite filters and an acknowledgment of his own mortality), produced a demo and, with an in from fellow Vancouverite Spark, dropped a copy on the desk of n5MD label-owner, Mike Cadoo. Impressed by the demo’s technical precision and emotional integrity, Cadoo signed him less than 6 months later and, in February 2005, released subtractiveLAD’s debut disc Giving Up The Ghost to widespread, international praise.

Drawing equally from the ambient experiments of Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream and the contemporary laptop aesthetic of label-mates Proem, Vesna and others, Giving Up The Ghost balances melancholy detuned pads, undulating bass and frenetic beat clusters in a meticulously crafted framework of emotional peaks and valleys. In stark, yet compelling, contrast, 2006’s aptly titled Suture is the menacing yin, to Ghost’s calmly melodic yang. Roughing up his ambient edges, Hummel infuses the record with elements of hip hop (“Brokadocious”), industrial (“Twinge”), and drill’n’bass (“Sleepwalker”), bringing his increasingly jagged, glitch-stitched, beats to the fore while drowning the record’s, anxious, keening melodies in layers of machine noise.

Newly emerged from Suture’s post-production bubble and inspired by a longing for the tactile feedback of a “real” instrument, Hummel bought himself a guitar in March 2006. Learning a new instrument is an inherently organic and improvisatory process and it was in this mindset that Hummel would compose his third n5MD release, No Man’s Land (Feb, 2007). Expanding his palette to include piano, field recordings and vocal textures, as well as guitar, Hummel opted for an improvise-live-then-edit-down-later approach, giving the record a natural flow and emotional immediacy new to his catalogue. With 2008’s Apparatus, Hummel built on the free-flowing experimentalism of its predecessor, dabbling in psychedelic drone (“Your Human Love”), shoegaze (“Decay as a Lifestyle”) and successfully bridging the post-rock/ambient IDM gap with the Explosions in the Sky-styled “Mayfly” and “Alone With You.”

In the spring 2009, n5MD released subtractiveLAD’s next effort Where the Land Meets the Sky. Picking up where Apparatus left off, Where the Land Meets the Sky alternates between slow-build post-rock epics and rich, abstract mood pieces.Accompanied by a bonus disc with three long-form ambient works (two of which clock-in at over 20 minutes), this record represents a new level of emotional and compositional sophistication for the subtractiveLAD sound and an exciting new direction for Hummel’s ever-restless stylistic exploration.

Just months after the release of Where the Land Meets The Sky and very shorty after the birth of his son. Hummel emerged from the studio with an album of some of his most threadbare heart-to-hands ambient of his career. Nestled somewhere between classic artists of the genre such as Eno and Namlook and more modern electro-acoustic artists such as Simon Scott and Jasper TX the album entitled Life At The End Of The World is a beatless catharsis that can only be reflected by the feelings of change in ones life. As the tile suggested it was in fact the end of some “world” for Hummel. A new chapter was about to begin...

After mining guitar Ambient and electro-acoustic sub-genres of electronic music for several albums Hummel decided to look further back into his influences and more specifically the Berlin School of Krautrock / Kosmische Musik. His next album, 2011's Kindred is seen to be the latest chapter in the SubtractiveLAD evolution and his most classic album stylistically. Echoing the future-retro tones of Tangerine Dream and Cluster while staying true to his now signature style, Hummel has created what may be the album he was born to make.


alpha and omega

1. I remember how overwhelmingly stunned I was with its great quality when I first listen to your music. I really couldn't believe the music is from someone who just debuted in 2005! How have the reactions/responses of people to your music been in your own country Canada, in the U.S, and also in Europe so far?

Thanks for the kind words about my music. I worked really hard to make my debut be as good as I could make it, with what I had around me. I also have to give a shout-out to Shahin Al Rashid for doing such a superb job mastering the album - he truly has golden ears. Even though "giving up the ghost" is my debut, I have been writing and performing for well over ten years, so I'm not just starting out, by any means. I guess it was just the right time for my music to reach a wider audience. "giving up the ghost" got some pretty decent radio play in the US college radio circuit, which was fun to see - I should take this opportunity to thank Pietrobot and the Frequency Modulator, at Digital Nimbus (radio show in Irvine, CA), for playing my stuff really early on. In Canada, I have largely been ignored, apart from some slight exposure in local (Vancouver) press, plus my live shows. As for Europe, I have received some warm emails from fans in Germany, which was really nice. My fans in Japan have, by far, been the most receptive and really embraced "ghost" more than anywhere else. It's impossible to know why my music resonates with people on the other side of the world more than the people in my own country... some of it has to do with how we marketed the album, but some of it seems related to cultural differences, perhaps. The thing that excited me most is that, through my album, I was able to communicate feelings and ideas very close to my heart with people around the world, in countries where I could not even speak the native language.

2. I personally feel there is a shadowy world expressed throughout your album 'giving up the ghost' and I also found subtle warmth like a candle light in the shadowy world. Such view of world seems to exist under the influence of your own personal background, or under some sort of philosophical message in a broad sense, but where does such world-view actually come from? Does it reflect the mind-set/mental condition you were in when you were creating the album?

I try to write from an emotional place, as opposed to a more cerebral one. I'm actually a pretty light-hearted guy, my friends would probably say I'm quite silly, really, so it has always interested me that my music is predominantly quite dark. I think maybe I deal with most of my demons when I'm writing, which, perhaps, allows me to be a relatively cheerful member of society, in the end. As for any kind of world view, I would have to say that I think we are all essentially the same as human beings. Those people who claim to have answers to the big questions are the ones that I tend to steer clear of (or study, in depth, depending on how I feel that day!). I feel that life is ultimately kind of tragic, we invest so much time and attention to building relationships and a place for ourselves in the world and then before long we're dead. The flip side of this is that really all we have is each other, we're all in the same boat, everyone ends up the same and this is our common ground - nobody is above another, in this regard. We have to look to each other for comfort and support along the way. I offer my music as an expression of how I choose to live my life in hopes that someone else might find a reflection of their own feelings in there - a kind of empathy. The music I am drawn to the most is from artists whose work seems to empathize with my own experiences. I'm also drawn to instrumental music more because of its universality. Music and rhythm can speak across cultures and language-barriers. I guess the act of composition/ improvisation is also, in some way, a means of connecting with the spiritual/ god/ whatever, for me.

3. I actually didn't know until I read your biography that you kindly provided to us, but it seems that you have created your own brand 'Wavelength Devices' and sold (or still selling) synthesizers and effects, which you designed/created by yourself, doesn't it? Does that mean the music equipments you are currently using for song compositions/creations are self-developed ones mostly? If you are using a lot of other brands' devices too, would you please tell us about some of your favorite items including your own brand equipments in terms of their usages, brands, manufactures, etc? (I'm very curious about your musical environment!)

Since 1999 I have been developing plug-ins for CreamWare's Scope platform - I still have a few of them for sale from my Wavelength Devices website: I don't currently spend any time on development of new products but I do still contribute to fellow developer's projects when I can. I primarily use my own synths in my tracks, just because I know them so intimately and I have spent so much time developing patches for them, although my own presets hardly ever make it into a track as they were... I'm pretty anal about how a timbre sits in a mix and can (unfortunately) mess around for hours getting the right sound. It's interesting that Mike Cadoo (President of n5MD records) told me, after the release of "ghost", that he could immediately tell that I wasn't using the standard software VSTis, etc, which is also what I was going for. I have modeled each of my instruments after a particular hardware synth or sound that I wanted to have in my arsenal but couldn't find or get for whatever reason. I am primarily drawn to subtractive-style synthesis and FM - but on the FM-front, I have developed a couple devices that treat FM in a more analogue way, with analogue-style control over the parameters and a warmer sound. I also use John Bowen's "Zarg" plug-ins a lot - his stuff is very flexible, architecturally-speaking, and of a sound quality that can only be equalled in hardware synths. John is my mentor in the synthesis-realm and I owe a lot to him, in terms of my synth-chops. I also have various vintage analogue synthesizers in my studio and I occasionally get into digital-mode with the Wavestation, Absynth or my old K2000 workstation. There are a few hardware pieces that I want to eventually add to my pile, including Dave Smith's PolyEvolver, the MiniMoog Voyager and all the stuff Elektron have been making... I'm starting to crave hardware again, after working primarily in software for so long. Even with all the useful controllers out there now, I still create differently on an instrument that has its dedicated parameters specifically laid-out in an inspiring/ tactile way. There are also feedback/ distortion timbres that only real analogue truly gets right.

4. What's the origin of the name subtractiveLAD? Is there any particular hidden meaning behind the name?

The "subtractiveLAD" moniker comes from "subtractive", as in "subtractive synthesis", and "lad", meaning "a guy" (the opposite of "lass"). I thought it had a nice ring to it and seemed original enough. on another level, it also represents to me the awareness of ones own mortality, that every day lived is another one less here on earth - the *subtracting-man* - his time is constantly 'subtracting' and eventually will be gone. it's about living in the moment, for me. I like to write the "subtractive" part in lower case and the "LAD" in caps just to offset each word, I guess it just looks better to me that way.

5. Artists on n5MD Records always amazes me with their high quality music and their great musical directions, and it seems the relationships with the label and the artists are quite in harmony. How do you actually consider the relationships between the label and the artists from the viewpoint of one of the contracted musicians on the label?

Yeah, I was amazed by the quality of n5's catalogue and that is what originally drew me to them as a potential home for my own music. Before getting signed I had done some shows with another n5 artist, Spark, who is also from Vancouver, and he initially turned me on to the label and some of the other artists - it was really cool for me to hear artists who were on the same tangent as me, putting a lot of emotional content into a genre that can often be considered cold and cerebral. Apparently the feeling was mutual because n5 showed interest in my demo soon after I sent it out. What seems unique about n5MD is that if you put in the effort as an artist to put out the best possible work and really show initiative to work with them, they will totally match your energy. Mike Cadoo (n5 President) really works closely with his artists and is far more than a record executive, in terms of his availability and sensitivity (personally and artistically speaking). I think a lot of Mike's success with n5 comes from his experience as an artist himself, whether as Gridlock, Dryft, or bitcrush (his current project) - he knows music and he knows artists and, quite frankly, he knows the business end of things, as well. Mike seems very picky with his n5 roster and is looking to not only produce a certain standard of quality for the label, but a certain emotional integrity, as well. This might be the reason the n5-mafia (as we call it) all get along so well and truly find inspiration in each other's work, it's not that our music is all the same, but that we all have the same intensity about what we do. I feel very fortunate to be a part of n5MD's great family of artists.

6. It seems like Jazz became the trigger for you to get really serious about music, and you had been playing saxophone for over ten years in the pursuit of Jazz, doesn't it? I think your current style of musical expression is quite different from Jazz (at least from what are typically seen in Jazz), but how did you actually become drawn into electronic music? What was the trigger?

I've really moved away from Jazz, in general, stylistically speaking, but what I learned about improvisation and getting inside the music (and off the page) is something I use in my current music, always. My compositional style is very much improvisational - I tend to play out passages live and then select shorter bits from the longer whole to be used in the actual piece. I tend not to have a musical (melodic) plan when starting a new track, but rather a spatial/ timbral idea - the music I just let come out of me, however it wants. I truly feel sometimes that the music has a life of its own. What is interesting to me is that once the basic musical idea in put down the song quickly tells me where it wants to go - it seems some kind of instinct takes over and I don't have to think about what to add, etc. It's getting the initial idea/ motif formed that can be a bit of an experiment. I still enjoy listening to Jazz, especially in the context of what artists like David Sylvian are currently infusing it with (his new "snow borne sorrow" is excellent). Maybe my music will lean more towards Jazz here and there; it's still a big part of me. I'm not sure there was a trigger that got me into electronic music and away from conventional Jazz. What is coming out of me right now just isn't swinging too much these days! I enjoy acoustic music as much as I enjoy electronic music, maybe one day I'll do an acoustic album or something for a large vocal ensemble. Right now I'm just really into synthesizers and feel like I haven't finished with them yet, maybe I'll never be? Beyond the synthesizer obsession, I think I enjoy electronic music for the "one-man-band" aspect that it allows - giving me the power, through technology, to fully-realize my own musical ideas - although sometimes I miss playing with other human beings. I guess I also like electronic music for its new timbral possibilities, the ability to make sounds that don't occur in nature and sound truly unique in the world.

7. Under the present circumstance where people's demands for music involving a wide variety of uses/aspects of electronics (=digital technologies) are increasing, I guess such awesome spectacular-nature themed like music of yours might have been compared to the music of boards of Canada. I'm just curious, but have you actually ever been influenced by their music?

It's cool that you've picked up on the influence of nature on my music, as I never put the obvious nature references into my work (birds chirping, water-noises, wind, etc) - I think the New Age Music people had that niche cornered a decade ago. Nature inspires my work in a more subconscious way, I think. One can maybe hear this in the organic way my music is structured, some people have told me that my music feels like waves washing through them, which sounds corny, but is actually how it feels for me too, when I'm writing it. I try to structure my tracks and albums around this ebb and flow energy - one can't appreciate a peak without a valley to look up from/ down to, I think. As for Boards of Canada, the commercial success of "Music has the Right to Children" brought a vintage analogue aesthetic back to modern electronic music and thus many artists that use analogue synths in a melodic and ambient way seem to get compared to them. I have even been compared to artists that I had never listened to (like Arovane). What I believe is really happening here is that many like-minded (or spirited) contemporary artists have similar influences that reach way farther back than the 90s, but reviewers seem to forget that there was a whole tradition of emotional, melodic synth-based music that began in the 60s and 70s. My primary influences are artists like Cluster, early Vangelis, Brian Eno, Throbbing Gristle, early Tangerine Dream, Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Sylvian and even contemporary composers outside of the electronic genre like Arvo Part and Philip Glass. I do listen to a lot of modern electronic music, as well, and I really enjoy aspects of what Richard Divine, Merzbow and other more textural (for lack of a better word) artists bring to the table. The stuff I listen to most, though, has to be from the n5 crew - I really am blown away by what they are coming up with.

8. It's really great to hear that your new album 'suture' is going to be released in 2006!!! Regarding this album, approximately when in 2006 is it going to be released? Also, would you please briefly tell us about the album in terms of the album concept, the songs included, and so on?

Thanks! I'm really excited about this album. We are working towards a February 2006 release for 'suture'. As I am writing this, it is being mastered. There are twelve tracks on the album and it is almost 70 minutes long + there might be some surprise bonus stuff along the way. 'suture' ended up being quite a dark album, overall - darker than 'ghost' and I'm not entirely sure how this happened - I certainly didn't set out to write a sunless album (the opposite, actually). I think 'suture' lacks the uplifting quality that some have told me "ghost" possesses at its end. There is some light in there, but it is definitely deep down the hole. 'suture' also has become a much more percussive album, with some fairly heavy elements mixed into the more ambient layers. There is also a lot more micro-editing going on in 'suture', where "ghost" was relatively straight-ahead and smooth, 'suture' is twisted and jagged at times.

9. As you may have already noticed, your music has gained and still gaining considerable reputations in Japan! Would you please tell us your impression of Japan?

I have long been fascinated by Japanese art and culture. Even as a boy (or LAD... bad joke), I was really into Samurai history. I love Japanese design, the clean lines and marriage of beauty with functionality. I am a fan of Japanese Cinema, particularly the work of Kurosawa. Over the years, I have had many Japanese friends who have introduced me to other aspects of the culture that I love (sushi, green tea, sake and the unique Japanese sense of humour!). I am also drawn to Japanese architecture and landscaping techniques. I am even a big fan of traditional Japanese music and enjoy seeing traditional instruments (like the Koto and Shamisen) used in new contexts, with modern music. I have long wanted to spend some time in Japan, but have not had the opportunity yet - I stopped over once on my way to Southeast Asia, so this doesn't really count.

10. We (=team alpha and Omega) believe that music has a great power to tap into subconscious minds of people and awake them in a various good meanings. (We consider this happens by our realizations of how to live in better ways, which is elicited by listening to great music.) We feel the same kind of great power from your music too, but what do you think about such influences of music on people? Also, do you think music is capable of influencing/changing ones point of view or life?

My life has certainly been transformed by the music of others. Who hasn't had *that particular album* get you through a bad break-up, or a piece of music inspire you to suddenly make a change for the better? It is really gratifying to hear that people find some of those qualities in my music - to know that the music that I wrote to help get me through a period might actually help others, or an expression of joy and transcendence might be passed on to somebody I've never met. I can't imagine my life without music - but, you know, I think this applies to all art - if I suddenly went deaf, I would still find the same inspiration and comfort in other art mediums - I get much of my inspiration from paintings, architecture, film, poetry, novels, etc... I think even loving someone else is an art, both physically and emotionally, something that can be developed over time and reach deeper and more meaningful regions of experience. I think we all need to think of ourselves as artists in whatever we love doing.

11. In closing, what style of music/musical expression are you seeing now? in your future vision as a next step for the everlasting evolution of subtractiveLAD sound?

I have already started on some new tracks but I'm not sure where they are taking me - they are more textural and might end up being a side project or an EP... very noise-heavy and brutal, in places. I also have a general idea for the next subLAD album, properly-speaking - I tend to come up with a set of *rules* or parameters that guide me through an album. This allows me to explore within those boundaries and experiment without getting completely derailed. These rules might change, so I'll refrain from talking about it too much, at this point - it will be melodic and very personal, that much I can assure you.
igloomag interview

ONE of n5MD's favourite sons, SubtractiveLAD (Stephen Hummel), squeezed in a Q&A with Igloo in between releasing his latest album No Man's Land and moving house. Learn of the mysteries of emotional electronic music composition, thrill to insights into what it is for a LAD to be subtractive, and gasp at his barefaced denial of IDM.

Igloo :: I gather that you started out in the jazz-improv world. What happened to make you shift genre paradigms and move into electronica?

Stephen Hummel :: It's the improvisational aspect of jazz that got me into it and my music is still fairly improvisational, both at the writing stage and when I perform. I've just moved away from the typical instrumentations and structures of jazz (if there are typical jazz instruments and structures these days). It's obvious that the perception of jazz as a genre has also changed and I'm sure if you asked one person and then another the question "what is jazz?", you'd get pretty different answers. Maybe Duke Ellington had it right when he said "It's all music." To be clear, the subLAD sound doesn't generally include large horn sections and an obvious swing over a 12-bar progression - I still like that stuff, it's just not what I hear when the muse comes to visit. In my teens, my high school got a MIDI workstation (we're talking Atari ST here) with a Korg M1 - I instantly got fascinated with the possibility of layering sounds that I made and being in complete control over my vision. I would spend weekends taking the gear home (nobody else really bothered with the stuff) and getting lost in my own world.

Igloo :: How do you feel about the genre tag 'IDM,' first of all as a tag, and secondly as applied to your music?

SH :: I think intellectualism hurts music more than it benefits it. I create music from an emotional place and even my sound design work is directed by an emotional response. It seems true, however, that one has to become proficient enough with an instrument or piece of software to think less and feel more. It's like learning to read - it would be hard to get lost in a novel while having to sound out every word. I don't consider my music IDM and I don't think others should either. When people that don't know me find out I'm a musician and ask me what kind of music I make, I usually just describe it as electronic and then they tell me how much they like house music.

Igloo :: I read that the origin of your project's name comes from the concept of 'subtractive synthesis'. How would you characterize this to someone without much 'techie' knowledge? In what lies its appeal, i.e. what does it offer that makes it distinctive and good to work with?

SH :: I think what appeals to me most about subtractive synthesis and especially analogue subtractive synthesis is the hands-on nature of the instrument - and the electricity (literally) that makes it feel alive to some extent. While playing a keyboard one can also sculpt the instrument's sound by controlling various aspects of the sound-generating circuit as a part of the performance (using the knobs and switches, etc). On my latest album's title track ("No Man's Land") you will hear exactly what I am describing - the track is made up of overdubs of me playing various synthesizers (and guitars) live and tweaking the sounds in real time while playing the notes. I wanted to write a track that was in the moment and yet fairly epic at the same time - like telling a long story from beginning to end in one sitting. I actually wrote that track in one afternoon - it's the longest track on the album and was the quickest one to create, completely improvised on the fly.

Igloo :: How do you go about your work (i.e. the compositional process and a bit about the technology - though not too geeky!)? And relatedly, your music has quite a distinctive sound with particular 'hues' and textures - is there a particular way you go about getting that kind of sound?

1481 image 2 SH :: The process can change from track to track, depending on where I start with the idea. Sometimes I start with a rhythm, other times a melodic hook but mostly I improvise on chord structures and then map things out from there. It's probably the jazz background again - I love having a chord structure as a foundation to improvise upon. In terms of the sounds and timbres I use in my work, I try not to think it over too much and instead just play with a patch until I feel a connection to it - same with guitar tone, I'll mess with things until it just feels *right*. Sometimes I'll hear a particular sound in someone else's work that really excites me and I'll figure out a way to make it my own. I think a lot of sounds are subconscious as well - references to the past and connected directly to emotions. I guess my *sound* (if I do have one) is simply the sum of all the things that I like, in a way.

Igloo :: How do you construct your beat structures - is there a specific methodology or does it vary? Do you use 'real' real-time drumming like, for example, Mike Cadoo has sometimes done in his Bitcrush stuff?

SH :: I mess with a sound until it feels right and then map it on the keyboard (I repeat this process until I have a whole percussive ensemble across a portion of the keyboard). This can be a slightly time-consuming ordeal (especially with velocity layers) but once things are mapped out I just play stuff live and find bits that I like to repeat and layer, etc. After things are played and arranged for the most part, I will often mess with things a little more in the micro-editing department to accent moments and provide additional impact/tension/release, etc.

Igloo :: Would you say that your music is 'about' anything other than the play of sound with itself? Does it (or do individual tracks) have any sort of 'message'?

SH :: I feel like my tracks take on meaning once they get started and after a few songs are done a theme will usually emerge to set the tone for a whole album. I don't usually start a new piece with a message in mind - I try to stay as open as possible to what is naturally trying to come out and I sort of discover the message along the way. That said, I think my music is certainly more than the play of sound - I definitely put a great emphasis on the musical structures as well as the production values, etc.

Igloo :: I'm curious to know about the musician's lot as regards making a living: is it possible to make a living as a non-mainstream experimental electronic musician without another source of income? Relatedly, I read that you've also developed and marketed your own brand of devices called 'Wavelength'. Is your involvement in software development intensive and does it generate much money for you?

SH :: I'm sure it's possible to make a living at just making niche-market music if one is focused and driven enough and open to licensing options and the like. One would also have to build a following of enough loyal fans to rely on a certain amount of sales every year. I think it also would require quite a consistent output of material and perhaps even frequent touring/e-marketing one's material. The music software development game is a tough one - when I first started out back in 1999 the game was different and there wasn't really any freeware or shareware available (or crackware), I actually made a modest living for the first year but it wasn't long until free suddenly seemed like the right price for software instruments. It's a whole lot of work for very little payoff financially, in the end I had to tell myself that I was doing it for my own sonic arsenal - and truthfully this became how the subLAD project was born. I'm pretty settled these days and I'm not particularly interested in touring for long periods of time. I enjoy playing live under the right circumstances (great room/sound, etc) and I enjoy the energy I get back from the crowds but I primarily write music for myself which seems enough for me. I currently subsidize my income with a gig at a local art college, working as a career liaison to industry for audio and film grads - which is fun and keeps me very well networked.

Igloo :: How did you hook up with N5MD and Mike Cadoo? Did you send him a demo or were you head-hunted?

SH :: I sent Mike a demo and then Mike and I ended up going back and forth over email for a long while getting to know each other before any real commitment was made. In retrospect it was definitely the right way to go - to make sure that everything was a good fit and that we both felt comfortable dealing with each other. Mike was definitely instrumental in getting me to focus my sound and be truer to what I was trying to get across, instead of making music that I thought people wanted to hear.

Igloo :: Which current artists do you particularly admire and who would you mention from the past as having been figures that have shaped your musical development significantly?

SH :: Artists I admire from both past and present (apart from the n5 peeps) - Arvo Part, Brian Eno, David Sylvian, early Warp Records, Leonard Cohen, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kevin Shields, Cocteau Twins, Vangelis (Blade Runner, not Chariots of Fire), Tangerine Dream (analogue, not digital), early hip-hop (I used to breakdance back in the day), P-funk, Robert Fripp, Daniel Lanois, Hammock (Mike originally turned my onto Kenotic and it was so instantly appealing to me), Sigur Ros, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Chick Corea, I also listen to a lot of classical music and lately I've been getting into Wagner and Biber - I could go on and on but these are the ones that just came to mind? I am also meeting a lot of great artists through MySpace which I had shunned for a long time and now find myself fairly addicted to (sadly).

Igloo :: There seemed a notable difference in sound and mood between Giving up the Ghost and Suture, How would you compare the latest album No Man's Land with those two albums. And relatedly, what factors do you think are most influential in determining the overall 'tenor' of specific albums?

1481 image 3 SH :: It's so hard for me to judge these things objectively - it all seems like a very natural progression to me because I've gradually developed things over time. Although it is true that I would definitely never want to make the same record twice - I always try to add something a little different to keep things interesting for myself. Each album is really just a snapshot into my subconscious during the six months or so it took me to write each album. Regarding No Man's Land as it compares to my other two? I would just have to say that it is more hands-on and less massaged in 'post-' - I wanted it to have a more immediate sound and a more intimate feel. It is less dark than Suture, perhaps more hopeful in tone. One thing I always try to achieve is a real flow to every album - to have a journey from beginning to end. I take great pains with the sequencing of each of my album's tracks.

Igloo :: Is there a 'concept' underlying No Man's Land or is it just a collection of tracks linked only by virtue of your authorship?

SH :: I was intrigued by the notion of a no man's land - the idea of a place of neutrality that has elements of extreme danger and refuge all rolled into one. It seemed a good metaphor for human relationships and some of the things I was going through in my own life at the time. The rest I will leave for the listener to determine.

Igloo :: Is there anything that your personal input and context (environmental, geographical, whatever...) has brought to the music that you see as making it distinctive?

SH :: I'm certain it all has an impact in some way - although I think I tend to insulate myself from the world somewhat when I get deep into a new project. I don't feel like I have a particularly *Vancouver* kind of sound, if this is what you are asking. I think I would write similar music wherever I was at the time - again? hard to say until I've lived in a very different place for any length of time.

Stephen Hummel has just released a new album for his project - No Man's Land. We decided to talk with artist, trying to find learn more his past, present, find out more about further plans, finally to try imagine what is that full of emotions world of subtractiveLAD.

-- First of all, can you tell about your musical base: do you have some special education or learned on your own?

I have always been musical - my parents are great lovers of music and I grew-up around all different kinds. I took all kinds of music lessons throughout high school - played in jazz bands and was trained classically as a singer, primarily in large vocal ensembles. I got into synthesis and electronic music production while in high school but didn't take things more seriously until my mid-twenties, having tried a number of other directions and finding myself really needing to make music as much as possible. Music is like eating for me - if I don't do it for a few days things really start to go downhill...

-- How came an idea to write a music?

I'm always messing around on the keyboards and guitar and when something pops out that I really like I simply record it and build things from there - I try not to get too complicated about things. Music is about playing for me and improvisation.

-- Your music is full of emotions, what are the main sources of them?

Really just my life in general - my abilities and inadequacies all rolled into one. Frustration, fear, love, despair... hope?

-- Has it some practical application personally for you - does it help you to break through some life problems, to relax or else... maybe your music just points to certain moments in your life? What is more appropriate?

I think the act of creating music does allow me to deal with things on a subconscious level, as well as providing a kind of escape from the day to day. It is not always relaxing, however, in fact I usually get pretty worked up once I'm in the zone, so to speak. I've had to stop writing music and then trying to go to sleep right after because my mind won't gear down. I need to give myself some time between writing and going to bed - just to unwind from it all.

-- If nothing special happens in your life for a while, what do you do in the context of your music project - just waiting for a "better" (both positive/negative) time or "stepping on the gas" and anyway trying to create something new?

I find that nothing particularly special needs to happen in my life for me to write music - I always seem to enjoy making music in some way. Good and bad things ultimately do end up happening in my life, however, whether I like it or not and these things will find a way of coming out through my music, I'm sure. I have written tracks with specific people in mind and also specific moments - at least I start from that place but over time all my tracks tend to become infused with all sorts of ideas as things develop over time.

-- How your track creation process looks like? How hard to catch and put into the music exact emotions you want to appear there? What is the prior thing: track's frame (and than you look for pertinent emotions, feelings etc) or, to the contrary, emotions or else to be put into the music?

The original emotional seed of a track is always the most important - if I don't feel moved by what I am writing how can expect anybody else to be moved by it? The rest of the arranging and production is all about further serving this emotional core... fine-tuning things. The initial idea for the song and it's basic structure usually come out really fast but then I can take weeks tweaking things, moving things around in a mix and getting everything where I want it.

-- Do you put any conception into your albums?

Honestly, the album concepts usually evolve after a number of the tracks have been written. I will usually detect a sort of theme that will rise out of everything and it will determine the rest of the album. I need to make a fairly substantial start before trying to define a project in any way... I try to let the project tell me where it wants to go on some kind of subconscious level.

-- Can you name your main influences?

The past 32 years of my life. Everything that I have experienced has brought me to where I am and made my music the way it is. Musically-speaking I get inspired by a healthy variety of genres... I get inspired my other forms of art as well - especially reading and cinema... and photography/design/architecture/painting...

-- By the way, do you express yourself somehow besides music?

I have spent time writing/studying poetry and creating/studying photography. I was an English Literature/Fine Arts major in college. I also love painting (watercolors) and sketching, although I rarely make time to do these things these days. I do try to take photographs as often as I can, although my SLR was stolen and I need to get a new, really serious camera. I actually have a lot of ideas musically that fall outside the subtractiveLAD sound - more abstract, etc - maybe one day I'll try to put a whole album together in a completely different style.

-- What’s more appropriate for you: to expand variety of shapes and forms or to dig deeper at once found ones? How hard is it to do any of each thing track by track, album by album?

Interesting question. I definitely try to do both to some extent. I seem to go through phases of loving particular types of sounds and so if the writing of an album goes on for any length of time my tastes will change somewhat over time and the album will end up always being a hybrid of a number of (sometimes conflicting) ideas. When this happens in the extreme I sometimes have to be brutal and almost start over again on certain tracks... if things get derailed too far... or I just shelve the track and leave it in my deformed pile until I feel like taking it apart again. Again, I get bored easily so on every new project I try to challenge myself somewhat, outside of my comfort zone - like picking up the guitar on No Man's Land or going further into the glitch/micro-editing realm on Suture.

-- What should listeners expect from your upcoming album "No Man’s Land"?

A lot more stuff that I played live and didn't mess with too much - this album is much more immediately emotional in that what you hear is largely what I played. There is still a fair amount of tweakage going on but more of the modulations and processings were done live instead of being programmed in some way. It's a very hands-on album.

-- You made a track with Bitcrush. How do you like it? In general, do you like to make such collaborations and remixes? Do you plan any in the nearest future?

Mike is such a pro with this stuff - that collaboration came about and was finished very quickly, things just flowed really well and we both seemed to feel exactly the same in terms of where the track should go. I would be honoured to work with Mike again on anything. Another project that would be fun for me would be a whole album of collaborations with different vocalists for every track. I also have always wanted to write a long piece for a large vocal ensemble. As an aside, remixing other artist's work is also something I have enjoyed in the past and I look forward to doing more remix work in the future.

-- How can you describe your relationship with label's owner Mike Cadoo? Does he help you somehow in album's production cycle or you're doing all the things strictly alone (or maybe someone else helps you)?

I trust and value Mike's input very much. He definitely plays an important role at the very end when the album in finally taking shape - his comments can help bring some objectivity to my world when I am completely wrapped up in a project and have become lost in it. I also have a couple other people that I am fortunate enough to have in my life that I can bounce things off of and get constructive criticism from before releasing my work. It's also great to test new ideas on crowds when I play live - to see if my ideas are truly connecting with others or simply self-indulgent.

-- Do you plan to visit Europe with performances? Have you heard anything before about Ukraine? :) Finally, a few words for people, who know about n5MD artists here, please.

I would love to go on tour in Europe, absolutely. Hopefully things will progress enough to make this happen in the near future. I have a fond place in my heart for the people of Northern Europe - the Baltic States, the Ukraine, Russia, Scandinavia, Iceland - I feel like you are my neighbours (which you are, really) over the North Pole. You have embraced my music from the beginning which tells me that you understand something of my spirit and are feeling some of the same things I am. I would love to visit you and play you my music in person and learn more about you along the way...