Greg Hunter is probably the quietest anarchist you will ever meet. He’s a man of mystery, a humble genius, a dark horse. So getting an interview with him was no easy feat before this week’s Bass Sufi gig in London with Celt Islam and Naan. That’s probably because he’s a rare breed of artist who seldom speaks about himself – and is more of a legend than he cares to acknowledge.
Greg has often been likened to a futurist with a penchant for making music way ahead of its time. Just go back to 1995 and check out The Number Readers, produced under the Subsurfing moniker with Japanese artist Ryoji Oba.
Fans who have been looking for it online will be pleased to hear a track from the album was re-released in just March this year.
A softly-spoken man of few words, the only other interview Greg’s ever given was through former label MELT, when a reporter from Marie Claire flew to Egypt to speak about female artists on his Alien Soap Opera project.
We laugh at the irony – Greg, the very antithesis of consumerism – appearing in this perversely commercial glossy. “Yes, I suppose that was quite funny,” he tells me quietly, “but I didn’t like it,” and we cackle some more.
Greg’s music reflects his temperament: a gentle soul and shy connoisseur with anti- capitalist values so profound that self-promotion kind of goes right out the window. Producer and former label manager of Dragonfly Records, Darren Sangita launched the project Spectralite with Greg back in 2010. “Greg’s work is light years ahead of the sonic spectrum. In fact, he’s helped set the stage for some of the greatest musical talents we know today. You could say he’s taken the future of music with the history of music – and then fused them together in an original, world class way.”
Re-invention with alias projects like Subsurfing, Alien Soap Opera, Wåveshåper, Dub Trees, Celtic Cross and Dubsahara has kept the creative flow in motion. And in some of these, there’s a potent spirit of the Middle East – shown by collaborations with some of the most revered artists from the region, including Egyptian musician, Amir Abdel Magid. Art director at Ozora Festival’s Dome area, DJ Josko adds: “Lets just say all his music hada huge impact on me.
His approach to music was, and still is, very inspiring for me, and for many others.” Egypt though, has been a focal point for many years, but last year’s trip was not so productive. “There were bombs going off and other dangerous things happening. It’s sad. There’s been a loss of innocence. But I do like to mix music from different cultures because if it can harmonise together – then the people can harmonise too,” he says.
As a music, producer, engineer and re-mixer, Greg is an all round creative genius who has worked with luminaries from across the spectrum – and his discogs list does little to justify that life-time of dedication. But some that do top the list include The Orb, Youth, Killing Joke, Julian Marley, Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Marshall Jefferson, Ahlam / Assala, Kalahari Surfers, Juno Reactor, Simon Posford, Crowded House and Paul McCartney.
It was through the music producer and Killing Joke bassist Youth, that Greg worked on those latter two projects. In fact, Greg and Youth have travelled a long trippy road. They broke on through to the other side: both as geniuses in their own right. They emerged from a powerful time – and the ripples are still felt today. Youth is also the founder of Liquid Sound Design and Dragon Fly Records.
He tells me: “Greg was one of the first mixers I worked with to get that holographic 3D sound. And he’s one of the few engineers I could put on a rock project because he’d just get it. He also got trance, though dub was his main forte. He was a great pleasure to work with and also became a good friend. I’ve learnt a lot from Greg.”
Greg’s immense repertoire is riddled with luminaries which also include Terrence McKenna. “He came to Youth’s Butterfly Studios and we all smoked DMT in the garden.” This seems to trigger a trip down memory lane: “I sort of came from the free festival scene, which was a pre-curser to acid house in the eighties.
“I was into the Ozric Tentacles, Hawkind and Gong, and into English free festivals and the countryside, and acid. And then I sort of got into acid house before finding myself at Butterfly Studios.” Butterfly was the underground den which belonged to Youth who flung open the doors to London’s squat party crowd – and where many musicians and producers cut their teeth before going off to work as engineers for major record labels.
“But when I was first there, it wasn’t a studio” he continues, “It was Youth’s house, and he put in this little mixing desk. And all the Goa people were coming to stay. It was a centre for meeting people and it sort of grew from that. Without Youth though, there would be no trance.”
“I remember the first session I ever did, was with Youth – and it was a remix for an Alien Sex Fiend track – this was my first proper session when I was just tape op-ing and assisting.”
Speaking about the explosion of rave culture, he adds: “It was a nice tribe of creative folk who were all involved in this amazing underground scene. It happened quite organically. But at the time, you didn’t know it was going to become this massive thing because you’re just hanging out with your mates. It was just a laugh.”
Not many people had anticipated the eruption of rave culture at the time. But they knew they liked it.
At the same time, The Orb were stirring up a storm as pioneers of the chill out movement and Greg was enamoured by it all while working in the studios of Steve Levine – which is where he met Alex Paterson.
I was listening to that sort of thing anyway, so it was really good for me to work with The Orb rather than these old fogeys who I was working with at the time. “But now of course, I realise they were not old fogeys at all – they were the likes of Gene Pitney and David Courtney from The Who, but at the time, for me, they were just a bunch of old farts doing music without bass drums. “But Steve was also working with Boy George and Culture Club. So one day The Orb came into the studio and I did that session with them.
“They said they liked it so they came back and we did another one and it was for Fluffy Clouds – and that’s when I met Youth again. And because it went so well, Alex said ‘come and do the next album.”
Youth tells me later: “When he came on the Orb as a mixer, it was great because he really understood where we were coming from – he’s quite psychedelically inclined. And though he’s very quiet, he throws his anchor deep and can create some amazing atmospheres with just a few tweaks and twiddles. It’s very organic too when you’re working with him. His sound is constantly morphing. He’s very, very creative.”
It was 1991. Greg had mixed and engineered both albums for The Orb before going on to work with Youth at Butterfly Studios after the band moved from Big Life to Island Records. He said he was in his element at Butterfly because he got to work with the likes of Derrick May, Marshall Jefferson and Juan Atkins.
“The people who were at Butterfly were the luminaries I was interested in. Juan Atkins was the best session with Model 500. He’s amazing. And he was signed to Apollo too like Subsurfing was – it was the same label as Aphex Twin – and I was really glad about that.” A year later, he joined forces with former member of The Orb, Kris Weston/Thrash to launch an insane remix of the Killing Joke track, Requiem.
Greg’s music has reached a highly dedicated niche of music lovers who value the attention to detail and stylistic quality in his work – including Hungarian belly dance sensations, Attraktív Kollektíva who tracked him down so they could perform specially to his live set at Ozora.
Although critically acclaimed for what he’s achieved musically, there’s plenty of work for which Greg is rarely credited – including projects such as Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions.
Last year he produced an EP with The Egg and recently flew back from Tokyo where he finished a third album with Japanese ambient/techno maverick, Hataken for their project, Wåveshåper. Electroglyph is the result: an otherworldly production punctuated by distorted leads and unusual samples. https://mutantra.bandcamp.com/album/electro-glyph
Next month, he’s off to Norway’s Midnight Sun Festival to play at a remarkable location where the sun never sets. “We will go as Discordians of the Ice Age to the land of the Viking!” he exclaims with a belly laugh, before adding, “Do you think it will get dark?” We discuss the possibility of penguin watching like David Attenborough before getting onto the subject of the line-up. “The location looks wonderful and it will be so nice to Ott, Mauxuam and Seb aka Shakta.”
Greg will also be back at the Ozora Festival this year where he’s looking forward to seeing his old friend Simon Posford who he’s known since the heady days of Purple Om and Dub Trees. “Simon will be doing a biggie with the new Shpongle album which is quite exciting,” he says, before adding: “I have a lot of time for Simon. I feel he’s kept his integrity over the years.”
Under his independent label Mutantra Records, he plans to share something new. “I like this Zenon style of music known as Bushprog. This is what’s exciting me at the moment – so I’m listening to artists like Grouch, Merkaba, Tetrameth and Evil Oil Man, and I would like to start writing some Zenonesque music soon.
“I don’t know why it’s all coming out of Australia though – maybe they’ve got the space to do it? It’s the same as ‘stoner rock’ which came out of the desert in America – these kids who had no money basically went out into the desert to jam for a few days. I guess it’s the same concept with Bushprog, which I find soft and feminine, and easy to dance to.”
Music production is a spiritual practice for Greg Hunter. He tells me: “I have these little guides which I feel rather than see – but you have to believe in it,” he says, “creative energy is channelled through the crown chakra. And there’s an inexhaustible supply which we can all tap into, specially if we are open to receiving it.”
Greg will no doubt be opening some heart chakras too when he when he takes to the stage for Bass Sufi. Expect some Bushprog, cosmic beats and psychedelic pieces.