The easiest access point here is through the Dro Carey tumblr, Brainsosoft, or the DC Vampira Vimeo channel. What's apparent in both cases is the large volume of content and a cluttered yet cohesive aesthetic. Brainsosoft collects artwork, videos and music; a sort of scrapbook of Hector's influences and current projects. The Vimeo channel, meanwhile, is home to his cracked-out, VHS-culled video clips, produced for himself and (often unofficially) for other artists.
These portals also hint at the type of complex character behind the music. Without meaning to sound condescending, Hector's responses don't come across as someone who is fresh out of high school. When asked about the many aliases that he's adopted on his tumblr and Vimeo channel: "Pierre Magneto Menard, nickname Neto, is like this French avant-garde/tech persona, someone I imagine to be far older than me, who has since left music and moved into video art and other installations, and kindly extends his video cut-ups to Brainsosoft artists…Magneto is about 40 years old I would guess. And his identity is in turn assumed from the [Jorge Luis] Borges character Pierre Menard and the X-Men character Magneto.
"Fad TMB is an attempt to approximate footwork and juke sounds—though some of the earlier material varies from this—and is the second Brainsosoft artist. Dro Carey is the joke that became resoundingly real when I exited hospital. It kind of grafted itself onto me at precisely that point. It is the primary alias I use, the basis of grouping everything else together as Brainsosoft, and it is the one closest to myself, though obviously still different to my actual (?) persona...They're all partitioned in my head, like operating systems on a hard drive."
thing I do to be immune to
th[e] influence of depression."
The stay in hospital refers to the time Hector spent in a mental health facility early last year after being diagnosed with depression. Not wanting to necessarily pry, I ask if the emotions thrown up by his health issues are something he looks to draw upon in his music? "Depression consumes and affects everything in somebody's life," he says. "So even if I don't sit down and consciously map out some kind of goal of what I want to represent in music, it's impossible for any creative thing I do to be immune to that influence of depression." And does he see making music as a type of therapy in a sense? "Not really. Music is perhaps equivalent to eating, sleeping or masturbating; fleeting pleasures, delaying things. If you need therapy, talk to somebody."
Out of the melee of his internet presence has so far come two 12-inches, a 7-inch single and a digital EP. The Dro Carey debut, Venus Knock, was completed and mastered while Hector was still in high school, and was the first 12-inch Will Bankhead put-out through his Trilogy Tapes imprint. (Bankhead discovered the very first Dro Carey productions on YouTube and got in contact.) A colleague of mine picked up the release at the tail end of 2010—no doubt drawn initially to its artwork—and felt sure that "Dro Carey" was the alias of a long-established producer; a dumping ground for someone's off-piste experiments in footwork, R&B and deranged house music. What we were in fact dealing with was a distillation of teenage obsessions and compulsions: trawling the internet for music and a desire for solitude.
"I really doubt the sense of music discovery—aided by the internet—that I experienced through my teen years is ever going to be replicated in my life," he reflects. "I searched out so much stuff in that time—not just on the internet but on vinyl and tapes as well. I mean, it's still an infinite process but I doubt I'll undergo such a rapid period of exposure again."
Perhaps as it's stored in comparatively recent memory, Hector is able to pin-point exact moments, growing up in Sydney, that would later inform the basis of his sound. "Hearing a 128 kbps radio rip of "Glaciers of Ice" by Raekwon…hearing "4th Chamber" by the GZA when I was 11 or 12…hearing "Building Steam With a Grain of Salt" by DJ Shadow when I was 13…Bitches Brew by Miles Davis…Harvest Time by Pharoah Sanders when I was 15…and then finally encountering producers like El-B and Jeff Mills, which really challenged my preconceptions of dance music."
What was it about the music of El-B and Jeff Mills that triggered such a re-think? "They're two examples of producers that I found out about whose aesthetic was so dark and angular, yet whose music was so canonical for their respective scenes. That dance music could sound like that, I just never considered it."
Hector began experimenting with music production aged 13. At the time aspiring to make hip-hop beats, his parents bought him a basic Boss sampler and he set about crudely recording and splicing loops—Japanese fusion band Casiopea mixed with veteran American funk organist Ronnie Foster, for example. His attention later turned to more ambient and experimental styles, recording acoustic instruments and processing them in Apple's Garageband. "Then I tried doing some things using cassette," he recalls, "slowing things DJ Screw style, recording different bits of things over and over, or one after another, wanting to develop a rhythmic musique concrete sort of thing.
"But all this time I still wanted to make conventional hip-hop beats," he says, "and that's when the Dro Carey alias came about. [My productions] were largely still too weird for anyone to rap over and that became an accidental foray into dance music, which I was just getting into through those producers [El-B, Jeff Mills] I mentioned before."
The development of Dro Carey has run in tandem with his work in video, produced as the aforementioned Pierre Magneto Menard. Unofficial clips for Girl Unit, Jam City and DJ Nate have been a considerable factor in drawing attention to his music—"YouTube search terms would bring someone to the same channel as the Dro tracks." Ikonika, who back in September released Hector's footwork-indebted rhythmic head-fuck,Candy Red / Hungry Horse, on her Hum + Buzz label, discovered him in this manner, while Joy Orbison used the visuals from one of his DJ Nate videos to promote Braiden's The Alpslast year.
In much the same vein as his music, Hector's videos can at times come off as unsettling. Predominantly composed using grainy black-and-white archive footage, they jerk haphazardly from one shot to the next, evoking a vibe rather than any sense of narrative. "I have a pretty specific goal: to create a curious and anxious tension," he confirms. "Like a foreboding thing that may not even show up. So typically I try to do things like avoid including actor's faces; distort light sources; 'ambigufy' things."
little invisible things that shoot
through the air once for a particular
linking purpose, then are lost."
This disfigured aesthetic has been among the central themes of his work to date, a trait that can in part be attributed to his listening habits—screw tapes, drone tapes, live raga concerts on cassette—growing up. However, as Journey with the Heavy, his upcoming release for Ramp Recordings confirms (at least comparatively speaking), it's not a sensibility he's necessarily enslaved to. "I've come to appreciate more and more the nuances of well-mixed, well-mastered audio," he says. "I'm trying to educate myself and implement this in my own music production. I don't agree that the sheen or gloss or the 'traditional' approaches are dead. There are genres where production value is frequently extremely important, like R&B or video game music. It is precise and clean for very specific reasons related to the media."
In outlining a new-found appreciation of high quality audio is he perhaps cognisant of his music being consumed by an increasingly wider audience? "The audience comment is a good point," he concedes. "Like I might play a mix-down of a new track in a set at a club and the kick comes in and I'm like 'shit, this sounds limp and hollow...' I have to crank up the bass on the mixer, even though it sounded fine at home. And, momentarily, this was an obstacle in terms of people receiving it. The audience was expecting something with the same low-end as the other records that had preceded it—and so was I!"
"As far as a performance, the customer is always right," he continues on the subject of his handful of DJ/live appearances in Sydney to date. "That doesn't mean you can't experiment, just have an eye for pacing. People bothered to come out, so give them an arc, like a film.
"Unfortunately, my health issues—migraines, depression—greatly interfere with preparation and performance. As such, I have been on a bit of a gig hiatus because I do not want to risk letting anyone down, even if I'm feeling OK when they ask. Once I'm in a more stable position I would like to get back into doing shows, both live performances and DJ sets. My dream thing would be a live ensemble to accompany the electronic stuff, like a live drummer playing the rhythms. I think that would be cool."
Hector recently signed with 2084, the new bookings agency arm of Ramp Recordings that looks after UK-based acts like Hackman, Bad Autopsy and Gerry Read, but despite this, and string of releases upcoming for Trilogy Tapes, Templar Sound and Ramp, he can't see himself making the journey of so many of his producer compatriots and move to Europe. "I don't feel being in Sydney is a disadvantage. I am fine with the idea of traveling and touring for gigs, and I really can't imagine it getting so frequent that I would be better off moving to Europe," he adds, a little modestly.
Looking further ahead, Hector also plans to finish two companion albums: "one vaguely about Western Australia, one vaguely about Queensland, the states where my parents are from. They will also be about public transport and obsolete computer equipment and video signals and things like that. All my other projects I'm too embarrassed to mention. If they matter enough, people will find out someday."
Those types of little downplays occur frequently in talking to Hector. But with so many artists peddling stock responses during interviews, it's nonetheless refreshing to hear. As are his views on the music making process and outlook in general. "There are a lot of elements that converge when you make something," he concludes. "We can acknowledge that there are many of these elements, we can acknowledge certain conscious decisions obviously exist but, beyond that, most ideas are the result of poltergeists, little invisible things that shoot through the air once for a particular linking purpose, then are lost. I'm not against structure or analysis or intellectualizing things. But I think ultimately, there's this mesh of auras that everyone has and we can't account for many of them, or assume that particular things amongst the mesh are the most influential. I just want to do something interesting. Not to get all New Age-y or anything, but everyone should welcome their difficult meshes."