Henrique Oliveira aka HNQO is one of the fastest rising young stars in the techno, house and indie dance scene in Brazil. Causing much attention and hype with his recent EP release on DOC Records (Balinese Death – also featured in MAGNUM VOL 1) and having reached the #1 spot at Hot Creations Top selling single, it is time to introduce his first album “The Old Door”.
Henrique kindly talks us through his conceptual and interpretive ideas and creative processes in recording his debut album.
Hi Henrique, thanks for joining us at Decoded Magazine. I really wanted to talk to you about your debut album The Old Door to pick your mind behind the concept of the album and meaning of the tracks to you. Are you relieved now the album has launched?
Hello guys. Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure. Yes, definitely relieved and happy with the result so far.
How did you decide on DOC Records being the home for the album?
They really liked the album idea since the beginning and offered a good coverage with Kompakt for its distribution. So I decided it would be a good label to release it on as well as because they are based in Brazil.
Martin is a very sophisticated producer that takes so much care about the details and the shaping of his sound. There is always a nice progression of notes on top of the rhythms and it all sounds very sharp but at the same time soft and really well controlled. Anders had this time where his music was Techno and more aggressive, flirting with Electro and also experimenting intelligent grooves as well as the ambient sounds with an emotional appealing. They both have impeccable techniques for producing each with a different musical approach and I find good directions to follow from their styles.
I’d now like to pick up on some interesting key points from the press notes for the album to talk about in more detail. Urzula Amen features as vocals on two tracks. Is she a vocalist you have worked with before? Did you have her particularly in mind for the project?
That was the first time I had Urzula to collaborate on one of my tracks. I had her in mind since the first times I heard her voice and it it took around 3 years until I had something that convinced me that it was time to send her a request and then music to check and try a collaboration. She was kind enough to check the idea and I was lucky enough that she liked it.
“The Death of the Elephant” symbolises how destructive human kind has been to nature. Is this a concern to you, and more so in your home country?
Yes, it is definitely a concern. I used to be more relaxed about it but the more you learn the more you get upset on how much unnecessary pain and destruction we cause to nature. This track came right when I was watching some amazing people removing Elephants from dangerous agrobusiness and hunting areas to place them under protection in safe parks.
“40’s Cartoon” can be likened to a twisted Disney soundscape with a ticking clock sound and the Pizzicato technique of playing the violin (by plucking the strings rather than using the bow) also aids the feeling of an “up to no good” or mischievous character in its steps. Was this the intention?
The intention was to make a darker and creepier track, but I didn’t have the intention to make it sound and fit so well to an old cartoon. I have composed the rhythm first and then I started with the Pizzicato notes. Later in the process I was listening to part of the arrangement and watching muted cartoons on YouTube and it all came together so well that I decided to name it “40’s Cartoon”
The concept of flying is addressed with both “Egyptian Lover” and “Fallen Angel”. Would this be down to travel and touring being a timely part of your life and how do these tracks purvey this in their composition?
“Egyptian Lover” tells the story of my intention to help someone I like to fly to come and meet me over the night. I wrote those vocals while arranging the track and that was a moment where I had a girlfriend living in another country at a fading stage of the relationship. “Fallen Angel” is the soundtrack to what I imagine for an angel’s fall. A dramatic moment where the angel himself experiences the harmful world of instant judgement and pain. I like to think that at minute ‘3:55’ where the big orchestral drum hits followed by synth blips and a messy noise panning means the moment where the angel loses conscience when hitting the ground. The break feels disoriented and the music then comes back to normal in a slightly new perspective.
“Light a Cigarette” is probably the most interesting track in terms of your approach as it was recorded with eyes shut and in complete darkness. Did you learn anything about your creative process when working this way?
It was a weird night. I went out to a bar and met some friends, went back home a little drunk and sat down at the studio, started playing with a few sounds and turned the lights off. Somehow, the melancholic sounds were making me feel good. I’ve set up a few of them and started playing the chord and then the melody very slowly. Kept recording those for a while and went to sleep afterwards. The other day I had a few friends come to the studio for a recording session and I made them listen to what I have recorded the night before. I remember they said it was beautiful and had a lot of feeling. When they left I opened the project and arranged it recording the ambiences and creating a drum rhythm with a drum machine and recording the top of it with my mouth. I think you can listen to it if you pay close attention. The sound of a match scratching the box, the fire and the release of the smoke was me lighting a cigarette. The ambience in this track is part made with this sounds and thats why I named it from that. By just following what I felt, without looking at a screen or a bunch of knobs turned out to be a good way of expressing myself. I think that’s what I’ve learned.
I believe this track also inspired the album cover?
The album cover was made by one of my best friends. We are close enough to the point where he was following the whole creative process for the album as I was telling him how I was working and also the results of ideas I had. Probably the best designer I could have asked for such an interpretative task.
“Poem” feat. Rai Knight is my favourite track from the album which is the digital bonus track. Is the narration taken from an original poem or written solely for this material?
While I was arranging the instrumentals for the track, I made a quick pause and saw Rachel’s post about this poem and started reading it out. I was obviously listening to the instrumentals while reading her poem and thought it would be nice to have it recorded. As we had previous collaborations I could imagine how it was going to sound and it made sense in my mind. She also liked the idea and the instrumentals so we made the collaboration from that.
Conceptual music projects are always so interesting and I’d like to thank you for talking us through “The Old Door”. Before we round up the interview is there anything you would like to add?
I would just like to thank you for the pleasant interview and invite whoever is reading it to open “The Old Door”
Thanks for your time Henrique, all the best!
My pleasure guys. Thank you!
01. The Old Door feat. Urzula Amen
02. The Death Of The Elephant
03. 40’s Cartoon
04. Egyptian Lover feat. Cotry
05. Bowed Piano
06. Fallen Angel
07. If (We Let Go) feat. Urzula Amen
08. Light A Cigarette
09. Touching My Soul
10. Poem feat. Rai Knight (Digital Bonus Track)
HNQO’s debut LP ’The Old Door’ is out now on D.O.C Records