A couple of weeks ago the ‘Hammer‘ hit the electronic music scene with his ‘Ozone EP’, a three-tracker fully filled with soundscapes that only he can deliver. Rory Hamilton, or Hammer how close friends call the London based DJ and producer, may say that he has not found his signature sound yet but it’s safe to say that his music has a value of recognition and above the potential to add ‘the little extra’ to any DJ-set. Of course, having started to produce music as a teenager and tackling his way through the scene for quite some years now, the co-founding father of Feel My Bicep surely knows how to ‘play the game right’. And one couldn’t agree more with Rory – the DJ and producer whose words and music let anyone assume that he not only has his heart at the right place but knows how to transport feelings or issues through music onto the dance floor and into your auricle. For now let us focus on the written word of the former rugby player as Hammer gave Torture the Artist an exclusive interview about the status quo regaring musical, societal and environmental matters – and a lot more.
I discovered a bigger world, and it forced me to become more focused.
Torture the Artist: Hello Rory, tell us something about your day.
Hammer: Hello, well right now I’m starving because I’ve been in the studio all day and was on a creative roll, so I forgot to eat lunch, so it’s going to be double dinner tonight.
Torture the Artist: Are you good with your hands, do you musically like to nail down things or how did you come up with the moniker ‘Hammer’?
Hammer: Rory Hamilton = Hammer. The nickname Hammer came from my school days playing rugby, 15 years on and the name has stuck.
Torture the Artist: Please correct me, if I am wrong, but you are currently based in London, originally from Belfast and sharpened your musical profile in Glasgow. How has each city made an impact on you personally as well as musically and what were those ‘key-moments or situations’?
Hammer: I’m lucky to have lived in three cities all rich in musical culture and heritage and they have definitely all had their impact. From Growing up in Belfast, I was learning about the electronic scene from a young age. I owe a lot to this; it developed into an obsession with hard techno, I’m became a huge fan of artists like The Advent, Ben Sims, Dave Clarke etc. After moving to Glasgow to study Visual Communication, I established a residency in Glasgow’s iconic Sub Club and my style kept moving forward from there. Arriving in London, I discovered a bigger world, and it forced me to become more focused, which I’m loving.
Torture the Artist: What’s a club/venue/event in each of the aforementioned cities one should visit in order to experience the electronic music vibe and atmosphere of the city?
Hammer: Belfast is infamous for Shine, for good reason, it’s a massive rave up. And promoter wise, Twitch has been going for years at various clubs and the vibe they create is always amazing. Glasgow it is and always will be Sub Club for me, and though this is a totally different feel than the other two, hands down my favourite space in London is Lion & Lamb, a tiny old, blacked out pub with an amazing sound system for heads down dancing.
Torture the Artist: You are part of the ‘Feel My Bicep blog’ and one of its original crew-members. Was it the intention to run and found a blog to expose your music to the public in order to get your musical careering rolling or what was the reason to initially come up with the blog-concept?
Hammer: The blog started out as a way to share music, to our friends mainly and whoever else wanted to have a listen to the stuff we were obsessed and just newly discovering ourselves. We had only been fiddling with Ableton at the time and hadn’t made music fit for release at the time we started it actually.
Torture the Artist: What blogs do you follow and what content does a blog have to provide so that you read or visit it regularly?
Hammer: Funnily enough I don’t follow any true blogs anymore, I check online magazines a fair bit to read interesting articles about production, synths, and other aspects of music. I loved the Art of DJing Dave Clarke interview on RA and the Crack Magazine piece on Aphex Twin.
When I’m working with other people, I don’t want the sound to be 100% Hammer.
Torture the Artist: Before dedicating yourself solely to music you had played rugby. To what extend has the ‘team-player’ aspect helped you to establish yourself in the electronic music scene, when producing music and have you ever hit the brick wall in the studio when working with somebody else, because the music did not turn out to be to 100% the Hammer sound?
Hammer: I enjoy being social and working in a team comes naturally to me, and when producing I love to collaborate as much as possible, and I’m not overbearing with my ideas in those situations. I hit brick walls all the times when I have friends in the studio, it’s about how you deal with that what’s important, basically, don’t freak out, move on to the next idea. When I’m working with other people, I don’t want the sound to be 100% Hammer, it’s a collaboration so it’s got to sound like us both.
Torture the Artist: What made you find your signature sound?
Hammer: I don’t think I’ve have found it yet! But I think limitations are what creates your sound, your synthesisers and drum machines own you just as much as we own them. They ultimately create your sound. Also, I’m not amazing at playing piano, so I just play away and record, then chop it up, and I suppose not being particularly good at this has created a vibe too.
Torture the Artist: Name three tracks that you personally find important for your musical development but you’d never play in one of your sets, accompanied by the reasons why.
Hammer: I am stuggling to think of any tracks that I like and feel inspired by that I’d never play in a set. Never say never, but the first record I can remember buying was from my friends older brother when I bought my turntables, was Three Drives – Greece 2000, that’s what ultimately got me into DJing. Talking Heads – This Must Be The Place is one of my favourite tracks of all time, so I have to include that, and Tina Turner – Addicted To Love is probably my earliest memory of listening to music, singing along the wrong words in my Dad’s car when I was about 5 or 6, that joy and excitement has 100% stuck in head.
Torture the Artist: Youhave been involved with music or producing music as early as your teenage years. Are you musically trained and what’s a sound from your teenage-hood you would like to implement into one of your tracks that you have not?
Hammer: I’m not musically trained in the slightest sadly, I wish I was. I played a bit of bass guitar when I was a kid, and I’m currently doing the odd piano lesson, which I love. As I have pretty much already done the trance sound of my youth with tracks like ‘C-Space‘, I’d like to make some proper techno and electro, I’m thinking of people like Bryan Zentz and The Advent, whom I worshipped when I was 16.
I started DJing because I was a 14-year-old boy who loved going to clubs.
Torture the Artist: Producing music and DJing are two different things, do you prefer one thing of another and what made you decide to get started with DJing?
Hammer: I started out as a DJ that’s for sure, and production followed, slowly. I started DJing because I was a 14-year-old boy who loved going to clubs and I was really obsessed by the music I heard at that very young age. My mum drove me across the city to buy a shitty pair of belt drive turntables and that was that.
Torture the Artist: What’s an artist you would like to sit down in the studio with, and why?
Hammer: I’d love to sit down with Chris Carter, he has an amazing sound and I’ve always been really into with his experimental side.
Torture the Artist: By now you have played renowned clubs like Panoramabar, DC10 or Robert Johnson just to name a few. Generally speaking, which club or audience has allowed you to play the most ‘Hammer-ish’ set in your career or let you hit closest to your imagined idea what you musically stand for as an artist?
Hammer: Panorama Bar is up there, I like this notion of an imagined idea, because I have this idea before every gig, but you often have to steer away from it and play to the energy of the club. With 4 hours in Pbar, you can start from the start and build your own journey, and everyone seems to be in it for the ride, that combined with a the odd war cry from my Belfast and Glasgow friends in the corner created a truly magical vibe for me.
Torture the Artist: Your EP ‘Ozone‘ was recently released on ‘Modern Magic’. Have environmental aspects like the depletion of the ozone layer had an influence on the track title and is this a field that matters to you and you wanted to draw attention to?
Hammer: The name has multi meaning, the environment means a lot to me, I would consider myself very conscious of the problems and I’ve been a true nature freak from the age of 4, spending all day everyday in the garden, building ponds, and other habitats for creatures. Now I’m equally as interested by (entry level) physics and space, and that helps you realise how fragile our planet is. But on the other side, there was an old school laser quest in Belfast called Ozone that closed down in the 90s, and I wanted to give that a shout out too.
We can all recycle and do our bit, but real change needs to come from the government in order to make a serious difference.
Torture the Artist: What environmental themes and issues have you engaged with lately and perhaps developed a different or stronger position towards?
Hammer: The rise in temperature is a huge issue that we all need to face the reality off, I read recently that we have about 12 years to turn the problem around, so in our lifetime we will either see major changes or big trouble. More recently and especially since moving to London I’ve noticed the problem of plastic pollution. Oceans and wildlife are suffering a major disaster because of this. We can all recycle and do our bit, but real change needs to come from the government in order to make a serious difference.
Torture the Artist: Last year you founded your own label ‘The Hammer Hits’ on which you released your EP ‘Love Somebody’. So far this has been the only release on the label. When does the hammer hit again, do you aim to release your music only on the label or did you found it to release this one EP only?
Hammer: Yeah, I created the label mainly to give a loving home to ‘Love Somebody‘. If another disco edit feels like it needs a home I’ll definitely put it on the label, and there are definite potentials. But I don’t like forcing things and I’ve been focusing on much deeper stuff recently with a new label on the horizon.
Torture the Artist: What’s a musical extravagance you’d pay for?
Hammer: All of them if I could afford them.
Torture the Artist: What’s the (alcoholic) beverage that describes you best, and why?
Hammer: Tequila, mainly because it makes you want to dance and go a bit crazy, which is the aim of game.
Interview by Holger Breuer