Interview: semi-cycle

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Interview, Tunes

Earlier this month I had the chance to sit down with Kris Hansen (aka semi-cycle) to dive deeper into the incredible Momentum EP, the ideas therein, a little personal history, and the importance of collaboration as well as the growth that comes from those relationships.

This has been edited for clarity and content by Tonto, but you can check out the full audio below:

Tonto: This is our second conversation – it’s nice to be able to digest some of the stuff we talked about and the EP. It’s got such great replay value. I appreciate the depth of it, the individual compositions, but also that it plays from end to end – there are two distinct halves, up to Double Vision and beyond. I get this nostalgic narrative from it.

Kris Hansen: Cool that you say that. 

T: My real goal with this whole interaction is to humanize you and get the product mindset out of it.

KH: I’m the most like, human person, imperfect… Yeah. Hell yeah. 

T: So you connect with that sort of imperfection in your human condition and in music? How do you express that? Is it specific? 

KH: Definitely. I think I think there is an element of imperfection especially when I started to explore Drum and Bass a little bit more. As we talked about before it was born from this culture of sampling… and I mean this in the most loving way possible [early drum and bass and jungle]… it sounded like shit because producers used all these Lo-Fi samples, samplers, and it was really people using, you know, the resources that they had, grabbing breaks… and I think there was definitely a freedom to creating music in that sphere in that regard. Also, I think there’s just a life lesson for me as a constantly recovering perfectionist in just accepting the beauty in the unpredictable. Music from mistakes, or however you want to frame that, especially in chopping up breaks, I’m sort of releasing myself from that perfectionism. 

T: Yeah. I think that’s big with this project, especially on this EP. It’s so clearly done live in a lot of different ways. You can connect with the DAW side of it because [the DAW is] perfect. But then as you know, (I’m going to allow your flex moment here in a second) where the live performance had no click, you guys did it with your internal metronomes…

KH: For the live performance and we really wanted to get it set up that… that day was insane. The Listening Room where we had the party, a pipe had burst the night before. When I got the call, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen, it was just the entire night… Is it just ruined? But yeah. But for the actual performance… Yeah, it was very hodgepodge together. Just as far as, you know, there wasn’t a computer rig… Just me having main stage and running sounds into a looper… just kind of base level utility… And then, yeah, me and the drummer sharing click in ear.  

T: So just to just to go back a little bit. This was the Listening Room. You guys played in January this year. Was it? It was early this year, I remember, and this was specifically a release party for Momentum. Talk about a lesson in imperfection dude! So, did you end up getting it recorded? 

KH: We didn’t, which is a bummer because it was such a fun show. 

T: I’ve heard! 

KH: You know, I kind of relish in that as well. Just being with everyone, you know, the people who were there. They got to experience this thing, and it was a special moment for sure. It was a lot of fun.

T: The ability to translate moments is incredible, and I think you have that ability.  I definitely see Momentum as a dance record, you know, there’s a lot of moments in it compositionally that work for DJs, and as I’ve said I’ve DJ’d your tunes, MNBTS (implications), U Got Me Wonderin’ (this way), Double Vision, have all made it into sets lately on stream or live. MNBTS (implications) is just so good; the dance aspect of it, the way that you lead the listener, and I think that you do that mostly tonally. I hear a lot of that classical influence from your upbringing and your training

T: So, when you approach adding your live stuff from your jam room… Do you have a certain composition in mind? Are you able to sort of take moments, from the process we had explained and piece them together after the fact? 

KH: You know, there’s no kind of rhyme and reason to it. Really. It’s really non-existent. It’s in that live space. Yeah, so the last time we talked I described studio layout to you, and maybe we were left with something that was a little bit more, you know, formulaic in that sense… But honestly, when I think back to a lot of the record it started on the computer. Which, every single one of those original ideas I have a memory of where I was. I started ‘Pretty Place’ at my old place in New Orleans, just kind of come out of having some depression epiphanies? Starting to write and getting really attached to the the cs70 sounds kind of just emotionally felt… And that, that piano I use throughout the whole record, the piano sounds

T: A couple of dark nights of the soul led to probably the happiest sounding tune on the record? 

KH: Yeah. It was weird. There was sort of a lot of different… sort of combination of eras that led to it. Momentum, the title track, Pretty Place. I was definitely going through some shit and yeah. You know, ketamine (treatment) really helped me get through some shit. It’s that emotional space that I was in at the time of just… experimenting with that. It was a big… influence. The liminality of sound and exploring that, you know.  

T: What do you mean by liminality? 

KH: Just liminal meaning in between spaces. A not fully defined realm of something that’s fully settled in in one place. Almost… uneasy. Pretty place… Always felt, you know, and the CP too… I feel you really hit the nail on the head, in just kind of feeling the, the two different, the A, and the B side. [9:00 min Audio] 

T: Listening back a couple of times, there’s such a clear turning point with Double Vision. I want to go back just a little bit because I think you said some stuff just there that was really important to your process, and how you specifically approach the creating process. I think it’s different for every artist and it’s different for the listener too. So talk to me a little bit of that, how the vocal sections were created.

KH: The project as a whole felt like a big puzzle honestly. When I decided I wanted to put it out, I was you know, a week before it was just really, you know, sort of head versus the heart type of battle where just being an artist in today’s whatever, you know, just, oh, I should just be releasing singles. Again when I decided just started arranging the songs together and figured out, okay. This is kind of where things belong. Track to track, it’s such a different, you know… They’re just such different processes. For the title track, I would say Pretty Place and Momentum, the title track, were the first two to exist. For the title track, for example, I vary-sped the whole thing – this is a function in logic where you can essentially take the whole speed and pitch of the projects and move it up or down.

T: Oh, live like that; automated? 

KH: I haven’t done that as much live as it’s kind of just playback function. So, it’s slowing your record down. Actually the term comes from varying speed RPMs.

T: Yeah, okay. That makes sense. So it’s not exactly time stretching. But it does affect the timbre and pitch of everything.

KH: Definitely. It’s not AKAI time stretching, I guess. Yeah. So yeah, although that stuff is fun too. 

T: That’s jungle, baby! [13:08 Audio] 

KH: I feel like it’s funny because even in that project, even though it feels really cohesive to me too, [it represents] just different eras of [my preferences], during Pretty Place I was listening to so much Toro y Moi and just really in love with his sound. Just a huge influence. His flexibility. He let himself just do whatever.

T: Drum and Bass too.

KH: Its is one of his top songs! With Flume. Yeah. That’s a banger. It’s a big banger. 

T: That’s cool. One of the things that also struck me, I think, is your connection with the listening experience, and that’s a really important part of any musician’s creation process, but I think a lot of people tend to imitate, so it’s cool that you’re able to say “this is what that [artist] made me feel” and my respect for that feeling is what I really want to translate. I’m not trying to make his music. You know what I mean? 

KH: Another one of those guys for me is Four Tet. Talk about, yeah, connection with gear and yeah, we share the same initials. I’m not saying it’s anything but, you know, Kieran Hebden. Kris Hansen. Maybe. He’s got a boiler Room set in London. I was talking to my friend Wilson about this because we both love nerding on us just you know, electronic music and formless electronic music and, I love this set so much because it left so much to be desired. It’s the blueprint it’s not the final product, to me which is the mark of a really amazing artist and why I’m just so inspired by [that set].

T: Using some restraint, I think is probably one of the hardest things hardest to do especially in dance music, with the EDM craze, it’s all about build drops. The most insane thing you can do.

KH: Instant gratification all the time.

T: Yeah, right. Right. So it’s almost that restraint is discouraged sometimes and as long as you have that hook and then that viral clip and whatever you’re doing it right. But I think the listening experience is almost entirely different. Yeah, which is interesting. You know, so as the consumer, you definitely have the choice how many times you listen to something and how you consume it.

KH: Yeah, but it’s funny, you know, because at the same time, while I really feel that as well, I think I mentioned the last time we talked that I was obsessed with the Pinkpantheress record when that came out. Just playing that over and over again. She talks about being really savvy on TikTok, whatever, but more of her intention behind [the product] I really feel that, and then just at that time I just gotten really burnt out on trying to make product. (With my background in Neo-Soul) it felt an obligation… you have to really pay homage to these sounds and these great names. You find the same thing in jazz all the time. You know you can just get lost in the sauce and try to emulate the greats.

T: And quote them and things like that.

KH: Some of these artists are just forever close to my soul, Roy Hargrove and D’Angelo and oh, yeah, Robert Glasper…

T: D’Angelo, dude. I mean, yeah, underrated underrated (Is he?).

KH: He’s just… there are a couple artists for me that are I I call subconscious artists because they live just… I don’t necessarily think about as much, but they’re there. Yeah, yeah. It’s just so deep.

T: I love that. I love that. I kind of feel the same way and I think it’s an experiential thing. Yeah,    I love Apex Twin dearly but I think it’s a developmental thing… I don’t really listen Apex Twin right? But I think I listen to, you know, that ambient Works 85 to 92 album , probably a thousand times on the way to school and back. You connect the feeling? With the music rather than the vice versa.

KH: Big time.

T: And I feel that’s a big part of your music as well.I connect with that personally, I’m sure I’m not the only one that this [Album] was a story, dude. You know, and I analyze it myself, but I’m actually wondering if I was right, that, this record is mostly about love.

KH: I’m glad we got a chance to talk about it because totally not. And I’ve had another I was talking with another friend of mine who have the same feeling. Although it’s not… totally wrong, one of the songs is “U got me wondering” It’s a love song more so about, for me that realizing love is really… in the infatuation

T: Yeah I was gonna say that, was on the tip of my tongue is the fatuous love. That obsession… it’s just an existential presence, you know?

KH: Definitely and I think I’ve thought a lot about that just in my own life of just what does love mean? What does it look like? How do I show up in my relationships? [Audio: 19:00] I’m sure all of us some degree … feel… I, you know, still have in my life, some relationships that I really feel I dropped the ball on and just… so (some of that content inevitably makes it into the creating process). But yeah, there’s part of me doesn’t really want to reveal everything. There’s a part of me that just wants the listeners experience of hearing something to be what makes that meaning with the content. You’re not wrong with that part, in that regard, they are love songs. Another one of them technically, I mean beta car? Literally, a love song to my car. It’s literally, just that’s about my car.

T: Just cruises. See that that makes that song so much better for me, dude. Yeah, I was… I’m sitting here it’s… 81 miles. What is this man talking about?

KH: So, all right, yeah, that song is about driving up to Milwaukee. To see Zach, it’s just about… my car and going to see Zach (Lyda) Yeah, shout out fucking half speed. Yeah. Hell yeah. It would not have been able to put this record out without him.

T: Yeah, dude. We talked briefly about Zach. I’m sure that’s a complex relationship, but we all have our confidants.

KH: You know what’s awesome? Is that it’s so not. It is so beautifully… Simple. All right, he is just, oh my goodness, the most uncomplicated… so amazing at what he does, but so uncomplicated. And our just trust and musical connection… which usually those relationships are like roller-coaster, volatile, complicated. He is just fucking, he’s the big chiller. You know, he just makes everybody feel comfortable. That’s his gift. That’s one of his gifts to the world. He’s a fucking angel.

T: Okay so I think that the cliche about artists relationships Doesn’t have to ring true at all, you know? Having a cathartic place where you feel like you can just, get it out and whatever, maybe you have a little chaotic moment and pull it in after that fact.

KH: You know, I never got to have that. Yeah, recognize that, you know… Oh! I can just be a… fucking artist. Yeah. Be ridiculous. 

T: Yeah, I mean and that’s the producer’s goal, isn’t it? To get the real juice of it and see what the hell’s happening? I think the more that we talk, the more I get it: the process with jamming with gear, the connection to emotional experience, but drawing from it in sort of real time.

KH: Yeah, that’s, that’s big man. That’s really cool. Yeah.

T: So congratulations on finding that person, man. I hope you guys can work together forever. 

KH: Yeah, it is awesome. And, you know, Sam (Hudgens) I met… [I interrupted asking about Alec Trickett on the album] Trickett I think is on five out of the six songs on drums

T: No way. Yeah, okay. I was wondering about that because I heard some piccolo snares. There’s no way that was a sample.

KH: Okay. There’s… it’s funny actually, I don’t know, I don’t think we recorded any piccolo. It’s a splice sample. (Audio 23min)

T: So Sam Hudgens is also on the record; some of his guitar right?

KH: So yeah, on Double Vision, that’s Sam’s guitar. Also Sam’s voice. Yeah, that was just kind of one night. We came together and You know, we’ve done a lot of stuff more in the hip-hop realm. Just came through one night and was like…  Let’s make some fucking drum and bass.

T: It’s a very cohesive tune… consistent. It has a very minimalist vibe but there’s depth to it, too. [the vocals on Double Vision]… that does not sound like you, I definitely thought that has to be same kind of pitched up something but that makes sense.

KH: Sam, the sample Hudgens, Sam the sample came in. Like absolute butter.

T: So, are these are any of these guys local? Are you playing with them in the combo? Do you have any semi-cycle gigs coming up? 

KH: So yeah, these are all Chicago guys, my band. It consists of different members… Although we play with each other. In general, these artists are sort of interwoven. In my band right now is Inho Park on bass, who plays in Creature Fight: he’s an amazing bassist, sort of more in the  Alt Rock/Grunge sphere. Jameson Brenner on guitar. Jameson, he’s the true audio mastermind, and awesome producer, and Benji Scheffler on drums is the absolute animal. That’s it, putting emotion in something.

T: Playing this record live has got to be a trip man, because there’s so much stuff going on. Are you using the 8s or that? That was the one you’re using for composition, right? Or sb44 more?

KH: Yeah, I was. So I was using the tr8s… it’s definitely a big part of transforming the songs… sort of taking like the drop in Beta Car. There’s another one in, I think Pretty Place. Pretty Place started with the 8s. You know, that was the first time I was working with a drum machine and just kind of “getting it” for the first time. Oh, this (machine) has been on so many records.    this will take, you know, okay, and the energy cool cool. But it’s it’s funny because there’s a lot of internal sampling on the record itself. The sp404 I used mainly for live.

T: Yeah. That’s what I was wondering because the 8s seems like it has a lot of compositional capability.

KH: Yeah. You’d think it might be a little clunky live but it’s not!

T: I remember you talked about using (the tr8s) like a push but also an important part of… sort of a jerry rig setup.  

KH: Well, no, I think I was talking about being a button pusher. I mean it’s insane. Just the finagling I had to… Yeah but that’s another that’s a good thing though because it creates that unique moment. So it’s cool to look at it like a part of an era.

T: I’m glad that we were able to connect during an era that I’m writing for drum and bass and that you’re making drum and bass, you know. So that’s really cool. So let’s, let’s just wrap this up with a little chat about DnB roots and and I want to talk about your influences in (DnB) because there’s a couple of big influences I hear. Metalheadz for sure, because Goldie was a big one, not only the sampling of soul, you know, but the drums too, you know, that rufidge that comes in Jungle. And then I hear Bukem.

KH: Yeah, big Bukem fan. 

T: I feel the Chicago DnB scene is really influenced by them. I’ve talked to maybe a handful of artists that say those two are the big ones.  

KH: There’s this weird correlation… Chicago and London are parallel in this way. Interesting to be, you know, as we’re sitting at this amazing sunlight… Chicago can be very dreary and London are sort of parallel in that sense. But, you know, it’s been interesting leaning on music in that way to create a sense of magic and be able to translate that and get it out. I feel like Bukem’s music, there’s just a cosmic element to his music if you listen to his track Watercolors. You know that one? Amazing piano and harp samples. I’ve heard a bunch of I don’t know exactly what that sample is but Inner City Life… tracks that are just painting pictures. You know, you can hear the hiss and the sirens. And just this beautiful dissonance.  

T: If were to wrap this EP up in one phrase, it’d be a beautiful dissonance. Oh yeah

KH: Love that. That’s right, cool. I appreciate that.  Might not be the same is very influenced by this idea.

T: That’s (MNBTS (implications)) gonna be on my forever playlist. Dude, I mean, I love major minor play in tonality and that song is just masterful, man. I mean the way that it changes up into firmly minor at the very last moment. Up until that point it’s questioning… it’s a little bit of tough subject matter.

KH: Yeah. It’s a tough one. But that one absolutely paints a picture. I hear that a lot. I feel like you hit the nail on the head, emotionally. For as simple as major and minor [are as related to…] emotionally complex things, sometimes   , you [have to access that anger, rawness], and that song kind of ends angrily on this.Yeah, you know, this phrygian thing going back and forth and you know, the chorus being it’s basically the “everything in its right place –   Radiohead”, very similar… that chord progression has always stuck with me. Sometimes, anger, just that intense emotion, that release… You know, when he’s been holding something in for so long and you just need to get it out. That’s what allows the translation. You know into a track. u got me wondering where it’s just… oh shit. I got through that.

T: That makes so much sense. So that’s another theme. I feel… of this period in your life, you’re learning how to interface with some of those difficult things, you know. That’s a really important transition for any person and as some people never learn that really feeling your way through pain is the way. That is the way that gleans information and how you look back on it, you could be pissed off about something your whole life. unless you sit there and you’re like, all right, you gotta give yourself space to see what’s going on and what part of this is mine. What part of this is the experience, you know, separating all that. The Momentum record is that concept, personified.

KH: I mean, that’s that’s fucking awesome. Yeah, thank you!

T: It’s been a pleasure. I think that’s a good place to end here. Before we do, you got anything you want to plug for the summer?

KH: Yeah. Just put out track with my friend Mathien and called Fantasy (I want it). I got some more new music coming out over the summer. A lot of different collaborations. Me and my homie manasseh. We have a project coming out soon. So yeah, just stay tuned.  Like And subscribe (LOL). 

Check out what semi-cycle has been up to lately and what’s coming this summer @semi_cycle on IG, and check out the review of the amazing Momentum EP here. To support and purchase his music head to his Bandcamp.

Content Crafted by:

Tonto

DJ / Producer living in Brookfield, IL specializing in deep, funky, and soulful drum and bass. Streaming many of these reviews live at twitch.tv/tontomusic