Head Front Panel AKA John Heckle sits down to chat aliases, rolands and techno! Catch him along with Ben Sims and Sandrien on March 31st at the White Hotel. It’s gonna be an absolute stonker!
You play all over the world, but Merseyside is home – how do you think growing up in the UK affected your music?
Yeah I grew up between the Wirral and Aigburth (though I’ve now been Dublin based for a couple of years). I went to a lot of the later Voodoo, T-Funkshun and Bugged Out events in Liverpool, which I suppose would have informed a lot of my musical choices. Also my older brother ran techno nights from when I was around 12.
Who were your biggest inspirations growing up? And who are your biggest inspirations today – is there anyone you feel is really changing the game?
Growing up – Regis, Surgeon, Jeff Mills. That’s what I cut my teeth on. Hard and industrial sounding stuff, but with a groove to it. Probably a lot of that newer industrial stuff is missing the groove that those guys had. Nowadays- I think Jamal Moss is still changing the game (though there’s still a special place with me for that mid-2000’s Hieroglyphic Being and Sun God sound). I’ve been amassing a collection of pretty much everything he has done since around 2006. Nobody really sounds like him.
We of course know you as both John Heckle and Head Front Panel – where did it begin for you as Heckle and how did HFP form from that?
Heckle is my real name. I started using my real name for music from the first Mathematics EP in 2010. Before that I was using ‘Hek’, which I think either Regis or someone at RSB coined; bit of a blur during that time. Head Front Panel came about from having a load of techno recorded in 2013 which I thought was too hard for what I’d already built up. Originally it was only enough for 4 or 5 releases, but snowballed a bit.
Why did you choose to first release anonymously – and how did it make the whole process feel different?
I did HFP anonymously as I was getting tired of feeling pressured to do promotion and such. So the idea was to bang out a series of EPs with no name attached and see if they had legs, whilst letting people decide for themselves who they thought made them.
To be honest it was quite naive as for the whole of 2014 I just did HFP records anonymously, and it was only when gigs stopped coming in for my existing projects that I realised how reliant I was on that performance income to get by.
So 2014 going into 2015 was a bit of a tough year professionally in that respect. The only reason it ever came out that I made those records was because I had the chance to play at Tresor under that alias, after the guys from Construct Re-form approached Tabernacle about doing a Live PA. By that point the series had finished, but sort of got resurrected after that through Live PAs.
Is there any bit of equipment that has been with you since day 1?
Yeah the Roland Juno-G. I made my first Mathematics EPs with use of that and I still use it now.
How has your writing process changed over the years as you’ve become more experienced?
It hasn’t much if I’m honest. It was never a learnt process. I was experimenting back then and I’m still doing so now, though with a few more bits here and there in the studio to do so.
You’ve recently started the label Boss Tracks with Mark Forshaw and Binny – what can you tell us about the future for Boss Tracks?
I’m not sure to be honest besides doing a few more records with Mark and Binny. We’re not taking it too seriously in the grand scheme of things; there’s probably too much serious techno out there at the minute. Just wanted a platform to release some music ourselves and have a bit of fun with it. And to use the comic artwork from Alan Kerr which is brilliant.
How does doing Boss Tracks compare with working on your own, as you have done for so long?
We have been doing the odd PPO record for a few years now, so it’s nothing new. And even with Head Front Panel I’d be working with Andrew and Joel at Tabernacle for the running of the label, so never alone in that respect. Recording-wise, the stuff we’d make together as PPO is usually done in one or two takes at Mark Forshaw’s place; gear strewn about floor-to-ceiling. Not too dissimilar to what the usual process is.
We imagine BT is keeping you quite busy, but can tell us what’s next for Head Front Panel?
To be honest Boss Tracks isn’t keeping us busy at all of late. We got the first record out and we’ve all been busier with our own things since then. I have a few Head Front Panel remixes due soon to keep the ball rolling before deciding how to continue with the second series of HFP records. Happy to take my time this time around, without the self-imposed time restrictions put on the first series of HFP records.
Safe to say we’re very excited about the line-up, where we’ll see you play alongside Ben Sims and Sandrien – what makes an exciting line up for you to play on?
Yeah I’m excited to come back to Manchester (which is always ultra vocal!), and I’ve heard plenty of glowing reports about the Meat Free events. So yeah exciting stuff.
Finally, what can we expect from you on 31 March in Manchester?
The set is constantly changing from gig to gig. Expect plenty of energy.