Updated: Sep 22, 2021
Horatio Luna (Henry Hicks) is a bassist, producer and reputable figure within the Melbourne and Australian scene. Having just released his second full-length record 'Boom Boom' through The Jazz Diaries. Ally had the pleasure of chatting to him, on the opposite side of the world, about the state of the Melbourne scene, his latest record 'Boom Boom' and how he fell in love with house and jazz music.
Henry Hicks AKA Horatio Luna is an integral part of the Melbourne jazz and wider Australian music scene. The bassist, composer and producer is – possibly – best known as a former member of Melbourne’s 30/70 Collective, who are part of Bradley Zero’s Rhythm International crew. Clearly, the jazz-filled soul-hop collective had a big influence on Henry as an artist, “we were learning together all of the time…it was an incredible shaping experience for me as an artist. And although I went on to pursue other things, it was really a foundation and a great point to absorb a whole bunch of new ideas and just be around people who are happy to rehearse every day. It’s really a rarity, to find people that are passionate enough to want to do that sort of stuff every day”.
From an outsider’s perspective, one of the core elements of the Melbourne scene is its collaborative nature, something which is present within the major musical hubs of the UK. Being at the heart of such a vibrant and collaborative environment is not something which Henry takes for granted; “I mean, it’s just an honour…there's just so much love and respect between all of the musicians and artists. And you really feel that. I feel very supported”. He’s an active participate and cog within this creative circle, “I feel like I can call up anyone in the music scene and talk about how I'm feeling at any point….I think it feels like, everyone's just doing their own thing…everyone appreciates, like, what everyone else is doing…that's how it feels…there's just so many avenues for collaboration. And that's a massive part of just everything I do. Like, I love to collaborate. There's just so much opportunity to make good art and good music here”.
This shared societal spirit of Melbourne isn’t just reflected in the artists themselves, but also within community radio stations like 3RRR and PBS FM. Filled with a sharp sense of gratitude and vigour, Henry tells me that “if we didn't have that, that body there, we wouldn't have what we have here. I don't think or I can't see it would have been would have ever developed into the beautiful way that it has… they're like the tastemakers and the DJs that are buying all of our music and repping Melbourne music. They're like the fathers of the scene, I can't express just how important the radio is.”
One of the drivers of industry attention towards Henry’s music was being featured on Gilles Peterson’s Sunny Side Up, Melbourne’s answer to London’s time capsule compilation We Out Here. Appearing on both Phil Stroud’s track and Allysha Joy’s too, Horatio Luna's ‘The Wake-Up’ is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most captivating tracks of the record. Reflecting on that experience, Henry tells me that after Bradley Zero made avenues with 30/70, that it was “really nice that Gilles Peterson was going to come and discover the sounds of the underground. And yeah, that was not necessarily a jazz record, but it was the sound of a really amazing representation of the underground sound of Melbourne. And, yeah, it was an honour to be offered to make that track and be given the budget to work in a nice studio… it was a great couple of weeks for me, like, I learned so much through that process. I feel like that track is, you know, one of my best tracks. It was funny when Gilles came through to the studio, where we were rehearsing at my house, and he heard the track and was like, ‘That's the one - I want that one’”.
It’s no wonder why leading figures like Gilles Peterson and Bradley Zero sought to capture the effervescence and spirit of the Melbourne music scene. It has this unique, fresh edge, which is difficult to describe, but instantly recognised. Pondering this, Henry outlines that “we have this, this sort of rawness and this raw intensity…it's in the tones that we choose and it's in the boldness of the ideas.” This boldness of ideas emanates from figures like Henry, free spirits who are always smiling, up for a laugh but are also diligently committed to their craft. , There’s an “attitude of Australian musicians…we take our music very seriously," he tells me "we don't take ourselves too seriously. I find that comes through in the music. And sometimes we're expressing very serious issues or things through the music, but it's still coming from, dare I say, some sort of lightheartedness or like a real rawness and real intensity. And, you know, that's kind of coming from Australian jazz – it’s always had a uniqueness to it.”
Pondering over the growth of the Melbourne scene, Henry states that “I think the London jazz scene has had a real impact on the Melbourne jazz scene. And because it was quite conservative here at times about what jazz was and what wasn't. And then Hiatus Kaiyote came along, Clever Austin and then obviously, us checking out all of the amazing music that's coming out of London and Leeds and the UK in general, that's really informed us and made it okay to do crazy shit.”
The main reason for Henry’s departure from the 30/70 Collective was in the pursuit of his own musical vision. Although there are, naturally, jazz and hip-hop sounds which are shared between 30/70 and Horatio Luna, Henry’s music is beat-heavier and naturally bass propelled. Having recorded 30/70’s third record Fluid Motion, it made Henry realise “just how important house music is to me, and how important jazz-house is to me, and I had to fully commit, I can only really do things unless I fully commit to it”. Analysing his affinity with matching jazz and beats, Henry uncovers that “as soon as I'm around house music, I really feel it. Like when I was a kid growing up overseas, it takes me back to there.”
Having spent years releasing records and projects with various groups, Henry – as Horatio Luna - has gone on to release two full-length LPs within the past year, Yes, Doctor and now Boom Boom. Considering this, he reveals that “I wanted Yes Doctor to come out last year, like a bit earlier. But for whatever reason, it came out when it did. And then with Boom Boom, it wasn't meant to come out till again later in the year, but then with everything that's been going on in the world, Jitwam [artist and imprint owner of The Jazz Diaries] got in contact and said, ‘Look, we really need a track like, ‘Fuck the system’ in the world right now’”.
‘Fuck the System’ is a timely track, pushed out earlier than originally planned in response to the chaos which is 2020. The track helps uncover Henry’s versatility as an artist, slotting into a rap-house style which features dynamite verses from Thamson P, Willy Dynamo and even Henry himself. Taking time to deliver his thoughts, Henry pensively states that “Man, the world was fucked before everything happened and it's fucked now. And, you know, fuck the system. Fuck! It's okay to express that. It's okay to feel unhappy with the state of the world. And in fact, it's an important and an important opinion to have in the community - to be able to question and have that anti-establishment ideology… It doesn't mean I say, fuck the system, or fuck everything or everything sucks, it just means in that time, when we were in the studio, that's how we were feeling about the world. And, I think that music has to be a place where you can express how you're feeling and sometimes you're going to be feeling a bit disgruntled and a bit unhappy with the world. So yeah, obviously I'm not a very angry person – I’m a chilled out person. But even still, like I can't sit here in my room making music and not go ‘Well, that's just crazy. Well, that's really fucked up’. You know?”
Boom Boom reflects Henry’s vivacity and passion, brimming with raw energy. Tapping into this idea, Henry sketches that “with Horatio Luna as a project, the music always starts with house and then I allow it to go wherever I want to take it. So, with Yes, Doctor, you know, it's not necessarily house, there's a lot of it that's just like funk or a bit of dub or drum and bass or whatever. But it all started with that idea of house. With Boom Boom, I wanted to narrow it in a bit further, a bit closer. I just want to make dance music”.
Digging deeper into the roots of Boom Boom, jazz-house and beats are resoundingly important to Henry as the music transports him back to Vanuatu, a South Pacific island east of Australia where he spent his early years. For Henry, house music revitalises these memories and epitmosises Vanuatu sense of joviality. Talking to Henry, it’s impossible not to recognise this freedom of spirit is at the heart of both his music and character. Casting back to Vanuatu, Henry reveals that “I think it was growing up in the islands and the carefreeness of that culture. And I really think tracks like 'Master Blaster' where there’s like that fall to the floor thing. And ‘Exodus’ by Bob Marley, like, we just heard that every day. And oddly, there's the fall to the floor thing that came through and, and a lot of other music there as well. But it’s just house music feels like my home. Like it hits me right there. It's like when you love a song or something, it just hits you. And then with the chords, the beautiful jazz harmony, in juxtaposition with the house beat, that's just me. And that's where I'm at…I think part of the reason why I move through lots of things, is they're all conceptually very different. I'm allowed in my music to go wherever I want to and do whatever I want to, like, I'm just allowed to do whatever I want to, I'm not going in like, I have to make jazz-house. It's just complete freedom - it has to be”.
Horatio Luna's Boom Boom is out now via The Jazz Diaries
You can buy and stream Horatio Luna's Boom Boom here
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