House music is standing tall! Evolving, adapting, and continuing to drive dancefloors across the world. At its heart, as ever, are those producers and DJs who've perfected that marriage between rhythm and melody, between minimal, hypnotic grooves and moments of tension, laced with the odd euphoric outburst, of course.
At its heart are producers/DJs like Eric 'Hipp-e' Galaviz and Brian 'Halo' Varga, house heads since first catching the bug back in the days when they were still sporting school shorts. Hipp-e ("In '92 I had longer hair and all my DJ friends had nick names so my brother dubbed me Hipp-E. The E is for Eric.") started spinning in his native Denver aged 16. Chicago-born Halo began even earlier, aged 9, sneaking into the Windy City’s Hip House Records, getting an education in four-to-the-floor beats first hand. It wasn’t long before the two bonded, having being booked to play at the same clubs. "If you dance around while you DJ, you can hold your piss for hours," jokes Halo. No one stays still when H Foundation spin!
Re-locating to the Pacific coast, to San Diego, set their studio partnership in motion. A partnership that picked up plaudits and made waves from the off. Their debut release, 1998's '420 Sessions' (Siesta Recordings), didn't just find its way into DJ boxes the globe over, but played a wider role in helping outline much of today’s current dub-influenced West Coast house sound, with production so polished you could almost see your reflection in the vinyl itself. Perhaps its not surprising that one of the pair's favourite producers is reggae-house legend Bobby Konders.
Even today, Hipp-e says that if he won a million bucks tomorrow the first thing he'd buy would be a "super stocked, super charged big ass studio." Oh, and "something nice for my girl".
As solo artists both Halo and Hipp-e have produced deep, moody, house tracks for such respected US labels as Siesta, Tango, Yoshitoshi, Bluem (Halo's own label) and Nightshift (Hipp-e's imprint). Their sound has exerted a sizeable influence in the UK too, causing ripples at both underground clubs and vast spaces like Fabric, for whom they recently mixed the in demand Fabric Live 07 CD and where they currently hold a DJ residency. They have remixed for UK outfits Low Pressings, Shaboom, Hooj Choons and the Chemical Brothers as well as turning in outstanding mixes for Soma artists Slam and Silicone Soul.
Early singles like the Homegrown EP reached the ears of Radio 1 listeners via the sticky palms of one Pete Tong. Then long time friend, DJ Sneak, suggested they hook up with his favourite UK party crew. After a fruitful meeting in Miami 2000, Scotland’s ever-savvy Soma Records, massive fans of the duo’s production and DJ work, snapped them up. Their subsequent H-Foundation EP, Passage Of Time, grabbed the attention of house, progressive and techno fans alike.
With their debut album Environments the H Foundation sound will travel far beyond the confines of clubs and DJ boxes. "It represents the different audio environments that have surrounded us throughout our lives," says Hipp-e, who alongside Halo credits hip-hop, jazz, funk, dub, 80s new wave and "just about everything else" as a musical imperative alongside house.
And these influences work their way onto Environments, an album which showcases the duo's development as producers, as well as two and half years hard work. There are a few surprises in store too. The funk, as techno fans are prone to saying, has never been far from the forefront of H-Foundation studio-sculpted tracks, but on Environments it comes in the form of live instrumentation too - thanks to the welcome addition of the Junkbeats / Twenty Four 7 collective, an Australian jazz-funk outfit hailing from the blissfully green hippie coastal enclave of Byron Bay.
"It's mainly a community of artists and musicians," explains Hipp-e. "We stay there on our days off when we’re touring down under. Two years ago I met a guy, Davey B, and we bonded musically. He arranged to work with us, selflessly offering his band and their talents. And the result is this awesome collaboration."
The title track, a sleazy mix of jazz, funk and low-slung beats, clouded in dope smoke, is a prime example. More percussive tricks and studio licks with a downtempo edge appear on Scenario, the ever-so slightly psychedelic Slayin The Dragon and a skanked-out version of Passage Of Time.
House is still where the heart is though, and for fans of their output thus far, more treats await on ‘Environments’. Whether it’s the hypnotic mantra of New Funk Theory ("our theory is that we should all just get along," says Hipp-e), or filthy (and funny) grooves of So Fine" (with its vocal rants about Tabasco sauce and sexy girls). Or the sophisticated Tonight, its emotive strings and strong female vocal a winning partnership that potentially has house anthem stamped all over it.
Next up, is their future live show. Which only need to match up to at least some of the pair's previous experiences as DJs, to qualify as something special.
"When we were invited to play in Brazil at a private party it was crazy," recalls Hipp-e. "They built an entire club complete with toilets on a 16,000 acre estate, with an 18-hole golf course. Then they flew me back to the city by helicopter."