Hugo Manuel creates electronic music under the moniker “Chad Valley,” but he’s not just a DJ behind a laptop, he’s a producer and proved so with his recently released debut full-length, Young Hunger. With this album, the Oxford-native channeled his influences from the ‘80s and teamed up with vocalists including Twin Shadow, Glasser and Active Child (among others) to create a truly collaborative record. Manuel is currently on tour in support of the album, and amongst the chaos of life on the road was nice enough to chat with me about his goal as an ‘80s revivalist, his love for touring, and how he wishes his audience would get naked during his sets.
Katrina Nattress: Your debut album, Young Hunger, just came out, congratulations! How does it feel to have a full-length under your belt?
Hugo Manuel: It’s a great feeling for sure. When you start out a new project there is always the debut album as a goal to aim for, and everything seems to build up to that. Especially the way I have done things over the last few years--releasing two EPs before I set to work on the album. It has felt like a long time coming, but I am very glad that I waited and didn't rush into releasing an album before I had a chance to mature as an artist.
KN: You have so many amazing guest vocalists on this record. What made you decide to release something so collaborative?
HM: It was an idea I had a long time ago when I was questioning what kind of artist I was or that I wanted to be. I guess I would like to think of myself as a producer in the hip-hop sense, and when you think about those records there are guests all over them, its just ingrained in the way those records are made, so I liked the idea of echoing that sentiment. Also I'm just a big fan of duets and the stories you can tell when there are two people singing in a song. You know, I first started singing in musicals, and maybe that has informed my love of duets to some extent.
KN: Was this your first time working with these musicians?
HM: Yeah pretty much. I had toured with Twin Shadow and Active Child before so I knew those guys and Jack from Fixers and TEED I know from being fellow Oxfordians (its a very small place) so it was really a case of calling on favors from friends for the most part. I'm not naturally collaborative actually. I have to push myself in that direction because my inclination is to lock myself in a room and work alone, but I wanted with this record for it to feel like a big collaborative experience and thus I got lots of people involved.
KN: When you perform these songs live, how do you fill in the collaborative gaps?
HM: I have backing singers. Smooth and sexy.
KN: Young Hunger has a heavy ‘80s vibe to it. What were your influences while creating this album?
HM: A lot of the late ‘80s new jack swing stuff like New Edition, Janet Jackson, Babyface. That was a huge influence on me and I spent a long time simply emulating those sounds and working out what synths and drum machines they were using, because those sounds have gone out of fashion in a big way and there is due a revival in a big way. Also I got into Prefab Sprout in a big way whilst writing this album, and a lot of similar British late-'80s pop like Sade, China Crisis, Tears For Fears. I'd like to see myself in the lineage of those kinds of people.
KN: You’re about to embark on an extensive European tour. Are you looking forward to this?
HM: Oh yes, in a big way. I love touring so much; it’s a big reason I am doing this. Whenever I have been working in the studio too long I just think about touring and all the places I will get to see, and that’s what I think I'll really remember when I'm old. I'm doing a bunch of UK dates supporting Passion Pit, which is going to be pretty huge, and it’s always a joy to play to a load of new potential fans. Win 'em over, you know.
KN: With electronic music like yours, do you feel like it’s challenging to convey in a live setting?
HM:No, but I can see how it can come across that way. It depends which side of the line you stand, because if you are making dance music that is specifically made for dancing to, then I have no problem with some dude standing behind a laptop pressing buttons looking bored, because if you are looking at the guy on stage instead of dancing, then you are at the wrong gig! I like to think that I stand in the middle somewhere though, and as a singer I feel that there is something very live to watch always at my shows even if you can't really tell what I am doing with my boxes of flashing lights.
KN: What do you hope your fans get out of seeing you live?
HM: A ruddy good time. I would like to make people smile, and I would like for people to get naked, but that never happens.
KN: What do you think is the most important factor in a live performance?
HM: To nail the vocals. It’s the most important thing for me, as a singer, and as a fan. I like singers, and I think there is a raw human attraction to watching someone sing, much more so than seeing someone playing guitar or something. Also I have a pet hate of people who close their eyes, or look down to the ground. You have to look your audience in the eye. If you are looking elsewhere then it just looks like you don't want to be there, and then your audience doesn't want to be there either.
KN: What’s next for Chad Valley?
HM: A bath, and then some breakfast.