Tycho / ISO50

Quite often, focus on one skill can overshadow another.  And more often, focus on the wrong skill can stifle a hidden talent.  Scott Hansen, AKA Tycho and ISO50 has been able to maintain a long love of graphic design while awakening another talent – music.  This found talent has allowed him to improve and continue his graphic work while incubating this music aptitude and at the same time, using his music presence to showcase his art.

Interview: Keane Photos: Courtesy ISO50 and Ghostly International

Tycho / ISO50 Photo: Tim Navis

A polymath, sometimes referred to as a Renaissance man, is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.  In less formal terms, a polymath (or polymathic person) may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable.  Derived from the ideal in Renaissance Humanism that it was possible to acquire a universal learning in order to develop one’s potential, (covering both the arts and the sciences and without necessarily restricting this farewell learning to be the academic fields). When someone is called a Renaissance man or woman today, they not only have broad interests or superficial knowledge of several fields, but  their knowledge is also profound.

Scott Hansen is clearly a renaissance man of multiple sorts and has found both proficiency and expertise in his chosen crafts.  Technical by training, artistic in nature, Scott utilized his IT schooling to dive into the electronic music realm as well as the graphic art arena; both scientific and technical mediums, with artistic and organic output.

Scott’s Musical name Tycho recently produced his first start-to finish album this year and is currently touring the United States.  This art of electronic music evolved from his technical aptitude, curiosity and fortitude.  Tycho’s music is electronic in production, yet organic in development.  Each song takes you on a journey from its progression through different beats, melodies and transitions.

Scott’s artist/designer name is ISO50.  ISO50 evolved from continued practice for recreation and then evolved to a necessary element in promoting shows for Tycho with concert posters and t-shirts.  ISO50’s work is bold yet simple, all the while visually stimulating, and pairs eloquently with his music.

In the following interview, Scott took the time to talk to us while on the road in the Tycho tour van, an hour outside of Nashville where he was going to perform live while simultaneously streaming on the web via Livestream.

 

Where are you from?  Where did you grow up?

Grew up outside of Sacramento and have spent most of my early years within a 90 mile radius of Sacramento.  I currently call San Francisco Home.

At what point in time did you start performing music, your art and what came first?

They kind of grew out of each other, I’ve always been kind of visually oriented.   I’ve always drawn ever since I was a little kid.  Music never presented itself to me as I never had any equipment, so I didn’t get into that until later – when I got a computer and started messing around with Music.  About that same time, I learned Photoshop on the computer, and from that point, always created art digitally.  I never really drew again after.   As far as learning the design work, it grew from the need to have posters to promote some of my earlier shows.

At what point in time did you get involved in music?

About when I was 22, towards the end of college, this was about ‘96 or ’97.  I didn’t actually start listening to electronic music until about 2000.

Was this just for personal fun at this point?

Ya, it was never really a conscience or deliberate thing at that point.  I just started messing around with samplers and synths.   I listened to a lot of drum and bass at that point – Ronny Size and Big Bud – and tried to emulate them. Those guys were such incredible engineers, however they focused less on composition and melody and more on the sound design – and they were so good at it, but that’s what made me want to understand how it’s made.   It was more an exercise than a deliberate act to be creative. I wanted to learn how to use the equipment.  I was a computer science major and was more into the engineering side of things, the learning of the equipment is what got me to use my creative side.

 

Did you ever envision your life being this way, as a successful musician or artist?

Absolutely, not, even up until somewhat recently, about 6 years ago I was still employed full time.  I did a lot of interface architecture.  This is what I’ve done most of my professional life.  Then I started doing free-lance, web interface.  So ya,  I never  would have guessed musically I would be here.  With the graphic side, I always thought maybe there was a chance.

Did your graphic design side start first?  Definitely.  I’ve always supported myself somewhat on the graphic side.

Tell me more about your early influences – Drum and Bass.  They were focused less on arrangement and composition/melodies and more on sound design.  They were focused on making the most intense bass sound or kick, they were really engineers about it.  For me at the time, I thought: “I could emulate these sounds or at least try to learn the equipment”, that’s why it appealed to me then, being an engineer – but I never really thought I could become a musician, but it was only over time that I fell in love with the other side of the music.

Photo: Miguel Vega

Your music seems to take listeners on a journey.  At one point it is mellow and the next moment they can’t sit still and want to dance.  Is your composition or this” journey” something that you intentionally try to create, or does each song evolve this way?

Yes, over time that has definitely become how my music has evolved on the structure and the arrangements that I want to make.   It’s never been deliberate, but it’s evolved this way over the last few years.  It’s hard to be objective about your work and recognize trends, but over time, I’ve realized that’s what I’ve naturally tended towards.  Now I try to push them.   On Dive, that definitely was a goal with a lot of the arrangements – to have twists and turns that make you feel like you’ve been transported from the beginning state that you may have occupied, to a subtle  transition somewhere else, then it takes you somewhere completely different; and it’s enough to snap you out of it and make you realize that you’re maybe in a different space or shifted to a different point.

 

When your music and art were evolving, was there a defining moment at some point in your life that steered your career in the direction to where you realized you could do this?

I guess, early on, when I got my first keyboard.  My first piece of equipment was a drum machine and a MIDI sequencer which was really for rhythm.  Then I got a sampler, but neither of them were really writing tools from a melodic sense.  Then I picked up my first keyboard which was a Roland JP 800 and that piece really helped me from a creative standpoint.  That piece made me realize that I could write music.

Then it evolved from there?

 Ya I’ve always gravitated towards keyboard, it’s always been the piece I want to play.  But I’ve been trying to get better at guitar over the years.  It’s something I picked up about 6 years ago and it’s slowly taking a bigger role in my songwriting.

Photo: Charles Bergquist

Tell me about your band?  You have some people that you travel with?

I used to only do the laptop set and do the visuals live.  But the newer music is more organic.  I was never super comfortable with the way the show came off before – it didn’t suit me from a performance standpoint.  I wanted to push it in a different direction and make it better from a live standpoint, more energetic, and at the same time more organic.  So I was working with Zack Brown who had been playing guitar early on.  And then we started playing shows together.  He plays guitar and bass.  We picked up a drummer a couple of years ago.  I feel like the dynamic is a lot better now that there are multiple people feeding off each other.  I think a lot of people that appreciate electronic music go to a live show so they can hear the same songs through a powerful sound system – that used to be one of my big motivators going to a live show – so I want to represent the album in the same way as much as possible, but at the same time perform it in a way where they’re not just hearing a perfect reproduction of the album.  I want something that is more fluid and open-ended.

 

Any failures or frustrations in your career?

I wouldn’t count anything as a failure.  When you spend your life working on something, or whatever you choose to spend your life learning or evolving over your lifetime, I think anything that you chalk up as a failure you could also chalk up as a turning point or a success critical to your development or your evolution as an artist.  I’ve definitely had some frustrations.  I guess the biggest one was starting this album, Dive.  I was using this particular VAW  to record everything.  I’ve been using it for many years so I was kinda stuck with it, but the first three months of production were so agonizingly slow and frustrating because of some deep problems in the software so things kinda ground to a halt.  I got so frustrated, I couldn’t envision doing this for a whole other 9 months.  So I had to look at it from an economics and time perspective and make a decision if I wanted to spend the next 9 months struggling with this platform, or do I pay up front and switch to a whole new platform.  As hard as it was to swallow the time to learn the new platform, in the end it became so instrumental to the completion of the album.  Now it’s so integral to my process, I couldn’t imagine not having it.

 

You were forced to learn it.

Ya, and in the end, it wasn’t as hard as I made it out to be.   As far as high points – finishing Dive was one of my high points as an artist.  You spend all of this time on something and then you get to see it take on this form that you envisioned – it is pretty amazing.  Dive was the first time I’ve sat down and created an album from start to finish.  Before, it was always back-burner stuff, or a bunch of tracks that I had so I put them together to make an album.

What are you most passionate about right now?

Music, really.  Finishing the album and all the things that I’ve learned have added a lot to my abilities as a producer and an engineer from a recording perspective.  I’m really excited to sit down again and start on a new record and see what other directions I can take the sound.

Other current musical interests?  Anybody else you’re passionate about?

There seems to be so much interesting stuff out there right now that aren’t necessarily genre defined or genre bending stuff.  I’ve been listening a lot to Bear In Heaven – that’s been one of my favorites right now.  The new Trust album, a bunch of random other stuff.  I’ve been posting playlists to my blog that you can check out.

 

One of the reasons we interviewed you was for your talents and for your inspiration, which you have great talent in both venues.  You seem to have found the sweet-spot to where you can showcase both your arts.  Any advice to people wanting to achieve their goals and find that sweet-spot?

For me it has been continuing to work, focus and continually trying to improve for a very, very long time.  I think it’s always going to take a long time to get to that space that you envision.  Your ability to translate your vision into something is the hardest part.  A lot of people have the inspiration and visions, but unless you can translate these visions into a reality, then it’s not going to make it across to other people.  So I think it’s taking the time, understanding and learning the tools.

You seem to have found the MSG for music.  We’ve been passing out Dive to everyone and everybody comments that they can’t stop listening to the album.  That is a true testament to finding the formula, and I want to say well done.

Thank you, much appreciated.

 

Scott Hansen AKA Tycho / ISO50

 

 

This is an unofficial video, but it pairs amazingly with Hours see it here.

 

 


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