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Tapas Interview | Hidrogenesse: «As a result of the album ‘Un dígito binario dudoso’, people took us more seriously»

Hidrogenesse, or what is the same, Genís Segarra and Carlos Ballesteros, were talking to Tapas at Bar Olaf in Barcelona.

Click here to read the Spanish version.They have released an album, Ciutat de sorra, inspired by the work of the artist David Bestué; they are the authors of the songs of Stella Maris in La Mesías; and they signed the soundtrack of the new film by Nacho Vigalondo. Political? And they also flee from pigeonholing. If the reader enters, out of curiosity, in the website of the Astrohúngaro label, owned by Carlos Ballesteros and Genís Segarra, he will find a good list of labels that define the sound of Hidrogenesse, the group they formed more than twenty years ago. Well, all of them are lies, or at least they have not written them. They are words with which the critics have defined their sound in albums and performances. A sample of how they want to remove iron to life and of their very recognizable irony.

Un dígito binario dudoso, the album you dedicated to the mathematician Alan Turing, is ten years old, a work that consolidated you in many ways, how have you changed since then?
Well, just the same instruments and equipment that we bought to take that record live are the ones we are still using right now. And we have already made several records in between.
Carlos: We used to carry only a laptop (laughs).
G: What we did is we sampled the most fun sounds of the “digit” and we still use them. Maybe the band has changed, but live we still hear those bells, the drums, the snares… we’ve added things, that’s why we’re different. But to change, we haven’t changed anything.

Hidrogenesse posando en el Bar Olfa. Foto: Javier Márquez.
Hidrogenesse en el Bar Olaf (Barcelona). Fotografía: Javier Márquez.

So that album was a starting point.
C: We had to think about how to present ourselves live and we did add some elements, what we later called “bad theater”, which is to present the songs, because we added something more theatrical. And because of that album we were taken more seriously, people thought that the band was not a joke. It was like a weird point in our career, people who followed us from the beginning told us: “Don’t believe it, it’s not your best album, even if the magazines tell you so” (laughs).

Now with Ciutat de sorra you take up again the question of the concept album, do you find the theme or are you looking for it?
G: In the case of Bestué it was that the music had to last twelve minutes, which is the time the projections in theaters last. Turing’s was born because someone proposed us to do something in an expo for his centenary. The person who did not propose them was dismissed and nothing, it fell through. The two works were born from a proposal that, as artists say, leads you to do research. It is not something that we feel like doing or that we are looking for, in the case of Bestué I had never thought of doing something about the transformation of Barcelona.
C: But when you come across something like this? With total freedom and someone else’s idea, it’s like writing a freewrite.

And how did Los Javis approach composing for the group Stella Maris?
They gave us a lot of freedom with a very limited theme. The songs were appearing as the scripts were being created. But without knowing who was going to sing them. They hadn’t cast the girls yet.
C: It was entering an abstract world of total freedom, where we entered without knowing if they would like it. We imagined that they would have something in mind, because they are very music lovers.
G: That they gave us total freedom, that they delegated to us, was even more responsibility. They are people who are very attentive to the music. But they didn’t get involved in anything.

Did you have any affinity with their previous work?
C: They come from Madrid, which for us is a strange world. OT, success… it was something we never thought we would have any contact with.
G: But it has been a lot of fun.
C: Everything we have proposed to them has come out, we haven’t had to touch anything, which sometimes, working for other projects where there are more people involved, especially producers, they end up making you dizzy. But here we had a WhatsApp with them and that was it. We were watching Movistar and we only thought about meetings, but no…
G: They are the producers and they ask you for what they want, and if they like it, it’s done.
C: For example, now to make the music for Vigalondo’s film (Daniela Forever, 2024), as there were producers from three countries, we had to pass the exam not from the director, but from Brussels, from here and from the USA.

With Nacho you had already put music to his chapter of the series Historias para no dormir.
C: It has been a very different process with the series and with the film, and we thought we were going to repeat.
G: The first time he explained the script, which is something we like, what he was going to film and why. We understood what he needed, we sent him music without any images. He liked it so much that in the first edit he already used it. We just had to fix it. Now it’s been the other way around: with the film already shot, you put images to those shots… Much more difficult. We had an important block, and it was hard to get started. It was difficult to get the hang of it.
C: At first we saw the film and thought it didn’t need music because it was so well shot and edited (laughs). Why did it need any more frills, but then we didn’t want to stop playing music, we didn’t want them to cut it, we didn’t want them to turn it down. We were a pain in the ass, we traveled all the way to Belgium to make sure everything sounded loud (laughs).

And when did you find out that Stella Maris was in the line-up of the next Primavera Sound? Very strong, wasn’t it?
It was a real surprise.
G: A friend of ours told us, that they were talking about it on the radio, and we thought it was a typical joke (laughs). It was all in a week, we asked the girls if they wanted to do it and it came out of nowhere.