Beats by Beat: Horatio Luna has delivered a smooth, funky mix of jazzy house and groove

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Beats by Beat: Horatio Luna has delivered a smooth, funky mix of jazzy house and groove

Words by Sam Howard

Welcome to Beats by Beat, our mix series for electronic music lovers. Head here if you missed the previous Beats by Beat mix, produced by leftfield acid-electro genius, Frou Frou.

Horatio Luna, the brilliant alias of Henry Hicks, has been perfecting his delicate craft of smooth and groovy bass since he was 14. He’s an avid fan of fusing vibes and takes inspiration from all kinds of different house and dance-floor orientated sounds. Some of these rich flavours include rare groove, left-field, spiritual jazz, funk, D&B, reggae, Latin jazz as well as a hint of psychedelic.

That said, Hicks never restricts himself to any specific sound. He begins with the rough structure of jazzy-house and improvises with whatever feels natural. And that’s what makes both his compositions and his performances so divine.

He’s a part of so many different projects that you can barely count them on both hands, and this year has already been a big one in terms of new tunes. He most recently released two humble selections, including Yes Doctor out on La Sape Records and just this week, released Nice to Meetcha – a special project with Foshe.

We had a chat to the man behind the music to find out about these new pieces of work.

What’s your favourite thing about creating music?

Connection with people and community.

How did it all start? You must have already mastered your 10,000 hours. What made you stick to it?

I started playing professionally as a teenager when I was 14. I’ve been playing and developing my sound since then. I’ve had heaps of set-backs, but I’ve always come back to music because it’s too important to the world and the community. I’ve had a lot of great mentors, friends and inspiring people who indirectly or directly gave me focus. I draw a lot of inspiration from older musicians and now, as I get older, the people in the community coming up is hugely inspiring. Kurt Paradise from La Sape Records was a massive help, as a friend and label, he is the reason this record happened.

How would you describe your sound and what is it about those styles that you love?

Well at this point, I would say essentially I make fusion music. I like the term ‘nu-fusionist’, but I just think about all the sounds I like and then I don’t think about them and I let it flow. When I was making Yes Doctor, I was thinking about playing my bass like an electronic sequence, an arpeggiator, which was physically pretty challenging to begin with, but I got to a place I was happy with.

I borrow a lot of ideas from electronic music and then I let my decisions as an improviser dictate the composition or idea. We can draw parallels between anything in life and I have fun with that idea. It’s not really jazz, it’s not really house and it’s not funk, it’s just Horatio. We can get technical if you like, but in the end it’s just music, people and good times.

Can you tell us a bit about your projects – past, current and future – what are you working on at the moment?

I play full-time with a few bands and do a lot of collaborating with friends. We just released a spiritual jazz collaboration with Sydney nu-fusionists Foshe titled, Foshe + Horatio Luna – Nice to Meetcha EP, which came out independently on March 27.

Lush Life is a band that features myself, Ryan Berkeley and On-Ly. It’s a straight-up jazz house project and we have just recorded our first release with Dean Zepherin, aka Saint Zepherin from Tribe Records (UK).

Antiphon is a bruk (broken beat) and jazz house project. We released our first EP last year with La Sape Records. One of the tracks was remixed by the CoOp in London, which was a massive honour for us. We’re working on a new record this year.

John Henderson is a modern Jazz collaboration with Joshua Smeltink, aka On-Ly, and we are working on recording a body of work soon. I’m working on another edition of The Psychedelic Freaks which is, as the name suggests, more of a spiritual jazz and psychedelic funk project, and a studio band. Last year, in conjunction with La Sape Records, we compiled some underground jazz and electronic inspired artists. I’m keen to do another one of those soon.

I played bass on an amazing neo-soul release called Z Retro which features a young soul singer Zima, and is produced by 2nd Thought, aka Willy Dynamo. Looking forward to seeing that out in the world later this year. 2nd Thought and I produced under the title Bangaz N Jazzz which is a more hip hop/club orientated project. We have a few things we’ve been working on.

I have the great honour of playing bass with Amin Payne’s Teymori, which is an Afro-house and jazz-house project from one of the dons of the Melbourne beats scene. Check out the Wax Museum release.

I recently played guitar with On-Ly’s Broth launch, which is a post-Madlib/’70s-Miles-electric-era inspired release out on La Sape Records. In the future, I want to focus on dancefloor music, making bangers, DJing, remixing and collaborations with vocalists/poets/rappers, but I’ll always be making jazz records too.

And this incredible release … can you tell us a bit about your new album and how it differs from your previous releases?

Thank you. All my previous releases (available via Bandcamp) span from spiritual jazz to house remixes and everything in between. Yes Doctor was bringing all those different beat tapes, EPs, ideas together in an album. Some jazzy influence, some house, some rare groove, some remixed stuff and also introduces some new elements like reggae and D&B.

Horatio Luna has mixed us a very special hour of tunes, check it out below.

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