The Range is currently on tour in support of his album Potential, which showcases James’ Hinton’s talent as a digital scavenger, uncovering the talent of unknown artist’s on youtube and compiling them into one masterpiece. We got to stop in one of his shows to give you a sneak peak of what you can expect when the beauty of The Range unfolds in front of your eyes.
The MAT Magazine: What is The Range?
James Hinton: The Range is my project, that’s kind of the defining feature of it – that it’s just me and has been that ever since I started it. I’ve always hated being pigeonholed down to a specific genre, like you can only do that specific thing and you can’t do anything else or people will get mad at you. I thought that putting it in the name I got that freedom that in the future if I wanted to change or try something else it’s almost like baked into the idea of the project that you can shift so basically those two things are kind of the genesis of that.
TMM: What’s the best part about touring with Phantogram?
JM: They’re really good people, first and foremost. I love watching them play every night but that’s only like 45 minutes right, you have to have good rapport with people as you go it’s definitely present on this tour. I’ve done a lot of support slots in the past and often times if you think about it the first three rows of any show are gonna be for the band headlining that night, do they care about me? Typically no, but this tour has not been that way at all. Lots of enthusiastic and supportive crowds, so that’s been my favorite part.
TMM: The use of amatuer artists found off youtube is such an original idea when you see so many features staying within this same group of big names, what inspired you to go down this route?
JM: Around the time I was making potential, I started to really form what the idea would be. There were a lot of underground producers that were just on the cusp of their big break. They’re big in the indie underground space, but I feel like the tool they were choosing to use was this idea of using features. It didn’t allow for any cohesive artistic statement and it felt fake and commercialized to the point where they want it to just be a commercial thing and it felt really off to me. My goal was to make music that is not necessarily commercial without mortgaging yourself with other big name people. I mean that culture has been around for a long time at the very top end. I just like everything about the opposite of that. I like the rawness and the emotion, and I like that you get a lot of emotions that wouldn’t really get if you’re in the studio.
TMM: What did you learn from this exploration on the internet?
JM: That it’s very deep haha. I did the math, I watched something like 200 hours of video and then I only used maybe 40 minutes of it, even less than that actually. It’s just really really huge. Going back to that last question, i’m actually hopeful that this is something that people will consume and consider doing. For the next record one assumption a lot of people is that as soon as something goes online it’s there forever, one thing I find interesting is that people delete their channels. Thats where my head is at for the next record, that you can sample something to preserve it because it’s eventually going to go away. I learned a lot about the youtube algorithm. For example, HD video vs. SD video. Depending on what you have checked on like upload date or relevance, you can tweak the algorithm to work against itself, due to ‘edgerank’ its programed to surface and prioritize the most popular videos. Part of the project was to use videos with 100 or less views. Another example is using youtube when you’re logged in vs. when you’re not, believe it or not it changes what you get suggested to watch, when you’re logged in the site analysis your activity and interests and customizes the site to predict what you may be interested in watching.
TMM: If you had to do a collaborate with anyone in the industry, whether it was producer, writer, artist, whatever, who would it be?
JM: Uhm, probably Rihanna. I think her voice is incredible and i’ve heard that she’s super interesting in the studio and pretty serious. It’s very far-fetched though, haha.
TMM: Tell us about your process.
JM: I almost always have focused on albums, when you do that you constantly try to keep all of the tracks in limbo together. I still really like that, but I do find it interesting to see the way other producers work, like working on one single at a time. Once you get to a certain point with it that’s your focus and then that gets released and you’re onto your next one while you constantly have this stable of stuff.
TMM: Vinyl, tapes, or streaming? I think I can already guess this one haha!
JM: Interesting haha. Vinyl is something nice, I like the idea that you can force someone to turn over the record. I like that its a process and you’re not necessarily forcing them to listen to the whole record, you’re giving them an option to have these mini segments. A lot of what the industry and the economics are forcing is that vinyl and streaming exist cohesively together, but with vinyl it seems to be like the dominant new physical media and streaming is digital. I like that you can have both cause they access things in a different way. Streaming is great, I don’t worry so much about the algorithms. I know a lot of people like that these services sort of predict what you might be interested in but personally I just like the fact that there is an instant gratification being able to pick and play a specific song or album.
TMM: What can we expect next from The Range?
JM: A few things in the works. I’m working on an EP or a few singles where i’m working with actual singers. For so long my process has been as we talked about the youtube thing, so for the most part i’ve been dismissive about the idea of actually working with anyone haha, so it’s been interesting to start opening up a little bit and work a bit on that. For the next record, depending on how that goes that angle might be the potential focus for it. For the most part I love playing with things that will most likely be forgotten and sort of perceiving them by sampling. Videos that have 100 or less views pretty much have none of the qualities that ever allow for viral-ity, and I like that because its humanity, its real.
For more on The Range check out his album Potential and follow him on twitter, @therangejames. Catch The Range on tour for yourself, dates listed below.
Words by Katherine Wilburn and Johann Ramos, Photography by Johann Ramos