When one listens to music by Scott Hansen, it is not uncommon to think of travel and adventure. Working under the pseudonym Tycho, Hansen's ambient sounds evoke a visceral sense of weightlessness and soothing relaxation, akin to a blissful night of stargazing, or watching a scenic sunset far into the horizon. A multi-faceted artist, Hansen also channels his vast creativity through other outlets -- photography and graphic designing, drawing parallels between his three beloved crafts. Using an eclectic understanding of the arts, Hansen has slowly matured his music, such as the expansion of Tycho into a three-piece ensemble and the continued refinement of his sound, shown in his 2014 release, Awake. The Sacramento-based creative recently met up with HYPETRAK before playing a sold out show, allowing us to pick at his thoughts and his vision as a musician and artist. In the interview, Tycho touches on the concepts behind his live performances, his musical inspirations, and his thoughts on the American education system and their efforts in promoting creativity. Special thanks goes out to Hong Kong's Hidden Agenda for helping us connect the dots for this conversation, which you can read below. To purchase Tycho's music, visit iTunes.
You've been on tour through Asia and Australia earlier this year. How did it go?
We went to Australia for two weeks, then came up to Kuala Lumpur, and lastly Singapore. The Asian half of this whole tour has been going great.
Yeah, the Kuala Lumpur show was pretty crazy. It was a seated concert, but people rushed to stage and security had to come out. It was weird yet awesome. It was really good energy; it was a pleasant surprise.
Do you take time to explore the city and all that?
I always try to make time to explore. It was difficult today, but in Australia we had a lot of extra time so we went to all the beaches and stuff. It was nice.
Your music gives me a sense of traveling. Is this something intentional?
I mean it’s not intentional as in like I sit down and think that that’s what I’m going to put in there. I just think what inspires me the most is that idea of trying to paint a picture of a space or a physical area. If that’s what comes of it, it’s great, but I just get inspired by what comes naturally to me.
Is that the type of feedback you often get from other listeners?
Yes, definitely. Lots of people seem to think motion, movement, outdoors, and oceans.
You’re a photographer and graphic designer. Space seems to be a very important component to you.
With music and design and photography, sometimes it’s not so much about the form, and the shapes; like the notes in music, it’s sometimes more about the texture. I feel like there’s a lot of parallels between design and music. You can create textures and layers that contain emotion without explicitly having it built in there with the notes or shapes or whatever. I try to keep a balance between those two things.
Between these two things (design and music), do you have similar or different work approaches?
They’re very similar, but music takes a lot longer. Design is creating this one single image, like a still frame in a movie, so it goes a lot quicker. Generally speaking, my approach to both is the same; the initial phase, the editing, the arrangement -- there's a lot of parallels between design and music.
How do you conceptualize your live shows?
It’s all about the visuals -- the lighting and the video. So there’s a big screen behind us with all the visuals. I try to design those so that they feel like lighting; it’s really dynamic — it’ll get dark and then get light every once in a while. In general the whole idea behind the live show is to create an immersive experience, like after you watch a movie and after you walk out and you kind of feel that you’re in it for a second.
Design and creativity seem to be playing a bigger role with corporate brands. Do you think that the American education system is pushing the required creative energy to prepare young people in these fields?
Speaking from my own experience a long time ago, no, it really doesn’t. There were compulsory art classes, but it wasn’t ever represented as a potential career.
I mean I understand why. Not everyone can do it for a living so it’s probably not good to get people’s hopes up. From a young age, I was very interested in art and I obsessively drew at all times, but the school system was probably why it took me so long. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I started pursuing and trying to learn about design and music.
Although you’re signed to a record label, you seem to have created your own independent niche. How connected/disconnected are you with the music industry?
That’s the problem -- I’m really disconnected. People always ask me, “What’s your favorite record this year? What artist do you want to collaborate with? What other artist in San Francisco artists do you know?” I kinda live in a vacuum when it comes to that stuff. I don’t get exposed to much outside stuff just because I don’t know if it’s time constraints or I’m just not doing the work that it takes to seek that stuff out but for whatever reason, I’m not always up on what’s going on in like music and culture.
It’s been working great for you so far, and I think it’s quite refreshing. You create your own universe in what you do, and I think it’s inspiring. When do you know it’s time for a new album?
I’m really new to this professional mode of operation as a musician. For Dive, I’ve been working on the tracks for years and then eventually thought it was time to compile it into an album. Awake followed a more set, standard cycle of how the industry worked. You get tuned into it whether you like it or not. In general, when you’re on the road, you hear your music over and over again that all you want to do when you get home is make something new. We’re going to start recording again after the summer festival seasons. At this point, sadly, it’s kind of a business decision — we have to go tour and make some money off that in order to record, because it costs a lot; and it costs a lot of money to not “work” for eight months to do a record. It becomes a business cycle thing. On one hand it becomes kinda sad, but I wouldn’t have been able to make Awake in that amount of time without that motivating factor. This is good because 10 years from now I will look back and have done 4-5 albums where as if I did it the old way, it would’ve been like two.