Florent Hugel, aka HUGEL, is a French DJ and producer, born in 1987 and originally from Marseille. Over the years we see collaborations with artists like Robin Schulz and Alok, along with remixes of genres like the reggaeton of J Balvin, of catchphrases like “Breaking Me” and “Jerusalema”, which have always made everyone dance in every season of the year
A few days ago, we had the opportunity to interview and have a nice chat with him. One question we asked is related to his latest song “Morenita”, which remained unpublished for a year and officially released only a few months ago, with an unprecedented success with its 10 million streams.
Ciao Flo! Thank you for the opportunity and the availability, it’s Matteo and Eleonora here and we’re so happy to have you as a guest in this interview. Shall we start?
It’s my pleasure, let’s do it!
Let’s start with Morenita, which is coming in this period in Italy, even if it was released a while ago. We would like to know, is there a connection and an inspiration from Corre Morenita, how did you come out with the idea and also with its funny video?
Well, I did the song during the first lockdown in 2020. You need to know, I used to live in Ibiza and when lockdown happened, I found myself locked in my flat. Before COVID-19, I always felt inspired for making music in Spanish; I found some samples, I did the beat and I was super happy to play it after this covid thing; all I thought was something “summer ’20”, since I thought I would be back then, but it didn’t happen. So what we did was releasing this song officially, taking one year to perfect the samples and all that, and then one year and a half later – so this summer – we released it.
Next question is, COVID-19 forced us to stay at home and dedicate ourselves to our passions. You took part to Virtual Festivals – for example the Tracklist1001 one. How did you feel when you realised you didn’t have a crowd in front of you? Did this discourage you when it came to create your sets?
When you talk about the party, there is something about being involved together, inside and outside; the concept is being with humans, meeting new ones and trying to connect with them. The internet thing is complicated instead, so, I didn’t feel discouraged at all, but the two things are completely different; when I do something for the internet, it has nothing to do with lives, the live streaming is another thing to me.
This question is from our team, especially from our colleague Rudenzio. It is about your “next step”: you’re an artist and it’s interesting how you’re developing your music path with tracks, such as Bella Ciao and others; what are your next steps in terms of sounds and goals? We also know that you made collaborations with different sounds, also lots of good projects.
Basically, I come from last year’s background, which was mainly mainstream. I thing the COVID-19 changed a lot the game and the market; I feel like we’re back to the roots, so I feel closer to what I used to do in the beginning. It’s great for me, you know, I’m a DJ since when I was 17 and I started DJing in French clubs and I had to adapt because the market was orientated much more in radio’s music and similars. I feel that with the virus, people and social media I’m much more open-minded. Also, what happens in Mykonos, ibiza and all those places is moved by hype, beats like the techno, house, tech house ones. Let’s say that the underground is the new mainstream.
I absolutely agree. You know, Italy is being friend with Kungs, Purple Disco Machine, those artists who bring back the 80s and the dance.
On the last years before COVID, people were not into dancing, but more into jumping. You know, at the parties people used to wait for the drop and then jumped, then the break came, they sang along and then waited for the other drop to jump again. Now people prefer dancing, moving and vibing for the whole night, beats are softer, there’s more groove, I love that. Also, my music is going more into house and tech house, sometimes techno too. I think DJs are back to extended sets; you know, I put an extended set when I played in Dubai 3 days ago; it was something like four hours long, then the week before I was in Germany and played a 4 hours and a half set. We’re back to the classic extended DJ sets that take you to a journey, it’s getting more and more underground. It’s definitely the start of a new direction which I’ll take also to Ibiza, a city I miss so much.
Another question is from Kevin, from our team. He asks, which are your starting and inspiration points in production and o you have a favourite plugin or VST that you use for your music? And also, what is your favourite streaming platform when you just listen to music?
Well, my favourite platform is Spotify; you know, I use it as a client and not only as an artist; also, it’s Wrapped day today, I saw the numbers and wow, that’s impressive because I didn’t expect that, I wasn’t ready: I reached 159 million 100 thousand streams this year and almost 25 million and a half listeners, what the hell. Talking about my favourite plug-in, I have a new favourite one. You know, with Morenita I’m making music with more flat drums, that sound more like tribal, latin, a kind of groove that is very hard to mix together. I found the key and it’s called Transient Master by Native Instruments. It’s crazy and I’m super happy with it, because now it’s a lot easier, the next level.
[About the starting and inspiration points] I started with a sample, because I’m no musician, so I learnt how to produce in the DJ way, so taking a sample, put the loop, then adding drums, then other samples; then, inspiration is everywhere, could be anything.
If you want a funny story, I was in a restaurant a week ago; at some point I went to the toilet and heard some speakers there and I was like “awesome, this track is sick” and it was something worth to sample. So, inspiration it’s literally everywhere you go; you can go out and find inspiration also listening to the music in the elevator. It’s seriously everywhere.
Talking about your personal favourite streaming platform, I personally like Apple Music, for the high quality profile they keep, and the difference with Spotify is all about that: Spotify is more about social media instead of music titles; quality is the key and music is the only main character.
I mean, I can’t really say anything about Apple Music despite it gives me a great support and I’m really grateful for that. I don’t have that platform, since there’s need of only one and I have Spotify already, which I know very well. I don’t really know how Apple Music works, because I’ve been working with Spotify for a while.
This is linked to the next question, because also in music business, there are more and more tensions and issues about blockchain, NFTs and music platforms based on blockchains, such as Audius, Royal, etc. We would like to know your opinions about the future of blockchains and NFTs around music business, because there are so many interesting projects but also lots of discussion about this.
Well, the future about NFTs is crypto; if you talk about crypto, it means money and money means pay-check. All of these industries have been recently changed by the internet; the last change is not a big one yet, but I’m talking about the bank system, which is coming and happening very soon. So yes, the internet is changing everything and we’re going straight into the digital world, into a metaverse state. We’re going into the crypto world and the bank will surely switch on it in two or three years. NFT is another interesting thing because blockchain is making easy to own everything digitally, so the ownership is going to be much easier with the blockchain’s system. So I believe the music thing, platforms based on blockchains will work as well because right now there is still the “middle man” [the person behind everything you do – like signing papers]; for the music it is quite the same, Spotify pays the label and an agency is collecting everything and giving to the artist. Many time passes between the moment in which Spotify gives the money and when I receive it. Tight blockchains stuff will change the way the artist earns money from the platforms; there will be no need of middle man anymore.
Do you projects on this? And if so, would you like to tell us?
I do have, I have to… if I hadn’t, it’d be my end. So obviously I already started making moves in this field and I guess my colleagues artists already did because as artists we are more connected than normal people. The artist, instead, is more connected and so I don’t know if normal people are ready for this new change but I guess they’ll be, because, like… do you remember the guy who invented the the mp3? Well, he went to a label like 20 years ago and said: “I’ve got something for you, look at this” and everyone was laughing like “haha, what is this thing, we use cds here so get the hell out of here” and now everyone has like streaming platforms; nowadays it’s the same with the NFT stuff.
And last question – but not least – would you like to tell us if you’re up to new collaborations or close to a release date? And do you have some suggestions for us about new talents you discovered recently?
Yes, I’m going to start my own label very soon and I hope you’ll follow it, because it’ll be amazing; I’m also working with awesome artists, incredible people; I have an amazing collaboration going on with an artist from UK called WH0, we found the vocal samples right yesterday, which is a legend of house music – so sick – and there’s a collaboration ongoing with a Spanish DJ called Pasman, who is starting to make some noise with tracks played by Michael Bibi and colleagues; I had a collar with the Italians Jude & Frank, whom I’m friend with. Thus, a track is coming out on January 7th and it’s very latin-like, I have a track which will be released on Diplo’s Higher Ground so yes, I have a couple collaborations going on.
And about the label, is there a link to the Make The Girls Dance thing?
Of course there is, it is supposed to be called “Make The Girls Dance Records”, because it’s the project I‘ve been working on for so many years and it should be a sub-division of Warner Music; they want to make sure the girls don’t say “we find it a little bit sexist” … and honestly I am the last guy who is sexist, there is nothing more beautiful than making the girls dance and I want to make music to make them move, so I’m negotiating for that name because I want to keep it, it’s great. But they’re afraid, because someone might come up with saying it’s not a good name.
You did a good branding on this, I think it could be great if it had that name.
To me it makes sense but nowadays it’s very complicated, because you say anything and everyone has something to say, or they think you’re mean, or you want to say mean things to others. It’s the end of the freedom of expression.
This is the very last question, which is more a curiosity. You travel a lot, so what about Italy? What are your favourite spots, places and food, since we met in an Italian restaurant and I’m very curious about that!
Man, I was in Venice this summer, it was my first time. If you want to hear something funny, I’ve never heard about the city, nor about people having been there, I just knew it was like, romantic; so, I arrive there, went directly to the taxi station and I asked for a taxi, and they told me the boat hours and I was like “no thanks, I don’t want the boat, I want a taxi” but then I realised there’s no normal car and the steward looked at me like I was the stupidest man in the world and told me that Venice has no cars, since it’s completely on the water, and I didn’t think it had that much! Apart from that, I got slapped in the face when I arrived and saw the canals, it was so amazing, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. To me the most magical city was Paris – not because I’m French – but from this summer I’d say, Venice gets number one; I love Milano, I love Roma, I love every city I go to, by the way.
And while you were in Venice, did you go on a gondola?
Oh yes, of course I did. I went on it, then took an Aperol Spritz, I tried everything in that city.
So, we’ve finished! Thank you again for the interview, hope to meet you soon!
Thank you for having me, it was fun! I’ll see you in Ibiza, take care!
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Twenty-one-year old student graduating in Linguistic and Cultural Mediation at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, I’m currently speaking 4 languages and self-teaching the fifth one. I’m so passionate about music, concerts and festivals that I would like to work in the music industry. Last but not least, I’m a proud dreamer but with my feet on the ground.