2016 Artist Survey: The Range

James Hinton on 2016's Best Albums, Trump and the Election, Self-Driving Cars, and Memorable Fan Encounters

Feb 06, 2017 Photography by Alexandra Gavillet Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary
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For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from James Hinton, who records as The Range. The electronic musician released his latest album, Potential, in 2016 via Domino.

For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.

Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.

A shorter version of The Range's survey appeared in the print version of Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue, this is the full unedited version.

Top 10 Albums of 2016

1. Lil Uzi Vert: Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World / The Perfect LUV Tape
2. Porches: Pool
3. Gaika: Security
4. easyFun: Easy This Easy That
5. Nicolas Jaar: Sirens
6. Kenton Slash Demon: TT/Dok
7. Jubilee: After Hours
8. Leon Vynehall: Rojus
9. Kuedo: Slow Knife
10. Tim Hecker: Love Streams

2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?

It was a certainly a complicated year. The U.S. in particular feels like it's in much worse shape overall than when we started this year but I am also very proud of the work I was fortunate enough to be able to put out this year. I think that's a strange headspace to be in when you see a lot of things crumbling all around you but feel strongly that you are on a good pathin the past I've found it almost always means some downturn is coming for me but we'll see what 2017 holds in store. I loved being able to talk about and tour with the music from Potential this yearit was so lovely traveling and being able to talk about a relatively complex idea for a record. I was amazed to hear just how much a lot of people dug into both the music and the concept behind the album and learned a lot from speaking with people about how they felt about the idea. So, musically it was a great year, but certainly tinged with pallor by world events.

What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?

I am truly worried about the results. I think the election result itself was very random in the probabilistic senseit felt like as a country we rolled snake eyes the day of the election. I don't think it's possible to view the electoral college win as a mandate of any sort but it's feeling a lot like that's not the world the president-elect lives in. I also worry that misogyny played a massive part in the electionI'll never forget a cab ride the day after the election speaking to a staunch Bernie supporter in California who couldn't explain to himself why but felt the need to punish Hillary by voting for Donald Trump. I didn't know how deep that resentment went and I'm troubled both by its existence and by the fact that I didn't know it was real. 

Let's discuss Donald Trump. What does the rise of Trump tell you about America in 2016? What concerns you most about a Trump presidency? How do you think his presidency might personally change your life? What message do you have for those who voted for Trump? What actions will you take over the course of the next four years to either protest a Trump presidency or support it?

Again, it's worrisome. I like to read a lot of history, particularly about the two World Wars. While not entirely parallel I think one piece of misunderstood history about the rise of Fascism leading up to the second World War was that, like our current situation, its supporters had independent causes that led them to vote for Mussolini and Hitler. What I think uniformly inspired their supporters was the idea that they could cut through the red tape and get their particular issue donea hatred of the bureaucratic system that they blamed for both the first World War and their current economic malaise. If you consider that the U.S. is essentially two economies (one benefiting higher education and one that is shut out for various reasons) the circumstances of the larger non-college economy looks a lot like the conditions that led to Fascism in that intra-war period. That to me is worrisome for two examples. A toxic and dangerous group like Neo-Nazis like Trump because they blindly see (through their Internet bubble) a man who will work outside of the bureaucratic process to get their ends met. And not as troubling but crucial to the threat of those dangerous groups is the set of moderate people on the right that blindly (again because of their Internet bubble) see Trump in the tradition of those '80s Reagan boom yearsand only that. They are somehow missing the racist, misogynist, and ableist rhetoric. That to me sounds disturbingly like the conditions that allowed those leaders in the past commit some terrifying acts as they were all things to all people within their support group. Very scary to me. I think to that end my message to all peoplefrom the left and the rightis to include some relevant journalism from both sides. If there is a distrust in mainstream media, I think it contributes to data tribalism and a lot of the dismissal of fact and rationality. Personally I have actively deleted tons of sources of news I didn't agree with in my life both on social media and in the news sites I visit and can see that I created my own bubble that led me to miss a lot of critical pieces that explain the result of the election. We no longer have a single news source that we all watch and agree upon so it's incumbent upon us to cross the divide and at least attempt to understand where the other side is coming from, even if that only results in further digging in our heels. I plan to support organizations that will likely need it under a Trump presidency and Supreme Court nomination. They haven't been that transparent as to which angle they'll play but it's easy to guess that essentially all non-majority rights may be under fire in the next four to eight years so I'll be looking to support organizations that will be acting to fight that trend. 

If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office?

I think my main thrust as president would be a Universal Basic Income and very reduced in-state college tuition. While I'm aware of the economic models that show that on a relative basis a UBI would make little change in the standard of living in the medium term, I find myself thinking very seriously about this plan as one of the few ways to combat the consequences of automation in the years to come. I've begun to see that in certain jobs that involve any sort of physical labor (similar to certain jobs that a computer is better for than humans, like long division) a robot is going to outdo a human on every measurable parameter in the years to come. I don't think its possible to retool an entire labor force and education system in a single generation and so we have to prepare for the idea that there will be a large number of people who will never be able to find work again when they lose their job. A Universal Basic Income offers a bridge over that really difficult time outside of the welfare system that could very well unleash a lot of innovation alongside hopefully reducing some income inequality in order to pay for it.  

What are your thoughts on Brexit and the future of the European Union? To what extent do you think the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were motivated by the same factors?

I think ever since the E.U. was founded.

Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?

I am very ready for both of these as well as AI's impact in general. I find myself optimistic about AI in the face of historical warnings from Hawking et al. While I do consider the argument about technological progress always bringing about more and better jobs faulty in this case (AI will very likely bring about a massive job extinction on par with the great depression in advanced economies), I think the gains in society-wide productivity, if managed appropriately by governments, will be well worth the risk of AI for at least a generation. And worse case we spawn a better, smarter technology into the universe than ourselves.

Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.

I think the most memorable fan encounter I had was in Toronto in May. There was a fan that had driven an insane distance to come to the show as I hadn't stopped in her hometown on the route of the tour. I was moved because of the travel but also there was something really special about the way she talked about a lot of the songs (she knew about every EP going back to the beginning of The Range) meaning a lot to her personally. That was a really good feeling especially in the throes of a pretty long tour.

What problem in the music industry isn't discussed enough and which one is over-covered?

Systemic biases against women and the discussion of celebrities and time devoted to the top 10 records at any time.

www.therange.us

 

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