Henry Fong: Embracing Reggae & Dancehall

May 22, 2017
Henry Fong: Embracing Reggae & Dancehall
Henry Fong’s music has always seen his reggae and dancehall influences shine through, and his latest release “Young Hearts” is another great example of the music that has had a profound impact on him from a young age. We caught up with Henry to get a sense of the inspiration and production process for the track, in which he recorded almost all the instruments live. We also touch on his upcoming Hardwell collaboration and the future of Banzai Records.
“Young Hearts” obviously represents a different sound from you. What was the motivation behind making a reggae and dancehall inspired track?
Well a lot of my other breakout tracks are reggae dancehall inspired so it’s not the first! "Wine Dem," "Hot Steppa," "Drop It Down Low," etc... still "Young Hearts" is a really important release for me as I really feel like I've found my sound with it. It was also pretty incredible to work on a project recording live reggae instruments.
You mentioned almost all of the instruments were recorded live – can you share a little about your musical background/training and how that shines through in the track?
I played saxophone in band for years through middle and high school, so I can read sheet music and have a basic understanding of most instruments and how they all work together. I can also play guitar, so with this track I wanted something that had a live feel to it that could be replayed by a band.
Can you talk a little bit more about the production process behind the track – the songwriting process, how the vocals were incorporated, final tweaks, etc.?
The song started with Nyla's hook and the steel drum progression then everything else was built around it! Next, I wanted a male dancehall feel to balance out with the female vocal, so I hit up Stylo because he's worked with a few of my friends before. I feel like having both male and female vocal features tells more of a story on a song and the dynamic between the two is incredible.
Then the trumpet was next, that took a while to get that sounding good and went through like 10 different versions. Then last I had the bassline recorded live by my buddy in a reggae band, so I layered that over the existing one and used the little live pickup notes to make sure it had that human groove.
Nyla & Stylo G are two very special artists in their own right. Why were they the right fit for “Young Hearts” and what was your experience working with them like?
Well of course I had heard their stuff before and was already a big fan! Nyla's acappella came through first, then Stylo and I worked with him closely on his part. He NAILED it and engineered his vocals perfectly. Both of the vocalists did an awesome job and I'm glad I was able to piece them together seamlessly from two different sessions as they recorded on different sides of the globe haha.
Now you’ve made some other more dance oriented remixes recently of “Ocho Cinco” and “Now and Later” – do those tracks cross over into your DJ sets at all? Do you see yourself making a version of “Young Hearts” that could fit your DJ sets?
My "Ocho Cinco" remix was just something dance-y you could listen to at the gym or in your car, so it doesn't really fit into my DJ sets...but my "Now and Later" remix definitely does! Both remixes were really fun to make because the original parts were so awesome, I love when a remix already starts with cool stems...they both had this really cool indigenous flute kind of sound. I’m really picky with what songs I remix and always prefer a wordly vibe.
Hardwell has been dropping your collab in a bunch of his live sets including the premiere at Ultra Music Festival this year [full set + tracklist]! How’d you guys decide to work on a 100 BPM dancehall song?!
I have been friends with Hardwell now for a few years since he signed my first track to Revealed in 2013 and started to play my stuff frequently. So I had this demo I wrote with my vocalist friend Richie Loop, and I know Hardwell started as a Dutch bubbling DJ. Bubbling is basically sped up dancehall beats flipped into more of a dance song. He's got a good feel for dancehall since he started with this kind of music, that's why I decided to send him the demo to work on and it really clicked!
What’s your experience been like working with Robbert (Hardwell)?
He's got such a sharp ear and is an exceptional engineer in the studio. It's been amazing to work with him!
What are the plans for Banzai Records this year? You shared two big tracks on your recent FB live stream [full video here] – can you highlight what makes those tracks stand out to you?
Finally going to be releasing more regularly on Banzai! Last year we had Jay Karama's "Keep Calm" which absolutely crushed and a ton of DJs were supporting (which you can see on your site haha). After that I kind of got really picky because that song was so awesome, but I've been able to find some more sick ones which I shared. Those two just had the vibe, they would play out well live, but have a cool groove to them and don't sound like the rest of the club tracks out there. They both utilize drum patterns that aren't 4/4, they're more breakbeat, which I really dig.
Any big plans this summer that you are particularly excited about?
Really excited for "Young Hearts" to do its thing. Hopefully it catches on worldwide and then we do a big remix package! It's such a perfect song for the summer, I hope you guys dig it and bump it at the beach haha.
Henry Fong - "Young Hearts" feat. Nyla & Stylo G is available to buy/steam today!
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