Interview: Tycho pedals down career path mixing music and design
January 16, 2013
Written by Roman Gokhman
There may be a misconception floating around that San Francisco’s Tycho, a graphic designer cum rising electronic ambient musician, has only two interests. Those people wouldn’t know about Scott Hansen’s other pursuit, cycling.
“I’ve done long-distance and endurance sports my whole life,” the Mission District inhabitant said. “I used to run, but I hurt my knee so I can’t do that as much anymore. When I’m home I’m surrounded by my work and all of the anxieties and pressures that surround that. The second I get on that bike, it’s this kind of meditative exercise. Plus, it gets you out. It’s exhilarating.”
Hansen makes a habit of riding across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands. He also enjoys the technical aspects of his bicycle – just like he engineers his music, Hansen likes understanding the mechanics of the two-wheeler.
The “audio-visual” artist – who named his musical project Tycho for a 16th-century astronomer because in college he dug deep into astronomy and astrophysics – plays two sold-out shows at the Independent this Friday and Saturday. As his focus shifted from his original profession as graphic designer ISO50 to music, early success has followed despite a five-year wait between his first album and its follow-up, 2011’s Dive (2011, Ghostly International).
“At this point, music is a full-time thing,” Hansen said. “I see Tycho as an audio-visual project, so I don’t see a separation. My big passion right now is video, anyway. That’s perfect because it combines both worlds.
Graphic design and photography were Hansen’s first loves. Music followed while he was living in Sacramento after he was introduced to synthesizers. He didn’t begin to learn to play guitar until after moving, in 1995. In 2004 he recorded an album, Sunrise Projector, which was reissued in 2006 as Past is Prologue. But then, nearly seven years passed before he completed Dive, with its vivid images of landscapes, horizons and swirling melodic orchestration on songs such as “Coastal Brake” and “A Walk.”
In the interim, he focused on design work as ISO50. “The last one took so long because I was focused on other things,” he said. “Right now I’m totally focused on music.”
Nowadays, the design moniker refers mostly to his design blog.
In fact, Hansen builds Tycho’s merchandise, album and promotion art and visuals for live shows himself. He collaborated with San Diego filmmaker Charles Bergquist, who shot various videos for Hansen.
The moving pictures are projected onto a screen as well as onto Hansen and his performing band, drummer Rory O’Connor and bassist Zac Brown.
“I incorporated it into my design,” Hansen said. “A big part of the show is the visual element of it. The motion graphics are in sync with the music.”
Unwilling to let another half decade pass between albums, Hansen began working on a third album this winter. The end result will probably have more input from Brown and O’Connor.
“In the beginning, the only things I knew were synthesizers and drum machines,” he said. “As I learned to play guitar, real drums and bass, I’ve slowly incorporated that stuff into the music. It really broadened the scope. The idea is to keep going down that road and evolve.”