“That’s what shocked me about coming out as a gay man. I expected it to be a rainbow filled happy world of unicorns but it wasn’t”
A powerhouse in the London DJ set, Hifi Sean is storming to Glitterbox this year for the first time ever but this certainly isn’t his first time at the rodeo. Sean rocketed into the industry in the early 90’s with the band The Soup Dragons – most recently he released the album Ft. filled to the brim with features from legends such as Norman Blake and Yoko Ono.
His personal life has been as colourful as his professional. After 17 years with the same woman and a baby on the way, Sean couldn’t hold in any longer that he was gay and revealed the truth. It was the dawning of a new era.
We sat down with Sean to talk about overcoming struggles, how music is an attitude and what to expect from the forthcoming Glitterbox.
The video for Testify from your album Ft. is now out! Tell us about the album and the video shoot?
The video was shot in Washington DC where Crystal lives. When they renovated the original Capitol Building all the rubble was dumped in these woods – so the video shows Crystal climbing over all the old stone. The album has lots of different collaborations from people I’ve worked with in the past and have always wanted to work with. I hadn’t made an album in about 15 years since the days I played in bands. So this album bridged the gap between my past rock and roll and my DJ life. Yoko Ono did a track on Ft. called In Love With Life.
What was it like working with Yoko?
She’s incredibly precise! The crazy thing about that single ‘In Love With Life’, was we made an animated video that she promoted through the John Lennon Peace Foundation. After we put the video on YouTube, YouTube themselves shared the video to all their subscribers – all 66 million of them! The reaction was insane. I had a Twitter account that I didn’t really use much but after that happened you wouldn’t believe how many notifications I got. It literally broke my Twitter! Every language and location under the sun was sharing the video, it was crazy.
How did growing up in Glasgow influence your music?
Growing up in Glasgow everybody I knew had a copy of Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack by the BeeGee’s. It was like kind of like the hedonism of disco music and that punk attitude went hand in hand. So in a way I grew up thinking that those two genres of music weren’t far apart or that different from each other. Even now I don’t really consider the idea of genres – I think in terms of attitude. My genres split by attitude!
So attitude is more important than genre?
Totally yeah! I used to run a night in Glasgow called Record Players – and we played everything from Punk Rock to High Energy, really obscure Euro-Disco to Electronica – the records that we strived to play fitted into the attitude of the club more so than a genre of music ever could.
Your life was turned upside down when you came out, give us an insight into that time?
It’s kind of hard when you’re married with children. I was in my 30’s and in a successful band – so busy and travelling all the time –it was only when we split up that I had more time to think about myself and I realised what was going on. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, to hurt people I loved. And people don’t realise that when you come out at an older age, you’ve got a network around you of people who rely on you and you rely on them – I lost everything. After coming out I started from ground zero. I wouldn’t have changed anything because I’m at a very happy place right now. What I would’ve changed is my attitude because I became really paranoid – and didn’t give my friends the respect of thinking that they didn’t hate me, it was me who thought everyone hated me, and that’s why I sort of backed off. I became a recluse and very depressed.
And the gay world – was it as welcoming as you’d imagined?
I expected it to be a rainbow filled happy world of unicorns but it wasn’t! It was just the same as what it was like as being straight but it was more of a minefield for me because I was suddenly single. I was single again for what felt like the first time in my life and I was gay – it was really hard to get my head round. It took me along time to find what areas of gay culture I fitted into. I’ve had a beard since my 20’s and someone came up to me and said ‘you look like a bear’ and I was like ‘what the fuck is a bear?’ and I was a gay man and I didn’t even know. When I was in Glasgow I used to go to gay bars and lived with gay friends so it wasn’t an alien culture to me. What was alien were people’s reactions towards me because all of a sudden when I became a gay man people were – people being over friendly with me I would later realise they just wanted to get into bed with me!
Do you think the gay community can be inclusive?
I was talking to my husband about this the other day actually – the gay scene seems so fractioned – people fit into a scene and they stay in that scene – there’s huge divides between the cultures within the culture. The gay parties I like playing are the ones that breakdown that culture, where everyone is just in the same room together. What I don’t understand is when there’s gay pride and then they start having things like bear pride – it’s actually supposed to be about everybody being united together.
For the most part London gay clubs are welcoming, how are you feeling about playing Glitterbox?
I’ve played Ministry Of Sound loads of times but I’ve never been to Glitterbox before. I play Savage a lot so I know the Sink The Pink lot very well, that’s always a good night. I love the energy that happens in clubland. Ministry of Sound is an iconic venue so that and Glitterbox is the perfect merge for a night.
Tickets for Glitterbox on 30th April are available to buy here.