Scott Hansen finds it impossible to compose a song without leaving his fingerprints all over it. It doesn't matter if he uses new instruments and effects, plays in a different style, or reroutes all of the signal pathways — it all ends up sounding like Tycho.
"I think the process I use is going to shape pretty much any sound that comes in the front end," he says. "That's what I think is cool about producing: The process becomes the instrument."
Indeed, Hansen is most intrigued by the mysterious ways songs develop on their own. For example, when he's stacking instrumental tracks, unintended and surprising tone colors and chords usually emerge from the mix.
"It's like, 'That's an interesting chord progression, but I never played it.' I stacked these three tracks and put a ton of reverb on one, and the reverb blended into another track and created a chord, or whatever," he says. "That kind of stuff is most interesting to me, because if a person thinks of it, then it's predictable, but if it just kind of happens out of the process."
Tycho will play a set at the Fillmore Miami Beach Thursday, March 1. (He's also set to play Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival the next day.) Tycho is Hansen’s solo project, but he fills out the sound with a full band in the live setting and incorporates audiovisual elements that create a dazzling overall experience. The project is known for chilled-out, down-tempo, and atmospheric soundscapes and a string of excellent soft-electronic albums: Dive (2011), Awake (2014), and Epoch (2016).
Hansen makes beats late at night. He’ll start messing around with a guitar or keyboard, waiting to hear a phrase he can build around, and adhering to a backward philosophy when it comes to the roles of the two instruments.
"The guitar on my records is sampled and replayed, and with guitar I’ll make it sound more robotic,” he says. “I like to keep the synths loose, because synths are what you kind of expect to sound robotic. I guess I try to invert that relationship.”
Over the countless hours at the production console, he's picked up some tricks that streamline the process. In the past, he would shoot for a dirty, lo-fi sound by soaking every element of the song with tons of reverb and delay. But he discovered that that's much too messy when he's mixing 20 tracks.
"Later, I realized you only need to take a couple of tracks and make them warm and dirty," he says, "and then the whole song will still have that feeling, and it's a lot easier to put the mix together."
Though he's very much an electronic artist, Hansen's inclination to work with lo-fi textures is a product of listening to classic rock 'n' roll — namely the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. In an effort to re-create the warmth of those bands' recordings, he likes to cut off the high end of the mix to produce a wobbly vibrato.
"It's almost like everything sounds like it went through a tape machine," he says. "Growing up when I did, I got used to records sounding a certain way, and that was with tape machines and consoles and old synthesizers that didn't stay in tune. Overdubbing, tape edits — that's what a record sounds like."
Tycho. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at the Fillmore, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. Tickets cost $35 to $45 via livenation.com.
7 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, 12517 NE 91st Ave., Okeechobee. Four-day passes cost $299 via okeechobeefest.com.