Q&A with \varnothing

\varnothing (formerly known as HØBBES) is the multimedia persona of Cody Pepper, a 22 year old artist from the depths of the internet. With a successful release with prolific net label **#POsT†ReL1GION#** and a slew of mixes, singles and secret releases he is always finding new ways to merge art, music, film and social commentary in compelling, entertaining ways. Always playing shows, making art and pushing boundaries, \varnothing is consumer art for the contemporary cultural drone. We connected with \varnothing to inquiry about his musical inspiration, his newly released "Master System" album and much more. 

Carlton Boyd

Where did your inspiration to create music come from?

Music has always kind of been a form of catharsis for me. I struggle a lot with anxiety and depression so writing music has always been how I've coped with that. I'm also really invested in social justice and politics and as odd as it may sound a lot of the emotions and concepts behind that fuel my art. I also take a lot of inspiration from things that I like and grew up on. I'm really in to horror and science fiction. I dig a lot of foreign horror especially, Giallo films and weird Japanese horror. I'm also a huge gamer, I collect retro games, especially for the sega genesis. Something about that console's sound card speaks to me.

How would you describe the music you create?

I think the hardest part about my music is trying to contextualize it. I guess what I make sits somewhere between ambient, hip-hop, noise and electronic with bits of other genres thrown in here or there. It's less about fitting a genre and more about communicating a mood or a concept. I almost like to think of it as a soundtrack to a central idea or concept. I've been a DJ since I was 14, and I've always really loved hip-hop and a lot of underground electronic music. I'm really in to a lot of regional movements, Jersey Club, B-more, Bounce, Chicago Footwork, Drill, and I'm also really invested in a lot of net culture. I've always really enjoyed a lot of the microgenres that have sprung up over the years like witch-house and seapunk and vaporwave. I don't associate myself with any of those cultures specifically but I think elements of what I do sometimes fit in to the larger narrative of art born of the internet.

To me, listening to Master System makes me think of Blade Runner or a soundtrack to a futuristic movie. When you were producing the songs that would appear on the album, did you have an overall theme in mind?

Yeah actually, the album is sort of intended as a concept piece. I had this whole story plotted out in my head when I wrote it. It's about a person who collects retro videogames. One day they order a bootleg cartridge online and when they plug it in to play it they get sucked in to this frightening new world. Something like Tron meets Suspiria with a dash of Akira thrown in for good measure. As they come to terms with their situation and settle in to this world they end up coming in to contact with the “Final Boss” of sorts. After defeating the boss they realize that they have now taken over that role and the final act of the album is sort of about the acceptance of that fact. I wanted the whole thing to serve as an allegory for depersonalization and depression, social alienation etc.

What's next after the Master System album?

Right now I'm sort of regrouping and figuring out where exactly I want to go next. I spent the last three years developing this album so now that I'm done I'm excited to be free to work on new ideas. In the immediate future I have a series of conceptual EP's planned that focus on this fictional dystopian city and its inhabitants. Beyond that though I really want to branch out in to multimedia work. I'd love to do some installation pieces and I'm currently working on a new live show. I've been a DJ for since I was 14 but now that I'm really focusing on \varnothing I want to develop a more dynamic live show. I recently tested the waters with a live finger drumming set I did for the BEATLIFE showcase here in Asheville and it went really well so I'm hoping to incorporate more elements of that in to my shows. I also really love doing visuals and art and I've done a lot of both in the past so I think finding a way to bring that in to the project is also a high priority.

Does the \varnothing name have a special meaning?

I've worked under a lot of different names in the past but most recently I was releasing music under the name “HØBBES”. I had been intending on releasing this album under that name but recently I had noticed that the use of the Ø symbol had gotten really trendy, especially in the “EDM” world and I didn't really want to be associated with that whole wave. “\varnothing” is actually the TeX code for Ø, the empty set symbol. My music explores a lot of themes of nihilism and existentialism so the concept of nothingness plays in to that heavily. The name to me kind of symbolizes the void. 

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