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Robert Pepperell founded Hex in 1990 along with Miles Visman and Coldcut members Matt Black and Jon More. We wanted to exploit the creative possibilities of personal computers especially exploring the convergence of distinct media such as music, video, animation and visuals. We developed a number of ground-breaking products in a wide variety of formats over the decade or so Hex was in existence.

Hex went throught many transformations and was finally wound up in 1999 after internal tensions came to a head. However, the name and spirit of Hex continues through its bastard off-spring Hexstatic and the legacy of its audio-visual experiments can be seen in the work of a number of digital artists and performers. Here follows a brief history of the Hex years.

Hex logo designed by Ruth Greenwood

Hex was formed in 1990 as a collaboration between video graphic artists Hardwire and legendary DJ/Producers ColdCut. Hex was founded to accelarate the growing market in multimedia applications which require a hybrid approach to product design and implementation. Hex combined a love of audio and video production, programming, computer animation, and media promotion, mixed with a knowledge of club and alternative culture influences.

Hex had been fusing video, music and computers for some time. In 1990 Hex were responsible for "Coldcut's Christmas Break", the first ever pop video generated entirely using home micro computers (eg Amigas, Archimedes and Macs.) They produced videos for Reese, The Fall, Queen Latifah, Gaye Bykers on Acid, Spiritualized, Darling Buds, Spacemen 3, and Chapterhouse as well as a long-form video for the Coldcut album "Some Like it Cold". In addition, Hex produced television graphics for T.V. and commercial video; they developed an animated speaking and dancing presenter named CCD for the BBC program "Channel 8" and they also did the titles for LWT's "Dial Midnight". Another direction is pointed to by their art videos such as "Binary Engine" funded by the UK Arts Council, shown at the London Film festival which toured the U.K. and Europe.

Coldcut are major DJs and producers of dance music both in Europe and America. Their early scratch mixes such as "Say Kids What Time Is It? and "7 Minutes of Madness" were highly influential on the music scene. However, it was a string of hits in 1988/90 which brought them national recognition including "The Only Way is Up" with Yazz which was No.1 for six weeks in the U.K. Top Forty. Their debut L.P. "What's That Noise" gained Silver sales on its release in May 1989. BBC and Channel 4 theme music commissions have included "Reportage" and "Big World Café". They have produced international hits for artists such as Lisa Stansfield ("People Hold On" & "This Is The Right Time") as well as remixing artists as diverse as The Orb, They might be Giants, The Fall, Blondie, James Brown, INXS, Izit, Bassomatic and Youssou N'Dour.

In 1991 Hex released their first game, aimed at the Acorn Archimedes market. 'Top Banana' starring lead female character KT received rave reviews in the Acorn press for its innovative graphics/sound and environmentally friendly, non-sexist approach. Encouraged by this success, Hex converted the game to the Amiga format and released it in March 1992. It was spectacularly successful in attracting national media coverage aided by the 12'' single mix of the game soundtrack which was released simultaneously.

In November 92, Hex released Global Chaos CDTV which took advantage of the possibilities of the new CD-ROM medium. Combining rave visuals, high quality techno and ambient music and the "Top Banana" computer game, all on one CD, this "multi dimensional future entertainment product" was widely hailed as providing a blueprint for the shape of things to come. It also received wide coverage in the national media, including features on Dance Energy, Kalidescope on Radio 4, What's Up Doc? on ITV and Reportage on BBC 2. As iD magazine said, "It's like your TV tripping".

In April 93, Hex released "eSCAPE" on the CD-I platform, which is Philip's CD-ROM format. eSCAPE combines trance, ambient and techno trax from artists such as Irrisistable Force, Eon, B12, Mind over Rhythm, Coldcut, Warez D00dz and Psycore with state of the art cybergraphix. The idea is to listen to the music thru your hifi whilst viewing the graphix on your TV. A complete cyberclub in your living room! Interaction is a key feature of eSCAPE as you can play with the visuals eg by making a dancing figure animation move in time by using the CD-I joystick. Playing with eSCAPE is a compulsive experience, a bit like a cross between playing a computer game, listening to an album, and making your own pop video.

In May 93 Hex released "Global Chaos" on vhs, a 1 hour sell-through Rave Video distributed by Imagine and featuring computer graphix so intense you may require shades to watch it! Soundtrax mixed by Coldcut. Global Chaos revolves around the story of the Alien Sphinx's trip to Earth to steal our resources for his own dead planet. On experiencing the Chaos which reigns on Earth and seeing how we have already nearly trashed our World, he realises that the only hope is to combine his psychic powers with the energy of Rave music in an attempt to prevent all-out destruction of everything by malignant Infoviruses and Fascist control freaks.

Released in November 93 in four languages, Digital Love CD-Rom was specifically designed to help alleviate stress and aid meditation. Via a striking organic New Age Interface the user could participate in the specific therapeutic techniques of Yoga, by following the demonstation of a 3D animated figure, receive the benefits of Colour therapy based on the Chakras or join in with ancient Sanskrit Chanting. Alternatively they could simply relax to soothing ambient music (composed by Robert Pepperell) accompanied by calming and hypnotic computer generated visuals with the option of selecting a preferred palatte.

 

LWT's ' Young South Bank Show' has made a documentary about Hex which was transmitted in July 93. Focussing on the techniques Hex use to create their video and software art and products, the 15 min prog is visually spectacular and information dense, manifesting Hex's vision of individual digital creativity. It includes footage of Hex in action at the "Cyberlite" event (@ London's Limelight club), mixing up live cybervisuals using a hardcore assortment of black boxes and miscellaneous toys.

Released in February 94 AntiStatic was one of the most powerful and original CD-i titles to be released. A mixture of danceable trance and dreamy-ambient audio tracks, specially composed by HEX, provide the background to a world of 3D organic landscapes that were created using custom fractal mathematics and random image generation techniques (coded by Miles Visman). Beautiful 2D animations melt and merge into this world of diversity and surprise. Use of the Remote Control allows interaction with the visuals by selecting animations, sequences, patterns and colours. The music from antiStatic was released simultaneously by N-Tone on CD and vinyl .

headCrash was the third and most impressive in the series of interactive CDi's produced by Hex. It throws in the face of the user full-on graphics pulsating to screaming hardcore techno tracks including music from Digital Poodle, Protozoa and Hex. Multiple layered routines made up of randomly loading animations, trippy backgrounds and sampled foregrounds mean a new sequence each time a track is played. Interactivity with the remote control allows the user to edit routines by selecting elements individually or in combination - with the option of changing colour, direction and pace. Raw and powerful, headCrash was a 21st century toy for the headstrong.

Digital Dreamware was the world's first 3D interactive video album. Using the revolutionary Renderware program to create real time graphics, Digital Dreamware took the user on a journey through various fascinating and hypnotic environments. Interactivity allowed the choice of 'playing' with the elements they encounter, changing colour, movement and point of view. Digital Dreamware was released on the PC and 3DO platforms.

Hex also mixed live visuals at select clubs and chillouts, including Telepathic Fish (w/ Mixmaster Morris, Open Mind), Sabresonic (w/ Andy Weatherall, Dr. Alex Patterson, Bandulu, Mark Broom), and Ministry of Sound (w/Derrick May). Chills at Oscillate (B'ham) and The Ambient Club (London) are scheduled for May. At these events, Matt Black and crew project a live video mix, a cyberdelic collage of Hex software and graphics, live Amiga pixel painting and compiled CG work from other sources eg Simms, Kawaguchi etc.

Left: Hex promotional image by Robert Pepperell

In 1997 Hex collaborated with Coldcut to produce the multimedia CD-Rom for the 'Let Us Play" album. In the same year Hex and Coldcut performed together at the SONAR music festival in Barcelona using custom audiovisual software designed and written by Robert Pepperell. He later evolved the software into the engine that was used on the Let Us Play world tour and which, even later, was developed into VJamm.