Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Falty DL Pitchfork column and interview
Falty DL photo by Sabine Mirlesse
Falty DL talks timelessness in my Pitchfork column this month. In writing that, Falty and I chatted for quite a bit...
Falty DL interview in full
Blackdown: So how did you go about writing a second album? What did you try to do differently?
Falty DL: My process of writing an album. To be honest I make my best tunes when I am not worried where it is going to fit, either an album or a single. I just try and make tracks in a vacuum, which is difficult enough, with all the music I receive on a daily basis. However Planet-Mu and I have talked about a second album for a little while now. This took 1.5 years to put together. The process was show off how I have developed and let mike Paradinas help curate the selection. We spoke very closely for about 4 months putting the alum together. That’s the dry response I guess. Emotionally I lost my mind trying to write this album. I found it again though.
B: How so, lost your mind, as in, really pushed yourself? Questioned your direction?
F: Yeah I sort of shut myself off from the outside world (outside my apartment?) when I am making music. I get really lonely after an intense 2 week studio session. I will have made about 15 songs in two weeks, and never really socialized. It's partly because I feel like I need a self imposed structure on my self employed life style.
F: So I go to the extreme of only hanging out with my own thoughts! Haha Which arent so bad and they are quite occupied when I am being productive. Also, it should be noted that for me, making an album with Mike Paradinas can sometimes involve a lot of contact, and sometimes a simple 1 line response email "This is shit". That can be rough... although it does push me to make better music. That is where I think I lose it to be honest. I get pissed off at myself and at Mike. Ha.
B: wow I'm pretty hands on at Keysound, in fact I've helped mix and arrange several recent releases, but I've never said 'this is shit'… wow.
F: haha, yeah he can be brutally honest in his opinion. I usually just call him and say "No it isnt."
F: He says OK, why do you think so and sometimes it stays on the release. Tough love. Really. But there is love. I don't need there to be that from a label, but it is nice knowing how much Mike does care. In his own strange way.
B: So, when you say, ‘cut yourself off’ do you include the internet?
F: I try to. That is really tough. Twitter has become a constant thing to check unfortunately. It gets to be too much.
F: I spent a lot of time listening to albums this past year. Not so much singles. To get the feel of a long player back in my head. That is so important when making an album.
B: it's funny though don’t you think the idea that you can cut yourself off from human contact but still be massively hyperconnected via digital means?
F: It is funny, and it is interesting what decision you make at that point. Fully unplug, or stay connected. How tough are you? Haha. Could your ego handle total disconnect? Even for a week? You might make some amazing music.
B: I don’t know about ego, but I don’t know if I could handle that many emails at the end its less hassle to deal with them in bursts don’t you find?
F: True. It is. I stay on top of my emails pretty quickly because of that. But do you think as a producer, as a label owner and as a journalist, you could handle not having any contact with the digital world for a week? And not have it affect your internet presence or persona? I think this defines a lot of people. In this age we share so much information, we do not lead very private lives at all. Some people tread that line very well. Like you have to struggle very hard to find out anything personal about some producers. that is amazing.
B: I only really talk about music on Twitter and try to censor any urge to send mundane Tweets.
F: That is awesome. haha I think I fall somewhere in a 80/20 split, music/private.
B: Split what, time or contacts?
F: How much information I allow to come through on twitter/interviews 80% is about music 20% just my own thoughts I think...
B: It's an interesting broader point though, how much external influence you allow to make music and how much internal input goes into the creative process? People like Mala and Burial for example, seem to want to be insulated from their surroundings whereas some people thrive on the creative juices from a scene… the "scenius" priniciple.
F: Yes that is what I am thinking about. How wonderful is there music too. I think it is impossible to create music or art in a complete vacuum. But if and when you try you are allowing yourself to come clean with your artistic confession I think.
F: What is more interesting, timeless music or music which encapsulates a certain time and scene? Surely both are important. And it takes time to see where one will fall.
B: Can you divide the two?
F: Yeah I think so. Depends how the tune is originally intended I think. But we have, and have agreed with each other, that the rate of digital info is the next big movement (it’s happening now). So it will take time to see if the Keysound or Night slugs 12"s will be regarded as timeless or not. I dunno, it may be up to the beholder in the future, who is to decide. As long as sampling stays around, I think timeless music will thrive. Ha
B: I'm thinking out loud more than having a definite position music can be of its time, it can be timeless, it might be both too Goldie's "Timeless" is both I reckon for example… well titled album!
F: Yes! I do agree, rarely is something hated on during its release and later regarded as a timeless piece of music. You know what this is? It's me wanting to make a banger already. Haven’t made one yet... just LPs ;)
B: me too lol there's something required about a banger, where you have to jam everything on full, in each tiny corner of each beat of the bar, to make it so overloaded, that I don’t do easily...
F: yeah, less room for subtlety. My drums are all over the place for a banger. Do you want to sign bangers? Don't mean to be putting you on the spot, I am genuinely curious off the record if you want.
B: Well, I'm not “anti banger,” I love getting feedback as a DJ, but I have other criteria too, so that the tune can't be moronic, and lots of bangers are utterly moronic and I feel as a DJ if I play a record to people that in its essence says 'i'm stupid' and it makes people respond to it this means that i'm saying I think they're morons and I can’t do that… I won’t do that.
B: But, say, Grievous' “Soundclash VIP,” [or Starkey “Gutter Music”] that went off but it also worked as a piece of music too. You only need ultra bangers if you play bangers as default. But if you start from a lower intensity, then something slightly harder can be a banger, without being moronic. There’s “no loud without quiet” etc.
F: So is the moronic thing becoming timeless? Or can we rule out moronic, it will never be timeless?
B: Ultimately I’m not sure my final position on what is or causes timelessness in music.
F: I have a funny gig tonight
B: Comedy stand up night, yeah?
F: I wish… No I am opening for The Friendly Fires at the bowery ballroom
sold out 2,000 people
B: haha nice!
B: It'll be tough, I saw fantastic Mr Fox do that for The XX in Atlanta. No band = no response, from indie types, in my experience.
F: Ha yeah, I did a few XX afterparties those were fun I have know the Friendly Fires guys for a few years so they asked me to do it, and I don't know when I’ll get an opportunity to do this in NYC.
F: How was your XX tour? So pissed i missed you guys at Love.
B: Twas fun, anyway but… enough about me :-)
B: You explained the process for the album but not so much about the direction. What did you choose to make differently and what did you keep, from before?
F: About two years had passed between starting the first album and finishing the second album. My own production skills have gotten better, and my ideas have broadened. I wanted to showcase that from a producers standpoint. I also wanted to say something with this album. I really think an LP is only necessary when you have something to say. Not just a collection of tracks. These tracks come from a place inside of me that I think is trying to get out. Both musically and emotionally.
B: Don’t you think it's a massive challenge or at least, more of a challenge to 'say' something with predominantly instrumental music?
F: Its hard to not sound super emo when talking about this, but it is true. I had a wealth of emotions inside of me these past few years. Anger against the music I was making, always wanting it to be better, and also a deep love with music in general. I wanted to get lost in it, take people on a journey in 4 minutes. It is hard. However I grew up listening to instrumental music. Miles Davis live at the Philharmonic, Aphex Twin, Richard D James album. Instrumental albums that say so much.
I worked with a few vocalists pretty straight forward with this album to see if I could bridge a gap. Think it worked out really well. I didn’t treat the vocals too much like I usually do. I trusted their voice more here. Vocal manipulations are so much fun, and there are obvious people who do it a lot better then I. Burial for one.
B: Burial and Todd Edwards do make that field tricky don’t they? And Todd got the bug from MK ;-)
F: Todd is amazing. I played with him recently and he played only his tracks for about 2 hours. But this Love/hate relationship is what wanted to say with this album. The dusty feel to many of the tracks is the warm feeling I get when I am writing music, and the harsher drums are pain I think I feel when I am upset at myself for not creating more. If I am not making music I am generally miserable.
B: Haha it's like you're wasting your life?
F: Yes. And I also feel like I am incredibly selfish always wanting to make music. I was pretty happy when I was teaching pre-school and only making music on the weekends.
B: You making music full time?
F: I am now yeah. This last year, between music and gigging I have been sustaining. Its amazing. It gets tight though ; )
B: So do you make music to be happy, or to stop you from being unhappy? Unhappy that you're not making music...
F: Both I think. It is a spiral. I make it to make releases and get gigs to make money. I also make it because I want to explore some new sample I found. It’s also so much fun. I can't forget why I started in the first place.
B: I'm curious about this Love/hate relationship... you have a love hate relationship with your own music? (Not uncommon I know but am curious about your case...)
F: Yes I do. I Love making music, and I get this really high sensation when I making music. Like I feel actually stoned, and I am chasing that feeling. I love what I have made, then I make a new tunes and I hate the last one, or it is not good enough. I look at other producers and get competitive silently. I hate that part of me, but I use it to be productive.
F: I am touched by anyone who enjoys listening to my music, but it is second to the feeling I get of making it myself.
B: The funny thing is, people who don’t make music probably won’t know how different it is to listen to music you've made (and heard 10,000 times) versus music you didn’t make...
F: True. And isn't it spoiled a little as a producer to hear a song and immediately analyze how it was made? I have had to unlearn that process in order to enjoy a lot music. If I can get lost in a tune and inspired by it, that's the best.
B: Well, it bothers me personally less than people said it would as I was always thinking about music's parts before I could produce anyway.
F: True. You were a producer before you even knew it. Ha, maybe. Lately I am plagued by an idea. Well it's not that bad, but it interesting. What place in the club scene does my music have? I have made tracks that are for the floor, but in general I don't want to challenge the dancers too much. In the end there is a responsibility to them to allow them to dance. Not to make them scratch their chin.
F: Like, I can understand where the clubs are at in LDN and NYC by going, but when I make tracks I forget a lot of the direction.
B: It's interesting you want to place it, since many producers rush to avoid being placed with anyone else...
F: Yeah. Well this isn't genre placement. It's still music. It is very simple, it's just will this clear a floor or not? Haha. I love when I am in LDN and I hear music I know really well, but in the right context. I love going on Rinse, done it a few times. It feels so right.
B: yeah man I was thinking about this on the way to Ministry of Sound today that most venues are just places to sell beer but a few are just hallowed, sacred musical ground and Rinse is like that for me.
F: That’s so nice. Club Love was that, but declined so hard. It consumed itself. With money and greed of a new owner. Rinse is special. There is nothing that compares over here. East Village Radio is dope though... But too legal.
B: Yeah US radio is pretty commercial, or so I understand.
F: It is. EVR is non profit i believe. It is a little whole in the wall on 1st avenue by Houston street. On the street, glass walls, people stop by and dance outside. It is really fun.
B: So how much did London inspire this album?
F: The records I sampled were English hardcore records. The synths used were a bit dreamy and static at the same time. Something I have been listening to for years, back to Aphex stuff. Bit and parts are very English I think, also the ears that hear it at planet-Mu are English :) Marcus Scott helped me a lot this past year. He is one of those incredibly talented selfless people who have a wealth of knowledge and generally knows his shit. He is also super busy, so I enjoy the time he takes with me. But maybe this record isn't as English as “Love Is A Liability” was. There are a few garage tracks on this album. But it seems more personal then the last album. And I am a New Yorker.
B: When I hear the LP lots of it makes me think you’ve been absorbing London influences. We talked about this a little and the other day too when you commented on my blog. Does geography matter anymore?
F: I think it still matters a lot. Acceptance plays a part in this as well for me. I think I was accepted in the greater dubstep community from an early point. So It was possible to bridge any geographical distance. But I do think one needs to go to the epicentre of a scene or a movement to fully understand it's language. And if you are native to that area, then it is fluent. If you are not it is a second language, and you may have a better command of that language, but you will never understand fully its idiosyncrasies.
B: How much has the Dub War family affected your musical path?
F: It was highly influential for me, to travel 10 minutes on the subway and see acts like Vex'd and Kode 9. Dave Q who ran Dub War for 5 years has become a close friend of mine, and we later discovered we are essentially from the same home town outside of New York. It’s like minded people at that party, having a hell of a good time. Dave has allowed me to showcase a few times at Dub War and always encourage me to play whatever I wanted. So I played on diverse lineups with Ras G, Mike Slott, Kode 9, Loefah... pretty dreamy.
B: Are there other NY collectives or institutions that have been influential too?
F: The history of music and culture has been inspiring to say the least. DubWar, which at times had Dub and at time nothing of the sort, was the only group of people I got close with. I could not name any other collectives, simply because I don’t know any names. But coming from a hip hop background, what better place to be, then New York? I still say east coast sound is smoother, harder, more fantastic then any west coast hip hop. Sorry, they [the west coast] are in denial over there. You notice one or two names always come into conversation in the east-west discussion on the west side of things. East goes to deep to name them all… Good, that will start a fight.
B: How do you feel about southern hip hop?
F: That had never came in to consideration for me until recent years. Blame it on my ignorance. I do love a lot of it. I am maybe too comfortable with the oldies to fallow some new directions. Again, ignorance. However, back to the west, to its credit, I can not get enough of Earl Sweatshirt right now...
B: How much of a bearing on your music is current hip hop? I find it quite easy to ignore it when I'm in the UK but it's so everywhere when you’re in the states, kinda like the reverse relationship with dance music I find, which is in European DNA but not so easily visible in the States...
F: The production values in current hip hop are incredible, always have been pushing the boundaries of clarity in mixes and mix downs. That plays a role, however I try and ignore it. I’ll tell you what, when I am at a house party or chilling with friends I don’t put on dance music over here. I put on Nasty Nas. Or newer stuff, but that is a current role of hip hop in my life. It connects me with my friends, who don't listen to dance music as much as I do.
B: Dave Q's a massive 90s hip hop fan (as are Dusk and I…), but I get the impression it plays the role in his sets in the way jungle does for us here, i.e. after all the dubs are done that music comes out and it’s party time...
F: Isn't that part of the night so much fun? I draw for the jungle too. I start with hip hop actually. But yeah, it’s that time period ‘92-96 or whatever
B: Didn’t you play some hip hop on Rinse, when you were on Oneman's show?
F: Yeah i think I did open with some. It's sort of my indulgence in being American on Rinse. Like, here I am, this is where I come from in a way. But also ‘cause it sounds so good in the new Rinse studio, plus it’s a nice break from Onemans rolling sets.
B: yeah, makes sense did you see me and Dusk did a little 30 min hip hop section on our Christmas special?
F: I did see that, I think i have the podcast. Who selects more, you or dusk? Your djing'is it back to back?
B: yes we always, always do b2b.
F: that’s so great man I love one video http://www.vimeo.com/1467214 of yours the teaser for the album I think? Goes between the two tracks the one with trim maybe? And that woman with the beautiful voice? Durrty Goodz and Farrah. Yes love that back to what we were saying, it’s a dark video man, a really dark vibe "This is london" you may need to travel to London to get that feeling.
F: I think videos are really important now. Maybe best way of delivering music to a lot of people.
B: Sadly so…
F: but like boiler room over 600 people live watching the Swamp special and maybe 100 there. I have a 12" forthcoming on Swamp81. March 1st I think - “Mean Streets part 1,” backed with “Hard” and “Moonshine.” “Mean Streets Part 1” is my fave tune to date that I have made ever
B: you didn’t want it on the LP?
F: Mike didnt like it.
B: “THIS IS...”
F: hahah! Yes. Loe has tracks form me that are not Planet-Mu like. very NYC sounding tunes maybe? I dunno.
B: What does Swamp and being on Swamp mean to you?
F: Its incredible. I was so happy to hear from Loefah about the tracks he liked. I met up with him a few times, but this one time on Instra:mental's Rinse show and we spoke at length. We have been in touch since. It means a lot. I love that label, and his selecting has been incredible. It also means I really feel welcomed into a community that I look up to a lot. I'm very grateful and excited about it.
B: Like all the best people, loe's a fussy fkkr ;-)
B: High standards. Doesn’t accept imitations
F: Yeah. that is a stamp of approval.
B: Zactly I love it. So, tell me about the 110bpm house stuff. What inspired you to write down there?
F: Theo Parrish, some slower Shake Shakir, Floating Points. In the last two years these guys have showed me a lot more then anyone in the 130-140 bpm range, that has resonated personally and really struck a chord with me.
F: It is a beautiful lurching tempo that can be swung so hard. It just feels right to me, like I feel free to enjoy that space and not worry about anything outside of it while I am in there. It’s also fun to dance too. Albeit sometimes too slow.
B: It's brave because there's something about the tempo clustering that’s hard coded into producers that music that can't be beat mixed into other stuff disconnects itself.
F: Yeah, and to be fair it throws some people off that it gets pressed to vinyl. When it may not be usable to a certain audience. I dunno i may be wrong about that actually.
B: Might find a new audience?
F: Yeah hopefully. It was pretty funny though when a pretty well known online music store labeled my Endeavour 12" as dubstep. The tunes were all 115bpm and slower...
B: also, with some of those tunes, you seemed to be going on some kind of vintage synth exploration, or was that a fluke of naming?
F: Ha, I was actually going for space ship names, seriously.
B: I’ve been listening to the album in the car a lot. One thing I noticed is an influence from rave and acid house, is this deliberate?
F: The rave influence is deliberate. Partly from sampling old rave records to get the amazing sub bass they have. Sampling bass is tricky, but can work out sometimes. I think a lot of the tracks are pretty ravey on this album, but maybe in an obscure light. I have played a few of the cuts out myself and will do more in Europe. There is a sound quality to the entire LP that some call "dusty" and others call "Rave" I suppose it depends on your background.
B: rave was a long time ago, it also feels like quite a 'free' era, of fluid and change, of sonic possibilities, why did you choose to go back to it? Given much of your audience might not know it...
F: Tough question really. Why do I love rave and a period that I never actually experienced first hand? The process of writing music and the outcome is important to me, but the journey and figuring out why I am compelled by a certain sound is more important. The journey outweighs the product. I was and am still incredibly excited by early 90's hardcore, mid 90's jungle, and even further back, late 80's rave and house music. I think they have a place still in today’s music, if you don't know it, you’re still hearing music that is influenced by it. Its also just really dark music. Highly emotive, but incredibly danceable. I can't make up my mind what I make any given day. I have to give it up to something else.
I am also recreating an energy that I feel lacks in a lot of current dance music. Not discounting a load of lovely music, I just miss an energy I hear in old records that happily sit in my mind as a fantasy.
I think we are in an age of sonic possibilities again. It is a shame to some, how much we are provided with information wise, as it can cheapen the experience a bit. You need to find this stuff out in a tactile un-comfortable way. Go feel awkward and slightly frightened in the dark corner of a club. Thats what I did. For about 2 years.
B: For rave or dubstep?
F: Both. But mostly dubstep. Dubwar in fact. I saw Vex'd in '06 maybe? I hugged the wall all night and lost my shit. I remember them all. It took me a year to talk to anyone at that night. I would just go and drink water and feel moved. It wasn't a beautiful experience entirely. It was tough, cause I was making music at the same time trying to figure out my sound. I didn’t want to sound like anyone. Vex'd was pivotal though.
B: yeah, they sure had a sound.
F: It was/is ravey. Almost D'n'B.
B: it's funny, being inspired by scenes that you weren't part of directly (like rave), do you feel sometimes you can find interesting variants when lost in translation?
F: Yes. Because much will be lost in translation. Like a tape being recorded over and over. It will lose some authenticity, but gain more age and wisdom. To be honest, that’s what I am striving for often. Taking cues from loads of different genres and fusing them together in my own way. I’ll take straight loops from too different tracks, one untitled rave track and one Herbie Hancock track or something. Fuse them and find this middle ground. That’s where many tracks start and then I find a way of doing it without all the samples for obvious reasons. I feel like I am in a rave listening to Boddika or 2562 these days.
B: Yeah but what about Simon Reynold's counter argument, that too much information/influences makes musicians "glutted and clotted"... any truth in that to you?
F: I don't think new genres or movements are made in a vacuum. Nor are any improvements in science, politics or economics. That being said, I have been told my tracks are pretty busy! Haha. It takes a lot of ingredients to make something truly savoury. I think that applies to music as well. Although some amazing tracks have been made in 20 minutes.
It’s not always the sum of the immediate parts either, it’s the sum of all of ones experiences. Without going into much detail, a lot of my music comes from experiences I had between age 15-20. Some pretty epic shit I wouldn't wish upon many people. Or any for that matter.
B: do you think that time increased your ability to summon emotion in your tracks?
F: Time and experience. Everyone is on their own timeline. Some reach a maturity in their music at a really early age and that is incredible. It's rare but it happens. I’m still looking for that honesty, I think I have tapped into it.
F: I have friends send me tracks that don't sound very honest to their personalities. It's not me to say what is and what is not their own experience. I hope they reach that ability to listen to their heart. And then I have people send me tracks that are an exact exposure of their inner monologue. It's amazing stuff here.
B: But do you think that the best material is when you reflect your internal monologs? Can't music be about imagining what could be, not what is or who you are? Personally I try and fight my own internal monologs in my music, to break my own patterns and subconscious sound .
F: Ha, well depends on what your mind is saying. I hear what you are saying, but I think you may have miss interpreted my idea of inner monologue. I'll rephrase by saying it become impossible for one to ignore their inner monologue. How can you do that? The tune is coming through you, hopefully you are being a channel for it, for the art. I think this applies to dance music, and folk music and everything in between. It's quite a liberating feeling. I don't make music to escape, I make it to purge. I don't want to run away from anything, the problem will remain if you do so. I have to make music. I just have to.
B: I think I used to make music to contribute and compete, now I think I make music to a) leave something behind and b) because it's so satisfying to do so.
F: Competition is really tough. If you are an artist or a producer or whatever you want to call yourself, there is a great chance you have an ego right?
B: yeah, it's just whether you let it affect you. Ignore it, I say. Ugly business, ego.
F: Yeah you have to if you want to have things like, friends and love in your life. Obviously those two things are the most important. I do think it is healthy to an extent to compete with yourself.
B: The thing I find hardest is trying to lay my hands on what I've not yet seen
to see that new angle.
F: That is the search right. Stop me if I sound ridiculous, but that is what I think we should be striving for.
B: You sound sensible.
F: And so it's OK if you want music to remain purely physical and visceral. that's fine. I can't leave it at that, I have to immerse myself emotionally in it, invest in it.
B: and you sound like LHF too ;-)
F: Musically or philosophically?
B: Philosophically. LHF are always striving for what is unseen, beyond
B: That's a compliment btw ;-) At then end of the day, are you enjoying yourself? That remains the priority, after paying bills of course.