Friday, 27 April 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Interview with Flux Pavilion

Find the original interview HERE


After a quick cigarette break from a busy day of press and promotional duties, Joshua Steele, the young dubstep star who is otherwise known as Flux Pavilion and the electronic brains behind the hits “Bass Cannon,” “Superbad” and the Jay-Z and Kanye West sampled “I Can’t Stop,” has a chat with IDOL about his musical upbringing, his dream collaboration and his favourite TV box sets.

HI JOSH – HOW ARE YOU AND WHAT ARE YOU UP TO TODAY?

I’ve just been doing a bunch of interviews and sorting out the future down at Atlantic Records, and I’ve been eating pizza and nuts, which is cool.

HOW ARE YOU FINDING ALL THE NEW PROMOTIONAL RESPONSIBILITES YOU HAVE NOW AS A BURGEONING ARTIST?

It’s pretty cool and an opportunity to talk about music. As far as interviews go, it’s just me talking about being me, which is the one subject I know most about. So it’s not too bad.

YOUR BIOGRAPHY PORTRAYS YOU AS SOMETHING OF A YOUNG MUSICAL PRODIGY; APPARENTLY YOU CAN PLAY VARIOUS INSTRUMENTS. WHAT INSTRUMENTS CAN YOU PLAY?

Well, I started on guitar and then played drums. And then I just got into buying instruments. I’ve just bought myself a saxophone, a mandolin and a clarinet. I’m learning to play keys as well, so I went and bought a piano. So it’s like I can’t play any of them to a level that seems like I can actually play the instrument, but if I work out a line that I want in a track then I can teach myself it, pretty much. It’s pretty fun. I’ve got a trumpet as well but I’ve got no idea how to use it.

WHAT WAS IT THAT TRIGGERED YOUR INITAL INTEREST IN MUSIC WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG?

I think it was that my parents were really into music, so I was brought up having to endure massive Frank Zappa marathon sessions on Saturday afternoons and stuff like that. And The Stranglers, and Roxy Music, and The Beatles and stuff like that. I had a really wicked musical upbringing. But it’s quite strange, you’ve just made me think of it; my dad played me a track called “Sebastian” by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, and it was really emotional. I couldn’t stop listening to it just because of how emotional it was. I still love that track now, and I think it kind of made me just really listen to the music and get completely involved in it. I was quite young. I must have only been about ten or eleven. From that point on I got a lot more interested in music and I wanted to start writing it.

WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU HAVE AN ANALYTIC EAR WHEN YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC?

I think I’m quite lucky as a musician because I don’t get that really. I just listen to music and see how it makes me feel. The music I prefer to listen to is all kind of The Cinematic Orchestra and Sigur Rós, and I’m well into Bon Iver at the minute. Brian Eno, when he did “Music For Airports” and kind of musical landscapes, because they can be perceived in so many different ways and make you feel so many different things. I think that’s the best thing about music, when you’re in a really good mood a sad song can have a kind of euphoric capability to it. Or then when you’re in a really bad mood it can encapsulate just how bad you’re feeling at the time, even though it’s the same song.

THE ARTISTS YOU’VE MENTIONED THERE ARE QUITE SURPRISING BECAUSE WHEN PEOPLE HEAR YOUR MUSIC, THEY’LL HEAR MOST PRODOMINANTLY INFLUENCES LIKE THE PRODIGY AND RUSKO...

Yeah, I’ve got all The Prodigy albums and Chemical Brothers, and as far as dance music goes it was Fatboy Slim and Basement Jaxx. More like electronic music but done from an artist’s point of view rather than to cater for a scene, if you see what I mean. Electronic music for me was never about being part of a dance or club scene, or trying to get a dance floor anthem or anything like that. It was just music. I had never even really considered it electronic music until now that I have been making electronic music.

IT SEEMS LIKE MUSIC HAS ALWAYS BEEN AROUND YOU AND IT WAS A PRETTY NATURAL CAREER PATH TO TAKE. BUT LET’S PRETEND FOR A SECOND THAT WASN’T THE CASE, DID YOU HAVE ANY OTHER CAREER ASPIRATIONS?

When I was a little kid I wanted to be an actor. I’m not sure why now because now when I have to do photo shoots and the photographer is like, “Look shocked,” I can only do one face, I find it really hard to do. So I wouldn’t be very good as an actor. I think I just told myself that I liked drama at school. I didn’t even study music at school.

REALLY?

Yeah, I only got into the idea of it as something that I wanted to do when I went to college. It just seemed like something fun to do. I never had an aspiration to be a big, successful artist. I love it, I’ve always just wanted to have my music out there but I only went to university so that I could have the qualification to be a teacher because I had given up any hope at 18 years old thinking that I was never going to make it, which was quite a strange thing to think, looking back on it now.

THAT’S QUITE AN EARLY AGE TO BE GIVING UP HOPE!

Yeah! Definitely! Music for me was just about the love of doing it and how fun it is, rather than trying to get commercial success, being popular or selling records.

BUT YOU ARE RATHER POPULAR AND YOU ARE SELLING A LOT OF RECORDS. THE PAST YEAR HAS BEEN A VERY SUCCESSFUL TIME FOR YOU, LIKE MAKING THE BBC SOUND OF 2012. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAVE BEEN THE MILESTONES OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR?

I think when I first went over to tour the States because when I play in the UK it’s mainly that promoters will book you and put you on a line-up, and you just turn up and there will be like another eight acts playing. You do your set and it’s wicked - good fun. But then when we went over to the States it was all like hard ticket shows, which is what it’s like when you normally go and see an artist. I had just never seen myself as an artist before. But it was me and Dr P when we were over there, we played Chicago and it was sold out, I think it was about 4000 people who had just bought tickets to come and see us! I remember walking out on that stage and I had no idea it would be that many people. It was absolutely mental.

DO YOU GET NERVOUS WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF IN FRONT OF THESE GROWING CROWDS?

I get more nervous at my own shows because people have come to see me specifically. So I just really want to perform for them. It’s not that I get scared about performing; it’s that I get scared about being able to give them the best show and give them a really wicked night that they’ve been looking forward to.

HAVE YOU EVER HAS ANY HOSTILE CROWDS THAT YOU’VE HAD TO DEAL WITH?

I must have come across a few but I was probably too drunk to notice. There was one show that Dr P did, and he had just had his big track Sweet Shop, which was a massive departure from anything that was going on in dubstep. I remember standing at the show, he was playing and some guy pushed his way to the front, help up his phone and said, “I hate you. You ruined dubstep. Fuck you.” And he held his middle finger up in Dr P’s face. I think that’s hostile! But he paid to get in! And everybody else was enjoying it.

SO YOU AND DR P SET UP CIRCUS RECORDS TOGETHER, YOU WORK TOGETHER A LOT AND YOU’VE BEEN FRIENDS FOR A LONG TIME, RIGHT?

Yeah, we pretty much started working together when I was about 12 or 13. There’s this guy called Trolley Snatcha who’s a dubstep producer as well, and he lived a few doors down from me, so we were friends all through school. And I remember Shaun, Dr P, used to walk home from school and we would stand behind him because he had a massive afro, and we would just be shouting stuff about his big afro. He turned around to tell us to leave his afro alone, and we were like, “Yeah, alright – what’s your name?” And we just got talking to him and it turned out that he was well into music as well, so we started writing tunes together. We formed a band called Goo Lip, but strangely enough, when we formed that band we wrote down five or six band names on a guitar and then chose one at random. One those band names was Flux Pavilion, so that’s how I got my name and I think it’s worked out alright.

DO YOU REMEMBER THE OTHER BAND NAMES YOU CAME UP WITH?

Well Goo Lip was one of them, and I’m not sure if we thought that was a good name or not. I don’t know what we thought about Flux Pavilion either. There was The Dip Smiths and The Blowfish, but I can’t remember the others.

YOU DEFINITELY PICKED THE RIGHT ONE! SO WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT CIRCUS RECORDS?

My involvement now is essentially looking after artists, looking for and signing new music – just making sure that everyone is alright, and we all got out and do loads of shows together. It’s such an amazing opportunity to run a label and sign artists and now have anyone telling us what to do. You can make a track, and it can be the weirdest song in the world, and everyone from every record label can say “no – that’s not going to work, it’s a rubbish track,” but if we liked it then we can put it out and it can end up being a hit.

YOUR TRACK WITH EXAMPLE, “DAYDREAMER,” IS A BIG HIT – IT’S ALL OVER THE RADIO AT THE MOMENT. ARE THERE ANY OTHER ARTISTS YOU HOPE TO COLLABORATE WITH IN THE FUTURE?

I would love to do something with Julian Casablancas from The Strokes. That would be insane. I’m trying to finish my album so I wouldn’t want to start trying to get it together now because I think I would just give up on everything just so that I could go into the studio with him. His solo album was so good and I like that he kind of used a lot of electronic works within that, and I thought that him singing over semi-electronic music it was just... I reckon we could do something really good. It would be an epic, emotional track with him singing on it. It would make my life. I could probably quit after that.

BUT FOR THE TIME BEING, YOU WORK AS A SOLO ARTIST, A PRODUCER, YOU DO REMIXES AND SET UP YOUR OWN RECORD LABEL – WHEN YOU DO HAVE SPARE TIME, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

Umm, well, I like to music, to be honest. Making music and playing music, that’s my hobby, but I guess that comes in under the umbrella of what you just said. So other than that it’s just sleep and eat! Although I’ve been getting well into TV; it’s really strange touring because you think you’re going to be really busy, but the time you have on planes and in hotels waiting for shows, I can end up getting through “The Wire.” I got through all seasons of “The Wire” in about four weeks! So I just watch loads of TV. I’ve just started watching “Game of Thrones.” I started watching it three days ago and I’ve just finished the first season, and they’re all hour long episodes. I am really busy but I literally have no idea where the time comes from. My iTunes bill is so high; I don’t want to look at it.

FINALLY, WHO ARE YOUR IDOLS?

Frank Zappa is my most significant idol because his idealistic view of how to write music is the most amazing thing ever. He is pretty much a god to me in the way that he thinks about things. David Bowie as well because it’s like, it’s so interesting being an artist, like when you’re doing all the press and promotion there’s loads of attention directed towards you as a person, and that’s not really what I’m all about, I just love the music, it’s the most important thing for me. But what Bowie did with Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke was to create these characters that people could pay attention to, learn about and stare at pictures of them but then when it actually came back to David Bowie, it’s just him talking about the music because that’s what he was. He created a pin-up for all that attention to go towards and when it came back to him as a human being he could keep it exactly to what he was passionate about, which I think is an amazing thing to do. It’s what I try to do as well. I try to look as ridiculous as I can and have Flux Pavilion as separate thing to me as a person.

Written for IDOL

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