Although he had many convinced that he was releasing an album, Josh Steele aka Flux Pavillion instead opted for an 8-track bombshell EP Blow the Roof. It dropped on January 28, bringing his talent as a musician and producer to the fore with collaborations with Childish Gambino (could be the first of many) and Sway. A fact that may deceive you about the music that Flux Pavillion produces is the use of live instruments in the recording process. As his live BBC studio session of Daydreamer with Example last year exposed, the man is a talented musician and incorporates much live instrumentation into his songs, albeit, heavily disguised. But it is this live instrumentation that he wants to bring more to the fore, as he discusses his exciting new plans for his live show that are completely different from what you’d expect from a live dubstep performance.
Flux Pavillion speaks of his interest in diversifying within electronic music that led to his collaboration with Diplo on Jah No Partial. He also gets into the finer details on the growth of trap music within the bass community, and why its growth is intricately linked to dubstep. With some artists like Example predicting the ‘death’ of dubstep, Flux Pavillion gets pretty firm on his stance as a prominent figure in the scene, intent on sticking by the genre that’s made him an international sensation. Also find out what he really thinks of Kanye West sampling his track I Can’t Stop in this raw interview with Music Feeds.
MF: Hey Josh, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.
Flux: No worries man, it’s all good.
MF: The long-awaited EP Blow the Roof just dropped in Australia on January 28th. What have you done differently on this EP compared to previous releases?
Flux: For me it feels like a continuation of my sound. I think maybe the fact that I did an 8-track. I was kind of writing an album that turned into an EP. With that you have a lot more freedom to really kind of do what you want…not so much do what you want, but I think maybe to explore yourself as a producer. With an EP there’s actually a lot more stuff you can explore, like ‘actually, I might not have a drop on this one’ or I sort of go into different sections. So its a continuation of how I think about music and how I like to write music. So it’s basically just me exploring my sound a little bit more.
MF: We were expecting a long-player to be honest. Do you feel a long-player pressures you to explore an album-type concept, instead of focusing on key singles.
Flux: Yeah, well I think that an album is quite complete and final in a sense. That’s not to say these tracks aren’t final. It’s a body of work that’s built to be a complete coverage of you as an artist. Whereas in dance music…I’m confident writing tunes. So I could write a new track tomorrow. And an album is such a big thing, I want to be able to get those tracks out. I want to write music in a time when it’s right for me to write that music and then release it. Whereas an album is like you’re trying to completely encapsulate yourself as an artist in one project. But it just didn’t feel right for me right now to put out an album and say this is all that I am.
MF: Were there more live elements on this EP than previous releases?
Flux: They were less disguised than they normally are, with my singing and guitar on there. It’s always my own vocals, unless it’s obviously a girl singing. But it’s always my own vocal on all other tracks. And I’m always playing guitar or saxophone and stuff like that on there. But I tend to cover it with distortion or mix it in with something else so you can’t really pick it out. This EP seemed to work a lot more, bringing those elements out.
MF: I watched the live studio performance of Daydreamer that you did with Example last year in BBC studios and it was excellent. Are you looking to expand on that idea by integrating a live band into your live show?
Flux: Yeah, that’s kind of the plan. I want to try and take it in that direction. The new set-up I’m working with is without live drums, and is more of a three-man sampler set-up. So if you’ve seen that video, you’ll see there’s a guitarist, a sampler and a keyboard. I want to try and keep it to that and keep it electronic, rather than try to imitate sounds with acoustic instruments. I want to keep within the electronics and play it straight from the synth, or sample the drums straight from the sampler. So then I can actually master the track live myself, and make it sound as good as it does on the record. A live drummer is never going to sound as good as the particular snare that I’ve got in one of my tracks because it’s been created and produced in such a different way, and I don’t want to lose that with my live performance. It’s one of the greatest things about it – the energy.
MF: You’re right, some electronic artists like Chase & Status and Example definitely use a live drum kit to portray a certain energy to an audience. When will you start using this set-up live?
Flux: We are in rehearsals next week for a week and a half and we’ll see what comes out. I’m going to try to write a 60-minute set with all the tracks that I’ve written up until this point. If that works out, we’ll be doing some shows towards the end of the year, hopefully. It’s all based on the idea that I’ll get it right. If I don’t get it right, it’s kind of like – if it’s not broken don’t fix it. My DJing and the way I’m operating right now is working really well and is really fun and exciting, and feels really good to do. So I’m not looking for something to do instead. I’m working on a live set to add to that rather than to change it.
MF: Your collaboration with Diplo on Jah No Partial is awesome. It’s getting smashed on Australian radio. Does that single represent a growing interest in your crossover into other styles of bass music?
Flux: Yeah, definitely. The Blow the Roof EP is that as well pretty much. Before I started writing music, I was playing guitar and singing. As a singer-songwriter I wanted something more, so I started writing electronic music to accentuate that, so I could play guitar, have a synth line and sing. So my interest in diversity of electronic music isn’t a new thing to me. It’s a new thing to actually be putting this music out. I’ve been writing all these strange ideas that go across genres and don’t fit anywhere for years. I don’t know if I’ve felt comfortable putting them out or they didn’t seem to work. But in the place where I’m at now, and the place where the whole electronic music scene’s at now, it seems like the right time to actually get some of these experiments out there and see what people think.
MF: Kudos to you, you’ve created a sound that’s internationally recognised, and I think you can hear it consistently on all of your music, even when you change it up. That could possibly be why Kanye West and Jay-Z sampled your song I Can’t Stop. That’s pretty big bragging rights. What did it mean to you as a producer to be sampled by Kanye?
Flux: That was the main thing for me. The one thing I’ve always respected about Kanye is the tracks he samples and what he gets out of the sample. He makes this awesome.. like they don’t feel like hits. But they become hits because they are awesome. Like the track that he did with Daft Punk, and Gold Digger as well is just the implementation of samples within the track in a really kind of cool, creative way. And then to get sampled by him – apart from my respect for the samples he takes – was pretty insane. That was quite a proud moment.
MF: I feel like there’s a big growth in the popularity of trap music. You’ve even been noted to drop the odd trap song in your DJ sets. Do you feel like trap music is going to blow up like dubstep did?
Flux: You see trap has been about for ages. It’s been there since the start of hip-hop. It’s nothing new. But I feel that new minds are working with it. It’s not quite like dubstep, where it was a completely new sound. Like, there was old dubstep, which was a continuation of two-step and garage, and moving into dubstep was where the name came from. But then what I’ve found is that Skrillex and Nero have virtually taken that and made something a lot newer out of it. It shouldn’t really be called dubstep because it doesn’t really encapsulate all the things that the genre does. But that’s just the name that’s kind of worked. And I feel that trap has taken all the inspiration from all the hip-hop and old-style trap and is a continuation of dubstep, rather than a completely new thing that could blow up. I don’t think you can compare the two because they are actually intricately linked together.
MF: We spoke to Example when he was out for Stereosonic and he stated that ‘I feel like dubstep has been done to death, and there’s not that much exciting stuff coming out anymore”. Do you feel there’s much life left in dubstep?
Flux: Talking about the life of dubstep is talking about the hype, really. Hype always dies. Hype always dies in everything. But the actual music will still carry on existing, as long as people make it and those people make good stuff. So I don’t really see the death of a genre, but the death of the hype, because, there’ll be hype on all sorts of other stuff. That’s the way the world works isn’t it really, it is always a flavour of the month. Dubstep was just a big kissy pop with a flavour for quite a few months and it was such a shock to everyone. But, the music still exists and it’s still pretty cool and it’s still exciting to me. So I’m happy with whatever the world thinks of it. I’ll still make it.
MF: Who do you feel is changing the game in dubstep at the moment?
Flux: You see, dubstep as a straight-up genre, I haven’t heard too much that sounds that exciting. But I think that’s because of trap. Because, like I say, trap is so close. It’s the same tempo. So I get a bit excited by stuff in trap that’s been done by dubstep producers like Antiserum, who’s been doing stuff for ages. His trap is so cool, it’s something completely new to me. It’s a weird thing. The game’s been changed so dramatically that it’s gonna take a lot for someone to simply change it like that. These things bubble away in the underground for ages. There’ll be some kid out there, sitting in his room, doing something new and fresh. I may hear of it in a year, and the rest of the world may hear of it in two years. I’ll only hear of it first because I’ll be out there DJing and people like Diplo will play it to me. But it’s quite hard to change the game. It’s always just a sporadic, exciting thing.
MF: On the EP you collaborated with Childish Gambino, who just toured Australia with Big Day Out. He’s actually one of the most hyped acts in Australia at the moment. What was it actually like working with him?
Flux: Yeah, he’s a cool guy. Really awesome. I mean, the first track we went in together was Do or Die. That just kind of happened. I was looking to do a remix for him. The beat I was writing seemed like something new to both of us, rather than a Flux Pavillion remix. It just had elements that we could both work with, so we turned it into a collaboration. That was all done over email. I was in Sydney a few weeks ago when he was there for Big Day Out and I was working in the studio, so he came in and we’ve written another track together, which is pretty damn awesome. But I’d never watched Community when we did the first track. Then because we did the track together, I thought I might as well watch the show, and it’s awesome. So now I’ve watched all of Community. Then a few weeks ago when we were in the studio, I was kind of star-struck. I was like ‘this is weird, I have so much respect for this guy’. But now I’ve watched Community, it’s kind of a bit weird. As a musical entity and a musical brain, he’s not just a rapper, he’s a musician. It’s crazy. He’s such a talented person. I really expect massive things from him and I really hope I keep working with him for the next couple of years, because he’s an inspiring guy to be around.
MF: Thanks so much for your time Josh. We love the EP and hope to see you back in Australia soon.
Flux: No worries man. Thank you very much. Take it easy.