Having a “signature sound” is something that everyone sets out to achieve yet, it seems that you were able to carve out a unique sound from your very beginning and not only evolve it but master it. Furthermore, it usually takes artists many years to mature their sound and find their voice yet, here’s another example where you’ve seemingly known all along the type of music you’ve wanted to create and how to go about executing it. Can you take us back to the early days of Fluxion and shed some light on potentially how this happened?
/Fluxion/ Hi. I will try to explain a bit where I am coming from. I developed an interest for music and the arts from a young age, 15-16. I studied art and design for a year in the UK developing an interest in photography and film. I’ve actually enrolled at a film school and dropped out after a few months to pursue a music technology course.
It was 93-94. I was in London, and it was a melting pot. Going down to Portobello and Camden Town you could hear Jamaican Dub, Funk, Jazz, electronic music, and see live shows. After classes we had access to studios both at the campus at the university as well as studios we were setting up at our places. We were listening to records and I started to gravitate towards more simpler (seemingly) rhythmical structures and also ambient cinematic textures as I had and still have an interest in score music. I liked the idea of story telling.
At that time, everything felt programmed, synthesized, and over produced in electronic music. So I tried with a few pieces of equipment to make the best music I could - trying to sound as organic as possible. To achieve that melting of sounds into one, I used effects extremely in many cases, as long as it served this goal, of molding the sounds into one. More like a painter who in the process of creating his own colors, ends up having a palette that everything is borrowing something from the other color.
My early influences were Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Wim Mertens, and composers that used repetition. This led me to work on repetitive forms with heavy use of effects processed live to create a spontaneous story. In addition to sound palette and form, there were the frequencies that, when interacting with other frequencies, gives you the perception of tones and counter melodies that don’t exist as written context but rather happen as a result of all the elements interacting with each other. I always found this aural illusion fascinating.
When I started to be exposed to what was happening in Berlin with Basic Channel, I knew that this was the direction that would allow me the freedom and space to explore my interests. So if I have to sum up my beginning in music, it would be a journey of self discovery, the potentials and the prospects. A study.
Other than electronic music, you mentioned Jamaican Dub, Funk, and Jazz as early influences which makes sense when listening to your material. What were some of the techniques that intrigued you about each genre that later winded up in your music? For example, in Reggae / Jamaican Dub the mixer is considered an instrument itself and they also heavily use delay and echo machines with the creative use of reverb. How did you adopt these approaches to your workflow in creating your signature sound?
/Fluxion/ I liked the freedom and the collective spirit in Jazz. That everything is tuned and tight and counted to one specific result, that might not seem that structured in some cases, or even loose sounding, but it’s not. I like the fact that Jazz is a style that is allowed to stumble and fall and stand up again, to have passages/phrases of other songs parade in a composition, slightly altered, and this being considered as a new composition. There is a lot of room for expression.
Funk was something that got me into groove and a raw kind of feeling of attacking the rhythm. If it’s off, and it sticks, it works, kind of feeling.
Dub was more of a feeling of motion. I didn’t try to use techniques Dub & Reggae artists were using but maybe had a similar mentality of not obeying the rules of a studio. When you study you start to learn the recording and production process and techniques to help you achieve things. It’s a mechanical process that you have to forget afterwards to achieve creative results. Dub artists were great at inventing their own ways of using the mixer, spring reverbs, delays, etc. to extremes. I also like big chain of effects, they sometimes alter the characteristics of the sound, another thing that you won’t learn but your intuition or creative urge might lead you towards. So this was my influence as Dub is concerned at an early stage. Effects and alteration of the characteristics of sounds and motion.
Following your early influences with Jazz and Funk, it sounds like you’re not a fan of quantization… would you say that is true? Do you not use sequencers?
/Fluxion/ You can make music using electronic means without sounding mechanical. I always liked the human element in whatever music I was listening to. I like to hear the person behind the machines, not the machines. Everyone can press play and have something. To own it, is a different aspect. So through countless passages of playing long durations I developed the ability to be in sync or to loose sync like an analogue OSC would, intentionally. Having my internal clock as a guide creating some more humanely and expressive results. The live element and shuffle of Jazz and Funk and the out of sync decaying of effects in Dub might have something to do with it as influences.
Can you give us an example of how you use extreme effects to mold multiple sounds into one cohesive one? Did you build up a library of effect chains that you commonly use or do you start from scratch with each project or sound you’re designing?
/Fluxion/ I don’t have a library of sounds or effects. I just start building the sound and twitching it and changing parameters and adding effects to see what works. It’s a new beginning each time. I may know what area of frequencies I am looking for so this helps me narrow down the preparation time significantly. I like to achieve the result close to the moment that I feel there is something to say. So, when I have an idea or something triggers an idea, I start by playing most patterns live and altering at the same time the sounds to something that interests me sonically. Then I listen how those sounds interact and add or subtract or throw in the background. I like playing elements live as I like the human element in the production - it is better than any oscillator. So when there is an intriguing, interesting result is when I start mixing and balancing. I listen to it over a period of time and, if the excitement stays, I feel I have something.
“... there were the frequencies that when interact with other frequencies gives you the perception of tones and counter melodies, that don’t exist as written context, but rather happen as a result of all the elements interacting with each other.” This sounds like the “happy accidents” that sometimes happen in the studio especially when performing parts live in the moment. Can you elaborate on this process and how you find ways to incorporate these newly found audio parts?
/Fluxion/ I consider those interactions not as accidents but as essential aspects of creating a multilayer outcome. That results into creating a more than one way of listening to the music which is something that I like. That is intriguing and appealing to those who seek vague and ambiguous things and uninteresting to those who like to have the same read each time. It’s a matter of taste really. But as far as I am concerned, I have a tendency to like works that are not served a certain way but rather the ones I have to go to and discover.
You mentioned the word storytelling which is such a critical element to any form of art. Surely there’s a larger narrative to your music being told over the years and through all of your releases but if we were to focus in on a single track or an EP / album how do you go about the storytelling process? For example, do you have a certain vision in mind that you set out to achieve or do you start creating and then once you have enough parts for a song decide how you want to tell a musical story with those said elements?
/Fluxion/ I have this tendency to always work on an album. Something lengthy. Therefore, there is always the search for the story, the idea. What creates the tapestry for a story to emerge is the sound environment I will create in and the fact that the music comes within a certain timeframe. I never have a strict rule on how long but, within this time frame, everything comes borrowing a similar cloth being from the same sonic environment. As those pieces start being put together, the whole thing is starting to get visual to me, evoking sparse images. The more defined the result is the more clear the visual. On my last album, Ripple Effect, I had a more clear story and tried to score it.
What environment do you work in to convey these stories? Do you work in the box (ITB), out of the box (OTB), or work with some combination of both? What is your studio room like?
/Fluxion/ External or internal sources. Whatever gets me there. I like blending the environments.
Speaking of OTB, what’s your relationship with incorporating found sounds from nature and field recordings in your music?
/Fluxion/ I like using non musical sounds such as field recordings. The whole process provides a depth and adds another layer making the production more interesting.
Ok, let’s get into the gear that you use to create your music. What pieces of gear and/or software are integral to your sound?
/Fluxion/ I don’t have one. I like to change outboard and combine the process with in the box elements. I use Logic and Live rewired always, as one software.
I feel that there is a lot of fetishism nowadays with equipment and people get more attention for owning a piece of a more expensive analogue gear than the attention given to the music created with it. I don’t like this to be honest… I like the people that get creative with what they have instead of showing off the latest piece of Buchla synth or modular. So, in that respect, I will say that it doesn’t matter what you use as long as the listener, in the end, will hear you and not the piece of equipment. To really own something takes more time than an Instagram post.
What’s your technique for ensuring everything is sounding like it’s in the same environment / space? Would you say this is another example of an extreme application of effects and, in this case, reverb?
/Fluxion/ I think it’s a combination of things. One is the sound design and field recordings that glue everything together. Then it’s the effects that gives the music the same environment. In addition to effects to create a more interesting sound, I also use busses were there is summing of sound groups. That’s it more or less.
What is your mix down process like? Do you mix in a precise way as you go along or set basic level, panning, and EQ information and then save the precision for the end when everything is arranged?
/Fluxion/ As I mentioned before, I like to record big sections played live for the whole duration, or most of the duration, even rhythm elements. So, building a track like this has, to me, all the spontaneity I need to have a mix down of all the recorded parts. So in the end is listening, leveling, balancing, EQ, and some final adjustments at the master out.
When do you know when your track is done and how does testing your work on the road help with your perspective in the studio? Does the last 10% of the track really take the most amount of time for you?
/Fluxion/ When there’s nothing more to do. No, honestly it’s a matter of feeling that it’s working for you. It might be touching a sensitive nerve. There isn’t any magic formula to this. It’s what works for the artist and to have the ability of knowing when it’s enough. There are countless moments where I felt really strong about something and, in the process of overproduction, I went too far and wasn’t feeling it anymore. It’s a point of no return. Once you go over that point you lose sight. If it works for me as the audience I like to believe that it will work for others. When I am testing the music I can see the reaction but, since my music balances between the living room and the club, I can never have a full picture of how it’s being perceived. You just have to trust yourself.
In closing, what are some of your favorite personal productions and why?
/Fluxion/ I am an unsatisfied person when it comes to music or production. I like what I am doing now and not looking on what has been done before. This way I can move forward, with new concepts, which influence me and help shape up things a little different. I don’t like producing versions over versions of the same thing. So in that respect, I felt really passionate about my latest full length “Ripple Effect”, in which I incorporated for the first time electronic techno music with score compositions trying to blur the lines of each genre creating something new. I sometimes feel bored with repetition in tones when it comes to electronic music so I thought why not making it more rich and adventurous.