Electronic beats are a concept that is now as loose as “rock” or “jazz.” It seems that everyday the term gains qualities or spawns sub genres that cover ground ranging from the easily accessible to the obscure and abstract. Outside of the a-typical hip hop beats of the radio and the underground club movement of trap or the internet-centric post-dubstep is a breed of producers more about creating their own unique style rather than jumping on to a hype train of a rising or dying genre.
One up and comer on the spacey beats front is ᏉᎥᏒᏆuᎪᏞ fᏞᎪᏁᏁᎬᏞ- an OP-1 hound who’s been dropping new heat almost every other week on Soundcloud, is active on Vimeo, and has an extensive catalog on Bandcamp. He’s known for his detuned chord progressions, wonky timings, and strange sounds that play through the pan. This week marks the release of his self titled LP on Noorden- a German label who’s all about new music. We got the chance to lob a few questions his way about music, production, soundcloud, making beats in the kitchen, and more.
Your music is pretty out there while still retaining the ability to hit a groove and grab the listener— who are your biggest influences and inspirations?
Growing up, I never liked music much. I wasn’t really into my friends’ punk and metal tastes. But my life changed when I first heard artists like Dr.Dre and Snoop. When I first heard rap and hip-hop, I knew that was what I wanted to do. That Minimoog synth line on “Nuthin But A G Thang” had me hooked immediately. Equally important as my initial love for gangster rap, was when I discovered the “other” side of hip-hop. No matter what you call it, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest…these cats made me feel like there was a place for me in hip-hop. I had no idea who J Dilla or Jay Dee was when I first heard Slum Village. I just knew it was something special and unique, and the loose drums and sub bass made me feel the same way as when I first heard the Minimoog leads on those old Death Row G-Funk albums.
A lot of your chord progressions are heavily detuned, if tuned at all. How do you go about getting your wonky sound?
Well, there is a really old trick in electronic music where you play a chord on a synth and sample it. You can then play back that sampled chord chromatically over a keyboard or on drum pads. In other words: one key chords. I also like to use synths that have built in “chorders” or “chord hold” functions. I am not a trained musician, so this makes it easier to play chords. However, you are stuck within the notes you choose, so in that way it is limiting. That said, it also creates a unique sound that I try to take advantage of. As far as being wonky, I just play mostly everything unquantized but usually have one sequenced element in the track to keep it all together.
You’ve got a firm handle on swing in your beats, where did you get your love for the loosey goosey?
It’s no secret that the late, great J Dilla really pioneered that sound. Now Flying Lotus is really taking that idea and innovating it. I try to do the same, and innovate the music I grew up with. I am inspired by a lot of music, but I always try to make sure to have my own signature touch so you know it’s a V-F! beat when you hear it.
You rock the hell out of Teenage Engineering’s OP-1. How did you get on that tip?
Man, when they first dropped that thing I knew I had to have it. I can’t remember when I first heard about it, but I do remember when they released it at NAMM. I instantly purchased one of the first 500 pre-order units. I was glad I snatched one up quick, because as everyone now knows they sold out in one day. I remember being prepared to pay pretty much anything! I think the price is really reasonable though. You get a lot in a little. It’s very unique, super intuitive, and sounds awesome.
What do you love most about the hardware?
Hmm you know, obviously the fun factor is key – but at the end of the day it’s all about how it influences/directly impacts my ability to create. What makes it fun, is the awesome interface and intuitive work flow. I’m really interested in the infinite sound capabilities and pristine fidelity that software offers. I use a lot of software for mastering purposes, but all of my songs are live performances on my hardware rig. I just practice the song and keep recording until I get it right. That said, right now I’m really interested in the hybrids like Maschine and Push. The new Elektron A4 looks rad as well.
Other than that, you can be seen using an Electron Octatrack, an Oto Machines Biscuit, and other equipment. Apart from getting a lot of your samples from the OP-1, what do you tend to use your other equipment for?
Shout out to my SP-Fam. I really like using the Vinyl Sim effect on the SP-303. With the Biscuit, I kind of developed my own way of playing with it. There have been other hardware bit crushers before, but nothing on this scale…this playable. I heard they’re running out of the chips used to make them, so better cop one before they’re gone! Octatrack has the best beat repeat in the game, hands down – hardware or software. Furthermore, the interpolating of effect parameters with the crossfader is really special.
Your self titled LP was just released on Noorden, how did you get hooked up with those guys?
My homie Yellow Tangerine hooked me up with Alex and Florian from Noorden, who put me on the Rumble When Bumble all OP-1 compilation. Me and YT hooked up on the same forums because we had the same gear (OP-1/Biscuit/SP-303), haha. I just really dig their vision for Noorden, and think they are such talented artists and designers as well as musicians. I sent them my demo and they were down! They put a huge effort into the release, and the art is stunning. The stickers are hilarious. These guys have a great sense of humour! 3-D Posters/Glasses god-damn, CD and even the envelope is beautiful. I really can’t believe we can sell them this cheap. You get so much for 10 EU!
How did you go about choosing which tracks to be on the release?
All of my albums are created in the same way, in that I create songs within the context of an album. I try to find a musical theme or aesthetic and do it til’ I can’t do it no more. I usually only ditch two or three tunes. I really try to decide whether or not a track will be good early on in the process. This way, I can focus on only making dope shit. It’s one of the most important parts of being a beat musician. Knowing which sample NOT to use, and being really discerning about which sounds you choose. Also, my albums for the most part are sequenced in the order I created the tracks in real life with little or no adjustments.
With the new release, the “We Flyin’” tape, the 24-Bit Cassette, and a new song on soundcloud every other week, it’s almost an understatement to say you’re prolific. How often do you write music and how long does it usually take you to crank out a new tune?
Honestly, it was funny…the other day I out of know where mashed a couple keys on the Rhodes – which was plugged into the OP-1. Decided to record, and was like, “hey, might as well put down some drums too”…I then unplugged the OP-1 and brought it into the kitchen where my beautiful girlfriend was making me a grilled cheese. I gave her a little concert, muting the tracks I had just recorded to sequence the song. Start stop beats with some tape stops…solo the Rhodes and reverse for the extro…tape stop…we out… We were like, “haha, that was actually not too bad.” I took the OP-1 to the lab, plugged it in to the rig, and added some synth bass. Did my thing, recorded it, and don’t you know it – made a track in like 15 minutes. I really can’t explain it, but I’ve been able to release eight albums since I became Virtual Flannel – a transition that directly results from the release of the OP-1. I just pray to the Beat God and when I come to, a beat is there.
you stay pretty active on soundcloud. How is that community important to you?
It’s really important. I’m proud to be from Saskatchewan, but there is no beat scene here – let’s be honest. It really gives me a way to expose my music to people, and try to network with other musicians and labels. I’m really grateful for all the V-F! fans that have supported me from Germany to USA to Norway to UK to China to France. If I couldn’t reach and connect with these people, V-F! would not exist.
Is there anyplace someone could catch you live?
Hopefully Toronto some time in the future, possibly with the Noorden crew?? Shhhh secrets…more on that when the stars align to the North. I would love to go on tour all over the world though, who’s going to hook me up!?
What’s next for ᏉᎥᏒᏆuᎪᏞ fᏞᎪᏁᏁᎬᏞ?
Dirty Tapes split with iller is in the works. Tape with WTR CLR is in the works. I also have an album in my back pocket that I am really stoked on. I feel like it’s my best material. That will come out when the right opportunity presents itself.