By now, there isn't much left to be said about Flume. We know he's got the production talent, the remixing capabilities, the powerful live set, and a boundless future ahead of himself. The subsequent barrage of accolades thrown at Harley Streten for his self-entitled debut project were imminent. What you probably didn't know about the Aussie beatsmith is that he's one of the most forthright, articulate, and genuinely badass dudes in the industry. He took the time to sit down with us and chat.
EARMILK: What's up man, thanks for catching up with us!
Flume: Of course.
EM: We're nearly a month removed from your Coachella debut. What were you thinking just moments before hopping on stage?
F: I like to have 5 minutes by myself, just pacing around the room and clearing my mind. I find that it's the best technique and practice it at most shows. Coachella was a great set.
EM: You dropped a What So Not track in your set both weekends. Do you like intertwining those two sounds, or generally keep them separated?
F: I try as hard as I can to keep them separate, but they always end up intermingling. When it comes to playing live, the What So Not stuff goes so hard...I basically built that music specifically for festivals and clubs, so it just lends itself sonically to the environment.
EM: What's so special about playing a crowd of that size?
F: Honestly, once it gets past four or five thousand, you can't really tell the difference *laughs*. It's just people as far as your eye can see.
EM: Your "Tennis Court" remix received a lot of success in the past few weeks. Tell me how that project came into fruition.
F: I had been chatting with Ella [Lorde] about doing something for a while, and I was a big fan of that particular track. I got the stems and wanted to do something cool with it. That particular remix took a while. I tried a bunch of different things, and kept coming back to try and make it work. Eventually I gave up on it. At the time I was working on this beat I intended to use as an original, which is basically the drop of the track, and thought I'd just try to slot the vocals in. It really just went from there.
EM: Late last year we saw a Twitter exchange between you two collaborating. Was that in regard to this remix or is there more to come from you guys?
F: *laughs* Who knows. There's totally a possibility of things happening in the future.
EM: Why did the Disclosure remix spark your interest?
F: It's just like the Lorde remix in that it's an original track with Disclosure vocals thrown on top. That's generally how I like to do things when I'm working on a remix. They are good friends of mine and I really wanted to do something with the "You & Me" vocals.
EM: Your work with Chet Faker on "Left Alone" springboarded the Lockjaw EP. What clicks so well between you guys?
F: He's pretty much good at everything I'm not, and vice versa. He brings so much to the table that I can't, and that's the beauty of it all. We work off each other's strengths and weaknesses and don't interfere with the shit that the other is good at. For example, I'll take production by the reign, and he'll contribute most of the vocals, but we'll write the hook together. We'll sit down together for 20 minutes and record singing over chord progressions and pick out the bits that fit. It's just a really cool way of working.
EM: Totally, it sounds like a very collaborative process as well. Can you give us some more details on how the EP was actually recorded?
F: We had some major time restraints. Not including driving to the location and setup, we only had 4 days, but wanted to do this for ages. We made a goal to write a song a day. The first day, we just wanted to bust out a track with a big hook, so that's how "Drop The Game" came about. We nearly finished the track in a day, which is crazy because neither of us work nearly that fast. The second track was "What About Us." That's our favorite from the EP. The goal with that particular track was to make the chorus hook with no drums. Usually you want to make a chorus as big as possible with booming percussion, but we decided to flip it. Our last concept on "This Song Is Not About A Girl" was to use the shittiest sounds we could. We got the crappiest drum kit and worst sounding bass preset we could find, but conversely used the most high-fidelity, stereo sounds at the end half of the track. The contrast between the two elements was sick. We took the approach of coming up with concepts before writing, which is something we rarely do, but when we got together something just clicked.
EM: Flume (Deluxe Edition) was completely revamped with new features, rappers in particular. Was recruiting new talent, Ghostface Killah for example, ever part of the plan?
F: It was pretty spontaneous, actually. My label approached me with the idea of a deluxe version of the record, and I was a bit against it because usually deluxe editions are just a reason to sell more records. I thought that if we're going to do this, it should be worthwhile and bring something new to the table. From there, we branched out and came into contact with a bunch of artists. It was a lot of fun.
EM: What artists are you currently listening to?
F: A bunch. Leon Vynehall, Lxury, a good bit of Mr. Carmack as well right now.
EM: The story of you getting your start with a music production kit found in a cereal box is well documented. What kind of cereal was it?
F: Nutri-Grain. Do you guys have that in the states?
EM: We have the cereal bars but don't have the actual cereal.
F: Ah, well that's what it was.
EM: You've been touring extensively for almost a year now. Are there any cities you want to play that you have yet to hit?
F: Oslo and Tokyo, for sure. I want to do Japan and the Scandinavian countries. That's my next mission.
EM: Are you in the process of planning that trip now?
F: Those areas aren't really a priority right now. If I'm going on tour, it's important to do the key cities in North America and Europe, so the places in Norway and Finland aren't super high on the list of importance. Same with Japan. I nearly toured there, but we decided it would be much more beneficial to tour the US. It's cool though because after traveling so much and feeling like I'll never be able to go anywhere new, I have these spots in the bank.
EM: Switching it up is always a good move. You're a role model for rising bedroom producers as someone who has actually made it to the top of the industry. What advice can you give to those in your previous situation?
F: I think a lot of producers will go and buy new equipment if they aren't happy with their music and expect the new tools to make the music for them. For example, they'll go out and buy a machine if their drums aren't sounding great. It might help a little bit, but at the end of the day if you've got a computer with Ableton, a MIDI keyboard, and half-decent speakers, that's all you need. I write most of my tracks like that on tour. Another big thing I'd say is that less is more. I always try and use the bare minimum amount of sounds to make it work. You might start a song that's sounding cool, but the chorus isn't big enough so you keep adding and adding layers. The sound gets muddy and loses the point. Really be conscious that more isn't necessarily better, it's just more. Find your key sounds that hold a track together and work from there.
EM: In a previous interview you mentioned Flying Lotus as an inspiration of yours. Do you ever hear some of his stylings rub off in your own music?
F: What really struck me with that guy was his ability to have beats be off-time and still sound so right. Hearing kick drums and snares spread erratically and thinking "how I am enjoying this" but at the same time it's all cohesive. That's when I realized I didn't need everything on the grid to be perfectly in-time, and where I drew a lot of inspiration for the Flume project.
EM: What's up next?
F: I'm in the studio right now working on the new album, actually. Details to come.
EM: Well thank you so much, I hope to catch up with you again shortly.
F: No worries man, it was a pleasure chatting with you. Talk to you soon.
At the conclusion of the interview, Streten played me snippets of forthcoming album material straight off the studio soundboard. Obviously, they sucked. Keep an eye on Flume as he concludes his international tour dates and hunkers down with a new full-length release in mind.