As dubstep master Flux Pavilion prepares for his epic Music Experiment secret show in Los Angeles, he reveals how he's earning his legendary stripes.
When I first got on the phone with Joshua Steele, aka Flux Pavilion, he apologized for a few minutes. “I’m so sorry, I was just working on a track in the studio! Did I keep you waiting long? I lost track of time!” As if I wasn’t melting already from his modest and sincere politeness, he soon revealed to me in our conversation his love for Bon Iver, A Tribe Called Quest, MF Doom and Sigur Ros, and spoke about the collaboration process like a personal, soul-sharing experience.
So maybe Flux’s basslines are hard and heavy, but we think Flux is a real sweetheart.
In anticipation of Flux’s show at MTV Iggy’s Music Experiment in Los Angeles (presented by Intel), we spoke with him about getting serious Kanye love, about being 23 and a big name, and all about the past present and future of dubstep.
You’ve said before that Rusko was one dubstep artist that first motivated you to become a producer. What about Rusko’s sound inspired you to get started?
I don’t dance to music, but his records made me want to move. About four years ago I went to go see Rusko play and he was there, wearing this paper bird hat, jumping around like a lunatic and playing this ridiculous music I’d never heard before. And I was just thinking, “That’s like me. I can do that.”
Who are some other artists that inspired you musically?
The music I make, I don’t listen to. I tend to draw my inspirations from Sigur Ros and Bon Iver. Then there’s all kinds of hip-hop, like Jurassic 5 and MF Doom. I prefer to go for more stripped back, relaxing music and that’s where I get my inspiration from. When I write music, I try to get some emotion or feeling into the track.
The track you debuted with Childish Gambino at Electric Zoo, “Do or Die” was incredible. Any other exciting collaborations on the way?
That one is going on the new EP which is coming out in January. He did that track for me so I’m making him a beat for his album as well. I’m all about the collaborations, but I don’t like to talk about them until they’re done and the music actually exists. But there’s lots of stuff coming!
Can you elaborate on how exactly a collaboration goes down?
Normally we just meet at festivals backstage. You just go say hi, and start talking about stuff and that’s how a collaboration starts—by getting to know someone. Like Childish Gambino, I started working on a track and thought “Yeah this is perfect for him!” but this was after we had already established a connection through talking. I want it to be as natural as possible. I don’t like the idea of just writing a track and putting someone on it for the sake of it. I want it to organically grow and be written based on an idea that you’ve had over a conversation or over a drink. It’s so much more fun.
So it’s a personal connection that basically makes it come together for you.
Music for me is everything I do and everything I am, and it has to be that personal because every song that I make is a part of me. By doing a collaboration, you’re actually sharing yourself with that person and they’re doing the exact same thing back. You gotta make sure it works, otherwise it’s like opening up and sharing your soul with someone else and they’re not treating it right.
These days the EDM DJs are huge, godlike performers at all these festivals like Steve Aoki and David Guetta and then you have more behind the scenes guys who simply stick to DJing. Which persona do you identify with more?
I think I’m more a behind the scenes person at heart. I love to be in the studio working, and that’s where I get most of my creative bursts hanging out working on music. But with that said, I’ve been pretty much touring since February and I’ve seen a whole new world in Djing and the element of performance, and I’m starting to really get into it. My extrovert is coming out, but I’m still an introvert naturally.
I can’t imagine how you felt when you got the call that “I Can’t Stop” was being used on Kanye and Jay Z’s Watch the Throne album. What was going through your mind when you found out they wanted to use your track?
I can’t really put it into words. Like, I’m sitting in my bedroom writing songs and then all of a sudden Jay-Z and Kanye West put one of my songs on their album. They could have chosen any song in the world and they chose that one. I still haven’t got my head around it. Ask me in about 5 or 6 years and I might have a good couple of minutes to sort it out.
Are you a Kanye and Jay-Z fan or do you stick more to underground hip-hop?
I haven’t really delved into their careers so much. I’m a big fan of them and the track, but I listen to older stuff like [A] Tribe Called Quest and Jurassic 5 more. So I’m not a Jay-Z or Kanye nerd, but that might have been a lot weirder if I had a little shrine to them in my corner and then they sampled my track. I think my head would explode. It’s probably a good thing that I’m not that geeky about them, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to contain myself.
You’re famous for hard-hitting bass lines and super loud music. Have you ever experimented with more minimal music like that of Skream?
I can’t make quiet music. I’ve realized that over the past six months. I’ve tried to make very simple music and then I slowly start turning things up, and then all of a sudden it’s just stupidly loud. I just make really loud punchy music. It’s just in my blood. I try to experiment with different stuff all the time, but it’s just not me. It’s just not what it works.
You’re 23 and you grew up outside of London where the roots of dubstep were really coming up on the underground scene. What did you listen to growing up?
I live in London now, but I grew up about an hour north of London. There was kind of nothing going on in terms of a music scene. I turned to electronic music because there was no studio, I didn’t have any money and I couldn’t buy any equipment, so what I could do was play my guitar and sing, and then create a drumline and a bassline and synthline on my computer and turn my tracks into a band. And then that turned into hip-hop which then turned into big sounding electronic stuff and then dubstep, and that’s how I got here.
Where do you see yourself and the whole genre in 10 years from now?
I think boundaries are becoming less constricting. I think dubstep as a genre will still exist like drum and bass does and house does and techno does. But I think electronic music will be more at the forefront. As a kid, the only way to be a musician was to be in a band. But now with electronic music, anyone can do it anywhere on a laptop, or just get a couple of trigger pads and make music. The whole world will realize electronic music is as creative as getting together with a band. As technology goes, music will go with it and it will get pretty interesting. I’m looking forward to it.
And now for some reader questions…
Kelcey McCarvel asked on Facebook: When you first started producing, did you have someone you really trusted for constructive criticism, and who helped you get your foot in the door?
Both of those were Dr. P, actually. He was in the first band that I played in. He played drums, I played guitar, and he was three years older than me and always three years ahead of me. Every time I’d make a track and think it was awesome, he’d show me his new track which is like three years better than mine. And I was just like, “how are you so good?” So I’d always just show my stuff to him because we learned together. If I gave him a track and it was bad, he’d tell me it was bad whereas my friends who didn’t quite understand what I was doing because they didn’t make music themselves. So they’d be like “yeah that sounds cool” and then he’d be like “nope, that was rubbish.” It was really handy to have that. That’s how we started Circus Records, which was my foot in the door.
From Twitter, @DavidRayRamirez: What’s your favorite place to play in America?
That’s a tough one, because each place brings a different element to the party. I’ve always like Atlanta because they’re louder than everyone else. I actually had to put my fingers in my ears once when I came on to wait for them to quiet down a bit. You know when music sounds so loud that it’s making your head shake? It was like that. So Atlanta’s pretty cool. Denver as well. And I love playing New York, Miami, LA. I I literally reel off every city. They’re always awesome. It’s always good.
Eduardo Garcia asked on Facebook: What do you do when you aren’t making music?
Um, either sleeping or eating really. Washing my clothes. Tidying my flat. What I’m saying is I’m pretty much making music all the time. It’s my hobby and my job, so I’m so lucky to do it.
For more on the Music Experiment presented by Intel, and to see exclusive videos, interviews and photos from Of Monsters and Men, Santigold, the Jezabels and Flux Pavilion, head to MusicExperiment.com, now.