On this episode of our WIB meets Interview series, we connect with UK producer FlamesYall. The beatmaker got on our radar via a song he produced for Montreal based Australian emcee Cee. That’s some solid international networking right there. As expected, we get to prick his brains on his favorite shows, his favorite persons and of course a David Moyes story.
Check our Archives for more on FlamesYall
For the benefit of anyone who’s been living in an underground bunker for the last ten years…who on earth are you?
FlamesYall, beatmaker/producer from the UK.
How did you get started in music, and what drives you to continue?
I’ve always loved music (as has everybody!) and fell in love with Hip Hop in 1989. After a while, I found myself checking for the producers more than I was checking for the emcees. I knew that if a track had a dope beat, then the rest would take care of itself. You
can’t have an emcee with a wack beat. Plus, your head doesn’t nod to an accapella, but it does nod to a banging instrumental (You can ‘screwface’ to both though…) I began to produce maybe 9-10 years ago, to give a little back and to become involved in the music I love.
Do you remember the first beat you ever made? How did you go about it?
I do! I used to use GarageBand, a great free music production tool on the Mac, and would used the pre made sample/loop library. I would chop them up and arrange the drums myself, and it was a year or so before I worked out how to import existing tracks as
sample material and chop up drumlins myself. I still have the first ever track I produced that features an emcee, all made with GarageBand loops.
If a movie about your life in music was to be made, what interesting/strange moments and stories would you share to make the movie cool?
Ermmmmmmm… Not sure! I do this part time for the love, so unless a movie of me sitting at my Mac, late at night, in my living room chopping loops and EQing drums is interesting, then I don’t know. I do work with US emcees, and I’m based in the UK, so the
emailing and such back and forth is pretty cool, but not great film material! Are there any other interesting facts about you that hardly anyone else knows? Hmmmm, I love running. I run 10k about 3 times per week. It gives me the opportunity to catch up on all the latest music as I don’t get a chance at home or work to listen to much stuff. It’s also a great chance to listen to my projects as I’m working on them and make mental notes on what tweaks and changes need to happen in the mix. And it keeps me fit.
What is the greatest thing about working in the music industry? And what would you change if you had the opportunity?
I wouldn’t class myself as working in the music industry. I’d love to, but I’m not sure it’ll happen. Things I would change, from my perspective though, is opening up the UK scene more – It’s hard to find UK emcees that aren’t already involved with their ‘in house’
teams, compared to US artists who are (seem to be) willing to work with anyone. I’d love to work with more UK artists. Plus, my Hip Hop is very ‘classic Hip Hop’ sounding and the UK isn’t.
Looking back, what have been the most important moments in your life so far?
Musically? I would say my JackamoBrown remake EP. Jackamo is a folk singer, who is signed to my friends label and he released a folk album. I was lucky enough to be able to sample and chop the hell out of it, get some dope emcees and have it released/supported
by Jackamo and Scroobius Pip, the label owner. That introduced a fair few people to me, in terms of ‘fans’. Before that, all the people following me on social networks we friends and peers… It makes a difference when you start getting some consumers/fans.
What have been the biggest highlights?
Every time I release an EP and it is featured on great blogs, such as WiB, and it is downloaded and streamed by the kind people out there. Whether it’s 10 listens, a 100 or a 1000, I’m pleased.
What has been your biggest challenge…and how did you overcome it?
In the early days, I couldn’t understand why my beats always sounded so quiet and flat compared to others, but this was all part of the learning process. I knew nothing of the science and math behind making beats, only about the chopping and looping process.
Luckily, I know some really great musicians and producers who have shared their knowledge with me and now the science and math is actually my favourite part of the beatmaking process. I love to learn. Actually, ha ha, it’s a pain in the backside learning
sometimes, as when I make a new project, I have a new technique, or process to mix and master, which I hadn’t used on a previous project, which then makes the previous project sound dated… So I have to go back and re mix/master the old project! In fact, I’ve just
removed 3 EPs from my BandCamp to do just that before I put them back up… about 30 songs in total!
Who are your heroes? Why do they rock your world?
All producers on this one – J. Dilla, Madlib, Kev Brown, Nicolay, 9th Wonder, Pete Rock, Diamond D, DJ Premier, J. Rawls, RZA, Q-Tip… And probably about a hundred more. They all have a specific and recognisable style and something unique that they use in
their sound. The more I listen, the more I learn. Plus, their music is timeless. I can listen to a Pete track, or a RZA track and it still sounds ahead of it’s time. In terms of influencing my style specifically, I’d say it is Kev Brown, Dilla and Madlib. I like that mix
of cleanliness and rawness, with kick drums in your stomach and snares slapping your face.
Who have been the coolest, most memorable people you’ve met along the way, and how did they make an impact on your life?
My good friend, Scroobius Pip. He has literally gone from recording demos in his bedroom, and performing to a handful of people, to releasing albums that chart, selling out every live show and festival he plays and owning his own record label (plus much
more). The absolute example of unwavering hard work, focus and dedication. When you’re sitting on the porch age 97 what would you like to look back on and smile having achieved? That people have enjoyed the music I have made.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
Having been listening to Hip Hop from 1989, I’ve been lucky enough to have attended some classic gigs in the UK, from PE, to Dre (Chronic tour), to Wu (36 Chambers Tour), Pete and CL, Notorious BIG, but the most inspirational would be the J. Dilla gig at the
Jazz Cafe, London, in the November 3 months before he died. He did the whole gig in a wheel chair, covered in a blanket. Emotional. What has been your strangest celebrity encounter? I was in a toilet once, at the same time as David Moyes (Then Everton manager – Him, not me). Scary shit.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
I’d be terrified if I had a dead dinner guest.
What are the greatest songs, albums, books, movies, TV shows, websites you’ve ever come across?
Wow, this is an infinitely expanding answer. I’m obsessed with the Listverse website – I’ve lost many hours reading the various random lists. One of the greatest songs of all time is Carole King’s ‘Up On The Roof’. It’s perfect. TV show would either be ‘Breaking
Bad’ or ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’. Album… I’m not answering! Too many. I read tons of ‘leadership’ books and the movie would have to be Fight Club (And Chuck Palahniuk is my favourite author).
Name 5 songs (yours excluded) that we would expect to find on your iPod or Music Player
Probably the 5 songs that inspire me most to produce…
ATCQ – ‘Lyrics To Go’
Kev Brown – ‘Albany’
Slum Village – ‘Players’
Nas – ‘The World Is Yours’
Pete Rock – ’T.R.O.Y’
What special-hero type skills are you blessed with?
Well, I’m a father of 3, so it has to be that!
Where can everyone reading this interview keep up with your adventures?
I have a ‘behind the music’ blog, where I share the stories of how my tracks are made – www.flamesyall.tumblr.com
Twitter – @flamesyall
Facebook – www.facebook.com/flamesyall
BandCamp – www.flamesyall.bandcamp.com (Albums/EPs)
Soundcloud – www.soundcloud.com/flamesyall (Instrumentals/remixes)
Any final thoughts?
Yeah, thank you for this opportunity. These were some really great questions, and I enjoyed answering them! And keep checking for my music… I do it for the love and I share it for free.