For this month’s Carhartt WIP Radio show we bring you FloFilz, one of Germany’s most in-demand hip hop producers. Since 2013 he has released instrumental records on labels such as Melting Pot Music and Jakarta, with a style that seductively blends soul- and jazz-influenced grooves.
Exposed to music from an early age by his parents, both of whom were musicians, FloFilz grew up in Belgium, eventually ending up in Aachen near the German border, where he studied the violin and classical music, while also playing in orchestras. Coupled with this upbringing, he cites A Tribe Called Quest's iconic The Low End Theory, released in 1991, the same year he was born, as a key influence on his sound.
FloFilz’s first two albums as a beatmaker were collaborative works, and in late 2014 he released his first solo LP titled Metronom. Four instrumental albums have since followed, cementing his reputation as jazz-connoisseur producer, who seeks to open up the genre to a new generation of listeners, in the same way "The Low End Theory" opened his sonic horizons.
For his Carhartt WIP Radio show, he melds older work with tracks from his upcoming album Transit. The show also features collaborations with up-and-coming UK based artists such as Alfa Mist, Barney Artist, Biig Piig and K, Le Maestro. As usual we also sat down to speak to this month’s host, chatting about his upbringing, Bach and J Dilla, and his thoughts on Germany’s hip hop scene.
FloFilz: My parents are both classical musicians so I’ve always been surrounded by music. I started playing the violin at the age of four and studied classical music later on. I played in orchestras and stuff like that but always loved jazz as well, and at some point got into hip hop from there. I started listening to old school hip hop more and more and one day decided that I wanted to try and create my own beats.
Can you describe us the person you imagine listening to your music?
FloFilz: I feel like it’s hard to generalize in that regard. I’ve been told by people of all ages and backgrounds that they dig my music which I think is awesome and a big advantage of doing instrumental music.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do?
FloFilz: It can be hard to stay inspired, creative and not worry too much about what the future holds. But as soon as I feel that way I take some time off and focus on things that are not music-related, which usually helps.
Do you have a studio or do you produce at home?
FloFilz: I produce at home most of the time. If I work with other people I sometimes hit the studio. For example when I worked with Alfa Mist or Biig Piig for the new album.
What’s the last piece of gear you got for your studio?
FloFilz: I bought an electric guitar because I wanted to try something new, so I’ve been busy trying to teach myself a bit. The intro of Transit(ions) was the first thing I recorded with it.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
FloFilz: They range from Bach and Ravel to Bill Evans and J Dilla ... And I’m always influenced by new artists or releases I dig as well.
What is your creative process like? What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
FloFilz: I mostly go with the flow without really planning anything. Most of the time I start by laying some drums down (which I almost always end up changing completely later on) and then chop up a sample (I generally spend a lot of time digging for those) or play some chords over that. Once the basic beat is there I´ll keep adding more elements.
You have a background in classical music, does this affect the way you produce?
FloFilz: Not too much actually. Or maybe more like indirectly, I guess I know what sounds good but I never really use any theory or stuff like that. But it definitely is helpful, especially for learning new instruments.
What exciting stuff do you have in the pipeline currently?
FloFilz: First of all, my new album Transit that’s dropping on June 14th. I put a lot of work into that one and can’t wait for people to hear it. Other than that, there’s a remix project I’m pretty excited about, and some other things that I can’t go into detail about yet.
What’s your biggest hit to date?
FloFilz: Personally, my favorite track I’ve produced so far is Intro Azul featuring Olivia Wendlandt. But for most people it’s probably one of the remixes I did: “Keepitreal” or “Gitdown” – or “Dulce,” which I never saw coming [laughs].
What advice would you give to producers or DJs who are just starting out?
FloFilz: Do you. Get your music out there, on Soundcloud or even Spotify, and don’t try to force anything. If your music’s dope people will notice sooner or later.
What makes a track exceptional to you?
FloFilz: A track of that I know is going to stay with me forever, reminding me of good and/or bad times. One of those would be Untitled/Fantastic (Instrumental) by Slum Village (prod. by J Dilla), it never fails to take me to another world and brings back lots of memories.
FloFilz:Tyler, the Creator – his new album totally exceeded my expectations. Very fresh and creative yet so soulful. Also, the recent singles by Kofi Stone, make sure to check this guy out.
What do you think about the German hip hop scene?
FloFilz: I’ve not really been following it since, in my opinion, most of it is shit apart from some of the underground stuff.
How was your trip to Japan a couple of month ago? How does the crowd differ from the one over here?
FloFilz: It was amazing. It’s like a different world for sure. I was really surprised by the positive feedback I got. I mean people brought my records for me to sign and I was even asked to sign a phone [laughs]. I also received a lot of tapes by local beat-makers which was really cool. I would never have imagined that so many people are listening to my music over there. The crowd was vibing while really paying attention to the music. The most moving situation (probably since I started making music) was when I played my second gig in a small bar In Tokyo. After my set one of the promoters introduced me to an older blind Japanese man who then told me in the best English he could manage how much he loves my music, that he listens to it everyday and that he’s so happy that I came to Japan. That really hit me and I shed quite a few tears when I was back at the hotel.
FloFilz: It certainly isn’t as bad as most people thought only a few years ago. There’s still a lot of things that could be improved though, and it seems like a lot of people make music only to be placed in one of those big playlists nowadays. I feel like it’s not as much about the artist or the music anymore. If you’re an active listener it’s still a great way to discover new artists though and it’s also great for artists to be discovered by those listeners.
How do you think your generation is going to leave its mark on hip hop?
FloFilz: Probably by making it even more popular than it already is. Especially the sub-genres like instrumental hip hop, which sadly has become a bit bland in my opinion. But luckily there’s still innovative people with visions so I’m excited about its future.
Can you picture a FloFilz trap LP in the future?
FloFilz: Why not, a house one would be more probable though.
What does the term modern mean to you? What do you consider fresh?
FloFilz: In my opinion something can be fresh without being modern, or modern without being fresh. I recently went to an exhibition featuring art from ancient Egypt up until today. There was one painting of a building by an unknown artist from around 1500 which looked a lot like one of those architecture Instagram posts you see today. So, I feel like, to me, something that’s original and timeless is always both – modern and fresh. If that makes any sense [laughs].
Do you feel like music should have a political message in our time?
FloFilz: It’s a huge medium so yeah I think that it should be used for that purpose. Sadly, there’s way too much shitty music with bad messages out there.
Do you have a political message?
FloFilz: Not really. Well some of the vocalists I work with obviously do and I wouldn´t work with someone whose messages I’m not okay with, so indirectly I guess.
What artists would your favorite mixtape include?
FloFilz: I think the best way to answer this would be to suggest you to listen to some of the mixtapes I made, for example the quiet times ones, or another one called in between which I made for Moody Collective.
It’s okay to make mistakes, don’t be afraid of making them.
Who’s your favorite person to follow on instagram?
FloFilz:Kiefer for sure, if you haven’t yet make sure to check out his “I’m fine” story highlights, he’s hilarious, and a great musician and person.
When do you feel most at peace?
FloFilz: When I’m riding a wave on my surfboard.
What do you know now that you wish someone had told you ten years ago?
FloFilz: It’s okay to make mistakes, don’t be afraid of making them.
You are located in Aachen. What are your favorite spots and your hometown that you would recommend to somebody coming for a visit?
FloFilz: Check Tam Tam if you’re looking for a great record store. OECHER Eis-Treff for the best ice cream in town. Explore the historic city centre and visit AKL for the best Lebanese food. Climb the Lousberg for nice views over the city and surrounding areas.