Perhaps the thing to admire most about FaltyDL’s music is the sense of surprise that accompanies each release. Despite his finely crafted signature style, you can never be quite sure what you’re gonna get with a Falty production. This is partly due to the use of intriguing samples – listen carefully and you’ll hear everything from old funk to 90s house snippets chopped up – as well as the producer’s passion for a plethora of musical styles. There’s also his location; based in Brooklyn, New York, he has an entirely different perspective on the many strands of UK dance music that inform much of his work.
His sophomore album, You Stand Uncertain, touched on everything from afrobeat to 2-step and garage via dubstep and old fashioned rave, while his recent single for Irish imprint All City reinvented a late 90s house jam from Shena with the help of crazed overlapping drums and a sparkling bassline. Prior to that was one of our favourite 12″s of 2011 – the Mean Streets EP for Swamp 81 – in which the New Yorker laughed in the face of genre obsessives who throw around the post-whatever phrase all too easily.
This followed a particularly impressive 2010 with killer drops on Rush Hour – the back scratching Cosmin TRG split release in particular – and Planet Mu, the label that has released both of his albums to date, along with a slew of remixes which further established him as one of this generation’s most distinctive and forward-thinking talents. Juno Plus scribe Helen Luu caught up with the producer (real name Drew Lustman) to discuss early plans for his third album, his dream of discovering a vocalist in Brooklyn and how 14 hour shifts as a sushi chef instilled some much needed discipline.
Let’s talk about your album, You Stand Uncertain. It’s a clear departure from your 2009 debut. What’s changed for you in two years?
Touring and DJing exposed me to a lot of new sounds, and I was also able to listen to my own music quite a bit. I was playing (my own tracks) out and seeing how they affect people on the dancefloor. I became a little bit frustrated that I couldn’t play a lot of my tracks and have people dance to them… so I wanted to make more dance-friendly music. And I released some of those as singles here and there, but by the time I began to compile a new album, I had really grown as a producer. Technically speaking, I just became a better at what I do, but I also became more accurate with creating whatever sounds I was hearing in my head. It’s like a writer developing a fluid style and getting out exactly what they’re thinking. I believe I’m getting closer to that musically.
You worked with a couple of vocalists this album too. What was that like, or what brought you to that?
Part of what I like about albums is that there are some vocal tracks, there are some instrumental tracks, and they vary, and I wanted some of that on my album as well. I’m used to lifting acapellas and sampling them and chopping them up, but I really wanted to try working with a vocalist. It proved quite difficult because the two female vocalists on the album both live in England, so I didn’t get any one on one time in a studio; they just sent me stuff. In the end I almost treated their vocals like a sample and cut them up a little bit, but on one of the tracks – the first one with Anneka, “Gospel Of Opal” – her vocals were so great the first time she sent them over, we just used them as they were.
Do you think you’ll be using more vocalists in the future?
Yeah, I would like to. My dream is to discover a vocalist in Brooklyn near me, who has a voice like butter, hasn’t done anything yet and just wants to create an album or project together. I’d like to do a real project with someone, for sure.
What kind of music do you find yourself listening to these days?
I listen to YouTube clips that people send me on iChat [laughs]. I’m on so many promo lists right now that it’s amazing – I don’t even know how they get my email sometimes. I listen to a lot of music that’s in this greater scene of bass music or whatever you want to call it. I do listen to a lot of grime these days as well. I just got sent an amazing mixtape of old soul music called Nice and Slow that my friend picked up at a flea market in Brooklyn. It’s just like fifteen different old soul tracks that I’ve never heard before, and I think I want to go in and sample a lot of those.
I’ve seen your music described in many different ways. It’s often lumped with dubstep and what is generally referred to as bass music. Just wondering what you thought of that, and how you would describe your music if you could?
I would describe my music as ‘dance music that is frustrating to dance to’. I think labelling something is difficult because you create very definite boundaries and it’s hard to then see something existing outside of it. So when you say something is dubstep, or post-dubstep, or bass music, garage, future garage, whatever – I think that does it a bit of a disservice, because it doesn’t allow that genre to breathe and to change and just be what it is. It might not even be fully formed yet and it has a name attached to it already – that can hinder the producer making that sound from exploring it further and enjoying it freely. Personally, I was lumped into dubstep at the beginning, which is not an insult at all, by any means, but I’ve never thought of my music as dubstep because to me, when I think of dubstep, I think of people like Vex’d, Loefah, Kode9 and Mala. I think of the records they were making 4-5 years ago, and then I also think of Skream and Benga and Horsepower Productions, and they all make very different types of music. What was great about dubstep was that it was 140bpm, a lot of bass, half step rhythm, then do whatever else you want to do. And it was a breath of fresh air, and it was changing a lot and it was really amazing. But now, unfortunately, a lot of people have misconceptions of what dubstep is, and I think that can just hinder it from being more accurately perceived in terms of what it is and where it comes from.
I would say that your approach is quite experimental in that it doesn’t adhere to what anyone else is doing…
I finally got the recognition! This interview is over, it’s done – perfect [laughs] No, I mean, it’s nice to hear that, but I think a reason why I came at it from an experimental side is because I was not experiencing it as it was happening in South London in 2003, you know? I heard parts of it as they filtered over the internet and as certain DJs came over to play in New York. But I also grew up listening to lots of different types of music, like electronica and techno, and also 2-step and garage, so I feel like I have just as much influence by those as well, so when I’m mashing them altogether and you’re adding the fact that I have never really experienced it firsthand, and it’s almost coming through like a virgin experience. It’s like the first squeeze of an olive is different than the third or the fourth. So it was just coming out very fresh from my own my fingertips, and I think if it came across as experimental, that’s cool. But it was just the sound I heard in my head, to be honest.
What kind of stuff have you been making in the studio recently?
I’ve been making a lot of afrobeat sounding music, a lot of house music and I still make a lot of 2-step as well. I really appreciate a nostalgic sound texture to music. I also like when you’re hearing a melody that’s not really a suggested melody – when there are lots of different layers of drums and synths and pads and things going on in the samples, you begin to hear a different melody that doesn’t actually exist in any one of those, but they’ve created a different one and it’s faint and you’re like, “Am I actually hearing that? I’m not sure.” I love that sort of feeling of mystery in a song. I think that’s one thing I try and do a lot, and I often find it by mistake and just sort of run with it.
You’re also clearly influenced by hip-hop, jazz and funk. What brought you about to all those different kinds of music? Were there any moments in life that kind of made you interested in all sorts?
My dad, really. I mean, his record collection is just massive. He had all these old jazz records. You’d pull out like an Archie Shepp record, and then behind it would be a Frank Zappa record, behind that would be like a Led Zeppelin record, and behind that would be a Stravinsky record. He was pretty open about me just going through his records, and if I didn’t mess up his needles, I was okay, I could listen to whatever I wanted. So there was like an openness to music in my house growing up, and then I think the way that hip-hop came in was that my cousins – two of my closest cousins, Jamie and Michael – were just so into it, listening to so much. When Wu-Tang came out, my older cousin bought the album, so we had that… when was 36 Chambers? ’96? ’95? I don’t remember when that was but I was 13, and I listened to that and it terrified me, but I was intrigued by it on a musical level and also the message was so foreign to me and my experience growing up. But there were a lot of different things around being played by my family and friends, and I sort of accepted it all.
You mention sampling a lot. Can that be traced back to your early interest in hip-hop?
Yes, absolutely. Of course people sample in electronica as well, but they’re a little bit more hidden, a little more subtle, whereas a RZA beat is just like three amazingly cut up soul samples, overlapped. There was a compilation that came out that was all the tracks that he sampled to make 36 Chambers, and like you’re listening to this track and all of a sudden there’s this two second break and then you’re like, “Oh, that’s the bassline in “Chest Boxing” or “Liquid Swords” or whatever” and it just picks up all the samples he’s ever used. So yeah, I do love doing that – sort of honouring the sample but using it in a different context as well. So that probably comes from hip-hop, it’s fair to say.
You used to be a sushi chef and you’re a big fan of food and cooking. In terms of that, is there anything that crosses over with music and cooking for you, like creatively?
Creatively… yeah, I mean, it’s funny because when you’re working in a restaurant and you want to be creative as well, but you have a pretty strict menu and a boss that doesn’t want you to mess up the dishes whatsoever – especially in sushi, when there’s more classical dishes. But the work ethic I got from working 14 hour shifts in a kitchen definitely made me appreciate the amount of time when I got home to work on music. And so right now, because I’m so lucky that I’m just doing this, I try and get up early and just make music and treat it almost like a 9 to 5 in a sense, that I can get it done during the day.
What can we expect from you in the next little while, production wise?
I’m going to do more work with Swamp 81 – another 12-inch with them. My remix of Photek remix should come out very soon. I’m making a ton of tracks and I think a lot of them will go towards my next album – that will probably be about March of next year. A few singles this year, more gigs, and then hopefully an album next year. And just keep going. I think I’ve found a formula that I like.
Is there any sort of departure for your next album at all?
It’ll be difficult to say. In about eight months, I’ll look at the 50 or so tracks I’ve made over the last half a year or so and see if there is any one style that I’ve developed in that time, and if I can compile them into something coherent. As I said, I’m really interested right now in afrobeat music, sampling it and recreating it, but also treating it with a lot of respect because it’s from a culture that is so different from anything I’ve ever experienced. I don’t want to be disrespectful to it whatsoever. But I would love to go to Africa and see a lot of live musicians out there.
Interview: Helen Luu