Joshua Steele, better known as Flux Pavilion, is famed for hits ‘I Can’t Stop’ and ‘Basscanon’. The co-founder of UK label, Circus Records, he has embarked on a monster ‘Freeway’ tour of America and the UK and has just released the accompanying Freeway EP on 11th November. I caught up with him as the American leg of the tour draws to a close.
At the moment you’re in the middle of your ‘Freeway’ tour, and you’ve just released your latest EP of the same name. What has been your favourite moment so far?
Well, it’s hard to think of it when I’m in the middle of it. Maybe not favourite, but strange; breaking my arm. It’s been an interesting tour, with not drinking.
Is that one of the repercussions of the injury?
Well it’s kind of interesting doing that many shows without a drink. You know when you go out you always have one or two, it’s just kind of a thing. Every night is a Friday or Saturday night when you’re on tour. And it gets really really interesting, it’s given me a lot of perspective on my performance and ways of bettering it. It’s been a really cool experience to change things up rather than just having my set how I do it. This is my life, my performance, and then all of a sudden losing an arm, I’m like well, shit, I can’t do the things I’m used to now. I have to actually think about what’s going on.
How has it been, practically, DJing with one arm in a sling?
It’s been interesting, there’s a lot of stuff I can’t do, but it’s pretty cool, it’s quite fun at points where you’re just like turning down the bass, filtering it down a little bit, bit of reverb. Rather than doing all of these things with two hands, I have to do them in small increments really quickly and it creates a different sound. I really have to think about what I’m doing and be considering everything. It’s kind of like doing a regular set with one hand is like doing a four deck set with two hands in a way.
The first half of your tour has been in America, so how do the gigs across the pond compare with ones back here in the UK?
The cities are different, the people have American accents. [laughs]
There are all the same social differences that exist in day-to-day life. The reaction to music is still the same; the passion is still the same. They’re a lot more vocal in America. It’s very ‘hands in the air’, they haven’t quite perfected the drum and bass brock out, which is very London – going to the end where it’s not many people there, people perfecting their drum and bass groove. The only thing I don’t see over here is that real rock out drum and bass groove that you see people do. But I’m coming back to England on the tour, so I’ll see enough of that.
Your new EP Freeway has a lot of big tunes on it, my personal favorite being ‘Gold Love’. Which track do you think has been recieving the best response from fans at your shows?
They’re all going down really well.
Glad to hear it.
My favourite reactions were to the track ‘Freeway’ itself. A lot of people start moshing to it, all the cheers and clapping that you get from a live act performance. That’s the one moment where I feel like I’ve been the closest to an actual live act in a sense. I put that track on there as a track that’s like ‘yeah that’s a sound that I’m really into’ something I really want to progress with. So I’m glad it’s been getting a really good reaction. I haven’t played it in the UK yet, so I’m interested to see how it goes down.
The EP also sees you collaborate with Steve Aoki, who’s recently been ranked number eight in DJ mag’s ‘Top 100’ Poll. What does a collaboration like that bring to your production?
It’s just nice to hang out with someone who thinks differently I guess. Whereas I would sway towards my own set of production techniques, another person looks at things a completely different way. So it’s just interesting because then the build up is done in a way that I would never do it and in the breakdown and the intro. It’s always inspiring listening to other people’s music, but when you get to experience other people’s process of writing music, there’s deeper inspiration there because you’re like ‘ah I never looked at it like this’.
I’ve been working on a track with these guys from New York and it’s a big electro-ish acid track, but it progresses and doesn’t do the same section twice; it just keeps changing. It keeps moving, it’s not just intro, drop, breakdown, drop, it just goes to the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. It’s really interesting, living in the dance music world, it’s all about carving that one perfect loop. With the new EP, we’ve tried to actually write songs that change and have different sections in, like ‘I’m The One’. It has a different second drop, moving from dance music and more towards song writing.
How did it feel when you were told Jay-Z and Kanye West wanted to sample your track, ‘I Can’t Stop’?
As good as you’d imagine it’d feel. It was surreal. I found out just when I’d landed in the states for the first time. I’d never been to America and it was a completely new environment. As a human being, to hear that was quite overwhelming. But I was quite dubious at first, Jay-Z and Kanye West have always to me been like a pop act because of the way that their music is presented in the UK. We don’t have the big hip-hop scene. But being in America and then experiencing how hip-hop works over here, that’s what blew my mind the most, with my perception of those guys as artists. Actually it was all about how their music had been presented to me, not how the music sounded. It sparked off quite a lot of thoughts about presentation and marketing. How you present your music, that’s how people will perceive it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what it sounds like, and that’s an interesting idea; I’ve been thinking about a lot since then.
I was watching those two perform at a festival on TV and just heard ‘I Can’t Stop’ drop in and was just blown away, like ‘what’s that doing in there?’ To be honest I was really stoked with what they did with it.
So which artists are inspiring you at the moment?
It’s more the people that I’m hanging out with that I get a lot more inspiration from. All the Circus guys, Brown and Gammon especially. The stuff they’re doing is really pushing the boundaries of what they want to create, and that’s really inspiring. Sometimes it’s not the music that’s inspiring, but the approach towards it, which is why I think Sonni (Skrillex) has inspired a generation; he makes great music, but also his attitude and the way that he did it had never really been done before. That was what was really exciting. I always find myself more inspired by people’s mentalities and the way that they direct their passion.
Recently dance and electronic music have been recieving a greater mainstream popularity. As a co-founder of a record label (Circus Records), how is this affecting you and your fellow artists?
I don’t know really. I personally try not to think about it.
I guess you just try and go about things the way that you’d normally do them.
I don’t look at it like, ‘ah electronic music, dubstep, drum and bass, all this stuff is popular now’. I feel like the norms of musical creation have shifted. It’s not about what’s popular, it’s about how people are viewing writing music now. Like when I was a kid obviously if you wanted to get into music you’d play guitar. That was the norm. Now, with technology, you get a copy of Reason; get a copy of Cubase. I think that’s why electronic music has gone into the mainstream because the new generation of people that have access to electronic music creation are the people doing the most exciting stuff. I think that will have a knock on effect in the future in terms of how music is going to pan out.
There’s still obviously so much you can do with a musical instrument, but with new technological music advances I feel like you can create a solo on a synth that still hits those notes. You could make a Hendrix solo by playing it on a synth and copying it in Reason. I think that’s why electronic music is so popular now. All the new geniuses have it at their disposal now, and they don’t have to be great at playing guitar, or learn the drums or learn the bass, you can just sit in the studio. Now you’ve got Disclosure and Flume, these guys who were obviously great composers, great musically minded people, because they have access to electronic music. How they’ve chosen to display their talent, I think, is pretty awesome.
Rather than having to go out and form a band, you’ve got greater creative power as an individual.
I think it’s not because electronic music is flavour of the month. I think it’s a sign of the times. What happened over the last couple of years is a significant change that will affect the future, not just like a flash in the pan like, ‘ah yeah remember when that was popular’.
You’ve released two EPs this year, and it’s been a pretty big year. What are you looking forward to the most in 2014?
I’m going on a bit more of a world tour. I’m going to South America, a place I chose in India, and we’re going to head up to Japan and Asia. I’m really looking forward to those experiences, just being able to play music in completely different environments; getting to experience stuff outside of western culture. I just realised, I’ve been all over the place, but I’ve only really existed within western culture, like Australia, America and mainland Europe. I really want to see how music is received, especially over in Japan.
I’m moving forward with more singing and writing a lot more songs on piano. I want to orchestrate actual songs I’ve written on guitar into electronic music, rather than just singing over a beat that I wrote.
That sounds pretty good.
Yeah, just kind of doing my thing, going back to how I used to write music when I was a kid really, when I was like 14, 15, when it was most exciting. Like a whole world of possibilities. Just trying to keep my head in that space makes it more fun.
Flux Pavilion embarks on the UK leg of his ‘Freeway’ Tour on the 29th November, and plays the Bournemouth O2 Academy on Tuesday 3rd December.