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Shlohmo's pace isn't stopping him from making moves—in music and outside it
Words and photography Fabrice Bourgelle PyresPlaces
Getting love for his deeply ethereal and sometimes crunked-out sound, Shlohmo is a producer few people can put their finger on. On his first stint playing in the UK and Europe, he tells Beatnik about his journey so far, why he feels split in two, moving to New York and why it’s best to keep things DIY.
A lo-fi beat junkie and field-recording enthusiast, his crackling, low-BPM compositions resemble more the sound of one’s dreams than speakers. Although what you hear isn’t exactly hip hop, the distant references are all present.
Growing up to “stuff like DJ Shadow, Amon Tobin, M83 stuff with some sort of cinematic vision”, he processed his first beat when he was 14 but feel deeper into the LA beat scene in his late teens. That’s when he discovered the beacon of the city’s glitch beat scene and Flying Lotus’ home away from home: Low End Theory.
After his 2010 debut album Shlomoshun, he raised the stakes further last year with his critically acclaimed Bad Vibes.
Layered with those dirty textures, strange sounds and obscure samples we had become accustomed to, this time there was a greater emphasis on pace and atmospheric beauty, which has now become his signature. The album helped set him apart from other artists within the Beat genre.
Here’s what he had to say.
There’s been a lot of love for the west coast scene for some time now. You are originally a Cali native, what do they put in the water?
I dunno man. It’s weird! We get asked a lot, but I feel there is as much of a buzz around the UK sound for us. The thing that’s interesting with the west coast, I guess, is its history. It has always had this weird, psychedelic, light heartedness, palm-tree flavour whereas the UK has that more grimey and rawness to it. They obviously influence each other.
That having been said, you’ve now moved to New York, how has that been?
Its great man! I mean a lot of people were thinking it would be a weird move for me with music stuff. There’s not as much going on in terms of shows compared to the L.A. scene, or in terms of meeting people and making those connections. But its all irrelevant in the end, the Internet exists, I’m not cut off from the world, and at the end of the day, it’s New York! But to be honest I moved there for life reasons, I’m young and I wanted to try something fresh out while I still had nothing tying me down.Forgot I Was Here
Taking it back a little, what’s been your relationship with music?
Well my dad is a musician, so it has always been around and encouraged. So it wasn’t so much a choice, it was just there if I wanted it. I guess I got a bit older and I really wanted to create something, put out something out there.
There’s a deeply ethereal flavour to your sound, maybe it’s the Cali vibes? Just curious, have you ever dreamt that you’re making music?
No, but actually about every year, around November, December, I get really intense, crazy dreams—for like a month or two. Without fail, for the past three or four years, like really vivid, and I remember every part of them. It’s weird like, one year it was really bad, messed up, like waking up sweating every night, and then the next it was really amazing, all sweet and beautiful.
That actually sounds about right. Tracks like ‘Teeth’, can go from a real lightness to a darker and more rugged vibe, and back again. Do you get to explore that when you play live?
The live set is very different to the recording process at home. It’s far less personal, and more about connecting with the people, the venue and the general vibe. I feed of it, like if they want to dance, then I want to dance. Also I don’t want to be a**ehole, most to the time people are out, and they wanna move, so I try to keep it lively.
You and Salva often appear I the same place, do you guys work together sometimes? Are there any other collaborations you would like to think up?
Well, we’re signed to the same label and we’ve done some touring together, but we’re actually also about to start a collaboration project with a vocalist. I can’t really talk about that right now, but we are definitely looking forward to it.
That label is Friends of Friends. What can you tell us about it?
Man it’s great, it’s a dope label out of L.A. run by a guy called Leeor Brown. It’s his baby really, he does everything from A&R to PR and the rest of business side of things, and its all out of love of what he likes and believes in creatively.
It’s rare to find people who put in the effort like that, who don’t actually make music themselves. He’s got a good ear, and a good eye; we all support him like that. This year is gonna be good year, he’s picked up a whole bunch of great guys, like LOLguys and Tomas Barfod.Wen uuu (Teebs remix)
There’s a strong identity in the imagery accompanying your work, do you get to involved on that side of things, do you look for interaction different mediums outside of music?
It’s funny actually, I never thought I would be doing this as my main ‘job’. I went to Art school for a while, and I do a lot of design, for my own stuff and for the ‘We did it’ imprint. But I basically dropped out of art school because it wasn’t for me. I like what I like, and it can be very specific, there were few people, including teachers that really vibed with me in that way, plus the music was happening so I guess it worked out.
If you weren’t making music, where do you think you would be…?
Man I would probably still be there and hating it, but I think something would have come out of it in the long run. I think it’s a lot easier to see a path in terms of career in music than it is in art world. I’m happy to keep it as a side hobby, and get to do the music full time.
Earlier you mentioned We Did It which is your own project, tell us a little about that.
It’s just the crew really, some friends from high school, we started when we were 17, 18. We were all doing something creative and wanted to put things out there. I like things on a DIY tip, and we try to keep it like that as much as possible, but always with stuff to put out physically, like albums, mad artwork, cassettes, stuff like that.
Back to you. You’ve had a few LPs and a string of EPs, what has been on the cards recently and what can we expect in the future?
I got an EP, called ‘Vacations’ that came out a little while ago. It’s a few tracks plus some remixes by Salva, Groundislava. As for the future, there’s a real split in my music at the moment. With ‘Bad Vibes’, there’s this electronic, dancy, southern Hip-Hop kind of feeling, then there’s also this other side, which is this more folky,lo-fi guitar and vocal thing in me. We’ll have to see how things shape up, maybe.