Recently we headed to Atlantic Records and sat down with dubstep producer Josh “Flux Pavilion” Steele. We talk about his track being sampled by Jay-Z and Kanye, his upcoming single, his tour of the US, and his inclusion on the BBC Sound of 2012 list.
So you’ve had a pretty big year . What’s been the biggest step changer for you?
Yeah it’s been such a mad crazy. I’d say being sampled by Jay-Z and Kanye west was pretty monumental. I had no idea about it at all. They were in Bath and heard Mista Jam playing I Can’t Stop on Radio 1, and they got really excited and rang my management. I’d just flown over to the states and landed in Texas, and they were like “we need to do some work on I Can’t Stop” and I was just like “Nah, I’m tired, just gonna go to bed”. So they said “You realise it’s for Jay-Z and Kanye West?”, so I just thought “Actually, that’s a pretty big deal…” and got it sorted haha.
Even at that point though I still didn’t really understand how it was going to work. The thing is with Jay-Z and Kanye West, in the UK you mainly hear them coming through the pop charts so it seems like they’re pop stars. I was in the lower east side with Skrillex and we walked into the basement of this hip hop club, and the DJ is just playing 20-30 seconds of each track. I’ve never heard anything like it, it was just mental. Everyone was going crazy, and Skrillex was like “Yeah, this is Jay-Z”, then next track “Yeah, this is Kanye West”, and as I walked out of that club saying “make sure they use I Can’t Stop”.
You have a bit of a background in hip hop anyway don’t you?
I’ve always been a fan of hip hop. My background in music started out by just writing tracks for me to sing on when I was a kid. As a 12 year old kid I thought I can sing, I can drum, I can play guitar, I can make a baseline, and that evolved into making generic electronic music. That turned into hip-hop, and at University one of my housemates was one of the biggest hip-hop fans ever. I got exposed to J-Dilla, Mad Lib and all that kind of stuff, and it turned me into a big hip-hop fan.
What led you to start in music at such a young age?
My parents just always played loads of music, and I grew up listening to Frank Zappa, The Stranglers, Bowie, and having to endure these full Saturday afternoons with my Dad loading up his old VHS tapes of Zappa playing live, and whilst I didn’t really enjoy it as a kid, it’s the exact same thing that I do now! Sit with all of my housemates and get drunk and watch some old Zappa DVDs.
Do you still see traces of that kind of music influencing you now?
I’ve tried to keep the same mentality when I’m writing music. When I first started I was just messing about having fun, but now I’ve got a bit more serious about it, and I’ve realised that I’m thinking the same way about it that I was as a kid. It sounds like an obvious thing, but I’ve always wanted to write music for film, but when you’re a 12 year old kid it’s an incredibly profound thing to think about.
Music for me is all about making it feel and sound emotional, and that’s not really been a part of dubstep up until now.
Is that something you try and bring across through your live shows, where you’re able to communicate visually as well as aurally?
Well I’m starting up a 4 piece live band, and I’ve just recorded a Maida Vale session on Tuesday. We had Example in to sing Daydreamer, and Lisa (from Superbad) too. It was completely live, so we had saxophone, bass, and me playing keys. It’s still the same music, but a completely different orchestration and interpretation of it. I thought I’d do it before anyone else did it!
I’ve always played in live bands and on the new album I’m singing a lot more too, so it’s easily the best way for it to be performed. There’s a way stronger artist to fan connection when I’m singing to a simple DJ set.
You said before that you’re trying to move away from continuous touring live shows, and into a traditional album writing then album tour?
Yeah, I just needed to take some time to collect my thoughts a bit really.
Writing this last album I was still in University, working on my dissertation, and I’d be sitting there writing my coursework and Example would pop round. We’d be there in a student house and we had like 45-50 bin bags sat outside the front door, and he turned up on the week of his number 1 to this horrible student house where he was climbing over bin bags to get to my room. I had him on a camping chair and Sway on the edge of my bed because there was just no room. Then I’d have Diplo round the next week, DJ Fresh round after that, it was just ridiculous.
I went straight from that into touring. I finished University, and the next week I was touring the states. It’s quite nice now to be ale to settle into some form of routine.
How has the reception been across the pond?
It’s pretty mental over there actually! Craziest thing was on the last leg of our tour, in Chicago, we sold out 3,500 tickets to people who had just come to see us. A week later we came back and did a full Circus lineup in Bedford and only had 100 people there, so it made me realise how much bigger America was.
I did a show out there with Cookie Monsta and Feed Me, and it was an all British lineup with me headlining and there was 10,000 people. I had no idea we would get that kind of reception out there!
Who’s the best person you’ve worked with so far, that’s really helped you broaden your horizons?
Definitely Diplo. I used to be quite closed minded about music genres, and I saw it as being very clearly defined. If you wanted to make hip hop you made hip hop, and if you wanted to make indie you made indie, but he’s been in the scene for so long and he’s just done EVERYTHING.
He’s been in the studio a lot recently with Justin Bieber, who I’m not a fan of, but I know that will just make me like him more rather than liking Diplo less. It’s the same thing with Usher. I’ve never been a fan of Usher, but he made Climax with Diplo and it made me see him in a new light.
One of the other things that has raised your profile massively this year is the BBC Sound of 2012 list.
Yeah that was pretty cool. It’s quite intimidating looking at the list of artists who’ve been a part of it, and it’s crazy. As you’re growing up in the UK, the BBC is as big as it gets, and to get recognised by them as an artist is massive. I mean, I’m still producing in my bedroom, so it’s been unbelievable.
Aside from yourself, who else do you see really making waves in 2012?
I’m really feeling Childish Gambino at the moment, but I’d have to say… Doctor P, Cookie Monsta, FuntCase, Roksonix and Slum Dogz. I really feel like those artists are doing something special, and that’s why we’re working together on Circus Records. They’re all game changers for the dubstep industry, and 2012 will be a great year for them all.
Tell me the story about your track being used in the #KONY2012 video.
We got approached directly by the company saying they wanted to use my track, and I just said yes!
Did you have any idea it was going to be so big?
It’s not something you really think about when you’re approached about charity work in all honesty. How big it’s gonna be for your profile isn’t really your man consideration. That said, I remember we heard about it later on when it went huge, and we were just like “…is this the thing we gave the track to?”. It didn’t feel like a charity video, it felt like a massive viral video, and it grew organically. Everyone on reddit sees straight through it if you try and fake something like that.
So you read reddit?
Yeah man, and b3ta, which is just a great digest of all the latest things from across the Internet.
I wish I’d brought a reddit alien for you now, would have been instant karma! What’s the reception been like for that so far?
Absolutely amazing! Whilst I’ve loved making all of my music up until now, I don’t think it’s really conveyed what I’m capable of as an artist, and I think this shows my range a lot better. I wrote it ages ago, but it’s been in the background for a while, and I’m really happy with it. Example and I have talked about doing a track together for ages, and he just asked me to send him a beat to work with. I sent it over, and he is just a hit machine. Within a day he replied, and when I started listening I was just like “there’s a hook… there’s a hook… there’s a hook…”. It was just unbelievable. Absolute joy to work with.
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