Flume: "I Saw Nobody That I Knew For My Birthday"

Harley Edward Streten, AKA Flume, is one of the most influential music producers in the world. Besides that, he's pretty much just like any dude you could meet in a Dalston club on a Thursday night.

Skin still hesitating between teenage-dom and adulthood, 24-year-old Harley has the same haircut and the same sports jacket as most of his fans. Except both probably cost ten times as much as yours did.

Ironically, while he enjoys the fame, money and travelling opportunities that come with his young career, that doesn't stop him missing normal life and the daily struggles experienced by the rest of his generation.

In preparation for writing his second LP Skin, released today May 27 on Future Classics, Flume searched for inspiration by putting himself into situations he wouldn't usually encounter – and it looks like it paid off.

We caught up in a famous Shoreditch pub to talk danger, Chemical Brothers and trips to Mexico.

(Photo: Theo McInnes)

(Photo: Theo McInnes)

Konbini: I read you were protesting to protect Sydney's nightlife with Keep Sydney Open. What's the deal? 

Flume: They're introducing new laws in Sydney. Very strict laws on alcohol consumption, venues etc. Currently you're not allowed into any venues past 2AM. It used to be like, whenever, and the minister has done these lock-out laws. So basically you have to close at 1-something. It's destroying nightlife in Sydney massively.

It's especially damaging small bars and the music scene in general. The music scene that helped me thrive, that inspired me, is being destroyed. So it's kind of personal, so yeah we did a march in Sydney. It was actually my first protest! I had a hat and sunglasses but a couple of people still recognised me.

Why is the new LP titled Skin?

I didn't feel I was in my own skin in the writing process. The first album felt quite effortless, easy. For this one, there was a lot of pressure, expectations. I put a lot of pressure on myself. It was really difficult to do.

I had to really try a lot, work harder. Also I like the concept of skin because it's super intimate. And close. But also very alien and weird. This is what music is for me.

 

"You need to catch that flight, because if you don't catch that flight you won't have enough money to get another flight. You're fucked."

 

Did you use to watch Skins, the series? 

Yeah, I did! The season one and two were great, then it went downhill. I hope I won't go the same way! I loved that show. Seeing Crystal Castles in one of the episodes, I was like "fuck yeah!"

I was a massive Crystal Castles fan, I couldn't believe they were actually in it. I guess today they'd play EDM instead... Or hopefully me. There's a song on the new record called "Wall Fuck", that one would do great in a party scene. It's really intense.

Was that what you were listening to the most when you were in high school, Crystal Castles? 

I listened to a lot of French electro. The whole Ed Banger Records, I was really following that quite closely. Then all sorts of stuff like Prodigy. I saw them live, it was crazy. It's like punk rock almost.

The Chemical Brothers were even better though. They didn't even talk for the whole time. It was just them and a bunch of machines. It's probably the most impressive electronic show I've ever seen in my life. I saw them in Italy, I played before them. It made me go so far.

Studies show that our generation don't make any savings, that we use all our money to travel and live for the moment instead. Do you think that's the right philosophy? 

Everyone is different but I personally like to travel a lot. It's actually how I wrote the first record, by travelling around for three months in Europe. Germany, Berlin, did some music there, lots of songs were also written in London. It was the end of winter but it was still really cold everywhere, I've found it very inspiring.

I was just sleeping in shitty hostels, with six other people in one room. Getting lost, sleeping on the floor at friends' houses. I wished I was home sometimes. I had a couple of serious hangovers after partying a lot, going to Fabric five times in a few days...

It worked very well to work in different studios all the time, now if I work in only one studio, I don't find it very inspiring. I find it difficult to write. I like to write on tour, anywhere but in the studio. I only finish the songs there.

Did you miss that atmosphere in the writing process now that you have money? 

I feel like that everyone in their lives have moments when you feel alive, you experience something new... The first time you kiss a girl, the first time you're independent, that you're in a different country without your mom for the first time.

There's just this rush, this excitement and... I mean you need to catch that flight, because if you don't catch that flight you won't have enough money to get another flight. You're fucked. The danger, the excitement, it sucks all the time but looking back at it it feels like moment you have when you grow up and that are very inspiring.

 

"Fuck this, screw this, I'm wasting my time, I can't do anything, I'm constantly failing, I'm going to Mexico."

 

I had a lot of moments like this during the first record and now I'm just looking for them. When you're comfortable and you have enough money, it's not necessarily... It's great I mean, but it's not necessarily inspiring. Sometimes I feel like I need to put myself in positions where I don't feel comfortable to be able to write.

Travelling somewhere by myself, where I don't know anyone, I don't know where I am. Like I went to Mexico to write the new record. Or once, I just booked a ticket and went to Tasmania.

(Photo: Theo McInnes)

(Photo: Theo McInnes)

Can you tell me more about the trip to Mexico? 

I was going nuts, I was very frustrated, so I was "fuck this, screw this, I'm wasting my time, I can't do anything, I'm constantly failing, I'm going to Mexico."

I was super stressed, I needed to get out of here. It was the day before my birthday, I went to the airport, got a one way ticket and disappeared. At 5AM on my birthday I was flying to Mexico. I saw nobody that I knew for my birthday.

"This is what I'm the most excited about: making the music of tomorrow."

 

So you feel less independent now? 

It's not just independence. It's just about to put myself in situation where I feel alive. Doing something for the first time. And I feel like the older you get, the less moments like this you have.

Let's talk about first times then. When was the first time you kissed a girl, do you want to talk about it?

Not really... But we can go there if you want... It was a a high school dance. When I was maybe... 12? Just a mad passion. Something really violent. I don't know where she is now. Her name was Kathleen.

(Photo: Theo McInnes)

(Photo: Theo McInnes)

As one of the most popular electronic musicians of our generation, do you feel some sort of pressure. Like you're building the future's music?

I hope I am. That's the idea of this project. I want to create something new and hopefully people copy me and people will copy them. I already feel like some people are copying me.

It's frustrating for me because I spent so much time in coming up with these ideas but it's great because it keeps things moving and it keeps me on my toes. It pushes music forward and this is what I'm the most excited about: making the music of tomorrow.

What's is it going to be like? Jean-Michel Jarre told us it might involve quantum physics...

I love the idea. You know music is just vibrations in the air. So if somehow we figure out how tricking emotions, a combination of frequencies that could trigger this or that emotion. How we could scientifically engineer music to give emotions to people.

I know that some artist, before all his shows, he's playing this particular frequency that makes everyone very unsettled, not comfortable. It's inaudible. Then when he comes on, he turns it off. So everyone feels a kind of relief. It's already there, you can do it. Maybe you can apply that to other emotions.

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