Monday, 23 November 2009

INTERVIEW: Fantastic Mr Fox [Black Acre]

Taking an idea and running with it - much like his namesake’s hatred for Boggis, Bunce and Bean - Fantastic Mr Fox has this year found his music released on labels as diverse as Hemlock, 2nd Drop and Black Acre. Purveying a deeply off kilter love of snatched melodies and four to the floor kick drums his next EP ‘Sketches’ is definitely set to turn heads firmly in his direction, so aiming to stay ahead of the curve as ever, we asked him to take our text test and provide a mix for the ongoing series.

Sonic Router: Can you provide those who may not know you with a bit of background info?

FMF: I’m 21, originally from Wolverhampton, now based in Manchester - I’ve been producing since 2002. Done lots of remix stuff and over the last year or so have started releasing my own music.

Outside of music who are you? What do you do on the daily?

I’m a student in my final year at Manchester University, trying to make myself do uni work instead of spending hours on end clicking and staring at a cubase grid.

How did you first get into making music? What was it that infected you to do produce?

My older brother had always been in bands from when he was young so he’d picked up lots of production knowledge through that and started to teach me the basics on fruity loops when I was 14. I got addicted to it pretty quickly, for the first few years I made music I didn’t really have a clue how to make any particular genre, I just used to churn out loads of weird 1-2 minute loops and then stick out of time acapellas over the top.

What’s your production set up like?

Pretty basic- just cubase sx3 on a pc, when I’ve got the money I think I might invest in a synth.

How would you describe your sound to someone zoning in for the first time?

Urmm, melodic, beat driven, textured maybe..?

Whats with the FMF moniker? Big fan of Roald Dahl...?

The FMF moniker is a pretty rubbish story, I needed a name for my myspace page and didn’t want to use my real name (Stephen Gomberg) because it’d sound like I was a German hard-house producer. I searched my house for ideas and found a stack of tapes I used to listen to when I was younger and one of them was the Fantastic Mr Fox story tape, so I decided to use that.

Tell us about your production partner in crime Rich Reason how did you hook up and how do you all work in the studio?

Rich runs a night in Manchester called Hit n Run that I go to quite a lot and I’d been producing a couple of songs for Riz MC, who he’d started the club night with, so we started talking because of that link. I gave him some of my music and he asked to have a go at making some beats together. For our collaborations, I’d make the beat and the main melody, background noises etc, then Rich would come round and help add ideas and structure to the tunes.

You’ve already dropped one Black Acre 12” but I see your debut solo EP ‘Sketches’, what can we expect from that?

I think of all the releases so far, it’s the one I’m most happy with, especially a track on there called 'If I.' It’s coming out as a double 10” release with some absolutely amazing artwork by the Beat Street Collective, who I met out in Berlin when me & Rich played at their night ‘Sirius.’ The EP features three tracks of mine and a remix of ‘Sketches’ by Sbtrkt. It will be out early 2010.

I think you first came to our attention with the Hemlock remix 10” of Untold’s ‘Yukon’ and the 12” after that how did those tracks come about and do you have more plans in the works for the label?

I’d heard Untold’s music on his myspace a year or so ago, so I messaged him to ask if I could remix something and he sent me some parts for ‘Yukon.’ I sent back my remix the next day and luckily he really liked it, so it got released on Hemlock a few months later. With the Rich Reason joint release, those two tunes were the first couple of attempts I’d made at making beats around 140bpm instead of my usual hip-hop comfort zone of 85-100 bpm. We were really unsure about what people would think of Plimsoul and Bleep Show, so I sent them onto Jack (Untold) mainly for constructive criticism but in the hope he might want to put them out. Him and Andy (who he co-runs Hemlock with) liked both tracks so it progressed from there. I think there might be a remix release of one of those songs at some point, not sure yet, but I can’t heap enough praise on that label- Untold & James Blake are two of the best producers around at the moment.

How would you describe your sound, I saw Black Acre describe you as ‘the universe's greatest purveyor of clockwork garage’ does that fit you nicely ? If so what comes next?

I’ve got no idea really, I suppose that my beats sound quite clockworky. Not sure what my future productions will sound like- I hated 4x4 drum patterns not that long ago, and now half the tunes I make have a 4x4 beat, so who knows what’s next

You do share an affinity to more hip hop productions... is that more of the background you come from?

Yeah definitely, I think the main thing for me is the drum sounds used by people like Madlib, J Dilla, and then the detail in production of artists like RJD2 (early stuff not his last couple of albums), El-P, Prefuse 73, Four tet etc.

Tell us about the mix you’ve turned in, what tracks are you really feeling at the moment?

I put it together on Ableton, which I’ve learnt the basics of recently. There’s a few of my songs then others from producers I’ve discovered over the last few months, look out for a ridiculous Destiny’s Child remix from James Blake. There’s so much good music around at the moment that its hard to make lists, but I’m really enjoying all the Mount Kimbie, Airhead – new age Burial type stuff, oh also ‘Joplin’ by Loops Haunt.

See you included Can Ox... Did you adore the golden age of Def Jux as much as I? What do you think made them so successful at that time?

Yeah, I love all that stuff, ‘The Cold Vein’ is one of my favourite albums. I guess the success came firstly from the fact they were releasing amazing music, but I also think labels like Def Jux and Stones Throw have benefited massively from the rise of the internet and in particular myspace- as it meant they didn’t need to worry so much about getting on MTV or radio.

What do you reckon to the Vast Aire/El-P beef?

Didn’t know there was one, I’ll google it and get back to you...

What have you got in store for us in the near future with releases and what not?

I’ve just finished a remix for Desto, got quite a few new songs in progress but they all need a lot more development. There’s a tune me and Rich Reason made a while ago called ‘Larry David’ that will be coming out on Black Acre along with Sukh Knight remix of ‘Fall.’

Have you got any words of wisdom for our readers?

Buy Blue Daisy’s new EP, I think it’ll be out by the time this interview goes up.


DOWNLOAD: Fantastic Mr Fox – Sonic Router Mix


1. Cannibal Ox - Pigeon
2. Dizz1- Konotakosuke Yaro
3. The XX – Basic Space (Pariah Remix)
4. Deadboy – U Cheated
5. Fantastic Mr Fox – If I
6. Fantastic Mr Fox – Sketches
7. Simian Mobile Disco – Cruel Intentions (Joker Remix)
8. Fantastic Mr Fox & Rich Reason – Bleep Show (Desto Remix)
9. Slugabed – Goulash
10. Destiny’s Child – Bills Bills Bills (James Blake Refix)
11. Desto – Can’t Take It (Fantastic Mr Fox Remix)
12. Darky Sky – Ghost Notes


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