After King Britt released his cosmic and wonderfully futuristic AFTER… album under his enlightened ambient Fhloston Paradigm alias, he pivoted back to the dance floor and presented three remix EPs.
On …MATH Pt. 2 he tapped Boston bred DJ/producer/Mindwarp label head John Debo for a dose of his sound. The result is a spectacular interpretation that allows one veteran to stand confidently on the shoulders of another.
Curious to know more about their process, we paired Britt and Debo for a co-interview. The result is a must-read conversation touching upon the creative process, collaboration, and the relationship between learning and teaching.
Fhloston Paradigm’s …MATH Pt. 2 EP featuring remixes by John Debo, OddKidOut Remix and Pow Pow is out now on Kingbrittarchives.
John Debo: King, you have been making music for as long as I can remember. You’ve written and recorded under a handful of different names over the years — Fhloston Paradigm, Sylk 130, Scuba, and The Nova Dream Sequence to name a few. Do the creative and production processes differ from one guise to another?
King Britt: Absolutely. Each pseudonym has a related genre. Fhloston is more experimental, whereas Sylk 130 is soul/funk, etc. I approach each project with a set of parameters that are used to create the basic blueprint for the sonics, which steers the direction of the writing.
King: When you did the remix for “…MATH,” what was your approach? I feel you are moving into new territory with your amazing production now. Did teaching change your perspective?
Debo: Thanks, man! One-hundred percent. One of my favorite things about teaching is working alongside experienced, talented musicians, producers, and engineers. Masters of their respective crafts, if you will. There were days where we would spend hours full on geeking out, talking hardware, software, workflow, sound design, iPad apps — you name it man!
When I’m in remix mode, it is absolutely paramount that I keep the musical integrity and structure of the original composition intact. I never quite understood the remix that sounds nothing like the original. That being said, I make it a point to repurpose some of the actual stems, while programming additional sounds and recreating melodies that fit the vibe of my interpretation.
With “…MATH,” it was my first time remixing an ambient composition. There were so many great bits to choose from! I wasn’t sure if I was going to do something experimental, or something for the dance floor. The original string part was so sick it became the anchor for the remix. Around that, I recorded an atmospheric drone, and then wrote the bass part, directly inspired by the bass drop in the original. I did quite a bit of experimentation, feeding sequenced quantized voltages into the FM input of one of my complex oscillators, and via trial and plenty of error, ended up with that haunting string melody that weaves in and out of the mix. Happy accidents! Once those bits were in place, the remix literally finished itself. Not knowing the type of mix I was going to deliver until the very end, the beat actually was the last thing I programmed.
Debo: You’ve collaborated with quite a few songwriters, vocalists and musicians over the years. Is there a special technique in getting said talents to feel and vibe with the electronic instrumentation in your songs?
Britt: Usually, each collaboration is extremely organic. Lately, we have been starting from scratch (like the Fhloston album). There is always a said respect for each other and each other’s aesthetic which makes it easier. One of my favorites was producing the latest Clara Hill album (singer for Jazzanova), the back and forth creatively was extremely organic and fun!
“I approach each project with a set of parameters that are used to create the basic blueprint for the sonics, which steers the direction of the writing.” — King Britt
Britt: I am excited to see you work more with singers. I feel your sound is ready.
Debo: Thanks, man. Directly off the back of this project spawned a bunch of new compositions that I can definitely hear vocals on. Know any good vocalists I can collaborate with?! Haha.
Debo: When in the studio, you have been known to wear many different hats from songwriter, producer, remixer, artist, and often several at once! Is there a role you prefer more than the others, and if so, why?
King: I feel it’s all part of being a composer now, because the lines are blurred in the studio. Many of us (especially DJs) know exactly the sound of what we want. We also know the technical aspect of it from listening to so many records. Over the years, out of necessity, I learned to engineer, mix, and now master. Budgets aren’t what they used to be!
“There are times I’ll be working with a patch idea for hours, and then accidentally grab the wrong knob and BOOM! Magic!” — John Debo
King: As a teacher do you think there is an exact science to learning? Is trial and error still the best? Do you embrace the happy accidents?
Debo: Teaching can definitely be a trial and error process. While the material doesn’t change, the method of delivery varies from student to student. What resonates with one may not resonate with the next. Sadly, there is no dossier informing the instructor how said student best absorbs the material. This whole experience has opened my mind, helping me break free from my old paint by numbers workflow, fully embracing the trial & error process of experimentation. More often than not, the errors far outweigh the trials, if that makes any sense? This scientific approach can be a breeding ground for happy accidents, that is if you have the patience to test the boundaries. There are times I’ll be working with a patch idea for hours, and then accidentally grab the wrong knob and BOOM! Magic!
Debo: Finally, where is the best place to find a proper vegan Philly cheesesteak in the City of Brotherly?
King: Hahahahaha oh shit… you gotta ask [Josh] Wink. For chicken cheesesteak, it’s Fishtown Pizza. For a normal one, it’s Tony Luke’s.