When I found out that I was going to get to interview Freaky Flow I practically lost my shit, in order to explain why I need to give you some background. When I was in the ninth grade (circa ’99) I was introduced to skateboarding by some mates, I was complete shit but it was all in good fun. While skating we would always have a stereo and some tunes playing on it. It was during this part of my life that some friends introduced me to jungle/dnb. This style blew my mind! I had never heard anything even remotely like it and to this day I can proudly say that one of the first dnb-esque albums that I ever heard was “Obscene Underground: Volume 1″ which to most who know is fondly known as “Tits” (look at the cover if that doesn’t make any sense to you). Naturally my tastes in music, as with most people’s, has been shaped by things from the past. So without further ado I present the one, the only Freaky Flow!
Viking Says: Can you tell us about your name? What is the story behind it?
Freaky Flow: First, thanks for making the time, and good to be back in Toronto! Been so long since I played here. Winchester on Friday, people, down by Parliament. All liquid funk. LET’S DO IT. Alright then, the name, eh? Damn, that’s going back to my high school days, pre- www.freakyflow.com. Hell, that’s even pre-internet! Well, when I first starting spinning back in 1993, I was playing mainly hiphop records. About a year later, a friend introduced me to jungle music at a rave. Within a short span of time, I really loved that genre also, and I decided to start buying jungle records too. One of the things I loved about it was that it was about twice the speed of a lot of hiphop, and it had a similar groove to much of the hiphop back then. I thought it would be fun and interesting to blend the two genres together and incorporate scratching. Nowadays, you see this all the time, but back in 1994, pre-widespread internet, even though I knew about DJ Hype and his amazing scratching, I didn’t know anyone at all who was straight mixing hiphop and jungle records together, although I’ve since learned that there were a few others in faraway cities – your J. Smooths, your Danny the Wildchilds, your R.A.W.s, your Capital J’s, who I guess was in London, Ontario back then – doing similar things, all of us unbeknownst to one another. Well, when I did this – even mixing other genres in too – I really liked the way it all sounded together, and so did fans. But other Toronto hiphop DJs and promoters weren’t having it… They didn’t want me bastardizing their beloved hiphop with some strange electronic music. And other Toronto jungle DJs and promoters weren’t having it either. They were playing and booking strictly jungle, and didn’t want hiphop and scratching infiltrating their scene. So, amongst other DJs and promoters, I quickly felt ostracized, an outcast, a freak – my “flow” on the decks was “freaky”, and it freaked certain people out, a lot of the gatekeepers in fact, and so it was a tough start, with a lot of barriers for me. But the FANS took to it immediately; the open-minded ones, at least – the ones that recognized that both hiphop and jungle were originally built upon a hybrid of other genres anyway – supported me and what I was doing. And it didn’t take too long for a few out-of-the-box thinkers to recognize the fan support and book me for shows. Although, many of these early promoters were in cities far from my hometown of Toronto. I think it also goes without saying that I was, and still am, a big fan of early Gang Starr and Jeru the Damaja records. As it turned out, in Jeru the Damaja’s single, “Come Clean”, he has a lyric that goes, “got a freaky, freaky, freaky, freaky flow”. Obviously, this was a major contributing factor too. Since I loved, and still love, to scratch, I realized that if I chose the stage name “Freaky Flow”, then I would already have my name on wax, and I could use that to scratch with any time I wanted to.
VS: When and why did you start playing?
FF:Well, as I said, it was back in 1993 – I remember, because one of the first records I ever bought was “’93 ‘Til Infinity”, by Souls of Mischief. Ha! You see, as early as 1990, I was in love with hiphop. But, strange enough, it was the beats that caught my ear even more than the rhymes. And in hiphop, the beats always come with the DJs and the scratching. Anyway, after a while, I got tired of being a passive listener, and I wanted to be an active participant. And when I saw the movie Juice, well, that just put my interest over the top.
VS: What kind of gear do you use when playing live?
FF: Don’t laugh, but I’m still using two turntables and a pretty standard mixer, and all vinyl too. A couple of DJs still laugh at me when they see me pull out a physical, actual dubplate. I don’t blame ‘em! You can hear the vinyl cracks and pops still even in my new mixes that I give away. Don’t believe me? Check ‘em out. I’m putting up new ones for free every few months on the SoundCloud and Facebook pages.
VS: What about when producing/recording?
FF: Lately, I’ve been working here in LA with a couple of really talented producers here, co-writing some songs with them at their studios. They use all Pro-Tools and soft-synths. I come from the hardware world, so when I work with them, I’m really the idea guy, and they are great at executing the ideas, and incorporating their own ideas too. It’s all coming together real nice – I’ll post some new teasers of tracks on the Facebook page, and other release info about them, as soon as everything’s ready.
VS: If money were not an issue then what would be your dream setup?
FF: Is reality not an issue too? If so, then my dream setup is a machine that I plug into my brain, and the machine spits out the song that I’m thinking of. But, if we have to live in reality, and I have unlimited funds – which is a paradox in and of itself – then, honestly, I’m quite content working with those dudes on the Pro-Tools setup. I never feel creatively limited by the equipment.
VS: Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
FF: There are just way too many to name. But let me ramble off a couple. MJ is near the top of the list. Do I really need to explain why? Prince is way up there too; so many amazing melodies. James Brown brought the funk like no other – almost single-handedly, he laid the foundation for hiphop without even knowing that he was doing it! People are also surprised to learn that I’m a big fan of Fleetwood Mac – when you listen to their whole catalog, it sounds like you’re listening to, like, 20 different bands. But I guess, in many ways, with all their line-up changes and drama, that’s exactly the case! Hmmm… What else… Gang Starr is my favorite hiphop act of all time. Premier’s beats fit Guru’s lyrics so perfectly. A Tribe Called Quest is in there at a close second. Sufjan Stevens is great for chilling out, and the dude is so damn versatile! Plus, his live show is absolutely nuts. Man, Hall and Oates – so many classics. LTJ Bukem still murders it every time. Most of what The Neptunes have done blows my mind. And then there’s Radiohead, too. Sorry, man, it’s hard to stop once I get going. I’ve got over 15,000 tracks in my iTunes library, and I rarely have to skip anything when I set it to shuffle. I think I might start posting some Spotify playlists soon so people can hear other stuff I like outside of drum and bass.
VS: Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition and how do you deal with it?
FF: Well, I haven’t actually “competed”, like “battled”, in years! In the few early battles that I was in, I did notice that a turntablist’s goal is to make the crowd stop and watch, awestruck – an amazing talent, in its own right. But that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to make people dance. Nowadays, I don’t get nervous any more about the shows. But I DO get nervous about missing flights. How do I deal with it? I arrive way too early, and then sit around the boarding gate like a chump. Ha!
VS: What advice would you give to beginners?
FF: Honestly, success with DJing, like most anything else I’ve seen, is about 99% dependent on how hard you hustle and market yourself, and about 1% dependent on how talented you are. Back when I stared, you had to circulate mix tapes – yes TAPES – like a fiend. Get ‘em to promoters, get ‘em in the shops. Nowadays, it’s a whole different hustle, but the spirit is the same: Mixes on SoundCloud, social networking, fan engagement, and so on. Over the years, I’ve seen a couple of DJs and other musicians who have just blown my mind, but they were either lazy, or assholes, or too busy with other life responsibilities, and so their careers never took off. In a completely non-“Occupy” kind of way, they had the 1%, the talent, but they were missing the 99% that you need to make things happen. But don’t get me wrong, without that 1% talent, the 99% hustle won’t get you very far. Another thing, ALWAYS KEEP YOUR WORD. I think I’ve done well partly because people in the biz know that they can rely on me. I’m not perfect, but if I say I’m gonna do something, 999 times out of 1,000, I’ma do it.
VS: Can you tell us about the best experience you have had while playing?
FF: Oh man, so many great experiences over so many years. Playing on a cruise ship in Puerto Rico was dope as hell. Then there was throwing down right on the beach in Mexico. Those Toronto Science Centre raves were out of control, and who could forget the Liquid Adrenaline parties? Then, the sea of people at Insomniac in LA years ago. 3Com Park in San Fran with KRS-One and The Black Eyed Peas, pre-Fergie. New Year’s Eve in Vancouver, performing the “Northern Touch” remix with Choclair and The Rascalz. Really hard to pick just one. When I have some time, I’m trying to dig through the old scrapbooks and post some of those vintage flyers at www.freakyflow.com, which really just re-directs to the Facebook page.
VS: How do you feel about music piracy and the state of the music industry nowadays?
FF: Wow, we’re about to get deep, here. And I apologize for the long-winded answer I’m about to deliver, but I think it’s necessary to really convey where I’m coming from. You see, with any property that anyone wants to claim ownership to, that’s fine with me. However, I think it’s YOUR responsibility to protect that property, if you want to. And YOU should have to pay for it, or ask someone to help you, if you can’t afford it. But is it right to FORCE someone to protect your property for you? I certainly don’t think so. All interactions should be voluntary, and force should NEVER be used. In our current systems in the US, Canada, and much of the rest of the world, if someone claims ownership of music “rights”, then that “owner” doesn’t pay for the protection of those “rights”. Instead, the government forces everyone else to pay for it! That’s right, poor people are paying for the government to sue other poor people at the behest of some major corporations. If the corporations wanna pay for it all themselves, I’ve got no problem with it – we’ll see how much public support they get then, too. But don’t make me and everyone else pay for it. And do you know what happens if we refuse to pay? Yup, we all go to jail. So many things wrong with this, in my opinion. I’m actually writing a book about some of these topics. Don’t know when I’ll finish, or how it will get published, but I’ll give you one guess as to where I’ll post info about it when it’s all ready. Ha ha ha! In the meantime, I would recommend a book called Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression by Dr. Mary Ruwart. Her book deals with a lot of these philosophies, even if she doesn’t explicitly talk about the music industry. Another great resource is a free radio show podcast that I download all the bloody time. It’s called Free Talk Live, and I’m pretty sure their website is just www.freetalklive.com – quality stuff, but controversial! Not for the timid.
VS: Do you have any ongoing projects that you can tell us about?
FF: Well, there is the free mix series that I’ve recently rekindled. I did a whole bunch of DJ mix tapes back in the day, starting with Freaky Flow – Volume 001, then Volume 002, and so on. But then I put that series to a halt when I started releasing mix CDs on Stickman Records, and Moonshine, etc. Well, the mix series is back, and now it’s completely free. I just put up Volume 011 a little while ago on www.freakyflow.com. Dare I venture into a little bit of dubstep for the first time in my life? Only one way to find out! New original tracks coming soon, too. And still touring, as always, so keep them eyes on my online calendar. Actually, looking REALLY forward to this Toronto show this Friday for “Sex in the City” at the Winchester. Been so long since I threw down in Toronto. Looking forward to seeing a buncha headz I haven’t seen for a while. And with a liquid funk set, you can’t go wrong. Hey, you’re posting that mix from the last time I played there, right? From back in 2004? Up on your site?
VS: Last but not least… What does the Viking say?
FF: According to Wikipedia, Vikings spoke with their swords and spears. That’s how they raided and conquered so much of Europe as far back as the 790s. But violence always begets more violence, and eventually, they got their asses handed to them. Just goes to show you, there will always be someone more badass than you, so BE FUCKING NICE! Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeace.
VS: Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview for us, it has been tons of fun and I look forward to catching up with you in the future, feel free to come say whats up anytime! Also be sure to check him out this Friday at SITC. Cheers!
Event Details for SITC are here (if you don’t have Facebook and cant see the event info then look in the comments, I will post the details there)
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