Entertainment & Arts

Flume interview: 'I'm sick of making albums'

Flume - pictured with a gold disc for his record Say It, in October 2016 Image copyright Flume / Instagram
Image caption Flume - pictured with a gold disc for his record Say It

When electronic music producer Flume takes to the stage at Australia's Aria Music Awards on Wednesday night, he stands to win 11 trophies.

In fact, he's already trousered three of them - best producer, best engineer and best cover art - but the big ones, including best album and best male, are still up for grabs.

The 25-year-old says he has speeches ready in case he beats the likes of Sia and Troye Sivan, but he doesn't relish the idea of walking to the winners' podium.

"Award ceremonies," he cringes, "I'm not built for them".

Even if he wins the best album prize for Skin, a genre-bending collection of leftfield pop songs and incendiary instrumentals, the star says it might be his last.

"I'm sick of doing albums," he tells the BBC. "I'm excited just to do lots of little projects with people and see where it takes me. Maybe a soundtrack for a movie, or music for a video game. I feel liberated now."

It's the perfect solution for a musician who finds the glare of the limelight uncomfortable.

When he attends the Aria ceremony in Sydney, he won't be hanging off the arm of a supermodel but treating his parents and sister to a family night out.

Afterwards, he's even going to give guest vocalists Tove Lo and Kai a guided tour of the city.

"I'm definitely going to take them around to Manly Beach and show them a koala or something," he laughs.

Image copyright Flume / YouTube
Image caption "I am the Australian stereotype. I grew up near the beach and I'd go surfing after school all the time."

With any luck, their escapades will be filmed for Flume's Adventures, the YouTube series he makes in partnership with the platform; and which documents his first ever world tour - or rather, the things you get to do on tour if you're a hugely successful, in-demand artist.

Recent episodes have seen him visit Nasa and go surfing at Kelly Slater's Wave Company, where scientists have created the "perfect" eight foot-high artificial wave.

"It was the most exciting thing I've done in years," says the star. "I had the same feeling I used to have as a kid when Christmas was around the corner."

Ahead of the Arias, Flume - whose real name is Harley Edward Streten - explained why he's disillusioned with albums, and how he wants to create sounds no-one has heard before.

Image copyright Future Classic
Image caption The star has just finished his first world tour as a headline act

Most artists say touring is mind-numbingly boring, so why make a series about it?

That was exactly why we did it. A lot of touring is just getting from A to B, so by committing to this thing, we were forced into making sure the tour was fun.

Like a lot of musicians, you play a lot of ping pong backstage. Why is it so popular compared to, say, football?

Because with football you need stamina and you need to be fit!

Who's the most famous person you've challenged?

I had a ping pong battle with Howard from Disclosure at a festival not so long ago. I absolutely crushed him, by the way. Make sure you put that in.

In the surfing episode, when you're riding the waves, the music cuts to the film so perfectly that I assume you wrote it specially.

It actually wasn't written to the pictures. It's a song from a new EP that's about to come out. It just seemed to fit the video.

Is this new music, or tracks that didn't make it onto the album?

Skin took me three years and I wrote a lot of music that didn't fit the sound of the album. But I didn't want those songs to sit on a hard drive forever, so we're doing a couple of companion EPs for the album.

Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption The star recently sold out London's Alexandra Palace. "It was a beautiful view of the city," he says

Are the EPs a stop-gap while you build up material for the third record?

You know what? I'm kind of sick of doing albums.

The first one came naturally. The second one, I felt like I needed to make a statement. Now that I've done the two records, I feel comfortable and free to do whatever I want.

I like being creative and putting music out a couple of months after it's been made, rather than sitting on things for years and coming up with a big, grand plan.

You're not the first person to say this: Calvin Harris and The Chainsmokers have both suggested they're abandoning albums. Is it because dance artists make more money from streaming individual tracks and playing festivals?

If I didn't have two albums out, I wouldn't be saying this.

A lot of my stuff doesn't really make sense unless it's in context, because it's quite broad-ranging. Some of my songs are really quite pop heavy and some are leftfield and experimental. It's important that they come out in a package rather than just a single, so I'm keen on doing EPs.

It's convenient for me that, in this day and age, putting music out like that makes more sense from a business standpoint but that's not the reason I'm doing it. The reason I'm doing it is that's how I feel creatively.

Maybe in the future, when I'm ready, I'll do a third album.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Flume's biggest single, Never Be Like You, is a pensive electro-ballad featuring Canadian singer Kai

How do you go about finding vocalists to collaborate with? I'd never heard of Kai, who sings on Never Be Like You, until the song came out.

I hadn't heard about her either. I wanted to work with vocalists and my manager came back to me with some of her music.

We sent her some ideas online, she came back with some of her own and we ended up meeting up in New York. That's how that song came about.

I heard you had your tarot cards read during the recording sessions.

We did, yes. Apparently I've got three kids on the horizon.

With Kai?

No! Haha! Who knows? Anything could happen.

Did the tarot reader mention that you'd be getting 11 Aria nominations?

Oh, definitely not. They didn't see that one coming.

Were you surprised to get so many?

I figured I might be up for something, but not 11. So, yeah, I've got to get my speeches ready in case I win.

You're performing with Tove Lo and Kai at the show. Will you take them out to see the sights of Sydney afterwards?

Yes, if I have time. I am definitely going to take them around to Manly Beach and show them a koala or something.

You have to be careful with koalas. Aren't they riddled with chlamydia?

Yeah, koalas are really messed-up creatures. They're also really high all the time. The eucalyptus gets them high. So they are stoned, they have chlamydia and they're technically not bears.

Image copyright Flume / Instagram
Image caption "The most exciting thing for me is creating music that doesn't sound like anything else out there."

The singles you've released with Kai and Tove, Never Be Like You and Say It, are more emotionally mature than your typical dance track. What was the thinking behind that?

Those were two stabs at working with talented vocalists and creating proper songs, not just tracks. So I'm really glad and surprised at how well they've been received because they've been the driving force behind a lot of this record.

But you pepper those songs with strange sounds. They're very atypical pop songs.

Definitely. I love pop music but I feel like so much of it has boring-ass production. I want to change that. I feel like there's a place for that in the world right now.

I get a lot of satisfaction out of being a mad scientist in the studio. I'll spend a lot of time not even making music, just trying to create weird sounds, then I'll use them as ammunition when I feel inspired to write a song.

I get the impression you're as interested in sound design as you are in the music.

I'm constantly inspired by it. The amount of different textures and tones you can create on a computer… Mankind has never had access to that before. I find that so exciting.

Flume's album, Skin, is out now. His tour travelogue, Flume Adventures, is available on his YouTube channel.

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