One of drum & bass' most enigmatic figures, Berlin's Felix K is about to make waves with his debut album "Flowers Of Destruction". We managed to track him down for a rare interview.
Though Felix K and his label Hidden Hawaii tend to keep their movements on the low, it shouldn't be a secret by now that we at Organic are all big fans. In a music world of copycats, clones, trend hopping teenagers and social media suck-ups, Hidden Hawaii's approach is a huge breath of fresh air, not just through their abstract and unique take on electronic music but also their modest promotion of it, with many releases deliberately limited to small vinyl pressings, some of which anonymously. Take for example their QNS ("Quantity Not Sufficient") sister imprint, a series of purposely under pressed anonymous artist 12"s, or by their preferred term, "rare artifacts". Clearly this is a label driven by the need to produce art above all else, immune to the potentially corrupting temptations of profit or fame.
While it might be something of a surprise to see Felix K seemingly out of nowhere drop a long-player on top of his busy 2013 output elsewhere after years of lurking below the surface, perhaps this has been a long time coming. The Berlin resident has been a drum & bass DJ since 1997 and though sporadic and sparse, his release history can be traced back as early as 2005- maybe it's just taken till now for him to truly find his voice.
Either way, the years of patience have paid off because "Flowers Of Destruction" is so much more than this day and age's average drum & bass album. No gimmicks, no collaborators and no compromise- just one man's artistic vision delivered through a seamless hour long soundscape without even so much as distinguishing track names to detract from the experience. It should go without saying then that we're excited to be able to have a rare chat with the man himself, shedding some light on the mysterious collection of musical fragments that is "Flowers Of Destruction."
Highly limited vinyl pressings, anonymous artist series… Not to mention the vague artwork choices and experimental nature of the music itself, there's a general air of mystery and elusiveness that's come to be attached to the Hidden Hawaii label, and by association with Felix K the artist, that I think it's fair to say has gone someway towards earning both something of a cult following. As an inherently accessible release given its long player format and thus its potential appeal to listeners outside of DJ circles over say the vinyl-only 10" or 12" approach which is probably your more typical format of choice, to what extent do you feel the "Flowers Of Destruction" project represent in any way you consciously "stepping out of the shadows", or does the aim remain to appear enigmatic?
If you channel your music on vinyl and limit the quantity to a certain amount, it naturally results in only a small elite of vinyl buyers knowing your music. We at Hidden Hawaii Records have to limit the quantity because our time and resources are limited as well, and we are not a business that is selling market goods really. When you start to follow a market demand, your creativity might decease and it would probably change your whole thing. That's why we keep things the way we are doing it.
Anyway, coming with an album like "Flowers Of Destruction" is quite a step, considering that you address it to more than your previous small circle of fans. Most of the people out there probably don't know anything about Hidden Hawaii or Felix K. Maybe some new fans will become aware about what we do after the album has been released. It would be nice to widen our audience a little. I will keep doing enigmatic low profile releases under "Felix K" and different aliases, because I need freedom and time to be creative. I guess therefore I will need to remain in ''the shadows'', to keep things coming unexpectedly. The more expectations you generate, the less freedom you have left to follow your own imagination. Art is nothing that can be produced or reproduced for a reason, it just happens.
The quality of a work may depend on craftsmanship but this alone does not make a work of art. I am not a good crafter when it comes to tracks that work well on the dance floor or on the radio. My tunes sound like they do, because I simply don't know how to make them better. I also don't know If I meet any criteria of art, but I'm happy if my work is not too compatible with existing mainstream habits. I leave that to the craftsmen among us. It's not a sign of creativity if you just sound like someone else does. Even if it's a great ability to be able to imitate the work of others, like calligraphy in ancient Chinese letters, it's not a very personal thing if your work is just based on reproducing paradigms. I tried to do something very personal. For those dedicated to imitation and conformity to a certain genre, my album will probably sound weak or strange at least. For those open-mindedly interested in sound design, it hopefully sounds as interesting enough to keep an eye on myself and my label Hidden Hawaii in future times.
In your own words, could you shed some light upon the meaning and concept behind the "Flowers Of Destruction", and the particular significance of the album's final movement "Flower Of Hope"? The accompanying notes describe how the album unfolds "like nature slowly reclaiming the urban concrete jungles of a post-industrialist dystopia". Does this theme of conflict between nature and technology in any form express the album's intended significance and message, and if so, as you see it how adequately can instrumental electronic music represent such dichotomies when compared to other art forms?
For the second part of your question, you'd better ask (Hidden Hawaii co-owner) wan.2 because he wrote the accompanying notes. I will focus on the first part.
"Flowers Of Destruction" for me expresses several ideas, that took over me for several years. It consists of what I felt when I came into contact with drum & bass in 1995. I was into that Metalheadz kind of sound. It was overwhelming and I couldn't put what I heard into words. Some moments are kind of burned into my memory. I had a similar experience with techno, when I heard good techno music for the first time. Both memories have stayed with me.
When I started to write the album, I also had something else in my mind at first. It was a time when I was stressed by different things in my life. Many of them could have easily turned into something bad for me. But I discovered that even stressful moments tended to be beautiful when time seems slowed down. Slow moments show the beauty of things, because they put things into perspective. For example, an explosion harms people and is a bad thing, but in slow motion it seems less harmful and can even be beautiful like a flower. There is a scene in Michelangelo Antonioni's Movie "Zabriskie Point" where a building on a mountain is blasted into pieces in slow motion. I realised, that if you want to create something new, you can and must destroy something old. I tried to do this with different soundscapes and when It came to a certain stage of my album, I had to give it a musical form. I don't know what happened, but I must have used my musical memories from '90s jungle and 1998 drum & bass sounds and crossed them with a techno feel. I liked the characteristics of the sound design and went for it.
There is one track that sticks out a little, the last tune: "Flower Of Hope". I felt that it sounded more optimistic and I decided to give it a different name. But although it sounds somehow more affirmative it still fits into the whole destructive concept, because I find that hope is also a destructive– if not the most destructive– force of human nature.
wan.2: Apart from the image of slow motion explosions and the titles, Felix left me with just the music to write a press text. So the “nature reclaiming urban concrete jungles” metaphor is just my interpretation of the album. I don't see it as much of a conflict between nature and technology, but rather feel like “Flowers Of Destruction” expresses a sort of organic process of change in our contemporary high-tech society using a musical language. I believe other art forms can do the same, so its just a matter of choosing the mode of expression your most comfortable with.
Despite your often acknowledged interests in and passion for techno, especially manifest as part of your DJ sets, recent mixes and associations with Berlin's Dystopian collective, "Flowers Of Destruction" is largely a drum & bass LP in tempo terms, aside from its beatless ambient numbers. Is there a particular reason as to why this is so? What is it about the 170 BPM framework that works for you as a producer, and what artistic freedoms does it allow you that you maybe don't find you have at slower BPMs?
I'm a passionate techno DJ. I started to DJ this kind of music in 2007- the year where I lost part of my faith in drum & bass music. I still like drum & bass, but as a DJ I moved on to another genre, which seems to be a little bit more timeless to me. Or maybe since I'm getting older I simply go for less energetic music than drum & bass- fast and hard music makes me a little uncomfortable, to be honest. I still love to play old jungle records and tunes from drum & bass artists from the '90s like Paradox, Source Direct, Photek, Digital, Doc Scott, and Future Forces Inc. I'm also a huge fan of Bassbin Records and the output from Instra:mental, Commix, Calibre and alike, but all their fantastic output is no longer new for me anymore. I loved the time when it all was. Don't get me wrong. I still go out to drum & bass events and know how to have a good time– for example Rupture Crew from London is doing a damn fine series of events.
Ever since, I was quite focused on techno moments within drum & bass, so it was naturally to switch to it finally. I would never say that techno is a better, or maybe a less boring genre than drum & bass, but I feel more comfortable playing a techno set for now. It's easier to find good techno records than drum & bass at the moment. It feels like I already have most of the good drum & bass records. Techno still is an expedition for me. I bought about 200 old and new techno records in 2012. In contrast to this I only bought about 20 drum & bass records. This brings me into a conflict as a DJ. Since many of my works but just a few of the records that I buy are based on the 170 BPM tempo, there is a gap between the music that I play as a DJ and the music that I release as a producer. Maybe I will find a way out of that dilemma, but for now both approaches are incompatible and I usually don't play much of my own productions anyway. Sure, I could have done the album at another speed to avoid the conflict, but it didn't feel right. For me "Flowers Of Destruction" still is a techno album, although the concept is based on a different tempo. At the end it might be interesting for both; for techno fans because of its sound character and for drum & bass fans for its 170 BPM structures.
"Flowers Of Destruction" will be released on vinyl on 04/05/2013 via Hidden Hawaii Limited, with digital release to follow.