In Conversation With: Floyd Lavine

One of Africa’s finest musical exports and one of my favourite DJ’s, Floyd Lavine, kindly took time away from his holiday this week to chat to me about his latest release Creda Mutwa which has surfaced today on Parisian label FRAPPÉ. I had the pleasure of seeing Lavine perform a blasting Afro House set in Hungary a few years ago and have been a huge fan of his ever since. It was an absolute pleasure chatting to him and here is how it went.

I first saw you play at a basement rave in Budapest back in 2019: Do you remember that gig? I think I shook your hand! Myself and my friends still talk about your set there.

Yeah, It’s actually so random that you caught me at that party because I really enjoyed that set. There was a good crowd there. I spent an extra few days after that gig in Budapest so it was really nice. I dug deep that night – went heavy. When I walked into that market place the venue was situated in, I was like ‘Where am I playing? What is going on?’ – then inside it was an R&B party on top which had me confused still. They brought me through the kitchen and into this basement beneath that was disconnected from everything and the lighting was great, the sound was proper. I was like ‘Let’s go’. What a pleasant surprise that venue was (Aether Club) and it called out for a special set. Cool you were there.

Tell us about your latest release, Creda Mutwa which has come out today on Parisian label ‘FRAPPÉ’ – how did you meet the two guys (Basile de Suresnes & Ten Fingerz) from that label?

I met them during lockdown actually. During the lockdown, I don’t know, I didn’t feel like creating but eventually came around to the idea of making music and had a burst of creativity after a while. Basile and ‘Fingerz reached me during this time of creativity asking if I had anything lying around, suitable for release. I liked their label and how they approached everything – very detailed and it was clear they had a respect for their music. I have a special folder and I sent them a few tracks that were suitable for what they were after – which was music that was expressive and unique. They liked the Creda Mutwa track – the afro acid stuff.

Afro Acid – explain this genre and is this something you’ll be exploring more?

I think so. I want to expand on the genre a little bit more. Some producers have touched upon it but it hasn’t been explored a lot. I made the decision to look deeply into a combination of my roots and electronica and working with acidic tones. I’m confident to allow this style to get out to the world. I feel it’s an exciting time for up-and-coming African artists and opening the palate, where newcomers can see that there’s more than the current production style’s out there, is important to me. 

It’s nice to see a genre in it’s early stages and watching it grow and become flexible. There is so much you can do with the African aesthetic. So much to borrow, adopt, place and create with our African palate. 

African House music has a very uplifting feeling – sometimes I find Techno can be quite dark or induce darker emotions – but Afro House is vibrant and my favourite style to party to. What does a good party entail for you or feel like?

Euphoria – it’s great when you can feel (as cliché as it is) when everything is one and the music is good. Everything works out when you are having a good night, going easily to the bar, everything, it feels like you are in a rhythm with everything. When the music hits your feelings, you can be floating. It’s a great feeling when the music is right. You go to the toilet and people are chatting to you there, everyone seems like they are smiling. Everything is bright and all life’s worries take the back seat for that party. That’s a good night.

Creda Mutwa – can you give us a run down of the title – what does it mean?

Credo Mutwa was a philosopher who lived in a very rural part of South Africa. He was out there in terms of his philosophy about space and the future. He spoke how we came from alien civilisations and his thinking was expressive and wild. He really made me think. He answers existential questions. I love songs where the words mean something deeper than the song itself. The title was chosen so people would look up Credo Mutwa and do their own exploration. I wanted people to type in his name, read about him and then listen to the song for the best experience.

The song has layers that evolve the more you discover what the message is about. Everyone can see the first layer and dance to a song but it’s great when there are more layers to discover and explore within. Eventually you hear Mutwa’s preaching and then after you research him, you can enjoy the whole package together. A mix of dance and philosophy.

Are you into philosophy and finding meanings in life?

Definitely man, just the curiosity of it. I guess we all know how it all ends but it’s just about finding the best way to live it in the meantime. I find that some songs and books explore good topics and it’s important to be curious and open to find the best ways to live your own life. Finding the best way, a life that’s worth living, is what I’m searching for myself. That’s the curiosity. I want to keep it all simple – but that in itself is hard to do.

You run your own label now called ‘Afrikan Tales’ – how you find artists for the label? Is it a case of going through countless submissions until you strike gold or?

I have an email address – but I want to create a barrier between the musician that really wants to send me music and the ones that just dump it on me. I have a submission place, but it’s those who dig deep and find the proper avenues to reach me that get through the net. It is difficult finding music through random submissions. I tend to find people through friends – but sometimes a do dig deep and find artists I love.

I have two artists now who I’ve been talking to for over a year – their music moved me so much. We are moving slowly as I want to do everything properly for them – release vinyl’s, introduce them slowly, create a full year’s plan. They are making amazing future music of the highest quality like I’ve never imagined kids from Africa could come up with given the equipment. I know where they came from and the equipment they made it from, it’s amazing what they have achieved. They are both based in Johannesburg and have a sophisticated and elegant touch. There’s another lady based in the Netherlands on the label called Cin City, she is brilliant.

It’s a high standard I’m looking for and I want to build a diverse roster in terms of genders. The sound must be authentic. I don’t want to sign loads and loads of artists – I want to work with only a select few from start to finish concentrating on development. It’s so exciting hearing artists who are developing their sounds and being able to work with them. 

Mr Bones – what a track!

I think with the label I was trying to push Mr. Bones in the second EP. It’s a song I love to play in those deep dark nights. I know exactly what environment I made that track for, the time, surroundings and mood it suits and represents. It’s a hypnotic track and comes in at the deepest point in a set. It’s a track for the ‘oh no, you are deep in it now – you haven’t gone home for two days’ kind of mood. That was the intent of Mr. Bones. 

You have released lots of remixes this month – what’s the Floyd Lavine definitive guide to remixing?

Firstly, I have to like the song and that there is a certain element within the song that I like. That’s the ideal scenario. Sometimes you remix somebody that you like – it mightn’t be the best song but it’s an artist you respect – you give it your best. Usually if there’s a vocal it’s great as I can go crazy on the beat and not follow any rules. I tend to steer clear of remixing songs without vocals – unless there is a really crazy stand-out riff – those projects are few and far between. In summary, I have to like the song, the people behind it and respect the label that’s releasing it. 

How does it work, people send you their song deconstructed in parts?

Yeah, mostly you are sent files of separate elements/samples of their track and sometimes you can throw it into your Ableton straight away and begin. You experiment with the sounds, cut, move, re-jig to try and find a certain new way of portraying their sounds. You always want to keep one strong element inside the remix to remind the listener of the original track. Then I would figure out the dynamic of the song and what type of remix it will be – soft, hypnotic, banging. Some remixes come out in one day, others take three or four sessions – others take a month (nobody wants these ones). I’m always asking for the one-day-er’s but it’s hard to predict how long it will take. 

Some of those one-month-er remixes haunt me. Oh no, I can see them now.

What’s your daily routine normally and what do you do to keep fit and active?

I would like to say that health is number one priority. I’m up early in the morning, around 5:30am. I like work early in the morning – this is when I have the most energy and dive into emails, listen to some projects in the morning as it’s the only time my ears are fully clear before I get influenced by anything. I’d listen to some projects early in the day to find out if I’ll need to work on them later on. I’d have some food then and head straight to the studio. It’s a half an hour journey to the studio and on the way, I’d listen to podcasts or James O Brien on LBC – stirring the pot, hammering a couple of people. These things take me far away for thinking about music and are important moments to escape from things. 

I’d be in the studio until four o’clock roughly. Lately I’ve been getting back into exercising. I do a lot of walking but sometimes need to do a bit more exercise as it’s important to exercise to keep a good grasp on my mental health. Finding a balance is a challenge – but currently I’m on holiday concentrating on exercise and headspace. 

What advice do you have for musicians starting off?

Patience. You must have patience when it comes to creativity – there’s nothing you can do about it. If you about the creative life, a person who wants to build their craft – it’s patience, that’s the word. I feel like I am only at the beginning of my journey even though I’ve been doing it for ten years and over. I feel now I have the confidence to explore what I want to do and that was only time and patience that gave me this confidence. Time to explore, learn and see where you stand. If you have the patience the good will come with the bad – mostly people get despondent when the bad comes – but you have to make loads of the shit stuff to get to the good stuff. It is what it is. 

You have to put your art out there – don’t be afraid to put your music out there. Another key thing is to finish every project, never leave one unfinished. 

‘Make the shittest stuff, the gold will come.’ 

-Floyd Lavine (2021)

Special thanks to Jon Iliffe for setting this chat up.

About ‘The Sound Sniffer’

The Sound Sniffer is a music blog that’s still only a baby – Founded in early 2019 by Kevin Coakley, a music writer and ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ also runs gigs and showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists found in the blog’s submission inbox.

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