Having come a long way from the garage band he and Doctor P formed during their pre-teen years, the undisputed heavyweight of dubstep known as Flux Pavilion continues his unending onslaught of illness across the globe with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
With his 2015 Tesla LP still holding it down as a contemporary classic in the genre—not to mention the numerous anthems the South London–based producer has kicked out over the years—the ever-impressive Josh Steele, as he’s known to family and friends, seems just as energized and excited by writing music as he’s ever been. He’s earned a reputation as an innovator and true artist in every meaning of the word. Ask anyone who’s been fortunate enough to spend some time chopping it up one-on-one with the man, and you’ll no doubt get a sense of the kind of inspiration and refreshing insights into the creative process that Josh seems to emit in an almost effortless fashion.
Recently embarking on his aptly titled Around the World in 80 Raves tour, and with our own annual pilgrimage to EDC Las Vegas looming on the horizon, we thought we’d touch down for an in-depth reflection, including his influences (they range from Frank Zappa to Andy C), the continued evolution of Circus Records, and his own ongoing love of chaos, wildness, and “creative punk sounds.” As with all things Flux, it’s a wild ride from the past to the present. And a glimpse of the future ends with an electrifying, EDC-inspired mix that captures all the riotous, chest-pounding fury that Flux Pavilion brings to the stage.
You once cited John Cleese’s idea that “children are the most creative people” and that the best way to be creative is to revert back to being a child. What were you like as a child?
(Laughs) Not too dissimilar to how I am now! I didn’t really like people telling me what to do and wanted to be left to do my own thing. I started playing instruments when I was really young. I had a little keyboard that I would write my own “pieces” on, and I think that’s the idea I was getting at with that quote. As a child, there’s no construct of what is right and wrong creatively, and so the world is opened up before you. I think it’s a place I try to stay in when I write now.
I noticed your middle name is “Kierkegaard.” Were your parents deep into existential philosophy?
Interestingly, it was a reference to a character from a Monty Python sketch called “Kierkegaard Grant.” As I’ve grown, I’ve personally taken to philosophical thinking, though, and [the philosopher] Kierkegaard is pretty rad.
What kind of music do you remember hearing around the house when you were young? I noticed that pic of Frank Zappa in your studio—how does he work into your story?
Frank Zappa was THE artist growing up. My dad ingrained into me that he was a really special artist, and I’m glad for it. Frank Zappa’s approach and philosophy on art is something that has become somewhat a cornerstone of my approach; David Bowie is another. I think innovative music and creativity was a theme in my house growing up, and I’ve been shaped to always reach outside of what is happening right now and try to find my own expression and individuality.
I’ve heard you started writing music as early as 12 years old! Did you already have visions of being an electronic music producer at that time, or was it more of you just living in the moment?
That was when I really started writing, played guitar, and singing in a band with Doctor P. We started out playing cover songs, but all of a sudden, I had these instruments and performers at my disposal—so I started writing parts for everyone and building songs. Doctor P would record us and produce our tracks, and I was engrossed instantly and started learning from him. My interest in electronic music came from the discovery that I didn’t need other humans to fill out the gaps. I could invent my own sounds and work them in. I’ve always been and always will be a writer first and a producer second. The production side is something that I use to get inspired, and then I run with it. I don’t really give a fuck about the perfect snare, as long as it fits the piece.
“I like people that don’t really give a fuck. Chaos and wildness is a world I feel comfortable in, but it has to be real.”
As a drum & bass head, I love the fact that you initially started out writing “wobbly drum & bass.” Give a shout to your old-school drum & bass roots! Who were you listening to, and how do you see that era as having influenced your evolving sound?
I discovered drum & bass properly through an Andy C set, playing Pendulum and Fresh records. I had listened to tape packs before of people like Kenny Ken, Grooverider and Swan-E, but that Andy C set cemented my love for D&B. Once I was hooked, I started buying jump-up records: Zinc, Hazard, Twisted Individual, Drumsound and Bassline Smith, Baron, and Clipz, to name a few. Then I discovered artists like High Contrast and Noisia and became infatuated with the energy. Dubstep built on that and felt like the same world, but it was open to interpretation, where drum & bass felt like it was harder to join the party as an artist. I still love drum & bass: Mefjus, June Miller, Wilkinson and Teddy Killerz are my current drum & bass crushes.
Flash forward to the present, and a decade of Circus Records is only a few years away! As your role starts to change from a young blood toward that of an experienced mentor figure, how do you keep things exciting?
Yeah, it’s been eight years this year, I think! One thing that is great is that I’m an artist myself, alongside being involved in the label. In other words, I grow with the artists by my side, and I share my experiences whilst learning from the crew. I try not to take a mentor approach, because we are all on the same level, and we are all doing the same thing for the same reason. We make music because it gives us a voice, and with Circus, that voice becomes amplified. We are louder together.
At this point in your career, is there a noticeable difference between Flux and Josh? In other words, has Flux turned into its own persona that you see as somehow being separate from “you”?
Yeah, totally. I feel like the points in time that I have found uncomfortable in the studio, and on the road, are times when that line becomes blurred. I write openly, and sometimes Flux Pavilion doesn’t turn up that day, but I can’t go and look for him; it has to be natural. It is a character in a sense, but it’s also a part of me—a part of me that I’m always learning about and discovering.
Related to that, in the studio, is there a point where you say, “This is a great track, but it’s not a Flux track”? What determines what is a Flux track?
I know a Flux track inherently because I can feel it. There is no real rhyme or reason to it, but I just know. I think that feeling is one of the most important parts of my creativity. Listening to music comes at the end, but writing music is all about feeling it and being free to express what comes up. Flux Pavilion is more the feeling of the music than it is me, and I think by separating myself from it, the music can go places that I can’t.
What qualities do you look for in people you work with or other artists you collaborate with?
I like people that don’t really give a fuck. Chaos and wildness is a world I feel comfortable in, but it has to be real. Some people create this vision of a “crazy” world around them, because they want to be seen that way or have the idea that it’s cool. But some people just truly don’t care and be who they want to be. In this world, that’s a pretty wild way to be. I’m attracted to that and, in turn, attract those characters to myself. I think in this music, there is a new wave of creative punk sounds that resonate with people. That’s what I focus on, and that’s what keeps me driving through the sludge.
The big news is that you’ve set off on this epic “Around the World in 80 Raves” tour! Fill us in on the concept, the details, and how it’s going so far!
I just finished the Australia/New Zealand leg, and it was amazing. This tour is all about going on an adventure, taking our sound and our way of thinking to every corner of the planet,and let people be free to loosen their grip on reality a bit. Flux Pavilion, to me, has always sat a bit outside of the mainstream, where individuality can thrive and develop. It’s this world that I live in and this world I want to share with the crowd. I want people to really not give a fuck what’s going on in the world we deal with day-to-day and let fantasy take over. The music I play is pretty far-out in the grand scheme of things, and it makes me feel free; these shows are a place where we can all feel like that together and just lose it a little bit.
Speaking of losing it, you’re hitting us with this EDC mix. Fill us in as to what kind of experience we should be expecting!
It’s a little slice of Circus and Flux Pavilion—like a takeaway bag that you get at a party, a slice of cake to remind you of the centerpiece. EDC is the three-tier cake.
Before we jump into the mix, and especially now that you’re on the road, what three things never fail to bring you pleasure?
My family. My music. My bed.
You can catch Flux Pavilion doing his thing at EDC Las Vegas 2017.
- Track List:
Flux Pavilion “Let’s Get It”
Doctor P “Serious Sound”
Meaux Green & Tascione ft. Mark Hardy “Soundkillaz”
Wowed ft. Keno “Double Dribble”
Zomboy “Like a Bitch” (Kill the Noise Remix)
Doctor P “Pizza!”
Dirty Audio & Rickyxsan “Gettin’ That”
Grizzly & Promo “Crunk and Wired”
Flux Pavilion ft. Flowdan “Locked In”
Herobust “Dirty Work”
Flux Pavilion “Pull the Trigger”
Doctor P “Hard as Fuck”
Spag Heddy “Back Off”
Flux Pavilion “Cut Me Out”
Cyan “Bass Machine”
Cyan “Get Wild”