Fred P is a singular artist and one who, conceptually at least, has a more concrete vision than most. He makes music that feels driven by forces which are not entirely within the grasp of mere mortals, but whose finer points are his to bend to his will. He would like his compositions to soundtrack our daily existences, perhaps seeing within the grooves space for personal evolution in tandem with a more holistic philosophy of life. His latest album ‘5’ has just been released, and is the first of a trilogy which promises to plumb depths deeper than the Mariana Trench.
I believe very deeply in the power of music. It’s my medicine, it’s what allows me to be, because without it the world is a very different place..I called Fred one balmy summer night in July. I always find Skype interviews a bit surreal; calling Berlin from the Suffolk/Essex hinterland to have a discussion with one of the foremost artists of his genre for an article to be published on an Ibiza-based website tickles me immensely.
Fred is a deliberate speaker; the type whose lowered tones draw you in rather than give you an excuse to ignore. One of those people whom the Amazonian Indians would probably listen to quiet seriously, as they did when Werner Herzog threatened to murder Klaus Kinski in a very reserved, but purposeful way.
Fred now finds himself in Berlin, which is the culmination of a bit of wanderlust. “I’d been travelling around for the last five years now” he says, “but eventually it got too much”; citing a time when he travelled back to his native New York from Moscow, and realizing that due to the weight of gigs on this side of the Atlantic, somewhere in Europe would be a better base. He describes himself as “pretty much a loner” not really knowing how many of his fellow-travelling compatriots also live in the German capital.
It wasn’t easy. It took two years just to acquire some equipment and start over, and another two to get the dust off and go in a different direction and do something that people could relate to...He says he’s “inspired by different things” not missing anything particularly about his homeland. “It’s more about where you’re at than where you’re from”. What New York does have are “the textures” because “I grew up with hip-hop culture and texture is a huge deal for me.” He’s one of a current crop of artists, like Jus’Ed, Joey Anderson and DJ Qu who seem to share a similar cosmic vision but remain singular artists nevertheless.
When asked what inspires this in him, he believes “...very deeply in the power of music. It’s my medicine, it’s what allows me to be, because without it the world is a very different place, and the reason I make it is because I’m in love with it. That’s the only reason.” Fred nearly gave music up in the mid-nineties though. “I was doing hip-hop with my cousin, we were on the verge of a major deal. It fell through and I got disillusioned and depressed about the industry, sold my equipment and got a day job”.
So how easy was it to start again? “It wasn’t easy. It took two years just to acquire some equipment and start over, and another two to get the dust off and go in a different direction and do something that people could relate to”. I then ask Fred what his interpretation is of something Philip Sherburne said when commenting on Black Jazz Consortium’s ‘Structure’, that you weren’t “reinventing the wheel, (you’re) just balancing the ones (you’ve) got...”
Fred interprets this as “I guess he could tell which school of dance music I’m from. What he says is true, I’m not doing anything new I’m just interpreting it in a different way”.
Fred’s newest album ‘5’ is the first of a trilogy, under the name FP Oner, and the introduction of this alias goes hand-in-hand with a listening experience which he thinks should happen “anytime, anyplace, anywhere ...it’s basically a meditative kind of thing. It’s all uptempo but not necessarily for dancing ... I’d like it to be the soundtrack to a typical day, something that can be listened to when you do the laundry, go shopping in the supermarket... “ And why not?
It’s very easy to apply this music into spaces which aren’t related to nightlife. It can fit into a lot of different scenarios in a lot of different ways...But is Fred’s vision really an accessible one for the populace? “I think it is for everybody” he says, “It’s very easy to apply this music into spaces which aren’t related to nightlife. It can fit into a lot of different scenarios in a lot of different ways. However, if you’re looking at it from a music industry perspective it would probably be very difficult to market due to the track lengths and the lack of catchy hooks. It works in the way a film score might”.
I tell Fred that I think what his album has is excellent equilibrium, symmetry and subtlety, and I wonder what the path of sonic evolution from his mind to his machines is. “It depends. Every situation is different. ‘Sleepless in Shibuya, for example, was composed when I was jet-lagged at 4am and couldn’t sleep, and it represents what the streets felt like at the time. It was both warm and very dark but there was a gentle breeze in the air. There was a very calm energy... and I’m from a completely different part of the world walking in a very busy city that isn’t moving.”
I put it to him that the process, for that track at least, was a spontaneous one, and ask him how conscious he was of order, sequence and direction across the breadth of the album. He says that he likes things to have “a beginning, middle and end, so when the album was put together I looked at it the same way I would at one of my DJ sets and put it together in the same way. Not tempo-wise, more relative to intensity and feeling. It wasn’t difficult, it came very naturally.”
In spite of the amount of clichés which abound in deep house, Fred manages to keep things fresh. How does he do this? “Because I’m chasing something which I still haven’t managed to grasp. I’m still like a kid in a candy store, in a land of wonder, and I’m honestly expressing myself.”
I’m still like a kid in a candy store, in a land of wonder, & I’m honestly expressing myself...We discuss the oft-mentioned spiritualism attached to his work, and I wonder how much farther he can go with the next two albums...”This is just scratching the surface” he says, “It’s an introduction to the story. It goes a lot deeper, the (w)hole is infinite”. And even though the albums are not scheduled to come out too soon after each other “I announced them together because I want people to anticipate what’s going to come. I’m not rushing the process because I want people to fully understand what it is I’m talking about and how I’m trying to relate this particular idea, because the music is very, very important to me, and from my first album to now I’ve always tried to express my love and appreciation for it and how much I believe in it. Through the vibration of the tunes and the titles I want people to fully get it. There’ll be a little bit of time between ‘5’ and the next album, but this is definitely the tip of the iceberg, and it goes a lot deeper than this.”
I love jazz music... it’s the bedrock. I love jazz as my parents loved it. That’s what I heard growing up in the house...To end with, I ask Fred who his main sources of inspiration are regarding fellow artists, and he cites Kerri Chandler.
“...When he was doing a project with Dee Dee Brave. That really struck a chord with me, deeply, because the tracks were really raw but with vocals and even though I was mainly listening to hip-hop at the time, I wanted to hear more.”
I out it to him that the transcendental aspect of his music reminds me of John Coltrane in terms of its mysticism to which he answers that he feels “humbled, but that’s a whole other level and you’re kinda talking about something else. That’s part of where I come from. I love jazz music... it’s the bedrock. I love jazz as my parents loved it. That’s what I heard growing up in the house and I took to it some years later when I started getting my production chops, which led me to finding out who Chick Corea was. And from just hearing some of his music I stumbled upon some of his instructional videos on chord progressions, and he quickly became a hero, and when that happened something special was unlocked which was medicinal and which I want to happen all the time.”