'I Like to Keep People Guessing.' Flume Talks to TIME About Music, L.A., and Finding Inspiration in a Cereal Box

From TIME - December 21, 2017

One last gulp, and Flume sets his plastic champagne flute on the stairwell backstage. In his trademark all-white performance garb, the Australian DJ, musician and producer lunges up the two-tier stage of Hong Kongs AsiaWorld-Expo to be greeted by 6,000 Creamfields music festival-goers . The speakers start to quake with Free, drawing the glittered crowd tight into the handrail. The stage brightens, the bar line empties, flags return to the airall bracing for Say It, his platinum hit, to drop.

On Saturday night, Flume made his debut performance in Hong Kong. Since 2012, FlumeDJ moniker for 26-year-old Harley Stretenhas enraptured millions. His self-titled first album and singlesnotably, Holdin On, Disclosures You & Me (Flume Remix), Lordes Tennis Court (Flume Remix), and Drop the Game with Chet Fakerare ubiquitous on Billboard and Spotify.

He is currently venturing through Asia for the first time to showcase his sophomore album, Skin. Stacked with two multi-platinum singles, the record won the 2017 Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album. But with its porous genealogy, electronic is a nebulous term, especially for Flumes experimental music. Its easy to look askance at his festival megastardom and Flume definitely has his poppy hits, but Skin is far too cosmic for him to be pigeonholed with likes of David Guetta and Calvin Harris.

Flume doesnt love attention, but he sat down with TIME anyway before his Hong Kong show.

Your second album, Skin, won a Grammy in February for the Best Electronic/Dance album. Congratulations. What did you want to achieve in this album that was different from your first?

I wanted to try something new. A lot of that was by collaborating with others, which I had done in the past but not to this extent. Most of it was done remotely on the first album, whereas with this one I actually got in the studio and worked with people. I was like an old-school producer, where they get in the studio, they make the people feel comfortable, and create the vibe. That was new to me. I also wanted to make something that had a broader spectrum of sounds. From some more poppy stuff to some more weird and dark spacesI wanted to have both ends of the spectrum.

How would you classify your music?

I like to keep people guessing. Definitely when Im playing more EDM festivals, it can be a challenge for me. I have to find that middle ground.

Musically do you have a decade you feel that you shouldve been born in?

Im glad to be born now. Looking back is great, but what I really find exciting is people pushing forward. And thats in new music, and its mostly electronic.

How did you get into making music?

I was quite young, probably 10 or 11. I was shopping with my dad and there was a cereal that had a promotion on it. It was a CD with a simple music-making program. I thought that sounded cool, so I got him to get it. I installed it, and basically saw music in layers for the first time. Id always been a big music fan from a young age, but I didnt really understand how it worked. To be able to see inside of it, and see all the different sections, gave me a different perspective on it. And it just grew from there.

What inspires you?

Travel inspires megetting out of my head, going to different places. A bit of danger. A bit of uncertainty. When I get really comfortable, Im not very inspired. So its this challenge of me wanting to just be comfortable and live a life, but then also to make the art, I have to push myself out of my comfort zone, which often ends up with me just traveling by myself to places.

Whats the most inspiring place youve traveled to?

Doing Skin, there were a couple moments where I was going crazy because I couldnt write. So I kind of freaked out and one time I went to Mexico just solo and hired a car when I got there. I found this little beach and this hotel and ended up just having a little adventure by myself. That was really productive actually. Another time, I again was just stuck on things in the studio, so I got a one way ticket to Tasmania, the bottom of Australia, and just drove around the national parks. I found a log cabin in the woods [and stayed] there for a while. For me, nature. Thats it.

What are you geekish about?


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