As the surreal and unprecedented global phenomenon of self-quarantine sweeps across the globe, Highsnobiety Soundsystem looks to the game-changers and party-makers of our world, the DJs and producers, to bring us some cheer in this bizarre Covid-19 world. Tune in for original mixes and good conversations straight out of self-isolation.
Listening to Fred again..’s music feels like you’ve stumbled onto something very personal. In many ways, his oeuvre is a diary with multiple authors. Born Fred Gibson, the producer behind some of the UK’s biggest tracks in recent years can count Stormzy, Headie One, and Ed Sheeran as collaborators. But it’s how he collaborates with the world outside music that makes his sound especially visceral.
In a production style that Fred dubs “Actual Life,” he builds tracks around the unlikeliest of sources: from friends’ voice notes to snippets of YouTube videos to first encounters with strangers. Under Fred’s gaze, everyday life and people take on an indisputable poetry. Rather than be about experiences, his songs are actually made out of them.
We couldn’t think of a better person to render these bizarre times into music than Fred. The prolific producer spoke to us and created a timely mix for Highsnobiety Soundsystem from isolation, featuring a host of unreleased music, which perfectly capture what we’re going through together.
Read our interview with Fred again.. and listen to his mix below.
His quarantine routine
“I've got into this rhythm of getting up at like 5 AM and then I just write. I don't know this, but I think seeing the sun come up and seeing it go down is quite good in times like these. That sounds really wishy-washy and pretentious, but I just think it keeps you quite level. It means I can get six, seven hours of proper writing done before I've even had lunch. So I think from a creative perspective, I'll probably look back on this quite fondly.”
Why he’s thriving in isolation
“Isolation is the oldest ally of creativity, it's not a new thing, particularly when it's enforced and you're on such a global connection with the world. That's only ever going to lead to good art. So from the moment it started – not to diminish the obvious tragedy of what's going on – but I did feel also a slight excitement for what it would lead to creatively.
In normal life, I'll always have a few weeks of intense collaboration, then a few weeks of really solo introspection. So this is just a longer period of that, I guess. I've been collaborating a fair amount. I do sessions, like I've been doing a lot for Jamie xx's album. We've been writing it for a while. So we've been doing that on Zoom. And then other bits and bobs here and there, but I'm so happy just on my own. I always have been. So to be honest, it's been good to get back into the rhythm of just having to self-inspire.”
On making the best of this pandemic
“Again, I really don't want to diminish the obvious tragedy. I'm lucky to not have anyone really close to me who's been hurt or anything, and I don't mean to diminish it for those who have, but if you zoom out 50 years, I can see this doing some good for humans. I think mainly just the reminder of being so connected, that's a good thing. Obviously we’re being connected through a damaging thing right now, but such a visceral reminder of how connected everyone is is only a good thing in the long run.”
His “actual life” samples
“Generally, words inspire me. I mean, you know how it is, the way everyone has their lives online, just random videos pop into your viewpoint all the time. So every now and then, one will flash up on Instagram or something and they could just be two lines that they'll say, but it'll really hit me in my tummy.
I started doing it actually just off of my own camera roll. I'd wake up after nights out and have jokes, videos of everyone drunk saying silly stuff. I used to sample those to make tunes because I found it really made me feel something. Then carrying on from doing that, instead of using my own diary, I used everyone's: the internet. Which is liberating.
I always message people, obviously I'm not going to put out something without someone knowing, particularly when it's something as personal as a little bit of someone's art. But as of yet, everyone's been really nice. I message them on Insta like, ‘Yo, you said this thing and it really meant something to me and so I made it into something else and this is it, how do you feel?’”
Creating an isolation mix
“I wanted to do the mix equivalent of what some of the songs are. In sampling people's videos and stories, doing their quarantine blogs, or my own and my friends', there's always this element of isolation.
I'm not a DJ, I think of myself as more of a songwriter. For me, the focus is more on creating a mood rather than beat-matching. In the mix there’s a lot of stuff that I've worked on in the last couple of weeks that’s quite undeveloped. I quite liked just showing what I’ve been working on. There are little sketches and then there's obviously also finished songs in there.”
“I Am A Party” is especially personal
“[“I Am A Party”] is made out of this poem by this girl called Sabrina Benaim, who yet again, I stumbled across on Insta. She does this poem that is just beyond powerful, about living with depression. At the beginning it's like, ‘It's not that much fun having fun when you don't want to have fun.’ When people say, ‘Why don't you just go out and have fun?’ She finds such an amazingly simple, but poetic way of saying it. Then obviously the line, 'I am a party inside of my home,' it's mad how much that resonates, and it was kind of unintentional.
I felt particularly delicate sampling that one, because it's so powerful and personal and I get so worried that I'm bastardizing or patronizing someone's original emotion. So I was very anxious to do that. But luckily, Sabrina is another person who was so sweet about it. I sent it to her and she said she loved it.”
A chance encounter lead to his favorite sample on the mix
“My favorite snippet is this guy who is laced across it. He's called Carlos, I met him in Atlanta. He was working on this construction job. I was just sat having a beer and he came over with his friend. He was an absolute life-bringer on a random Friday evening in Atlanta. At one point I asked, ‘What are you saying, Carlos?’ And he was like, ‘I want you to see me, Fred, I'm here.’ That was one of the first things I sampled into a song. I always put that in loads of songs and bits. When I'm DJing and I hear it come out of the speakers, it makes me so happy.
I haven't seen him since. I've been trying to contact him. He gave me his number, but… I don't think it's the right one.”
Sampling Beyoncé’s “I Miss You”
“There's a thing with Beyoncé where she's such a mammoth in the industry, she's one of the greatest ever. Still, Beyoncé is so big that sometimes it's hard to listen to her in the same way you listen to a song that you feel is talking to you. But “I Miss You” has always been a song, since I first heard it, that's just... It's so understated and powerful in its minimalism, that it's always resonated as though it's a small artist you've stumbled across, down at a local bar or something. I think it makes it even more fitting to have that beautiful snippet of Frank Ocean playing it live at his show.”
Why he chose “Maybe Life” as the closing track
“This is such a good, human reminder of the difference you can make when everyone does a small thing together. The fact that everyone's staying at home is such a small thing really. It's not like everyone's doing enormous things. We're all just staying at home and by doing that, thousands of lives are being saved. For example, it makes you think, if you're someone who might not have recycled because you're like, ‘Oh, everyone has to do it to make a big difference to the planet,’ going through a period like this makes everyone remember: ‘Actually there was that time when we all did something and made a really big difference.’
So yeah, I do think that was definitely on purpose for [“Maybe Life”] to play at the end because for some people who I know are going through it, I think it can be a helpful thing to hear.”
1. Fred again.. - “Jessie (I Miss You)” 2. Fred again.. - “Isolation (Interlude)” 3. Fred again.. - “Adam (Act Like)” 4. Fred again.. - “Marnie (Wish I Had U)” 5. Fred again.. - “Sabrina (I Am A Party)” 6. Fred again.. - “Tanya (Maybe Life): 7. Fred again.. - “Ethan (See Your Face Again)” 8. Fred again.. - “Victoria (Pull Up On You)” 9. Fred again.. - “Valentina (Interlude)” 10. Frank Ocean - “I Miss You (Live)” 11. Beyoncé - “I Miss You (Freddit)” 12. Nuage - “Distance” 13. Fred again.. - “Thibaud (Love Yourself)” 14. Fred again.. - “Eyelar (Hurt Myself)” 15. Headie One x Fred again.. - “Soldiers (ft Sampha)” 16. Fred again.. - “Kyle (I Found You)” 17. Fred again.. - “Eazi’s Morale (Interlude)” 18. The Weeknd - “Low Life (Freddit)”