You could be forgiven for not already knowing the name Black Atlass but we can’t let you continue to be ignorant to this young talent. Hailing from Montreal, Alex Fleming has been releasing music since he was 17 and has since caught the eye of labels (in music and fashion) worldwide. The artist now finds himself in good company regularly, having released his most recent music projects through Fool’s Gold, as well as being tapped by many high-fashion labels (hi Alexander Wang and Louis Vuitton) for their campaigns, whether it be behind the musical score or in front of the camera. It’s obvious that Fleming is comfortable in any of these roles, cementing his ability as an all-round creative, and his most recent project sees him handing over the reigns to some equally talented producers for a remix EP of his last full-length Haunted Paradise. We shot the wunderkind a few questions to get an idea of exactly how he manages to harness his many creative pursuits, as well get an exclusive preview of a track off his freshly-released remix EP – Madeaux’s dark, club-ready take on his track ‘Island Love’.
You started making music at a really young age. What were the first songs/artists to motivate your creative process?
Growing up there was always great music around. My family has great taste in music so that definitely opened my eyes to some amazing artists early on. I think in terms of the creative process, some moments that I can remember inspiring me early on were the Justice Cross album, Bon Iver’s first album, Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion – I think that was the early golden age of indie rock and experimental electronic music for my generation. Thinking about that time brings back so many amazing music memories. It wasn’t until I first discovered Kanye that I started to become really inspired to be a producer and from there that grew into experimenting with adding vocals to the music I was creating, which turned me back to looking to artists that I grew up listening to, like Prince, for vocal inspiration. I think it was The Weeknd’s House of Balloons that really gave me an idea of a direction I didn’t even imagine was possible for a singer at that time which was a big turning point for me.
There are some great talents coming out of Canada at the moment. How has the country’s music scene influenced your own sound, if at all?
Growing up in Canada has given me somewhat of an outsider’s perspective on the rest of the world’s music scene. Being so close to the US and so closely connected with Europe you can really step back and look at the big picture of everything that’s going on within each culture. In that way I think Canadian artists are able to create an interesting collage of influences that truly sets us apart. We also have a culture that seems to be looked at as foreign in other countries, people usually don’t know a lot about Canada and I think that allows Canadian artists to create an element of surprise within our work which I think is all part of the mystique surrounding the Canadian music scene.
Haunted Paradise really is the perfect name for the vibe your album. What was your mindset and inspiration in making it?
I really wanted to paint a picture of duality and darkness when you scratch the surface of something beautiful. I wanted for there to be really strong conflicting moments between songs and for the album as a whole to bring you along for the ride in the right ways. I love creating different stories within my music, and it was fun to experiment with that on the scale of a full length album. It was really important to me that this album be a cohesive story from the very beginning of the first track to the very end and to feel as though a wave has come and gone and washed over you before you know it. I spent a lot of time arranging, and re-writing different parts of each song to fit together perfectly. It’s really meant to be looked at and listened to as one piece.
And now you’re about to launch the remix EP. What do you think makes for a good remix?
I think a remix should be something entirely different than the original song. It’s not enough to just speed up the BPM on an acoustic track and add a 4/4 drum pattern to it. I really want to hear the producer’s interpretation of the song in a new way that re-creates the sound as something that’s original to them. When it comes to remixes on my own songs, I always let the producers know that I want to hear what they hear in the track. The process should be fun and exciting and push them creatively to create a collage of sounds.
It was your music that caught the attention of the fashion world initially but you seem to be a natural fit for those kinds of projects (in front of and behind the camera). Did you ever see yourself working with the likes of Louis Vuitton and Alexander Wang?
It was definitely an unexpected turn in my career but I think it has really defined the way that I approach the creative direction of my project. The fashion world has inspired me in so many ways, but something that has always been striking to me is their incredible respect for creativity and art. I regard fashion in the same way as music or film or photography or design. It’s all a part of this creative world which I think is such an important part of the culture of humanity.
-This has obviously translated into your music videos as well. Do you create songs with a visual idea in mind?
Of course. As I always say, I consider myself an artist in general, not limited to any particular medium. I apply the same approach to music as I do to videos, design, performance, or any creative project.
What is it like working with Kenneth Cappello?
Amazing. Kenneth has been a huge mentor to me and I have nothing but respect for him. His energy and vision are so inspiring and he’s definitely someone who’s always looking to push for iconic moments within his work. He really knows how to connect with people and he just has a no bullshit attitude to his work and his vibe that’s really refreshing and rare to come across, and makes for an amazing dynamic in working with him.
Do you have any idols in music or fashion?
The list could go on forever.
What drew you to Madeaux’s interpretation of ‘Island Love’?
I really love that it sounds unique to him. It’s cool to hear my voice within a genre that I haven’t really worked in before, and I can definitely see us doing more together in the future.
Black Atlass’ Haunted Paradise Remix EP is available now.