Shlohmo has a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing going on. On the one hand, the LA producer’s output is characterised by his tinkering in the beat laboratory, yielding intricate, personal releases like 2011’s Bad Vibes LP. On the other hand, he is more than capable of transforming into a monstrous Dr. Hyde figure, levelling clubs with EPs like his Jeremih-assisted Def Jam Records debut No More, or his extensive catalogue of remixes. Of course, for Shlohmo, these two modes of music production aren’t mutually exclusive: as he tells, us there’s no shortage of detail in his work on a release like No More.
With the title track of No More, you’ve said that parts of the beat are made from telephone hold music. How did that work?
I was on hold with this shitty company, trying to quit their services, and was on hold for over an hour. Their hold music was so bad that it sounded good. It was so fucked-up and distorted that it was sort of harmonising like the distortion overtone from your speakerphone and I thought ‘Oh shit, I sort of have to record this.’ And I did – all the weird low melodic, flipping and whatever the fuck is going on in that song can be pieced down to the weird reapplied hold music.
Are there any other sounds in your work that have strange origin stories?
Yeah, definitely with a lot of the earlier stuff. What I was most interested in was kind of just having this computer that could amalgamate everything around me. All the sounds, and all the early stuff around me that I could make into music have a story. I can’t remember what song it was but I remember running my small marijuana pipe across my keyboard, and the sound that makes running across the keys. I used that in one song I made.
Do you ever try to hide Easter Eggs in your music?
Very much so. There are other things here and there that, when I listen to them, make me laugh. There is this song that I did it with Groundisava where you can hear a Mac Mail notification sound in the background, like someone got a message. So if you listen to that song you can hear that it has been recorded into one of the loops, like every four bars or whatever.
I’m sure that freaks people out.
I still check for messages every time, and I made the song.
I really love the cover art of the Laid Out EP you did. Did you make the cover art for the No More EP as well?
No, I actually didn’t – this dude called Reed Bennett did it. He does work for [Kanye West’s creative imprint] DONDA, and was mustered by either Def Jam or Jeremih’s camp.
Is that a new development for you, or do you think you will be returning to a more DIY ethos for upcoming releases?
For me, that was never meant to be permanent chair. The producer chair is never a permanent seat for me. I’m almost done with this LP I have been working on, kind of the follow-up LP to Bad Vibes. I haven’t released any proper LPs since, and that one is going to be very much my own. I’m designing everything: all the sounds are me – there are no features on the record. This is very much back to the old me.
[That said,] it is going to be very differently stylistically. It is more energetic this time; it is definitely going in my own direction, my own wave.
With that in mind, No More was a collaborative work. What was it like adding another party into the creative process?
It’s crazy – it’s always interesting. That was kind of the first time I had done a full, collaborative, multiple-song collaboration with someone else. It’s interesting how the whole process works. The process is more about finding common ground and learning how to make intelligent compromises with other people’s artistic integrity in mind. It’s interesting, man – you are applying yourself to this other person’s career and creativity, and it is kind of like reconceptualising yourself through a few songs or one little project.
You’ve said that you grew up on punk music. How do you think that informs the music that you make?
I think I have been realising it more and more, that it is kind of my home base. You know: nothing actually means anything; everything kind of sucks. Nothing really means anything to me unless it is anti–everything else, because everything else kind of sucks. So I think that, whenever I’m making stuff, I know what I don’t want.
There is so much wrong in the world that it just makes sense to be anti-everything and find humour in things that suck. I definitely listened to a lot of punk and stoner metal growing up. I still do. I don’t listen to much punk now, mostly just stoner metal. I kind of had this feeling that it is not concerned with other things. I have always been interested in that anti attitude, it’s hard to explain.
Do you have any punk heroes?
It used to be Darby Crash in high school – you know, The Germs. I think my new punk heroes are Boris, the Japanese sludge metal band. I just saw them for the first time – the chick is so rad, and the drummer had this moment where he was standing up holding this noise machine. He had this long black Japanese hair covering his face, and all this smoke was just billowing from behind him. It was just the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. That’s the most inspired I have been recently.
They are a bit like what you do, in that they’re very versatile – having released sludge metal stuff, post rock stuff, a pop album, and so on. Are you particularly interested in people who try different sounds?
There are people who are fully invested into one sound. I think I like people who don’t realise the impact of their art fully. I don’t know – I think that is why I really like pop music, because I know that it isn’t trying to be anything but pop music. I got over that shit a long time ago. I can listen to pop music, and I can also listen to punk music, or underground whatever music or whatever.
I grew up thinking fuck all that. Fuck that if it isn’t pure art and it’s meaningless. I think I was told to find the art in creating something as perfect as what pop music is. Something that makes the most amount of people feel something is an artform within itself.
Have you gotten involved with much commercial production, or ghost writing, or consulting with major labels?
Very, very little. Everything that I have has a production markup, so that it will say ‘Produced by Shlohmo.’ Pretty much everything I have done has been a directed collaboration. I have worked with someone specifically and we are going to put it as a collaborative project. I haven’t delved deep into the awful studio industry world, with people and percentages and whatever. I haven’t done that yet.
I’m down for people to say ‘Hey, we like your beat. We wanna use your name so here’s a lot of money.’ That’s cool, but I’m not down to find some life-or-death, your-soul-is-mine publishing deal.
In another time do you think you would have described what you do as IDM?
Fully. I think that it almost makes sense to me still. It’s got a little bit more home recording going on, with the newer stuff that is more like rock – recorded music, alternative music. A lot of the stuff is now so digital. I think that’s where it comes from, IDM.
Do you think we will ever come up with an umbrella label or genre to describe what crews like Wedidit and Brainfeeder do?
I don’t know – it’s so hard. Everything is still kind of new, but everything moves so fucking fast. I wouldn’t even consider the music that I’m making now to be the same as the music I was making three years ago. I don’t know – branding these days lasts for like two months. Hopefully we never brand it.
Do you still paint?
Rarely. I’m at my computer most of the time, so a lot of my visual ideas get hashed out in Photoshop or Illustrator. I have actually been talking about this with other people because I really want to start painting again. Not at the moment though, but I have been making plans to plan.
Do you find that your approach to music has stuff in common with your approach to painting?
Very, very much so. I think I look at sounds a lot visually. Not like ‘seeing sounds’, but I definitely start songs how I would start a blank canvas. You start with the wash, add dark bass and then build up to the brights. The way that I end up making music ends up being this visual project.
If you could get any vocalist, living or dead, to do a feature on one of your tracks, who would it be?
Tom Waits, or Cat Power. Or K-Ci & JoJo.
At some point you added an extra ‘H’ to your stage name. Where did that come from?
There is a British beatboxer whose name is Shlomo, and he has some following within the beatboxing community. So it was a big enough deal that me and my label didn’t want us to get confused. So I added that ‘H’ in there, and now it just ends up been really difficult to describe to people how to spell my email address.
It’s your Blink-182 moment.
You once said this to Notion magazine, talking about the music industry: “There is not a fucking thing that doesn’t suck about it.” Do you think that music journalists understand what you are doing or do you think that you are often misrepresented?
[Laughs.] I think there is no choice but to be misrepresented, when people are just writing down their assumptions about things. Interviews are cool, but reviewers make a lot of assumptions, because they’re not in the studio with you. Even when it’s a good review, people can get things totally wrong. And that makes me pissed. I’d rather people not even say anything.
Everything is just clickbait, and the music industry itself is just clickbait. Labels are signing clickbait. It’s bullshit.
Not to say that people don’t make real music, and there aren’t real musicians out there, but that’s the music industry.