Already a breakout producer in the burgeoning Melbourne house scene, Griffin James has taken two big steps towards launching himself into the stars: Last year the young producer best known as Francis Inferno Orchestra picked up sticks and shipped off to London, putting himself within arm’s reach of his growing fan base. Perhaps more importantly, he’s on the cusp of releasing his first album, A New Way of Living, whose seven tracks affirm what singles on Fina Records, Let’s Play House, Drumpoet Community, Voyeurhythm, and several others have asserted — FIO is a force to be reckoned with within house. LWE caught up with Griffin via email to learn about dealing with success, his new label, Superconscious Records, and leaving home.
While you’ve been releasing since 2010, it seems your popularity has swelled quite spectacularly over the last 18 months or so. What have you done to keep you grounded in a time where you probably have a lot of people/labels trying to get a piece?
Griffin James: It’s very humbling having the attention of various label heads requesting my work. When I put my first couple of records out I didn’t really know how to deal with it properly and I think that lead me to put a couple of pieces that didn’t really benefit me in the long run. I was lucky enough to receive some mentoring words from friends who had been through the same scenario which in turn has made me very selective on who I choose to work with. I feel like releasing too much too quickly and spreading yourself thinly across a bunch of labels makes you appear like you’re probably pumping out half-assed shit.
You and Mic Newman recently launched the label Superconscious Records and started with a release by someone else. What spurred you to start the label in the first place and start by releasing another artist’s music instead of your own?
I had been toying with the idea of Superconscious for a while, keeping an eye on some extremely talented friends who weren’t getting the attention that they deserve, stuff like that. I think I mentioned it to a friend what I was planning the label and Mic caught wind of it and approached the idea of doing it together. I immediately agreed to it, as I knew deep down I would really struggle to do it alone and functionally would work better bouncing off another person. We started with the Imhotep EP because Zac (who for those who don’t know is one half of a really amazing house duo called Zanzibar Chanel) was showing me stuff he had been making on his own and I loved it. He does these single takes, all machine, no computers (because he doesn’t know how to use one for production) and they were raw! I felt like putting it out for the world to hear would be a crime. He also helped with the artistic direction for the label, he does it all!
This isn’t your first label. BBW, where you released techno tracks as Deepthroat, came first. Will there be more releases there, or from your Deepthroat guise?
The BBW/Deepthroat thing is quite spontaneous. Quite literally every now and again I’ll just get a sudden urge to make something harder and faster, on the techno edge, and if it sounds tight then me and tyson will consider putting it out. We have BBW3 finished actually, it was meant to have been out by now but I think having my LP coming too pushed back the release date.
I know you’re quite fond of sampling. I wonder, do you have any interest of working with live musicians as your sample sources?
Yeah totally, it would be a great learning experience for me as it’s something I haven’t really done properly before. It’s quite a challenge recording live musicians because it’s something you can get wrong so easily from a technical side of things.
Do you think anything should be off limits for sampling? Why/why not?
I think anything really unimaginative should be probably off-limits. Like if you were to sample say a Lil Louis record and turn into it another house or techno record you have to be pretty dumb and it’s really unimaginative, so I just don’t see the point in it. Also sampling Moodymann’s voice maybe? That’s especially really boring. I mean, he has a great voice but think outside the box. One of the funnest things about sampling for me is finding the weirdest unexpected things and applying successfully into a new song.
Not long ago you made the move from Melbourne to London. Was it difficult to need to move in order to more fully pursue your musical career?
Not really actually, I didn’t really have anything holding me back from leaving Melbourne. I sold my car and most of my stuff, my girlfriend came with me to pursue work also, and we were lucky enough to settle in quite easily. Which is actually very surprising, I know quite a few Australians who have moved to resettle into Europe with a bit of difficulty. I’ve also had lots of people helping me with music related things since landing so I’ve been very fortunate.
You debut LP, A New Way Of Living, covers a fair amount of stylistic ground but is only seven tracks long. Does the fact that all the material was written after moving to London account for the relatively brief runtime?
I could have written more, but I chose not to include more on the album on purpose. For me, right now felt like the right time to create a LP of everything I have learned from the beginning until now. It feels to me like a kind of prologue. I definitely have the desire to make another album down the line that develops of the back of this one, but only bigger and better, like a part two.
For me, the LP feels like a tidy summary of where you’ve been stylistically with a few new tweaks — especially the wavering 80s synth lines. Where do you want to take your music next?
I’m glad you noticed! I’m not exactly sure where I want to take things next; it’s always totally up in the air but I have a few ideas. I had this idea the other day to produce with some friends a short series in the style of library records, kinda in the same vein as Bruton Music or KPM and so on. Like, 15 tracks each side of washed out chords and weird sounds with one theme across the whole record. I’ve been really inspired by Geoff Bastow and Alan Hawkshaw for a long time and I really love the presentation of the records they’ve worked on. The theme would be like “leisure” or “hypnosis” or something goofy like that. I’d love to make that happen, it would be a fun project.
I still have the desire at some point to go live with my FIO stuff, but I wouldn’t know where to start. Now that I am settled here in London, I’m starting to rebuild somewhat of a studio, so hopefully we can all see something come of it!
Australia is still rather isolated from the rest of the world. Do you think it’s more difficult to become known when you’re from Australia, or do you think the Internet etc has leveled the playing field?
The Internet has definitely made thing easier. A massive contributing factor is the amount of talented artists from Australia that get lots of interest abroad. People like Andras Fox or Tuff Sherm for example who are particularly inspiring and connect with so many around the globe. But that’s just two artists, there are heaps of people who I’ve mentioned in the past who are still doing great things. But it’s the talent of these people who are leveling the playing field.
You’ve had some tough words for Melbourne’s scene, which is uncommon in the “only good vibes” world of house music. What’s caused you to be so blunt about it?
Hahah, this one IS hard because I don’t want to say anything I might regret later. The reason for me to being a bit blunt was coming to Europe and just seeing how much everyone thoroughly and actually loves electronic music compared to Australia. That and I was at a point where I was so creatively starved being there that I just had to leave. I tripped home recently to over the winter time to sort out my visa and I will say summer in Melbourne (well, Australia in general) is second to none and I would recommend it anyone, because New Years over here is definitely not cool. In terms of the local scene in Melbourne, there is cool stuff happening but it’s just too small and there is just not enough of a population for it to be thick and thriving.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you’ve released any music created collaboratively. Is that something you’d like to do in the future?
I’ve done I believe one collab that saw a release, but that was a long while back, which you could probably find if you go through Discogs. I’ve been working on a few little bits an pieces here and there with friends over here. One thing I’m really excited on getting started is a two piece electro-rap group with fellow Voyeurhythm chum Ben Sun. We both just really like Egyptian Lover a lot so we’re going to try and do something like that. 808’s and robot vocals only! Maybe take it live one day too. I’d love to collaborate with Yung Lean too. I love his work!
What’s coming up next from Griffin James and FIO in specific?
Me and my girlfriend are planning to stay for a quite a while I think, there isn’t really a reason to go home unless maybe for a short tour. I’m really just excited to finally see the album just come out. The process has taken so long and I just can’t wait for to be out and hear what people think about it. I’m very proud of it. There’s a follow-up remix package in the works but I can’t say anything more just yet. Mic and myself are also busy preparing the next Superconscious releases too. But for now more touring and enjoying a steady diet of rare cooked steaks and chai tea (not together).
And finally, any plans to make it to the U.S.?
I hope so! Would love to check it out, maybe hit up some of the places in “Man vs. Food,” check out Disney World, you know…