Heroes: interview with Francis Inferno Orchestra (Superconscious, London)

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We know Griffin James aka FIO as a talented musician (via his music and DJ sets), and cool lazy guy who likes having fun (via his Instagram) so we decided to ask him some super serious questions and here’s what happened.

What do you think about Boiler Room? As a participant and a viewer

As a participant it’s quite nerving, especially at the Chet Faker Ray-Ban one I did… It was ridiculously busy and the first time I had seen a bunch of my friends from home in almost a year so it was a bit crazy. Most of the people there were Chet Faker’ fans who had little to no interest in dance music, so they were pretty stiff. I just recently did another one in their London studio which was a much more tranquil experience. As a viewer I don’t actually watch it that often, although I did love that time they recorded Azymuth!

I read you were surrounded with a huge record collection of your parents. Tell us how did you start creating your own music, what was your approach, instruments?

Yeah they had quite a nice collection, they were really into punk and mostly alternative stuff. I started with pretty simple beginnings, listening to various kinds of rock music which made me want to learn to play guitar throughout my early teens, then got into hip hop where I got drawn to the really sample heavy stuff from Dilla, Pete Rock, Bronze Nazareth etc, which lead to experiment on software through trial and error on making basic beats. When I was getting more into dance music, the sampling methods I was using kinda shun through whilst also doing my part to learn about using bits and pieces of hardware & outboard gear which I guess is where I’m at now, a little bit of everything. I am by absolutely no means a “gear nut’ but I like to use bits and pieces.

How long did it take you to make Harmony track? Is it the first track of your own that fits into your DJ sets?

I made Harmony right after I finished “A New Way of Living” and I think it was potentially almost going to be on the album, but for one reason or another I can’t remember right now it didn’t make the cut. It was actually a super quick track to write and it’s a very simple track I think. I ended up sitting on it for about 2 years with no real urge to put it out until I showed it to a friend who convinced me otherwise. Yeah, it’s the track I’ve played most in my DJ sets compared to anything else I’ve made.

Did you have some fave labels in your mind while creating Superconscious with Mic Newman? Is it true that making 10″ is more expensive than 12″?

Visually I guess labels like Gherkin, Underground Resistance, Innovative Communication spring to mind. We took a lot of inspiration from early rave records and DIY Chicago labels from the late 80s. There’s so many that we’ve all heard of as well as a bunch of quirky one off releases from that era that I would be here forever if I tried to list even a third of them.

I’ve only ever been involved in making one 10” and I’m not sure about pricing as someone else handled that part. I personally find them a bit annoying to carry around in record bags as they kinda get lost half the time, it’s bit of a shame considering one of my favourite records in recent times is a 10”. Lnrdcroy — Unthank008 for those curious ;)

In terms of label artwork — it seems quite common with Zanzibar Channel & Public Possession for me. There are two things: humour and freedom. What do you think about it

As mentioned before, the DIY aspect of early house and punk records have been really influential on our ‘aesthetic’. Zac Segbedzi who was one half of Zanzibar Chanel (RIP) and also responsible for our first release on Superconscious under the alias Imhotep set the art direction for our label. We loved the aesthetic & attitude he had with ZC releases as well as his label Ruff Records. He made our logo and I guess kinda set the direction that we’ve continued with. We still get him involved sometimes ..the last thing he helped us with was the record sleeve we had for Andras record which turned out really nice. We’ve also had my friend George Barnes contribute the sleeve art for the Mount Liberation release. I think it’s really nice if you can involve friends in your work.

I really recommend checking out both Zac & George‘s other work. If Zac is in your town doing an exhibition you should go to it!

How was your label party in Berlin?

It was really fun! it’s the second time Mic & I have put on a label party so we’re still «new to the game». We were also really happy to have had Andy (Andras) come and play records for us, he was great!

There were many friends making music around you in Australia — what’s the situation in London like in this aspect?

I have a couple of friends here in the big smoke making cool stuff and there are some mighty fine labels coming out of London and the UK. The situation is very different for me in London and it took a while to get used to not being around my direct circle of music friends in Melbourne all the time to «bounce off» and throw ideas at. Luckily a few of them have moved to Berlin so at least they are close… But I am the only one currently living in London. Living in London doesn’t influence what comes out of me when working on music, there is something nice about the feeling of being isolated and not feeling like you click with anything particularly around you. I think it has in fact help me focus on my own thing. I definitely have times where I miss being immersed in the Australian scene but I (and most of the others antipodean jocks) end up going back every summer to get our ‘dose’. The weather is too nice to miss.

What do you think of Bandcamp? I’m so happy each time I found label or artist I love putting their WAVs there :) The one thing that confuses me is their very strange navigation.

I think it’s pretty good for us right now. Having a platform where you can sell your music, merch, whatever directly from the artist is great. It’s very important that the artist can make money. I’m not here to give web design tips but It would be cool if it had an external player that you could listen to stuff while simultaneously searching for other stuff? But I guess if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

Who is surprising you as a musician today?

Luis CL — just when I thought I had figured him out, I’ll hear a bunch of stuff he’s been working on in various projects and I’ll start freaking out again. We’re putting out his follow up EP on Superconscious very soon and it’s very very good.

Are you getting inspiration in others’ music for your own?

I get inspired by hearing what my friends are doing, as I just mentioned Luis CL, but also Tornado Wallace, Sleep D or Dan White for example but there’s so many more back home doing great things. I’ll listen to their stuff and always be really interested in how they did got that texture or a clever little drum bit they did. Besides that I mostly look to the past… Without wasting to my precious text space I’m only going to name drop 3 people who inspire me a lot of the top of my head: Bobby Konders, Phil Collins, Iasos.

Kalamari Desert sounds a bit like a preview for an unreleased yet ambient album, how is it going? Any more plans about your own music?

Haha yeah I could you could say it is! I’ve been playing with the idea of producing a more experimental album for a new project for a very long time. Kalamari Desert was the first song in that kind of style that I’ve released into the world and the response to it has given me the confidence to pursue making this album. I can’t say much just yet, but its just about finished and will be seeing the light of day in the near future.

What do you love besides music?

My family & friends. Bahn Mi & my dog Spud (RIP)

Tell about last records you bought and what did attract you to it

Rosebud — Reflections Of Barry Lyndon 7″
This one is a well overdue purchase that Tom from Otologic tipped me onto ages ago but I’ve been slack at ordering myself a copy. I think what attracts me to this is the authentic pub rock attitude to disco. Sultry drums and whaling guitars etc.

Mylene Farmer — Maman A Tort (My Mum is Wrong) 7″
Mid 80’s french pop jam from Mylene farmer. Drum machines and slap bass are quite catchy. Apparently the song was a huge controversy due to the lyrics being about a women who falls in love with her female nurse. The 12” can run up some pretty hefty prices but I got the 7″ which was more than affordable.

The Garden of Eden — The Garden of Eden 12″
Bit of an obscure acid house record which goes for really cheap, you need to make sure you get a copy with the «The Serpent In The Garden» version because that’s the only version you want.

What music you are collecting not for DJing?

I guess I grab bits here and there for weird sounds that I could maybe sample in the future, but also a various range of psych rock or soul leaning bits or ambient/relaxing stuff etc to enjoy while cooking with friends or over while lying on the couch feeling sorry for myself. I recently got this Claude Larson — Rivers record which I’ve been enjoying, also finally grabbed that Rexy — Running Out Of Time resissue which is good stuff. Also that new Midnite Spares compilation on Efficient Space that Michael Kucyk, Andras and Instant Peterson put together deserves a shout out, although you can argue there’s definitely «DJ-able» songs in there, it’s a good listen none the less!

Follow Francis Inferno Orchestra on Soundcloud and Instagram and don’t forget to support Superconscious on Bandcamp

Cover illustration Sasha Tessio
Words Sasha Tessio