Hot off a hiatus with 3 new tracks – including his latest release 'Mind' – Fredwave talks to friend and collaborator Jeshi about next moves, performing for robots in Vegas, and doing things on your own timeline.
It’s a grey day in London and the last-minute summer encore has left the chat. Styled up cosy in fits that feel more appropriate for a mid-October in Britain, Fredwave and Jeshi pull up to the photo studio deep in East ready for some upcoming encores of their own. It’s early and the atmosphere in the studio is sleepy as the heating goes on and the coffees are ordered. Still, there’s an undeniable undercurrent of excitement hanging in the air between the friends and longtime collaborators. It’s game time as their latest releases are looming large in the very near distance – Fred’s third single of the year ‘Mind’ and Jeshi’s new EP The Great Stink.
Jeshi has become a mainstay of the scene in London, following up his 2022 album Universal Credit with a new six-song project (after a year packed with live performances: “I think I did like 42 shows!”). Fred, on the other hand, is releasing with uncharacteristic frequency this year: treating us to three new tracks and the introduction to an evolved sound ahead of a much-anticipated bigger project coming in November.
Ever-elusive, Fred’s approach to releasing music has been slow-and-steady since his breakthrough with ’99’ on COLORS in 2017. Part by design – finding creative catharsis working with other artists on production and writing projects – and part as a result of behind-the-booth bullshit beyond his control, Fred’s personal projects have ebbed and flowed as a kind of satellite soundtrack to his work in other areas of music. In essence: Fred is that guy who pulls up to the afters out of the blue, connects to the speaker to deliver the essential end-of-night soundtrack, and then disappears into the sunrise as quick as he came. You know you’ll see him again, you just never know when. And that’s part of the appeal.
Sharing a quick preview as he’s getting ready to go in front of the camera, ‘Mind’ is revealed as a slow jam of tranquil guitar built on a bed of head-spinning percussion from his earlier singles. With sleepy, looping lyrics overlaid, it sounds like being alone with your thoughts to fall into a fidgety sleep as the curtain falls on a hectic night: the conclusion of a story he started earlier this year with ‘LA LA’.
On the precipice of their next chapters, Fredwave and Jeshi dive deep on getting comfortable with imperfection, the realities of dropping tunes in 2023, and why 5 minutes and 5 years are all the same thing when it comes to art.
Fred’s in no rush, he’s happy riding the wave.
Jeshi: Fred, how you doing today? Tell me how you feeling today?
Fredwave: I feel great. Up early for once in my life.
Jeshi: Let’s dive straight in. You’re next track is about to drop, but from the outside in you’ve always taken a slow and steady approach to music: taking breaks from the spotlight to work on the artistry behind the scenes. Do you think that’s given you more longevity and why does now feel like the right time to be more heavy into releasing your own tracks more frequently? Is that even an intentional thing, or is that just kind of the way things have gone?
Fredwave: To be honest, there was a moment where I didn’t know what was happening with my own stuff. I didn’t really have money, or a job to really fund my own music. Obviously, it gets to the point where you realise nothing is gonna fall in your lap and it’s fucking expensive to make music the way I want to. I couldn’t really mix or record myself. I’ve started to learn to do that but these things were just certi out of my skillset. Then it was lockdown and I just decided fuck it I’m just going to work. I went from working with literally no-one to working with you and Kam-BU and everyone I said I was going to work with. I wanted to be in the studio as much as I could. We did the singles for your album, Kam-BU’s projects and a few others. That experience helped me learn how to finish songs because before that I could never finish. My output was horrible before that.
Jeshi: I think that’s part of it. It’s almost like, the more you make things, the quicker you kind of learn to get to the finished product. You mentioned money as well and it’s so crazy because people on the outside have all these questions of why people don’t release more, but people don’t understand the cost aspect of it. If there’s not an infrastructure behind you and you don’t have a pot of money to pull from then things are dramatically slower. Every single thing costs money and especially when you want to hold yourself to a high standard and do shit at the best level, you could mix stuff yourself but if you want it to sound good and it’s something that people don’t understand. Especially when you hold yourself to a high standard and you want to do shit the best way. If you have high expectations of yourself sonically, it’s not as simple as mixing stuff yourself.
Fredwave: 100% bro.You want to be up there with the best. You always think you’re the shit. Everyone does at least slightly –
Jeshi: Yeah, and you should.
Fredwave: – otherwise you wouldn’t be doing this. But, that’s why it’s been slower for me. I don’t want to say there’s been walls or doors in the way, because I could have just dropped more music and it could have done equally as well…
Jeshi: Sometimes with this stuff we’re our own worst enemy. Yeah, you could do that, but we we want so much for ourselves that we can get in our own way sometimes. I think that’s a good thing, though. It means that you care about your art and you just want things to be as good as they possibly can be. This is why you get artists who release one track and then never release anything else because they’re not able to wow themselves and keep thinking ‘this ain’t good enough, this ain’t good enough’ and roadblock themselves.
Fredwave: It’s hitting a balance and learning. That’s the thing: I’m in a blessed position now to know that nothing will ever be perfect. I don’t have one song that I listen to and think it’s perfect. I can think it’s the shit, but because I know that was as good as it could have been at that time in my life. If you listen to my old tunes you can hear the progression. I’m making better decisions and my skillset has grown.
Jeshi: The funny thing is that the songs we would listen to and say are perfect, I bet the people who made them don’t. As artists, we’re always going to be our worst critic.
Fredwave: 100% they won’t, and what’s the fun in making the perfect song anyway? I was watching something and it was talking about Call of Duty and how they release a game every year and everyone gets gassed and then they think it’s shit. But it doesn’t matter cause there’s always going to be another game next year.
Jeshi: Music is never like a final thing. Whether it’s an EP or a bigger project, none of it defines you. It’s the journey that defines you rather than singular mp3 files. How would you say your process of creating music has changed and what does it look like lately? What comes first when you’re on a new track – a beat, lyrics, a story?
Fredwave: It varies a lot cause I produce, write, and sing. I don’t know what hat I’m gonna put on in a session. Say I have a session with you and there’s already producers in there, I want to let people have their creative freedom. I’ll kickback and listen and if I feel there’s nothing I can add to a track then I won’t, but when it comes to my own stuff I have to do it all. The songs that I like most and the ones that get the most streams are usually the ones that I’ve spent years on so I need to learn to speed up that process. Now I’ll have an idea record it and send it straight to my mixer and that’s the quickest route to getting it out because when it comes to fine-tuning my shit I only know how to take my time. When it comes to writing then I use notes, pictures, and just little thoughts that pop into my head. Like ‘Shovel’ I was coming back from an afters and I was wearing all black so I wrote the outro to that song before I’d even started it. I was wearing all black and I was seeing double, that was it.
Jeshi: Sometimes the best things are the things that aren’t so thought out. ‘Shovel’ just came to you because of what you were wearing and what you were doing at the time. It’s about if it feels good. I was reading the Rick Rubin book the other day and he was explaining that people think if they work really long on something then that means it’s more valuable than something you did quickly. But that doesn’t matter. Ultimately when people hear or experience something all they care about whether it’s good or it’s bad.
Fredwave: Yeah, bruv. Solange said she made ‘Cranes in the Sky’ in seven years, but I would never have known.
Jeshi: That’s what I’m saying, no one’s ever gonna know the process behind most music. That’s why it’s good for artists to have these conversations to be able to shed that light to people who aren’t in the room when stuff’s getting made. To be able to understand more about the nuts and bolts behind the scenes. On the production side, you’ve been doing work over the past few years scoring for TV and film which seems to be going really sick. How do you find balance between doing that stuff and finding time to work on your own artist projects?
Fredwave: It’s kind of easy because at the end of the day I look at that more as my actual job cause there’s a lot of longevity in that field.
Jeshi: Yeah, you can get up to 80 years old still scoring stuff. Look at Hans Zimmer.
Fredwave: I swear. Brian Eno scored Top Boy. What does he know about the streets?
Jeshi: Yeah you can be doing that when you’re 80, but I don’t think you’ll be on stage singing ’99’.
Fredwave: I mean who knows? If I’m in Vegas and they offered me a bag. I’m there bruv, performing to all them robots with their hands in the air! I like the production and the TV scoring stuff. It let me know that I can’t be too precious about my ideas because there are deadlines. There’ll be times where I’m up at 3am to work on a brief from America. I’ve lost out on Ps because I’ve not sent demos in time.
Jeshi: I guess the blessing with it is there’s a lot of people who do personal artist projects but then work jobs they hate that have nothing to do with it to support being able to release music. With scoring for TV and adverts, they lend themselves to each other quite well. The music you make as Fredwave will inform the stuff you do on job. Knowing how to make music that goes to a visual and tells a story –
Fredwave: It does 100%. Building worlds and just being creative with it. Through the briefs I’m subconsciously learning other people’s production. There’s no new idea under the sun, so having these skills is great because I can bring a client a string section that I would never put in my music, but it’s cinematic and I can bring those skills over to my stuff.
Jeshi: Let’s talk about this new music. It’s quite a pivotal time because you’re gearing up to release this project and I guess with new music comes live shows. What are your feelings on live shows? You spoke before about having like a love hate relationship so where where does that lie currently?
Fredwave: Right now? I used to hate them back in the day when I first started making tunes. I dreaded performing and I did a lot of bad shows up until maybe 2018 and then they started getting good and I’d know because after I perform I’d get a bunch of followers –
Jeshi: You know, actually that’s a good way of gauging it now.
Fredwave: Yeah if the next day there’s no new followers? Bad day at the office. I think I’ve done my 10,000 hours in the studio and I do need to understand you’ve got to do live shows. I’ve got to get a good band together, some movement directors and then smash out a live show and tour that.
Jeshi: The more you do live shows, the better they get. You stop having to think about what you’re doing as much.
Fredwave: I’ve seen it from your shows from the beginning doing your boiler rooms to now just jumping on mics.
Jeshi: When’s the next project dropping then, the one you’ll tour?
Fredwave: You don’t know when it’s coming out? You’re on it, bro! It has changed a few times, to be fair. It’s November 16th.
Jeshi: What about a name? Or are you holding that back?
Fredwave: It’s called Goodnight June.
Jeshi: How do you feel about dropping your first whole project?
Fredwave: It’s quality over quantity. I’ve been around for time, but maybe dropping one track a year. Yeah, it’s the long game, but it’s gonna be a good one.
Read the entire conversation in Issue 03 of The Basement Magazine, coming soon.
Aaron Paul Walker
Senan Blaise Flude-Fear