The Homebrew Electronica Interviews
FMA + 12 GAGE
Hi fellas. It really feels like Summer’s arrived today, but I’m not sure which is hotter….. the weather or the ep that you’ve just dropped! Congratulations on Verses Chapter One. From the lyrics to the music, Verses just seems to just ooze a new found maturity and confidence. I don’t think I’ll be giving away any big spoilers by saying there’s more to come. Why did you decide to split this new album into separate parts and when can we expect the next instalment?
Wow, thank you so much! We’re really glad you like it, we’ve spent such a long time writing, planning and creating this album that it’s kind of surreal to finally be releasing the first part of it.
Part of the reason that we are releasing it in sections is because it’s so big, we’ve been working on this project since August 2020 and we have a very ambitious goal in mind. We were also heavily influenced by the work of The Caretaker with his Everywhere at the End of Time project. He released it in sections from 2016 - 2019 and it took the listener on a journey not just of sound but of time too.
We’re aiming to have Chapter Two out by the end of the year.
I know you’ve been working a lot with producer n0trixx. She obviously plays an important part in shaping your sound. It’s so refreshing to find rappers working with EDM and more diverse and interesting electronic styles, rather than just relying on generic low fi beats to back them up. How much input musically do you guys have, or do you leave it all to your producer so it doesn’t distract from working on the lyrics?
Well, we work with two producers, Dreadnought is the man behind all of our music and n0trixx is the lady behind our mixing, mastering and vocal production.
For a long time it was just the three of us (FMA, 12 Gage & Dreadnought) but since n0trixx has come on board she’s really helped to propel us to the next level with our sound. She is absolutely amazing and we can’t put into words how much she has helped us.
We also don’t want to understate how talented Dreadnought is, since releasing Parental Advisory his skills and knowledge have improved incredibly. He is an integral part of why Chapter One sounds so incredible.
As for how we decide on what music to use, we have quite a convoluted method of creation.
It always begins with the lyrics and what type of genre we want to work with and what type of feeling we want to create. We find a piece of music (it could be anything from film scores, to drum beats to video game soundtracks) that fits what we want to do and then we work with that. Once we’ve created a draft of a song FMA then works with Dreadnought to create a completely new piece of music that fits with the lyrics and then we record.
That’s where n0trixx comes in, she advises us on how best to record ourselves to get the best performance and then once the vocal stems are recorded she cleans them up and we give her all the musical stems too which she then mixes and masters down. FMA is involved in this process too, he’s a little bit of a control freak.
This entire process can take months, which is why it’s taken us so long to complete Verses: Chapter One. We now have a good work flow between the four of us though so the turn around time is getting a lot shorter.
I think the main differences between us and other hip hop acts is that we don’t try to create beats, we aim to create music. We always aim to create something that makes the song feel alive.
You’ve always spoken openly about your mental health, and the extra challenges that having Autism and Dyslexia bring. I guess it’s fair to say FMA + 12 GAGE face these challenges head on and aren't afraid of the fight! It’s something that often crops up in your lyrics.
"When everyday's a battle life becomes a f**king war."
When life puts up walls, it feels like you guys are there ready with a sledgehammer to tear them down! It’s really inspiring stuff. I guess it’s getting better, but would you say we still all need to talk more about our mental health?
Definitely, it needs to get to the point where it’s not even a talking point that we are discussing mental health.
We’ve spent a lot of our lives being looked down upon by ‘normal’ society and been treated like outsiders. When you’ve lived a life that has been impeded through other people’s misunderstandings of your behaviour it just makes you more and more determined to be heard.
This was one of the ideas behind creating the Neurodivergent Crew alongside Dreadnought and n0trixx. We want to help raise the voices of the neurodivergent.
I know you’ve been playing a few live shows lately. How have these gone down? Do you enjoy the live performances? Is it challenging to bring the energy of the recorded tracks to the stage?
Live performance is where we shine and feel the most alive. The real challenge has been trying to capture the energy of our live performances in our recorded tracks.
Our energy on stage is unmatched (in 12 Gage’s completely unbiased opinion), we were performing live together before we ever recorded a song. This November will be our tenth year since our first gig.
Our philosophy when it comes to live performances is – the performers and the audience should be one. We provide the energy and the audience takes that and transforms it into movement. If everything goes according to plan, we (the audience and us) put on a great show.
It’s not easy though, for us this is our job. We practice two to three times a week and exercise just as much to be able to perform our songs effectively. Our songs are first and foremost always written and created to be performed live, if we can’t do something vocally over and over again it gets scrapped.
You’re also well known for producing great videos ….. Stomp and The Takeover spring to mind as being particularly impressive. They look so cool, but I imagine a hell of a lot of hard work goes into making those?
One thing that really helps is that we both studied screen writing. A lot of our videos are created and masterminded by FMA who over the years has become a self-taught video editor and director, Stomp and The Singularity were his ideas visually.
We were also incredibly lucky to connect with the astounding director Joshua Leo Dorfman. He is the director and man who made The Takeover video possible. We were also recently story consultants on his film “Road to Lethwei” which is a genuinely awesome documentary that we both can’t wait for the world to see.
I suppose our secret is that we always just dive into whatever project needs doing and we learn along the way.
Perhaps not everyone reading this will know you are in fact a father and son rap duo? I guess constantly working so closely together can bring it’s own challenges …….and of course have it’s advantages too?
Definitely! We share a lot of the same interests and inspirations when it comes to song and story writing. We can and have clashed over ideas many, many times, but we’ve also worked through writers blocks and finished projects that have felt impossible when we began them. When FMA struggles with something 12 Gage normally knows what to do and vice versa.
Who are your musical heroes ?
Fish (the original vocalist from Marillion) is the man who inspired FMA to start writing lyrics. The way Fish used such abstract imagery and poetry was incredibly inspiring.
12 Gage’s musical hero is The Streets because after all the flash and glamour of most rappers, it was so refreshing to hear someone rap about messy breakups, pubs and crappy phones.
Can you name an album that you couldn’t live without ?
FMA – The Love Symbol Album by Prince
12 Gage – A Grand Don’t Come for Free by The Streets
For folks that maybe don’t know you and are new to your music, what tracks should they listen to first?
To be honest, everything on Verses: Chapter One should give an insight into who we are and what we do. But if you don’t have time for that then probably Stomp, Prepare Yourself and The Road are good starting points.
Matthew and Callum, you’re super stars! Thanks so much for your time and for answering questions for the Homebrew Electronica website.
Thank you so much !
Verses : Chapter One is available to buy and download here , and can also be found on all major music streaming platforms.
Hey Michael , how are things with you across the pond ?
All is well here! I’ve been busy building a somewhat elaborate hybrid computer/hardware setup for a live set that’s been quite the struggle. I’m finally getting it all to communicate properly and it’s sounding great, so it was definitely worth it!
You seem to be spearheading a fresh new wave of great Electronica, Synthwave and Synth-Pop that’s currently emerging from the US. Your own tunes, along with music from the likes of Darwin McD and Very Brave Men are always popular when played on the show. I think you are all based in California. There must be something special in the air there ! Does the area have a reputation for producing awesome independent electronic music ? 🙂
That’s very kind of you! I think California is a great state with pretty much any sort of climate and environment you can imagine. It’s richly diverse both culturally and environmentally, so there’s a lot to experience and take in. All of that leads to incredible music discovery and creation.
Music For Imagined Landscapes , your latest album project sounds fantastic , but it’s a little different from your other releases in that you’re adding tracks to it throughout the year. How did that idea come about ?
I had experimented with the idea in 2021 on the ambient album Future Fade. I really liked the process but wanted to expand upon it by creating an audio/visual experience. Taking inspiration from some of my favorite video games as a child of the 90s, each song is written specifically to soundtrack an “imagined landscape” that is the song's artwork on Bandcamp/streaming. It’s also been a great way to constantly interact with fans and build the album together.
Does that method of releasing (a track a month) give you more flexibility and freedom , or is there always an added pressure to complete a track and add it on time ?
It’s quite honestly a little bit of both. It’s nice to sit and create a single track, mix and master it, then move on. The issues arise when writer’s block or life throws a curve ball and the schedule backs up. Creatively though, I prefer this method.
As well as your album releases, you’re known for posting some fantastic tutorial and jam videos up on YouTube. I’ve become hooked on your recent Circuit and SP404 combination vids 🙂
How have you found working with the SP404mk2 ? It can be so much more than a low-fi hip hop beat machine I think. You’ve certainly inspired me to approach it’s workflow in ways I hadn’t thought of previously !
Thank you, I love making videos and learning all about video editing. With regard to the 404, it completely changed the way I approach music… once the workflow clicked. I use it for ambient sound design, live sets and even beatmaking. It’s so flexible and I love the fact I can get away from the computer/daw and work in ways I never imagined.
Which do you enjoy more ? Doing the videos , or working on album releases ?
That’s a tough one. Doing these videos taught me a lot about production minimalism and it’s greatly helped me overcome my perfectionism, embracing the beauty of imperfection. On the other hand, with my albums I am more exploratory in sound/genre and it’s always great fun finding new sonic frontiers. Sorry if that’s a bit of a non answer, but it just depends on what I’m currently working on.
Have you played many gigs , or do you have plans for any live performances in the near future. ? There is a real appetite for live independent electronic music here in the UK , with the Electronic Music Open Mic events proving to be a great success , and many other shows and festivals happening across the country. What’s the live electronic music scene like in the USA at the minute ?
I’ve played a few shows as Sunwarper, but haven’t found many venues or groups to connect with. That’s probably on me as I don’t have much time to research it. I love seeing what’s coming out of the UK and hope to get over there sometime to play some shows. I’m talking with my partner in Audionautic Records, Kh3rtis, to see if we can make something work in the next year or two. As of now I do beat sets on YouTube every few months and in July I’ll be testing out an ambient meditation live set on my Bandcamp.
For folks that maybe don’t know you and are new to your music, what tracks should they listen to first.
Great question: My music spans a pretty diverse group of genres, so a great starting point is something like “Moon Meld” for Synthwave, “Arctic Horizon” for ambient soundscapes and “Soundtrack For a Rainy Day” for the more BoC style vibes.
Who would you say is a music hero of yours ?
Naming just one is tough, but I take a lot of inspiration from Aphex Twin’s approach to music. Tracks and even albums can range from breakneck idm to the most emotional piano ballads.
Can you name one album you couldn’t live without ?
The Campfire Headphase from Boards Of Canada. Growing up near the beach in California, it is like an aural capsule of driving up Pacific Coast Highway on a lovely summer's day. There is so much production and sounds teeming under the surface it still feels like I hear something new in it every time I listen.
Michael, thanks so much for your time and for chatting to the Homebrew Electronica Show !
Thank you, I love the show and appreciate all that you do for independent music! :)
Hello Jim, how are you this fine day ?
I’m all good Kev, always a joy to talk to you !
You’re about to release the second full Cobbler album , ‘Songs Delayed’ How would you say your music has progressed since the first, and does the way you approach making a Cobbler album differ much to when when you’re working with Luke (Wright) as The People Who Run The Country ?
Well, on a point of pedantry it’s actually my third Cobbler album – Cobbler-01 used sampled vocals, This Is A Good Place To Kiss was a series of collaborations with poets, and this one is the first to use my own vocals.
The songs with Luke and The People Who Run… tend to start with an idea from Luke. He will send me rough vocals and guitar and I’ll work it up from there. My Cobbler tunes normally begin with a sample that I like – and that could be anything! A beat, or a string loop, or a bass line, and things flow from there. It’s a much more freeform process, in which I don’t have an end point in sight when I start.
On this album, I have started to introduce guitars, but they are rarely the bedrock in the way they are with The People Who Run. I add them when I feel they are needed, to give things a bit of colour.
The album title intrigued me a little. Was this particular set of songs a long time in the making ?
Good spot, Kev! In my teens and 20s I played lots of acoustic gigs, just me and my guitar. I had loads of songs, all written in your typical balladeering style. It was only when I came back to music later that I realised I had watched people in studios for years and I could probably figure out how to do it myself if I had the right equipment. So I bought a basic set up and started experimenting. That was how Cobbler-01 came into being – just messing around with samples and plugins and seeing where it took me. I honed things a bit for the second album, and then when I started making tunes for my third, I began trying to fit my old songs over them. I wasn’t deliberately re-creating them – the chord sequences and riffs were very different on acoustic, and they were all in different keys, but when I got a backing track to a certain point I began trying various old songs over the top and some of them worked.
It’s really nice to see new life breathed into tunes I wrote as a younger person – although a few lyrics made me cringe and had to be changed! I never believed in myself enough back then to really push these songs – now I just believe in putting things out into the universe and seeing what comes back. I reckon that’s personal growth!
You have a great knack for blending different musical genres. There’s a strong indie pop / indie dance vibe on some of the new tracks , but you’re also not afraid to explore more chilled out Electronica. Is there a conscious decision to mix things up , or do things just fall that way?
As I said, I rarely start with any idea of where things are going to end up. My real upbringing was in guitar music, playing drums in rock bands, but my secret love was always pop music. Regardless of the style I am making, I am very fond of a pop structure – verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle 8, double chorus – but what style ends up coming out can be very different. I like to pick a tempo and a key signature and just see what happens.
It’s always tricky when people ask me what “genre of music” I make. I’m like, I dunno, I do it on a computer!
I think I’m right in saying there were a few People Who Run The Country live gigs. How did they go down ? Was it fun performing those songs live with Luke ? Are there any Cobbler live dates on the horizon ?
Yep, Luke and I have played live a few times and they’ve been really good. Just me and him on-stage, me with a guitar and him with a mic, making a load of noise. Great fun! I suppose that’s the hard thing about doing Cobbler live – it’s just me! Does anyone want to see a speccy ginger bloke on his own on-stage singing along to backing tracks? I’m not sure how I’d make that fun for anyone. Now, if anyone wants to give me a massive budget to recreate what I do with live musicians, then sign me up! Never say never, I guess…
For folks that don’t know you and are new to your music , which tracks of yours of should they listen to first?
What a question that is! The three albums are so different that I’ll have to pick one from each: So Cold from Cobbler-01, London Prayer from TIAGPTK, and I’ll say Stuck from Songs, Delayed. And that’s before I even mention The People Who Run… or Dogs Don’t Deal, my other side project with the singer-songwriter Michael Vickers. Or my one-off collab with the absolute powerhouse of a vocalist that is Nathalie Miranda! I’ve got a playlist on Spotify called Good Things Come To Those Who Cobble which has everything I’ve ever released on. Just go there and hit shuffle – whatever happens, you’ll have a good time!
Who are your music heroes ?
Going to go off-piste here and say Mark Oliver Everett, also known as E – the brains behind Eels, and Regina Spektor – two artists who just do themselves.
Which album couldn’t you live without ?
Eels have been a massive inspiration to me – I still remember the first time I heard Novocaine For The Soul and thought, hmm, interesting what he’s done with those samples, I wonder if I could do something like that. 20 years later I’m, well, doing something like that! The real highpoint for me is the album Daisies of the Galaxy – that album gets me right here every time I hear it, even more so when you know what E had been through to get to that point.
Jim you’re a ⭐️ Thanks so much for taking the time to chat to the Homebrew Electronica Show
Jamie, how the devil are you ?
I am actually in a very good place in my life after a few very difficult years, the one thing I have managed to do is keep making new music, which has helped me no end.
You’re well known for working with with many different independent artists. The Christmas single you put out with Kiffie to raise funds for homeless charities seemed to go down very well. Did it’s success surprise you at all , and how did that particular collaboration come about ?
I love to collaborate with fellow independent artists, it doesn’t always work out well but mostly It’s been a fantastic experience and it’s good to be slightly outside of your comfort zone and a collaboration will definitely do that. To be honest I wasn’t surprised “The Night Before Christmas” went down so well, as it’s a catchy little number, what I was surprised about is one person donating £100, and Another £50 for the track, and people like Actor Robert Carlyle pinning his post about our track to his twitter profile for the whole of December, Other stars including DJ Rusty Egan (who also bought it) Eddi Reader and Ruby Turner also shared a post, I’m sure this helped. Pretty much everyone played it on the electronic music scene and I had so many nice positive comments about it. Kiffie approached me with the idea to donate it to the homeless and I didn’t even have to think about it before I said Yes. We wanted to give something back at the end of the year and it made us feel good to be able to help. I’m sure if it was picked up by the mainstream it could have made so much more, it wasn’t for the want of trying. I suppose we do get another shot this December! The collaboration came about after Kiffie and I had work on a track during lockdown called “Fear is Real” we talked about doing another one, I think I responded to his twitter post about who want’s to do a Christmas track, I thought that would be fun, I had only written one Christmas song before. The first idea Kiffie sent me was too slow I thought for a Christmas track, so I asked him for something more Jolly and he came back with the fabulous music you hear, I put the lyrics down and then vocals and we had a song. I very much enjoy collaborating with Kiffie and I’m sure we could probably do a whole album at some point in the future. We seem like a great fit and I greatly admire his musicality and passion.
From the clips I’ve seen online, the recent Flux gigs in the Bristol area sounded great and looked like one mad party ! Were they as much fun as they looked ?
Tremendous fun, yes! I have know Richard Mordecai for a long time now, and we have finally hit our stride and I feel more at home on stage than ever! People come to our gigs with some sparkle and are definitely ready to dance and we love that. We had LinusFitness-Centre and Fourth Engine support us and we had a great crowd. Richard has completely reconstructed the classic 80’s banger Spin me (around like a record) by Dead or Alive and Visage – Fade to Grey, we also have a nice surprise in the middle part of Handbag Punk, I won’t ruin it, you’ll have to come and check us out.
The audience certainly seemed to be loving it ! You describe the Flux sound as Queer Synth Punk, or something along those lines. Great description , but your music seems to appeal to a wider audience than that might suggest. It’s a Hi-NRG and addictive brew for sure. Does the song creation process differ much with Flux than it did in This Human Condition, or the ‘solo’ work you release ?
Yes. I’d say FLUX is very flamboyant and we definitely take inspiration HI-NRG and people like, Patrick Cowley, Bobby O, Georgia Moroder, Divine, Sylvester and Leigh Bowery plus tons more! My solo work is mainly collaboration and Richard and I from Flux wrote 5 songs for This Human Condition, I suppose where it differs is the tracks I worked on with Mister-Mincie, working with him is a very exciting and experimental off the wall, off the chain experience.
Any plans for Flux gigs further afield ? I can’t help thinking a London gig would be a hit. I know you’re a fan of the EMOMs (Electronic Music Open Mic). Are you playing more of those this year ?
We have another live gig in Bristol Supporting Head Noise also with Linus on April 1st at Crofters Rights. Currently applying for festivals and prides up and down the country. We will defiantly play a London date before the year is out. I’m a massive fan of the EMOM’s and having helped run the Bristol branch “We All Play Synth” it’s something I very much look forward to attending. I tend to test new songs out at EMOM’s before I put them into a live set. I’ve been going to EMOM’s since 2017 when This Human Condition played at Martin’s first Bristol night. I’ve met so many incredible people through EMOM nights, it’s a fantastic community and something I very much will continue to support and play at.
For folks that don’t know you and are new to your music , which track of yours of should they listen to first ?
For Flux i’d start with Handbag Punk, God Kills Another Kitten, Just Because You Can (Doesn’t Mean You Should)
Solo stuff I’d start with Shake It Naked, Gone So Quickly Without Goodbye and You Said.
This Human Condition stuff try tracks, Normal, Psychotropic, Telepathic Heights, Brother Blue and Rise.
I’m going to ask everybody these questions I think. 🙂 Your Music Heroes (2 Max) ?
Which album couldn’t you live without ?
I’m totally torn between The self titled Erasure album from 1995. It’s simply glorious, and the Hounds of love album by Kate Bush.
Jamie , you’re a ⭐️ Thanks so much for taking the time to do the first Homebrew Electronica Show interview.
Much warmth to you Kev and thanks for asking me!