Name: Folarin Falana aka Falz
Occupation: Songwriter, Rapper
Recommendations: Music Album by Falz titled: Moral Instruction (2019);
Album Art for same album by Lemi Ghariokwu (2019)
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Falz, visit his Facebook profile for current news and release updates.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started making music while I was in secondary school in Nigeria. At the time I was listening to a lot of old school Nigerian & international classics including Fela Kuti, The Trybesmen, Jay Z, Kanye West, Etc. The music of that era inspired me to create sounds of my own and to be different with it.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
This is true. At the beginning, it was about emulating these old school greats that I mentioned earlier and trying to sound like them. But as time went on, I started to find my own sound and transition into who I am as an artist. The process was gradual but very organic. Copying a person’s work in its entirety is not a good thing, but I would say there is a level of copying that works as a stepping stone to help tap into your own wealth of creativity. Everybody copies, whether intentionally or subconsciously.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Initially, finding my own unique style and sound was a challenge but I gradually grew into that as time went on.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first studio was an orthodox set up with a control room and a recording booth. All basic equipments were also present. However, the world has evolved a lot since that time and the process of making music has become a lot more convenient. My studio now moves around with me. In fact, anywhere can be my studio. All I need are the major equipments for recording and a quiet enough room. Some of those equipments include a microphone, a soundcard, a laptop, headphones & studio monitors/ speakers.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I would say technology helps a lot in terms of sound processing. For instance, there are a lot of softwares, plug-ins etc that have been created by geniuses. These help to enhance and harness one’s creativity.
Humans excel at creating, machines help to bring the ideas to life.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Again, I would say the role of the human is to create, while the role of the tools would be to help bring the ideas to life in the best way possible.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I love collaborations. I have always been a big fan of mixing sounds. It’s very interesting to me when two creatives come together to prepare a mixture. I usually bounce off the energy of whoever I’m working with. Whatever style they prefer, I am okay with. In the past, some of my collaborations have happened from file sharing, jamming or simply just talking about life. I just ”let the spirit lead”.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I wake up (usually late), put some work-out clothes on and head out to the gym. After burning some calories I freshen up and head out. On a typical day, there is a lot to do. Meetings, shoots, studio sessions, etc.
My schedule is usually in my calendar so I would have a reminder on my phone for what I have to do that day. My schedule is far from routine or fixed. It usually changes on the go.
Work & my social life to a large extent have to blend seamlessly because that’s the best way to NOT look at it as work. I try to be entertained as much as possible while entertaining others.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
Using my last solo album “Moral Instruction” as an example, I would say my process is simple and straightforward. I take ideas from my immediate environment as per events and people that I come across. I write lyrics based on these encounters and when I get into the studio, I adapt those lyrics to beats and sounds that best suit the emotion. The producers and other artists I’m collaborating with (if any) would have to be on the same page all the way.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
The ideal state of mind for me would be relaxed and isolated. I love being in solitude. I’m very easily distracted so I usually need to immerse myself in the music without any distractions to be able to create properly. Distractions could be simple as other people just being present in the room. Only strategy to this is to self isolate.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
The fun part about writing and recording music in the studio is that you get to adjust and readjust until you feel like the music has reached a complete state. However, playing live involves a lot of improvisation and just making sure you create an experience different from what is contained on your record. Basically, both improvisation and composition involve a lot of creative work. The story of our lives.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
I think this is important because there are certain sound combinations that already elicit certain emotions in the mind of the listener. That already helps the composer know the tone & mood of the song he is about the write. Also, if you already have your lyrics, you have to find the perfect sounds to go with the message, otherwise there could be an unpleasant conflict.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Situations that hinder certain senses in an individual, further enhance other senses in the same. For example, a person that is visually impaired, would hear more that one who isn’t because his sense of hearing is now heightened. This just tells us that all our senses work together and compliment each other. The sixth sense, the mind, is the middle man in this relationship.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I consistently use my art to tackle social and political issues as I believe music is an art form for education as much as it is for entertainment. Lyrical content is a part of musical composition that I am usually very intentional with. It is important to have pleasant sounds, but it is also important to have meaningful words.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
Music is an art form. Therefore it is conceived differently by different people. I may use music for entertainment while another person uses it for therapy, or another for education. There are no boundaries to what music could be beyond its current form.