Name: Fraser T Smith aka Future Utopia
Nationality: British
Occupation: Producer, songwriter, musician
Recent Release: Future Utopia's "Never Gonna Get it", a collaboration with DJ Seinfeld, is out via 70Hz.
Recommendations: I recently returned from visiting friends in Florence, and we spent some time at the Uffizi gallery, surrounded by so many masterpieces. I saw ‘The Birth Of Venus’ and was mesmerized.
To recommend listening to one piece of music is impossible - so how about I recommend a piece of music you already know and recommend that you focus on just one element that you may not have zoned in on before? The bassline in ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ by Ian Dury.

If you enjoyed this interview with Future Utopia, visit the project on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.

Future Utopia · Never Gonna Get It

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I was first drawn to music, watching my Nan play the piano in her house in South London, aged 5. She was self-taught, and was from the generation where people gathered around the piano to sing together. I then used to lose track of time experimenting on the piano and eventually persuaded my mum and dad to buy me a guitar.

I then got into Johnny Marr, The Police - and my great friend Tom Rowlands from the Chemical Brothers, who I was at school with, introduced me to Jimi Hendrix, Run DMC, and drum machines.

Music was, and still is my sanctuary, my way of communicating, emoting, and expressing myself.

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

That’s interesting - I don’t have synesthesia, but I feel a great connection to something greater.

Once I’m connected, I go with the flow - I’m fully influenced by this, in a kind of trance, not judging, just letting the ideas flood out of me.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

The transition from behind-the-scenes producer and writer to frontline artist has been the biggest challenge, but the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had. To become an artist has meant dealing with a lot of inner demons and insecurities - it hasn’t been easy, I’ve had to go to some very dark places, but the sense of artistic freedom is like a drug.

My first album was more about curation - I came up with the 12 Questions, and curated the music, and who I collaborated with. The phase I’m in at the moment is experimenting in the electronic space with melodies and lyrics which are my own, and my next album will incorporate more guitars and I’ll be singing …

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

Through my first album, I learned through questions such as ‘Fear Or Faith’? and ‘Nature or Nurture’? a lot about polarity - two ends of the scale, and the sweet spot in-between.

My sense of identity in relation to my creativity and as an artist is similar - on one hand I can identify as being experienced and skillful, but on the other I can identify with knowing absolutely nothing, and having the innocence of a child.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

The ‘Why’? Behind making music for me, is to be able to connect with people on a wider scale, and to share what I’ve learned.

I’m also committed to my own progression, to experience as much as I can, and to learn from all of the various art forms from sculpture to digital art - from theatre and poetry, and to assimilate and give back.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I’ve always been interested in mixing acoustic and electronic elements, nonlinear and linear, traditional and futuristic.

There’s so much to draw from the past, but so many more original sounds to create in the future.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

A keyboard and guitar have been the most important basic tools, and my rhythm has always been an Akai MPC drum machine. Through early limitations, I learned how to sample, and make whole tracks on the MPC by effecting sounds and sequencing.

Limitation is great for creativity. Sampling and editing on a tiny screen without the infinite possibilities of a modern laptop, forces you to be more experimental, take more chances, and therefore sound more unique.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

I wake up at 6am and stretch, take our dogs out, and feed them whilst listening to some motivational speeches on YouTube. I take care not to be checking messages or social media. I then make a coffee and plan my day, thinking about what I want to achieve, what I’m grateful for, and then meditate for a while. I’ll then create something for around 30minutes, with no agenda, no judgments - completely free. I’m currently on song #129 in this series.

I’ll then go out for a run, or do a workout - have some meetings, to make sure I’ve done all the basic tasks, so I can get them out of the way, I’ll then start work on whichever project I’m working on that day.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

My first album, 12 Questions then led into my first live performance at Bold Tendencies in Peckham during lockdown. Both were incredibly special to me, and to see people connect with the questions, words and music was unforgettable.

The creative process was to plan slowly, and then execute quickly. I learned that from Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards. For me, creative preparation must be thorough, so thorough that when it comes to writing, recording or performing, I’m in the moment, lost in the flow.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

I was once described as a ‘Social introvert’ - I love creating on my own, but I also love people, and love collaborating. I love finding out about people, and learning different processes and hearing different ideas.

I usually like to start my ideas on my own, and then collaborate once I have an idea of where we’re heading. I’m still open to change though, and love it when another artist’s ideas can completely derail where I thought the idea was going.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

I think creativity relates to the world to the extent that you’re open to the events in the world.

At the time of creating 12 Questions, I was reading a lot of news, learning a lot, and questioning AI, the wealth gap, lack of diversity and connection, and environmental issues. All of this came out in the music.

I think music has a huge, huge role in society. It can help people escape, think, dance, and relate to each other.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

Listening to so much varied music growing up literally formed my character - I learned everything from my record collection - even if I misinterpreted an Ian Curtis lyric, or a line from a Public Enemy song.

I grew up pre-Google and Youtube, so you had to make your own mind up, come up with your own meanings - and I think this was powerful.

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?

Music and science share frequency, tempo, vibration, space and time - and I’d say that the subjective nature of music reveals the objective nature of science, and vice versa.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

At my studio I work with a wonderful lady called Jade who prepares the food for us, and the artists who visit, amongst other things, and I always marvel at the way that she can turn the simple process of making a cup of coffee into an art form, she puts so much love and so much of herself into everything she does.

Similarly, I think you can either make mundane run of the mill music, or put everything into it and leave your mark.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

There’s infinite intelligence, and we, as humans, are vessels to transmit energy. The richness and depth of what we’re able to receive and pass on is limitless.

Judgment, ego, insecurities and negativity all shut off the flow, so as creators, we need to remain open, positive and connected in order to create our best work - work which will resonate energetically.