This Sunday at Le Bain, Nouveau York spends the night with New York label UNO and some of its protégés: Fur, Eddie Mars, Justin Strauss and one of the most inspired electronic producers from Montreal, Mike Silver aka CFCF. CFCF loves DJ Shadow as much as Frankie Knuckles - a good reason to get to know him with a Standard Q&A!
Mike Silver aka CFCF
You have been a big fan of abstract hip hop producer DJ Shadow. Music critics also used the words ‘instantly charming to the ear’ to describe your tracks. Do you think the magic of your music can be found between ‘the experimental world of electronic music’ and the ‘instant satisfaction of pop’?
Mike Silver: It’s pretty much what I strive to, but I can’t say it’s the one right approach. I would be sad if there weren’t things that were completely out there, totally experimental and strange, and the opposite of complete pop gratification is obviously so wonderful. I just think it’s an interesting balance to try to keep. There are a lot of elements in each way of working that are complimentary.
That balance describes very well the work of some contemporary hip hop producers. Are there any hip hop producers you admire?
Definitely! As far as current producers, Clams Casino is great, Silky Johnson, Block Beataz, DJ Burn One. Bigger names like Justice League, Runners etc, I love all of that stuff. Rap music is a huge influence.
When in high school you have been in a rock band playing guitar. Is there any contemporary rock bands you feel close to and you consider as an inspiration for your music?
Pure X from Austin are, I think, the one rock band playing today that I feel totally close to and in line with their ideas. Their music is just so beautiful, simple and complex at once, a really hard thing to put your finger on. The first time I saw them it was like a southern Galaxie 500 channeling Talk Talk - but that description is terrible and does them no justice at all.
CFCF You Hear Colours
Going back to electronic music, which producers impress you? Do you feel close to the likes of James Blake or Nicolas Jaar who you have been compared to?
I like Elite Gymnastics, d’Eon, Hype Williams, Floating Points. A lot of stuff. I like Blake and Jaar, but I’m not totally familiar with all of their input, just their last full-lengths and a couple one-offs. But it’s inspiring that they are pushing the limits of what a ‘producer’ is, which is something that I think has been limited to a certain one idea in the past few years. But they’re songwriting, they’re improvising, they’re collaborating and making strange things and working for their ideas. That’s inspiring.
Talking about Blake or Jaar, they are not only precious producers but also good performers, as a DJ or live acts. How seriously do you take DJing?
As far as DJ’ing, it’s a fun thing that in the past year I’ve tried to put some focus and make my own way of doing it, which is kind of what the ‘night bus’ mixes and the mixtapes for some online retailers were. Something that is a DJ mix but with its own original elements, a thread that runs throughout, and a more personal take on it. I love DJ’ing and when I’m playing out I try to just have fun and make sure I’m happy with what I’m playing and the crowd isn’t mutinying.
About your latest release called ‘Exercises’ (Paper Bag Records), you said you were influenced by ‘Philip Glass, Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Borden, plus ‘institutional architecture and ’70s Canadiana.’ Could you let us know more about each of those references?
Basically just very stark, conceptual ideas, trying to find the threads between these ‘minimalist’ piano patterns and synthesizer arpeggios and the way the concrete and staircases make up the core of a brutalist building.
CFCF It Was Never Meant to Be This Way (Piano Version)- Footage from David Cronenberg’s film Stereo
If you had to describe your music in a few books and movies, what would you pick?
Hah, well it depends on the record I guess. But I’ve cited Michael Mann and Werner Herzog as influences. Last summer I got pretty into Yukio Mishima and his work influenced some of the stuff I’ve been working on since then.
How would you describe what we should feel when we fall in love?
What makes you confident about the future?
I feel like I’m holding the threads for the next couple years, but I don’t know what they are attached to. That is exciting.
CFCF Cometrue (D’eon Remix) on UNO recordings