We were excited to catch up with LA electronic beat maker Henry Laufer – more commonly referred to as Shlohmo. Radd Nadesananthan caught up with the True Panther signed artist whose sound is hard to place, combining dark, beautiful melodies with burly electronic drums and R&B-esque vocals.
We picked his brain before his show at Oval Space and got some insight into his creative process and music making methodologies.
Radd: Welcome to London, you’ve been here a couple times already?
Shlohmo: Yeah, I fucking love it here, there’s a specific attitude. Electronic music is a huge part of [UK] culture and to me it’s holding this very traditional, respectful homage to the past, which isn’t the case anywhere in the States. There’s this kind of honouring process that exists here.
Radd: Making your kind of electronica, did you care about how you were perceived by the traditional LA hip-hop scene?
Shlohmo: That’s the funny thing about the West Coast, and LA specifically; it has this tradition tethered to the five elements of hip-hop. I was always looking at it from a very outside perspective. I was kind of post all that, I mean I was four when The Chronic came out! [LAUGHS].
Radd: How have people like Low End Theory helped your music?
Shlohmo: So much, just growing up in that [scene]. Especially with how old I was when that all started happening, it was perfect timing; I was late high school, trying to find my way in art and music, and then all at once I found out about Flying Lotus, Daedalus, Low End Theory and all those dudes. It was great because it was like, LA is becoming a hub for weirdoes, a hub for people who don’t care about being put in a box.
Radd: Congrats on your new release Dark Red, how do you think it’s gone so far?
Shlohmo: When releasing the album I knew it wasn’t for everybody, I knew some people were going to hate. I feel like the people that get it, really get it – and then the critics hated it. I love when they don’t like things. I didn’t make it caring and I don’t care still but a part of me is like, you should like it! [LAUGHS]
Radd: How has your music changed from Bad Vibes to Dark Red?
Shlohmo: I made Bad Vibes when I was 20: living in San Francisco, just dropped out of college and figuring shit out and I felt like I was trying to make very subtle music. Since then, I’ve got over things being subtle and now I’m into making things that kick you in the teeth. With Dark Red it was all this anxiety and confusion being released.
Radd: What’s your creative process like? Do you have a set approach to music making?
Shlohmo: It’s always different. The first step would be just making the worst sound I could. Making something that’s not normal and then seeing what complements this and where should that go. The rest just kinda comes in.
Sometimes I’ll plug in the keyboard and it’ll just be on a fucked up setting and I’ll want to record it right then, fix it later and then be like, this deserves this kind of drum. Sometimes it’s the other way and I’ll have like a fucking snare sound and I’m like, this needs to be a thing, and everything else goes around it.
Radd: What about melody?
Shlohmo: It’s weird; melody was something that came secondary. I’m not trained in any way musically. It would always be: I like that next in the sequence of notes. I’m bad at ‘real’ music; I can play guitar and play keys, I just don’t know what the chords are. Playing out live was a real challenge, figuring out ‘oh that’s in A minor’. It’s trippy; I have sheet music that I can give to people!
Radd: What hardware do you use?
Sholohmo: Everything is based around the computer sadly, through Ableton. Gear-wise I have all this fucked up shit, like my dad’s old Roland Jupiter 6 from ‘81 or something. It has the most basic square waves; it’s a really strong synth. He also gave me his regular old space echo and then an Orange Chorus Space and that’s been my favourite thing because it has reel-to-reel tape running. My mum got me one of those flexible keyboards that you can roll up. I think it has like one hundred sounds on it and they’re all pan flute. All Emerged from Smoke was all [made on] that and only that.
I’m all over the place; I’ll just hit shit, find weird soundtracks through Ableton. For this last record I was inspired by classical, real audio drum sounds. I wanted it to sound like a big beat record.
Beams came together like more of a post-rock song. I was listening to a lot of jungle and stoner metal and that’s what happened.