Q&A with Fiendsh

fiendshFiendsh is a Thai producer creating gorgeous and relaxing beats featuring soul samples inspired by J Dilla and others. The former Chicago-based artist was nice enough to Skype with Ghost Track via the very room where he learned he first learned how to produce. One of his friends pulled the copy of his latest release To The End from a messy bookshelf in the background and held it up to the camera while the young producer smiled and we began our conversation.

Ghost Track: You’re back in Thailand now. I know that’s where you’re from, but you spent some time in Chicago going to school. Are you coming back any time soon?

Fiendsh: I was going to Columbia College in Chicago for a little bit. I moved back to Thailand last summer, but should be back in Chicago soon. I had some family stuff I wanted to deal with here, but I’m excited to get back hopefully soon.

Ghost Track: Are you still working with the Flawless Leauge collective from Thailand?

Fiendsh: Honestly, I haven’t been keeping up with them too much. Ulysses left and started doing his “Apollo’s Heart” project. We’ve stayed in touch though. All the artists that were working on that are kind of doing their own thing now. I’m just doing my own thing and working on my own music for now.

Ghost Track: Your music sounds influenced by early Kanye West production as well as J Dilla. What aspects of these artists’ work inspire you and how do you think that manifests itself in the music you create?

Fiendsh: The Dilla thing is all about how simple it is. He gets emotions across so quickly with his songs. It doesn’t seem like a something he labored over forever. More like it was a good idea he tried to create as quickly as possible. I think doing that can be really effective. He can get deep emotion and power across in such a short amount of time. With Kanye, you know, he’s kind of the opposite spectrum. He’ll work on things for years. I think he achieves that same emotion impact, but just has a different way of doing it. I try to do a bit of both.

Ghost Track: What did you think of the circus that was the release of The Life of Pablo?

Fiendsh: Yeah, I’ve been following it. I don’t usually keep up to date with that sort of buzz, but I am looking forward to the Kanye album. He’s a master of building that buzz. I think some of what he does is fake and just to generate buzz, but it is still effective. The thing about this release and these Instagrams of Kanye constantly altering the track list is something I can relate to, though. The order of the songs can make or break a project for me and defines the album. With To The End, I had the core of it done about three months before it came out, but I was still playing around with interludes and orders to make it cohesive. That stuff can take the most time sometimes.

Ghost Track: People were saying that rap beef with Wiz was fake. Is rap beef something you get excited about?

Fiendsh: Yeah, I heard about that. I guess when I got into hip-hop Eminem was having some beefs. That was alright. I feel like it was probably cooler or realer in the 90s. I think at this point it’s unnecessary. Just put out your music, you know? That’s all we want to hear at the end of the day. No one gives a shit about that extra stuff.

Ghost Track: A new debate that has been coming up lately is if hip-hop is misogynistic, due to artists frequently referring to women as “bitches.” Kanye recently tweeted that “bitch” in hip-hop is a term of endearment. Do you think the critics have a valid point or are they infringing on artists and authenticity?

Fiendsh: I think with the Internet now stuff can spread so fast and people are quick to lash out. For things like that people really need to look at the context of the way the word is used. That word can be used a lot of different ways. It isn’t always an insult. Look at what the artist is trying to get across. The political correctness thing can sometimes get too chaotic. You shouldn’t always have to feel like you’re going to offend someone and censor art because of that.

Ghost Track: Your first full-length mixtape To The End finally has a physical CD release. When did you make that decision to get copies made and how did it happen?

Fiendsh: I wasn’t even planning on making an album. I was at my apartment in Chicago and I didn’t have any Internet or anything to do. All I had was all these samples that I downloaded back when I was in Thailand. I started making the beats to pass the time. When I put it out I eventually got an e-mail from this record company called Cold Busted in Los Angeles who said they loved the record and were interested in putting it out. I thought it was a good idea to give some of the fans something tangible to have.

Ghost Track: Your beats are pretty and sample heavy like Nujabes’ beats are. His albums feature tracks that actually have rappers over them as well as instrumental pieces. Would you ever do something like that for a Fiendsh release or are they always going to be purely instrumental efforts?

Fiendsh: When I was making To The End at first, I was actually working with two other rappers and trying to make something like that. The problem was that I was just constantly updating tracks. The rappers would leave and by the next day that old beat was outdated. I really wanted to do something like that, though. That’s why some of those tracks are so long. When I was making them, if I knew there were not going to be rappers, that project would probably half of what it’s length is now. This guy Khalil Soloman was one of the dudes I was working with, but we’re still cool. We’re working on stuff now that could be out soon. I think he’s going to be rapping over my best work yet. The new stuff will for sure feature more rappers.

That Nujabes comparison is interesting because I don’t think I really sounded like him until To The End because my old stuff is so disjointed. There is no flow on those EPs they’re so jangly. With To The End, I wanted to make something more together. That’s why I have interludes that make it flow.

Ghost Track: Who is the dream emcee to have over one of your tracks?

Fiendsh: That’s such a tough question. My first thought is Kanye. I have some beats where I think a certain rapper would sound great on it. I think my style is a bit more like Nujabes, though, where I can have a bunch of different types rappers sound good on my stuff. It’s more like that for me. When I make tracks, I send them to all kinds of rappers. I’m always making stuff so I always have stuff to send. Some beats though I only keep for my close friends that rap. The closest I’ve had to a big name on a track is my track “Blue and Green” from that first Al Capone EP. Pusha T really liked that beat and he almost chose it. That would’ve been cool. You’ve got to match the track with the rapper.

Ghost Track: Chicago is famous for its Drill rap scene. Much more aggressive stuff than what you create. What do you think of the Drill music in Chicago?

Fiendsh: Honestly, that album Travis Scott dropped last year, Rodeo is a top-3 album of last year for me. So yeah, I dig that stuff. At first I wasn’t into it and I wasn’t into guys like Future, but his voice grew on me and his album DS2 grew on me for sure. I used to be so into the raw lyrical “Illmatic” type hip-hop, but after Future’s track, “The Percocet and Stripper Joint,” something clicked man. It was like I got it after hearing that track. I think that style is cool. I like how it’s not open ended. There’s nothing open ended about “Imma put my thumb in her butt” (laughs).

Ghost Track: How do you go about finding your samples? Is there a process to it or is it just from being a music fan and constantly looking for new stuff to listen to?

Fiendsh: When I first started three years ago, I hardly knew how to work FL Studios. I was listening to my favorite songs and finding the samples that they had and downloading them. I would just play with those samples and try to recreate the beats from those songs. This was how I learned how to play around with the drums and the bass well and how to arrange the samples. From there I just kept downloading artist that I liked and those artists’ other projects. That was how I built my sample library. Before I started sampling I would never download artist discographies, but now I do that stuff more often.

Ghost Track: We recently had the 10 year of Dilla’s death and the debut of Donuts. What do you think makes the record so special to fans a decade later?

Fiendsh: I actually own Donuts on vinyl. It is one of the only vinyl records I own. The music is fantastic obviously but I think the story behind that album really appeals to people. The whole background is great. I’m a firm believer in “What is art without the story behind it?” That album is so different than just a hip-hop album and beats. I think it really appeals to a wide audience no matter the preferences or genres people dig. You can listen to Led Zeppelin or Bob Dylan and love Donuts. If you’re a hardcore hip-hop fan, you’ll probably love it too. People who like pop can dig it because the music is really pretty. That album shows off how diverse hip-hop can be.

Ghost Track: Whats the plan for Fiendsh in 2016? Another release or EP coming up?

Fiendsh: Right now I have six very solid tracks. These are six good songs that definitely are making the cut. I don’t know how many songs I’ve worked on, but I know these six are good. I’m always making stuff though. Every day I’m putting work into this. The process can just take a while. Like on my first EP, Al Capone, for example, that EP ended up having five tracks on it. I had roughly 70 tracks and I cut it to those five. On To The End, I had hundreds of tracks that didn’t make the cut. I’ve already made about the same amount that I made for To The End and I’ve only selected six. This is because I really think I have to be better than my last project. I have to show that I can evolve.

Ghost Track: How are you evolving?

Fiendsh: The first EPs I was going for a jazzy vibe. With To The End, I was trying to make something very layered. With the new stuff I am very inspired by simplicity. Dr. Dre is so good at that. He always have the perfect drums and the perfect synths but the beat itself sounds so simple. The groove is always perfect. I’m trying to capture that perfect group. I’m still layering on synths, though. It won’t be a totally departure from To The End right now, but I’m trying new stuff for sure.

Ghost Track: Does the next project have a name yet?

Fiendsh: No man, it’s all over the place right now.

Ghost Track: Any shout outs?

Fiendsh: I want to shout out to my man Drek. He’s a Thailand artist that makes some cool stuff. Check it out.

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