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Interview: Flu

20 Apr 2017 spotlight words by Terence Ill
Interview: Flu

Record Store Day 2017 is on our doorstep and, like many other artists around the globe, Melbourne rapper Flu is gearing up to release his new project Fuck This, I'm Buying A Gun. I met Flu at Union Heights in Prahran to talk about the project and where he's at right now.

While I was waiting for you I overheard you say to one of the customers that Fuck This I'm Buying A Gun is a side project?

Flu: Yeah, FTIBAG [fittybag] as we call it, was a little side project I wrote a couple of years ago, the first draft anyway. Phil Gektor provided the beats, we recorded it. But then I was going through this weird phase, where I just couldn't let go of any of my music. It was like a weird complex where I was trying to better "Flu Season", which is probably my most successful album to date. So we sort of scrapped it.

Then, about a year ago, I was talking to a friend about it - Mata from Pang [Productions]. And he was like, dude, you need to put this out. So I reached back out to Phil and he was like: "Alright, if we're gonna do it, though, I don't want any more Fluey fluffing around shit."

So I went over, six pack of beers, we recorded it in a day and then it just happens to be perfect timing for Record Store Day, basically.

Then Discourse heard it and he wanted to make a little mini movie out of it, because it is so literal. Normally I write stuff a bit more metaphorical. He story boarded it with me briefly and then he just took the reins, man, and turned this little story into something pretty epic.

I'm pretty keen for people to see it, man.

When we're talking "film", what are we talking about exactly? A short film? An extended video clip? The promo so far has been pretty vague about the exact format.

Flu: It's actually inbetween an extended video clip and a short film, slash silent film. The EP plays over the silent acting. So, there is no me narrating it, except for one bit. But the rest is just silent acting with the story playing, in time. It's kind of shot, edited and colour-graded into this film noir type of aesthetic. It's a dark bleak story, but Henry really captured what I was trying to portray with it.

What's the plot of the film? Is it about you dealing with being a musician, and…?

Flu: Funny thing is, people probably think I've based it on me, but it's actually not. It's a fictional story about an MC, in this climate, locally, who's trying to get his name known. He thinks he's dope. He thinks he deserves to be heard on a bigger scale. He's getting no love, he's getting nowhere. But he also has a little bit of a drug problem that ties into his paranoia.

There's chapters where he's trying to get distribution, there's chapters where he's trying to book shows or where he's sinking into the drug taking a bit too much. It touches on a little bit of mental illness, depression… He has all these things and it all amalgamates into this one big head-fuck for this dude.

When the pre-orders for this project sold out, you hadn't even released a song or anything tangible yet. People didn't know what they were buying, really. That must be a pretty good feeling?

Flu: Yeah, I know. That was awesome. It wasn't until after we sold them that I went, holy shit, they haven't even heard one rap on this. That was crazy to me, but also very humbling. We're blessed to have a really dedicated core fanbase that will do that for us, you know? I just hope it will live up to the hype now [laughs].

Insane! It's unconditional support. Not every artist gets to experience that.

Flu: Yeah, man. How many people can say that?

It was interesting. A lot of my friends who are also artists listened to it and came back saying, "It's awesome, found it so difficult in certain chapters, though." Or they'd say, "That bit where it went into the binge drinking and drug-taking really hit home. I had to look away."

I think when I wrote it, it was just going to be this fictional tale, and I didn't realise how much people were going to relate to it. It does make sense, though, because I'm basically telling the story of a lot of local MC's, really. Some were like, I almost cried. And I was not expecting that.

You're saying it's a fictional story, but how much Flu is in there? You would think that when you talk about a topic to that depth, you'd have to have some experiences to draw from to be able to create this kind of story.

Flu: Look, I think there is definitely a bit of Flu in there, but at the same time there is a bit of every struggling artist in there. There's definitely parts of me in there from back when I started out chasing distro for myself, trying to get on bills. I was blessed to eventually get the distro, though, and make a bit of a name with a very solid crew. This guy, he doesn't really get that.

When you sell vinyl and you have a bit of a cult following like Crate Cartel does, you get these orders from people who are collectors and some of which by multiple copies. Does it ever bother you that some of your music will be sitting on someone's shelf, probably waiting to gain value, when there's maybe someone out there who would put it to better use and actually listen to it?

Flu: You know, it's a bit of of a catch 22. I know there are people out there who grip and flip and stuff. I definitely want as many ears as possible to listen to it, but if someone missed out on the vinyl, then they've got the digital version still.

True, it's still accessible that way.

Flu: Yeah. And maybe they'll know next time to get in a bit earlier if they really want it on vinyl. We'll also upload the movie after the screening. And, you know, with this film, my biggest fear is that it might not get the attention that Discourse deserves. It would be nice if people watched it and realised that Discourse is a genius with this shit. We do everything on a budget, in our garages, in our bedrooms, our backyards. What we do with so little is pretty amazing.

When you sell your pre-orders that easily, do you sometimes wish you'd done another hundred, or two hundred?

Flu: Because this one was originally a side project, we did go a little lower than usual, but now, funny enough, it's probably gonna be more epic then the full release I'm working on. Also, I think there is something about something being rare. Next time [Crate] Cartel drops something, Maundz, Henry, whoever, people will be like, I gotta get this. So I think long-term it works in our favour.

You mentioned a screening. Where is that going to happen?

Flu: It's at Wax Museum Records, on Record Store Day, this Saturday 22nd. There will be two screenings, one at 1:30pm and another at 3:30pm. It's very limited capacity, only 50 seats total. Free reservations can be made through

When I interviewed Discourse, we touched on Phil and how he was working on some Jungle or DnB thing. Is this his return to Hip Hop production?

Flu: Well, because it was all done two years ago, he still had the Hip Hop-esque beats, for the lack of a better term. I find genres odd sometimes, anyway. To me, what Phil does now is just awesome instrumental music. It's all still sample based. He still does it all on the MPC. It's still Hip Hop, even if it's Jungle, if that makes sense.

You've got family?

Flu: Yeah man, wife and three kids. You know, I'm blessed in a sense, that my wife knows - and has always known - that music is what I do. I'll do the father thing and then, when everyone is in bed, I'll be in the garage 'til four in the morning doing my craft. Having the freedom to do that - I really can't complain, man. I'm surprised I still write such bleak shit, really. [laughs] I just tend to go for the darker stories. Everyone loves an anti-hero and I seem to always approach music from that anti-hero perspective.

I've got family myself. You often don't realise how much you ask of your family, especially your wife, when you're an independent musician.

Flu: It's true. Sometimes I feel like I'm the most selfish motherfucker on this planet. Your kids want to play with you and are like "Dad, Dad…," or your wife just wants to watch a movie with you and all that's going on in your head is, I have to fix that fucking snare drum.

It's funny. My daughter, she's only seven and she thinks I'm famous. She'll come home and say, "Grandma showed me your videos on Youtube. You're famous!" The innocence of a child. [laughs]

So, how far off is the solo project you mentioned earlier?

Flu: I've been sitting on a self-produced album that I've completely finished. But I also promised a free release, as a thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last five or six years. So I might make that the free release. We'll see.

With your production, is that something you're just doing for yourself, or do you try to get your beats to other artists as well?

Flu: With this one that I'm sitting on right now, I wanted to prove to myself that I could produce an entire album myself and have 100% Flu. I've never released anything that was 100% me. I do appreciate production so much more now, because it is still hard for me compared to being an MC. I've been rapping for so long now, I know when I've nailed a verse. With a beat, though, I'll listen to it fifty times and I'll still be like, does that snare sound right? Is this swing right? Is that sample even good? Everyone else will tell me it's fine, drop it. But you still have to be happy in the end.

Yeah, I've found that whenever you release something that you have the tiniest doubt about, that doubt will sneak back in over time, sometimes to the point where you don't even want to tell people about the project anymore because that detail fucks with your head so much.

Flu: Exactly. People who know me, know me as Mister Cull-A-Lot. I even drive my missus nuts. I'll cull things, then I'll rebirth them, then cull them again. She'll be like, "I thought you finished that album?" And I'm just, "Nah, I started another one." [laughs]

You probably don't remember this, but just before you dropped Flu Season, I reached out to you and asked you if you would let me remix a track from Word Merchant. At the time you had said that you were in a bad place when you wrote that album and that you were just wrapping up a new one and you'd rather use one of the new songs. I then forgot about it, so it never materialised into anything. But I was wondering if you now feel the same way about Flu Season, now that you're releasing something new?

Flu: No, to be honest, with my first two LP's, I was young, I was trying to make a name. Back then I just wanted to rap crazy. I was doing the whole lyrical-miracle-multi-syllable thing. And I used to yell into the mic. I don't know why but I would just scream these loud-ass flows into the mic. I thought I was killing it. Over the years I've learned to reel it in a bit. I've finessed my flow and my approach to writing songs. I don't feel the same way about Flu Season as I do about the previous work. Because that album ushered in the change of name [from Fluent Form], first of all, and it also showed the new direction where I was going to take it now. It's also more globalised. It has more of a global quality as opposed to the localised Aussie rap story.

Flu, that's all I've got. Good luck with the film screening, hope it all goes well.

Flu: Thanks, man.

The screening of the Fuck This, I'm Buying A Gun film will take place here: