Musical can be visual as well as auditory.
But translating notes and rhythms into pictures is no mean feat. It requires dedication to a vision and complete trust in one's creative flow. There are certain artists that can conjure images directly into the listener’s mind and clwdwlkr is one such maestro. Creating dreamy, free form beats out of Virginia, this multi talented artist has been building his own buzz. As well as creating dope music , he is also a staunch voice in the community with a true belief that with unity, anything is possible. With the release of his latest album, ‘Don’t Exist’, we sat down and had a chat with the double threat.
So from listening to ‘Sunset Paradise’ and ‘Visions’, you have a very dreamy sound but with a kind of experimental edge. What would you say influences that kind of sound palate?
To be honest, I love dreaming. I’ve always studied dreams, like trying to interpret what you see dreams and understanding and conceptualising them. I try to put them into words or music or anything like that. So that’s really the basis of trying to put together songs for me. Like how can I make you feel the dream that I’m seeing or hearing when I’m making a song or when I’m feeling an emotion or something like that?
So it’s like when you’re creating this music you almost kind of translate your dreams, if that makes sense.
So when we kind of move on to your latest, ‘Don’t Exist’, I think the album has a harder, weightier sound. Do you think it’s fair to say it’s a departure in sound, and, if so, what has artistically caused this shift?
I like the departure of sound. I think ultimately it is a departure because I do try to do something a little different when it comes to rapping as opposed to just making a beat. I think with rapping the soundtrack is supposed to be more just the background scenery while the words are kind of what you’re hearing and trying to interpret and connect with. With a beat; you’re connecting with the landscape of the song itself. So it’s still all in the same dreamy, universal, in my head kind of soundscape, but I definitely agree with the departure. It is different. I try to change things and making things a little less subtle or more subtle, depending on what I’m working on.
Don’t Exist is kind of two sides of the same coin for me, but it touches different parts of me creatively. Do you know what I mean
It speaks to different facets of me, and I think you’re very good at balancing those two things. As an artist, how is it combining those two artistic expressions?
Well, I appreciate the compliment first of all! Thank you so much! Honestly, it’s a balance I’m still working on. I haven’t completely mastered it yet, in my opinion, because I know a lot of times I try to make everything stand out to the point where sometimes it gets a little hard to focus on things. So it’s a balancing act where, I think a lot of the time, I’m trying to convey those emotions through words. So I don’t want to overwhelm you – at least not too much – with the sound behind it. I just try to balance it and kind of keep it like, oh, this is the mood carrying what he’s saying.
Is that the same approach that you have whenever you’re creating a body of work as opposed to single beats or single rhymes?
Absolutely. When it comes to projects, ironically, I’m really not super organised at first. I kind of have a general concept of what I want to go for and then I let that ride out and mix in things that I feel could be connected to it. A lot of the times for a lot of the music I make, especially larger projects, it’s done in a few sittings as opposed to long periods of time, like months and months and months.
So it’s usually a lot of streams of consciousness that are just kind of all flowing out at once. I don’t try to restrict myself by bounding myself to saying oh, this is just for a long project or this is for a shorter project. It kind of allows more freeform energy in the music where you don’t know what to expect. I feel like sometimes when we listen to albums or hear albums from certain artists – not to name anyone specific – you kind of hear the formula of the music that they make so you start to expect what you’re about to hear. I like throwing people for a loop every time. So I want you to always be, like, whoa, where is this coming from or how is that different from something he did before or anything like that.
I think that stream of consciousness comment is exactly on the money because I love how the projects flows but it feels energetic and spontaneous as well. When you’re creating music, generally, where do you draw inspiration from?
Well, again, thank you. I really appreciate that! I want people to experience a lot of the things that I’m feeling. Like a lot of my cover art and photos are sunsets and beautiful scenery and things like that, and for me, moments like that usually have a story behind them, depending on what’s going on in the photo, obviously. But usually those moments are the things that end up being the concepts for songs just laid out as pictures first that translate into audio of the memory.
Ahh okay, that’s very cool!
Thank you! I appreciate that! But that’s really where it comes from. Just trying to recreate those beautiful things that I’m seeing with my ears. People can hear that, whereas you can’t be everywhere that I’m going to be, so you can at least get a peek into it and peek into seeing how I’m kind of envisioning things and making music. So for me, to be honest, albums are kind of a snapshot in time for me because I don’t work on music projects for incredibly long periods of time. To be honest, I have a short attention span for that a lot of the time. I’m a perfectionist, working on things for too long can kind of make you feel a type of way about it where you don’t really know how to release it or whatever. But that’s just me!
What does your beat workflow look like?
To be honest, I’m so random. I can never do like a video or go on any type of beats show because I feel like they would never know what to expect. I’m so random with it that one day I’ll start with a sample that I’ll hear on YouTube or on the radio or something like that and start chopping a sample, and then the next day I’m putting in practice finger drumming for four hours and just making loops over and over again until my Muse gets tired. So I’d be, like, it’s a little bit of both depending on how I’m feeling and what the energy I’m going for specifically. For beats, I think it’s more focused around creating that dreamy element, so whatever starts that feeling is what usually catapults the song. Like, I know some people might chop a sample up and then start making drums and that’s where it kind of starts to flow together, but for me it’s like, oh, I chop the sample; the sample is already dreamy enough. Now I just am accentuating it with small, little side things and accoutrements to make it better.
Yeah I get you.
So that’s kind of my process, but its so randomised. Even my friends understand, like, I just… if I’m feeling it, I’m feeling it. I don’t really have a formula for it. I’ll make whatever if it’s in my spirit already.
I feel you. Could you say the same thing applies when you’re writing lyrics?
Absolutely. Most of the songs for ‘Don’t Exist’ actually aren’t written down because a lot of the time I record the song randomly on my phone or my notes or something like that, and then we’ll just translate that back over for the album itself. That’s why some of the recordings sound a little different and, like, based on different songs – because they were recorded in different parts. Like, I know part of one of the third tracks with Lookira (shout out to Lookira, by the way!) is recorded on my iPhone and I just re-recorded the verse over again but kept some of the takes because I liked how they sounded. So it’s really random. I try to kind of go super abstract with it just so I can really keep it freeform and not kind of structure myself or tell myself that I need to do something specific to make a song. It’s all just kind of there.
Is that something you consciously do, or do you find yourself in a nice natural flow with it at the moment?
I will say it does come naturally because I’ve always loved to just create things, like any type of music. I make mostly Hip Hop and Beats and stuff, but I can make almost anything. So for me that random structure I think plays into the fact that I kind of just like making sound, you know? So when it comes to trying to put together a song, it’s always been this kind of let me go into it freeform. I know myself, and I get frustrated easily when I try to start making things formulaic because it starts to annoy me, kind of, you know, and I’m not really feeling that creative energy when I’m, like, oh, I have to do this every time to make a song or to write a verse, etc. I think a part of it is maybe a little bit of my ADHD and not being able to keep things down one way or focused in one specific, like, mind state? I kind of have to jump around and do things differently. I think that’s always been a part of me, to be honest. Just it manifests itself a little differently because nobody sees it when it’s behind the scenes as opposed to doing it in front of people and things like that.
Of course, yeah. I think it’s very important for artists to follow that kind of raw energy to a logical conclusion.
And kind of moving on to the connection between the two expressions. Is there anything that is really different for you between making beats and writing lyrics?
There is a little bit of a difference. I think for me making beats is more, like I said, an abstract painting. I’m just kind of setting things up for you to interpret those thousands of images your own way. Whereas with rapping I’m kind of focusing you. It’s more like a movie in that perspective. I’m kind of focusing you through a scenario where an idea that’s, like, being put in front of you with words. Whereas like, with beats I’m kind of just opening up a soundscape and letting you just fall into it, you know. That’s the difference, I think.
It’s like the lyrics are a script because you have a story and the beats are kind of like come and follow me on this feeling in a way.
So with your rhymes, I do get a kind of raw energy from it where I start to see things from your perspective, but then with the beats; I definitely ascribe my own feelings and emotions to the music. I think this is really nice for a listener but also really interesting from a creative perspective that you’re able to naturally get a grip with that. You know what I mean?
That’s exactly… Again, I appreciate that so much haha! That’s exactly the kind of feeling that I’m going for. The words of the script keep you understanding what’s going on and at least kind of on track, while the sounds behind it are supposed to be what you’re seeing or hearing in your own perspective, if that makes sense. So it’s a little bit of both, where you’re getting the narration but also able to walk around in the situation on your own and hearing your own perspective and ascribe your own feelings to it. And that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. In my opinion, I’m very bad at talking to people sometimes and conveying what I’m trying to say. It’s tough sometimes and I’m trying to get better at it. But I think, at least with writing songs, it’s a lot easier for me to talk and say the things that I’m trying to say and wind those emotions up, even if it’s in broad terms. I don’t have an issue with super intricate lyrics and double entendre and all of that. I love those types of lines and bars and everything, but sometimes the simplest way to convey things is the way that people connect with it the most, in my opinion. So I just kind of try to help you understand in the best way possible while also having you be like, oh, this is nice. I like this!
Who would you say are some of your biggest influences not only within rapping but also in beats?
Oh, okay. I’ve got to go down the usual list haha. Obviously, you got to have Doom forever, I love Earl. I always get the Earl comparison. I feel like that’s going to happen when you have a rapping over a loop type style which goes back into Doom and Hip Hop heads and all that. Beats side, obviously Dilla, Knxwledge, the greats. Dibia$e, like everyone! I’ve got some family and homies back home that are honestly my bigger inspirations. A friend of mine, Alfred, Billy Capricorn, a few other friends of mine that I think inspire me the most because they know me, and they can really push my next level buttons and try to get me to kind of step into the next thing. But I think for the most part I’d go down the list and you’d be, like, okay, I pretty much know all of these guys. Do you know what I mean?
I totally get you. It’s cool we have a community where everyone inspires each other. With that in mind, who do you rate coming up right now? Like who really excites you within the scene?
Oh man, that’s so tough. I’ve got so many people. I’ll try to keep it brief haha. Obviously, like I said, my friends. Scumlord, Billy Capricorn, Alfred, all of those homies. Xtreme.dawgz is another big homie that I really, really love and listen to all the time. Shout out to Radicule; I know he was on last month. That’s a big homie right there. Jordy, all of the homies, Dutchyyy, Moonside. I feel like I’m just naming everyone on Twitter, every artist haha Krft Dayle, like, all the homies! Everyone that you’ve featured, and I interact with on Twitter. I know I’m probably forgetting some people and I hope they’re not mad. But just those people have really been pushing the boundaries for me and they’ve really been kind of stepping up and making music that I’m like, wow, I really, really enjoyed this. Shout out to everybody basically! I’m terrible with lists and try to remember how many people I want to mention and give shout outs to and stuff like that, but I see everybody. I’m always watching. What I think I pride myself on the most is that I try to be really deeply seeded in the community and try to listen to a little bit of everything. Dust Collectors, homies, Zodiac music, everybody. Just everybody!
What is your perspective on the community at large? How do you feel about it and the way it’s kind of going?
Well, I love the community. I know that there’s, like, issues but that’s going to be the case in every music community out there. That is going to happen. People have conflicting deals and egos and all that. But I think for the most part the community is pretty open to helping each other and pretty good about trying to be good with each other, which goes into the second question. We realise that most of us are beat makers and we’ve all been kind of going through this phase. There’s rappers here and there, you know, but the beat makers have really been going through this phase of realising that we don’t really get a lot of recognition outside of the community just in terms of the kind of music scene as a whole where we have to push ourselves more than, say, rappers do.We have to promote ourselves and have a bunch of things going on. I was actually talking about this on Twitter. To be a successful producer you have to have drum kits out and you have to a capella packs. and all this random stuff, you know what I mean? That goes along with it instead of just being able to make a song like a rapper does. So as a community we kind of band together and try to support each other to keep each other afloat, in a way, because the community is us. It starts here.
I think you’re totally right. I think that point about kind of producers needing or beatmakers needing multiple outlets in order to be successful is very interesting. Nobody seems to be or is heading down to the route of unrelated brand promotion and that kind of thing. Within the production community it’s very much still based on the creation aspect. Like you say, drum kits, a capella packs, tutorials online, performance videos, all that kind of thing. Do you think that there’s scope to really take this to the next level within that realm?
I do. I do believe that it’s possible. I do think that because instrumental music, for some reason, is still looked at in a weird way by the general music community; that it’s a little bit harder to support the Beat community. I don’t really understand it because if you look at EDM, for example, which a lot of the times is mostly still instrumental too, you know, they get support and the people go out and support them like crazy. You know what I mean? And I’m like what is it that’s different about Hip Hop? There’s obviously deeper talks into that too, but in the broad strokes, it’s not impossible. Like the communities are there and they exist. It’s just I don’t know what it would take for beat music to step into the culture of the mainstream you know what I mean? Where it’s like, oh, you got a new shirt, like brand recognition or something like that, which we have kind of seen a little bit here and there from people like Stlndrms, but it’s random heres and theres. But otherwise, it took a long time for even Dibia$e to get the Roland connect with the whole SP-404 day. You know what I mean? And that’s like a staple of the Beat community in itself. So it shows that there’s something there that’s just blocking people from connecting with it the same way or supporting it the same way. I think that whatever we’re doing is getting us closer and that we, as a society, are becoming more progressive so we’re starting to kind of take that into consideration of, okay, music can be whatever it wants to be, as opposed to oh, if it’s not this it’s this and we can’t have this. And I think we’re kind of getting into an age where people are supporting art more again also, which I really, really appreciate. So, hopefully, that can translate over time. Like you said, this is still pretty new. You know what I mean? Like Hip Hop has been around for a while, but it’s still a pretty young genre in the scheme of genres over time. So I think we still have a lot of room to grow and blossom and change things, especially as beatmakers because we make the sound, you know? It comes from us. Even if they don’t say it out loud we’re still the ones… They’re playing Lo-Fi Hip Hop stuff in Starbucks now. You know what I mean? Like it’s there; it’s just I don't know what the connecting point to take it to that next level is. Even folks like Knxwledge or people like that; we’re not seeing them on the front covers of The Source or whatever. We’ll see them in it, but not completely getting the same type of coverage as Kendrick or somebody else.
Yeah, and I think the EDM correlation you bring up is very interesting because the difference between our genre and EDM, is that EDM has a very specific purpose. Nine times out of ten it’s the party tunes. You go to a rave or you go to a party to hear it, whereas our music, because it’s a bit more laidback, a bit more esoteric; has been almost relegated to background music.
My whole mantra is to bring beats from the background to the foreground, and the next step needs to come within the community. In a way we need to take control of our own narrative now.
Absolutely. You’re absolutely right because if you look at Bandcamp, Bandcamp is one of the only places that I think beat makers actually do well, you know what I mean? The support that comes out of Bandcamp is pretty legendary. For me, when I first started making beats I was getting told yo, you’re going to put beats up? Bandcamp. You got to get on Bandcamp. We need that same type of support for the entire community. We have to back it because no one’s going to do it for us.
So I see on social that you ride pretty hard for Hugwrm. I just wanted to know what’s your involvement with them? How did it come about? What’s the story there?
Honestly, that’s just a collection of good people. Like, there are a lot of Internet labels coming up lately and those are all cool and have a lot of cool people in them, but Hugwrm just really is a family of beat makers who want to do good music and make good sound and create good energies, really. I know there’s been some weird stuff going on online, but that’s all we’re trying to do. Just connect with cool people. It’s the same way like I met them… well, I haven’t met met them, but I’ve met them online and talked to them and just kind of linked up over talking about music, which is the best thing, in my opinion, because that’s how I meet everyone! It’s just hey, I like your music, you want to play some Smash Bros? Have a conversation? You know what I mean? It’s just that easy. So I think that’s how I met them and became cool with them, and I kind of changed a lot because I’ve realised that people do really support, and people really do want to be cool and help you with your music and just be good homies.
Is that what makes Hugwrm special for you? That there’s a kind of a musical respect but also a personal respect?
Right, absolutely. That’s really what it is. Everyone in there is so amazing at making music. I respect everyone so much. So to be even a part of that was a yes from me immediately. But I do really appreciate them and even being a part of it is like, wow, I get to kind of work with my peers and just talk to them about random dumb stuff, you know what I mean? The community needs more of that.
What is your perspective on the rise of the beats labels/collectives? Why do you think that it’s been an important part of the community as a whole? And what do you think the next step is in order to elevate it even further?
I think that there’s nothing wrong with collectives; collectives are great. I think that as a community, collectives can really help us get to the next level because it brings artists together. However, I will say that when there’s too many members it starts to seem like a weird cliquey movement, if that makes sense? It stops being about what you’re dropping and it’s about the label that you’re on. And that’s not everybody, of course. You know what I mean?
Yeah I’m with you.
I see that from time to time, or people not really wanting to be friends with people because of labels they’re on and things like that. But I do think that a well-organised group of people or collective can really do amazing things. Dust Collectors is the prime example. They’ve skyrocketed so fast. I’m so proud of Bretsil and all of them and the homies over there; that’s kind of the model of how you want to run things and get things kind of situated in the scene, and it helps. So I think beat collectives are definitely important. I definitely think that they can help and bring communities together and get people really focused. I know that communities can be kind of iffy sometimes and there can be the whole arguments online and that’s the stuff that I just think that we need to just kind of leave off and not deal with or at least be cool about it.
I totally agree with you because it’s essentially like bickering over nothing.
Exactly, it’s like why?
I think the community as a whole needs to get better at policing dramatisation in that regard.
Right. Because it starts with us and that’s the thing. I don't know if there was people feeling that they were ostracised or getting talked about or felt like they couldn’t be a part of the community because people were just saying awful things. It’s one thing when we’re having a good laugh or joking around, but people are sensitive, and we want to cater to everyone and make this an all-inclusive community where everybody can be part of it. People don’t have to feel like oh, I can’t be a part of this because so and so is iffy or so and so was saying weird things about other people, or people don’t like how I’m chopping up samples or anything like that. You know what I mean? Like, I want us to just all make music and be able to just do things and put things out and love each other’s stuff. There’s obviously going to be conflicts with anything in life, but some of these dumb conflicts I just don’t really think need to be had, especially online. DM the person. You know what I mean?
Just DM them, talk it out with them or don’t.
There’s no reason for it to get to that level of drama, basically.
Exactly. Because it reflects badly on the whole community. Like when one person does that, everyone’s like, oh, see this is what happens with the Beat community or the Lo-Fi Hip Hop community or whatever people call it. We get that flack automatically and then people want to have issues. So I’m not really trying to be a part of that. I know a lot of other people are just trying to make good music and keep their head down. And again, no names, obviously. I’m not talking about anyone specific, but I think you all should just focus on that – just dropping good stuff.
Exactly. So, last question, what have we got coming up this year from you that we can look forward to?
Ironically, usually I take a break from music after I drop an album. I kind of just give it time to sit and rest just because I feel like overworking yourself afterwards you can put yourself in a weird rut.
I totally feel you.
However for some reason I don’t really feel that right now. I’m in the stages of still wanting to be very, very active. So I just dropped ‘Don’t Exist’ but I kind of already want to drop more material. So I’m weighing the pros and cons of doing that at the moment as opposed to seeing what’s up. I might just send the songs around to a few friends to see if they like it and stuff like that. But I know I really want to drop more. I’ve got a lot of beats that I’ve been sitting on. I recently dropped a beat tape of Pocket Operator beats called ‘Save My Soul’; that’s the first volume. But I’ll be dropping another volume of that hopefully pretty soon, another set of remixes. So I’ve got beat tapes coming, I’ve got collaborations with a lot of awesome homies too. I’ve got something with Jordy, which I cannot wait for everyone to hear because this is my favourite song. I listen to it every day. I’ve got something with Isaac Thursday, who just dropped an album also. Big shout out to him. I’ve got something coming with Moonside. I cannot wait for that. KD also dropped 'Self Care 3' that I’m actually also on. I cannot wait for people to hear that because that probably is going to be amazing as well! They worked so hard to get that perfect and I’m so glad I could be a part of that. So I’m just working. I’m trying to keep focused and keep busy, to be honest.
That’s good to hear, man. That’s really good to hear.
Thank you. I appreciate that!
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