We catch up with Fryars at his Paul Smith Live Session in London to talk Kanye, first music encounters and staying alive
This September Paul Smith have seen some of the best emerging musical talent to the world’s fashion capitals in a series of exclusive in store events. Having teamed up with cutting edge London-based zine, Beat, this month’s line-up includes Fryars in London joined by electro-talent Oscar, Bloc Party’s Kele on the decks in Milan, Alexandre and Josephine de la Baume of Singtank in Paris and Wonderland’s Brooklyn tour guide, soulful songstress, Tei Shi in NYC. From Greene Street in New York to Via Manzoni in Milan, Boulevard Raspail in Paris to London’s Covent Garden, Paul Smith shops worldwide are giving customers, fans and guests a one of a kind intimate experience. Nodding to Paul Smith’s rich history of working with music stars, each performance will take place against the backdrop of new season men’s and women’s catwalk collections which are imbued with musical references from the effortless style of Jim Morrison and Hendrix’s hazy psychedelia.
Taking to the London event, we caught up with Fryars aka Ben Garrett to talk Kanye, collaborations and staying alive…
What was your first ever encounter with music?
Well I mean what’s your first memory of music?
Well I remember the Neighbours theme tune from when I was about eight months old. And when that came on I’d start jumping around to the theme song, also military music, like the trooping of the colour, then I gradually went on a journey through chart music.
What about as you got older?
I guess I didn’t really start buying music until I was about 14 or 15, but I used to just buy things based on the cover, I mean one of the things I bought because of the cover was the first Kanye album, and I remember that was an entire summer just spent listening to that. He’s still one of the people I listen to a lot.
You started out by posting your music to MySpace, didn’t you? Rather than sending out demos…
Yeah it was a weird time, it felt like there was a lot less music, because it still wasn’t crazy easy to make stuff at home and just post it to the internet. It was kind of the beginning of all that. A&Rs were only just cottoning onto the fact that there was a new way you could go about finding music, so it almost felt like you could put anything on there and you’d get someone being like: “Can I manage you, can I release that?” I was very much still at school, just putting stuff up and I’d go and find A&R people on MySpace and just add them as a friend. Then I went around and started having meetings, and got a manager. But I’ve just been doing a lot of work with Lily Allen, and she’d send out a lot of those mixtape things, I’ve written to her and she’d sent me one in the post. There are only about 200 of them, but they still have the sticker and everything.
So whats the process when you’re writing your songs? You play the piano don’t you?
A lot of them will come from the piano but sometimes I’ll sit and make a vast arrangement or just a bit of music on the computer and I’ll just sing over the top of that.
And when did you learn to play the piano?
I had about a month’s worth of lessons aged six, and I really hated it. My parents made my younger brother carry on for about two years even though he hated it as well. That’s about it really. I guess I kind of taught myself.
What do you find is the most difficult part about making one of your tracks?
I think especially when something is on the computer, and you hit something particularly nice or hypnotic I’ll often spend hours with one loop going round, just mildly tinkering. When you strike loop gold it’s really satisfying.
What about your lyrics? Are they usually from personal experience?
I guess to a certain extent everything always has to come from personal experience, even if it’s the experience of watching films or whatever. But this record I’ve done is a concept album so I’d written a script before id written the album, and everything kind of fits into that story.
You’ve collaborated with Rae Morris on the album. Have you got any other collaborations you can tell us about?
I mean a lot of the time I’m working with people on their stuff and I’m not on the track or whatever, but I’ve written or produced it. But I don’t know necessarily if they’ve announced anything about the track, so I don’t wanna land myself in it.
What about dream collaborations?
Just Kanye. That’s one of the few exciting moments of my musical career, when Kanye put me between a tea strainer and some trainers on his blog. You know when he had his Kanye university, he put me on his blog. I was thrilled. And it came out no one knew how it got there. I just google myself all the time, and I found it. And it still makes me happy, and not much else makes me excited at all.
How did this collaboration with Paul Smith come about?
You can’t say that!
No, originally I think I was supposed to be DJ-ing in Milan, but then someone was like “I don’t think they’d like it” so it was decided I’d play for Paul Smith in London instead.
What about with fashion, what brands are you drawn to?
Paul Smith, but I’m also a huge Stone Island fan. Not the thuggery element, I just think it has incredibly textures and well tailored. And conversely, away from that whole hooligan thing, I think it’s really, it’s still masculine but it’s not lady and urban, and it’s also not metrosexual. I don’t think there’s much in the way of that for men.
What have you got planned for the next few months?
Well my album is out in November, but I think I might just put something else out before that, something quite large, almost like another album, so we’ll have to see. And I mean I’m working with a bunch of people on more successful records.
What about in terms of your progression as an artist, where d’you wanna be in ten years time?
I did a weird interview in Madrid a few weeks ago, and they had this guy on it, who’d won loads of Latin Grammy’s and I had to sit on a sofa with him in front of this huge studio audience and he asked me where I’d be in ten years. And I said I’d be dead, but I don’t want to be dead, so… I’d like to be in one of my many properties, living as an app developer… (laughs). I guess I hope I’m still making music and not in a perverse something’s gotta give, someday this’ll work kinda way. But I’m also not gonna say I want to be selling millions of records. I just hope it grows organically. And I hope I’m alive.
Visit the Paul Smith blog here.