Catching up with Alec Falconer
Electronic music feels like it’s at a particularly interesting juncture right now. We’ve had a pandemic and we’re currently in the midst of a global recession, but still great DJs and producers continue to rise up and make their presence felt. This is particularly evident in the UK, a scene that seems to churn out a neverending conveyor belt of top drawer talent. One such individual who recently arrived on our radar is Kent-born, Berlin-based Alec Falconer.
A particularly eclectic individual (Falconer is as likely to turn his hand to UK Garage as he is house and techno), he’s also a producer who’s scrupulous in his approach. It’s far from just us who’ve noticed; over the past few months Alec has been incredibly busy, to the point where he’s played everywhere from Lebanon to London over the past couple months. We did, therefore, have a lot to discuss when we caught up with him recently…
I’m guessing the last few years have been a bit of a whirlwind for you. How would you best sum them up?
It has been a bit of a whirlwind, yes. But I’ve loved every minute of it. I think I am someone with quite a sunny outlook on life and without exception I’ve enjoyed each year of my life more than the one that preceded it, even the years of the pandemic included. Since 2020, I set up a distribution company (Ba Dum Tish); moved to Berlin; fallen in love with my girlfriend (shout out Codi) and started gigging more than I ever have before (shouts to Aidan at Ninkasi). What more could I ask for?!
What were you doing before you worked in music full-time? Was there ever a time where you seriously questioned your decisions? Or do you think you need a huge element of discipline and self-confidence to succeed in electronic music these days?
My last job before music was actually importing english alcohols to France and selling them in bars and restaurants around Paris. I worked entirely on my own and I have to say it was the hardest job I ever had. I didn’t speak good French and it’s not easy to walk into a cocktail bar to try to make a sale when you have been rejected by the last nine bars that you visited.
I don’t think I ever really questioned anything though. I never thought I was “good enough” to do music full-time so I always thought there would need to be a real job there to support my love for it. I am still surprised and grateful that I am able to make a living in the way I do now.
I noticed you worked as an environmental lobbyist before. Do you think the environment is something that more globetrotting DJs need to take into account?
This is a tricky question. The obvious answer is yes but I think we are all capable of cognitive dissonance on the subject of the environment. I would vote for a political party that implemented much higher taxes on flying but I also don’t feel deep regret for each cheap flight I take. I would happily take more trains but typically tickets are three times the price. Honestly, i think that change needs to happen at a system level… but maybe that’s just what I tell myself to help me sleep at night.
I read an interesting article recently around electronic music being a closed shop for a lot of emerging, working-class artists. What’s your take on this?
I think that this is absolutely true. Malcolm Gladwell has written quite a lot on this subject and he sums it up nicely by saying that privilege gives you chances. If I get it all wrong tomorrow somehow and I can’t pay my rent then my parents would help me out before I end up on the streets. Even if I’ve not done that, it’s a privilege that affords me a higher appetite for risk in pursuing my dreams compared with someone who does not have that luxury.
The record industry is full of this as well, I am always shocked to hear of the amount of unpaid interns being used by record labels and record stores. Ba Dum Tish has one unpaid intern, me. I have always paid everyone else for everything that they do.
In terms of your own ‘big break’, what do you attribute it to? And who would you give a shout out to in terms of people who really believed and assisted you?
I’ve probably said this before somewhere but the thing that changed everything for me was leaving London and moving to Paris. I went from having a busy social life to having almost no friends or social commitments. I’ve made music on computers since I was about 15 years old but moving to Paris and making music every day changed everything.
In terms of shouting people out, my fellow Phone Traxxx members Rob Amboule and Harry Wills are the people who assisted me most… though I’m not sure they ever believed in me!
Rob joined my band when I was 14 or 15 as the synth player and he taught me everything. Starting with making music on Reason and then later how to mix. I honestly have no idea what I would be doing right now in life if I hadn’t met Rob at that age.
Harry is just a force of nature, each week when I see him he has cooked up two or three new tunes and they’re always amazing. He makes me want to pull my finger out on a daily basis.
Talk to us a bit about growing up in Kent from a musical perspective. And when did you graduate to electronic music?
I would describe Kent as a bit of a dead zone, it’s close enough to London that there is a bit of a culture vacuum there. If you want to do something good, you just get on a train to London. That said, my sister Daisy took me to Tunbridge Wells Forum (a legendary gig venue, actually a converted Victorian public toilet) on my 11th birthday and it changed my life. We saw a local Ska Punk band called Ye Wiles and I decided I wanted to learn to play drums. The Forum had lots of great bands come through and The Chap are also another of those eureka moments for me. I actually see them quite often in Berlin where I live now and I think their kids find it weird that someone is so impressed with their parents but their kids are impressed with my dog so it’s a happy little circle of admiration.
I graduated to electronic music when I went to uni and realised that it wasn’t normal for all of your friends to play instruments. I exclusively hung out with the music geeks at school and expected uni to be the same. That’s when I started to make tracks on my own.
As someone known for their eclecticism, at what stage did you decide that it was electronic music that you most wanted to focus on? What swayed that decision?
I love all kinds of music and mainly followed bands until I was 18 but I just got tired of waiting for the next album to come out. Electronic music producers just don’t stop turning them out when they’re on fire.
On a similar tip, what artists did you look to as an inspiration in terms of how they approach their music but also their particular ways of thinking?
This might sound like a cheesy answer but the artists that most inspire me are the ones that I sign as part of Ba Dum Tish.
Your last full EP under your own name was on Jisul at the end of 2021. What was the vibe you were going for with this one? And why have we not heard a new record in a while?
I just wanted to make a house record really, nice and simple. Each track has quite a clear idea behind it in my head. Whether it’s the clean sound of bowling pins scattering in Down The Lanes or the idea of a build-and-unbuild with no breakdown in Anna Notherthing. I’m quite happy with the result. I am actually working on another record for Jisul now.
And why have we not heard anything between? Well, I set up Ba Dum Tish at the start of the pandemic and that’s the main thing that has kept me busy. We release roughly one record per week and there is a lot of work to be done in running a distribution. I have found time to make music but a lot of it has been under aliases, Phone Traxxx, Snoozin’ B and various other projects.
As quite a prolific producer, do you make music for yourself or for others? How important is how a record is received in terms of how you judge its success?
Always make music for yourself. I love to sit down in the studio and try to re-evoke the feeling I have on a dancefloor. It all seems so simple when you’re listening in a club and somehow it gets so complicated in the studio. I’ll never grow bored of that.
Outside of music, what’s next for you that you’re really excited about?
Me and my girlfriend are going to borrow my cousin’s van and drive from the French alps into Northern Italy with our dog in May. It will be our first proper holiday together and I’m really excited about that.
And music-related, what more can we expect from you over the next while?
You can expect a lot more Ba Dum Tish basically. I had a conversation with our accountants this week who basically said “why do this? It makes no financial sense” and even though I didn’t have an obvious answer it didn’t make me want to change my course by a single degree.
Listen to Alec’s latest mix for Ba Dum Tish here