This interview has been a long time coming, and I personally couldn’t be more excited about any other interview than this one right here. Initially, the interview was shared in our Summer Camp 2014 recap article, but by request, it was removed for review by the artist himself. That being said, this scenario was more so a mis-step by Funkadelphia for not taking the necessary procedures in recording an artist interview. Regardless though, it’s now here, and it’s here to stay. After his enthralling set at Summer Camp 2014, closing out the festival in pure, bassed out blissful fashion, we were honored to catch a moment to speak with Josh Gard, aka Figure, about the many aspects of his musical career, past, present and future.
After reading the interview, it shouldn’t be difficult to see that none of these answers were modified from their original form. The amount of sincerity poured into each answer is truly humbling. We have supported Figure from his very beginnings, and that support will continue to flow and flourish, as he remains one of the most courteous and in touch artists we’ve had the pleasure of dealing with. For a producer that has made it all the way up the ladder, to some of the country’s most premier festivals and events, Figure is consistently ending his shows on the rail, speaking with fans, shaking hands, answering questions, and dishing out signatures. He’s a humble and honorable artist to say the least.
So it is with great pleasure, and no further delay, that I present you with our exclusive interview with the mighty FIGURE!! Be sure to catch him this Summer at one of his many upcoming festival appearances- including Paradiso, Moonrise, Summer Set and Electric Zoo– plus his massively promising Fall tour, which will be accompanied by incredible new stage production that is sure to leave horror fans’ jaws on the floor.
Funkadelphia: You originally started out as a hip-hop producer and DJ. What prompted your transition to more dance-based music?
Figure: It was kind of a slow rise to it. I started liking more electronic stuff about three years before I made the full switch. I started really liking Prodigy and some early drum & bass mixtapes that my old roommates were showing me. Then I saw a couple sets at the first few electronic festivals I went to. I remember one of them was an all vinyl Evol Intent set, and the whole group was there. It was the first and last time, I took a lot of acid and saw that, and I remember every moment. I woke up and I remembered everything, and something clicked. I was just like, “that sounds like hip-hop but way harder and way cooler”. I still reference that day. Just that feeling, I was so excited. I like understood something else. It wasn’t like reading a book and learning something. Something inside me just clicked and I moved on. Like making hip-hop beats wasn’t enough. It wasn’t really a switch, it was more of a progression. I just so happened to do it right when this stuff blew up. It was kind of timed well. I got in right when the door closed on pioneers and people defying sounds. That was just chance.
Funkadelphia: Do you still try to maintain that hip-hop influence in your music now?
Figure: I don’t think about it, I just consider it instilled in me. That hip-hop from that era, what you could call backpack hip-hop, like just beatmakers and stuff. That and old punk music is just instilled in me. I listen to it to get influence, but I’ll find myself doing simple kick and snare patterns that won’t work as much on the floor, but I’m used to it. Everyone can vibe with it. Just kicks right up to the snare and making it busy. That’s what I’m used to, people drumming with their fingers on MPCs. There’s a pattern that’s instilled, but it’s not in my head. I was just raised that way.
Funkadelphia: You’ve collaborated with plenty of hip-hop vocalists, including Del the Funky Homosapien, Cas One, Mr. Lif and Khadafi Dub. Are there any other hip-hop vocalists you have plans to work with or would like to collaborate with in the future?
Figure: Yeah, everyone I haven’t worked with now. There’s so many people, and I know that they all want in. But they charge so much, like $20,000 for a verse from some dude that hasn’t put out a record out in like ten years. But then I hit other really good people up, like Del and Mr. Lif, and people I grew up on, and they’re just down. They’re down for the sake of the music. There’s a lot of people who still purely just look at it as business. That was a huge milestone for me though [working with Del]. A lot of people in the industry didn’t get it. I put that material out on OWSLA, and I don’t think it really registered with their crowd that much, who Del was. That was the most important thing to me. Cause I grew up on that. When I was 15/16 I was stealing CDs from Borders because I couldn’t afford them. Last money on gas, jack CDs, run out.
Funkadelphia: Is there any chance we could expect to see any appearances from live hip-hop vocalists at a future Figure show?
Figure: Yeah, we talk about it all the time. It’s just, he’s really busy. When he’s not busy, he’s a big homebody. He’s always just locking himself in his house and reading books and working on stuff; being crazy. Then going out on the road for months, doing the new Deltron 3030 tour with the new album. He’s mad busy, and when he’s not, he likes to chill. Our schedules are opposite. He wants to do it, and I want to do it; it just has to be the right time. This would have been a good one. Most of the entire crowd would have known what was going on.
Funkadelphia: Do you try to further incorporate the horror element of your music into the song structure, beyond just the sound design and sampling?
Figure: Yeah, if I can’t find a sample, I’ll work on some of the drops. If I can’t find something to match with the drop, I just leave the session. I don’t mess with it, until I find the sample. So the sample helps the song develop through. It could be like a hit sounding song, but if I don’t know what to put before it, and it just sits there for a couple months, I’ll just delete the session. I like breaking it up using samples, stopping it where they don’t think it’s going to stop. Just helping everyone, ADHD kids. I think making music sporadically, with things randomly happening, will keep your attention better than predictable “sick” drops. You know, sixteen bars, sixteen bars, sixteen bars. You know, just mess with people. Be weird. Use time changes.
Funkadelphia: You recently had a Twitter rant about getting back to your roots. How do you plan to incorporate that idea into your future production?Figure: Well for a little bit, and even right now, the industry is changing. Bass music is not that cool at festivals that help people develop and help develop people’s careers. I’m not booked on like half the festivals I had a main time slot on their main stage last year. They’re not even interested in me this year. You don’t get booked because of things like trap and everything changing. So I look at that, and I consider, “should I do something else to fit with what’s going on, and everyone know that that’s what going on? Or just say f*ck everyone else, and do exactly what I was doing six years ago back in my mother’s basement that made me what I am.” Just f*ck my career, f*ck making money, and just make music that I think is dope. And if it works, then it’s going to work. And if not, I’ll get a day job, and I’ll make better music because I’ll be stressed out from having a day job.
Funkadelphia: Can you pick out a favorite horror movie?
Figure: Not a favorite, but my comfort movie, which my fiancee recently pointed out was a little weird. But if something will happen, and I’ll get really pissed, maybe a show will get cancelled, I’ll always watch The Shining. It’s my comfort movie, it’s like my Powerpuff Girls. I feel so comfortable.
Funkadelphia: Might we see a Shining song in the future then?
Figure: Maybe. I’m on the radar with some of those movie companies now. I’m working with them in a way. One thing I can say for sure is I’m doing the thing at Universal Studios in California again this year. Two years ago it was just a few songs, then last year I made all the songs for this crazy Halloween maze haunted house. It was a dubstep haunted house. So I’m doing that again this year, but there’s other stuff as well.
Funkadelphia: Do you have any upcoming releases you’d like to mention?
Figure: I have a single on OWSLA. It’s just a single. As a two release contract, I put an EP out- it was the one with Del on it. This one is just one song. No remixes, nothing. It doesn’t sound like I made it. It sounds like Seven Lions and Bassnectar collabed or something. I’m musically inclined, and I never really stretch that muscle. I kind of did on this one. So we’re just getting someone to sing on it now. And then Monsters Vol. 5 in October, and a whole bunch of free stuff in between. But all I really care about is Monsters.
Funkadelphia: Do you have any special plans or surprises for the next Monsters?
Figure: Well it’s already almost done. Normally I would have just started it, and instead it’s almost done. It’s like 6, 7 or 8 tracks. There’s one that I’m not sure if it’s going to be on there. It’s already like half of an album. So I might just keep going, and see how long I can make of an album. Or I might just polish these seven tracks and make it this ultimate thing. One of my main focuses is just making that really good, and going back to the roots a little bit. It’s not going to be all drumstep or whatever you want to call it, but it’s that sound. It’s that and focusing on the universal thing.
Funkadelphia: Alright well thanks so much. Anything else you’d like to say?
Figure: Thank you guys, that was great. Hope to see you soon.