Fictitious Professor Lays Down Rhythmic Groundwork With ’30’/30 Vision
Los Angeles based musician and beat-maker celebrates birthday with release of debut self-produced album ’30’
Current events have left the world in a constant state of uncertainty. Creatively, it has left much of the music industry and musicians, who rely on social connectivity and proximity, needing to evolve and adapt from constant collaboration to singular creation as quickly as the ever changing nature of the environment that surrounds them. Luckily, for jazz trained musician Fictitious Professor the transition served to his benefit as he embarked on his first undertaking of a self-produced album.
“30” marks the release of a thirty track project that serves as a representative expression and exhibition of his musical development and technical growth both as a musician and now debut producer. Furthering the ambition, a track was released a day leading up to its final release date, February 2, the artists very own 30th birthday.
The resulting compilation, a wondrous lo-fi journey encapsulating a hard to define genre that fuses the artists own musical backgrounds in Jazz, Hip-Hop and Neo Soul. Taking listeners down a beat ridden adventure, the instrumental soundtrack provides a place for the listener to fill in the blanks. “I feel the unofficial tagline of this project is beats to write music too. I want people to be inspired to write and to continue the creativity from where my tracks have left off.”
Highlark had the chance to speak with the Lo-Fi producer on the eve of his album release. We spoke with the artist on his inspiration during a new musical era, the tribulations of transition and the importance of community collaboration.
Hi! Considering the state of the world, I always like to start off by asking – how are you, really?
Hey! I’m fine. Still kind of shook up from this last week and a COVID scare that involved my immediate family but thankfully, everyone is fine and doing better. Aside from that, I feel like I’m pretty accustomed to living in a COVID world and know how to navigate it all going forward. So I think I am as good as I’m going to be. Just choosing to take the positive spin and being optimistic about everything.
You’re about to release an ambitious project – a 30 track, self-produced collection with an even more special release date. Can you tell us more about the project and the inspiration behind it?
At the beginning of 2020, I was ready to come back and produce more music and playing live shows with a full band as Fictitious Professor. I got around to playing maybe one show when COVID happened and I had to look towards a new direction. I was then recruited into a new management and artist development company, GGE Media, and so I began thinking about putting out some sort of project with them. I actually began streaming on Twitch around fall of last year, when all the tracks were produced. Each stream, I would finish about 3 tracks, meaning I had around 30-40 tracks during the time span I was live streaming. I figured by creating this project, it was a way to utilize live streaming and the internet to keep my music out there and create a different form of income stream for myself as an artist.
As for the name, it’s called 30 – and being released on Feb. 2, which is actually my 30th birthday. I was planning a big live show for my birthday to welcome the next decade of my life, but reflecting on the reality of life during a pandemic, I figured this was a way for people to still have access to the music and safely celebrate this milestone in my life with me. It’s a debut project with a pretty broad snippet that introduces myself as a producer and I’m just as excited to share my beats through listeners’ stay-at-home speakers.
So the album is really like a big, digital birthday celebration –
Yeah exactly! In lieu of getting me a birthday present, people can just purchase the album on Bandcamp or buy/lease the tracks on BeatStars, which I just launched with this project. You know, donate a bit, if they choose too of course. Kind of a win-win situation.
That’s a fun concept and fitting for the times. Speaking of transforming things to a digital space in quarantine, the music industry and creativity overall have really had to reimagine and readapt. How have found ways to keep inspired as a creative during this time?
I’m not one to force creativity at all. I think my brief stint on Twitch was the most “productive & creative” I may have been during quarantine, really. I just don’t want to “should” all over myself. The idea of “I should be creating” or “I should be doing all these things.” We’re living through a pandemic, so I have to give myself a bit of a break and patience when it comes to creating. We’re all adjusting to a new normal and it starts with a process of letting go of pre-covid plans and accepting they may not happen this year and now have an indefinite postponed date. So for me, keeping my creative muscles flexed has been about finding new creative outlets. I’ve gotten really into cooking, making cocktails and gardening. It’s all a part of creative energy really, it’s the same creative process of failing and trying again until you learn and get better. A process of creatively exercising creativity and of being ok with having creative hobbies that are just for you and don’t have to monetize or make a full time hustle.
The unique thing about your collection of songs and the style of production, is that you have an opportunity to produce this all by yourself. Do you think this helped you create this ambitious project?
Yeah, absolutely. Up to this point, I have only been producing beats tracks that would get picked up by artists or placed here and there, but nothing super consistent. So quarantine, and this time to myself provided an opportunity to try something I’ve always wanted to work on and see if I was capable of doing. It’s exciting and reaffirming to have completed this on my own, and have artist feedback after the fact that it has inspired them to write to it or just sparked some form of creativity for them.
Being an artist yourself, and now covering the ground of trained musician and producer, where do you feel you pull your musical inspiration?
I am incredibly inspired by the work of other producers who also mostly identify as musicians first. I definitely turn to a lot of producer heavy record labels like Stones Throw Records or Brainfeeder for inspiration, a lot of artists like Mndsgn, Flying Lotus, Jordan Rakei, FKJ, Tom Misch, and those guys too. Robert Glasper! Definitely a big inspiration when it comes to starting out as a musician and moving to a producer role. Also, I have enjoyed pulling inspiration from producers like Keifer, who also moved to streaming on Twitch. I was able to learn and use a lot of ideas and techniques he uses because of the new digital space and access.
Drawing inspiration from musicians turned producers, and yourself following suit, what do you find are the pros and cons of this transition?
A pro is getting to have the freedom to create your own sound and not having to rely on anyone else. Fictitious Professor was actually a response to wanting to play gigs that I wasn’t getting called for. So i realized, if i’m not getting these opportunities then I should just create them for myself. So writing my own music, putting a band together and learning from that process has been really fulfilling. A con to self-producing is not really knowing when to stop or when to acknowledge you hit the moment that something is as good as it’s going to get. So you really have to learn how to discern when something is a good representation of where you were at a certain point in time and move forward towards the next project.
What advice would you provide other creatives out there to continue creating and producing during this limiting moment in history?
I always use this quote from Adventure Time, Jake says “sucking is the first step of being good at something.” It’s something that I tell literally every single friend, artist and creative. It’s simple, just go and let yourself be bad at something. Give yourself permission to be bad. Everyone always wants to know how to be good at something, and I think the only answer is, give yourself permission to be bad at it, learn from it and keep growing.
What is ultimately the journey you hope your audience goes through when listening to this compilation?
Ultimately, I just want people to be inspired to write. I feel that’s the unofficial tagline of this project: beats to write music too. I want people to be able to continue the creativity from where these tracks leave off. For example, every track also has a corresponding visual component designed and animated by Alex Luu and Grace Park (respectively). They created these amazing visuals based off the titles of each song and it’s cool because they were inspired in their creative realms based off what I provided with mine.
I guess the message of the project is: creative inspiration and communal creativity. We may be socially distant in this time, but we’re still able to find ways to create together.
So 30 marks quite a few milestones for Fictitious Professor, what can we expect in the future?
I have a couple of concepts in mind already, the tracks themselves are going to be very diverse. I don’t want to give away too much just yet, and I feel I still need to live much more life to see this concept flourish into its full fruition. My first project highlighted a lot of soloing I was doing as a jazz musician, while this project moved me into beat production. For my next project, I want to marry both ideas and disciplines together. A fully self-produced jazz, lo-fi album that will feature my solos over. Hopefully soon.