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Get to know Fred Again, the sample-heavy producer turning nights out into songs

Fred Again sounds like the Elliott School trio (Jamie xx, Four Tet and Burial) snapped with an Insta filter

  • Words: Kyle MacNeil | Photo: jack bridgland
  • 17 February 2020

The first thing Fred Again does is offer us a cup of tea – which he then laughs at, realising the impossibility of copping a cuppa via FaceTime. That takes him onto stumbling upon a Dragon’s Den-worthy pitch (“I’m really keen on the idea that someone should invent a thing so you could share a joint over FaceTime”) and enthusing about the taste of Robinsons Orange & Barley.

It’s no wonder that he chose a video chat rather than just audio. Firstly, we’d have no idea what the fuck was going on. Secondly, it’s one of the media sources he now mines for rich, emotive samples. Cutting his teeth with incisor-sharp production for UK heavyweights (Ed Sheeran, Octavian), he’s now working on his own project, sampling snippets from musicians’ social media to make tracks.

“It was an accident,” he says. “It sounds obvious to say it. It started from nights out – I was always the one filming because the next day when you’re mashed up, you can just go and blow up the WhatsApp group.” From this new technique came ‘Stay’, sampling an Insta story singalong from Beats 1 presenter Julie Adenuga. With an addictive two-step shuffle and more feels than a rave in a sensory garden, it was made Annie Mac’s Hottest Record after getting uploaded to SoundCloud.and it’s sparked a lit new concept: ‘Actual Life’. “It came from what I typed into Logic when I first made the songs. I quite liked it being in the context of like, ‘these are my actual Gs’ – there’s such energy in that word.”

Rather than be about an experience (like a mad night out, say), the songs were actually made out of them. “Now that increasingly everything is captured you can literally make the song out of the thing,” he tells us. “The song that you want to be about that night can be made entirely from that night.”

The inspiration for all of this is a mysterious mentor named Brian, who Mixmag soon finds out is none other than chief musical explorer Brian Eno himself. Back when he was 16, Fred began attending a weekly a capella singing group at Eno’s London studio. “It’s made up of a bizarre and beautiful crossover of neighbours to people he works with!” he explains. After impressing Eno with his Logic knowledge, he soon found himself with a rather sought-after mentor.

Dragging him into a world of self-producing (and literally dragging thousands of unfinished projects on to his hard drive to start from), Eno encouraged him to begin from a sound rather than scratch. “It liberates you from feeling like it has to be perfect because you have this big block of granite and start chipping away rather than hoping the first thing is the Sistine Chapel.”

When we ask if he’d like to focus on the Actual Life project, he answers definitively: “Only [that], yeah.” No wonder – when he talks about the natural “keys and tempos” that people speak in and “capturing” a feeling from social media he seems like some sort of post-internet beat poet.

At the last slurp of his squash, we ask if he requested to FaceTime so he could nab a sample for a sequel to his new tune ‘Kyle (I Found You)’. “Imagine! Kyle Two. You just have to say something super real!” It’s that search for authenticity that makes Fred Again so exciting – and makes us reckon he could be the real deal.

Kyle MacNeil is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter

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