When UK music producer Ross From Friends, real name Felix Clary Weatherall, first broke through he was part of what was known as the “lo-fi house scene”: an online wave of musicians capturing a sense of sweet rave euphoria on the cheap and coupling it with an aesthetic collage of 90s references (hence the cheeky moniker).
With his more polished releases, Weatherall has developed and experimented with his sound, and new EP Epiphany – released via Brainfeeder – sees him explore psychedelic textures within club-ready beats.
Felix also loves skateboarding, and so, it was his honour to score artwork created with sand and cement by the legendary Chad Muska for the EP. Known to be a hip-hop fanatic when the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater computer games blew up around the turn of the millennium, Muska has also dabbled in music himself, producing artists such as Jeru the Damaja, Afrika Bambaataa and Raekwon under his alias Muskabeatz.
In celebration of the Epiphany EP, The Face jumped on a call between Chad and Felix to chat about DIY culture, dance music and – of course – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
The Face: How did the collaboration come about?
Felix: I followed Chad on Instagram for a long time, just because I was familiar with his skating and watching all his old videos as a kid. And then you [Chad] started posting all this artwork, and I was like “fuck this is fascinating”. I just loved how raw it was; especially the cement and stone work that you did that became the EP artwork. I spoke to Brainfeeder and I was like: “This might sound really weird, but do you reckon Chad Muska might be up for doing the artwork?” And then yeah, man, you were super up for it, which was really cool!
Chad: As Felix was saying, I’m mostly known for my skateboarding, but I have an equal amount of passion for creating artwork and design and all different types of self-expression. When they hit me up to use the artwork for the album, I was completely honoured that somebody else was taking notice in the art I was doing. I decided to become more familiar with your music, and I’ve just been creating artwork listening to your music this entire weekend. A lot of your tunes had already been on a playlist that I had been listening to. I think it was such a cool thing that you had made music, you’ve been inspired by my art to put it on the cover of this new 12″, and then in turn I’ve listened to it and created new artwork. It’s like a full energy cycle.
The Face: So the artwork was a piece that you had made already and Felix used it for the EP.
Felix: That’s right. I came across that specific piece on Chad’s Instagram and was just like: “Fuck, that’s right up my street.” It just had that raw energy, earthy and grounded. The pattern on it was so striking as well, and I just felt like it matched the music I was making for that EP. That sort of use of materials is brilliant. When I look at the record, I can actually feel the texture almost. That’s what I really wanted that EP to be as well – a real, visceral sort of thing, a sensory experience.
Chad: I honestly feel like the art really connected – it’s so crazy. Listening to the tunes, and just looking at that visual, it’s so weird how the two can complement each other in such a unique way. It’s just a simple image and combined with that sound it’s saying something without putting it into words. And I think that’s what art is; that’s what electronic, textural music is… it evokes an emotion and a feeling, opposed to telling you exactly what it is you’re supposed to feel. Everybody can interpret that situation in their own specific way.
The Face: Chad, what is your creative process for interpreting sounds into an image?
Chad: As an artist, or as a musician, [it’s about] the ability to say something that is impossible to put into words. And that comes across in music. You look at it and it’s a feeling, but when you try to describe that particular feeling, it’s impossible, because you can’t put all those emotions and feelings into one sentence. So for me it’s really been a long process, an evolution of many mediums: graffiti, skateboarding, music, ‘90s rave culture, early hip-hop. All those things were part of my life growing up, and they’ve all influenced and been connected to each other and continue to evolve.
Felix: It’s interesting that you mentioned those things specifically: graffiti, skateboarding, music, rave culture; those were the big four things for me when I was growing up as well. And old school hip-hop as well; I still make hip-hop beats now. And then seeing your video parts – in my eyes, I feel like you just changed the way that people approach skateboarding, you changed the way that I approach skateboarding for sure. You made me realise it was a real creative thing. There’s this one part that really stuck out to me. I can’t remember the name of the video but it was like a long shot with a Buena Vista Social Club song.
Chad: Shorty’s Fulfil The Dream video .
Felix: It’s one of the best skate parts I’ve ever seen. It’s not about doing some mad shit or anything like that, it was just a pleasure to watch because it was a new approach. And that was really exciting.
Chad: Much love, man. It’s an honour to know that these things that I’ve dedicated my life to have had an influence on people; outside of skateboarding even. It’s always such a blessing. I’m very grateful for all those experiences.
Felix: Are you still making music? Do you still make beats or electronic music or anything like that?
Chad: I spent a long time starting my own record label and producing these projects, but unfortunately the time period where I was getting heavily into it is when the death of CDs was happening, and it was like this middle time period where streaming and MP3s hadn’t really become. There were no financial benefits in it. It was the era of Napster and people stealing music. I was trying to get a distribution deal but all the record stores were closing at that time. I was investing a lot of time and money into starting this label, and there wasn’t really a financial benefit at that time. That was a bit discouraging for me, because I’d spent so many years of dedication trying to make this happen, and so it kind of pushed me back into the skate world, and I stopped doing [music] for a long time.
But just as of, like, probably a couple years ago, I started dabbling in it again. I design footwear, but I also like to create videos and different promotional projects for the products that I’ve designed and work with, and that pushed me to want to create musical content to score these little clips that I’ve been creating.
How does skateboarding influence your creative output for the two of you? Do you see any similarities between creating art and skating?
Chad: I think that skateboarding is a complete art form in itself. It’s like performance art in a lot of ways because everybody does it in their own specific way. Speaking for myself, skateboarding has been the backbone to everything creative I do. It’s given me the confidence to be creative, because I felt that if I studied and practiced really hard to learn a trick, that basically taught me a life lesson: that I could apply that to anything and accomplish it. Beyond just the action of riding a skateboard, there’s such a lifestyle and community that breeds creativity and expression. And it is through all those things that we mentioned earlier – through music, through fashion, through art, through just community – there’s so much there that has influenced everything that I do in life, even if it’s subconscious.
Felix: I always feel like there are so many creative people in skateboarding. If someone skates they always tend to do something else on the side, like music or fashion or whatever. I feel like skateboarding is underrated as a creative outlet – you jump on a skateboard and the world is completely yours; you do what you want with it. It’s considered a sport, but I view it as an art form in its own right. It’s another mode of creative expression, just like visual art or music. It makes absolutely perfect sense that people who are into skateboarding would be massively into music and art and fashion.
Historically, skateboarding has had more of a relationship with punk rock and hip-hop, and not necessarily so much with dance music, but that seems to be starting to change. Why do you think that is?
Felix: I feel like there’s a whole new sort of DIY aesthetic, and that’s something that for me ties into skateboarding anyway. People making this kind of thing from their bedrooms; it’s the new DIY music. I think back in the day when people started to make dance music or electronic music, it was mostly people with huge studios and big gear who probably had to have money to start out with. Now you can be a bedroom producer with your laptop, and it feels like that’s the same sort of idea that comes with skateboarding, in my mind.
Chad: I feel like punk rock and hip-hop were the voice of the DIY at that time. It was this attainable lifestyle; a reflection of the youth that was rebelling against pop culture. And now we fast forward and see that hip-hop itself has changed so much, and now it’s becoming the driving force of pop culture. And I think that that in turn, might flip the DIY community and the underground, and the skaters – maybe push them away from some of the things that are more influential in pop culture, and go on to this “underground” movement. Although electronic music is beyond underground at this point, obviously.
Electronic music has to be the most popular global music that there is because it doesn’t speak a language; it’s not limited to a geographical location. It’s music that anybody can feel no matter what language you speak and what influences are in your community. You hear this music, and you can’t help but move and dance, and it unites the world in a way where a lot of music can’t. In a time where everything is becoming more and more divided, electronic music is something that can unite people in such a cool way.
Felix: It’s communities of people coming together, and dancing together, and just having fun all together. And that is such a human, raw thing to be able to express to one another without having to speak.
Chad: I think that’s such a beautiful aspect of it. Not to be negative about it, but we’re seeing this glorification of the EDM scene, and it’s becoming this machine that’s out of control, with DJs dancing on tables and shit. I don’t know if there’s any threat to the scene based on that.
Felix: The massive EDM scene is an interesting thing… I’m almost quite happy it exists because it’s another thing to be able to reject in a way. Within dance music, as a gigantic sort of scene, you’re able to see EDM music and be like, that’s not something that I really want to be the face of dance music. I want to be vehemently against that.
Chad: There are parallels in skateboarding with that as well . Skateboarding is going into the Olympics in 2020, and all these commercial aspects of skateboarding from high fashion to mainstream McDonald’s commercials and whatever. You see that everywhere, and part of me is like: “Oh my God, this sucks so bad, that’s so lame”. But then another part of me is like: “Well, at least there is exposure to this idea” and even if they’re exposed to skateboarding through something that’s more commercialised, at some point, it may lead them to the truth. And I guess that could be associated with electronic music as well too. There might be this crazy beast out of control but life has a way of filtering out what it needs to, and then maybe at some point it will leave people that truly love the music and the scene and the culture.
Felix: That’s very true, it does act as a good introduction to that kind of world. And if you garner a love for it and you want to dig deeper, you find these pockets and scenes. My introduction to skateboarding is probably A Goofy Movie or something like that. I wasn’t immediately watching you skate. It will always come from a more popular place and filter down and you find your true interests at some point, and what you really love about that.
You were talking earlier about skate videos and the music in them. Do either of you have a favourite clip off the top of your head, or a song that you discovered from a skate video, or a clip where you think the music went really well with the skating?
Felix: One that really sticks out to me was a video from this Russian skate brand that I came across on Vimeo, and they had this mad aesthetic. So much overlaying stuff and mad green screen things, and they had this track by this Russian techno producer called Buttechno who was unheard of at this point. I was crazy about his music, and it was really staggering to see that in a skate video. Hearing really odd techno with this Russian skate brand… it was just worlds away from what I was used to watching.
Chad: The one that pops in my head is Mark Gonzales and his part in Blind Skateboard’s Video Days where he’s skating to jazz. I think it was [John] Coltrane. At that time, I’d never even thought that I liked jazz. I was really young when I heard it, and I remember listening to it and just being like: “Wow, I really love jazz!”
What character did you used to play on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater?
Felix: [laughs] Oh Jesus. I’m gonna say Chad.
Chad: I won’t be mad if it wasn’t me.
Felix: It was a toss-up between Chad and Rodney Mullen when he was on there.
Chad: I rarely played the game even though I was in it, I’ve never been a big video game person. But of course I picked myself when I did play.
Chad, you recently drove around LA taking over Eric Koston’s “Do a Kickflip!” challenge. Felix, do you still skate, and if so how would you do in the challenge?
Felix: If the pressure was on, if Chad Muska and Eric Koston pulled up in a car and told me to do a kickflip for a free board I’d be so nervous. I reckon I’d just be like: “OK, this is it!” [laughs]. If that pressure was on I reckon I could meet the challenge for sure.
Chad? If Eric Koston pulled up on you when you were skating down the street would you land it?
Chad:[laughs] Let’s hope I’ve still got it! I’ve put this body through so many injuries but I’m still going. I would have to do it. If I didn’t land it it might be a bit embarrassing.
Chad, what do you like about Felix’s music?
Chad: I think that you [Felix] killed it on this EP. The Revolution is stuck in my head after this weekend. It’s a jam man. I don’t like to make comparisons that much, but I’m a super big huge fan of the Future Sound of London and Epiphany has some elements in there that reminded me of some of my favourite tracks of theirs.
I’m just hyped that I was able to be exposed to your music again through this and it’s an honour to be a part of such amazing tracks. Thank you for making this collaboration happen; it’s such a cool thing for me to see my artwork experienced in that way. It’s something I had never thought of and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.
Felix: That is overwhelming; it’s so crazy to hear that. Thank you so much. I really appreciate that, and your artwork for it as well was absolutely beautiful. I’d love to be doing what you’re doing. It excites me so much to hear your passion and your love for just being creative in any way. That really inspires me. Thank you so much for this conversation, it’s been such an eye opener.