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On Glitch Art, Internet Music, & More: a Conversation with skxllflower [Exclusive Interview]

“I feel like I came home after taking a long trip around the music industry–I’ve realized I felt most at home working on tunes like this.”

– skxllflower

If there’s any Liquid Ritual release that you need to pay attention to this year, we truly believe that it’s this one: “distance2” by skxllflower, a newcomer to the wave scene who has, to our surprise, only been at it for about three months.

skxllflower’s recent turn towards making wave music isn’t the only surprise we ran into over the course of this exclusive interview with him, but it may have been the most shocking revelation, especially given just how good this new track is.

See for yourself: check out “distance2” by skxllflower, via Spotify.

“Are we dreaming?”

“distance2” has this gorgeous, inimitable daydream-like quality to it that sets in within the first few notes of the song. Driven by rhythmic vocal chops paired with cyclic melodies that wash over you like tides, this song is bound to invoke some involuntary head-bopping (or other grooving) while you listen.

The transition that occurs through the 1-to-2 minute mark is especially lovely; it’s as if we’ve been submerged underwater, but can still catch a breath despite being suspended in the space between crest and trough.

Overall, “distance2” presents a calming yet thoroughly engaging experience.

With this song, skxllflower also demonstrates how wave and phonk can intersect in the most complementary way–much like certain tunes by fellow electronic music mastermind, M!NGO.

One can only imagine how incredible a collaboration between the two would be.

Introducing… skxllflower!

We were so excited about this new release that we invited skxllflower to a chat about “distance2”, Liquid Ritual, the creative processes behind both his music and his fascinating visuals, and much, much more.

Lock in, and enjoy.

AM: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Would you please take a moment to introduce yourself to our MendoWerks readers? 

skxllflower: I’m skxllflower, a bass(ish) producer living near New York City. I’ve gone through many different aliases and styles, but I feel like things really locked in for me after finding Burial’s “Untrue” and Sorrow’s “Dreamstone”. Those two records really defined the direction of my music life for the last 14 years, and I could easily attribute them to the reason I’m still here today, experiencing life as best as I can. 

I grew up with a music teacher for a dad, and a visual artist for a mom, so I always felt compelled to make my own art as well.  I’ve been listening to garage and dubstep tunes primarily, ever since I discovered Burial and Sorrow circa 2010; I fell madly in love with the whole “reese bass + ambience” vibe, and realized I wanted to make my own stuff like this. I wanted to see if I could do it, so I really put the time in and fell down a rabbit hole.

Other than that, I’ve worked at recording studios and done production/mixing work for tons of pop records and hip-hop records, but I’m coming full circle back to where I started with this skxllflower project. 

I feel like I came home after taking a long trip around the music industry–I’ve realized I felt most at home working on tunes like this.

Check out both of skxllflower’s early inspirations via Bandcamp below.

AM: You just released an epic new song, “Distance2”, with Liquid Ritual. What has that experience been like? 

skxllflower: It’s been really cool–the guys over at Liquid Ritual are great. It was awesome getting to meet with them and work together on getting this release finalized and out to the people. 

Big shouts to Martin and Oskar; it was sick getting hit up by them early on into skxllflower. I had only been dropping records under this name for maybe 3 months, and Martin picked up on what I was doing really quick.

They’ve really got their eyes on the scene, it’s great to see labels still looking toward smaller artists, keeping a finger on the pulse.

AM: How and when did you first get introduced to wave music? 

Skxllflower: I got introduced through Darci actually; he’s a good friend of mine, and we had been talking about the influences behind his records at some point late last year. He sent me over a bunch of wave tunes a while ago, and I really liked how they incorporated sounds I already loved from dubstep/garage, but brought them into a more trap-oriented space.

Very cool stuff–it’s really some internet music.

AM: Who are some of your biggest inspirations in this space (and/or outside of it)? 

skxllflower: Honestly, within wave, I don’t really have any specific influences. Most of my influence comes from all the other records I’ve been bumping throughout my time, tons of older garage tunes and dubstep tunes. 

The wave tunes I’ve done so far honestly come from what’s probably a general misunderstanding of the genre. I wanted to approach these wave tunes from an outsider perspective, unsure of the exact nuances of the genre and the style. I think that’s far more interesting, like trying to write a tune without hearing it, or painting a style you’ve only read about. You get really interesting results that way, in my opinion. 

AM: If “distance2” is what you get from experimenting, then I think you’re definitely doing something right! On a somewhat related note, what was it like working with Sublab on your April collaboration, “Eclipse”? 

skxllflower: It was awesome! I’ve known Sublab for years; we used to trade samples with each other back around 2016-2017 and we reconnected again this year. I started the initial demo to send to him, and he loved the melody and bassline and swapped out the sounds and wrote new drums; we ended up passing stems back and forth a few times, and I got all the visual stuff made up. 

skxllflower: We popped the tune out pretty quick honestly; it just kinda spurred to life with just a little push. We were both very happy with the end result, so we decided to get it out while it was still hot. We’re hoping to do some more tunes together in the future. I just gotta find the right wip to send over for another one!

AM: You have a pretty established aesthetic–lots of cool, glitchy graphics. From my understanding, you make them all yourself. Would you be open to elaborating a bit on this process? Is it just a bunch of cool filters you apply, or something more involved? 

skxllflower: For sure! I think the visual aspect of this project is just as important to me as the tunes themselves. 

I fell in love with glitch art early last year. skxllflower started as an instagram page I had made to dump my glitch art onto while I was still primarily making records for vocalists. It was a little bit of a side-project, another way to get my creativity out while all my musical time was taken up with work. I finally got a break in the action for a bit and pumped out a lofi-hiphop tape, and realized I could sync up the tunes to the glitch visuals and it felt really unique and fresh. 

The process for it can vary depending on what I’m trying to make, since the way I do it is pretty generative. I’ll start with some image or video–something like a clip of a flower I shot on my camcorder, or a collage of images I cut together or something. 

The base visual doesn’t have to be incredible, it mostly just needs to provide something to get distorted. 

“The best part is never knowing what’ll come out the other end.”

skxllflower: I’ll film this base image off my laptop screen with the camcorder to get it in the analogue domain, and send that signal through a bunch of circuit-bent video broadcast equipment, and back out through this Commodore 1702 monitor I found. Then, I re-film it with my mirrorless camera. 

The circuit bending provides all the wild, randomized distortions and colors, and the texture of the old CRT really imparts a unique feel to the output. 

It sounds very technical, but it’s really not when you get into doing it… I just connect these cables and start flipping switches. I don’t want it to be a precise, scientific process. 

The best part is never knowing what’ll come out the other end; most of the work is in curating the footage and finding great moments to splice together, or wild stills going frame by frame. 

It’s therapeutic seeing the old technology struggle to recreate the image properly. It can feel like a dance, balancing between total disruption and keeping things recognizable. 

There’s always a lot of surprise involved; there’s nothing quite like landing on a random frame and realizing that it’s “the one”. 

AM: You have experience as both producing your own tunes, and acting as a producer on other artists’ records (including ‘MendoWerks Faves’ alumni, Saint Slumber). As someone who has never touched a DAW in her life, I’m curious if there are any major differences in how you go about working on someone else’s music vs working on your own? Does it feel any different? 

skxllflower: Oh yes, it’s a completely different experience and workflow for me. 

Working on my own tunes can be very chaotic, jumping back and forth from working on the drums to changing up a bass synth, then recording vocals for ambiences, all within the span of 5 minutes. 

I’m very “artistic” when working on originals, let’s just say. 

You might find me in my studio after not hearing from me for 2 weeks with my hair grown out like a mane, coffee fueling every move I make. I try to keep the technicality to the end of the process, mixing everything down and cleaning it up. 

It’s like a translation process I have to go through to make it listenable to someone who’s not insane.

Working on other people’s records is a lot different: everything gets named, color-coded, and routed properly. I take things step-by-step and try to achieve a very specific result. A lot of times, people come in with a specific idea of what they want, or a reference tune they want things to come out like. I try to get as close as I can, and keep as much of my own personal artistry out of the process. 

“I spent a long time pushing my own voice out of the way in the name of making a career, and it ended up being really unhealthy mentally for me.”

skxllflower: For a long time, I let myself get too close to the records, and it would be hard for me when the artist needed something taken out or changed–or if they’d simply not release the tunes after I’d gotten emotionally connected to the record. 

I’ve definitely shifted my thought process on that over the years, and it’s a big part of why I realized I needed to start skxllflower for real. 

I spent a long time pushing my own voice out of the way in the name of making a career, and it ended up being really unhealthy mentally for me. I got too close to the fire.

Now that I have my own project though, it’s a lot easier working on other people’s records. I can have a healthy balance of integrating my own ideas into their tunes, while not getting too attached to anything in particular. 

Not to say I don’t like working on other’s tunes! It can be a really intimate experience working on something with a friend or a partner, but you also need to have a space where every decision is yours to make, or you’ll go crazy–or, at least I will.

AM: What’s next for you? Any spoilers you can give us for 2024? 

skxllflower: Sure! I’m working on a 140 EP at the moment; I’m hoping to have that done for very early 2024. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say I’m very proud of how it’s sounding. 

I also have some collaborations with blush, nvctve, and a few others on the way. I’m working on a breakcore/jungle EP, and I have some weird, dark, Burial-flavored house tunes on the backburner as well… I don’t know what’s going to see the light of day yet, but I have close to 50 tunes that just need finishing touches. 

I’m trying not to plan too much; I just wanna go with the flow and get out what feels right when it feels right. 

I am planning on dropping a mix on soundcloud and youtube of a bunch of unreleased tunes before New Years this year though; maybe that’ll give some indication of where skxllflower is headed next.

AM: And lastly… this column’s focus question: what does ‘wave’ mean to you? 

skxllflower: Wave to me is honestly very open to interpretations…it’s a specific feeling; it’s the emotion-driven child of electronica and hip hop. Something mysterious and ethereal, like seeing eyes through the trees while you’re walking by at 1AM. You know something’s there, but you can’t quite put a finger on it. I don’t know if I’m making sense; wave is a fleeting thing–you know it when you hear it.

Want more skxllflower?

Check out this Sean Paul flip that skxllflower recently uploaded to SoundCloud due to popular demand.

Keep up with skxllflower:

Twitter | Instagram | Spotify | SoundCloud

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