Hyponik

Flako

Natureboy Flako: In conversation

To say Dario Rojo Guerra, better known as Flako (or more recently Natureboy Flako) has had a varied career thus far would be an understatement. Born in Chile, raised in Germany, recognised in London and now back in Germany, he first came as an architect of spaced out, ethereal hip-hop instrumentals before releasing his first EP, Eclosure, on Five Easy Pieces in 2012.

Since then, his work has transitioned into more ambient territory with comparisons as varied and interesting as Vangelis, Actress and Mono/Poly, to name a few. His latest release, Natureboy Flako, is built up from more than 200 recordings, all made in the time since he left London and moved to Berlin.

As with all his more recent work, it’s heavily influenced in tone and structure by natural sounds, but this time around he’s moved slightly further away from live instruments, instead opting to use an arsenal of antiquated synths and newer electronic instruments. It’s a fascinating new chapter in the career of an artist who seems to delight in throwing curveballs. On November 8th, he’ll be bringing his sound back to London for the first time since he left, playing his new material in a special one-off performance at the Jazz Cafe.

With this latest release, you’ve merged your ‘Natureboy’ title with the Flako name, what does that represent?

While moving back to Berlin, after about 7 years of residing in London, I had also gone through a phase of reconnecting with myself, where I come from and who I am. The skinny boy on the artwork of my new self-titled record, is a photo of me sitting on a tree trunk wearing my grandfather’s hat outside the house of our old family house in a small village called Mincha in the hills about 3 hours north of Santiago in Chile. I remember that moment and still feel the same today.

You used a lot of analogue gear for this release, what led you to lean more towards this approach?

I’ve always been interested and have listened to a lot of electronic music from the ’60s and ’70s. Using hands on gear is different and changes the approach and feels somehow a little more honest and direct. I could never afford real expensive analogue gear, so it honestly just took me some time to put some humble pieces together and get into it.

What was it that attracted you to the Arturia MiniBrute, and how did you find the process of making music with it, compared to other synths?

I randomly came across it and just found it a really good sounding piece of new analogue gear. The Steiner-Parker Synthacon filter is indeed a good compromise between versatility and savagery and is not being implemented in any other new synthesizer, as far as I know, and quite unique sounding.

How did you develop the vocal track on ‘Devil’s Gun’? Who actually sings it?

I’ve always used my voice in my music, although I feel i’m not really good at verbal communication and hate small talk. Most of the times it feels more natural to just transmit feelings, energies or vibes into a musical recording, rather then thoughts.

Words can be misunderstood, where instrumental music can’t be misunderstood the same way. When I first started recording my singing voice on songs like ‘Lonely Town’ (from 2011), I was simply shy about singing and felt the need to hide it using another alias.

Everybody knows the feeling of hearing your own voice recorded and playing it back for the first time. It’s weird! It feels nice to sing though, so I recorded and released a whole self-titled record as Dirg Gerner in 2013.

Im currently working on new songs again, but will probably release them as Natureboy Flako.

Given that so much of this new material was recorded in single takes, how has it translated to a live setting?

I’ve created a journey which is based on a framework, that allows me to play, recreate or improvise parts. As always, I also perform a fair bit of new yet unreleased music and try to create a balanced and dynamic journey through my musical universe.

How are you feeling about bringing your sound back to London again in a few months?

I actually haven’t been back to London in some time, so i’m very excited to show what i’ve been working on.

How has it felt moving back to Germany again after living in London?

It is strange to move back to a place you’ve been before, but the city has changed so much since I left many years ago, so I was able to discover new sides of the city.

I really enjoy the bigger physical space available which provides head space too, but most importantly I can see my family more easily and more frequent.

 You’ve become a lot more of a collaborative artist in recent years, is there anyone in particular you’re itching to work with at the moment?

I always enjoy working with others and would love to work with Andre 3000!

The EP is built from a selection of over 200 tracks, how did you go about selecting the ones which you wanted to use?

The moments in which I record music, I mostly don’t know what it is yet, so I leave it to rest and ripen for some time. It then reveals and unfolds its full being to me, when its ready.

What was it like working with Five Easy Pieces again?

Great as always! FEP is a rather small independent venture run by two amazing people and friends who are supporting me to the best of their abilities.

When discussing Natureboy, you often talked about how your interest in plants influenced the album. Since then, have you discovered any
new plants which particularly interest you, or helped to inspire new music?

I like to be and work in green environments, so I make my flat and home studio as green as I can. Cedron (Lemon Verbena) is still my favourite plant for its fragrance. I love making tea from the leafs.

Are there any instruments that you’d particularly like to learn to play, and incorporate into your music?

I play the guitar, bass guitar and percussion, but would love to learn flute!

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A lot of your more recent work feels very cinematic, if you could choose a film to create an alternative score for, which one would you pick?

I would have loved to write the score for Alejandro Jodorwosky’s Dune. Both the original greatest film never made and the documentary about it, that would have been dope.

Outside of the EP, are there any other projects in the pipeline at the moment which you can tell us about?

Kutmah’s recent debut Album, I co-produced, co-wrote a bunch of the songs, as well as engineered the whole album. We’re still working on Songs for Fatima’s follow up Album to “Yellow Memories” and I started working on an exiting film project with a London based film production company.

Natureboy Flako plays at the Jazz Cafe on November 8. More info and tickets here.

Words: Callum Davies