FaltyDL (aka Drew Lustman) is an artist well versed in the notion of doing what he damn well pleases, and his latest album Heaven is for Quitters, is yet another genre-hopping curveball.
With a distinct voice, Lustman’s sixth LP – following past releases on Planet Mu and Ninja Tune – provides a 13 track soundscape doused with playful electro and ambient melodies. It’s a decidedly personal album – primed for solo listening rather than a club setting, and features vocal contributions from Rosie Lowe and Hannah Cohen, as well as synth work from Mike Paradinas on ‘Frigid Air’.
Ahead of release on October 21 via Lustman’s own Blueberry Records, the Brooklyn resident delves into the self-reflective message of the album garnered from his own listening experiences; whilst also elaborating on his venture into the porn world as he seeks a new-found method of marketing music.
Before we get onto the music, I wanted to ask you about the website you’ve created specifically for Heaven is for Quitters, and the sexually suggestive animations that flood the screen on it.
That was made in collaboration with Margot Bowman. Initially, we were going to do a little music video together, but we both have this love for these album microsites which seem to stay online for years, and you can come back years later and see it when it has no context in the present anymore. I really like the comedy and the humour of finding these sites, so that was a big part of it for me.
We also talked about mutual frustrations in the art world, and the game you have to play when releasing a project. Like coming up with a story and having to explain the meaning behind it, which can be very dry, really. And just the fakeness that can come out of that. She was saying that this day and age folks aren’t really connecting with one another as much as they used to. I mean, some people would probably prefer to have sex with an obelisk than another human being.
I also did this mix of things which didn’t quite make the album but I really liked, so the website serves a purpose of sort, of whetting the palette for FaltyDL productions. It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this. I put a video out on Pornhub a couple years back. Yeah, there’s a FaltyDL video on Pornhub… it’s just a video of my bed actually – so I was really excited to get my bed on a porn website.
That’s an interesting venture into music marketing, did it get many views?
Yeah it did alright actually, it was funny. I was saying to a friend that places like SoundCloud can get lots of views, but you look at porn videos and it’s crazy with just millions and millions of views. You can probably guess the demographic, but it still remains to be seen as far as pushing album sales. It’s a form of entertainment at the end of the day, and I hate how the consumer has to listen to it according to one specific way – like Apple, YouTube, Spotify. So if I can put a music video up and you can see GIFs of people having sex on the side, then that’s great. It’s a weirdly easy thing to do on the internet, but literally nothing to do with the new album.
I read in a previous interview before the release of Hardcourage a couple years back that the build up to that was a frustrating year, and it’s taken you around two years for this album. Have they been a smooth two years for you? Has the album come to you without forcing anything or has it been a labour of love?
It has definitely been a labour of love. I’m self-releasing this on my own label Blueberry Records, which is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I was kind of pushed to do that because the label I was working with thought I should take a bit more time off. So I thought, “alright, it’s time I did this my own way”.
Firstly, I did a few demos and sent them out and a couple of huge labels sort of dangled the carrot out. That’s all nice and fun, but if they say “no” further down the line, then it hammers home this idea like, “why am I pandering around with anyone else? Why don’t I see my own album right through from beginning to end and handle it myself and see what it sounds like?” So I became enticed by that idea. And I’ve had days where things have really worked out and then I’ve had days where I’m like, “Wow, this is my final experiment, I gotta get another job, I’ve had a good run”. Sometimes I’ve had moments like, “Well that’s it for Falty!” But that’s silly because I could just cold drop albums for the rest of my life even if I get another job.
The title of the LP is an interesting one, what’s the underlying message of the album?
It goes on the idea that people who just rest on their laurels think they will be admitted into heaven for doing these certain things and adhering to these rules and living a clean life, which to me, feels lazy and fake. I prefer the idea of sticking around on earth a bit longer and fighting it out.
If heaven is this pristine image of living a healthy life and getting rewarded it’s like, “well, I don’t know how enticing that is, I don’t wanna sit on a cloud for the rest of my life, I want to shake it up and get dirty a bit.” So, Heaven is for Quitters, it’s for lazy people. It’s like, “if that is your idea of heaven, then I don’t think very highly of you”.
It’s certainly an album which evokes a lot of reflection, with some dark undertones which come to a vocal head in ‘Drugs’ featuring Rosie Lowe. Is the album wholly designed for reflective headphone listening?
Yeah it is. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make music for clubs, but the older I get and the less time I spend in clubs, I think what is getting reflected in my music is my own personal experience. And it is quite a romantic thing for me – this personal listening experience, because the city I grew up in over here, when dance music came out, there wasn’t really anywhere to go listen to it. So I’d listen to it on my own and it would be a personal experience. I would develop a really close relationship with an album this way, and no-one else could have a say on it. So I just want to provide that soundtrack for other people who are looking for that experience.
Drugs are always a contentious issue, but music is a method some artists use to air their views on them. Did producing the track feel like some kind of release when it comes to drugs, and any personal connection you may have had with them?
I can allude to drugs in my work in different ways which are subversive, but why not just call the track that, you know? Let’s just talk about it instead of messing around it. I guess I don’t need to make another tune about drugs now.
But I don’t really have an opinion on drugs either way, to be honest. I don’t do them. I’ve definitely had periods in my life where I have indulged. But then also, she [Rosie Lowe] is singing about quitting someone else – being addicted to a human being in a relationship, when really she should’ve gotten out of it before it turns bad for her. We’ve all had that situation where we should have left it instead of keeping it going and things just getting worse, so the song is about that human aspect of emotions as drugs, too.
Last year you did your own take on an Aphex Twin track, ‘Every Day’. How much has his music, and other multi-talented artists like Miles Davis, been influences on your multi-genre productions?
It’s an attitude. Miles had such a long career and made so many people happy and then pissed off lots of people politically, too. But just to have that, and that amount of music taken from his experiences and constant reinvention is really lucky. His music was really foreign to me, too. It used to freak me out, I used to just think it was amazing. And his attitude. I mean, he used to carry around a gun. I thought that was pretty hardcore!
As for Aphex Twin, he’s another that has carried such a unique voice and care for his sound. I look at Aphex and think, “man, I wish I could just not care at all and always do my own thing”. I could sit here and make tech-house all day and go on European tours and make a bunch of money with some luck, but I like to relate and come back to my roots. I have a radio show on The Lot Radio, and play a lot of Aphex and Reflex records and weirder stuff. But it’s Aphex Twin. His albums, more than others, I formed a personal relationship with growing up.
The second track on the album, ‘Infinite Sustain’, features vocals from Hannah Cohen. I can’t help but draw comparisons with artists like Björk and Goldfrapp the way this track reverberates, it almost sounds like an 80s production with the playful electro. Was this the direction you were aiming for?
Yeah, it’s funny. Kate Bush is an influence for the sound too. Hannah came over to record the vocals and I started to take things away from the track and strip it back more. I wanted it to sound like it kept changing until, like, the eighth mixdown. I had never recorded anyone in my studio before, so having Hannah come over was a real challenge that I wanted to do. These are professional singers that record in really nice studios and they’re basically coming over to a closet to record with me whilst I have panic attacks. Collaborating with someone in that way is weird because you instantly get to know them on this super intimate level, and there’s a lot of trust involved.
You released your second album, You Stand Uncertain, on Planet Mu, and label boss Mike Paradinas (μ-Ziq) appears on ‘Frigid Air’ on this album. How has your relationship developed with him? No hard feelings for releasing on your own?
No, not at all! [laughs]. Mike has released on loads of labels back in the day – I’m sure he gets it as an artist. I’ve known Mike since about 2008/2009 and we get along as friends, as well as professionally. He always gives me a hand with track listing. Even when I was releasing on Ninja Tune I was bouncing ideas off him. So I used him for ideas again on this album but last minute I changed it all up and just went with my gut on the track listing. But for ‘Frigid Air’ he wrote some melodies and put enough in there that I thought it really should say it features him on the track. I also grew up listening to some of Mike’s music, so it’s a big honour to have him on the album.
Your label now boasts a solid foundation of releases, what was the vision you had when starting it, and has it gone in the direction you imagined? Or has it been very spontaneous?
That’s another thing I may have picked up from Mike at Planet Mu – he’s always seemed to release music that he just really loves, it doesn’t seem like a stylised label in any way. I feel like my taste is just too all over the place to stick with one genre like some successful labels. If I hear something and I love it, to me, that’s the best thing there is. But there has been some label-defining records. At first it was all about getting Brrd to release with me. Then it was about getting people that I really respected, like Dego, Luke Vibert and Todd Osborn. Then I got the Elysia Crampton album and that changed the entire direction of the label and got a lot of good press – people started paying attention.
This is your sixth album now, do you ever stand back for a moment and think, “shit, look what I’ve achieved”, or do you feel you have a lot more still to come?
I never feel like I have achieved a lot, never ever. I feel there is a lot more to do. Staying in the press cycle and releasing albums is always changing and it’s a difficult business so I’m going to explore different ways of releasing music. I may well take some time off from FaltyDL after this release, but by no means stop making music.
I just bought a piano so if I can just turn my chair around and not have my computer anywhere near it for like a year – maybe something will come out of that. Perhaps I’ll go along the route of something like Grouper’s Ruins album, which is gorgeous solo piano with vocals. I want to get as much emotion across with as little effort as possible.
Based on the traits of the album, what kind of animal would Heaven is for Quitters be? I had imagined it to be some sort of night owl.
I like that, yeah, I really like that idea. Cats, also. You never know what they are thinking – they could scratch you one minute but lick you the next. I like that idea of not quite knowing, but I do like the owl idea, too.
Heaven is for Quitters is out October 21 on Blueberry Records. Pre-order it here.
Words: Samuel Asquith