Interview: Lance Ferguson on Raw Material and putting a spotlight on sampling

One of our favourite musical mavericks, Lance Ferguson, is gearing up to drop his new solo work in Raw Material tomorrow – a marked departure from what we heard from Ferguson last year, LANU‘s The Double Sunrise. Of course, two different projects but still, if what we’ve heard from Raw Material proves anything, it’s that the Melbourne-based musician is in quite the period of creative excellence at present.

Ahead of the album’s release, Ferguson lets us in on the background of Raw Material and what spurred him on to head down this particular musical path.

“I really wanted to make an album of new music that put the art of sampling in focus.” he explains. “I was exposed to Soul, Funk and Jazz originally through listening to Hip Hop back in the 80’s and 90’s, so that way of making music has been around me the whole time. I then thought, ‘How about I also make all of the music to sample from as well?’ Not just loops and random sections, but fully finished songs that lend themselves to the concept.”

“I went a step further and actually pressed these ‘originals’ up on to one off records, as I thought it would be much more authentic to sample from vinyl. I sampled six of these records to make new tracks, and sent the rest out to some of my favourite producers to work with. Now that the dust has settled, we have 13 all-new tunes plus the ‘originals’ on a double album.”

An ambitious project, for sure, but one that is right up Ferguson’s alley. Working with a wide range of collaborators on Raw Material has seen musical influences flourish, while new sounds have emerged as a result. Ferguson reflects on working with artists including Jace XLEnnio Styles and Brit Manor along with favourites in Hiatus KaiyoteKylie Auldist and Late Nite Tuff Guy.

“It was amazing to have so many of my favourite music makers on board this album, from the actual guest producers themselves through to vocalists and musicians from some of my favourite bands. Ennio Styles is an old friend and a legend of the Melbourne scene. He took the sampling concept and really ran with it, using not only the record I gave him to re-work but also a bunch of things from my back catalogue to make a piece completely constructed of sounds from my own songs. Another highlight for me was bringing in vocalists Jace XL from Melbourne and Brit Manor from LA. Two amazing voices doing some really exciting things in 2017.”

It wasn’t all easy, though. Pooling so many ideas and interests together runs a risk of producing an album more akin to a compilation or sampler; as Ferguson remembers, creating songs that would be able to exist on their own, isolated, as well as part of a larger body of work took some overcoming.

“One of the challenges I found was in making the first album of ‘Originals’. As I mentioned, I didn’t want these songs to be like something off a Loop/Sample CD or DJ Tool record. They needed to be fully-finished songs that could stand up on their own as compositions – but I also had to engineer in sections that made them sample-friendly, trying not to cross the line to make those bits too gratuitous. The originals were always intended on being included as a companion piece to the finished album, and I think it’s nice to have them there so you can see/hear the process.”

Releasing music into a realm where online presences and accessibility to music has never been more open has meant musicians are not only challenged but they are kept on their toes – as a result, thinking out of the box produces some exciting new bodies of work. Undoubtedly, Raw Material will stand out as another class addition to Ferguson’s already extensive collection of music. In terms of ‘raw material’, he weighs in on what the term means to him now.

“The twelve ‘originals’ that I made to sample from form the Raw Material for the new music.” he asserts. “Then again, the new music has a certain sonic rawness to it in parts as well, so that album title seems to sum it all up pretty perfectly.”

Raw Material is out tomorrow, August 4th. Find out more via www.lanceferguson.com.au.