Flox is square. Square, precise, direct. He goes straight to the point and doesn’t waste his time with useless considerations. “I have no time to shit around”, he says. So, his seventh album is called ‘Square’.
An extraordinary architect of studio production and a multi-instrumentalist who records, mixes and produces but also, for several years, performs on stage with his musicians, ‘Square’ represents a major turning point in the career of this pioneer of nu reggae.
After recording ‘Square’, Flox started touring alone, equipped with a machine he designed and built with Midi controllers to launch original samples and loops – an autarchy assumed from one end of the process to the other. “You have to master all the tools to deliver what you want”, he has been saying for years. Yet, this Square is wide open: old school rhythms or techno-like approaches, vintage dub or futuristic take offs, thick sound basses and melodies, scraped to the bone… All this is Flox, a solid innovator who never stops renewing his nu reggae, a maniacal craftsman who regulates, to the micron, tracks of perfect simplicity of access. His trademark is this highly spatialized form of reggae, with an enveloping sound, which takes both artist and listener into a shared bubble of communion.
A know-how? This gentle, smooth-headed Franco-British man in his early fifties smiles, gently mocking says: “There are so many easy ways of producing music nowadays that you might release an album not knowing that you are still learning or assimilating… Many burn their wings”. Flox practices the expert level in all areas of the game. He knows so well how much patience, precision, and passion his path has required. A few decades ago, he graduated in bookbinding from his five years studying at the École Estienne. He was in the middle of his punk period and could not see himself working for the old bourgeois clients of bookbinding. So, he took a job in an American computer company based in France and his first salary was used to borrow 25 000 Francs to buy a 12-track analogue multi recorder.
After all, Florian Gratton has never lacked determination and knows how to make clear-cut decisions. Before him, his half-Kabyle, half-French mother escaped to Britain as a teenager, met a half-English, half-Irish actor and only returned to France after Mitterrand’s victory in the 1981 presidential election. At that time, Florian at the age of eleven years old, started playing the drums, his first instrument. Step by step, he learnt a bit of every instrument he came upon. “I’m more curious than really multi-instrumentalist. I only learn from each instrument what I need to make the music I want. It’s a focused learning process.”
Don’t expect a classic reggae man’s route. His introduction to Jamaican music was firstly British with The Police before the shock of Linton Kwesi Johnson’s dub poetry. “Apart from that, I was enriched as much by Bob Marley as I was Pink Floyd”, he explains. At the age of twenty, the time of the bands begins. At the age of thirty, he led a batucada of thirty percussionists, but he had already set himself the goal of making his first album before the age of thirty-five, which was titled “Take My time”. “Take My Time” consisted of ten tracks conceived and recorded with all the seriousness of a square. But no record label wanted it, until Maxime Péron, co-founder of Underdog Records found Flox’s demo at the bottom of a box in the office of another record company and this totally unexpected nu reggae starts playing out. The same week it was distributed to Nova, France Inter and FIP radio stations.
Since then, Flox has become a crossroad of musical cultures and experiences. He has created a library of nearly a thousand tracks registered at the Sacem (The French Music Royalties Collection Society) and has seen success on many advertising and musical productions. Of his own productions, Flox explains, “I have to hear something. It can be a bass line, a bird, someone whistling in the street, a phrase on the radio – there are no rules.” And so, he patiently builds up his tracks in his studio, willingly reworking them for his live performances. The most important thing is simplicity, clarity, and efficiency. That each sensation is huge. Square like.