Ficilio is a Toronto-based producer, deejay, record slinger, and DIY scene mainstay. Emerging with his debut EP ‘Dangerous Goods’ on Parallel Minds, his dialed in sound delivers spaced out commotion, off-kilter rhythms and dubby exploration. Behind the decks, he corresponds with his production style while spanning a handful of genres - making him adaptable to a variety of spaces and places.
What was your process putting together the Work Redux mix and how did you approach the prompt to create music for working?
When I record mixes I kinda go about an approach of storytelling. I find it really intriguing when a mix can transfer through a handful of genres, starting with more ambient chillout music and lead into club-ready music. That’s kind of my approach. I start with something more chill and move through it seamlessly yet trying to tell a story. I knew this one was focused on people wanting to work while listening to it, so something not too distracting, but with smooth transitions throughout.
It really felt focused and dialed-in. I’m wondering what you mean when you say you approach it as storytelling. Is it more like a narrative, or a chart of rising and falling?
I guess it’s sort of a narrative. It’s like having an intro, a middle, and a climax. I find that I listen to a lot of mixes that are just the same throughout an hour or two. I find it interesting when there’s a shift in musical direction, because it keeps the listener engaged.
When you’re approaching the mix how do you sequence the introduction of different soundscapes and transitions? Is it planned or more improvisatory?
I think it’s definitely planned in some sense. When I put the actual set-list together I might find some faster tracks that have a beatless intro or something that I can mix into something that’s slower and fades out. I think having abrupt changes isn’t the best approach. I want it to be seamless but different.
Is there one throughline that you keep in mind throughout a whole mix?
I think it’s more based on tempo. I generally start with a slower tempo in a lot of my mixes, or if it’s an ambient mix, no tempo at all. I focus on tempo a lot, just steadily bringing it up and upping the pace. Rather than sounds specifically, it’s more based on speed and the steady increase of tempo.
Do you feel there is a distinction between being a DJ and being a producer? And how do you see yourself fitting into that?
Being a producer and DJ the sounds have to correspond to the music you produce and the music you play out as a DJ. I find I don’t do that so much. I love so many different kinds of music, it’s hard to really nail down a sound that I want to DJ compared to the sound I produce in my productions. I guess, I just try to keep it interesting and do something that is a little outside my comfort zone. I find the balance between sticking to your sound as a DJ and your production style can be difficult, but I make it work in my own way.
Do you bother yourself with that distinction at all?
It can be hard. The balance can definitely be hard. I’ve been working on a different musical alias that’s more 80s inspired sounds, classic house, which definitely differs from my Ficilio side of production. I tend to dabble a lot in different sounds but I figure if I want to do something vastly different I should just make a totally different alias. It isn’t something I’m taking that seriously, it’s just a fun project I’m working on.
What were the decisions you went into constructing this alias?
I was just kind of in a phase where I was listening to a lot of late 80s early 90s house and more kind of balearic stuff and it just seemed goofy and fun to make. I haven’t publicly announced anything, but I just figured it’d be fun to do. Not to take it seriously, but just get it out there and see how people react to it. I think that’s always a risk you have to take when producing music and DJing. Just do it and see how people like it and have little expectations.
Is this something new for you?
I’ve done it in the past where I used to make more chill music, but then I started to make music that has more of a techno sound, that’s faster and a bit darker. I scrapped the chill side and just went with that and it had a pretty good response, so I’m kinda stepping backwards in some ways. I just want to do something in my spare time that isn’t as serious. I find I don’t take DJing and music production too seriously. It’s still a hobby for me. I just want to have fun with it and make it a playful activity, rather than something where I need to make work. The creative process can really get me down, as many creators know, so when I’m not working on anything there’s kind of a part in me that’s urging me to do something, to step up and make something, but I don’t always believe in that. There’s always time to chill.
Was it liberating to create this alias and try things out that you’re listening to and wanted to emulate?
It’s been fun, a lot of fun. I’ve worked on a few tracks and it’s getting somewhere, but it’s a low pressure project which I’m really enjoying. I’m always bouncing back and forth between projects. If I’m not taking it too seriously, it’s harder to stick with it, but it’s nice when the pressure’s off. As I was saying about the creative process, sometime’s it’s ok not to be creative, and I’ve had to teach myself that. It’s ok to have time to focus on yourself and not even think about music. I think that every creative type has that problem where they get stressed out when they’re not doing something. It’s totally natural and it should be normalized.
I feel like it’s part of the creative process, to step away from the urge to produce. For some it’s refueling, for some it’s leaving it behind, for some it’s just stopping for a while.
That’s it. I feel a break is always needed. I only know from music, but a break is always nice, and then when you go back to your studio you’ve got new ideas.
Do you do anything else creatively other than music?
It’s mainly music. I’ve dabbled in music production for maybe about ten years now. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and had fun with.
How did it start?
It started at the end of high-school. An old friend of mine, Yohei, he got Fruity Loops and showed me how to mess around with it. Eventually I picked up an Akai controller, started making stupid songs with that, and then I started getting into gear, buying synths and drum machines. I’ve gotten rid of them, bought more, and kind of learned how to use Ableton and started DJing around eight years ago. I started getting into record collecting and mixing vinyl, and once I had access to the equipment to DJ with CDJs I started to do that at gigs here and there. I feel like I’ve always loved having a lot of gear. Right now I’m surrounded by gear. I love the hands-on experience. I honestly don’t know how to use Ableton that well, other than recording into it and playing around with my gear. Just experimenting and having fun with it.
Are you a frequent visitor to Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji to buy gear?
I haven’t bought new gear in a while because I’m really happy with the set-up I have right now. I think ‘less is more’ definitely applies to gear. It can get overwhelming when you’re staring at a bunch of knobs and buttons on your desk and you just don’t even know where to start when you want to make something new.
What is your current set-up?
I have an MPC 1000, a Digitakt Digitone, Korg Minilogue XD, and Arturia Keystep Pro. I make it work in my own way, sequencing one machine to another. It’s basically two synths and two drum machines/samplers. It works really well for me right now and I just don’t want to touch it. I don’t want to get something new and learn how to use it. All my drum sounds are sampled on my Digitakt, and I run it through my MPC and I use my Keystep to sequence the synths, record it in, and mash it all together. The ease of use is so important to me. If I’m menu-diving or getting into the nitty-gritty of how a synth works it’s no good. If I find a cool sound, I’m going to use it. If you’re into learning about that stuff, that’s cool too, but for me I just like playing with the sounds, and if it sounds cool, I go for it.
Was music production always something that intrigued you growing up, or did you come at it as a fan?
I grew up in Toronto and have lived here almost my whole life, and music has always been in my life in some way, whether listening or performing. I’ve gone through so many different phases of music, but in terms of electronic music, I started to get into it in high-school. I was listening to a lot of dubstep and bloghouse. Bloghouse is my main inspiration: Ed Banger records, Justice, Sebastian, and Busy P. I give a lot of credit to that style of music for getting me into electronic music and DJing and producing. I learned how to play guitar as a kid, and dabbled in other instruments when I was young, like viola, but I’ve always been interested in electronic music and the energy it brings to a club or a concert. If I were to name one pivotal musical experience it was going to see Crystal Castles and Trust in 2011 at Sound Academy. It was such an eye opener in terms of experiencing electronic music and the energy it had, and the energy the crowd had. It was really inspiring and cool to experience.
Was that the moment where you decided you wanted to create and contribute to the scene?
I didn’t think of it like, I need to make this kind of music, but I just wanted to be absorbed into this scene and this atmosphere. The energy that room had, I wanted to experience that over and over again.
Were you making and sharing music within the scene at the time?
When I was eighteen I moved to Montreal. I went to school there for a bit, didn’t like the program and moved back to Toronto, but while I was in Montreal I dabbled a little in the underground music scene. However, it was more so when I moved back to Toronto that I started hanging out with friends that would show me the scene and I became really invested in it. It’s crazy to see how much it’s changed. I work at Invisible City now, and I think that I’ve really invested myself in the scene by working there and by going to events. It’s all about going out to places and meeting people. When you’re living in a big city, it can be very hard to create just one community, but communities still exist, we need them. I’ve thought the scene has been small, but there’s also so many people coming in and out all the time.
I found a real sense of space and environment in your music and wonder if it’s something you embrace and try to recreate?
I think a lot about music in relation to the space it’s played in. If I’m opening earlier in the night I think about what songs are appropriate for a room that has a little more space rather than a packed dance floor, and vice versa, I think about how a crowd will react to music if the room is full. For the Work Redux mix, I thought people would be playing it at home, so wanted to create for that setting. I do focus a lot on how it will sound in different environments, but music should be transferable to different environments. If you want to listen to it on headphones on your commute to work, then go for it, but there is some music that I’ve made that is for a very specific environment: loud speakers, packed dance floor. It’s something that is very important to me, how people will react in certain environments.
Have you had an experience like the Crystal Castles show where the music and the people have become one?
For sure, I feel there’s some records or tracks that I play when I’m out that people just go crazy for. If I play this specific song at this specific time I know how the crowd will react.
Do you build up to those peaks?
Not super intentionally, but if I’m playing a night by myself for like four or five hours I think alot about storytelling and the environment and how that will translate over the night. Most times I think it works. It can be a challenge though to read a room. There’s definitely some skill in doing that, but it’s a fun challenge.
What was a memorable gig or event that happened to you recently you would highlight?
There’s two that come to mind. I have this friend Jan, he goes by Jan Cool and he runs Jaspa Shop. I had a really great night at Bambis playing with him. We weren’t really expecting much, we just brought records and were going to go for it, but we had a lot of chemistry that night and it was just a lot of fun and the energy was peak level through the entire night. And I actually played a show in St. John’s Newfoundlands, I have a friend out there who does music and he has a friend who opened a space, that was a great night too. Really great energy, nice to play for a different crowd and the sound system was great. Big shoutout to Stamped in St. Johns.
What is it about those two nights that stand out to you, and what is it that makes a good night?
I think just having a responsive crowd is nice to see and I feel like I’ve done my duty as a DJ if the crowd responds in a positive way. Having someone run up to the booth and just give you props or something and say ‘that was sick’ is always so nice. I think having a bit of a silly chemistry with the crowd and not being so serious, just letting loose, is something that I really appreciate, and especially with those two nights, it made them very special to me.
Is there anything you do to center yourself to get through the challenge of connecting with a crowd sometimes?
I’m still trying to figure that out myself. [Laughs]
–Work Redux is a collection of mixes made to be listened to while working. We work closely with local and international DJs to assemble thoughtful music that will carry members throughout their day and introduce them to new sounds. East Room is a shared workspace company providing design-forward office solutions, authentic programming and a diverse community to established companies and enterprising freelancers. We explore art, design, music, and entrepreneurship, visit our news & stories page to read more.