Steven Julien's East London studio is like an analog gear menagerie: vintage Korg, Yamaha, Akai, and Roland synths and drum machines are systematically arranged on desks and racks everywhere. Perched in a swivel chair for our chat, the 31-year-old producer looks sharp in his Keith Haring x Supreme t-shirt, an item issued as a tribute to the late music entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren. Julien has an eye for iconic art and design, as evidenced by his studio equipment, the Vivienne Westwood-copy skull ring on his finger, and the electronic fusion music he makes as FunkinEven.
Julien's 2009 EP, Kleer, on Eglo Records, introduced the world to a techy new talent with an old soul. He had been making his own beats for 15 years before meeting Eglo honchos Alexander Nut and Floating Points' Sam Shepherd, but the shy, West London-born Julien had never deemed his music worthy of release, and instead hoarded harddrives full of eclectic beats. His three all-embracing solo singles draw as much inspiration from 1980s funk acts One Way, Cameo, and, yes, Kleer, as they do from London broken-beat artists or LA beatmakers. But as much as Julien appreciates the media's comparisons of his work to Dam-Funk, an artist he respects, he's adamant about exploring his own ideas. "All I can do is release my music and kind of shock them a bit," says Julien about the pigeonholing. "[The press] try and put me in a box, but then I release something with acid in it and they're confused."
A closer listen reveals Julien's pleasantly unpredictable offerings. "Heartpound" is fueled by thumping acid-house beats while "Mad Swing" is comprised of drunken drum machines and wobbly synths. The son of Grenadian parents, who bounced between South Acton housing estates and Ealing as a youth, likes surprising people with his "electronic fusion," as he calls his music. He's an avid record collector and former full-time barber who gave up haircuts to make fresh tracks, including music with his rising-star accomplice Fatima.
The two collaborated on Fatima's single "Soul Glo," a sassy Sa-Ra-styled funk track that earned admiration when it was aired at incubator nightclub Plastic People in London and received strong play from DJs like BBC 1Xtra's Benji B. Eglo's backing has only further cemented his rep. "I'm pretty lucky that I have people them backing my work and believing in my music," he says. "[Eglo] works really well because we're all growing as artists and making an adventure together."
That adventure also includes recent studio collaborations with Detroit house stalwart Kyle Hall, a forthcoming EP, and remixes for Sandra St. Victor, Mark de Clive-Lowe, and Ikonika. He's busy for sure, but clearly doing what he loves, which doesn't include time for Britain's national pastime: "I'm not passionate about football," he says. "I'm just passionate about music. Music is my sport."
"Heart Pound" b/w "Another Space" is out now on Eglo.