beat battling with NO-FVCE

"I might play music you don't know, but it's going to make you move."

In the Molly Zone today, an interview with producer and DJ NO-FVCE!

NO-FVCE is an interview recommendation from vibraphonist and producer Alec Streete, who was an interview recommendation from tuba player and Ableton experimental chemist Commodity Creature. Oh my goodness…look at these links starting to form!! NO-FVCE is a beat-maker and DJ in Denver, where he’s originally from. If you need a gentle pick-me-up in your day, I would recommend listening to one of his productions. He cuts together jazz and R&B samples (which I learned come from dogged record store explorations), adds looped beats and sometimes live instrumentation from friends, and either leaves them be as instrumentals or recruits rappers to add their perspectives on top.

Listening to the NO-FVCE Audio Universe truly gave me a feeling of warmth as I imagined records from decades ago getting lovingly sampled and turned into brand-new musical experiences. Frankly, I could listen to this type of music all day. In our interview, we talked about what beat battles are like, the emotional side of DJing for a crowd, and the touch-and-go nature of contemporary hip hop production. Get into it…

This interview has been edited for length + clarity :)

MO: How are you doing? Nice to meet you.

NO-FVCE: Nice to meet you, too!

I figured I’d first ask you about your musical history and background — what kind of music you listened to as a kid, when you started making your own music, the whole biographical sketch.

As far as listening to music, it was always kind of playing in the background, but the time I became conscious of it was maybe fifth grade. Me and my pops and uncles would go skateboarding, and they would all pop CDs they made that weekend —

Wait — you skateboarded with your dad??

Yeah, for sure.

I guess that’s just the Colorado lifestyle, right?

Yeah, and my parents had me young, too. He was skating a bunch and I wasn't going to stop him. “Oh, you're coming with me.”


So they would be playing a bunch of crazy, weird, underground hip hop. For a while I didn't get it. And then one day I was just listening, like, Wow, this is crazy. They also listened to punk rock stuff that I never got too much into. It was always the hip hop and the instrumental stuff that got me. But I didn't start making music until I was 14. I saved up a bunch of money at my first job and got a little sampler and just started making beats.

What was your earlier stuff like in comparison to what you do now?

Wack! So wack. I didn't know how to record loops, so what I would do is record, like, three minutes of me playing.

Oh my god.

If I messed up, I'd have to redo it. And then I would play the drums for another two, three minutes live on top. So it was really off-beat, really choppy. I guess doing it all by hand gave it some natural feel, but…it was bad. I was on an iPad when I first started, messing around with little apps, trying to cut songs up.

Now it's a lot more planned out. The main focus lately is layering samples. I'm trying to layer and learn how to take different layers from samples and build bigger songs or more interesting songs. It’s a lot more thoughtful now, and I can do a lot more in terms of technical abilities.

When you're sampling stuff — also if this is like, asking for trade secrets from you —

No, not at all!

— what kinds of influences and sources are you looking at, and how big of a part does that take in what you do when you produce?

Honestly, at the end of the day, it probably is the biggest part, in terms of hearing new things and being inspired. Most of that happens going record shopping. And I also DJ using vinyl, so I kind of have to switch off DJ mode when I'm looking stuff to layer and chop up and save for later.

It’s literally anything and everything in the record store. I usually stay in the jazz and R&B, but there’s a lot of weird stuff to look into: rap a capellas, stuff like that. But yeah, record store, vinyl, all day. That’s the main thing that keeps it pushing.

When did you start DJing? Do you do that around the city in Denver?

Yeah. I hold a residency here in Denver every Saturday called Sound Bombing. I started doing that almost two years ago now. The main focus was hip hop, but we were also playing disco records or soul records. Honestly, I was only doing that so I could play my beats on big speakers, and playing my homies' stuff on big speakers! But then it became a thing.

Nice! So I DJ’d for the first time a few months ago, and I have to say — it’s so vulnerable. I wasn’t expecting it to be weirdly emotional, in that you feel personally responsible for the vibe. So I wanted to ask how you deal with that as a DJ, or what goes through your mind when you’re playing music for other people?

It's hard. My main goal before I start every night is: I might play a bunch of music you don't know, but it's going to make you move. That’s the challenge I’m trying to meet at the end. Lately I've learned that if you're rocking it and the blends are nice and clean, people will feel that, and that's the flow they're looking for. And if you know the work, and you know the music you're playing, you probably won't run into any issues, you know?

That's the other thing I really found out from DJing — like, oh yeah, it would help to really know the entire song, back to front.

Right? Like, Oh, I missed this point, but I know the hook comes in here, maybe I can catch it there…patience.

Exactly. So tell me a bit about this last release that you put out — which, did you release this one on cassette, or was that a different thing?

Not yet. I am going to drop that on tape, hopefully sometime this year. Previously, I think my last three albums have been on cassette. But yeah, that one was a bunch of old beats that I did my best to puzzle together into something that made sense. That was also released with a Valentine's Day mix I dropped. I was looking for something that was a little brighter, with drums that were louder, with a lot of gospel-type love songs or super soul love songs chopped up and pieced together.

So I am talking to you because I talked to Alec Streete

My boy, yup.

He said that you have collaborated on some songs. What's your collaboration style when when you're working with other people on music?

With him it's really easy, because we have a similar ear when it comes to listening to records. And he plays jazz, so he'll school me on jazz all day, which is dope. He was on “HOLDDOWN” — that one's really dope because that's him playing keys, that's him playing bass, and then I did drums and stitched it all together afterward. [Working together], it's quiet. There's no words. It’s like, Alright, I'm going to lay this down…you're not feeling it? I can see it on your face. Alright, let's do something else then. And if this is not working, we’ll make it quick. We don’t want to spend too much time on it.

With music you’re working on, anything you’re looking forward to in the coming months?

I'm working on two projects that I hope I can drop at the same time. I would like to do them on vinyl. That's the only way I'm releasing anything right now: if I can't put it on vinyl, it's wack. [laughing] So I'm trying to do an all-instrumental project, no features, that I'm using mostly hardware for. I want it to be real, just records, drums, sampler, and then having some homies come play on that.

Then I'm also doing a rap album where each song is going to be a different rapper that I produce for. I got one of those songs back and I was like, Oh snap. Time to really start pumping it out. But that's hard because you’ve got to wait on features.

What is that like to send out a beat and then get it back with a verse on it?

Stressful. Hella stressful.

Do you dictate subject matter or anything like that?

I personally don’t care, I’ll just let people do their thing. I notice with this type of hip hop music, whatever the beat's named when rappers are sent it, sometimes you'll hear that word in the song.


The first song I've gotten back for this rap project, I sent five beats and he hated all of them.

Oh NO!

I was shook. I was at my day job and I didn't have my computer on me so I couldn't go dig anymore. But me and Alec were actually listening to some beats the night before, and the one we both said I should send, I did not send. So I sent out to him. And he was like, All right, cool, this is the one. It sucked at the time, but it was also a cool thing, because you don't want someone hopping on it and not feeling it or wanting to give it their all.

Has there been anyone that you've worked with who is a go-to person or someone that you know will definitely crush it?

I would say Devin Burgess — he’s from Cincinnati. He’s crazy, he'll send you a verse back the next day and it's crispy. He was on CLIPS 3. He's been producing for this guy Pink Siifu, who's also super dope. Amir Bilal. He’s dope, he’s on the East Coast. fuzzy… He's from Georgia and we have a whole album we produced together. That dude is a madman. He makes probably six or seven beats a day and they're all fire.

Wow. So you’re working with people all over the country!

Yeah. I try to travel as much as I can. Denver is hard because there's not a lot of stuff going on that's in this vein of underground hip hop and sample-based hip hop. Out in New York, for example, every weekend there's people throwing beat shows or beat battles.

So is that where you play a beat and someone else plays a beat and then people decide which they like better?

Or someone's playing beats for 20 minutes and the other person’s playing beats for 20 minutes, and it’s like, who had the crowd more hyped?

That stresses me out!

Steel sharpens steel though!

I was gonna I say I'm just too sensitive, but I imagine if you come out of the other side of it, then you're like, I can do anything.

Exactly. Or, oh, okay, his beats were knocking because he had that bassline, and I don’t have basslines like that…let me take that home and try to work something out.

My last question: is there a record or records that you possess that are your prized possession, like, “would carry them out of the house” in a fire records?

One would be Madlib, Flight to Brazil. I got the first pressing of that. It’s a compilation of all these Brazilian jazz songs, I think it’s like 52 songs or something crazy. But they're all heat. My parents got me it too, so it means a lot.

And then I got a test press of a Slum Village record, “Raise It Up.” I’m like, they might have touched this one, which is crazy. This might have been in their possession. So that one for sure, too.

Find NO-FVCE on Bandcamp, Instagram, and SoundCloud.

HEY! Don’t u dare miss the interview I did with Noelle Janasiewicz for the Alternative! We talked about her DIY collective Doors At Seven and why everyone should try booking house shows.