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Ninja Tune’s FaltyDL Talks Love, Balance, Blueberry Hill

FaltyDL (photo: MA.Y.KA)

Suffering is overrated. That, at least, would seem to be the message of “Straight & Arrow,” the new single from FaltyDL’s forthcoming album, Hardcourage. The New York producer has spent most of his career imbuing murky house and broken-beat garage with darkly ambivalent emotion — hence album titles like Love Is a Liability and You Stand Uncertain. But there’s a newfound spring in his step, judging by the lilting cadence and limpid jazz-funk of “Straight & Arrow”; FaltyDL (Drew Lustman) finally sounds… content.

There’s a good reason for that: As the press materials for the album explain, Lustman fell in love halfway through completing the album. The title, he says, is about “when things are in limbo and having the courage to carry on.”

Four Tet’s remix of “Straight & Arrow” has been building buzz since it went out to DJs a month ago; the British DJ Midland used it to open his set in Berlin last Friday night, and it wasn’t hard to understand why, given the way its hesitant harps and vocal samples lead to an unusual sense of presence on the dance floor. Ghostly’s Gold Panda puts his own dreamy, butterflies-in-stomach spin on the song, but the real surprise is a remix by DJ MikeQ and Divoli S’Vere, rising sensations from New York and New Jersey’s underground ballroom (or “vogue-house”) scene, that accentuates love’s flip-side in shadowy reverb and nervous handclaps.

See below for the “Straight & Arrow” video; Ninja Tune is giving away the MikeQ and Divoli S’vere remix, and the full EP is out on November 12, while Hardcourage follows on January 21. In the meantime, I spoke to Lustman about falling in love, establishing balance, and finding his way back to a place called Blueberry Hill.

The album is coming out as a co-release by Ninja Tune and your own label, Blueberry Records. What are your plans for the label?
Blueberry will be my outlet for some tracks of my own and others’ music. I’ve just found this 19-year-old kid named Brrd who makes incredible music. I’m at a point where people send me unreleased tunes every week, and if I can help the really good stuff get exposure, then I sort of feel like I need to do so. For now all my releases on Ninja Tune will also be co released with Blueberry — they are being really cool with the whole idea. I have named it Blueberry Records after the blueberry hill my grandmother owned I grew up on. She passed away a few years ago, and was my first supporter of both my music and any arts in general. Blueberry Records and the blueberry hill is a place I want people to go to, maybe forgotten in time, but timeless nonetheless. Drift there.

Some people just select “In a Relationship” on Facebook, but you used your album’s press release to announce that you’d fallen in love. (Congratulations, by the way!) How did that shape the album?
Some of the tracks are straight dedications, but the largest effect on the LP was that I completely lost myself in this relationship, in a good way, but forgot to make music for a few months! So what I made after I met her was me trying to get back on track, needing the courage to continue and push through and finish this album. ‘Cause I could spend all day with her and not make music, but then I would lose my mind. So balance is the new goal. I need love just like any other human being, but my first love is music.

You said that you didn’t make the album with the intention of sharing all of it — were parts of it meant just for you, or for your lover? Are there tracks you held back, for any reason?
“For Karme” was made for her, and sent to the label A&R just as proof that this woman existed, ’cause I was silent with tracks for a while. But then they insisted it went on the LP, and, to be honest, I agree. Musically it just works, so why not. Then Benji B started playing it every week on his show, so now it has to come out. Or not, but whatever, it is coming out now.

That Four Tet mix is making huge waves. Was that your idea, or Ninja Tune’s?
That was my idea. I needed one really big remix on this single, and Kieran and I have formed a musical friendship over the past two years that has really become an important one for me. So I didn’t feel it was out of my means to approach him for the mix. He had time so he did it. On my next single there are remixes too. I will say I got one from Dego, of 4hero fame and generally the baddest man there is. Wait for it…