After blowing us away with his set at our 20th anniversary party and the constant quality of his productions, Byron The Aquarius is a young man on the rise and someone we needed to talk to. From 12”s on Theo Parrish’s Sound Signature to his Astral Traveling LP from last year on Oslo’s Mutual Intentions his has become a name you can trust. Faith's Stuart Patterson caught up with a busy Byron as he takes some time off from creating his first film score.
You grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. What were your formative musical influences, right from your parents’ music in the house, to radio DJs and first live and club experiences?
One of my huge influences was Sun Ra and he's from Birmingham. More influences to my creations stepping out that box, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, George Duke, A Tribe Called Quest, Lord Finesse, Dj Premier, J Dilla, Carl Craig's Detroit Experiment. I started as a jazz musician playing in bands so that influence of jazz will always be my first love along with Hip Hop. My dad collected tons of cassettes and records which really impacted my life. I never listened to the radio, never like the radio especially in my city. American radio is different it's more of control and playing what the media wants you to listen to more than allowing us to naturally develop our own taste. So I just kept listening to the records and tons of cassettes, the organic way of naturally finding my taste that moves me.
Tell us about your piano teacher Doc Adams, there's some seriously rich musical history there.
Doc Adams was a huge influence, my dad brought me to him to get jazz studies. He had a huge impact on me, challenging my improv skills to being the artist I am today. Doc played with tons of bands, Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, great guy that cared more about teaching black African American students to learn their craft and get people away from the streets and violence. It was an amazing thing and i'm proud I had the opportunity to study with him before he passed and transcended through time.
How important was your move to Detroit in 2012 in terms of progressing your career and who there helped move you forward ?
I went there on my first production deal I got with Eminem producer and D12 member Denaun Porter. It was a great progression in my life. I got the chance to hang with Alchemist, Eminem, Royce Da 5'9, learned a lot from Denaun Porter on production. We had a similar taste ‘cause I loved Dilla, and Denaun and D12 all those guys went to school with Dilla and worked together, doing hip-hop and production. It was an amazing thing I will never forget that opportunity ‘cause it taught me a lot about the music industry.
And the same with Atlanta, when were you there ?
Atlanta was a dope experience, networking in the music industry running to people like Robin Thicke, Jonelle Monae etc, it's nobody I can say I didn't run into in Atlanta. I was able to meet MC Breed and work in the studio with my cousin. I’ve always been a fan of the Atlanta scene. I skipped college days to go to Atlanta to meet people, one day I ran into Kai Alce in a party where he Dj'd at The Sound Table. Karl Injex's spot, damm so many memories there but Kai was the introduction to me transitioning to house music as he really put me on a lot of Detroit greats in the house scene. From there I learned from Kai Alce my mentor, he set my first deal with Theo Parrish which was the beginning for me into the game, so it was some good times for real.
Anyone else that helped progress your career or you've enjoyed working with?
The Jeff Mills meet up in Atlanta was next level. The session I did with him changed my life, how he creates music he's the Dr Dre of house music as far as being so into the craft and loving it. I can say that's the best experience I had in my life and never would I think I would be working with him. He gave me that chance to create a band, and just be creative and record in the Atlanta legendary studio where all the big albums got records from Outkast etc, Patchwerk Studios.
Which of your releases are you most proud of and who would you love to work with in the future ?
I’m so odd. Being a producer, music engineer and musician, when I create albums I never listen to them again. I'll always move to the next project as i'm all about the future and evolution. When I create I never want to stay in that same mood, I'm off to the next thing or experience in my life. So hard to answer what i'm proud of as I’m always keeping myself learning and getting better as an artist. Who do I want to work with in the future hmmmm I will say Thundercat, Louie Vega, Max Graef, Amp Fiddler, Rashann Patterson.
Your hometown of Birmingham, Alabama was a hugely significant area in the 60's Civil Rights movement. Do you feel there has been progress made in America since George Floyd's murder and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement?
Yes indeed, in my city the Blacks went through so much to get to where they are and at times I feel like we still haven't reached the respect in this culture, unappreciated all from slavery etc. I feel like things are progressing but not much especially in Alabama. The same racism still exists and it's sad how life is as a humanity. I look at us all, we got to do better for this universe. It’s others that's still murdered today. George Floyd was one for the world to see, so I was happy it was put out there to see the struggle that African Americans go through every day and still it’s getting no better, we still get murdered by cops, it’s sad.
Everyone loved your set at Faith's 20th. You seemed to enjoy it ? How is playing London generally for you and do you have any favourite place or parties you really enjoy playing?
That show was so amazing, had so much fun playing there, felt like I was at home playing there in London. I love playing London never had no problem. As for places my favourite was the warehouse parties, vibe was so raw! That underground feel is always the best but I loved everything about London, happy I was able to experience, I will never forget it.
You seem to have remained positive and productive through lock down. Tell us if that's correct and what you were spending time on?
Yes indeed, always got to stay positive and productive, this keeps me going, pushing it makes balance for me and inspiring people on Instagram, encouraging my fans to never give up and continue being creative. I want them to win, I want us all to win. I feel like if you keep working at your craft the universe will pan it out where things will happen. It's about having love for the art which I think lots of artist forget and practicing a lot and the patience that makes us become great artists and pushes the culture, but yeah I love inspiring people coaching and pushing... nothing like it.
I'm presuming post lock down it's more productions with added touring again. are you expanding the live side ? Anything special you want to mention ?
Tons of production. I’ve been creating like crazy and doing a lot of hiking and going into nature. Lately I've been doing a lot of film productions and lots of great things the universe have for me. And for the live side been expanding and when things get back moving and kicking i'm just being patient, when touring stopped kind of crazy to say it didn't even hurt me. I felt l needed that balance to work on my craft and be at peace for a while so it was great time for me to meditate on my life and work more on me life is balance!