No stranger to the production game, Byron The Aquarius, real name Byron Blaylock, has been around since 2007 when his debut EP with Onra “The Big Payback” was released. Originally hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, Byron is a trained jazz musician and keyboardist who has had numerous releases throughout the years. His earlier work was firmly rooted in hip hop but his more recent productions, specifically his “High Life” and “Gone Today Here TMRW” EPs (reviewed here) have caused somewhat of a commotion in underground house music circles. Before embarking on a busy summer touring schedule, Byron The Aquarius has provided Bolting Bits with an interview and exclusive mix.
Let’s start off with your musical background. You’re a keyboard player and you studied jazz composition in university. Where did your love for a jazzier & more soulful sound come from? Any particular influences?
To answer that question it came from my hometown Birmingham Alabama. Living with my grandparents they had crates of records when I was little they always played to me. Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Chick Corea, Bob James, Parliament, Pink Floyd, etc. After that my Parents got me into piano lessons, then it evolved to jazz studies with Frank Adams who played in Duke Ellington’s band. It’s like for my whole life I was around jazz greats and it gave me power to dig deep in soul and jazz…
Any particular influences?
For my influences in my creation was Herbie Hancock, Funkadelic, Gary Numan, Stereolab, George Duke, A Tribe Called Quest, Dilla, and Bill Evans...
What are some of your favourite records, past or present?
1. Herbie Hancock – HeadHunters
2. Slum Village – Fantastic Vol.2
3. George Duke – The Aura Will Prevail
4. Glenn Astro – Thowback
5. The Big PayBack LP (Byron and Onra)
6. Dwele – Rize
7. Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle
8. Air – Pocket Symphony
9. Jay Dee – Welcome 2 Detroit
10. 4 Hero – Creating Patterns
Primarily you’ve been known for producing some hip-hop, soul and R&B tracks in the past, but lately it seems that you’ve been trending towards some housier vibes, can you give us a little bit of insight into that?
What’s crazy to answer that question I never was into house music that much till living in Atlanta, where producer legendary Kai Alcé introduced me into producing it. It started with me playing keys on his production which he was paying me as a session player then after that I started watching how he created it and took it to the next level. With my hip hop and jazz influences… I think me being a true trained musician and trained by jazz greats it opened my mind to experiment with house music in a way that nobody never really took it, I wanted house music to have a live feel but have energy at the same time. I think nowadays people don’t give house music that much feeling and creativity so I wanted to touch it in a way it never been touched…
Is house music the main focus for you right now or are you just going with the flow and focusing on what feels right for the moment?
Yes indeed house music is the focus now after these huge releases on labels Sound Signature and Wild Oats, but to be real I’m gonna always be a producer that touches all genres, will not just stick to something cause of success. I still work in the studio with different artists of different styles and play for live jazz electronic and rock bands… Which that’s just me being a musician and feeling of influence in the universe.
You’ve just released a couple of tracks on Theo Parrish’s Sound Signature label and you’ve got an upcoming EP on Kyle Hall’s Wild Oats label. It seems like you’ve really embraced the Detroit sound, did something or someone in particular help guide you in that direction?
Kai Alcé guided me in that direction of house music. If I never met him I don’t even think I would really be creating house music, cause it never was my first love like jazz and hip hop but I think in my opinion, it all comes with one another. Kai Alce really took me under his hand and showed me the house game, how to live with this knowing the business side and create for the love than for some fame.
Collaborating with some great artists in the past, from Onra to Kai Alcé to Flying Lotus, do any particular productions stand out for you? Are there any artists you’d love to team up with in the future?
I will say what really stood out was the project i did with Onra. It was a LP The Big Payback, that album that me and Onra made really affected the world musically in some way cause to me it wasn’t nothing that sounded so organic and full of genres we created for the love and even the joint I did with Flying Lotus jazzy and electronic at the same time.
For artists to team up with in the future I always wanted to work with Derrick May, Pevin Everett, Jamiroquai, Moodymann, and Thundercat.
Let’s talk a bit about gear. What’s your studio set up like? Do you have a lot of gear or a few select pieces that you can’t live without? Give us some insight into your production process.
For equipment it’s a small set up. I like to not use that much equipment because sometimes you can get so lost in the creative process with so many sounds… I use a Fender Rhodes, Maschine Mikro, Ableton Live, Talk Box, Korg Krome, Arturia V Collection and the Mikro Korg.
For my production process I just go with the feeling. Sometimes it can start with me drinking wine listening to some records… Then laying a drum programming down then adding some synthesizers and key programmings to it, or it can be the key programmings first it just depends on the mood of my creativity it’s no process its really just freestyling and being creative in experimentation with using digital and analog together.
You’ve got a great selection in your mixes and some upcoming gigs this summer such as Dimensions Festival in Croatia. Are you excited to tour? Will you only be DJing or do you have plans for a live show as well?
Fucking yes! I’m too excited about my tour. Will be my first time going overseas performing, it’s nothing like playing your music to the world, it gives me a high that can never go down. For my live show it will be me DJing and playing synths on some of my selections in my mixing. Playing nothing but good vibes and entertaining all crowds… that’s one thing about me I don’t like to stick in one sound I love evolving and showing that to my fans.
Looking a bit further ahead into the future, what else can we expect from Byron The Aquarius?
All I can say is expect nothing but the best of some more creative projects which I can’t announce at the moment, very exclusive but it will be good and maybe a live album with me experimenting with a band. Something that I always wanted to do…
Cover original AW by Douglas.H