Duality is a concept that can be found everywhere in our daily lives but it's important to understand that perspective dictates interpretation. For Canadian singer and producer Alex Fleming (best known as Black Atlass), duality is a more than common theme in his life. With two feet in both the music world and the modeling world, he thrives off of the concept. 2016 will prove to be a big year for him due to an upcoming global fashion campaign and the release of his debut album Haunted Paradise. We took some time to talk to Black Atlass about his upcoming album, how duality affects his every day life, balancing music + fashion, and being openly creative.
Where did the idea for the Black Atlass project come from?
It arose from my love of music. Music has always been a part of my life and when I started to really discover music outside of what I heard from other people and the radio, I became way more interested in creating. My mind started opening up when I discovered hip-hop and how the producers were able to actualize their vision in new and unique ways. I thought that was really cool and it gave me the confidence to try more things. I started off just playing piano and then as I discovered more music, I started playing around with different instruments. Music started off as a side project because of my love and interest in it and it organically grew into what it is now.
How did you get into playing piano? Did your parents force you?
My mom put me in lessons. I didn't love it but I stuck with it and got pretty good at it. Also, my dad was always playing guitar around the house and putting different records on and showing me stuff so it definitely felt like something I wanted to do.
You're from Montreal, correct?
I was born there and grew up there until I was 7 before I moved to London, Ontario near Toronto. I went to elementary and high school there. It's also where I met a lot of my friends. I recently moved back and have been living there for the past year.
Did you make music there too or did you start doing that when you went to other places?
I definitely made music there before.
Does it feel different making music there now since you've had some success and you're older?
It's definitely not just a hobby anymore so it's a little different. Growing up, I always read magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin. I've always naturally loved that stuff and it's cool now to see the other side of what happens in the music industry. The new perspective really inspires me.
How did you start working with Fool's Gold?
I'm good friends with a Montreal DJ who knows A-Trak so he showed him some of my stuff and he really liked it. A-Trak reached out to me, we connected, and started talking. I put out a single and an EP with Fool's Gold. Now, we're going to drop a full album.
What does the name Black Atlass mean to you?
It's cool to think about a dark world and other meanings for those words. I like the concept of duality. I picked that name out of nowhere and it's been cool to realize that it's sort of being fulfilled in different ways.
You also model. How do you balance fashion and music?
I've taken an interest in developing myself in more aspects than just music. Music is a great vessel that opened up other aspects of creative expression for me. I want to have a presence in the fashion world and different creative worlds in general. I just like being involved in different projects sort of how Pharrell is. He's one of my idols in that sense. He crosses over different mediums but still keeps it together as one brand.
I understand that. In a recent interview with NPR, Pharrell said: "You know it's just the nature of being a human now, you want to do all these things. I don't want to just be a musician. I don't want to just be a designer. I want to just create and whatever I have an idea for, I want to do." I feel like you're in that same realm.
Exactly! It's just being like a renaissance artist in a way. It's the way that traditional artists and painters were a hundred years ago. There was a big creative movement that everyone was a part of and the Internet is the new frontier of that. It's connecting people in that same way and it's giving the world access to this community of creative people on demand. It's amazing. I want to be a part of that.
Is it difficult to brand yourself as a musician and a model simultaneously?
I don't know, I wouldn't necessarily put it into a certain lane or category. Like we talked about earlier, I'm pursuing the career of a renaissance artist. I want to be someone who can weave in between certain things and really apply an authentic vision to everything.
Your Instagram bio says "Living in a Haunted Paradise." Could you explain what that means?
It's the vision that I am trying to encompass with the music. I want everything I put out to be in line with that. Haunted Paradise falls in line with the duality of a beautiful place and the darker aspects & vices that could be behind it.
Haunted Paradise is also the name of your upcoming album. What creative space were you in when you created this project?
It was sparked last year when I first visited LA and became really inspired by my surroundings. LA was exactly the way I had always pictured it. Ideas just started pouring in after a while. It was great hearing people talk about the city in different ways but being an outsider, I had a different perspective. LA is a great place but at the same time there are a lot of dark and crazy things that happen there too. I just wanted to give my perspective on how I saw the city from an outside perspective.
What parallels have you experienced between fashion and music?
They're really different in a lot of ways but the creative energy needed for both contains a lot of the same elements.
Stream Black Atlass' latest single "Island Love" below.