What happens if the hip hop gurus ASM (MC Green, FP, and DJ RHINO) and Mattic (Doctor Outer) get together with the British producer Daylight Robbery!? A psychedelic universe filled with thoughtful lyrics inspired by the poet Arthur Rimbaud that bounce over soulful beats and jazzy elegance.
They bound their talents and ideas and came up with the album Breakfast in Phantasia, where we escape the world's chaos alongside them and dive into a brighter one as we try to follow the masterful wordplay. We pulled them for a few questions to talk about how it all started, their rituals before going up on stage, and the symbolism behind their lyrics and aesthetics.
How did you get to know each other?
Some of us are homies from high school, but we all met some years back in Paris, France. We were all English-speaking artists from a variety of backgrounds (US, Canada, UK) who found ourselves in France as kind of hired mercenary emcees at the time. We shared a love for serious craftsmanship, a similar musical history of inspirations, and a penchant for obscure and boundary-pushing. We listened to Madlib’s Beat Kondukta in Africa and the Flying Lotus Captain Murphy project a lot on the tour bus back then. We all knew all the words to the A Tribe Called Quest and MF DOOM catalogues, and we played a lot of
spiritual jazz and connected on literature, metaphysics, and all aspects of life. Those were the foundations of our brotherhood. We humanly resonated quickly and it solidified with time together being on the road.
How did the idea for Clouds in a Headlock come to life?
We made a few demos years ago all together, and have featured each other on a string of releases over the years, but the idea to form an actual group with its own name and identity came in 2019/2020 when
Mattic (Doctor Outer) reached out to FP (Èph) and Green (GT Lovecraft) and we started crafting sounds. It was really just for our own ears initially, like let’s make what we want to hear for the fun of it, like
old times when we were just high school kids rhyming and writing graffiti and making beats. No strategy, no format, just pure sport. It was like destiny because of our bond. We have always made each other better in our time knowing each other.
We found out that you have pretty interesting professions outside of music, such as ramen chefs, goat farmers, and school teachers. How do you balance them with music?
It's not always that those are our professions, and we do music on the side. Sometimes there are phases when music is the primary profession, but we have our other passions and commitments in life. Lovecraft has been studying ramen broth for years in Japan and beyond, both professionally and obsessively. Èph tends to his garden cause that’s just what he does. Doctor Outer finds being present fully from observing
the children he teaches at the music school. Balance has always been important to us. You have to go through experiences and communicate them in music, or whatever your form of expression is - like
breathing in and out.
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What's the story that Breakfast in Phantasia is telling?
It's the story of how we see the world from our own vantage point, which is off-grid and unencumbered by notions of space and time as much as we can make it. We feel like making music - crafting beats and rhymes, is like painting sonic pictures. The story of a picture is not always in the narrative behind it, but in the feeling and imagery, it conveys. That's the story - to transcend from the literal into the more essential and timeless dimension and to enjoy the craft like a ball game with the homies. “Lone image painted so vividly - Clouds shift above Phantasia.” These days everyone is doing the same thing and thinking it's right. Our album is about going left while staying grounded by the roots of hip hop we grew up listening to, combined with everything else musically that we study. Like what hip hop would sound like on a large scale if heads would have stuck to the original blueprint.
Who are you in the Phantasia dimension?
Phantasia has no boundaries - it's our limitless playground. So much of what makes humans remarkable and fascinating is what goes on beyond the literal sphere when they let their imagination and creativity
roam free without boundaries of spatial and temporal context - this is the realm we choose to explore. We also stay very connected and merged in what's going on around us daily. We study and live everything going on around us, and it all becomes one happening that rolls out in sound creativity. Phantasia is your own universe away from the normal. It's what happens between the lines, between the folds of reality.
What is the meaning hidden behind the name Clouds in a Headlock?
The name comes from the contrast of two images - the Cloud is the ethereal, intangible, ever-shifting, eternal - the Headlock is the visceral, immediate, undeniable physical act. That combination of images
resonated with all of us to where we were like, yup, that’s it. Thoughts are usually represented by a cloud escaping the mind from being locked inside the skull. We choose to release them through music. There is a lot of stuff locked in our heads.
Where is your safe space for creating music?
Creating music is a daily operation, like making breakfast or playing with your kids. It's a safe space in and of itself, and it doesn’t need to be anywhere physically specific - might be in a home studio, might be in your car driving somewhere, might be constructing lyrics while cooking a meal, or sipping on some good natural wine. It’s anywhere and everywhere, being in your inner child mode of presence, discovering, and creating.
Do you have any specific rituals before you go up stage?
GT Lovecraft: For me personally, I used to rhyme this one Black Thought verse from 100% Dundee by the Roots.
Doctor Outer: For me, it's everything I live in my daily routine. Living life is my specific ritual.
Èph: A cavalcade of throat singing and humming to align the vocal chords, and a thimble of rum.
Do you aim for symbolism with the colors and effects of your music videos, or you're aiming for something aesthetically pleasing?
There's both a symbolic and an aesthetic dimension to the visual side of what we do with Clouds in a Headlock. We want the visuals to reflect the sound and spirit of the music, which always holds an abstract
psychedelic dimension as well as a retro cut-and-paste style that is important to us sonically and visually. Our hearts and way of working are very much anchored in pulling from analog sound texture from the
The 60s and 70s, but with a broad scope that tends towards the jarring and off-kilter. Hence our crew name is ŌFFKLITR circle. Look out for more from the camp dropping very soon.
If there was one song you wish you have written, which one would it be?
GT Lovecraft: The Velvet Underground - Pale Blue Eyes
Doctor Outer: Bruce Haack - Electric To Me Turn
RHINO: Issac Hayes - Walk on By
Éph: Al Green - Simply Beautiful
Daylight Robbery!: The Doors - Riders on the Storm
When was the last time you disagreed on something?
Creatively, that’s a pretty rare occurrence. We might disagree on who’s the illest in Wu-Tang from a penmanship perspective, or whether the Jay Electronica album was better than Black Thought & Danger Mouse, but the broad-stroke perspectives are very much aligned. We share a lot of sounds between us as a learning and trading platform, but also books, movies, lectures, etc.
Who was the first person outside your inner musical circle you played Breakfast in Phantasia to?
I think it might have been Joseph Abajian, the founder of Fat Beats. We tend to keep things pretty close within the family.