The Flexican Breaks Down How He Ended Up On Major Lazer’s “Free The Universe”

Image via The Flexican on Facebook
Image via The Flexican on Facebook

There’s an undeniable influence of Dutch production trends on current EDM. From Dutch house to moombahton, the thick percussive kicks and hard electro style has set a template for where much of dance has headed. As the original producer of Major Lazer‘s 2013 smash “Watch Out For This (Bumaye),” The Flexican is a key production name in the progression of the Dutch style into not just EDM, but global mainstream trends. However, to talk with him about both DJing and production, it’s intriguing to get a glimpse into not just the rock and hip-hop that brought him to prominence, but to also get a sense of both a man and a style at a crossroads, contemplating where dance is headed next. Enjoy!

What contributed to your decision (on a musical and inspirational level) to become a DJ and producer?
I started DJing at 14 here in Holland. Actually, when I moved from Mexico, the only music that I was into was rock. There was no hip-hop, either. That all came when I started to go to school [in Amsterdam]. The music that the kids were playing was so diverse. I started listening to hip-hop, Caribbean music, Surinamese music, music from the islands. [Ultimately] I watched MTV’s The Grind, and I said, “I want to do that.” It was that Fat Beats kind of thing, scratching and turntablism [too]. But before all of that, I definitely liked rock.

Who were you into as a rock fan?
I was a really big Pink Floyd fan. I was like, eight or something, and my parents were like, “hey, you really like Pink Floyd, this music we used to listen to when we took some acid or something,” so they thought it was funny. An older friend of my parents used to listen to Pink Floyd. He showed me the video and concert of “The Wall,” and I was really impressed. then I listened to Dark Side of the Moon, and I was deep, deep into it.

What do you retain in your productions and DJ style now (if anything) from your fascination with rock and Pink Floyd?
Maybe, because I was listening to so much rock, that’s why I wanted to start playing the drums. When mixing and choosing records [and production, too], the thing that’s really important are the drums. That’s what I took from the rock and roll.

Most people know you as the original producer of what became “Bumaye (Watch Out For This),” Major Lazer’s smash hit from Free The Universe. How did that track come to be?
Before that record started, I made a production for a Dutch rapper named Typhoon, using the same (Willie Colon and Ruben Blades duet “Maria Lionza”) sample. It was an underground hit, but [a few years later] (track co-producer) FS Green and I were really into the moombahton thing and we were like, “shit, let’s make some moombahton tracks that use the same stuff that we’re using to make Dutch hip-hop records, so we can play them in our sets.” “Bumaye” hit the hardest. I didn’t know if I should release it for free, or try to clear the sample. I thought maybe I could get it released at Mad Decent, too. I got in contact with Diplo, and we made it a collaboration for the Major Lazer album. The only thing that was missing were the vocals.

The first guys that he came with were Los Rakas (on the later released track “Desorden”). That was the original version. However, Diplo wanted the record more toward the Jamaican side for the album. Busy Signal had just gotten out of prison, so he arranged for him to record an acapella for the track. I had to create a vocal arrangement from this really long freestyle, one take, no adlibs. I had to chop everything to make something out of it.

At what point had you met Diplo in the past, and your impressions of him as a producer and tastemaker?
We met in 2009 in Amsterdam. He was DJing with A-Trak at some parties here in Holland. I met him at the Jimmy Woo (a dance club in Amsterdam), and he thought it was the dopest party he’d been to. At this club, we were playing hip-hop, early Dutch house [Chuckie and Gregor Salto stuff, the more Caribbean influence], that kind of stuff. He was impressed that we were playing those kind of things. He kept asking for a song that we played. It was quite funny. We never really kept contact, but when he heard “Bumaye” he said, “let’s make something out of it.” He arranged for the clearing of the sample and the final package.

“Bumaye” is arguably one of the biggest tracks in the brief (yet voluminous) history of moombahton. Your thoughts about the genre? 
I heard some tracks by Munchi. “Bumaye (Watch Out For This)” was really influenced by Munchi. FS Green and I loved his stuff. Once I realized he was from Rotterdam (which is nearby Amsterdam), I found his information and called him. I said, “yo, I like your shit.” He was like, “dope.” We talked like two hours about music, then I visited him as his mother’s house and we started making some tracks that we never finished. Yeah, I was really influenced by his sound. The look and feel of how he blends genres all in one track is amazing. In a positive way, he’s an insane person. He’s not your average guy. So much talent. He’s a genius, innovating all the time. I want to help him establish as a DJ.

You have a history as a hip-hop producer as well. I wanted to get your thoughts about the trend that’s happening now (especially in the U.S.) with rap vocals on EDM tracks?
Rap vocals on EDM tracks was never really my thing. I never really liked it. You can do it well, but it hasn’t been done well, yet. I think all the records are too commercial, too much for the mainstream. It’s like a Lil Wayne record with David Guetta, or something with Busta Rhymes, and I feel like they don’t blend well. It’s possible to do, but nobody has done it.

Looking ahead, what are your thoughts about the tracks you have forthcoming, and just about where dance is headed in general?
I’m still playing a lot of hip-hop in my sets, but the hip-hop is going more towards the big room trap side, and for me, I liked it for one moment, then, very fast, there we so many records, and they weren’t quality. It became too hard. The sound that I am playing a lot more now involves more of the sexiness. I mean, my next release is going to have more of a UK bass fell, more 125BPM house. It’s not deep house, it’s not garage, it’s sexy stuff you can party to. It doesn’t have those hard and annoying sounds that every record has to have nowadays. Especially in Amsterdam, the big room sound, people don’t want to hear that in clubs. They want to hear that in a bigger venue, like at a festival or something like that. Also, people don’t listen to that at home. I mean, Disclosure broke through in the United States, and all of those UK guys are starting to promote their sound there because there’s much more to dance then those hard ass records.

After “Bumaye (Watch Out For This),” I didn’t know if I wanted to make more of that sound. I like moombahton, but I don’t know. I started making some more music that’s more, sophisticated…no…maybe, more something I like to listen to. I play a lot of moombahsoul. Also, you can’t forget the disco side of things. There’s much more possibilities. As a DJ, if the girls dance, then the guys will follow. A party full of guys jumping is nice, but eventually you’ll think that you’re missing something.

I’m definitely working on a lot of projects. Every month, I’m also trying to release a free remix, too. I’m not trying to stay in one thing.