Anthony Naples Thrives In The Fog

The first time I saw Anthony Naples, he was shrouded in fog. He was DJing his residency at the Ridgewood, NY club Nowadays, lighting the misty dancefloor up with thorny techno and scrappy house. I saw an artist in full control of his craft as a DJ, unconcerned with appearances as a “performer.” Now, Naples would like you to know him best as “producer.” His newest album, Fog FM, finds Naples nestling his sound between crackling beats and nocturnal echoes, intentionality and subconsciousness. Anthony Naples has found his equilibrium.

The Miami-born, New York-based producer and DJ made his breakthrough back in 2012 with his Mad Disrespect EP, a collection of floor-pounding house jams that melded the heyday of New York disco with present-day skittering electronics. With barely a public song to his name, the work of a young Naples caught the ears of electronic luminary Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, who became a mentor to him. From there, Naples released tracks on an impressive smattering of labels, from Mister Saturday Night to Rubadub, the Trilogy Tapes to Hebden’s own Text label.

Since then, Naples has kept a steady stream of house and techno thumpers flowing. While Naples can command a dancefloor with his tunes like a clubby maestro, he’s shown an uncommon penchant for versatility in his production. On his first two full-length albums, 2015’s Body Pill and 2018’s Take Me With You, Naples mostly eluded the sound of his bouncier cuts, instead immersing listeners into liminal realms of spaced-out synthesizers and distant drum machines. These projects evoked feelings of empty city streets at 4AM, bedroom chill sessions with trusted friends, Boards Of Canada, and early Oneohtrix Point Never.

Now, with Fog FM, the artist (though he humbly rejects that identifier) has merged the best of his house and techno scorchers with the allure and mystery of his quieter compositions. The results are mystifying — a cohesive yet cryptic journey with a swift pulse, lush electronic textures, and rich emotional intelligence.

Naples spoke to me over the phone recently from Paris, where he and his wife — Naples’ Incienso label co-owner Jenny Slattery — are staying before venturing back home to New York City. The producer was straightforward, courteous, and modest, never eliciting a hint of the braggadocio that is so often attached to the label “DJ.” During our talk, Naples disclosed some of Fog FM’s thematic influences (David Lynch is among them), the difficulty of playing a live electronic set and his current connection with Four Tet. Read our Q&A below.

STEREOGUM: You’ve said that Fog FM is inspired by “interference, fog, and being alone sometimes.” Do you usually conceive of music from a subconscious point of view?

NAPLES: I think all ideas come from a subconscious place, generally. But I think with this one, more than ever, I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of musical influences. It’s not quite like themes and motifs from books and movies. You can’t really do that in music unless you enter the dubious territory of “concept album.” So I was trying to straddle the line a bit with that. Not in the sense that I wanted it to be Dark Side Of The Moon or anything. Is that a concept album? You know what I mean, a thematic album. I wanted it to sound like one cohesive thing instead of what I think normally happens in electronic records which is that maybe they come off as a collection of songs. A collection of “bangers,” as they might say.

Obviously, for DJ purposes, that’s a really great thing if people think they’re bangers, but that’s actually the opposite of what I was trying to go for. If anything, I was trying to make a sort of “camouflage banger” album. It’s obviously meant to be played by DJs, but I didn’t want it to sound like overt techno. I wanted it to be intra-referential. I wanted to reference those things, but not directly be those things. To go back to your actual question about subconsciousness, the name “Fog FM” was just something that popped up in my head when I was making the title track. I thought it would be a cool idea to expand on, to follow it like breadcrumbs, to stick to it. There’s definitely some songs I didn’t put on there that maybe would’ve made some people happy to hear or would’ve made for more diverse production, but they didn’t fit into the idea. I think it’s best to work on one thing at a time, always.

STEREOGUM: Are there any other sorts of moods or images you would attach to Fog FM?

NAPLES: I had a very specific Northwest vibe in my head while I was making it. I’ve never been there, but there’s this road, everyone knows this road, Pacific Coast Highway, the one that goes to Big Sur. I was having a weird daydream about what it would sound like if you picked up on some strange radio signal when you were driving on that road and what it would sound like. If someone gave me five words and told me to make music out of that, I would’ve been happy. But I’m glad the thing I made was based off of this idea. Follow the idea! I don’t know. I don’t normally talk about what I do very often.

STEREOGUM: I feel a similar way in that I was thinking about what I wanted to ask you, but I also didn’t want you to explain away all the meaning of what you’re doing because it’s such a visceral thing.

NAPLES: Yeah, that’s what I mean when I say music isn’t like film or literature in that way where you can hide ambiguous things through motifs or other stuff. Music doesn’t have to have that other thing because it’s already so, I don’t know, not tangible, but it’s very mysterious. You don’t have to really know about it to appreciate it and I think that’s important.

STEREOGUM: This record has a different flavor from your other music. I think it’s cliché to say it, but it feels like your most cohesive album yet. It has the most peaks and valleys. It feels like a full-blown dancefloor journey. With that in mind, do you have any plans to do any live performances as opposed to DJ sets?

NAPLES: I wish I could get it together but I can’t seem to find a solid way to play live that would actually be interesting for me, more than anything. I think it’s easy enough to get on stage with your computer and play some clips off of Ableton, but I don’t wanna do that. There are different variations of it. My friend Kieran, Four Tet, does a great live show. One of the best in the world. He’s using some version of Ableton with other hardware pieces. It’s super live and dynamic. That’s obviously great but the other side of it is not using a computer and doing live jamming. But I don’t do that to make music so I’m in this weird pickle where I’d be kind of faking it by playing live, you know? I don’t really know what I’d do yet, is the conclusion I came to.

STEREOGUM: I appreciate that you don’t want to give anyone a cop out, especially yourself.

NAPLES: Playing house music, especially. I don’t know how to make that more live other than just DJing. DJing, to me, is the ultimate sort of live experience. Not for me to DJ, but being in a club with people. When people put their phones away, they dance and don’t think so much about what’s going on with the performer. Sometimes they do. There’s this idea that you have to watch at festivals. But generally if you go to a club you can’t really more alive than that.

STEREOGUM: What do you think DJing has taught you about producing and vice-versa?

NAPLES: I would say, for instance, and this is an exclusive bit of information, when I started the album, it was on January 6th, 2019. I can remember that because that was the night that Ben UFO played all night at Nowadays. I went home from that experience really blown away by how dubby and subtle he was playing throughout his eight hour set. He didn’t really do any massive drops. It was super swingy and had something really dark and hypnotic about it, but not in a techno way. It was much more central. I went home and started the record right from then. Most of the music I make, I take influence from other DJs. I wouldn’t say that my own DJing influences the music I make. I sort of make it as an homage — there’s a French word for ya, here in France!

I sort of do it as a way to encapsulate something that made me excited when I was going out, which is where it all started anyway. I was going out to parties in New York and hearing swingy New Jersey, New York house from the ‘90s. Taking that version almost as a sort of dedication. I don’t try to reinvent the wheel. I’m just trying to make music that I enjoy.

STEREOGUM: This is your longest album to date. In an interview you did with FACT about your debut album Body Pill, you mentioned that its shorter length was in part because you think the average listener wouldn’t want to listen to an album that long without skipping around. Did you have that thought at all while making Fog FM or were you maybe less concerned with that now?

NAPLES: Yeah, I guess I’m just a little less concerned with that sort of thing. I’ve been reading the David Lynch biography, Room To Dream. I was reading the bit about Inland Empire, which I still wanna see.

STEREOGUM: That’s his freakiest movie of all.

NAPLES: It’s also his longest, right?

STEREOGUM: Yeah.

NAPLES: Seeing his movies has been influential lately. When I was reading about Inland Empire, I remember thinking maybe the record was a little long. 61 minutes is definitely a long listen. But then reading him talk about his process, I realized that you can’t just think about what other people want. Body Pill, to its fault maybe, was a little too short. Really, you should always just do what you want and that’s what I should’ve done in the first place — made it as good as I wanted it to be. You can’t please everyone.

STEREOGUM: Can you talk to me a little bit about how Four Tet has been a mentor and friend to you and how he’s helped you with this album?

NAPLES: He’s been there since day one. He’s been instrumental in me being able to do this. I don’t take that for granted, ever. I hope that one day I can help someone in the way he’s helped me. I saw an interview with Dan Snaith, Caribou, recently. At the end of it, Dan mentioned that Kieran helped him with his first record and gave his music to this record label called the Leaf Label. He’s done that with plenty of other producers too. Kieran is just such a nice person to take time out of his day when somebody sends him music to give feedback or help promote it. That just happened with my friend Sam who makes music as Logic1000. He’s been pushing her record. I sent it to him and he sort of blew it up. It’s all because Kieran goes out of his way to promote people who are on the come-up. He’s put out some of my records and had me DJ in front of people I wouldn’t necessarily put myself in front of, which has been nice. In terms of the record, he basically told me I should make Fog FM an album when I thought it was going to be an EP. I usually always trust his take. Now, more than anything, we’re friends. It’s weird because I grew up being such a fan of his music. I use the type of gear I do because of his influence when I was a teenager, reading interviews he would do. He’s the best.

STEREOGUM: Can you pinpoint the best piece of advice that he’s given you?

NAPLES: It’s funny. Even though he’s given me tons of amazing advice over the years, he actually just gave me the most vital piece of advice, which is to always have fun with what you’re doing. When we were in Miami, we were playing at Space. We were having a talk because I was feeling pretty anxious about how I played because it’s my hometown and it’s a big club. He just said, “You always need to remember to have fun.” The next few gigs that I did, I just had that in the back of my head that I should just always try to have as much fun as I can. Primavera Sound and Metropolis both went really well once I stopped thinking about if I was doing the right thing. The same goes for this record. As it’s now coming out, I try to remember why I do any of this in the first place. Since I’ve been a kid, making music has been the most exciting thing for me. You just have to remember to have fun. It’s a good piece of advice, in the end. It’s succinct! He could have easily said, “You’ve gotta work harder on your social media” or, “You need to do a record on a big label.” It’s not about getting a song that has a million plays on Spotify or social media numbers. Those things get in the way, especially for younger artists. You worry about getting bigger or making sure the things you do are impactful, but you can’t worry about it.

STEREOGUM: Speaking of record labels, would you say that Incienso, the record label you co-run with your wife, has a particular mission statement in mind?

NAPLES: It’s a community project. That’s the reason for the season, man. Obviously it’d be great to make it into a bigger sort of thing, but at this point it just feels good to have friends on it. We’ve had a good run so far with Beta Librae, DJ Python, Kiki Kudo, Buttechno, Nikolajev and People Plus. Two-thirds of that group are touring now and that feels great to see. Obviously I get a platform from Kieran and from my friends Justin [Carter] and Eamon [Harkin, both of whom run the Mister Saturday Night parties in New York City]. It seems like the right thing to do to pass that platform on to other people. Every time someone quits their job to become a producer or a DJ or a live musician, I just get super happy.

STEREOGUM: What’s next for you?

NAPLES: For now, I’m gonna continue learning how to cook better. And running more. I’ve done three albums, but I haven’t been able to roast a chicken or run a 5K. [Laughs] Those are my big priorities right now.

Fog FM is out now on Incienso/ANS. Stream or buy it here.

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