Exclusive: Five minutes with Fifi Rong

Chinese artist Fifi Rong recently released her EP Forbidden Desire. The London-based artist and producer blends a number of genres including Electronica, Jazz, Dub and Hip Hop paired with mesmerising vocals. Forbidden Desire draws on Rong’s Chinese heritage, with the video featuring her in traditional Chinese attire and nuances of oriental sounds creeping into the track.

Rong has collaborated with artists such as Tricky, Phaeleh, Skepta, and Yello. She was also nominated as the best Electronic Music Artist. We recently sat down with the talented artist to learn more.

Firstly thank you for interviewing with The Playground! How often do you draw on your cultural heritage to influence your music?

It's a pleasure. I don't consciously draw on my cultural heritage but it's always there I suppose, it's indefinably blended in to my work.

To anyone who is unfamiliar with your sound, how would you describe it?

I'd say my sound is highly instinctual and individual, and it challenges people's honesty with themselves and their bravery in opening up to unfamiliarity.

What’s the inspiration behind Forbidden Desire?

'Distance' creates 'desire'; 'forbidden' makes 'distance' permanent. It's this kind of emotion that makes me write, and I’m hoping the song will trigger all kinds of imagination for the listeners.

What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create with Forbidden Desire?

Without intentionally trying, I'm just purely expressing myself, but I do hope it evokes an underlying passion in people.

How does Forbidden Desire compare to your previous work?

Sonically, it's by far the most realised body of work; lyrically my previous work is largely based on the emotional range of loss, love and sadness to the bone, whereas now my songs can go from moods like ripples on the water to desire like a storm but there's this calm and unshaken core underneath.

Do any artists current or old influence you?

They must do, although I haven't consciously thought about it.  I think I must have taken mental notes when I hear something I like.

What are the five albums of all time that have influenced you?

Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon
Cocteau Twins: Heaven or Las Vegas
Shlohmo: Bad Vibes
James Blake: James Blake

Is there a formula to what you do and the way you mix?

I write a lot of songs, and there's not enough time on earth to produce all of them as it just takes a lot of time and there’s no shortcut to it. So, I make basic demos of my songs and pick the best songs to produce. Having said that, sometimes I do it the other way round for fun. I can't draw a line between production and mixing, as that's how I began, doing everything myself, so I would mix creatively as a part of the production sometimes.

Who are you currently listening to?

The Villagers and Tibetan bells.

What are some of the key pieces of gear you use to write your tracks?

I definitely need my MacBook Pro at all times… there’s a lot fun stuff on iPad and iPhones but I don't use it to make music. I use Logic X with any keyboard and my Apollo UAD is important to me, like family.

Lastly, what lies ahead for 2016?

I'm making my full-length album as I speak, and there will be shows and more exciting collaborations coming up later this year.

By Hanna Duggal

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