Black Atlass: The anti-Justin Bieber

How fame found Alex Fleming


Photograph by Roger Lemoyne

Thousands of musically inclined teens may dream of having the same career trajectory as Justin Bieber. Montreal’s Alex Fleming is definitely not one of them. In fact, the 19-year-old singer-songwriter deliberately skipped the now-expected path to a record deal, and decided to not post YouTube videos of himself playing cover songs. He also avoided entering talent competitions. Instead, Fleming—whose stage name is Black Atlass—spent most of his free time in high school producing and writing an EP of original material.

The self-titled six-track recording—made in his parents’ basement in London, Ont., and released in 2011—has won him a growing fan base. Even though it’s two years old, its adventurous mix of hip-hop bass lines, abrasive electronics and airy vocals continues to get reviewed on international blogs like a new release. “I wanted to make sure I already had a sound. I didn’t want to be discovered or moulded into something I wasn’t. So I didn’t rush into getting a manager until last year,” Fleming said via phone from his home in Montreal. “I’m glad I didn’t back down at the first sign of any money, either. I believe opportunities will come with time.”

Fleming’s first bout of fame came sooner than expected. His newly inked record contract with Brooklyn-based Fool’s Gold Records was barely dry when luxury retailer Louis Vuitton contacted him to license his current single, Paris. The song—which blends classical piano, electronics and ethereal soul—was used to score a film the French label made for the launch of a fashion exhibit at the Musées des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The golden nod from LV caused a chain reaction. Vogue has praised his sleek approach in and out of the studio (his black-and-white video for Paris takes a page out of Antonioni’s stylish film of 1961, La Notte). And Fleming recently got entry into Christian Dior’s inner circle. The fashion house flew the Canadian teen to Paris, dressed him and sat him front-row for its Dior Homme spring/summer 2014 show. “They said they appreciate what I’m doing and talked about potentially making me be a part of what they’re doing, as well.”

“As far as tastemaker stamps go, it doesn’t get any better for a musician than Louis V and Dior,” says Toronto musician Isis Salam, who first heard of Fleming in Berlin while she was recording her upcoming disc. She sees Black Atlass as “a perfect example of youthful, artistic ignorance gone wild with technology. He is a reminder to people who get caught up in the industry to just keep making the music they feel like making.”

Fleming doesn’t find many contemporary heroes on the Billboard charts. “If you look at the past 10 years, there hasn’t been a dynamic field of male R & B singers,” he explains, citing a few exceptions: Drake, The Weeknd, Kanye West. He feels the songs are often “ridiculous”—guy-centric R & B either veers into “immature” terrain in hopes of nabbing a teen market or falls prey to what Fleming calls the “dirty, tacky, inappropriate and raunchy side” of the genre.

He avoids the obvious in both lyrics and production. “We’re thirsty for something artful and authentic in R & B,” he says. “So many are already gravitating toward artists like Frank Ocean”—a singer who represents a continental shift in R & B, with his cerebral approach to songwriting. Fleming’s musical education was shaped by his father, a social worker for Children’s Aid, and his mother, a researcher at the University of Western Ontario. Their combined music library included albums by Lou Reed, the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder, which Fleming considers his building blocks. “Kanye West has broken so many boundaries and changed what it means to be a rapper now,” he says. “I’m hoping to do the same with R & B.”

For his full-fledged album, he says he’s looking to female vocalists such as Adele and Beyoncé for inspiration. His next slew of untitled demos focus on Adele-like relationship issues (his muse is his long-time girlfriend, who lives in London, Ont.)—from a male perspective. He does have one thought about his famous countryman. “I don’t want to be Bieber,” he says, “but I’d love to reach an audience like his.”

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Black Atlass: The anti-Justin Bieber

  1. The American government who are fast on the heals of the French feel left out with the WMD request. They Obama and Kerry have met at Congress to put a UN motion in place that states and here is the UN resolution in full.

    “We the American government call for an immediate disclosure that the Canadian government destroy all WMD which include all recordings and transcripts of Justin Bieber and that the Canadian government hand Justin Bieber over to be incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay until he grows up, his voice breaks and his testicles drop so that mankind will be saved from torture and WMD.

    We the American government demand this to stop people being ill, the symptoms of BarBieberism are that he makes people throw up and feel violently sick, BarBieberism gives people Migraines and a feeling of been totally sick. People have an overwhelming feeling of been pissed off with his antics.

    A demand for an apology has been requested! They also state that an international arrest warrant is issued by Interpol for the arrest of Bieber’s management, production team and record company executives and the term for the WMD is BARBIEBERISM and of course Bieber himself.

    Fans will be told that the affects of this will wear off eventually and that any who still feel adversely affected can get psychological counseling.

    The American government feel that this will create a feeling of well-being and Carma and that the world will be better off when the resolution is passed. We expect a full vote in favour without there been a veto by Russia and China.

    President Obama and John Kerry have signed this UN resolution of and the number of the resolution is Bieber, Obama and Kerry 666.