In the world of Canadian hip-hop, FleshxFur is one of Victoria, British Columbia’s best-kept secrets. The man behind the hairy moniker, John Welch, is a Brampton, Ontario native who, like so many others before him, became entranced by the call of the panoramic west coast.
As destiny sometimes does, Mr. Welch’s formative years shaped who he is. While working at a canine sanctuary during his youth, the profound experience not only proved invaluable but also artistically inspirational, too.
By the time 2018 rolled around, he not only operated his own dog-walking business but was gaining international recognition after winning all five rounds of the demo competition on Shade 45 — Eminem’s Sirius XM channel. With hip-hop aspirations now a reality, FleshxFur chatted with ADDICTED’s Myles Herod about his forthcoming album and British Columbia’s vital hip-hop scene.
ADDICTED: What’s the origin of your stage name?
FleshxFur: I was a pet photographer and I was taking photos of dogs primarily. After a while, I wanted to branch out to people as well. It started out as my name: John Welch PhoDOGgraphy. However, I wanted to get a bit more serious. So, I changed it to FleshxFur Photography. When I went on to peruse hip-hop more seriously, the name stuck. It reflected who I was and it was very searchable online. One none else was using it. It stuck out more.
When did your love for hip-hop take shape?
FleshxFur: I’ve been a hip-hop fan since I was a kid. My parents weren’t, though. I had to get it from my friends who listened to it. Funny enough, I didn’t start rapping until two-and-a-half years ago. Up until then, I was just an admirer and a fan. Eventually, though, I decided to throw my hat in the ring.
Your Effy LP was released in 2018. How does it differ from your forthcoming album, Hackles?
FleshxFur: I’m getting a lot more complex in my rhyme scheme, getting a lot deeper. I’m honing in on my craft and learning how to hit the beat correctly. This is only my second album, I’ve only been in it for a couple of years. I’m still learning, you can definitely see the progression between the two albums.
How did you develop your style?
FleshxFur: It’s still not even where I want it. I’m always working on it. That said, I think I started off doing well. For example, roughly 10 months after I put my first song out, I won this competition on Shade 45, which is Eminem’s radio station. Anyways, they have this demo-battle competition where you submit a song. It’s unsigned artists trying to get exposure. In doing so, they pit your song up against another song while both are on the phone. From there, people call in to vote for their favourite. Long story short, it’s what got me going. They eventually had to retire me because you can only win five times. On top of that, I’m the only Canadian to have achieved that honour. It was only 10 months out of the gate from putting my first song out, too.
So, it gave you the confidence to go ahead.
FleshxFur: Exactly. If I didn’t receive that validation from early on, I would’ve given up. It’s hard to get noticed and stick out.
You were born in Ontario but now live in Victoria. What has the relocation brought you creatively?
FleshxFur: I much prefer Victoria over Brampton. It’s comparing sprawling suburbia to island living. Victoria is beautiful. There are rain forests just outside of the city. It’s on the ocean. The climate is just better all round. Also, it has a small and growing rap scene. Madchild lives here. Mercules is up the island (BC’s answer to Drake). Producer Eddie Vocals and Lyrics Studio is the team I record with. People don’t think about it but the west has its own rap scene apart from Toronto.
Would you have had the same success still living in Brampton?
FleshxFur: It’s hard to say. It might have been too intimidating. That’s the thing about Victoria. It’s a smaller market. With Brampton, you’re also talking about Toronto. You’re really going up against some big talents. It’s hard to stick out.
How important is it to have your own brand nowadays?
FleshxFur: Big time. Absolutely. The market is so saturated that you need to stick out. You need to be a brand and not just another rapper. You have to have all the aspects, but branding is important. That why I’m trying to do that with my own image. You know, it’s FleshxFur. There are subtle hints of dog language throughout it. I try and keep it consistent. Even the visuals: there’s fire, there are dogs.
The dog aspect of your journey is so interesting. Was it as a child you became close with dogs?
FleshxFur: Yes. I worked in a sanctuary and volunteered when I was a kid. I also worked with wolves and coyotes. It’s certainly where my love for canines began. And it’s been instilled in my work since. For instance, right now, my job is that of a dog walker. Here in Victoria, I take groups of dogs out on hikes. I truly love dogs. It’s why I incorporated it into the persona.
Do you consider yourself a dog whisperer?
FleshxFur: I would say so. Funny, but I have been called that before. I understand their body language.
Where do you see your career in the next five years?
FleshxFur: I’d like to move up into being more well known. Start touring. Work with bigger artists, too. I want to climb that latter. To be fair, I haven’t performed much outside of Victoria. I have fans across Canada that I’d like to play for. When people hear my music they seem to like it. The next logical step is that I can get it out there to more listeners.
What do you know for sure?
FleshxFur: You can always trust your dog. And you can only trust your dog. Dogs don’t lie. You know exactly what their intentions are.