Only Fire, Fuck It Up

Only Fire, Fuck It Up

Story by Hilton Dresden / Photography by Ben Taylor

At 23 years old, Croatian DJ and producer Only Fire has already blown up into a viral internet sensation, largely thanks to his cheeky, filthy lyrics, delivered via Siri’s automated voice over thumping beats he creates from his bedroom.

Only Fire just started releasing music with lyrics a couple years ago, trolling Twitter by putting out completely original songs with the exact same names as possible new releases of the moment: “Rain On Me” and “Cruel Summer” are just two examples.

The success of tracks like those led him to release his music on Spotify, and subsequently to begin collaborating with artists like Brooke Candy and Chase Icon — their raunchy joint songs are titled “Yoga” and “Cheeks,” respectively. The latter had a huge moment on TikTok after House of the Dragon star Olivia Cooke offhandedly named it one of her all-time anthems during a press junket.

It took years of fiddling around with different software in his home in Croatia before he began releasing music receiving widespread attention, but fans are now singing along to his hits, like “ASMR,” as he begins performing in live venues. In the past year or so, Only Fire has taken his work out of his room in Zagreb and into the world, beginning to DJ live — around Europe, where he opened for Shygirl — and now, as of this September, in the United States.

His NYC debut was at September’s Bushwig festival, and by the time this article airs, he’ll have also played in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Early next year, he’ll release a new single, “Piñata,” which he describes as perhaps “one of my funniest” yet.

We talked about all this and more, below.

Clothing: Loewe, Shoes: Versace Chain Reaction

How did you first begin creating music in your bedroom? What interested you in making beats and songs?

Since I was a child, I always just loved music and following pop culture. So I would always, everywhere, on the way to school, just have my headphones on, listening to music. It was a form of escape for me. And then one day, I decided to try making some stuff on my own. That was like eight, nine years ago, when I first downloaded FL Studio and started making a few trash beats in it. Obviously, it was trash at the beginning and then I started progressing. This type of music I make now, like with the Siri vocals, I started three or four years ago, I think. It was just to troll on Twitter. But then, songs started going viral. And people started asking me to put it on Spotify for them, so they are actually able to listen, to stream it. So I listened [to] them and it started going off.

Do you still use the same program you started with?

Nine years ago, it was FL Studio, but I don't use it anymore. I stopped. After that, I used Cubase. And now at the moment, for the last three or four years, I've been using Logic. So all of my music with the Siri voice was made in Logic.

How did you come up with the idea to do the Siri voice? Do you type it into a website that generates it and then place it into the song?

So I just had a bunch of these silly lyrics in my mind that I wanted to include in a song, but I didn't really like my voice. And I didn't really want to record myself saying anything, or singing, because I just don't feel comfortable with using my voice on any song, not just with those types of lyrics. I just don't see myself as a singer. And getting vocals from artists is hard. So I was just like, “Let me try and make a thing of my own.” Because I did hear in some other songs, when samples like those were used, not throughout the whole song, but for drops and stuff, it will just be automatically generated by computer vocals. So that's basically how I got the idea for it.

Is it really hard to get the lyrics and the Siri voice to sync up with the beat?

Yes, sometimes that process takes more than actually creating the whole beat, because I type in all these words and then I generate and download [them]. And then I need to put all those words in a project and cut them all up, all the syllables. I cut them all up and then I drag every bit to make it fit on the beat, so that it’s in sync. Sometimes [it’s making syllables] smaller, sometimes stretching it out. It's a mix of all that. [People] think usually I type it out and it magically lays over [the beat]. Most people don't think that there's actually a lot of work.

How long do you sit with these lyrics when you’re working on them and how do you come up with them? Are they just to be silly and funny, or is it autobiographical, or is it a fantasy?

I mean, it's kind of a mix of both: there's some truth to some of the lyrics, but they're all obviously so exaggerated. To be honest, all my previous songs I was writing earlier, where no one was actually even listening to my music — it was so much easier for me to write lyrics back then. Because I didn't think that anybody would listen. And so I just put it out to troll and stuff. But now I have this pressure and I have second thoughts a lot when writing. Now it's a bit harder for me to write. But I still try to make it funny. And there's a lot of new music that I have, that I've been working on, that I can't wait to put out, and I feel like it has the original Only Fire touch.

What artists do you feel most influenced by?

For the lyrics part, definitely CupcakKe. A lot of hip-hop. Female hip-hop. So like Nicki Minaj, for example.

But for the production parts, I make some trappy songs, some dance tracks... but I tried to make it a bit more experimental, even though it's mostly generic-sounding electronic beats. I tried to include some stuff that makes it fit into the whole hyperpop scene, I guess. For that, obviously, one of the biggest influences was and is SOPHIE, production-wise.

Clothing: Loewe, Shoes: Versace Chain Reaction

When did you start getting into DJing live events?

My first live show was on Halloween, 2021. So a year ago. That was in Paris, it was so great. I was so anxious because I'm usually a really socially awkward person. Even though my lyrics are like that. I was getting a few other inquiries for shows back in 2021 already. [But] only when they asked me for Paris, I was like, “Oh my God, that's Paris. I really need to do it.” I was so scared of performing and flying. So that was really stepping out of my comfort zone, but it was a big step for me. I still am not fully comfortable on stage. I just feel like I'm standing and DJing and doing my thing, and not really interacting with the audience, but I feel like it's gonna come, with a few more months, years, maybe. I've been doing so many shows this year. And it has been so nice, actually. I love hearing all the people know the lyrics to my stuff.

You opened for Shygirl around Europe…

That was an amazing experience. Before that, I had only done the Paris show. I only had a 20 minute time [slot] before her, but it was actually perfect, because I got to just do all of my best, [most] popular songs. And I was actually so surprised to hear the audience there knew a lot of my stuff. Especially “ASMR” — always when I played “ASMR” everybody knew it and it was so crazy to me. Because people were there to see Shygirl, not me. It was just such a good experience. And Shygirl is also so great, she's so sweet.

And then you came to the US, to New York, for the first time this fall?

That was in September, for Bushwig festival. I love New York so far. I’d heard so much about New York people being cold and stuff, but I didn't feel like that. I feel like I’ve met a bunch of people here, so many new friends. It's just been so great. I guess it's the people you choose to hang around with. Maybe there's some truth to what they are saying, I don't know. But I didn't experience it myself. I just felt like everyone here that I met was so nice and so communicative. I'm just socially awkward when meeting new people and no one cared about that. They just wanted to make me comfortable. It's been fun in New York.

Talk about this Brooke Candy collaboration. Who reached out to whom?

She reached out to me, actually, and so we just decided to make it happen. I remember listening to her a lot when I was younger and a lot of her newer stuff, too, from 2019. When she reached out I was really, really excited to make it happen. I feel like it’s just a fun workout song. That was the idea for it. I met her at the Elsewhere show for the first time, and she's also really sweet and really fun.

This new song “Piñata,” that's out early next year. What was the process of putting that together? Have you been sitting on that idea for a while?

Yeah, I actually had the idea for a song called “Piñata” in my mind [for] such a long time. I wanted first to do it over some more, like, reggaeton-ish beat, like “Cruel Summer,” I guess. But then when I actually started working on it, on the lyrics, I decided to make it way more dancey and electronic. So that's the one that I'm putting out next and I'm so excited to get it out, because I feel like it's one of my best songs actually. The lyrics are, I would say, one of my funniest. There's even a part in Spanish. I'm excited for people to hear that.

I want to ask about this TikTok viral moment with Olivia Cooke from House of the Dragon. Do you watch the show?

Yeah, I watched. I was actually a really big fan of Game of Thrones and I watched House of the Dragon, so when people started sending it to me I was like, “Oh my god, wait, is that real?” Because it just felt so random. She seems so nice. After that, it was so weird for me to watch House of the Dragon, like, always when [Alicent Hightower] went up I was like, “Oh my gosh, she listens to my music.” It was so fun to watch.

Do you have other artists that you would love to collaborate with?

Definitely Shygirl is on top of my list. I was just going through my Apple Music replay for 2022, so the top three of my artists were Arca, Shygirl and Rosalía. I saw Rosalía in New York in September at Radio City Music Hall. It was so good. She's crazy. Her vocals, the stage setup. Everything was so great. It was flawless.

Photography: Ben Taylor