Have You Met.. Zen Zin & Pawcut

Sudanese MC/Singer Zen-Zin and German producer Pawcut are not your average rap group. Zen-Zin lives and works in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, while Pawcut is producing his beats in a small German town called Minden. Nevertheless, the mix of Zen-Zin’s melodious flow and Pawcut’s skillfully layed beats make a perfect fit. “Next Flight Ontario” is the follow-up album to their debut “Butterfly Effect” on Jakarta Records. The pair took time to join our ‘Have you Met‘ Q&A serirs

Where did you grow up? How did you get into creating music?

Zen-Zin: Well, I was born in Sudan but then my whole family moved to Malaysia for a few years and then we came back, but I wasn’t into music back then. To be honest, it had never even crossed my mind, but one day my cousin had burnt two CD’s for my brother, one was filled with audio tracks and the other had music videos on it. The first song on the CD with the videos was Xzibit’s song “Multiply” which was beyond dope, but it didn’t change me or reel me in like that. The second song was Bow Wow’s “Basketball” featuring Fabolous which was also dope but again – it didn’t change me. The third song was the song that ruined my life and changed everything, the song was Bone Thugs & Harmony’s song called “Crossroads”. Now originally the song had come out in the 1990s but I was too young to understand anything and to be honest rap wasn’t in my world like that, so I was really late to the party. When I heard that song around 2005, they had already released three more albums, but that was a game-changer for me. Sometimes I wish I had never heard that song, maybe then I’d be happy and content with how things are, but everything happens for a reason – so it is what it is.

Pawcut: I grew up in a rather small city called Minden in Germany. Music has always been very present and important to me. The first thing that brought me in touch with actually getting creative in doing something myself was trying to do Ska/Punk in a band in the 80s (yes I’m old) and doing the standard rec/pause/rec Grandmaster Flash impersonations on a tape deck. About 20 years ago, after ways of life lead me to different paths, I started cutting records with two turntables and later samples into a Korg ESX 1 sampler and Fruity Loops. For the last ten years, music has been my main focus and passion.

What’s the music culture like in the city you grew up in?

Zen-Zin: To be honest, I don’t really pay attention to the scene in the city anymore. I used to but not anymore. We have a lot of talented artists here, but I can’t focus on what they’re doing and continue to better myself at the same time, so I just mind my own business and worry about what I’m doing. I wish everybody the best you know, I’m sure what they’re doing is dope, but it’s just not for me, you know.

Pawcut: As I said, it’s small, about 80k people, but we have a nice Jazz club and a Hip-Hop scene that has been more active in the past, but it’s still there.

What’s your relationship with Pawcut/Zen-Zin and how did you meet?

Zen-Zin: I had heard about Pawcut from a friend, but I didn’t know who he was and I’m 100% sure he didn’t know about me at all. I don’t even think he knows about me now lol, but we connected through emails, Facebook texts and everything just kinda fell into place and it just felt right. We had done like two tracks and then decided to keep it going and I won’t lie, I loved his production, it felt mature to me and it was definitely the first time for me to work with a bigger artist who knew what he was doing. There have definitely been a lot of teaching moments along the way and I won’t lie I was kinda intimidated… You have to understand that I wasn’t born into this nor do I know anyone who does this on a professional level. My closest friends aren’t artist, so all of this is new to me. I’m learning on the job every day, so obviously I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but with every new project, I hear and feel the progress.

Pawcut: We met about eight years ago and we’ve worked on music with little interruptions since. Zen-Zin is and has always been a very fast, clean and visionary vocalist to me. Meanwhile, we’ve been through some highs and lows as artists, but also on the ways of life side of things and becoming friends even though we never met in person. And that’s a lot in my world.

How have you tried to bring your Sudanese culture into your music? 

Zen-Zin: I reference some people sometimes in my music and maybe an incident that happened or a quick mention here or there, but I try to not mesh the two together because honestly, I don’t think that that’s what it’s about. I know some artist thrived off that like J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar, but that’s why I gravitated towards Drake more cause I just like good music. 

It doesn’t always have to have a hidden message or be about something, you know. Sometimes just being creative is enough. I don’t like to overthink it, I feel that’s where the art dies, but then again that’s how I feel. Maybe other artists like to whiteboard it and calculate every bar or hook or concept, but I just like it to be organic, it gives the music a longer shelf life in my opinion.

What is your relationship like with Melting Pot, and how has it impacted your music career?

Zen-Zin: MPM has definitely been a big help, I mean without them we wouldn’t be doing this interview here lol, I gotta show ’em respect and tip my hat to them for taking a leap of faith with us, cause this is a business at the end of the day so it’s a numbers game… But the fact that they took this risk with us, lets me know that they also care about the creative aspect of it and that’s rare in today’s world. I hope we don’t disappoint them, but you never know with music, cause you might release a project today and not get the results you want, but then again that same project might blow and start to do numbers four years from now out of nowhere so it’s a tough thing to gauge you know. I just want to personally thank Oliver and the whole team for the support and for believing in me and Pawcut and in “Next Flight Ontario”.

Pawcut: What Zen-Zin said… Also, you got to really give MPM props for rolling with us through the options to promote us beyond “sound” were rather slim. The album just released so time will tell about the impact.

If you weren’t making music, what do you think you would be doing?

Zen-Zin: If I wasn’t making music, I’d probably be a farmer or a getaway driver, you know… lol. I don’t really know, maybe a screenwriter cause I write a lot but that industry’s ten times harder so I don’t really focus on it too much, but if I wasn’t rapping I’d like to think I was being useful, whether to society or the world or even to the neighbourhood.

Pawcut: I don’t know, I assume I’d spend even more time with the stuff I do besides music which is long walking with the dogs, spending time with my wife I love to death and smoke lots of weed whilst watching brainless stuff on my tv.

Do you play any instruments, if not, which would you love to learn first?

Zen-Zin: I don’t play any instruments nor do I make any beats. I leave that to the professionals. I’m more of a “let me stay in my own zone and don’t touch anything kind of guy”, if I could learn to play an instrument I’d have to go with the piano, I like the sounds it makes especially when you know what you’re doing with it.

Pawcut: Nor do I. My parents tried to get me into piano lessons when I was five or six but I was way too unfocused – and they were not strict enough. 

Which other artists would you love to collaborate with most?

Zen-Zin: I used to want to collaborate with a lot of people but I don’t anymore. Maybe in the future, but right now I like how I and Paw do what we do. I like the fact that it’s just us, you know. There aren’t any ghostwriters or ghost-producers. It’s just the two of us doing what we want, how we want when we want. It’s actually similar to a “blade & whistler” situation for the marvel fans out there.

Pawcut: I think that’s a more complex thing to me than drop big names here now. For me even if I don’t meet someone in person, I need to have a feeling of chemistry that’s beyond a big name or band or even high-quality work. That’s a thing that comes with time and work you put in, not through “hiring” a vocalist or having a “plan”. I want to have an influence on my work that sees the light as well. That’s why I don’t sell my beats or put single beats of mine on multiple random projects or compilations. 

I have people like Zen-Zin, Pseudo Slang, Ella Mae Sueref, N-O, Dre Skuffs and others like my German regulars Katharsis and Headrick, where everything grew organically over the years. So I don’t really long for the big names or coups except it became an opportunity that felt right without forcing it.

How would you describe your rapping/singing style in three words?

Zen-Zin: Organic, conversational, and untethered.

Have You Met.. Francis Mercier

 Where did you grow up, how did you get into creating music?

I was raised in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti where Caribbean, French & African cultures are very present, and I was exposed to artists like Magic System, Salif Keita, Mory Kante, and others in my early teens. I remember loving the energy, rhythm, and overall positivity found in African records. I initially had no idea who the artists were but whenever their music aired on local radios, it captivated me.

Years later, as I moved to the US for my studies, I discovered the melodic sound of Tiesto in 2006 in his ‘In Search Of Sunrise’ compilations, and those drew me into electronic music and from 2007 onwards I picked up DJing. After 7 years of performing in the biggest clubs in the North East of the US, I wanted more out of my career as a DJ and I grew into becoming a music producer from 2014 onwards. 

What’s the creative culture like in the city you raised in?

In Port-Au-Prince, Haiti where I grow up, the creative culture is very vibrant and diverse. We Haitians have our Caribbean roots and the Kompa Music has very unique energy but we are also very much exposed to American & European cultures. When growing up I had friends from all over the world and everyone would share their music. That may have been the reason why I chose to become a DJ.

What made you decide to start a record label?

In the early 2010s, I felt a void for House Music in New York. Back then the EDM Big Room sound was at the forefront together with Hip Hop and Trap Music. It was nearly impossible to land shows in Manhattan for classic House Music. As such, I decided to launch my own imprint Deep Root Records to initially put on cool shows focused on the classic House Music that I’m fond of.

Within a few years, we drew quite some attention and began releasing music. 2019 was a big year for us launching our Deep Root Sessions brand and in 2020 we started our Afro House imprint Deep Root Tribe. We’ve then been empowering lots of African artists to gain visibility on an international level. I’m quite excited to contribute to the Afro House scene with my remake of ‘Premier Gaou’ in partnership with Spinnin’ Records and their House Music imprint Spinnin Deep.

Have you tried to bring part of your Haitian heritage into your music?

I have been working on it and will be releasing an EP with an amazing Haitian vocalist by the name of Lenny Auguste at the end of the year. She’s from Gonaives and has an incredible voice.

Are you working independently to release your music? If so, what are some of the challenges?

I do release some of my compositions independently under my label Deep Root Records and wearing multiple hats all at the same time can be a challenge, but I focus on the positive instead. Having my own platform to release and push out my records gives me the capacity to present my vision to the world in its purest form.

If you weren’t making music, what do you think you would be doing?

I’d probably be in the world of finance as that’s what I studied. Good thing is that my academic background has given me an edge to be organized both within my creative and administrative duties at my label.

Do you play any instruments, if not, which would you love to learn first?

I dabble on the piano but I actually do not play any real-world instruments. That said, I do know how to play/use analog and software instruments quite well. Most of my compositions are coined by their chord progressions, which I use my natural musical experience to create on the keyboard and to port into MIDI and I work from there. I would love to learn how to perfectly play the piano, and one day buy an upright or grand piano for my house to learn some of my favorite classical piano pieces by Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi, and others who I love listening to.

Do you have advice for anyone releasing music independently?

Sure! Stay true to your vision, and go step by step. The road is long but definitely worth it. Building a fan base independently and purely from your music will be the strongest base.

Which artist would you love to collaborate with most?

Would love to work with Gorgon City for example! They are one of my favorite duos.

Do you have any festival bookings this summer?

I may play at the Summer Music Festival in Mons Belgium. But as of now no major festival. Hopefully, that will change 🙂

How would you describe your production style in three words?

Melodic, Moody, and Groovy!

Be sure to pre save Francis Mercier’s forthcoming single, Premier Gaou here

Have You Met.. Tee Peters

Young musician from South east london, Tee Peters self- released his debut project, Seasons Volume One last month. The first three singles from the project, Seasons, Numeracy & Breath of the Wild premiered on BBC Introducing, titled as ‘Track of The Week’ & has since been featured on Spotify’s ‘Conscious’ and ‘dazed’. Tee Peters took some time to join our Q&A series:

Where did you grow up, how did you get into creating music?

I grew up in South East London & I started making beats when we got a computer that had a software called Reason installed so I would play around on that. My uncle had a lot of video games and a few were only in Japanese so I spent days learning how to play and do things without understanding what was happening through language.

I would just figure things out through seeing what worked at the time. Same goes for my music process back then & even today – I just played around on my computer and figured out what I liked. As I grew up I started writing lyrics, I loved UK Rap & Grime, RNB & early 2000s – late 90s Hip Hop so I just found myself trying to mimic styles like that until I started to develop my own sound. My first lyrics, I would make songs rapping as Anime Characters… but we can talk about that another time haha

How did you meet your producer, Mensing, so create your first EP

I found Mensing on Soundcloud somehow. He had a different name at the time and there were two beats and probably only 2 followers. I loved what he was producing and so I reached out. We made a song using the beat I liked which I plan to release sometime in the future – it’s been 2 years and it’s still one of our favourite songs. When I found out he was in Germany we kept talking online, I invited him to a collective I make some of my music with called FUNCC & he just started soaring with his beats – getting on all the chill, lofi playlists and things.

He’s the guy you listen to when you need to study. With my background in listening to Soulful Hip Hop, grime and Jazz we started making our own sound that showcased that. In the intro song to Seasons Vol.1, No Rest was written while I was inspired by Grime and Drill music , the original title was Game Of Thrones and you can really hear from the chorus “this ain’t no Game of Thrones, You can’t mess with a Lord at Home” I’m that I was really coming with energy. Mensing’s style really gave it (& the whole project) a different feel through – a medium point of being music you can chill to but if you want to listen to the lyrics you’re getting energy and meaning.

Why do you think you work well together?

Like I said it’s that contrast of styles and our common interest to make a positive vibe. There isn’t a Tee Peters & Mensing song that doesn’t try to awaken your conscious – whether that state is “I need to get focused” or “I need to think about my actions” you can’t deny that the music brings positive vibes. Also we talk all the time, keeping each other inspired with new music and supporting out next endeavours. I’m going to be working on my other projects this year and so is he but even that is fuelling our next link up

Are you working independently to release your music? If so, what are some of the challenges?

Working Szn is my own independent platform for my music, I got a label which I’m building with my bro D’larm and it’s just me and my music friends making music, paying each other for the work and enjoying the fruits. Challenges would be convincing ourselves that we’re really doing it right. I’ve always been a DIY human before I was ever an artist and so I like to find ways of making things happen.

I always have discussions with my friends and collaborators about whether we should send our music to labels and stuff and it’s usually me that needs convincing to do it. I’m aware that having some extra support sometimes is very helpful and it’s nice to exchange value though. That’s why I have a few of my bangers released via indie labels and things but ultimately I’m learning to find a balance between self belief and tactical collaborations.

If you weren’t making music, what do you think you would be doing?

Up until Last Year I was aiming to do videography and Marketing. I love creating content and I do enjoy delivering it to people (most of the time) so it was a good route to go down.

Although, I will say Music is just one of my efforts and I still edit and market all the time so does that even count? I think it’s best to say I’d just be trying to exist for myself. I don’t like being tied down to things that don’t develop or provide adventure so I’d just find another means to avoid that.

Do you play any instruments, if not, which would you love to learn first?

I started with Guitar, Piano and Drums when I was younger. I didn’t get far with the lessons though. Been playing around with my guitar recently and trying to play some chords

Do you have advice for anyone releasing music independently?

I keep a post-it note on my wall saying “Do it Now” because any idea you have, you will face resistance. Something will tell you to wait for something like a label or a manager when you don’t even know if that’s ever going to happen. Forget about the things you don’t have control over.

If you’re an artist and you feel like your job is to release music, then just do it. Do the research, upskill yourself to be the label/manager that you don’t if you’ll ever receive support from and do it.

Which artist would you love to collaborate with most?

I really want a song with Jay Prince. He has one of my favourite albums ever and I feel like if we were to fuse resources we would make a gem! I’m speaking this into existence because as I write this, I’m thinking about what a sick network of producers I have, and all of the songs that are going to be coming out…

I just feel that there will be a time where people will be asking for this collab – which is funny because I will have been the one who wanted it the most haha.

In a hypothetical world, if you were performing at any festival this summer, what would that be and why?

Lovebox, Soulection’s festival or Wireless. Those were my first ever shows full stop. I got to experience live music for the first time at these places so I think any of these places would be a full circle moment

How would you describe your new EP in three words?

Chill, Conscious & Jazzy. This is a project for when you’re ready to transition from one negative season of life to a more positive one.

So if you’re ready to jump on the #WorkingSzn journey that I’m on and cut out all your distractions for the betterment of your relationships, work ethic and health, then this project is for you. It’s a soundtrack and a PSA 🙂

Listen to Season Vol 1. below.

Have You Met… Celine & The Blue

Following the release of their first single of 2021, Celine & The Blue took some time to join our Q&A series so we could learn a little bit more about them. Their upbeat, lively music has aired on BBC Introducing, BBC Radio Berkshire, Eagle Radio and Vibe Radio.

Where did you grow up? 

Oh, we come from all the places! From Italy we have Céline (Milan) and Enea (Martina Franca). Jay grew up in Uden, a village in the Netherlands, Elliot is from Chelmsford, Essex and Myles grew up in seaside town Bognor Regis. All the different cultures we grew up in truly make up for such a fun blend of personalities!

Who were the people/things around which made you want to pursue music?

Some of Enea’s friends and his teachers loved music in a way that was inspiring. He got competitive because he wanted to know as much as they did, or play as well as they did so he got hooked with music and fell in love with it. Being exposed to a lot of different genres throughout his childhood, 

Elliot joined his first band at 14. They played gigs all over Essex and it snowballed from there! The experience of our first headline gig in this band was just so wholesome, emotional and iconic, Céline officially knew music was what she had to do in life. 

For Myles, bands like Nirvana, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Queens of the Stone Age originally inspired him to pursue music. He also started playing with a best friend which helped him progress to begin with without really trying. 

Jay’s dad is a singer and played in a couple function bands some years ago. After taking piano lessons for 2 years when he was 9, Jay switched to guitar and that’s when he realised music was IT for him!

What fond memories in the early stages of your music career do you have?

Depends how early we’re talking! Jay formed his first band in the final year of primary school, they were called Sandstorm, wrote 3 songs and performed in front of over 200 people. They were 5 13-year-olds with their hair gelled into mohawks. It was special. 

Enea’s best memory is from high school during the first time performing in front of a crowd. It was a feeling of terror and excitement performing an ‘underbaked’ song with a leg that wouldn’t stop shaking. We still love getting that same feeling. 

For a school project Céline decided she was going to write and record an EP. Holding the final CD in her hands and distributing copies to people was the most enriching and thrilling experience, it was like giving out little bits of love to everyone! 

Myles performed at a yearly show on a stage 500 feet from the sea called “The ROX”, he performed 5 songs with his band and while they all had a blast doing it, he can’t remember if the crowd liked them… 

Elliot’s band won a battle of the bands competition. It was run across 5 or 6 rounds that were all hosted at different venues throughout Essex. They thought they had made it haha!

Do you play an instrument, if not, what would you love to learn most?

Keysplayer Enea would love to learn how to play drums without his neighbours complaining. Céline plays piano, a bit of guitar and ukulele, but she’d absolutely love to play the harp, so majestic and enchanted! 

To add his guitar and singing skills, Jay would like to add saxophone. Elliot is thinking about following Enea’s tracks and learning to play piano. Myles has a thing for the mandolin and the accordion, we highly rate that!

How did the band come together?

We met at music uni, Enea and Céline needed a band for an assessment and we were all in the same friend group so the guys volunteered to help. When we first performed together, we just fell in love with us as a team. 

What are some of the challenges of working in a band?

What’s hardest about being in a band is understanding how to take full advantage of our potential. With 5 people there are so many things you could be doing; everyday we are developing our method to becoming more efficient. Also, we value and love to focus on communication as we are so different from one another, each of us expresses themselves in such unique ways, we always turn seemingly complex communication challenges into our greatest strength!

What inspired you to create Crave Love? 

Initially Crave Love started off as some chords that Enea really digged. The theme of wanting love for the sake of love was something he’d been philosophizing about at that time.

Writing the lyrics, Céline wanted the surface of this song to illustrate a breakup, and the deeper layers to show a much more complex dynamic of love as a primordial human need, highlighting emotions of grief, deprivation and melancholy. When we first wrote it, little did we know that Jay was about to write a heart shattering solo, the brightest, most vividly red and shiny cherry on top of the cake. 

Describe some of your emotions when you made your debut at Ronnie Scott?

Ronnie’s has always been somewhere that we’ve aspired to play. Elliot even heard incredible stories about it from his Nan who would frequently visit the venue as a teen. We were so so super hyped! It wasn’t even a gig with the full rig. It was an acoustic set.

We were super nervous, Myles swears his stomach was in knots, but as soon as we started playing the nerves vanished and it was quite surreal. The atmosphere in Ronnie’s and the people we met there were just magical. We never felt more inspired. The aura, the aesthetic and the history of that place simply drowned us in excitement and a desire to never leave that place. It really was quite a mind blowing moment.

Truly unforgettable.

Do you have any creative hobbies outside of music?

Céline is the hobby queen, currently she is knitting and crocheting a whole wardrobe’s worth of clothes. Myles and Enea doodle all the time! Jay plays football and often teams up with Elliot in a gaming marathon.

Are there any UK based artists which have influenced your style of music?

Here’s a list of our favourites that we recommend everyone to check out!

Will there be any further release this year as ‘Céline & The Blue’?

Yes! We are releasing our EP next! It’s going to happen within the middle of the year and we. cannot. wait. 

Listen to ‘Crave Love’ below.

Have You Met.. Allysha Joy

Allysha Joy’s potent lyricism, unique musicianship and killer vocals have garnered legions of attentive fans the world over. She’s an integral member of the Melbourne soul jazz scene, known as part of the acclaimed 30/70 Collective and for her own equally revered solo work. Back in November Allysha Joy released her stunning solo EP, ‘Light It Again’, and she has now taken the time to join our Q&A series so we can learn a bit more about her musical journey:

Who are the musicians which inspire you to create music?

Oh too many to list! But the people that are inspiring me now are Georgia Anne Muldrow (always), Kaidi Tatham, Steve Spacek, Fatima, Sault, all the crew in 30/70 collective, Julien Dyne and Wu-lu and I love Ego Ella May’s music! 

Where did you grow up, how did you get into creating music?

I grew up in Narrm, Wurundjeri Country in so called “Australia”. I started signing at a really young age and then got into writing poetry. I didn’t really start writing music until I was about 18 or 19 when I started teaching myself piano and now just over the past 5 years or so I’ve been doing a lot of production work and really trying to direct the whole sonic experience. Really listening to jazz is what brought me into creating music! 

If you weren’t creating music, what else would be doing?

I’m actually deeply interested in Psychotherapy! Healing through art but also through conversation, expression, symbology and the subconscious. I think this will become a larger part of my work to come. But essentially if I wasn’t creating music I’d be creating poetry, creating change in other ways, creating conversation. But really, I hope to do all those things while I create music anyway. 

So I first listened to your music as part of the ‘30/70 Collective’, and so I wanted to ask how the group got together, and the story behind your name?

30/70 was an instrumental band before I joined them and they had released one record before we made Cold Radish Coma. I’m super grateful as it was all just chance encounters through the jazz scene and we really came to build such strong relationships together in our love for hip hop and soul and jazz!

The name is significant for a few reasons but my favourite is the swing ratio theory, you’ll have to ask Horatio Luna about that one though! 

I really liked your first EP with Rhythm Section – Elevate, how did you meet Bradley Zero, and whatis your rleationship like with him relationship like with him?

BZ is a legend and all the crew at Rhythm Section! We met him when he came out to Melbourne one time! RS had recently put out Silent Jay and Jace XL not long before our record and as we were all hanging out at the time BZ heard about 30/70 and wanted to put out the next record!

What was your favourite track that you created for the EP ‘Elevate?’

I love Misrepresented cause it really summed up a feeling for me and has continued to grow and take on new meaning in my life emotionally, politically and socially. I also LOVE the Get to Me remix by Setwun from this record. 

Listen to ‘Watercolours’ Below.

Do you plan to release anything this year as the  ‘30/70 Collective’?

Yeah!! We’ve got a single coming out really soon actually on Rhythm Section, with some incredible remixes on that too! Then hopefully we can look to releasing the next album soon! 

What was your mindset going into your recent EP, ‘Light Again’, how did you want it to differ from your music as the ‘30/70 Collective’?

I think to a large degree as artists we don’t really have a choice in the music that we make, when we collaborate open heartedly it just is what it is! These songs are all my own writing and arranging as opposed to a completely collaborative process in 30/70.

But really these four songs on Light it Again are the deepest, realest shit I’ve ever written and they are completely unique and representative of past inquiry .. as is most of what we do, it’s always going to change and evolve as we as artists continue to change. Beyond that, I don’t think this group of musicians and producers will ever collaborate as a whole team ever again and that makes this record special beyond belief.

It’s the culmination of some of Melbourne’s finest artists in a really important moment of this city’s soul scene and I’m incredibly grateful for that opportunity and experience! 

What made you decide to release with First Word Records?

I’ve been a big fan of First Word for a while now! I’m super inspired by Kaidi Tatham and Yazmin Lacey and Children of Zeus so it’s an honour to join the label and everyone on the team is super lovely! I feel like my music has found a little home between the jazz and the soul records! 

Do you play any instruments?

Yes! I play piano and percussion on all my solo music! And I produce! I’ve also been getting lessons in drumming and percussion for the past little while with the legend, Ray Pereira! 

Describe your EP, ‘Light Again’ in three words.

Art as healing 

Have You Met.. Dampé

Joe Munday, a musician, producer and DJ from South London. Dampe brings a wealth of infleunce from across the world. Living in a richly diverse culture such as London, Dampe has never been short of ideas with his eclectic track selection on Rinse FM. He took some time to join our Q&A series:

Where did you grow up? What’s the creative culture like in your city?

I moved around the midlands as a kid, spent the teenage ‘growing up’ years in the South West/Devon but have lived in London longer than anywhere else now. Devon is a sick place to be a teenager, close to Bristol and Plymouth for music and going out but also lots of country and beaches to fuck about on. 

Usually i’d say that London’s creative culture is immense, forever shifting and makes the fight that it is to live here 100% worthwhile. Its just like they say, there’s a million overlapping communities, scenes and lots to get excited about and overwhelmed by. 

Covid is stifling all that at the moment and it’s bleak to see venues and communities on their knees. I think you learn a bit of resilience living here so hopefully it will bounce back although sadly there are people and places going under without support. Those first responsible dances back will be so, so good and hopefully make everyone appreciate and explore London’s culture, as well as support independent creative endeavour more.

What made you get into music, who were the people around you which influenced you?

My mum made me pick up an instrument because she was gutted she couldn’t play anything. Then getting to school you meet people who lend you music or turn you on to different sounds. It was pre-streaming, burning CDs and playing them in the car era. My friend Sami El-Enany burnt me a copy of Hail To The Thief and some Venetian  Snares I think – we actually released an album together this year. So those formative friendships are still really influential for me, who you party with, who you create with. 

What were early experiences in music, did you start with playing instruments?

Yeah, started with guitar – Spanish fingerstyle, traditional folk tunes. Then played in questionable bands for years before taking music tech at college and spending all my time in the studio they had there. My parents were never musicians but they always had music on in their houses. 

What made you decide to release music with Darker Than Wax?

I was programming a venue and we started doing a couple parties with the 4 To The Floor crew (s/o Kengo) who booked the DTW guys when they were over here one summer. We got to talking and bouncing some music back and forth. I hooked up with Marco when I was in NY last year and the rest just worked out slowly really. The label, crew and everyone involved is just great. I’m hugely grateful for the support and to be part of the family. 

Describe your show on Rinse FM

I’ve been hosting a monthly show on Rinse for two years now. It’s mostly new, upfront dance music, house, techno, garage and everything in between. Ive done a couple downtempo and ambient shows during peak lockdown when my head just isn’t up for two hours of dance music. This year i want to switch it up a bit and start getting guests in for mixes as well as play older finds too. I think now I’ve made myself part of the furniture i can branch out a bit. Stoked to be on the station though – banging place and people.

Have a listen to his previous show from Decemeber:

If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing? 

I literally have no idea. Music and sound design is the day job at the moment so i guess life would look very different. I like taking pictures on 35mm – is that a viable career?

Are there any artists in the UK we should be paying attention to?

Of course! Far too many to mention. Off the top of my head though:

2020 was Pa Salieu’s year for me, Coventry’s finest rapper – every project is so cold expecting massive things from him this year.

Ghetts continues to be the UK’s best MC imo

Been listening to an album from a London based cellist called Oliver Coates who released an album last year called skins n slime which is insanely beautiful and the production is close and intense  

I always look out for Sheffield based Yak’s productions, deep, percussive club tracks on a couple great labels

Bristol’s Livity Sound just put out a great EP from a producer called surgeons girl i really like – Lush new UK Techno.

Couple UK stalwart labels and crews i follow who always are pushing great dance music but I’m sure won’t be news to you guys: Apron, Hessle, Livity, Wisdom Teeth, Time Capsule, WOLF, AOTN, Faith and Industry, Rhythm Section, Co Op, Touching Bass etc 

How have you tried to change your approach going into your most recent record, in comparison to your previous EPs?

From the outside looking in I think the process and approach would appear very similar (me sitting at my synths for months on end, sometimes frustrated and sometimes serne) but to me they do all feel different and mark distinct people, moments in time, spaces and/or gear used. 

More interestingly and importantly, this EP specifically had me questioning/thinking about sample culture a lot, the massive imbalance in the dance music industry/the world and appropriation in general – lessons i’ll be taking forward.

Describe your EP in three words

Colourful, hopefully engaging 

Make sure you check out his latest EP through singnapore based record label, Darker Than Wax. Titled, ‘Oil’, Dampé doesnt hold back in showing you his extensive sound design skills, you can purchase here.

Have You Met.. Nana Adjoa

Describe the creative culture in the city you grew up in?

When I was young and my parents were still together, their music collection often blasted pretty loud through our home. They listen to Funk, soul, 90’s R&B, reggae, Ghanaian highlife. Also when we went to birthdays or parties on my Ghanaian side of the family, there was always LOUD music. Other than listening and dancing to the music at home, there wasn’t anything especially creative in my upbringing. We moved out of Amsterdam, when I was around the age of 5, to a small town not far from the city, I don’t really remember it as a creative or cultural place.  

What were early experiences in music, did you start with playing instruments or into producing with a DWL?

Once at primary school, when I was really young, we learned over a course of a week, this classical choir piece we would perform together with a proper choir. I don’t know remember why or for what occasion, but I think it was Verdi’s Dies irae, Lacrimosa. I enjoyed practicing the words I didn’t understand, and I enjoyed the sound of people singing together. I also briefly had keyboard lessons, which I disliked very much, so I quit pretty soon. And then at the end of primary school, I started playing bass, which felt awesome right away. 

What made you get into music, who were the people around you which influenced you?

Me and my friends wanted to start a band when we were at the age of 10/11, and I picked up the bass for that purpose. We were initially inspired by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. And then we also played songs by Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc.

I read that your Mother was in a Ghanaian highlife band, how influential was she in deciding to start music as a career?

We’ll not so much starting a career. It wasn’t until after me and my friends came up with the idea of starting a band, which meant me picking up the bass, that I found out my mom had this while history. She did give me my first lessons and has been very supportive from the start. She let us use the basement/cellar as our rehearsal space, and she was very encouraging when I tried to go and eventually went to the conservatory.

How close are you to your Ghanaian heritage, will you look to incorporate Ghanaian highlife in the music?

I’m still learning a lot about my Ghanaian heritage and the Ghanaian music history. I grew up with listening to that music, but after my parents got divorced, I was raised by my Dutch mom. It’s been a while (10 years) since I went to Ghana, so I would love to go there again and learn more about the culture while being there, as a oppose to just reading about it. 

How have you tried to change approach going into your most recent album, in comparison to your previous EPs

The writing and recording went more simultaneously, which resulted in a lot of the demo material to end up on the record. I started out alone, and a producer joined in halfway. Also, the approach in recording my voice was a little less shy and more sure than previous works. 

If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing? 

So many possibilities! It’s really hard to imagine myself doing anything else now. I probably would have gone to university to study either History or Psychology, but I don’t know where those paths would have brought me, though. When I was 18 I went to those introduction days (open days?) at the UvA, but I auditioned at the conservatory and got accepted and went along with it. 

Are there any producers/artists/instrumentalist you work with really well, what makes your relationship work?

For this record, I worked together with Wannes Salomé for the first time. But I loved working with him. He’s technically very skilled, we have a similar and broad taste, so when I or he had an idea, we could try it out very fast and didn’t need to talk much about it. I love it when you work with someone and you don’t have to talk a lot about the music, but just play and try stuff out. 

Are there any artists in the Netherlands we should be paying attention to?

There are definitely some very cool artists over here. LUWTEN, Zeeland, Jo Goes Hunting, Sofie Winterson, and Feng Suave.

What’s your relationship like with your label, and why did you decide to release with them?

I’m with Bloomer Records, which me and my managers basically set up to release my music ourselves. So at the base, we have a small and super dedicated team I’m working with, and then we work together with a lot of different people and parties from all over the place. 

Describe your album in three words

Contemplating, contemporary, dreaming. 

Have You Met.. Cable Street Collective

London-based 7-piece Cable Street Collective took some time to join our Q&A series following the release of their new single, ‘Speaking In Tongue’, featuring Gregg Kofi Brown. Check it out below and let us know what you think below:

How did the band form? 

Three of us – Ash, Tris and Fi – went to Nottingham University together and used to play the occasional open mic, usually doing covers. But it wasn’t until later, when we were living in London, that we started to make music more seriously, and started playing the summer festival circuit – Secret Garden Party and Boomtown and so on.

Aaron and Sam joined in 2017, and we put out a second EP which got picked up by BBC 6Music, and various other places – and it just kept growing from there. Matt & Dom on the horns were regular “special guests,” and in the end we just thought “let’s get trumpet & sax in all the time” ‘cos they made it sound so good, and really got the crowd going. 

What’s the story behind your name Cable Street Collective?  

It’s taken from the Battle of Cable Street, an anti-fascist protest in 1936. The people of the East End banded together to stop Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts from staging a march down Cable Street – he’d chosen the site as a deliberate act of provocation, because it was a working class Jewish area at the time. Danny Dyer does a pretty good job of explaining it succinctly.

We used to rehearse on Cable Street. Two of our members actually lived in a warehouse space in Cable Street Studios, and the first show we played together was at an open mic night they ran in their living room. So it all kind of made sense. 

What made you get into music, who were the people around you which influenced you?

There’s so many of us it’s hard to pick just a few, but Sam’s story is great. He grew up on the Shetland Islands and was basically a child fiddle prodigy – by the time he was a teenager he was making pocket money playing on the overnight boats back-and-forth to the mainland. So he has that trad folk influence as a base, and then got really into percussion, and particularly West African percussion, later on.

He used to play (and still does, occasionally) with Musa Mboob and Saidi Kanda. Tristan grew up in Swaziland (now Eswatini) and Malawi, and it was him and his brother (who used to play bass for CSC) persuaded Ash and Fi that this upbeat, Congolese-influenced take on indie was more likely to get the band booked for festivals (and so it proved). Oh, and Gregg Kofi Brown from Osibisa, who features on the new single, is Aaron’s dad.

What’s your relationship like with Gregg Kofi Brown?

A lot of people assume that Gregg’s on the single because Aaron’s in the band, but actually it’s the other way round. Tristan used to play guitar for a Mozambican band in London and Gregg used to dep on bass for them – so it was Gregg who introduced him to Aaron. We were looking for a new bassist at the time, and Aaron obviously had chops for days so it was a perfect match. Gregg’s been a big supporter, as well as an inspiration not just for Aaron, but for the rest of us too.

What was your approach and story behind your latest single, “Speaking in Tongues”

We were messing around with a percussion idea in a rehearsal, and came up with the main guitar riffs and the bass part. Fi had missed that rehearsal for some reason, so it was just an iPhone recording of that idea – a two chord riff. Gregg heard Aaron playing it on his phone, and said: “can you send me that? I’ve got an idea.” He came up with a whole vocal including the chorus line, about speaking in tongues, which was a metaphor for talking at crossed purposes in a relationship. We loved it, but we took it and re-wrote the verse melody and the lyrics to make it a bit more expansive – so it’s not just about personal relationships, it’s about political relationships and the trashing of public trust by politicians too. 

If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing? 

Well, most of us have day jobs outside of music – so Tristan’s a journalist, Ash works for a start-up, Fi and Sam are tutors, and so on. We’re appreciating that a lot this year, with the complete shutdown of gigging!

Which artist should we be listening out for?

As in other artists? Ah, too many to mention, but we’ve been listening to lots of BCUC, a South African collective, in the past couple of summers, also Rose City Band (by the guy who used to do Wooden Shjips), and loving the stuff that the mysterious group Saults are putting out at the moment. 

What’s your relationship like with your current record label? If you aren’t signed, have you been before? Do prefer being independent or signed?

All our stuff has been self-released so far, and to be honest unless it was a major with massive budget to pump into marketing spend, it’s kind of hard to see what a label would offer you these days? 

Describe your new single in three words

Be sure to check out the music video to theeir single, Speaking In Tongues, and let us know what you think:

Upbeat. Brassy. Pumping. 

Have You Met… Ford.

Grammy-nominated electronic music prodigy ford. took some time to join our Q&A series so we could get to know him a little better. Ford. has just released his new album ‘The Colors of Nothing’, and so we wanted to learn a bit about his journey and what has been his secret to success. Follow the Q&A below:

You have a hugely diverse background, having spent time in different countries – what’s special about where you are currently based? And how has it inspired you creatively?

Since moving to Utah I’ve definitely spent more time outdoors than I have in the past. Nothing interesting really goes on in the more central Utah Valley areas so I feel like being able to head up a canyon and be in the mountains within a 5-10 minute drive is something I try not to take for granted. That side of Utah is something special and it has been inspiring my music heavily in the years I’ve been here so far.

What were you doing when you found out you were nominated for a Grammy?

I was actually panicking in a car on the way to the airport because I was supposed to be flying to Minneapolis for the first show of the Madeon Good Faith Tour, but there was an accident blocking the strip to the departures. I was convinced I was going to miss the flight and throw everything off. As I’m panicking, trying to find any other flights to MN I started getting Twitter notifications from friends about the nomination. Never had so many confusing emotions going on at once. Needless to say, made the flight and everything worked out.

What made you get into music and who were the people around you that influenced you?

Electronic music really sparked my interest in being able to make music when I was like 11 or 12. This idea of having a program on your computer that gave you the resources to make fully developed songs from your room just blew my mind. Going into high school I was exposed to a whole new side of music and that shift in my taste really influenced a similar change in the music I started trying to make. Artists like Tom Misch, Nick Leng, Jon Hopkins, and (funnily enough) ODESZA really helped shape my sound and motivated me to work at my craft.

Having been a couple of years since your previous album, (The) Evening, how did you change your approach for The Color of Nothing?

I wrote most of the first album while I was in high school. I was just learning how to produce, work with other artists, create full songs etc… The fact that all those tracks came together in one uniform package felt pretty serendipitous. The process of writing this album was completely different. All my decisions, influences, and styles were much more thought out and pre-determined. With album one I was just happy to have a group of songs finished whereas with this album process I tried to be purposeful each step of the way. 

If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing? 

“Haha honestly no clue. Always loved film and photography but music is what I know and love”

Do you feel any added pressure being only 20 years old, and seeing so much success already in the music career with the popularity of your songs? 

Not necessarily pressure because of my age but definitely can see how expectations of what you’re supposed to sound like can takes its toll. Music is such a therapeutic process for me that I hope I can always feel free to create for myself. 

Who are the people around you who keep you focused and motivated?

I’m lucky to have some great friends and family who are always in my corner ready to help. Definitely owe my ability to keep moving and keep staying motivated to my manager Kyle. We’ll usually hop on a call once a day if not every other day to check in and make sure I’m feeling good about the music or the art or any other aspect of what I’m working on. It’s really reassuring to have people like that ready to back you up.

Are there any producers/artists you work really well with? If so, what makes your relationship work?

I feel like this project really gave me a chance to focus more on my abilities as a solo producer but overall, I definitely have some close friends that I’ve worked well with. Most obvious ones might be Hanz and Sonn. We’ve always just resonated with each other’s melody ideas and percussive rhythms so getting on a song together feels very natural and effortless when we bounce ideas off each other. I think it’s always a great experience to make something with people that you click with both musically and just as people.

What were early experiences in music; did you start with playing instruments or go straight into producing with a DAW?

My mother’s side of the family were all raised classically trained so naturally most of my siblings and I tried to follow suit and take piano lessons when we were younger. I was on and off for a few years but moving around made it difficult to stay consistent with it and I eventually stopped taking lessons and just trying to teach myself and play by ear. Besides that, I took drums for a few years growing up and have always loved percussion, so I think those two instruments were what I gravitated towards when I started working in different DAWs.

What’s your relationship like with your label, Foreign Family Collective, and why did you decide to release with them?

For one, I’ve always been a big fan of ODESZA’s work so naturally I gravitated towards a label that’s founded by them, but the people over at FFC are honestly just the homies. It’s a very transparent relationship and I love how everyone is so unbelievably good at what they do there. Their drive and work ethic is something I really respect and admire. All of that aside though, they’re all just really good people that want you to see you develop and get better as an artist. As surprising as it may be, that’s not often the case with a lot of labels these days so I feel fortunate to be in the situation I am in.

Describe your new album The Color of Nothing in three words

Coming of Age

You can listen to Ford. new album, Colors of Nothing below. Let me know your thoughts:

Have You Met.. Subculture Sage

North London Hip Hop outsiders Subculture Sage ​return to our site following the release of the latest single ‘Tapestry’. This time, we take things a little deeper, as the group join our famous Q&A series, where we learn a little bit more about the artists behind microphone:

Where are you from? Describe the kind of creative culture within the city you were raised in?

SAGE: We’re from London, UK. It’s a cultural melting pot and even though corporations are the big blocks of the city its all us creatives in the cracks that give London its heart and soul. The whole world is in London, you can go to different sides of the city and find different cultures from all over the globe. From music, food, art, its all here.

What made you get into music, who were the people around you who influenced you?

SUBCULTURE: I started playing the drums when I was 11 and was busy playing in bands for most of my childhood. I was particularly obsessed with Questlove and Travis Barker and was a huge Timbaland and Neptunes fan growing up. In the band I grew up playing in, we were always obsessed w the idea of working with a producer and I always felt growing up that a producer would be the answer to my band’s problem – that we never sounded as good in the studio as we did live. I was also largely influenced by other bands in the scene and the mainly old Rock and Jazz that my dad used to play round the house when I was a kid.

Are there any producers/artists you work with really well, what makes your relationship work?

SAGE: We’re a MC/producer duo so we got most of it covered. We love working with our friends though and it’s always the good vibes we share that you hear in our music.

What were early experiences in music, did you start with playing instruments or go straight in to making beats?

SUBCULTURE: Though I was only really playing drums, I was always obsessed with the structures and arrangements in songs. It was only in my later teens that I started producing on my computer, chopping up old funk beats and audio rips from my favourite movies.

Are there any other musicians, and DJs we should be paying attention to? 

SAGE: Rocks FOE is one of the best and most underrated artists in the UK. He’s a beast with the bars and makes all his own beats. Go sesh him NOW!

Are you signed to a label, if so what’s your relationship like, if not, has that been out of choice?

SUBCULTURE: Subculture Sage are unsigned and we self-release our music. Self-releasing for many years can teach some very valuable lessons about running release campaigns, the importance of creative control and the power of money saving. I think at the start we self released due to lack of options, though now with a pretty heavy streamed catalogue with all of our royalties still in our possession  we can really feel the financial benefits of having funded and released everything ourselves. Though it can be tough. Outside of this project, I do also run my own label – Twisted Hearts Records.

How have you changed your approach from your previous single two years ago, to your most recent project

SAGE: Yeah, we don’t really care anymore. We just wanna make our music.

I really like the single ‘Tapestry’ which sees you guys nicely link up with Illaman. What about his ability made you decide he’d be the right fit for the track?

SUBCULTURE: Illaman is a great friend of ours. He featured on one of our older songs ‘Happy Like The Sunking’ and we are both personal friends of his as a person and an artist. We all chopped it up at my Brixton studio a couple years ago and Tapestry was the outcome of that day.

Have you got any plans in the pipeline following lockdown, any future shows?

SAGE: Not really, we’re just making music at the moment. We like doing shows and performing our music live, meeting our fans etc but staying in the now it’s just all about creation.

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to Tapestry, you can below: