Posts Tagged ‘Interview’

Stephen Fry: What I Wish I’d Known When I Was 18

July 4, 2010

Just sit back and let the intelligence wash over you.

Stephen Fry, ladies and gentlemen.

James

Teeza Interview – Riot E.P Release Monday 31st May

May 27, 2010

At Welcome To The Fold, we pride ourselves on supporting and promoting a new generation of Grime acts that we feel are not only making amazing music, but making in their own way and on their own terms. Teeza is one such artist.

Hailing from West London, the producer/MC has been catching our attention for a little while now, with his devastatingly hype (and melodic) instrumentals and punchy spitting. Having appeared on a recent episode of Logan Sama’s Chosen One’s, and with the release of Riot E.P. imminent, we thought there could be no better time to catch up with Teeza for an interview.

Riot E.P – Out Monday 31st May. Available at www.teezamusic.bandcamp.com
Riot Muzik EP Preview by Threefold_Media

Introduce yourself to our readers:

For those that don’t know, my name is Teeza and I’m a producer from the Grime scene and my new release the Riot E.P. is out on Monday 31st May.

Why call yourself Teeza?

It came about in school. It was given to me back in the day because of my DJing style – I used to play tracks and chop them up for a while before letting them drop.

So it’s got nothing to do with you being a bully or anything then?!

Haha! A little bit maybe haha!

You’re MC as well aren’t you?

Yeah I am. It’s not really my main focus, but I do write lyrics from time to time.



Do you find being able to spit compliments your productions, giving a better idea of what MC’s will want in terms of drops or structure?

It does in a way. When I write a beat I sometimes imagine what kind of lyrics, styles or flows will suit it. Sometimes though I just want to make standalone instrumentals for DJ’s and the raves.

You seem to have a wide musical range in your tunes. Both Riot and Secret Level are reminiscent of Dexplicit, however your Air Bubble remix is completely different – all skippy snares and bass. Is it liberating not being tied down to one particular sound?

Yes I think it’s better that way. Since I started producing I always wanted my style to be more rounded. I never wanted to be boxed in or known for one thing as, naturally, that would limit me. I listen to loads of different music, so I guess all those influences come out through me and into what I make.

It is a reflection of me. Music production for me is driven by mood. Most people don’t know I make Hip Hop and R’n’B as well as Grime – you can catch me making styles of music you would never expect.

I remember talking to you on Twitter about UKHH rapper Jehst, an artist I really wouldn’t expect Grime guys to appreciate…

Yeah his rapping is really technical. I’ve always been into that kind of stuff though, the thing is, I’m from West London and so when I started making music it was inspired by the Garage sounds from my area. As the sound changed and got ‘Grimier’ I changed with it. More time I’m listening to Hip Hop though and other music.

Do you play an instrument and if so do you find it helps your production?

I play a few different instruments – I’m not particularly good at any of them if I’m truthful – but it sets me apart from other producers in that I’m making music that isn’t necessarily ‘Grime.’ My music has no blueprint I just make what I like – it might be 140 bpm and have those Grime elements but it will have other elements as well.

I might put different types of melodies on there or mix up some different sounds.

You, Royal T, J Beatz, Nu Klea, Spooky are considered part of a new generation in Grime music, one that is bringing the dance floor element of Grime back to the fore. How do you feel about that?

I guess so. I think Royal-T and I make similar types of music sometimes, we made ‘1up’ and ‘Secret Level’ around the same time in 2008, even though I only released it this year. Yeah I’d say we are the new generation of producers. I’ve noticed that over the past two or so years, the sound has slowed down and gone towards Hip Hop. We are trying to bring the Grime essence back.

What we make now is much more similar to what was being made back in 2005-6.

You recently appeared as an MC on Logan’s Chosen Ones alongside Scrufizzer, Voltage, Dream McLean and Oh No. How did you find it?

Yeah I’ve always liked it! I started writing in 2003 so I’ve always enjoyed set appearances and what not. Logan’s was fun – I hadn’t been on a set for ages and hadn’t been back to Kiss since 2006. It was good to link with Scruface too.

Are they MC’s you collaborate with?

Well I’ve known Scruface for a good 5-6 years and we’ve done lots of collabs here and there. I’ve just done a track with Voltage with another one in the works and I’ve just finished a tune with Dream called ‘Stop Me’ which I think he might be releasing as a single.

We will be doing quite a bit of work over the next few months so watch.

What did you make of Scruface’s announcement he was going to quit?

Ahh he’s just going through a faze man, he’s not going to quit! We talk a lot – near enough every day – about music. People have those bad days is all. I know when he’s at home he’s non-stop recording and keeping active.

Back to the E.P. then, what can the people expect?

Raw Grime. It is quite hype and the tunes sound strong. I mixed them down so the snares and bass punch through with the mids and los.

Is the E.P. a fair reflection of you?

Yeah it gives you one side of what I can do. I kept it quite tightly packaged with the tunes similar in theme.
Will we hear any MC versions of the tracks?

Initially I wanted to do a mixtape featuring 10-20 MC versions of Riot, but everybody’s busy doing their thing so I thought It’d be best to come through with the instrumental. There are a couple versions out there.

‘Jheez’ has got a nice Calypso feel to it, with that steel drum type of sound in there. If you could get a Yardie MC to spit on it, who would it be?

You know what, I’d say Goodz. He smashes it when he spits in that Yardie style. In fact I think he’s probably one of the best Grime MC’s ever. Maybe even Shizzle…

So, the most important question of all. Riot is out next Monday (31st May), where can the people purchase the E.P.?

You can buy the Riot E.P. for £2.99 exclusively from www.teezamusic.bandcamp.com

Any shoutouts?

Safe, big up everybody supporting, Team Supreme, Once Upon a Grime and Mute for the artwork!

Follow @teezamusic
Teeza’s Myspace

Kristian

Let’s Get Lost: Racism in the Fashion Industry

May 24, 2010

Last week a colleague forwarded me a link to an article on refinery29.com regarding a recent shoot for Interview Magazine featuring model Daria Werbowy, shot by Mikael Jansson. The story itself has caused a fair amount of controversy regarding alleged racist undertones within the shoot.

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Personally, I think this shoot is one of, if not the most evocative fashion story I have seen all year. The lighting, poses, clothing and colour all contribute to an overall ambience which I find simply captivating. You can almost taste the salty tang of sweat, the earthy and metallic grease and engine oil, the cold bottled beer and the acrid, lingering smoke.

As a big fan of dancehall music and dingy, sweaty yet atmospheric clubs in general, I cannot envision a more perfect setting to hear one of my favourite genres of music. All of the models, not just Daria, look beautiful, and while there is the faintest nuance of menace in the air, that is thanks mainly to the setting; it certainly, to my eyes anyway, does not reinforce any negative stereotypes of black people.

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However, this is where the allegations come pouring in. According to its many detractors, it places black models in the shoot merely as ‘props’, dressing them in ‘tough’ leather and knits, while placing Daria in ‘ethereal’ and ‘angel-like’ gowns.

Looking at these images as objectively as possible, I’m still not entirely sure of the validity of this statement. I mean sure, Daria is the main focus of many of the images – although not all, it is important to note – but I think that the images would be just as strong without her in them at all; the shoot is about capturing an atmosphere, a moment in time in some faraway place that many of us Western Europeans will never experience.

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It is antithetic escapism in a way; instead of providing something typically beautiful and aspirational, it does the opposite and shows us a world of vice, sleaze and depravity, which, due to its obvious id-based appeal, is just as alluring.

The fact remains that clubs like this do exist; from grimy dancehall venues in the backstreets of Kingston to basement dubstep clubs in East London, the ‘dive’, as many of these places are known, represents a coming-together of people for one thing – a love of music. All the pretentious trappings of so-called nightlife – dress codes, expensive cocktails, and condescending attitudes – are forgotten; the venues aren’t pretty but they are brimming with energy, both sonic and sexual. In my opinion, that is what this shoot conveys perfectly.

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Of course, this isn’t the first time in recent months that the fashion industry has been accused of racism. Last year, the October 2009 issue of Vogue featured a shoot – shot by Steven Klein, styled by Carine Roitfeld – in which model Lara Stone was depicted covered in brown paint, in a move dubbed by many as ‘contemporary blackface’. The outrage over this shoot is, in my opinion, fairly justified.

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Although I am a big fan of Steven Klein, it is surprising that anyone would allow this kind of photoshoot to go ahead. While I don’t think that a depiction of ‘neo-minstrels’ was necessarily the aim of the shoot, it was nonetheless a naive move by those in charge, and actually detracts a lot of attention from the other images in the shoot, which are otherwise very cool indeed.

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I guess your outlook on this whole debate depends on your views on what is considered racist. Personally, with regard to the Daria Werbowy shoot, I think that most of the outrage has been generated by whites who think it is up to them to dictate what people from other ethnic backgrounds find offensive. Sure, there are black people who will find it offensive but there are also plenty who don’t (Kiah, the colleague who forwarded the images to me, is Jamaican and loves them) which wouldn’t be the case if the images depicted were overtly offensive.

Another big factor is the way in which fashion chooses to politicise itself. Many people speak of fashion as being very politically and socially motivated, something which I don’t agree with at all. Any kind of political or social commentary embued within a collection that I’ve seen has been very trite and contrived at best; certainly nothing that has made me want to make any rash lifestyle changes.

Fashion makes itself political because people that design want it to be taken seriously as an art, which it is not. It may be conceptual, but fashion design is a craft, not an art. Clothing, in my opinion, cannot express any kind of political statement; it can express an opinion, an outlook on life – look to the Dadaist, make-do-and-mend aesthetic of punk, or the often prison-related fashions present in hiphop style – but when it comes to fashion, the only real politicisation comes through depiction in a context, through mediums such as photography or film.

It is only when clothing is placed within a context that it is given meaning; the ‘Guide to Successful Living’ campaign started by Diesel in 1992 is, to me, one of the most satirical and provocative advertising campaigns ever made, and marks a true milestone in terms of the politicisation of fashion advertising.

When you consider that there are so many actual examples of racism and persecution in the world that continue to cause pain and suffering to people all over the world, getting worked up over a perceived slight in a magazine editorial seems, to me at least, to be fairly out of perspective. Let’s concentrate on fixing some of the other evils in the world before blaming fashion for all of the world’s problems, shall we?

James

J Beatz Interview

March 13, 2010

J Beatz is a young up-and-coming Grime producer whose ‘Dutty’ riddim has been all over radio in the past few months. A favourite selection of Logan’s, Spooky’s and Butterz DJ’s, it was eventually vocalled by Big H and became one of the biggest tunes of 2009.

With a bag of work in tow, J Beatz gave us a quick interview to tell us what he’s got planned, and whether he and Big H will do another stomping collabo.

First and foremost, can you tell our readers who you are and what you do.

I’m J Beatz, Grime producer and DJ. I mainly make Grime, but I also do other types of music.

How long have you been producing for?

Since 2006 – so that makes it three or four years now!

What was the idea behind your new ‘1st Of The Month EP’?

I hadn’t released an EP or promo in almost a year. I dropped ‘Have a Butchers Vol. II’ around Christmas 2008 and to be honest I listen back to it now and I think it’s crap! Obviously the levels have gone much higher since then.

I had a plan to drop a promo CD with loads of my biggest beats mixed by a DJ, but so many DJ’s parred it. They never got around to doing it. So I scrapped that, and went ahead with a download EP just to keep my name bubblin’ until my vinyl and digital EP’s are out. I think producers should be putting in as much work as MC’s.

Your remix of Wiley’s ‘Bang’ is a personal highlight. Do you plan to do many more remixes this year?

I just do remixes when I’m bored. I’ll get an idea and I’ll just do it. I had loads of them lying around [doing nothing] so I put all of them onto one thing. It wasn’t a conscious decision to make a remix E.P. To answer the question, probably we’ll see how it goes. We’ll see what happens.

There’s Grime, Bassline and Funky on the EP. Do you like to keep your output varied or did you want to cater for different audiences?

There wasn’t a point where I thought ‘yeah I’ll tap into the funky or bassline crowd.’ Never that! These are tunes that I had lying around, a couple of which I thought were going to get released. The Migraine Skank remix I thought was going to set signed as the B-Side…That’s what Gracious K told me anyway, but it got taken away.

I just had to get them out there – [the migraine skank remix] got 43,000 views on You Tube ‘cos I released it when the original first surfaced.

I have funky on there ‘cos I rave to it. I make what I like!

You produced ‘Dutty’ which of course featured on Big H’s CD Street Crime UK. How do you feel the track was received by fans?

It was received very well! The thing with that beat was that I had forgotten about it! I originally sent it to 9 Milli Major, after I met him in the studio the year before. I sent him some beats and unknown to me he passed them to H. When I got a copy of Street Crime UK I was like ‘Oh my God!” it was a tune!

I started getting love and I now think it’s one of the best Grime tunes of 2009 – definitely my biggest vocal. The instrumental (Dutty) is actually coming out on No Hats No Hoods, on Digital and Vinyl. We are just waiting for the remixes to get done first.

Are their plans to work with Big H again?

Definitely man – I’m on ‘Fire & Smoke’ which should be out in a couple of months – I got two or three tunes on there. I keep meaning to send him more beats. I sent him some, but it turned out to be that fake Big H guy on twitter! That guy messaged me and said he wanted beats and that Logan wanted tunes. I sent them, only to see JME and Logan question the guy.

Then everyone clocked it was fake and I was pissed! He actually rang me at two o’clock in the morning, playing my beats down the phone, on a private number! He hasn’t leaked them yet, but if he does he can go ahead. It’s not going to stop the workrate!

On this blog, Logan said you were one to watch in 2010. How does it feel to have Logan co-signing you?

It’s bless man, Logan has been supporting ever since ‘Dutty’ came out. I used to send him tunes – they never got played but he still used to shout me out. One time when Lay-z was one he bigged me up – I was in bed listening going ‘rahh!’

What are your plans for this year – do you have any CD releases coming up?

Right now I just want to raise my profile, release the EP’s and free promo’s and try cement my name in the scene. I want to elevate as a producer and hopefully get some more remix and vocal work.

Why should people download this E.P?

If you’re waiting for the vinyl/digital EP’s to drop, then download the free EP’s in the meantime to keep your taste buds going.

Lastly, any Shouts?

Big up Magic, Logan Sama, Butterz, J Man, K, all the DJ’s and blogs supporting.

Download J Beatz ‘1st Of The Month EP here

Check his Myspace here

Kristian

Logan Sama Interview

February 3, 2010

Host of the only legal Grime radio show in the world, record label owner AND a regular Jim’ll Fix It to Grime MC’s and producers, Logan Sama is Grime’s go to guy. The last quarter of 2009 unfortunately saw his KISS show cut by an hour, in line with the stations’ desire for more playlist airtime.

But it seems even pluralizing radio bosses can’t hold the Essex selector back, as he embarks on some new, exciting projects he hopes will rejuvenate the scene and provide fans with much needed coverage.

We caught up with him for a chat.

Logan, what was your highlight of 2009?

The best thing about 2009 was people being consistent over a long period of time. In a music sense, people were getting music made and getting it released.

Do you think this increase in work rate reflected the audiences’ renewed interest in music?

Yeah I think MC’s have been meeting the demand.

2009 was a year that heralded great commercial success for a handful of Grime MC’s, yet they achieved this without making Grime music. What does this mean for Grime going forward?

In a positive sense you get more people finding out about these artists, where they have come from and what they have previously done. Then, hopefully, you get a trickle-down effect [into the scene] However, there is the other side of it whereby you have weak-minded artists that think the only path they can take towards success is in making stuff [that’s currently popular] that they weren’t making in the first place.

Do you think this reduces longevity and, in some cases, cheapens the ‘worth’ of the Grime scene?

Yeah I think it’s got low longevity to be honest, especially the stuff out now because it’s not particularly adventurous – artistically or musically.

Whilst major label interest continues to influence what music Grime artists’ record, there is an equal reaction fighting it’s allure. What hope do these acts have in reintroducing and popularising the fundamental principles of Grime; hype, innovation and attitude?

I don’t think that the worlds ready to hear their shit to be honest and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

What can you envisage happening then?

[Formulation of] a self sufficient industry that’s independent of the mainstream but people can still make a living from. You can make D‘n’B records without sounding like DJ Marky & LK’s ‘I like it’ and go round the world and make a good living. We have equally qualified artists who have taken years to build up their expertise and their craft.

Who do you see as leading the way against the pull of the mainstream?

Jamie because he has absolutely no fucking interest in it whatsoever. He’s not done any of it and he really doesn’t want to. Everyone else is just focusing on their music.

Elijah and Skilliam are championing a new outlook in Grime, focusing on DJ’s and producers rather than MC’s, who often let their ego muddy the music. Do you welcome this move?

Yeah, they show a different side of Grime and put their personal stamp on what they play as DJ’s, which I think is very important. It’s important because it gives a breadth to the appeal of Grime, especially to people that don’t like MC’s, but appreciate the beats and mixing.

To be honest, the more DJ’s we have representing different sounds and working with producers that they like, the better. Terror Danjah and Swindle hadn’t put out a tremendous amount of beats and music in 2009 and audiences weren’t really hearing a lot of their stuff. However, working with Butterz has opened doors for them because as producers, they are getting highlighted whereas in my show for example, they get lost in the mix.

I have a show which has to cover across the board and my main aim to play the most popular stuff alongside the most appealing stuff. DJ’s on the pirate circuit can focus on one avenue of Grime, which is healthy for the scene.

Some argue that Grime is dead and that the music made during Grime’s ‘golden era’ is not being made now. Is it evolution, or is it economics?

I don’t think the sound has changed, it has just widened. Music as an entity changes based on the questions asked of it by the consumer. If it was still rewarding to make beats and spit over them on radio, not just financially but status-wise, then people would be doing that a lot more. But, the focus has come away from that now.

That is one of the main reasons as to why there aren’t many Grime DJ’s anymore -it’s just not rewarding enough, and people think Grime DJ’s are somehow lesser than other DJ’s who may even be technically inferior.

Is that something you have faced?

I see a lot of guys getting bookings, from other scenes. When I got my KISS show, my vision as a professional DJ was based upon going to raves where you’d have Tim Westwood playing hiphop and Double D or Goldfinger playing dancehall. I would therefore, in the same way, go to those events and play a Grime set. That’s how I imagined it.

Obviously that never really materialised even though this genre of music is still going strong in terms of producing well-known artists and well known tracks. Instead, we’ve seen a rise in budget DJ’s that play everything but stand for nothing and that’s across the board – generic urban nights to trendy Shoreditch nights, where people are the flavour of the fucking month playing uninspired selections.

Going back to the evolution of the Grime sound, you said earlier that the consumer dictates where the sound goes. Therefore, in your opinion, was it ever a conscious decision by producers and MC’s that saw what was going on Stateside, to adapt their sound and tie in with that market?

I think it’s subtle and slow. If you are an MC with a microphone, you will want to say more stuff and work on your technical ability to ensure you’re better than the other MC’s out there. That became quite important in 2005 – 2006 whereby flows and lyricism became prominent and guys spitting for reloads were looked down upon a bit.

At the same time, when the mixtape thing became popular, there was a big lack of live events. Now, live events are restricted to people turning up and doing P.A’s of their singles. So, like I said, the reward for some of the skills people had and practiced, is not there anymore.

The five MC’s that are rated for reloads now are the ones that were doing it back then. D Double E is the reload guy and will always be rated for that. But for new guys coming through, I don’t really see the recognition or reward for having that sort of live element. Now, it’s all based around singles which is a wider-based thing. Guys like Chipmunk for example, who have never been involved with that live element, are taking the culture with them [into the mainstream] and I think it’s good. I really do. In Chipmunk’s case he is a positive young man and works hard.

As a Grime MC, those live skills are not respected by wider audiences, and I don’t know why that is. It might be fault of our own because we’ve not let people understand how important those things are and allowed them to die but, at the end of the day, guys like Spyro who are fantastic technical DJ’s are not getting the rewards for their skill.



Which is crazy when you consider how many parallels there are between Grime and Dancehall. In Jamaica they have festivals with massive crowds…

Yeah, but that is the cultural backbone which has taken many years to develop. You have to remember Grime is only 6-7 years old.

Over those 6-7 years do you feel the press has represented Grime fairly?

I don’t think the press has made enough of it. Elijah and I had an amusing conversation about this the other day concerning Grime DJ’s in the press. Look at any other scene and the press will write about anyone if they are flavour of the month.

When you try and get something about Grime into a publication they’re like ‘What’s the catch? What’s the story?’ and it’s hypocritical. What’s the story about Ibiza this year? Or another DJ that’s playing the same tunes in Shoreditch or Yo-Yo’s that everyone else is playing already?

All they have over us is the right press officer [but] if you are good at what you do, people will want to read about it! That’s how music journalism should work. Your ‘story’ has nothing to do with your talent and it’s up to the journalist to find it.

You’ve said that Grime is a real meritocracy in that there are no proven ‘formulas’ and that experimentation within the scene is always high – in both music and media. You think this is still the case?

If you are hot, people will discover you. People talk about knowing this person or that person, or being in certain circles, but really, if you get into the real world of music, because it’s all so structured and there is a network there, it is all about talent.

Try and become a big D‘n’B MC without being brought in by the three main big promoters and five big DJ’s co-signing you. It’s really locked down tight! Whereas if you do Grime music, people gravitate towards you – no one gives a shit where anybody’s from. If you’re doing stuff people like, then you’ll get noticed. I think Grime is THE most open genre at the moment.

How did you take the news when KISS first announced the 1 hour cut to your show?

You can’t do anything about it so I immediately thought about what I could do to make things work, rather than getting pissed off about it. It was a wake-up call for me because I had become a bit complacent – happy to do my radio show and not any other stuff that I could have been doing.

Were you surprised with the amount of support you received?

Yeah man, all the people online got noticed by the management and it was discussed. It was great, but the seeds had already been planted. We’ll see what happens going forwards.

Last year you debated with MistaJam over Twitter, concerning Grime’s lack of coverage and reference on mainstream radio and other media channels. Could you clarify what you said for those that missed it because I think it was an interesting point…

I think there are numerous platforms, not just 1xtra, where people could be made more aware of the fact that these stars are coming from Grime. I felt that 1xtra was one of the places where Grime wasn’t being promoted. It’s subtle and I don’t think it was intentional on their behalf, but they had a jingle on [Mista Jam’s] radio show where it said what music he played and that didn’t include ‘Grime’ – even though the jingles were Tinchy Stryder and Chipmunk.

That’s important because it erases ‘Grime’ from the subconscious of people listening to it. If it’s not there, it’s easy to forget it.

Trim said in an interview a while ago that even the word ‘Grime’ registers negative expectations and it’s hard for artists to rise above them. Do you think there is any truth in that?

I don’t think that’s true because so many people have come from it and have done really well. But like I said, achievements in Grime are looked down upon and not really acknowledged. It’s like ‘ok you’ve done that, now come and do some real stuff.’

What do you think is the cause for that lack of respect?

The music and the image we put out isn’t professional – all that cussin’, bickering, misbehaving and unreliability undermines the huge amounts of creativity and hard work people in this scene put in. We fail on a bunch of superficial principles that the rest of the music industry base themselves on.

Your label Earth 616 has gone rather quiet recently, after releasing three vinyl EP’s last year. What happened and will we see more releases this year?

They didn’t sell a lot of units and cost me a shit load of money – so much so that it took four months for me to recover my costs. Financially it was unstable. I will be putting out more stuff in the next couple of months but it will be based on an entirely different business model. I’m still trying to confirm artists for that, but [in the meantime] I’m doing a couple of digital releases, both of which are vocal cuts.

What projects you are working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on getting the Sharky Major and the B-Live & Spyda tunes out because they’re hot tunes and I want to see them out before they disappear off the face of the Earth. Both are likely to be released at the start of March.

I’m also working with some of the lesser known artists who can’t get their stuff out properly and end up giving it away for free. I want to help those people.

The last mix you made available for download was your birthday one, which was very well received by fans. Have you got any more up your sleeve?

I’m going to try and do a bi-monthly mix that people can buy on iTunes, if I can sort out the legalities of it. It won’t be free, but it will be a Logan mixtape available for a couple of quid featuring exclusive freestyles and what’s hot at the moment.

Any plans for another Nike One Away project?

Not at this moment in time. I’d love to do that again but it means going into the studio and holding everyone at gunpoint until they finish their bars!

Break down what that whole recording process was like…

I spent a lot of time – about two weeks in total – sitting in studios with people until they did their tune.

Name a personal highlight from that time?

I wrote Skeptas’ ‘I Spy’ dubplate which was cool! And getting a Newham Generals dub is always fun too…

What was your favourite dub on there?

Erm…Murked again. That was sick. Battle riddim was also…

Listening back to your old mixes you used to drop a fair bit of Dancehall in there, but not so much anymore. Why?

My attention has just drifted away and I’ve not noticed as many big records as I had done. I’m a bit out of touch now.

Last but by no means least do you have any tips for this year?

Producer wise – J Beatz and Nuklea. MC wise I’d like to see Scruface do stuff this year.

Kristian

Interview with Knife of Knife & Packer

November 9, 2009

Last Christmas, my girlfriend bought me a year’s subscription to Private Eye. I quickly became a fan of its brilliant writing, spicy exposes and most of all, one of its cartoons – a colourful strip called ‘It’s Grim Up North London’- written by a magnanimous duo called Knife & Packer.

Based around two Islingtonites called ‘Quin and Jez, ‘Grim’ is a witty pastiche of North London’s fluffy middle class, who, for a number of years, have flourished under New Labour’s tutelage, propagating Pesto in the process.

Prescott’s bloated assertion that ‘Everybody’s middle class now’ way back in 1997 is lampooned in its series of cheeky sketches and surreal situations.

As Private Eye celebrates something of a cultural resurgence after the recent Carter-Ruck affair, we thought we’d talk to Knife of Knife & Packer (real name – Duncan McCoshan) about Islington, working for the ‘Eye and most importantly, what the future has in store for ‘Quin and Jez.

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Duncan McCoshan & Jem Packer

So, who are Knife & Packer and what do you do?

Knife & Packer are Jem Packer and me, Duncan McCoshan. I do the drawing and Jem does the writing, although that’s only become a clear definition in the last six months to a year really. We both come up with ideas but Jem comes up with them more now. We’ve been working quite a lot on children’s books.

How did you both meet and how did you start working together?

We met through a friend – a flatmate of mine. His brother was up in Edinburgh with Jem, billed as a double act called Dallas & Packer at the festival. This was back in the 90’s. Jem had done some comedy writing for things like Week Ending, and I had given up a job at a bookshop. We were both looking around for work. I had sent in some gags to the Spectator and Michael Heath had taken a couple of those, but we were both looking for things to do and we kind of pulled our resources together to see what we could come up with.

In fact ‘Grim’ was one of the first things we did. We had tried three or four ideas before then, but that was the first one that stuck. So we kind of got lucky early.

‘It’s Grim Up North London’ your monthly strip published in Private Eye, is a fantastically sarcastic take on Islington’s trendy contingent. What inspired you to start writing it?

Well we were both living in Islington at the time. I did a gag for the New Statesman and it was a ‘Grim’ type setting. [There was] a guy sat at a desk with his wife running in saying ‘Sainsbury’s are out of pesto!’ and the caption was ‘It’s Grim Up North London.’ I think Jem’s brother bought it [from us] and put it on his wall. [Jem and I] were both looking at it and thought ‘maybe that could work as a strip!’ So from then, the characters were almost right first time, and oddly enough, they actually look like us! I did the first one and my wife said ‘that’s you and Jem isn’t it?’ I said ‘No! No!…have your latte and shut up!’

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Used courtesy of Private Eye. All Rights Reserved.

Did you feel at odds with your old locals?

With the Islington lot? No not really. Jem was born and brought up in Islington -he went to a local school [and] he’s got a lot of old Islington in his blood. He remembers useful shops, instead of Estate Agents and Shisha boutiques.

We all partake in it, but like to think we are standing outside of it a bit. Our ‘Grim’ book ‘Better Latte Than Never’, came out in 2001 and was a compilation of the first 100 strips or so. A lot of [the references] aromatherapy, coffee, etc has become mainstream now. At the time it was new and probably a bit of a New Labour thing.

It’s interesting you say that, do you think that Quin and Jez are significant of a class that has flourished under New Labour?

Yes I think it definitely is. It’s true that in the first strip I think we quoted them as ‘New Labour Cronies’ and I think that’s why it tickled those at the ‘Eye. That Blair and Brown meeting at Granita put a stamp on it from the word go really.

Political, social and economic factors mean that culturally, we are seeing an end to the fluffy, consumerist lifestyle ‘Quin and Jez are representative of. Do you ever see a point where you may have to kill them off?

Haha! What Conan Doyle style with them wrestling a very large aubergine and falling over the Reichenbach falls?! Erm, maybe yeah, unless of course they become Cameronised. I don’t know, it depends how you work it – look at [Kerber’s] Supermodels (another strip in Private Eye). The whole Supermodel thing is dead, but Neil Kerber has been very clever and kept it going. Now, it’s more of a celebrity strip really.

I’ve considered putting ‘Quin and Jez in a retirement home, but there are things like the Olympics coming up – which will be good for us. We did some gags about ‘Quin running for mayor to coincide with the first mayoral election. [Jez and Quin] knock on a local’s door and the local says ‘well for starters they’ve closed the day care centre and opened up a coffee shop. The kid’s footie pitch is now a tennis court, and the Prince Alfred pub’s been gutted and turned into yuppie flats.” ‘Quin says “Tremendous I’m your man vote for me! I’ll ensure these great reforms continue!”

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Used courtesy of Private Eye. All Rights Reserved.

What’s the creative process behind the strips?

We’ll come up with a list of ideas – 12-14 at a time – and we’ll mull them over. Jem will instigate them and we’ll push them back and forth between us, adding a line here or a gag there, before we send them in. Ian (Hislop) goes through them and we get a phone call back from them saying which ones they want.

How do you find working for the Private Eye?

Very good. They’re great to work for. They always come back to us quickly – we’re never waiting around. We submit the artwork every two weeks – usually on Thursday evenings for Friday. We used to go into the [Private Eye] office, but we just email it in now. It’s a nice working atmosphere [although] I’m sure we only see the tip of the iceberg, as it were [and] they’re all paddling like mad under the water! You like that metaphor!? Paddling icebergs?!

Are there any illustrators that inform your artistic style?

I’ve always liked Ronald Searle – he’s an influence although you probably wouldn’t see it in my style. All kinds of things really. A marvellous cartoonist called Kliban, he’s a fantastic cartoonist who’s most well known for his cat calendars [even though] most of his stuff wasn’t at all like that. [It was] much more surreal stuff from the Seventies.

With ‘Grim’ I think there is an affinity to be found between the character constructs and the work of writers like Charlie Brooker. Do you recognise that at all?

Yes actually Jem has read quite a lot of Charlie Brooker’s stuff. We like his writing and his take on things really. Definitely. People like Chris Morris, Partridge, Brass Eye, all of that – it’s spot on. I think we have similar targets. The preposterous and the pompous…
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Used courtesy of Private Eye. All Rights Reserved.

That ‘hub’ of writers has a very specific style. Would you say your work is of the same school?

Yeah, maybe. I hadn’t thought of it in that way. Brooker’s about 10 years younger than me, but it’s probably true actually…interesting. A lot of Islington doesn’t seem very ‘real’ – the old and the new. We like to go to the old pubs and tend to shun the Farmer’s Markets. It’s a weird thing but I certainly wouldn’t like to live in a sink estate somewhere.

What do you make of the recent ‘Carter Fuck vs. Private Eye’ episode and does it signal a cultural and political resurgence for the paper?

I think they’ve had a very good 5-10 years. Ian has been quite shrewd. Through Have I Got News For You he’s become the recognisable face of Private Eye and the magazine is known by a lot more people because of it. I think the whole MP’s expenses thing was an absolute goldmine for them.

I think they’ve taken on more of a ‘Paul Foot’ kind of campaigning journalism. We don’t know the machinations of what’s going on at the ‘Eye, but things like [MP’s Expenses] show they are making a conscious effort. With that Carter Ruck business, Hislop is very passionate about freedom of the press and so the ‘Eye will always carry a banner for that.

What advice could you give to aspiring illustrators or cartoonists?

Advice? Crikey! I think they should just send stuff in. We just hit the right note at the right time. Just send stuff out there.

Anything you’d like to plug?

Buy our books! If you have children between 7 and 9, definitely! And keep buying Private Eye.

Many thanks to Duncan for the interview.

Visit Knife & Packer’s Website, and buy their books here.

Kristian

Martin Clark (Blackdown) Appreciation

October 2, 2009

Martin Clark is one of this country’s most underrated music journalists. He has written for The Guardian, Jockey Slut and Pitchfork Media, and has almost single-handedly intellectualised the Dubstep scene by writing in depth about its rhythms, production techniques and style patterns.

As half of Dubstep production outfit Dusk & Blackdown and resident DJ on underground staple Rinse FM, Clark has a unique and participatory insight into his subject matter. His blog, Blackdown Soundboy is packed with quality articles, interviews and insights from the Dubstep, Grime and Funky scenes – a ‘must favourite’ for any self-respecting fan of the aforementioned genres. Recent highlights include an extensive interview with the bastion of Funky, Marcus Nasty and an interesting piece on Funky re-fixes of garage classics.

Here though, is an abridged version of a candid interview he conducted with Wiley way back in 2003, which can be found in full here. It’s an absolute favourite of mine; frank, charming and to the point…Which is Clark all over.

Enjoy.

Wiley is the biggest MC in East London. In any bit of London for that matter. He’s the man who brought Dizzee Rascal and his Roll Deep Entourage through, who re-invented garage with a hip hop twist via his “Eskimo” and the “Ice Rink” riddims. The man who added the Orient and took away the beats with “devil mixes.” The man of many lyrical beefs. The man with the string-lead, glacial, riddim-not-track musical vision. On the release of “Ground Zero,” one of his very strongest riddims to date, Hyperdub caught up with Wiley …

Martin Clark: How did Eski Dance come about?

Wiley: One day I just wanted to do a rave innit? I thought of the name and went to Mix It Up promotions and did it with them. We had the first, the second, the third and it’s going well. We’re on our fifth one now. We just tried to get all the people in the scene under one roof.

M: And what is that scene?

W: Some people call it grime, grimey or whatever it’s called. But I call my sound “eski beat.” That’s what I call it and everyone else can call their sound whatever they want. So people who make similar music to me, it will go under that anyway.

M: So who else is on your wavelength?

W: Very few. Dizzee. Jammer, Kano from NASTY. TNT. There’s a couple of people who see the vision. There’s many more but they’re the ones I see on a regular basis. Danny Weed, Target, Louie White and Bigga too.

M: So is it a new UK form of hip hop?

W: Yeah it is but it hasn’t been called that yet. But it is very similar because everyone writes their beats, everyone writes their songs, it’s rapping but English. That’s the only difference. People are just talking about their lives.

The other side of it is the MCs. Some MCs are big but they can’t write songs. They haven’t made the conversion from MC to artist. That’s why some of them are still just MCs. Once you make the conversion and start writing about your feelings and all things like that you make it real for yourself. You gotta make the conversion.

M: Tell me about the sounds that you use…

W: Yeah I’ve got a few more plug-ins now. But I use whatever my ear catches innit. I flick through and then play whatever I want to play with it. I’ll play melodies. A lot of people don’t think I make my tunes but I’ve made everything. I have done tunes where I didn’t engineer but whatever happens I always play what I want in. That’s why I call myself a producer. I mix it all down and do it all myself right now. I’m just trying to press on and get further and further in my career.

M: Why do you use sounds that no one else would use?

W: Exactly, exactly: sounds people would think that’re weak, or that’s anything. But I just hear things. I play it and it just forms together innit. It’s like a gift you know that? When I sit down I don’t copy nothing, as such. I don’t try and base my music around anything. Ideas just come in my head and I play them.

M: There’s a big Oriental feeling to them…

W: I used to watch a lot of Kung Fu films. I just like the idea of the Oriental thing. I started that idea, then I stopped it and then went back to it. It just something I like. I like Chinese music. I like Greek music. I’ve been buying loads of kinds of music: Greek, Chinese, African. I just went to some place called Sterns? It sells world music and I bought loads of stuff there. I’ll take it back and sometimes I’ll sample it, sometimes loop it, or take parts and put them in different places. I do all different bits to try and get the finished thing.

M: That’s strange to hear you’re sampling because a lot of your tunes have sounded distinctive and related because the strings seem to come from a similar source or module…

W: I like orchestras innit. I listen to a lot of that. If I flick through a module and hear anything orchestral I might go in that direction. Though on another day I might go in another Oriental direction. I go in different directions every time I start.

M: So how did the idea for the two Ice Rink vocal 12″s come about?

W: What it was that I made that thing quickly and vocalled it myself. It’s going to be on my album – I’ve got a song on it. One day I decided to let other people do versions to get their names big. There’s loads of different ones – I only put out those two vinyl – but I’ve got all the best MCs on it. If it becomes a single for my album I’ll put them out. There’s a version by Flirta D, he’s done a good one. He’s been around for ages but he’s here now, noticed now.

I like him, he’s one of my favourites. Kano, he’s one of my favourites. Crazy Titch, his one didn’t come out. There will probably be two more parts before I bring out the CD. Plus I’ve got the “War.” I’ve got loads of mix CDs. Once called “Creeper Vol 1” coming out soon. Tinchy Stryder, he’s got one called “The Takeover”. Roll Deep Regular CD we’re doing. All three of them will be done very soon. On Creeper it’s little snippets of some tunes from my album and other stuff, freestyles. Tinchy’s is the same. Roll Deep’s is the whole Roll Deep Crew, everyone, working together to get the Roll Deep vibe going again.

M: That’s the funniest thing, because your 12″s are the biggest on road, but no one’s got them on dub…

W: They’re about. I’ve even got a back catalogue of stuff that never came out. or it came out and it wasn’t mixed down properly. But it’s gonna carry on, it’s not gonna stop.

M: How did the idea for the beatless “devil mixes” come about?

W: Nah it’s not “devil mix” you know? I called it that because it sounded evil to me innit. But I don’t call it “devil mix” anymore because when I started calling it that I started to get lots of bad luck, if you understand. I called it that because it sounded evil but really, why didn’t I call it “god mix” then? Because I don’t believe in the devil. The more and the more you say his name, believe it or not, he’ll come closer to you. And that is the truth, I swear I am not joking. “Bass mix” I call them now, cos it’s just bass. The devil mix brought me too much luck. I was selling the devil mix of Eskimo and they were selling so fast. I bought stuff with the money, bought a car and crashed it. So it just turned me off.

M: It’s an obvious thing to do – take the beats out of the tune – but in practice no one dares to do it. Why did you just go “fuck it?”

W: Cos I just did. I like bass innit. Obviously my dad used to be on a soundsystem, it used to be all about bass. You used to get parts of the tune that were all dubbed out. Just bass running and then the beat coming back in. So the ideas were all there but I decided to just take the beats out and just leave it and MC on it and it worked.

M: Who’s on the Eskimo vocal mix?

W: It’s being done now, but we did have one already but I’ve re-done it because it had some different people on it. I just wanted to keep it straight cos it had a bit here, and then another bit there.

M: Is like that the amazing “Eskimo (Chubby Dread vocal special)” with you, Dizzee and more?

W: Exactly. That was a special but people started to like that. I was going to do it like that but then I changed my mind, because it’s so old I didn’t want to do it. My single is going to be “What Do You Call It” which is on the “Igloo” rhythm. I done it ages ago, before “War.” It goes “what do you call it?/garage?/what do you call it?/urban? 2step?”

It’s explaining about how we started doing garage and then they started turning their back to us. Pushing us away, trying to say we’re ruining the scene and all that.

M: Who’s “they?”

W: A few people, they know who they are.

M: Media people or garage industry people?

W: A few people in the industry, the big people in garage, they were blaming the sound because they think it makes people fight or get shot. Whatever they thought, they tried to associate it with that. But we’ve had four Eskimo Dances and no one’s died or nothing. That proves it weren’t nothing to do with me. We’ve moved on and they can’t say it’s anything to do with me because all I do I MC and do the music. If someone’s got a feud with someone and they want to shoot them then that is going to happen with or without us.

M: So when you’re MCing, whatever lyrics you say, it makes no difference?

W: Erm not really. What I say – I can’t talk for everyone else, I say what I say – I don’t actually go out there and say “Oh yeah, hello, I’m going to shoot you with a gun… I’m this… I’m that.” That’s not really me. I just go up there and say lyrics. My lyrics aren’t really like that, so they can’t associate me with it.

M: What was Dizzee like when you first me him?

W: He was like just a little boy from the area. He was like energy, raring to go. He put something back into me that I never had in me at the time. I wasn’t converted to an artist, that’s one thing. And I was just an MC. Listening to him made me convert to an artist, it made me open up my mind that it’s not just about garage. It’s music, just make music. Before that I didn’t have it in me, but I got energy from him. When he was growing up listening to me it was vice versa.

Interview by Martin Clark on 23/10/03
This is the transcript of an interview for Jockey Slut magazine.

Kristian