The man from Wolverhampton talks about Wolftown Records, up and coming releases, UK Runnings, gigs and lots more with interviewer Matt Grant. Hold tight for his chats with Late and another, with the two guys together.
Interviewing artists and attempting to document the hiphop scene is a very rewarding activity for me – secretly I'm hoping in 300 years my name and all my work will be found in a futuristic, yet dusty, archive with lasers (?!) by some historian looking back at the music and culture of this time (going off on a tangent there). I'd say this interview has been one of the most enjoyable for me so far, the reason being is that with this artist you really do feel like you are speaking to a musical intellect – someone who could probably hold their own with Mozart. Sheffield does have a great number of hiphop artists within its hills and this producer in particular stands out as someone who will eventually go onto bigger things… and I don't mean Michelle McManus…. step up Supra…
I'll start by going back to our last interview… since then I personally have gone through stages of being really disillusioned with hip-hop and then getting back into it –a lot of this was down to the heavy involvement I had in a hiphop night. Do you ever get like this given your heavy involvement in the music?
Oh most definitely…I've gone through something very similar not too recently. While this also has to do with getting older, maturing and noticing one's tastes change as one moves forward in life, I also believe it is down to the music itself. I've not been feeling much coming out of the UK at all recently, same with East Coast US rap. I mean, it's got to the point where I don't even want to be associated with ' UK hip-hop' or hip-hop generally any more. I'd say that the scene here is overall backward and out of touch. I can't relate to a lot of things I hear from a content point of view, and as a producer, I can't even listen to it! I just find the fact that a lot of people are still on that same sample stab form of production with the same rhythms disappointing. If it wasn't for Doyen-D introducing me to the massive amount of more underground and independent music from other areas of America , especially the West Coast, and parts of the South, I don't think I'd be listening to much rap at all. I'm not saying there isn't talent in the UK cause without doubt there is, and there is stuff here and there that I really feel, but a lot of it now seems to be outside of the 'UK hip-hop' scene that I guess I used to be a part of. I guess its coming from what used to be the dance kind of end, people like Dizzee Rascal and Wiley, and also from the British Asian scene. Its funny as I suppose those new things/styles/sounds are also kind of fashionable at the moment, but for me, like the West Coast American stuff, that is more like the progressive direction and the direction to be going in, with beats and flows…at least there just the music, rap wise, what I feel right now, and I feel it is healthy too because there is definitely potential for a really individual and distinctive sound developing for the UK …
At the minute we have become swamped with Pop Idols who seem to just be on a paper chase, what motivates you and keeps you creating music?
Well, like anyone who does it I guess for me music is what keeps things going. It's always been there when everything else is falling apart, and it's what helps you maintain when you move though life. This is before and after money. I 'spose like anyone who likes music I'm not looking for money, I'm looking to make some tight-ass music that I love, and I'm going to carry on doing it regardless. On the other hand, you grow up and you have to make your way in the world, so now more than ever I want money! I don't feel bad about saying it because I need to live. We live in the world as it is and you have to support yourself: there is the reality of day to day living. This is why I can't really criticise pop idol people on that level, because they might just be trying to get some money – but, this is the contradiction. Pop idol is the way it is because of the money – its there to make money, not music.
So what you up to now Supra? Give us the lowdown on the material you are working on just now… I hear you are working with Doyen D and Ashbury…
Yes that's right. There are a number of projects I'm involved with right now. First, Doyen and I have got a new LP coming called "Doyen and Supra present Furnace Hill". I'm loving it – it's a change in style a little, but at the same time it's as natural as it's ever been. We're just both on the same level at the moment. That will be out at the end of the summer, it's almost done. We both have tried to come with something different, and I think we've done that, although it feels like just the beginning really, there are a lot of possibilities. We should be following that up with another LP soon after. There's also the new Ashbury LP called "Mourning Sickness". This is a long time coming and is finally coming together- its definitely a progression from the first one and again I wanted to try and distance myself a little bit from the whole trip-hop thing and be a little more progressive. Obviously, rap beats and production styles are still very much my main influence though – because that's the shit! That will also be out at the end of the summer but you'll hopefully know about it when it drops. I've also got a few solo instrumental LP's coming, the first of which 'The Ribbon Series' is ready for release now, but I'm waiting till ÿshbury and a few other things are done before that comes out. I am looking for new artists and producers too, not necessarily rap based, so if you've got some tight shit, send me a CD.
Do you have a release date for the new material?
The "Furnace Hill" LP will be out by August, and same with ÿshbury hopefully. "The Ribbon Series" will be out soon after those two. There's also other releases in the pipeline – there will be full details and clips on the Landscape website.
How do you get your material distributed?
Hopefully by a larger distributor if everything goes to plan, we're stepping things up this time…
You work with hiphop artists and then the more soulful what I would call trip-hop sounding artists like Ashbury – how easy is it to juggle different sounds?
It's pretty easy really. I just make the music I feel, music that I'd like to hear from whatever project it is I'm doing. A lot of the time there is only so much control you can have. Sometimes the music takes you in its direction, which is why I love it because there's so much to discover. You never fully know where you are until it's finished. Obviously you're working within different styles, which does kind of mould what you're doing a little bit, like with arrangements and rhythms. That's why I'll always make instrumental music before and after everything else, as there are fewer constraints upon you as a producer. It's cool though, I like working in different styles as you can experiment easily and you just kind of learn a lot by exploring different directions. That said, my music is fairly similar in sound too, I mean at the moment some of the Ashbury stuff could be rap stuff and some of the rap stuff could be Ashbury stuff…
How do you start creating – Where do the ideas/concepts come from?
It depends. I guess it's like what other people say, they come from all different places. I look at different projects in different ways, so that kind of shapes what concepts and ideas you go for with them. It's like anyone else who creates, I suppose most things come from your everyday experiences of life etc. Plus its music so sometimes it's a drum pattern, or drum sounds or may be just some music I'm messing around with. I don't use very many samples at the moment, so I just play around and let the music come as it wants to. I mean, there are certain sounds and certain moods which I prefer over others, so I guess I do what my natural disposition is.
How does it progress from there? – do you get the rapper and singer to give you an idea of their lyrical content and then come up with a beat or does it work the other way round?
Usually it's a bit of both. Whenever you're working with a vocalist or anyone else for that matter, it's a collaboration, so it's like a circle. I usually come up with the main part of the music first then we'll get together and talk about it and work on it. If it's a song we'll write the vocal melody. Sometimes depending on the song I've got the melody already written, in which case it then depends on the lyrics. It depends on the people you're working with, sometimes the singer will have some lyrics and we'll just mess around until something comes together. Sometimes we'll write the melody and then fit some lyrics to it. With rap, I'll have some rough beats, and then talk about it with the rapper once they have settled on a beat and have some lyrics written. We'll then build the song up from there, making a proper arrangement etc. Like the "Furnace Hill" LP has lots of chorus' and hooks that we worked out later on. I guess you just listen to what a song needs and try to make it sound as good as you can.
What's the expenditure like on production equipment – do you keep updating your tools of the trade or have you got everything you need?
Haha, yea there's always new things to get. I'm still looking to upgrade, as there is always something to get that does something cool. It's an interesting question as I think it depends on the sound you are looking for and what you are doing. It also is difficult because you're really talking about the difference between creativity and the technical aspect of recording. On one hand I don't think that you need to keep updating your equipment, or even have that much to be able to make some really good music. I mean, a guitar on its own, or a tiny little sampler should be enough – music is music and creativity is creativity. But at the same time, without a doubt if you are making music commercially, quality of recordings is just as important as the music itself. And it's because this technical aspect depends on both knowing what to do and having good equipment you kind of need to upgrade to better things – at least that is what I'm finding. At the moment though, I'm happy with my equipment and for the time being have got what I need.
What was the first piece of music making equipment you bought?
The first thing I bought was a tiny Soundlab sampler. It was so small and basic. It was like a DJ tool really, you couldn't do much with it. But its how I started, so like everyone I used to make music by playing around with that and dubbing cassettes. I then upgraded to a little Yamaha SU10 which I still have a lot of respect for. You really don't need anything else with that. And then you're hooked and it's kind of out of your hands…
What was your most recent purchase?
It was actually a bass guitar. Yea I know but you can get some tight ass bass lines out it…
Nah, I can see the appeal of a bass guitar – used to have one myself as it happens! Next question, have you got your own studio?
Yes LSR Studios. We have an Allen & Heath GS3000 (32ch) desk, Mackie monitors, Akai MPC and S3000xl samplers, a few effects/compressors, Korg Synth, and obviously a PC for recording/mastering etc. At the moment we're using Nuendo which I am really happy with – got to shout out my homie Dennis Shinobi for the hook up!..
What's the goal with Landscape? Do you have a clear aim with it? Are you aiming at for Rupert Murdoch status?!
Haha….Well, my goal with Landscape is two fold. On the one hand it's to just keep putting out music I want to hear. It's just an extension of me making music really, and at the end of the day I'm happy just doing that and keeping it small, releasing my own material as I want and in the way I want. But on the other, it has to grow as a label and as a commercial venture – I'd be stupid if I said I didn't want the label to be successful financially. Of course I'd like to keep growing and moving up, which is what I'm planning. I'm older now so I've got to start making some serious moves. I feel I have everything I need though to be able to sit next to Rupert Murdoch.
How much does the Landscape website help you reach out to fans?
As far as I'm concerned the site is perhaps the most important part of the label outside of the music. There is nothing that comes close now as a means of communicating with people on such a scale, and at the end of the day, that is what creative endeavours are about, it's all about communication. That said, it's not been updated for ages because I'm waiting till everything's together before we update…. You know how life is…
Does the music pay the bills? What else do you do to survive?
Not right now. I still live with my parents, which is cool. They really support and help me so I am lucky…. I live like any other young person trying to do music I guess, doing a not so well paid service job – but it's cool and is the lesser of evils. The thing is you do have to live and stand alone. But, I believe that making money isn't something you can count on if you want to do music seriously as an occupation, mainly because the music is itself without sales/financial success. The music itself, in comparison with what else is out there, should be the measure of 'success' or quality, not external associations attached to it – Nick Drake is a topical case in point. But it's hard because it is subjective, I guess it's about how you feel when you listen to it, how it makes you feel. So I'm not an artist or businessman that's going to suck dick in London to get in with a financially stronger label who can say if your music is good or bad –directly or indirectly- without really understanding or having any credible authority to make such a judgement. As far as I'm concerned I stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone of the heads of the major labels. Besides financial reach and all the power that that brings, it's getting to the stage where there is nothing they have above me. Of course it's difficult as again it's a matter of taste. And of course, if someone comes with a vibe and an offer that I was feeling, then we can do business. But as I said, I going to make my music whatever, so it doesn't matter really…
You've been over to the US since our last conversation for UKHH.com, what were you doing out there?
Yea I studied for a year there as part of my degree – I was at Indian University . It was an amazing experience as it would be, and I love Bloomington – the city where I was. But it was eye opening at the same time, and gave me a great insight into America generally, which is telling next to current events. The education system there is unbelievable – I mean, it really is shocking. And so it's not surprising that the events are happening as they are. America as a country is really in a bad way I think. They have major problems that I believe are not ultimately reconcilable. It's a funny place though, basically full of contradictions on all levels…
Did you work with any American emcees out there?
No, I met a few, but wasn't really feeling their style – it was kind of weak… So I was working with one of my best friends out there who is a poet and singer. She wrote the lyrics to the title track from the new ÿshbury LP. I really hope that I get to do an LP with her at some point. Both she and her sister are an inspiration to me. I also knew some people at the Music school there. I was pretty lucky cause the IU music school at Bloomington is considered to be one of, if not the best in the states, so I was around so many amazing musicians – I miss being around them.
My dream is to do a pilgrimage to New York in the name of hiphop; did you do that when over there?
Not when I was over there then, but I've been over to NY before. You should definitely try to get out there; it's an amazing place to visit just generally. I want to do a lot more travelling in the future if I get the chance as I feel it's so important. I would really like to go to different places and do some music projects in each place and see what each place helps me come up with.
Is it true American women love the UK accent?!
Yea they do! Unfortunately, many US women, at least a lot of college girls I met, seem unable to string a sentence together – plus it's really different out there. You just have to get over and see for yourself.
And what's happening in the Sheffield scene at the moment – are there any other artists making waves?
I guess I'm kind of out of the scene here…so I just lay low and do my thing. Of course there's Hoodz: Atcha and Big Critz are on the Furnace Hill LP. Then there's Bungle from the Lost Souls crew, he's on the LP too – we might be doing something with him, Doyen and I might be producing an LP for him. Besides that I'm not really involved.
You used to run a few fanzines, what's the deal with these now?
Yea they were kind of that time in my life. I stopped those when I went to study. Now I'm just doing my music. I still want to write, and will do in the future. I like the idea of writing something dedicated to production, programming and electronic music, especially beat making, as it comes in so many different forms now, from the more up-tempo dance stuff to the gangsta stuff… there just too much stuff out there at the moment you can't listen to everything which is amazing! This is why the internet really is so revolutionary as it makes available so many things which were inaccessible before. On a side note here I also think the internet is the one thing in the world at the moment that shows that hope is not something that is futile. It is reassuring to see so much co-operation, help and support between people made possible by the web.
Finally, would you 'sell out'? If Gareth Gates offered you a million to help him get back on track would you do it?
Of course I would, wouldn't you? But I don't think I could sell out in the way you mean –although sometimes I wish I could. All I can do is make the music I feel, whatever that is. No one in their right mind would turn down big money no matter who its from –Gareth Gates or Will Young. But, its like Pop Idol, Gareth Gates might be looking to get back on track in terms of celebrity and music sales, which does not equate to making some good music. This is why I don't think I could sell out like that as I can't change the music I like to make. That's as it is and is kind of out of my hands. That can't be influenced like that. But if someone is genuinely feeling what I'm doing and what I like too, and have their business together, then I'll worked with them. I guess all you can do is stay true to yourself and do what your heart tells you. Nothing else really matters after that, not money or fame or whatever as all that just comes and goes. The thing is, life being what it is, this is easier said than done.