The crew spent a lot of time giving me some jam packed answers about releases past and present, being indy, the UK scene and production.
First off, tell us a little about your label 'Deprogrammed'. How long has that been going and what's the manefesto?
Jonez – Well mate, after "Spare A Little Change…" was released, Blood decided that the time had come to lay down some foundations for what would be an independent productions company. The umbrella that is Deprogrammed productions is Bloods baby that we're all releasing music under. Blood makes the beats, we all drop the rhymes and regardless of whether or not some head honcho sitting at a corporate table decides to give us the chance we think we deserve we'll be knocking out tunes through Depro' from now til the cows come home.
In regards to the so-called "Manifesto" well, we make dope Hip Hop and that's as far as it goes really. People often assume theirs some grandiose vision behind the concept of Deprogrammed but its ultimately open for interpretation. I personally see it as an attempted liberation from the subjectivity of perception. Trying to see this society, the power structures within it and the interactions between entities and the influences they have, for what they really are, rather than accepting the censored version that we all we get forced fed via the chaps at the top trying to maintain the status quo. But that's just me. Its about that and much more, its about self-awareness, its about expression, its about honesty, its about reality, its about introspection. It's about making music that moves, angers, delights and inspires. Take your pick mate.
Being on your own label; Total freedom but little weight against the big guns. What needs to happen on the independent tip to make some significant noise?
Blood - Basically on our current level, we're never gonna make "big" noise. Right now we're broke, and in the independent game, and in the music industry world wide, but especially in the independent game, money is power. So were looking for a deal with a label that work on a bigger scale to ourselves, or just some heavy financial backing. At the moment we're kinda working as a simple independent label, but just the amount of work involved says to me, that I don't wanna run a label. I wanna be an artist and it's a shit load of work trying to do both, one element has to suffer.
When did you start getting serious about making things happen with your music? Straight out of school into the lab?
Jalporte - Yeah pretty much, we all pretty much started to take the music more seriously in college. We had all been writing for years before that, but in collage when we all became friends it sort of took on more of a form with regards to the music. We left collage and the natural progressive evolution of things was to take it into the studio, so that's what we did and along came "Spare A Little Change".
Which artists did you look up to at the time as a mold or role model for who you wanted to become?
Fierce – It sounds cliché, I know, but the reason I started writing was for my own personal expression, a negotiation of my own identity; I don't want to be or be like anybody else, but I'm trying hard to be the best person I can be. Though it's my chosen medium, Hip Hop certainly isn't the be-all and end-all for me, and I think as far as performers go I'd like to have the presence of Freddie Mercury or Michael Jackson – both rocked the stage better than I've ever seen an MC do it.
Blood - I never had role models for who I wanted to become, because all I ever wanted to be was myself, but I had idols in the sense of artists who I truly felt and respected. The main one really was Tupac Shakur. Never has an MC delivered so passionately behind the mic or wrote with such passion and energy. Tupac was just raw, uncut. We can all see that he contradicted himself as the years passed, but that's just human, and the only reason those contradictions are there for us all to see is down to Tupac's raw honesty and openness on the mic. No other MC has touched me like that man.
Jalporte – Always in Hip-hop my idol is Jeru Da Damaja. Wu-Tang started me off in Hip-hop though, and Redman was always on my headphones. For years I really wanted to flow like GZA on the Liquid swords album with the content of Wrath Of The Math. I found Redman so entertaining. I used to listen to 'Dare Iz A Darkside' like three times a night before I went to sleep when I was in school. After that Can-I-bus who I feel is the best rhymer on the planet.
Jonez – Does it go without saying that I don't want to fit the mould of any artist but rather want to try and cultivate what Simon Jones the MC is going to be? Maybe not. But at the time of Blood and myself creating "Spare A Little Change.." it was all about the great late Mr Shakur. Now, I know there's nuff heads that don't see the appeal and I can sympathize with many of their criticisms but for me there was something so undeniably honest and personal, dark and emotional, passionate and educated about Tupac that to this day I still hold him as the biggest influence on me as an MC. Apart from that I was definitely feeling where Guru of Gangstarr was coming from and since then my favorite acts would have to be Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Dead Prez, Sage Francis and Atmosphere. I think that artistically no one has impressed me as much as Slug from Atmosphere. His lyrics are mad creative, work on so many levels and the ideas and emotions he conveys blow me away. Thought Sevens Travels was wack though.
How'd you evaluate the success of 'Spare A Little Change'? Did everything go to plan and how you hoped for it to?
Jonez – Yeah man, without doubt. We're still shifting units of it now and although the finer details of how smooth it all went slip my wig slightly I don't think we could have asked a lot more from it. Despite it being a pretty amateur affair people seemed to dig it enough to get us a bit of positive recognition and from that platform we've been able to tour England, step to Germany and shall continue to build from the foundations of those humble beginnings. Its all about progression though and when I listen back to what I was like as an MC then, well… I'm just looking forward to getting Children of the Water out there. The contrast is crazy.
Blood – I see it as a big success, not in an industry sense, but in a personal sense. We're blatantly capable of bigger and better things now, and when we listen back to it we can see its old and amateur, but surprisingly enough a lot of people really felt it and bought it, so it was just a good all round introduction into the scene and good experience in promoting and selling records. It was raw too, we hadn't a clue about the industry or what we were competing with, but we just made it out of raw love for the music.
You're currently pushing the LP 'Friends of The Family'. Who's on there and what are they saying? Any gig dates we need to check out for?
Fierce – There's a load of quality MCs from the UK scene on Friends of the Family, with 'political' and observational themes from AMMO, Stylah, Grand Iris and Skeptic, some more personal tunes from Egocentrik and Madrox, and some hard spitting from Blood and Jonez, Doyen D and The Gnow. The impressive range of beats is produced exclusively by Alex Blood, though it must be considered that the production on this album shows the potential, rather than the extent, of Blood's creative and technical ability. We're now merging promotion for Friends of the Family with that of Blood's debut solo EP, so look out for us at Unity Day in Leeds, The Vic Inn (Derby) and for any more details check out Deprogrammed.co.uk
How finished is the 'Children Of Water' LP? What vibe is that bringing and what are some of the issues in focus?
Fierce - Children of the Water is written and recorded, but we're currently raising money for manufacture and promotional work. The album has an incredibly mixed vibe – the production is consistently top quality, the freshest sounds I've heard from the UK. Lyrically this is also a very diverse album: there are some positive, upbeat vibes, some darker introspective vibes, some socially constructive and destructive vibes, and some fresh soulful vibes. Delivery also varies considerably; there's Jalporte rocking steady, quirky flows, Jonezy's intense delivery and emotional flavour, Blood and Fierce trying out some harmonic variation in places and of course we have a couple of singers on there too to bring a more melodic taste to the tracks. We also have the cheeky sounds of Perry Jigga, and Fierce knocking out some spoken word to flip the style.
Jonez – Yeah man, I have no qualms in expressing how proud I am of this album. Bloods done a fantastic job with the production, creating a nice range of moods from up tempo dramatics, to head nodding party tracks, to beautifully composed melodic pieces that Phil Collins woulda been chuffed with. Word to Phil. On a lyrical tip there's reflective introspective type shit about regrets, personal development, love, life and laughter. Then we've got more observational style tracks that deal with the irrationalities that sit pretty in this contemporary consumer Capitalist society of ours. We've all bust out a solo track, there's Blood & Jonez tracks, Crew tracks and a few rowdy battle rhymes to keep the respective heads happy.
Jalporte – The vibe is a huge mixture, listening back to the material its going to be a product that has a track for all emotions. It's pretty much the complete spectrum of all human emotions.
Who are you fav political and socially aware artists in hip-hop or otherwise?
Fierce – I like music that I can relate to; I like honesty, soul and passion, something fresh and maybe even intelligent, but it doesn't have to be social or political.
Jalporte - Jeru obviously, a bit later I got well into Gangstarr. Mos Def was always someone who struck me was really on point, but I was gutted he only ever did one release. Most people may not agree but in his later stuff Can-I-Bus has started to ask more questions with regards to society. He's slowly shifting away from battling anyone he comes across. Outside of Hip-hop I think people should go back and listen to the album Parklife (Blur) and Definitely Maybe (Oasis) because both are beautiful social commentaries. To a certain degree in spirit Pink Floyd were also quite meaningful with regards to the times, especially 'The Wall' albums.
Jonez – On a Hip Hop tip its gotta be Public Enemy, Dead Prez, Talib Kweli and KRS-One to mention a few and even though he's usually on some personal shit both Makeshift Patriot and Hey Bobby by Sage Francis are superb. But my favorite and most influential political musicians are without doubt the Levellers. Don't knock that shit until you've paid some attentive listens to A Weapon Called The Word and Leveling the Land. Then its all about Rage Against the Machine mate, Zach De La Rocha knows how to lace some funked out bass with a passionate verse and that's the truth. Word To Mr Dylan and Mr Marley as well. All about the Bobs.
Blood - For me I don't check music for its political or social content, for me its all about the passion and heart. Tupac was very socially aware and intelligent, but as I said my reasons for respecting him lie in his heart. If I had to pick someone in that category I'd say Jonezy.
Are you feeling the likes of GM Baby and The Unpeople? Perhaps a collaborative 'Fuck Mr Blair' track in the near future?
Blood - Yo man, I don't hate Mr Blair, and I certainly wouldn't waste my time writing a track displaying my hatred for him. He does his job, and he just happens to be the poster boy for a fucked up government
Fierce - Perhaps, but it's unlikely. I've already expressed myself with something along similar lines, now I want to explore other ideas.
Jonez - Quite assumptuous of you to assume that fucking Tony Blair's high on our agenda isn't it? In the ass maybe… ha ha. Shit, erm. But yeah fuck him. There does appears to be the general assumption that all political Hip Hop is either anti-establishment or on some left wing tip and for good reason when considering the roots of Hip Hop but I'm sure there's numerous middle class suburban heads out there that were pro-war and reckon that Blair's doing a half-decent job. That's not, however, how I feel. It goes without saying that Saddam Hussein was an evil bastard but that's not the point. We didn't go to war with Iraq because Saddam Hussein was an evil bastard so justifying the war on these grounds is problematic. There's many an evil bastard governing various states in this world, there's currently a devastating humanitarian crisis occurring in the Sudan and we're talking fucking genocide, there's a magnificent threat posed to humanity by Global Warming, 2 billion people still live on less than a dollar a day and AIDS is still on the up. I don't see the United States global police force stepping in to solve these issues. Why the fuck is that? I think deep down we all know why. There's no profit in peace is there kids?
Jalporte - If I absolutely had to, it would be more fuck Bush then Blair. But that would be a big push to get me to write a tune about fucking off Bush and Blair. If you have time to write a tune about your hate for Tony Blair then I think you have too much time on your hands. Its election time soon so if you don't like Blair go vote him out, otherwise stop moaning man.
A lot of your production is chilled and incorporates orchestral sounds and vibes. Not feeling the hard hitting Neptunes noise?
Blood - I'm feeling anything that's original and soulful. I love some of the Neptunes shit. I rock the Timberlake album on a regular, but from my point of view as a producer and musician, I write music that my soul sings to me. I'll just sit and play the keys till a melody comes out that I feel. I do tend to use more orchestral and dramatic sounds, such as some hard ass electro vibes, or some grand strings. For me music is atmosphere and mood, not samples and loops. Not to say you cant get some atmospheric sample based production, someone like Baby J has some proper soulful shit going down, he obviously picks his samples carefully and uses them well, but a lot of UK shit is just simple fucking trash. My mum could knock out some of the shit that's out at the moment and she don't even know how to use a computer. Lets see some real musicians playing their melodies and creating original music.
Fierce - Personally, what I think is most important for Hip Hop at the moment is a fresh sound; Blood produces this fresh sound and engineers it to an extremely professional quality. I have my favorites, but it's always a pleasure to work with his beats.
Jonez – Yeah man, who the fucks pushing the production game forward at the moment? Sampled out bangers are all good to an extent but the more emotive and atmospheric flex that you'll get exposed to when playing Children of the Water is definitely the style of production that brings the best out of me lyrically. Blood understands the sound game as well, which is something a lot of producers don't understand. Having an ear for a good tune is one thing but getting down with the sonic range and being able to engineer the sound in a way that's pleasing the mind is another thing altogether.
Jalporte - I think it's a good thing Blood is trying to move away from the more obvious styles of production. Its all starting to sound a little plain at the moment, and until people start branching out in terms of production; production as a whole is not going to go very far anytime soon. I don't mind hard vibes if its for the right type of tune for it.
Who's the dude of the minute on the UK scene and what are your views on the beef burger between Chester P and Mr Evans?
Jonez - I think Hip Hop beef's unnecessary, testosterone fuelled, childishness. I mean, if someone's got good cause to start chucking harsh words about on wax then fair enough but if you've got a real problem with another human being then deal with that shit face to face. It's no one else's business. If you're just on some mission to prove that you're better than the next man then let your proof be in the pudding. Put out some Hip Hop that's better than the next mans. But maybe I'm just not Hip Hop enough to understand these things. As far as who I'm digging on the UK tip, hmm… I'm not fronting when I tell you that my good man Alex Blood has just released a self titled EP that blew my socks off when I first heard that. Internal recommendations aside I'm saying TY, Doyen, Jehst, Skinny Man and on the underground its all about Skeptic, AMMO, Madrox and our boys the Gnostix. Oh yeah, if you haven't done it already go and see Dirtburg live. Heavy.
Blood – Dude of the minute in my eyes, not including us boys, has to be Skinnyman. I really don't like a lot of UK hop hop artists. A lot of UK shit has no integrity and sounds out of date with the climate of the bigger music industry. But a few such as good old Skinny, people like Klashnekoff are really good for the scene; Yogi is really fresh in my eyes too.
In regards to that beef, I think Chester was fair to call him out, if Chester feels he has to name someone and step out then he has the right to, and in my view, as an MC, I personally would see it as my duty to step back to him on wax, and prove my worth. Tommy never did that, and I lost a lot of respect for him. He's weak anyway.
Jalporte – I think if it gets some publicity then fair enough, but the beef is between them and that's where it starts and ends really. Nothing more I need to say on it. The dude of the UK scene hmmm. Well it will always be Roots Manuva first off, love Jehst's first album, and very underrated and needs some props is Doyen D. A guy called Madrox is hot as. Taskforce 'New mic order' was like the first UK album I went out and bought so I always feel their material. Pretty much everyone Jonez named I guess, AMMO, Gnostix, Skinnyman, Dirtburg………
Fierce - Not one person in particular, though I'd like to hear more from Kyza and Yungun; I like Ty's style, and both Blood and Reggimental are heavy MCs who are releasing solo joints in the very near future. I'd really like to do a track with Skinnyman, – hopefully we might be able to hook that up in the near future. Also, Dirtburg are a hot live band that people should look out for.
Any final words?
Fierce - Yeah – I love my folks, and I promise I won't be a bum all my life. Love and respect to the boys who are putting in the hard dedication to this company. Many thanks to you Tony for your generous support. Peace to all the crews: Naked's, Turner's, Depro, GNO, Brudenell, Blessed B, Kool and the Gang, the Burg, Off The Hook, Bhangra Boys, the Jalportes, the Bloods, The Joneses, the Frearsons, the Jiggas, the Roomes, the Smiths. DJ Garry! DJ PhD, Kate Marie, Audrey Lowery, Big Bob, Jen Dolphin. Big up to The Vic Inn, Derby. Many thanks to the heads who have bought our music and support our efforts.
Jonez - Peace to your good self Tony man, appreciate the platform. Respect to those that deserve it and much love to those that aren't afraid to chuck a little around themselves.
Blood - Check the Alex Blood EP out now on Deprogrammed Productions, some fresh solo debut for yo ass
Jalporte - Thanks to the higher power for staying with me. Thanks to all who in small or large parts helped us. Stay out of the matrix."