Lazy Habits took time out for this extensive interview covering their set up, releases, live shows and plans for the future.
First up, could you introduce yourself to our readers who aren't yet aquainted with you?
Yep, I go by the name of Plain James, Sir Lazily… err Lazy Habits! Whatever! Founding member of this here collective. Two pences courtesy of Skin Horse, DJ Itchi, Masdafarai, C Star and Lester Brown. We, along with the likes of Hellbringer, Wandan, Compound, Flutebox and a few more, make up the Lazy Habits Collective.
What's the current line up of the Lazy Habits crew and what input does each member have?
Lazy: Well… I have a pretty worked out an idea of how I want things to sound and the approach I want to use to get there with, and at the end of the day the final word lays with me, but everyone involved brings something individual to the project that keeps it growing. We got 6 core members who are on it 24/7 writing, producing…all that.. then a whole bunch of musicians and rhymers who we work with, as and when, coz we all dig each others stuff. All our collaborations have to come naturally though. We never just get people in for the sake of it.
Right now we normally play out with about 8 of us, including the core; drums, bass, brass, scratches, samples n rhymes. Add to that one of the heaviest beatboxers around, Wandan. We try to take him everywhere, and then drop ins by people like Compound Profound (Untold), Flutebox, etc. Each of which deserve a whole page of praise! Record number so far stands at 13 on stage at one time but the rehearsals for that were just pure jokes..!
Why all the instruments and not just some turntables and a sampler?
Lazy: I was always interested in the difference between live hip hop and your usual DJ/MC shows.. I wanted to try bridge that gap a little by taking the instruments and trying to use them like sampling equipment, manually just looping up sections to give tracks the feel of a sample of a live band but actually having the band mimicking the sample. It sounds so organic and was something everyone was up for exploring.. So it's not your typical band. I mean, you'd be pretty hard pushed to find solos or any of that shit in there, its just not like that.
Lester: Exactly, it's having our own set of organic samples. There is more creative freedom and diversity in the loops and grooves we make too because each element of it can be singled out, refined and put back into the collective mix.
Lazy: I also think having a live band means you can be more versatile live, you can improvise more than just vocally.. I still love doing DJ/MC shows and we do still do them now. I never didn't want to do that.. We're just trying to do something a little different with it.
Itchi: As the Superstar Dj concept wears thin, people want a live show again, and as heads turn towards the indie/rock scene, Lazy Habits bring that full live show to the UK Hip Hop scene. So it's basically more to marvel at. You can't beat a dope live band with its own turntable!
Do you reckon the UK hip hop scene needs to get more inventive when it comes to the music and production?
Lazy: Personally I think it's pretty fresh.. I mean there is no money pushin one tune over another so tracks are more or less judged solely on how good they are, and there are tons of heavy producers doin their thing in the UK, each with their own style and individual approach to beatmaking. People like Raw Dogg, Harry Love, Joe Budah, Lewis Parker, B109 and Braintax, all bringin their own sounds, and to name those few is leaving out too many. I always liked the idea of getting a producer like that to come in and write a beat with the live band.. I wonder what a Harry Love/Lazy Habits beat would sound like, regardless of who spits on it. Also, I guess that's a no (to your question).
Are you feeling the Rawdog group that Taskforce work with now?
Lazy: Of course Louis' got a great band there from front to back, people like Elmore Judd on keys and the heaviest of frontmen in Farma and Chester.. I've been to a few shows, one down in Brighton with Jehst, Mystro and Braintax all sharing the band and doin tracks off '£10 bag'. That was something! This is a band that should be playing sold out shows up and down this country right now and we got nothing but love for them.
How would you describe the general sound of the group and do you see this developing or staying the same?
Lazy: We were doing a show in Leeds a few weeks back and the poster for the night billed us as Lazy Habits – Beats, Rhymes and Brass. That seemed to sit well with everyone so I'll stick with that for now!
Massie: Groove Heavy, Jazzy Hip Hop.
C Star: The sound of the group differs from track to track but a common theme is often the fusion of jazzy horn riffs over hip hop grooves. Dark and atmospheric, loose and subdued, tight and upbeat, whatever! What we try and keep the same is a fresh and diverse approach to making music.
Lazy: With regards to development this is nowhere near what it's going to be. Don't get me wrong coz it's where we want it to be, but we had plans since day one and we slowly introduce them as and where its appropriate, without spreading ourselves too thin. One step at a time..
Itchi: Whilst the main tracks we have down, we also like to keep a freestyle attitude and use improvised breaks and skitz to change the set up and keep the vibe energetic and maybe just a little chaotic at the same time.
What are some of the topics or themes that the vocals touch upon?
Lazy: Everything really, I mean this is a pretty fucked up place and its hard to ignore the repetition of human error on every level, like this would be a nice planet to live on if none of us were here.. So there is a ton of comments there, just the way we see things. There's stuff about us and the things we go through as people, stuff we think everyone goes through, identity, unease and paranoia, all that! And some battle raps for the heads who thought we didn't come like that. I mean shit! There's just too much to write about.
What releases have been dropped so far and what can you tell us about them?
Lazy: We dropped one EP so far… Surface Dirt, four tracks deep, with a little extra thing too. It's got a guest there from Compound Profound on 'Small Screen', and my first self produced effort, a track called 'On My Way' which is just a little different. It's a pretty personal track too. Mood wise the EP is pretty laid back throughout although a little darker lyrically in places. It would have been harder for it to be anything else considering when it was written and recorded…
Anyway, that came out at the end of May 04 and has just about sold out now. Once its gone its gone.. We shifted a bunch, got some nice reviews off the back of it and a bunch of gigs too… We all think it's pretty dope but we grown a lot since then.. They were like the first four tracks we wrote and we recorded it when the crew had only been together a little while… We are halfway through the next one at the moment and absolutely everyone is buzzing about the new material and approaching the studio work with a little history behind us.
Can you name any influences which you and the crew have taken something from to create what you do?
Lazy: I think with so many people involved the influences come form everywhere although perhaps predominantly from Jazz Roots. The importance of the bass and horns to the individual sound mean that their influences shine through quite brightly. Mr Stars (Bass) approach to writing grooves is largely influenced by Jazz and Funk players but we also talk a lot about the use of bass in non-live hip hop in general, while Lester's (Horns) influences include jazz heads like Clarke Terry, John Scofield and Cannonball Adderley, alongside people like Stevie Wonder.
Other influences throughout the collective include Ozo, G Love and The Roots, who all smack it up live, Herbie Hancock, Dj Krush, etc, etc.. We all love music so much this list could be endless but other than the names above, personally the people I got involved in this project influence me the most. I feel lucky to work with them all.
What are some of the artists on these shores which you're rating at the moment?
Lazy: Right now I'm really feeling Sway.. This guy is tearing it up. Roots Manuva is heavy, Kashmere, Foreign Beggers shit. There are a whole heap of artists doing their thing right now and not getting the props they deserve, too many to mention.. Everyone we work with coz we only work with people we really feel.
Skin Horse: The Untold, Triple Heavy, Delegates of Culture.
Lester: Braintax, Skinnyman, Taskforce and Rawdog, Mr. Scruff.
Have you got any projects being worked on and when are they likely to see the light of day?
Lazy: Well there is a ltd 7" planned for July 1st. That's just about done and dusted, then the new EP to follow a month or so later… We still putting some finish touches to some stuff there and want to record a couple more tracks for it too. We'll see what happens.. Either way it's coming on nicely now, slowly but very nicely…
Other than that there is talk of a few things… The Untold's EP (Compound Profound and Dan Shaw) these guys play out with us, Grammaphone, French/German based producer.. Next level stuff, different ish to what's on offer out there right now. Me and Compound worked on a few tracks towards his first release earlier this year in Germany. He's actually over at the moment tho… This guy has a crazy work rate thing going on. Hmmm other stuff…errr! We have also been working on the new Lazy Habits website, coming soon, with tour schedule for the summer, track downloads, etc etc.
How often do you get the opportunity to perform live and what goes down on stage?
Lazy: All the time.. We love playing out.. we tend to do at least a couple of shows a month. Last month we managed to get out to Leeds, Bristol and Manchester. Next month we got Hastings and a couple London shows before we set off on the summer thing. A couple of festivals.. all that.. Am really looking at taking it to Spain too. Probably next year now. It's where I grew up and it looks like we are just about to get a review in a hip hop magazine out that way too.. Wait and see I guess.
As for what you get in a live show? It's exactly that.. A proper live show, at least an eight piece crew with a bunch of guests. We amp up the tracks a little, throw in some vocal percussion and cut them up like a DJ would a set…
Did you ever consider trying to get signed to a label or did you always want to go the independant route?
Lazy: It's something we have never tried… We sent bare copies of the last EP to promoters and mags and all that, trying to get a little awareness out there but nothing to labels.. I realize that in order to be able to achieve the full potential of what we got, maybe someone will have to give us a chance somehow… So I guess it will happen. I mean, the sending n all that, but it aint something I'm looking forward to. There are so many fukin idiots in this business! Oh yeah, and Fuck a major too, seriously. They don't seem to give their artists much space. I have a couple of friends who have been involved with majors and it just never seems to end well. I think we are just happy at the moment getting everything right, putting out our own stuff, writing, gigging.. all that. Eeveryone is really on this right now and it all just keeps getting better for me so honestly im happier now than I think I have ever been.
What's the label called and what other artists besides from Lazy Habits are a part of it?
Lazy: We just put stuff out through RnJ, Run n Jump, at the moment. It's just our label we started, just for that purpose but we are lookin to release those guys I already spoke about before… We will see if it happens or not… I think it will… actually I know it will.. I would kill for just a little more time to dedicate to this.. I just gotta be patient really, concentrate on one thing at a time.. So I'm not even going to start on the whole Run n Jump thing! Safe to say, keep you eye out for www.RunnJump.com in a few months time but as I said, one thing at a time!
I heard that you got some Radio One airplay recently. What was that like? That's quite an achievement for a uk rap outfit.
Lazy: Yeah that was crazy… It was the title track from the EP. I just got a txt from some guy I never met called Scott. Big yourself up sir, and it just said "nice one, Radio 1…something something.." I wasn't really sure what it was all about till I got the chance to check show tracklists the next day.. So I didn't even hear it.. But yeah it's great.. I don't know what it means or if it will happen again but it feels nice, like we doing something right. Oh yeah, we gotta thank Huw Stephens for that shit… Thanks bro…
Itchi: I just find it weird that Radio One has a Hip Hop show twice a week and it takes a primarily alternative DJ like Hew Stephens to showcase UK Hip Hop. Nice one Huw, lets hope he pushes other UK Hip Hop acts because lets face it where's Westwood? Stateside no doubt!
Lazy: Huw's good like that.. I know he was pushin a heavy heavy welsh Mc called Mudmouth.. Keep it up man! Where u at Westwood? I mean, I realize we aint really Westwood material but being the biggest hip hop show in the uk he kinda has a responsibility to represent British artists in some way or another and I personally don't feel he really does that.
What's the coolest instrument to include on a hip-hop track?
Lazy: It's been done but im def feelin the Accordion, def gonna do something with that, Xylophones are heavy too! I mean what are u after? Something off key? Ok, how about a Zambomba.. It's like a Spanish squeaking instrument I used to play with when I was a kid. I aint seen one for time tho..
Got anyone you wanna give a shout out to or anything to plug?
Lazy: Yeah tons! First and foremost everyone that represents.. buys our shit and comes to the shows.. Big thanks! All the crews we love playin out with aka our friends and family.. Imperial, Dirtburg (RIP), Shakti, Kashmere! The Untold, Delegates of Culture, Delrosario, RawDogg, Grammaphone, Triple Heavy, Blade, TigerStlyes, .. There's mad talent out there!
Lazy: On the plug front we got the RnJ people coming through.. releases from Untold, Compound, Grammaphone, Masdafari all out later this year and our EP coming out 1st July, Also you can catch us in June on the 4th at Hoochinoo with Kashmere the Iguana Man, 12th at Stoke Newington Festival with Task Force and Skinnyman, 18th in Hastings and then I'll be joining up with Wandan, Tigerstyles and a heavy dance crew to headline the circus big top every night at Glastonbury! Things are looking good. All info as per.. www.Lazyhabits.co.uk