HKB Finn talks extensively about sound, his current and forthcoming projects, touring, majors V indys, inspirations, artists he's feeling and more.
For those that don't know, please introduce yourself?
Greetings, my name is HKB FiNN aka HUNTKiLLBURY FiNN.
There's lots of areas of the arts that you've worked within. What would you primarily describe yourself as?
I am a rapper, poet, producer, writer, filmmaker…but I see myself as a Spoken Word artist because I am a student of the Word.
How long have you been working in music and what first got you motivated to enter the creative world?
I've been in music since I was 7 years old. I started as a singer in a Jamaican folk band, then chatted on a few Jamaican sounds (Black Gold, Chicklotone Disco) then on UK sound systems: Stixman, Mellow Canary, Coxone junior, Genesis, Skyliner, then graduated to Hip Hop with bands like: B.P.R.S., 3 Knights, Hijack, Katch 22, Moving in the right Direction, Rude Boy business, etc. I became motivated into the creative world because at a young age I felt drawn to the honesty of music. Also, I was an English kid in a foreign land (Jamaica) and I found music quite easy compared to the rest of life in that island. It was the only thing I felt at home doing…it's still that way now.
Can you give us a run through of the main releases that you've put out so far, and perhaps what one you regard most highly?
With each project, I try to push the limits of what I've done before by trying new and different things while upholding the principles of Hip Hop in general. I did my 1st single 'Burial Proceedings…' in 1989, then featured on a bag of releases, then my band Katch 22- we did 3 albums and a ton of ep's, singles and mix tapes. My first solo release was an E.P. in 1999 on Son Records called 'Mummy's Little Soldier' (featuring Insane Macbeth & Gunshot on Production, Task Force, JB Rose and Girl 7 aka Q-Tee on guest vocals). I did my first solo album entitled: 'Vitalistics' on Son Records which was a Hip Hop revolution a lot of heads slept on. I started my label Alter Native Studios in 2003 and we released 'Acoustic Afro Hip Hop' in 2005. I'm proud of all my songs but it's hard to keep that once it's released. When a tune is released it no longer belongs to the artist. It belongs to the poeple…I can't feel too much pride over something that ain't mine. It's your music now…you feel it.
Talk about your current release, Acoustic Afro Hiphop. How long did you work on it and what can listeners expect?
The project took a few months to prepare, write, record, mix and remix again. I work with a sound designer named Steve Lowe. He's a genius. Our method of working included telling him our plans, play him the music and he creates a landscape for that project. I treat music like film…the sound has to be nurtured, moulded and made into something that will hold the listener. If you're lucky you get a listener, then they will hopefully discover the hidden layers in my music later and find the record even more rewarding…or maybe they will use it as a soundtrack to their life. All listeners can expect from my works is the unexpected…
How did you hook up with Tunde Jegede to produce the entire thing, and has he made beats for anyone else?
Tunde produced songs on the previous album 'Vitalistics'. He had a vision for the next album and felt I should do a more intimate and personal record. I wanted to make something aggy, but he convinced me to write a mature recording that was more than a collection of brag raps and musical mistakes. He's actually producing his own album at the moment called Nomad…check him out at: www.tundejegede.com
Do you feel its important for more albums to be entirely produced by one person, to heighten the sense of continuity?
I think it's more important to make a honest record. You know, from your heart. This way, people can dig it or not. How it gets made, is a matter of circumstance. I was lucky because I worked with someone who pushed me beyond writing about just serving wack emcees. He was like: "you can battle anytime, can you stimulate a mind?" I was like "Yeah!" So it was put up or shut up. I guess, he got me to channel my creativity in a new way.
The album works because time seems to have been invested a lot in getting the production and overall vibe/atmosphere tight. Did you make a particular effort to do this?
We knew the sound we wanted for this record. We discussed it with the Sound Designer and he suggested certain types of equipment to allow us to do this. We used a lot of analogue gear, a lot of processing on my vocals to make it sound phat, alot of post production time on crunching the bass so it was disgustingly heavy and intoxicating. Steve's an evil genius from Bolton. A lot of the production was spent getting the sound right. We couldn't let the album sound weak…as an elder UK Hip Hop statesman, I had to step up.
Do you think higher quality control over the sonics of UK hiphop needs to begin, in order for our scene to grow?
Yes, yes,yes. I feel this is the only thing holding our scene back right now. We've got the look, the flow, the beats, the vids, the networks…but we don't have the sonics to match. A lot of great, no, amazing tunes end up sounding like someone threw the song into a blender with nails, glass and sand. A lot of Hip Hop artists spend too little time nurturing good sonics. I'm not talking about mastering something you've done in your bedroom…I'm talking about using your imagination and the expertise of the UK. This country is a world leader in sound engineering. Ask the yanks…they know. A lot of international productions come to the UK for just that. Every year engineering schools produce the next sound kings…but we don't use them. My question is: How much is the quality of your song worth or do you want people to hear you or really feel you?
My sound is a cinematic sound, what is yours? I know we can do it…we're just too fucking lazy to let the quality of our work speak for itself. It ain't enough to flow tight, ride mad riddims and look great in a vid…music is and will always be about sound. What does yours say about you?
The limited edition of Acoustic Afro Hiphop has a really smart cover and packaging. Is it about time people get creative with the overal presentation of their art?
For me, this is a busininess and I have to make sure my customers get something that's value for money, unique and rare. These are the qualities big label aritsts do not have. There are definite benefits to being a small business.
What projects are you currently working on and when can they be expected to drop?
I like each project to be unique and not like anything I've done before. I really like the idea of doing something purely electronic so we're putting the finishing touches to a mini album called 'Troublemakers Handbook'. It's a collection of street tunes featuring productions from: Kamanchi Sly, Don Jose and new production talent, a 20 year old young lady called-Sona Jobarteh. It's due in January but I'll be selling copies from late November at gigs. So watch out…
Have you had any major label interest and do you prefer the independant route?
I've had lots of major label interest over the years. I played my 'Vitalistics' album to a guy from Virgin and he like: Nah, it's rubbish. A year later, I'm going into the Ninja tunes building to see Alastair from Son Records and I see the guy. He was like: Yow, I'm vex with you. Why did you put out the album with Son Records? They're gonna fuck it up. Why didn't you play it to me? I would've signed you. I just smiled because industry people have goldfish memory and no vision. I was offered a deal for 'Acoustic Afro Hip Hop' the following year, but it would've meant the album coming out in 2006.
Instead of being signed, I'd rather do A&R for a major because they need someone who's got actual creative experience and doesn't have AES (Artist Envy Syndrome). A lot of the A&R people at the UK majors have real problems with good music. Too many of them are into genre's. A lot have little or no corporate skills, so they end up being their bosses football and then they take out their power trips on their acts. Some have little or no inter-personal skills and prefer to waste money rather than make money. But the exceptions are the few who are actually so good at their job, they promoted quickly. I challenge any label…give me a budget and six months and I'll make you rich…or you could just wait for America to do something you can copy badly.
What artists and producers are you enjoying from the UK at the moment?
Genesis Elijah, DPF, Insane Macbeth,Yam Boy, Lo-Tek Hi-fi, Simone, Klashnekoff….so many I could end up writing an A-Z of the scene. I just listened to a crazy EP from a Brighton crew called Medicine Children…Rockin.
You've been doing some touring in Europe. Have you plans to perform some shows in the UK soon?
I get a lot of work over there in Europe. In the UK next month I'm doing a spoken word thing at (free entry) The Ritzy Cinema on October 14th for my quarterly Organix Night, performing at The Drum in Birmingham on Sept 29th, appearing at Orange Street Music Club in Canterbury on November 4th and appearing in a new black Opera called: Cry of Innocence at The Greenwich Theatre in London from November 19th to 26th.
What's your live set like? Do you bring along a live band and lots of the instruments that can be heard on record?
My live set is a cross between the elegance of Jazz, the heart and soul of Reggae and the timelessness and vibrancy of Hip Hop. The music is very roots orientated (Reggae, Jazz, Malian Music and Funk) and the audience aways gets a powerful show. I work with a five piece band, sometimes with an orchestra (if the money's good enough) or just accapella. I make my living from live shows so I spend a lot of time developing a solid performance. Whether I'm performing to two people or 2 hundred thousand…you're gonna get 100% vibes.
Do you wanna drop any shout out's or promo messages to end this on?
I just want to say a big shout out to Tunde, Sona, Miho, Jose, Steve 'The Professor' Lowe, all the heads who know…and for those who don't…Watch out for the new HKB FiNN mini album TROUBLEMAKERS HANDBOOK out soon and ACOUSTiC AFRO HiP HOP is available to buy from www.savagemusic.co.uk or downloadable from iTunes in Jan 2006. We're gonna start the TROUBLE MAKERS tour in Jan 2006 so any promoters who are interested email: firstname.lastname@example.org (January 25th-28th is already booked…sorry).
For everyone else…thanks for reading. Don't forget Hip Hop is a lifestyle not a hairstyle…bless