One of the UK's greatest talks on Janomi Records, the tons of projects he has in the pipeline, the state of UK hip-hop and roast dinners with jaffa cakes?
Wassup. The last time we spoke was around the time of your album release 'The Enthusiast'. How did you feel the LP was received?
Hi…Yeah, I think the LP was received pretty well. I got 'LP of the issue' in DJ mag which was great. It was 'LP of the whole issue', not just the Hip Hop releases so I couldn't have asked for better really. People on the street seem to be feeling it. Not every track, but I knew that some people would like particular tracks and others would like different ones. I think people were generally feeling the beats although I've had some much needed constructive critisism, but people have different opinions about the MC's on there. I think I took a risk putting such a diverse range of voices on there but I did that to represent the different styles out there. I personally rate everyone on there in their own way, but I can see why some people would like some and not others. I would have liked to do a proper tour to get a good reaction from people up and down the country, but I only ended up doing a handful of shows. The response at those has been good though. People seem to like the tracks by Ricochet, Kyza, A-Love, Asaviour and Yungun the most. 'Nico Suave' gets people dancing whenever I play it out or perform it with Yungun so it does it's job.
You recently spoke on ukhh.com about feeling the album could have been worked harder by Janomi Records. What didn't they do?
Basically Janomi did a good job with the actual product and getting it to the distribtor on time and co-ordinating the press stuff etc. They put out a good product and hooked up a couple of things with 1xtra, but in terms of what they didn't do is stuff like telling me they were going to hook up a tour and only sorting out 2 gigs that I coulda hooked up myself anyway, so I didn't arrange my own tour to coincide with the LP release because the label said it was in hand. Nothing happened and when the LP came out there was no tour. I coulda hooked one up myself if I knew that was going to happen. I could see it happening but when I rung the label it was like 'oh, it's in hand'. Really, I shoulda just gone ahead and hooked up my own tour. I know it's not really the label's duty to sort out a tour but if they promise to sort something out and don't do it it's a waste of my time and a wasted opportunity to promote the LP.
When I joined the label, the only other artists were Lost Souls and when Yungun joined they were totally shunned. They had an EP out the week of the Jazz Cafe gig which was Yungun, Doc Brown, Mr Thing and myself, and Janomi wouldn't put Lost Souls on the bill. I DJ'd for free for two hours and Lost Souls could easily have done a couple of tracks. Janomi's argument was that it was a show to promote Yungun, but Lost Souls had an EP out on the label, fresh out. What kind of mentality is it not to put them on the bill? Then they were shunned properly. When Yungun and Mr Thing joined the label I was playing second fiddle them and I wasn't getting asked to DJ for Janomi shows. I had to ask if I could DJ at their shows and it was for free and at the start of the night. Janomi were involved with putting Slick Rick on (which was cancelled in the end) and I was like, 'how come you can't let me DJ at the start of the night before Mr Thing & Yungun, there's plenty of time and I'd love to be on a flyer alongside Slick Rick?', but Janomi were saying they couldn't put me on as they were promoting the night with another promoter. It was all a load of bollocks really. They could easily have accomodated me for that show and I would have done that for free. It don't make any sense. There was no sense of loyalty, no feeling of family. There was a real hierarchical system there and that aint good for someone like me who wants to be part of something if you know what I mean.
It was very much "you make the music, we'll do the rest" but I just didn't feel "the rest" was really happening. It was like the artwork. I never saw the final thing before it went off to be manufactured and there's a couple of things I wasn't happy with and the label were trying to say that really I should just make the music and let them sort out the art as the designer knows about graphics and I don't really have a clue. That's OK if the artist is dope and I think Jaomi's designer is pretty hot most of the time, but not 100% of the time…It'd be OK if their designer was Jehst or someone who's consistenly dope at artwork or if they were Def Jam pressing up millions of copies, then I could say 'you do whatever you want with the art' coz you know it'll be dope, but it's a small label and they were going on like they were major and I wasn't feeling that.
How much of a kick in the teeth was it knowing you had an extremely solid album which could have been doing a lot of better than it was doing?
I think it's done OK. It's done about the same as the Universal Soldiers LP and they had absolutely no promotion at all apart from Rico working his arse off pushing the product. But I think it had the potential to do better. I think Janomi could have shifted more copies. I did 1300 copies of "Tournament Round 2" on vinyl myself. This LP has apparently done 750 vinyl. But maybe people just aren't buying vinyl anymore.
Am I right in saying Janomi Records is no more and that the likes of Doc Brown and Yungun have departed too?
Last time I spoke to Yungun and Doc, they were looking for something bigger that would push them to the level they deserve. They're both in it for the long haul and put in a lot of work making music and doing shows. They could both be big names like Dizzee Rascal with the right backing. They got the tracks, the dope live shows, they got the whole package. I don't know what's happening with Janomi, now I don't have any dealings with them. If they are selling the label it'll be just that, a label, with none of it's artists. I don't know how that works.
Why did the artists decide to leave? I'm sure Doc Brown was disappointed that 'The Document' didn't do better. It's one of the most potentially successful LP's the UK scene has ever seen…
Yeah. He seemed kinda disapointed last time I saw him, but he's not the type to come out guns blazing and say stuff about the label being wack like I have. He's more diplomatic and would probably say that Janomi did OK for him but that he wants something bigger now. I dunno man, maybe he'll come out and diss them in true b-boy style like me. Maybe he's happy with Janomi, I dunno. Nobody says much about it really. Doc did a lot of self promotion too. He hooked up the Guardian interview himself, not Janomi. It's like the artists are bigger than the label. Yungun and Doc are big names on the street and will sell to that audience regardless. They need labels that will take them to the next level, beyond just the UK Hip Hop crowd. Personally, I think that a major should sign them instead of throwing their money at rubbish acts, but again I dunno how Doc feels about that as Poisonous Poets had some trouble with majors in the past. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Whatever happens, Doc and YG will just go from strength to strength and global domination!
Do you have any gossip on what labels these artists, and yourself, are moving to, and when releases can be expected?
Nah, not really…Yungun mentioned maybe releasing the "Rooted" track that was used for 1xtra's Africa season on a promo 12", but I dunno if that's still happening. I'm talking to a few labels. There's a select few labels in the UK I'd like to be on like Breakin' Bread, Zebra Traffic (apart from those nasty orange 12" sleeves!), YNR, Lowlife etc. but I'm content with producing/remixing for artists on those kind of labels. Hopefully one of them will be able to put out my follow up to 'The Enthusiast' but that's a while off yet.
As you're relaunching your H.I.D Productions label, would you agree that being independant in the truest sense of the world, is the only option for artists and producers who want to suceed?
Yeah, I'm kind of starting to feel that way. My ideal situation is to have a decent label that will put out my LP's, like Herbaliser have Ninja Tune etc. You get all the benefits of being affiliated with a reputable label. Then I'd like to do beats for artists on loads of other labels and on top of all that have H.I.D. to put out other stuff where I can have 100% creative control and it's really just a fun thing, no pressure. I can't let the H.I.D. label become a headache. Basically it's just something I can fling randomness out on in ltd. quantities.
It used to be that majors should be ignored and domestic indy label's trusted more. But with the Janomi situation, even that seems in doubt…
YNR, Lowlife, Breakin' Bread etc. all seem to be doing a good job. Maybe because they're all being run by musicians, they understand the artists more and what a personal thing music is. It's not like selling tins of corned beef. You're selling something that people have put a lot of love into.
Remind us what HID stands for.
Hidden Idenity (Hidden ID) my old crew name from back in the day and now just my production title Hidden Identity Productions or H.I.D. Productions.
With its launch next month, tell us about some of the forthcoming releases that we can expect from that?
First release is "Write A Song For Me" a track I produced for the Conspicuous LP. It features Shameless who's one of the better of the next school of UK rhymers. The LP never got a vinyl release so this is the vocal and instrumental on wax. Second release is a local crew called 12" Matter (straight outta Eastbourne!) with a track called "Sunshine Coast" and my remix of the track. They've been doing the track live and people seem to be feeling it so I reckon it'll go down OK and give them a platform on which to build and get them some exposure before they put out their EP or CD or whatever. I got a track called M.I.L.F. featuring Probe Mantis from Aspects in the pipeline. Trust me, that is going to be a classic! I wanna put something out monthly if all goes to plan and it'll be a real mixture of stuff. Tracks from all the usual suspects I work with, some stuff that never made wax before and a few surprises. Maybe some real off the wall stuff. I think I can take some risks with the 7"s. They're cheap to do and all are going to be limited editions of 300 copies or there abouts. I'd like to bring out more new artists.
Is it me or is the 7" record format getting more popular over the last year or so? It has a collectors quality about it unmatched by any other format.
I think it's because vinyl junkies can hide them down their trousers and smuggle them in past the missus without her noticing. Also they go nice on the shelf with the DVD's and CD's, 12"'s are just too cumbersome for today's compact lifestyle.
Besides from the 7" series, what can we expect? I heard there's an album project by Conspicuous that you're producing entirely yourself?
Yeah, I'm excited about the LP with Conspicuous. I'm really pleased with my beats. There's a track about BBQ's with Seanie T, Doc Brown, Konny Kon, TB and Broke N English that I think should go down well. We're going to do a video for that too. Also, we got some NY emcees on there including Shabam Saadiq who I've rated since his stuff on Rawkus. We got fellow Colony members like Willo, Grimlock, Smurf, Oph Kea. We got Shameless on a remix of "Focussed". We got Ricochet, Possesd'. Too many people to mention. There's some solo stuff with just Cons on there too which we're really pleased with the sound of. I enjoyed doing the tracks for his "Backgammon" LP and the stuff I did with The Colony and I'm part of the family now and to me that's what Hip Hop is about. Me and Cons just seem to work well together and both just love music without all the bullshit.
Apart from that I'm working on "The Tournament Round 3" EP which will hopefully be coming out on YNR. The follow up to 'The Enthusiast' LP is in the pipeline too now but only in the embyonic stages. I have all the MC's ready to go. Just need to make them some hot beats now!
Would you say that a one producer and one rapper album holds more potential to be dope than a project with many collaborations?
Hmmmm…I dunno. There's so many classic LP's like the first 3 by Manntronix, Just-Ice and Mantronik, all the old Cold Chillin LP's, produced just by Marley, the Pete Rock & CL albums, then you got LP's where there's a bunch of producers like "Illmatic". I guess there's no formula. It either works or it doesn't. I suppose it depends on how focussed everyone is on making it gel properly.
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