C-Swing talks about his dope back catalogue and his forthcoming album, as well as his views on the music industry, linking with KRS One and tons more.
For those that don't know, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell them what you do?
My name is Colin Emmanuel aka C-Swing. I am a musician, songwriter, arranger, remixer, engineer, programmer and producer. I also make cups of tea, balloon animals and I'm available for weddings, funerals and children's parties.
Can you give us a run through of the most notable records in your back catalogue?
Erm… EnVouge 'Hold On' (Remix), Mary J Blige 'Dance With Me' (Remix). From Jamelia's 'Drama' album 'Money', 'Call Me', 'I Do', 'Thinkin' 'Bout You', 'One Day' and 'Not With You'. From the 'Thankyou' album, 'Bout', 'Off Da Endz', 'Cutie', 'Antidote' and 'Life'. Various Beverley Knight remix's and from her 'Who I Am' album, 'Same'. The Beta Band, 'Hotshots II', 'Squares' BLOAH Mix. Braintax 'Birofunk', Doc Brown 'Do It' and 'Feel Me'. Yungun's 'The Code', Estelle 'Go' and 'Gone' (album version).
How long have you been producing and what were the first hiphop records to get you interested in making music?
November 2006 will be my 10th year since I left my 9-5. Hiphop plays a very large part in my musical make up. It's been a window to learning a load of different style and influences because it uses so many styles and influences. I remember when my Dad dragged me to the shops so that he could get 'The Message' on import 12" and being grabbed by it. But I wasn't really sure and then I had an older cousin with a sound system who used to play me a lot of stuff but I still didn't really get it. And then I heard 'Buffalo Girls'. I don't know if that really counts but it got my interest going. Herbie Hancock on 'Rockit' with Grandmaster DST was amazing because it mixed my love of Jazz with Hip Hop.
But I guess the one that turned me into a Hiphop fiend and put it all in place was Mantronix. That first album, 'Bassline', 'Ladies', 'Stupid Fresh'. That was the one. Some of my programming is influenced more by him than Timberland. It was that album that was my gateway into Hiphop and part of me musically.
What was the first piece of hardware you used to make beats, and what equipment are you tending to use these days?
Back in the day Mattel had this toy like drum machine with four pads and four memory settings, couple of sounds but no memory. A friend lent me it for a while and I got into programming drum beats etc trying to copy Mantronix. Nowadays, it's Logic or Pro Tools on a Mac, and/or an MPC. Been doing a lot more stuff with live percussion these days. Whatever makes a noise really.
Is it possible for you to describe your style of production, or are you strictly for coming different each time?
I wouldn't say that I try and come different every time. To me my style is personal in that I try and create a style for the artist. I try to get the artist's personality into a track, so I may spend more time talking and hanging with an artist than building a track. Then once I've worked out their angle, I can apply it to the track I'm trying to build them. The opera stuff in Jamelia's 'Money' came from chatting one night, dropping her home, and my radio switched to a classical station. She tells me she likes classical and suddenly I had the angle to give the tracks we were working on for that album a direction. I just mixed it up with her love of ragga. So I allowed her personality to dictate my production.
On something like 'Hotshots II', I could've disappeared up my arse and tried to do the indie thing or create a Radiohead type album. But after hanging around with the band for a while, you suddenly realise that they are 4 b-boys who love Hiphop and Reggae etc. Once I grasped that, it was easy to realise that what they are doing is just Hiphop in their way with sample etc, but also guitars and drums. So suddenly you know where to take the production. So I'd say my production style is personality driven.
Out of all the dope UK rappers about, why did you choose to work with Braintax and Mystro on the recent 12"?
Because they were cheap! Just kidding, (they were free). In terms of my album, with the exception of Nate James and Dynna Fearon, everyone involved in putting that album together, I've known for at least 5 years. I made a very conscious decision when I started doing this album that it was all about my close circle of friends musically, who have always been there and are trying to do something different and take it there. At the end of the day they are friends and they were always going to be on it.
But if you want it from an A&R point of view, They're both straight up UK. I chose Mystro because I wanted to get that energy I see when he hosts Kung Fu. I think he is one of the countrie's best rappers and entertainers. Brain's is on there because he is his own man. I love him for that. He does his own thing, will always attack subjects from different angles and most importantly, does it well.
Braintax is rated very highly as a producer in a lot of people's books. Was it at all intimidating giving him a beat?
I see how it could've been but no. I've worked in the same building as Brain's for over 5 years now. Braintax is a bad boy producer but the facts are, we know eachother really well. He can hear what I'm working on from his office and vice versa. So you'll often find us giving opinions on each others ideas and tracks. So believe it or not, if I'm working on a pop project, Brain's will give me an opinion on it.
I guesse the only bit where I felt a bit uncomfortable was because it was for my album, it was more about how I wanted it to sound than what Brain's wanted, so it was a bit nerve wracking letting him hear the final versions. But he loves it.
How did you hook up with the legendary KRS One and how does that rank in terms of the proudest moments of your career?
The KRS hook up happened in August 1997. And Dave Veejay from Choice FM is the man responsible for it. He called up and said KRS was coming over to give a series of talks and would I like to do a track with him?. I thought it was a wind up and told him so, but eventually he convinced me it was serious. He told me to put 2 beats on a cassette and he'd take it down to his hotel. So I build 2 beats, give them to Dave in the day and forget about it. He calls the same evening and says to book a studio, KRS likes the 2nd beat on the cassette, and that's what happened. The track did come out as a white label a few years ago with the original beat, but for the album and the single, it's been remixed and then remixed again.
I'm lucky in that I've had a lot of highlights so far in my career. I've recorded Beenie Man twice in Jamaica, I've recorded Rah Diggah in New York, Slum Village in my old studio in Shephard Bush, and I've played on the Pyramid stage with the Beta Band at Glastonbury, not to mention the stuff that is personal and close to your heart, but the KRS situation is very special because it was the first. And more so than the recording, it was the fact he hung in the studio after just talking 'bout stuff with myself, Dave Veejay, James Yarde and Sandra Escoffery who sadly is no longer with us. So it just holds a very special place in my heart.
Could you tell us about the forthcoming album and what people can expect from it? Who's on there?
The album is called 'Dillusions of Grandeur' and is released on Little League Productions on January 23rd 2006. I originally started the album in 1997/98 but sadly Sandra Escoffery passed in 1999 and I got side tracked. Eventually I got so fed up with the major label situation and the whole 'urban' thing that I was considering calling it a day, but some close friends convinced me to at least do my own thing once before I jacked it in.
According to some the album has too many features on it and is too varied to work. Funny how no one throws that at Basement Jaxx or The Chemical Brothers, blah, blah, blah. So the album is basically me doing my thing. No A&R influence or direction. I didn't have to think about singles or radio. I just tried to do the stuff my friends like that represents me that never really gets heard. I worked with my friends that I've made over the years as I've worked on various projects.
It's kind of like my other family and I see the people on the album as unsung heroes. Ok, established names such as KRS, Michelle Escoffery, Terri Walker and Nate James are on there, but there are also people such as Daniel DaBourgh, Belle and Sammi Jay, who between them have written and vocal arranged for the likes of Jamelia, R Kelly, Rod Stewart, Mystic etc but get little or no props from the industry. Braintax, Mystro and Rodney P are heroes on the underground. James Yarde (super producer for Terri Walker) and Jason Yarde (Jazz Saxophonist Supreme) are on there.
Style wise, it's a bit of a journey with Hiphop, Soul, Jazz, Latin and even a bit a gospel thrown in there all with my twisted production take on it. You can expect a good old fashioned value for money album. No fillers, and whatever you don't like on it will eventually grow on you. Don't expect Jamelia style production, or Doc Brown or Beverley Knight etc. This is strictly me doing my thing, my way. I've kind of done things backward in my career. You normally do your own thing first and then get other people's productions.
How comes you're bringing it out under the name Emmanuel rather than C-Swing, which people may be more familiar with?
C-Swing is only a nickname and I do tend to use Colin Emmanuel on most of my credits so it's not something I'm trying to run away from. I'm not about to became a 'formerly known as'. It's to do with a promise I made to a friend. Bottom line is that Emmanuel is me. It's my surname. My family name. I have to represent it to the best of my abilities. Working as C-Swing, I will always have to compromise with the artist or label or whoever, to get the job done and keep everyone happy. If it says Emmanuel, you know I'm only answering to myself.
Also by using Emmanuel, you kind of know not to expect a typical producer album. I want it to come across more like a group, whether it be Soul II Soul, Mint Condition, Basement Jaxx, Chemical Brothers or whatever. Plus, picture the scene, years from now. I'm in the big house on the beach, the kids come running in with their mother (Jessica Alba) and say 'Daddy, how come people call you C-Swing?' and Jessica shoots me that look that says 'stupid bloody name'!
What label are you on and how did that relationship come about?
I am on Little League Production which has close ties with Lowlife. I kept bugging Brains to sign me to Lowlife and he kept saying 'No, Lowlife is a Hiphop label'. So he introduced me to Gary Gilroy at Little League Productions who originally was just going to put out a white label for me ('Bubblebath'), but when I explained that there was actually almost an entire album ready and played him the demos, he said go for it.
What rappers are on your current wish list of people you'd like to collaborate with in the future?
De La Soul. They were almost on this album. The LDotMan, Ty.
Your work on the Doc Brown album was heavy, as was that whole LP in general. Is it disheartening when something so good fails to realise its potential for commercial success?
Well it depends what you class a ³commercial success² because as far as I concerned, no-one at any label major or independent is getting a huge bonus this year. No-one is shifting a load of units anymore. I don't lose sleep over stuff like that. That's the business side. I prefer the music side. To me, if I go and see Doc in concert and I see the crowd response to 'Do It' or 'Feel Me', no one can tell me that it's not a success, period! The fact you've mentioned my work on the album means that it's done what it's supposed to which is get your attention. You'll get the next one. Look at it this way. It can be said that Jamelia's first album 'Drama' wasn't a 'commercial success' but if you go to a concert or switch on your radio and hear 'Money' you know it. As a result of which, her next album flew through the roof. So is that first album still a flop? The same could be said of the first albums from Eminem, Destinys Child and Usher (and I'm talking about the Puff Daddy album) etc.
It's all about building. Realising an artist's potential first time round is very unusual. It's usually second time round that things blow up because people are then familiar. It's disheartening when people get the chop if their first attempt doesn't reach a specified sales target, even though it's achieved its building goal.
Having done remixes for huge names like Wyclef Jean, Beverly Knight, and Jamelia, what keeps you working deep within the UK hiphop scene, rather than flying to the states and blowin up?
The weird thing is my first few productions came out in the states on New Breed records. They had a compilation series called 'Fat Jazzy Grooves' and I had a few tracks on various volumes. I've given the American thing some serious thought. It's been an option to me since 'Hotshots II' as the Beta Band were quite big in the States. The whole security thing since 9/11 is a bit off putting but with my album done, I'd feel more confident going there with something that represents me along with my other production and remix work.
I've done a bit of work in the states on various jobs but the thing is, you need to spend a long time over there to make it happen, and at the moment I can't afford to give myself that time. What I'd like to get to is a situation where I do a couple of months here, a few in the states and then a few somewhere else. But I couldn't see myself leaving here forever. I'll stay working in the Hiphop scene over here as long as it stays real and there are people around willing to represent, be themselves and enjoy it. I can't explain what it's like to be able to do stuff for major labels and then spend time building a beat for Rodney P or someone else. It¹s real. It keeps me grounded. It's my Base Camp!
Do you have any regrets for associating yourself through a remix with the 'Who The Man' track by Richard Blackwood?
OK, let's clear the area. I also remixed for E17, Gary Barlow, MN8 and M People amongst others, so I can't be hypocrite. Everything I have done has got me to this point in time now. I try and be as professional as possible and do my job to the best of my abilities. No-one got hurt so no regrets, but I do wince when it gets mentioned.
What producers in the UK do you rate most highly and what's your favourite UK hip-hop release of all time?
James Yarde. He's so good it scares me. Kojo bringing the new funk, Braintax (the Don), Yam Who (sublime and effortless class), Mark de Clive Lowe (genius), DJ Flip (beat chopper). It's really unfair to ask for one Hiphop record of all time… that's a tough one! But my mood today says Nas 'Made you look'. Because at a time when Hiphop was getting boring and becoming more and more rap orientated, he delivered a tune that just reminded you of what Hiphop was about and even other MC's recognised it. But if you were to ask me the same question tomorrow I may say something else.
How do you rate the UK hiphop scene and what's the most urgent issue that needs addressing for things to progress positively?
I think that the UK Hiphop is probably at its strongest at the moment, but it's also at a bit of a cross roads in terms of where it's going next. The most important thing we have to do to move forward which is starting to happen already, is to ignore the majors. What I mean by that is that you have to look at it from the point of view that majors are there to make money. They have shareholders to answer to so if you want to include them in your game plan and want things to run your way, then make sure your way is working without them. They'd rather buy into something making money, than spend money trying to make money.
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