The incredible producer from Caerphilly talks passionately about everything from his occupation and the hiphop mindset to what projects are in the works.
Lets kick off with an introduction.
I'm Secondson. I cook up and hook up beats, nine to five, for some of the finest artists I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. I got my dream job.
Where in the UK are you based and what's the local hiphop vibes saying?
I'm in Cardiff, but I'm from Caerphilly, famous for the largest castle in Europe and cheese. Locally, I'm not really a 'local' cat. There's people doing their thing. They're local, but I try to see further than my own backyard. I've only ever played one show here. I don't shit in my own backyard. There's a solid fanbase here. Just a shame that all the fans here are artists too. It's overkill, and the scene needs people like me and mine to act as quality control. The only artists I know of around here are Humurak D Gritty, Moneyshot, Killer Tomato, Ralph Rip Shit and the Goldie Lookin Chain. There are other artists, but through creative differences, I prefer not to associate. So then it becomes personal. I don't like bullshit, and I certainly don't work with bullshitters.
How long have you been involved in producing and what was the key moment you decided you wanted to make records?
Um, I'm not too sure. I don't think it has any relevance how long you've been doing something. It's about how long you've loved doing it and how long you intend doing it for. I've been involved in making records, right across the board since I was in the latter days of my education.
You've released tons of records, but if you had to recommend one for people to get the clearest idea of what you do, what'd it be?
I've been quietly releasing records under a variety of guises that have nothing to do with hiphop whatsoever. If people know what they are, then it's them. As that is my life and soul in there. They are my innermost emotions carved into grooves that have to have a physical contact with a needle. The aesthetics of why I do what I do is all in there. It has to be two things touching. Mainly a needle and a record. Vibrations. Music is all about vibrations, and I'm all about music. I am a musician. Hip-Hop is just my hobby.
What do you look for in a rapper to want to provide their beats and whose on your wish list to work with in the future?
Studio etiquette. The knowledge of how to perform on a stage or in the studio. Knowing the difference between what a microphone was invented for and its use, and then what the human voice can reactionarly create in people. That is by far the most important thing. Once they understand that, then I'm interested in what they have to say, and how they say it. If it's nothing new, then I won't even bother. I have to be creatively and musically excited by whoever I work with. I have been so lucky to work with people who I admire and am inspired by. One artist in particular is my hero, my absolute idol, and I've been lucky to work with him. I have met so many likeminded people doing this, and I have forged life long friendships with people. That's what I get out of this. I'm not one for double standards. If you're not good enough, it can't be my fault.
You must have lots of great memories but could you narrow it down to one or two artists/records that were the most enjoyable to work on?
My god. Most of my memories are of people who have turned out to be complete wasters. Time wasters, money wasters. People will never understand the plight unless they've had to put their hands in their pocket, and never take them back out. But this isn't a money thing. There's the music business and then there's the business of music. I'm in the business of music, and always have been. But like I said earlier, I have been humbled to have met and worked with some of the finest artists in my generation and genre. Without sounding selfish, they are my memories, my experiences, and my emotions. That's what keeps me doing this, and I cherish them, so I can't say, as every fibre in my body forbids me too.
I am very happy doing what I do, and if I sell one record or one million records, it's irrelevant. As I was able to lock myself away with people and create something between us that will always hold a mountain size importance to me. What I/we choose to then share with you, is just the end product. And as an artist, I believe in the idea, not the outcome. But I sure am glad I met Xeno, Humurak D Gritty and my favourite MC in a long long time, Micall Parknsun. He's such a warm person. Solid.
A lot of UK hiphop heads get passionate about hating GLC and then go all quiet when told you've worked with them. Should they open their minds a little more?
Well, what I/we do as a circle of friends is far more important than what anyone could ever say or do to take that from us. They feel they know who you are because you choose to do things certain ways. It's really very unimportant to me. I only care about what we get up to, and how we achieve it. You're trying to tell me, that when my children are down the studio, and see my gold disc on the wall, that I haven't achieved anything from what I'm doing?
I couldn't give a fuck what people think. It's none of their damn business. If they wanna put their money where their mouths are, let's see how much they earned this year. I eat well now. And you think I'm gonna let a UK hiphop head tell me I'm not entitled to that? I am a record producer. I'd producer Bonnie Tyler or Bonnie Prince Billy given the opportunity. All I ever did was what I do. I'm very proud of what I've done and been involved with. If I wasn't, then I'd be denying myself. I mean, do you realise how many times I have my daughters' friends asking for autographs? That is worth more than any amount of money. Trust me.
How did you link with the GLC mob and how aware and knowledgeable about the UK hiphop scene are they?
Considering we've seen Skinnyman, DJ Flip, Jehst, Asaviour, Micall Parknsun, Humurak D Gritty, Conrad Watts, Clarity and Killer Tomato all support, and there's more I don't even know about, I think they 'may' have heard about UK hiphop. Maggot has a UK Hip-Hop collection to die for. But you never see him in magazines name dropping like crazy to prove he knows what the fuck he's doing. Come on.
When I said to Adam Hussein, oh, Taskforce wanna work with you guys on my EP I did with them, he thought I was joking. And the day those twelve's got back, he was straight to his mum's house proud as punch, saying 'look mum, I've worked with Taskforce'! No shit! Xain has a record collection to die for, and his quality of sample/beat choice is second to none. He's always produced on SFDB, and always will. He's cooked up belters for Defisis and Humurak and people haven't even noticed. But that's the underground for you. He's doing a whole album with me, Clarity and Conrad Watts, and it's a fuckin' banger. Linking with GLC? I've always been GLC.
As a producer, do you find it hard to simply sit back and listen to the radio or a CD without getting analytical about the beats?
I don't listen to hiphop. I flip through new UK releases at my local record shop, and that's it. I can't be engrossed in it. I need balance. I listen to folk music all day. Woody Guthrie man. He was back then to some people what Skinnyman is now. Pivotal movers man, life changers. That's what I'm interested in. I have my whole life to catch up with modern music. I'm too busy trying to see what I missed. Go get some Jackson C Frank, Dave Van Ronk. Any of that old shit. I only ever knew one guy that understood all of that. My old DJ, Hostyle.
I know people who sit there all day listening to hiphop, and then spend all night making hiphop. They're fuckin' androids man! One person in particular asked me one time when I had a face like a slapped ass because I was so upset at the death of Elliott Smith. He asked if we were close! What a fuckin' maniac! He's robbing his children of their musical heritage. That is such a disservice. What's he gonna say when one day his children will be like 'Dad, do you remember Elliott Smith?' He won't know what the fuck they're on about. Music is the only voice we have left. So for fuck's sake, teach your children well.
It'd probably take ages to list it all, so what are the main pieces of equipment at the heart of your studio?
Without being a prick, my ears, then my record player. Then my radiator.
What kind of process do you tend to employ. Do you make the beat and just send it out to a rapper or is it much more of a collaboration?
The most a rapper will ever get in the inbox is a loop, or an idea. You have to be in the same room at the same time. Argue about it, wrangle it, record it, deconstruct it, kill it, recreate it. It's our time and our music. We can do what the hell we want to it! Essentially, I just want it all to turn back into a folk song. Simple, to the point, effective. Start, middle and end. It's about what you're saying. And the thing is with hiphop, a lot of people keep saying the same things differently.
What projects have you been busy working on and what can you tell us about them?
Plague. That's Xeno and me. That is by far the most creative thing I have ever been involved in with hiphop. I've known Xeno now for seven years. Most people wouldn't think that put us two in a room and we'd even get on, let alone come out with half the shit we have. I have to thank Ian Lunken (Mr Serve) for initially hooking us up. I'll never forget that. Apart from that, there's loads in the pipeline. Just wait and see.
Is the SFDB label something you set up, and what do the letters stand for?
Same Family Different Ballbag. It's just something my half brother came up with. It just made sense. We all brothers, but from different fathers. It's my way of saying we should all unite.
What artists have you got on there and what are its plans for the rest of the year?
Um, forthcoming stuff and present day; Humurak D Gritty. Plague, Cappo, Micall Parknsun, Barnesy, P Xain, Mr Vocab, Conrad Watts, Clarity, Lottery Lout, Adam Hussein, Mr D, Brian Maiden, Lewis Parker. Tonnes of stuff (and I bet you I've forgotten someone).
All your releases have a similar vibe to their covers. Who's handling that dope photography?
Me. I am a photographer.
UK or overseas, name who you think's the most under and over rated producers in hiphop.
Lottery Lout and Mr Spleen.
What stands in your mind as being the most impressively produced album of all time?
No doubt. Pet Sounds.
What music outside of hiphop do you really feel and do you think somewhere down the line you'll focus on producing non hiphop material?
I always have been producing non Hip-Hop. And unless you got a lot of web space, it's pointless even starting to list my favourites. Just start with Dave Van Ronk or Euan McColl.
Do you think a lot of the time, UK hiphop heads focus too much on the scene and become too oblivious to the world outside of it?
I don't know. I wouldn't know how they think. I just hope that they're happy doing what they do. Anyone that gets out of bed in the morning to pick up a notepad or a mic or a sampler or whatever. If they're doing something creative, and have the bollocks to share it with the world, then I can't form an opinion on that. I salute them.
Drop us the Myspace and website links so we can keep up to date with what you're up to.
www.myspace.com/sfdbsecondson for loads of free downloads every two weeks. I'm gonna give away loads of free shit on our new website when it's finished www.sfdbrecords.com. But until then, I'll bang stuff up on MySpace. I want people to hit us up, and actually feel like they left with something. I'm gonna put the whole Fleapit album instrumentals up on there, and tonnes of more rare stuff. Also check; www.myspace.com/conradwatts and www.myspace.com/claritysadhu.
Do you wanna shout out anyone or drop some final words of wisdom before this interview ends?
Everyone I have ever met in this game. Everyone who has ever been kind enough to put their hands in their pocket for either me or the rest of the people on SFDB. Thanks for the interest, thanks for the support. Clarity "Way Of The Dragon" SFDB014 out March 6th. Conrad Watts "Lifetime" SFDB015 out April 24th. Humurak D Gritty "They Ain't Ready" SFDB016 off to press tomorrow.