You are a rapper, songwriter, producer musician from Margate, how did it all begin for you?
Ha – that sounds like a lot of things when you read it back!! OK, firstly, I’m originally from the Midlands… but I’ve darted around quite a lot over the years – but I resonate with Margate, as soon as I stepped out of the removal van I knew it was my place… I’ve never had that before!
Anyway, how did it all begin!!! I genuinely don’t even know where to start. I always wanted to be a session musician – so that was my starting place, I’ve been doing that for over 10 years now! But it’s not something I walked into – it incurred lots of nights travelling down to London with very little money and sleeping in bus stops and train stations (and some very kind friends’ floors), which allowed me to meet a lot of other musicians and make myself known (I guess you would call it networking, but honestly, a lot of the people I met back then are still some of my closest friends… so it feels cheap to call it that). Fast forward a few years, some wins and a lot of disappointments, I was making a living as a touring and recording musician, and had been lucky enough to be given some really amazing opportunities.
Going back about three years now, I helped write an album for an amazing artist I was working for called Raleigh Ritchie. It’s the first time I had done writing, I had always assumed I couldn’t do it for some reason. We spent a few weeks at a residential studio in Banbury and it was the most incredible experience. Imagine a room full of vintage synths, whole filing cabinets full of weird FX pedals, racks of guitars, a room full of amps… it used to be Jamiroquai’s studio, and it was like a musician’s version of what Toys R Us used to be like when we were kids! We would wake up and jam for hours, record everything and then listen back to what we could use for songs. It was such an organic process and it absolutely gave me the bug for writing (the album is called Andy by the way, it came out last year!).
So that was the evolvement of me from session bassist, to bassist and writer… to keep things short, over the last couple of years I’ve felt like I’ve had something I need to express myself, it actually feels like a physical sensation, like the feeling you would get if you were in school and you knew the answer to something but you were too shy to speak up – that’s how it feels. So during the lockdowns last year – a time that, to be honest, felt really devastating for me in terms fo my work, but also mentally – I decided that I wanted to get these feelings out and start making something for myself (up to this point, everything I have done has been playing and writing for other people). I can’t really sing, and I didn’t want that to hold me back – so instead I write lyrics that are somewhere between rapping and singing! …and that is more or less how it began!
What did you listen to growing up?
So many things!!! But also such a weird mix. I grew up in church (Me too!), so a lot of what I listened to (particularly at home) was gospel music – so lots of Kirk Franklin, Tasha Cobbs, Fred Hammond, Marvin Sapp, Donnie McClurkin… such amazing music to play along to too! Then in school (probably because I wasn’t around my parents), I would listen to everything from Tupac to Rage Against the Machine. Lots of soul and Motown, and I went through a solid jazz phase too. I think the key connector for it all (although I wasn’t thinking this at the time), is it all had depth to it – it wasn’t just two dimensional music that sounds cool but doesn’t say anything – I felt a connection to the music I listened to – and that still remains as something really important to me.
Your career has taken you on quite a journey sharing the stage with some incredible talent to say the least. What for you has been a pinch me moment?
OMG yeah, I’ve been really fortunate to have played some big stages with some amazing artists – it’s easy for me to take that for granted, so when I first read this question I had to take a minute to just feel very grateful. I think it would be a bit too easy to reel off some of the fancier things I’ve done to make myself look like the king ding, when actually, one of my first ever moments of, “is this even happening” was having a sweet fight with the band Reef backstage at a festival!!! This was a while back, must’ve been like 2016 or something, and I was playing Victorious festival in Portsmouth. The dressing rooms were just a marquee tent that was sectioned off with canvas sheets to divide it. We had quite a few packets of Haribo on our rider and I don’t even know why, but we just decided to throw one over the divide into the next dressing room. That then escalated with sweets being thrown back, which escalated into handfuls of sweets being launched… and so on. Turned out the band next door were Reef, and I remember thinking, man, I used to learn to play guitar along to your tunes when I was a teenager, and now we’re chucking Haribo at each other.
Tell us about First Drop. Congratulations on it making the BBC Introducing Mixtape, how did it come together?
It was actually my latest single, Much Too Much, that was on the Introducing Mixtape (although First Drop was track of the week for Introducing in Kent) – but maybe I’ll say a quick bit about both?! Firstly, thank you! First Drop was a bit of a happy accident – I had written a different tune, but I was also just starting out and was a bit worried about dropping a tune and then it just being listened to by my parents only and then that’s all the light of day it gets. So I felt like I wanted to put something else out before, to test the waters and let people know I was here… and that’s pretty much all First Drop is, just a tune to mark the start of everything for me. I wrote it in the car on the way to my friends studio where we were going to finish the other tune I had.
Much Too Much is a song that I put out after a song I wrote called Too Much (confusing right!?). Too Much is about feeling as though people’s expectations of you are too high, and how that can often make you feel as though you are not enough – when in actual fact, perhaps the problem is that people are asking too much of you and not that you’re not enough. It was a big topic for me and in honesty, once I had put out the song Too Much, I felt like I still had more to say about it – so I wrote the sequel…Much Too Much. We had recorded a choir for Too Much which I didn’t use in the end (it sounded too twee imo), so instead of letting it go to waste, I sampled it, pitched it up a bit and used it as the chorus for Much Too Much, which is currently my favourite tune I’ve put out!
Your Instagram shows your creativity, in particular “Jam And Beatnut Butter”, where you make a beat out of jam and butter jars, what gave you the idea for that?
Hahaha, I forgot about that video!! I also sampled that and used it in Much Too Much!!! I always hear little ideas, it might be chords or lyrics or whatever, and normally I just grab my phone and (try to) sing it in. In this case I was hearing a drum fill and I wondered how it would sound if I just set up a bunch of tins and bits from the kitchen to try and play it and then record it… it also felt like half decent social media content, so it went up as finding content is the absolute biggest slog! I’m sure I’ve got a version of that video with my wife shouting “Shut uppppp” in the background… spoiler alert, it took more than one take!
Off the back of that question, what’s your favourite sandwich filling?
This is honestly the toughest question on here. OK, here are my most common go-to sandwiches:
– Chicken, Avocado, pesto, sundried tomatos… soft bread
– Tuna and sweetcorn and cheese panini (controversial one there, but sometimes I just have mad cravings for it)
– Also, we can not mention a PBJ… I have an intense sweet tooth… also on soft bread
You are a bass player, who are your top three?
Ah man, easy! Anthony Jackson, one of my MAJOR influences as a bassist! Sharay Reed – gospel guy from Chicago – check him out on YouTube, he will blow your socks off. Then it’s got to be James Jamerson, absolute king of bass on almost all Motown records (A TRUE legend – D.O). All of these guys I’m obsessed with their approach to bass playing – it’s really conversational, but also just sits in a track perfectly too, like the middle ground between being a bass soloist and your average bassist just sitting in the background… could talk all day about bass… sadly.
You like your synths, what’s your favourite model?
Also a guilty pleasure of mine, LOL! OK, I’ll get straight to the point: Juno 106, absolute 80’s powerhouse (also some great VST emulators for it online too). My favourite that I own is a Casio CZ-100, it cost me like £150 and I use it on everything! Every patch basically sounds like it was used on the Stranger Things theme tune! Lastly, a KORG MS-20 – I used this on the Raleigh writing holiday we did and fell in love with it immediately! There is something really special about the sub bass sounds you can get from it – for some reason, they just hit right!
You have played worldwide, what’s been a funny moment from being on stage?
LOL, too many to pick from! There was one time when I was playing a festival somewhere in Eastern Europe, and it was a stonking hot day, like 40 degrees minimum. In the day, the crew had decided to tape a (dead) fish onto the top of my keyboards, I might even have a picture actually. We were playing at night time, so it had the entire day to work up a firm stench. What made it worse though was that the minute the stage lights came on at the start of the show, there was an absolute SWARM of flies and moths – like I couldn’t even tell you how many, it was like a plague, I swallowed a bunch, some flew in the stage fans and just obliterated themselves… honestly, it was like something straight out of the bible!
What’s been your favourite place to play?
Japan, hands down! Anytime I’ve been to Japan it’s like a mini adventure. I love the people, the culture, the barminess, the food, the crowds at shows – just everything, it’s the most magical place! On a much more specific note, I’ve always loved playing Shepherds Bush Empire in London – I saw my first gig there when I was 13, and so anytime I get to stand stage side feels really special to me!
What’s in your live set up?
For some reason, I like to try and cram in as many instruments to play as I can when I’m performing, it’s probably because I think it looks cool, but in reality I just end up looking like a panicked man on stage frantically tapping keyboards and reaching for guitars. Having said that, I almost always have my Sadowsky 5 string bass, I use a Fender Acoustic tele (it’s great for getting both acoustic sounds and electric sounds without having to switch out). My go-to synth for live is my Moog Little Phatty (the sub on that is thiiiiick!) and I have a Dave Smith instruments Pro 2 that sometimes makes an appearance. I also use a Yamaha Montage piano too… it’s great for playing samples once you can get round the menu that is about as complex as the matrix! Couple of pedals (Octaver, EHX Bass Balls, and a gain boost for the rare occasion I get to play slap bass), and an amp head – I use Laney amps, because quite frankly they are slept on, but sound incredible… like, head turningly good!
…I also rap/sing and jump around too….so it’s a proper spectacle!
What are you listening to at the moment?
I’m slightly obsessed with a YouTube playlist from a Jamaican DJ called GHOST – It’s like my summer sound track right now. There is a back story – last autumn I went to Jamaica for a few weeks to do some writing with some friends. While we were there, we found an amazing, but quite sketchy “bar” behind a building site. By bar, I mean, a lady with a cool box of beers, some breeze blocks for seats and some dominoes. It was so off the beaten track, it felt like you could easily never find it – and that’s what made it special. They would blast out this playlist all day – and it became the anthem of the trip, and now has become the anthem of my 2021 – here’s a link, it’s not for everyone, but it is amazing!!
COVID has affected the creative industry in a big way. What’s kept you motivated?
Man, it’s been hard to find anything to keep motivated some days to be honest!! The first lockdown in particular was a pretty dark time for me in my head, I felt very out of control of my own life and struggled to accept what was happening. This might not be a great motivator, but I’m part of a few musician groups on various platforms, and the tone of a lot of the conversations was to the tune of, “hope everyone is hanging in there”. Don’t get me wrong – I totally get that sentiment, but for me I didn’t want to just get my head down and ride out the lockdowns… I wanted to know that when it ends, I was in a different place. I had never written a single lyric before, let alone sung or rapped, but I knew I had it in me. So I locked myself in my studio and decided I wasn’t leaving until I had recorded myself singing a song I had written for myself (turned out to be my second single, Too Much). I allowed myself to embrace a part of me I had been really shy about, and honestly it’s one of the best things I’ve done for myself.
2020 was a time to reflect, what did you learn about yourself?
I guess I kind of touched on this in my last answer… but I think I learnt (and am still learning) the importance of authenticity, and finding what you do that feels most true to yourself. I’m guilty of trying to chase the cash, which there always has to be a part of you as a freelance musician that does that – but I would often do it at the cost of things that really fulfil me, so for me I have found a balance between pursuing things that feed my belly, and things that feed my soul! There is an importance in finding things that make you feel like you, and I’ve often been apologetic about those things, or wanting those things…whereas now I’m learning to embrace it and love myself and what I do.
That all sounds really positive. I also learnt that I hate lockdown, and I hate Covid, and I hate not working, but I think everyone feels the same there!!!