INTERVIEW: Cassi

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Cassi

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FEW of us take time to get away from our cosy…

tastes and explore music we would not normally experience. Drums and Bass is a genre that still seems reserved to a clique: a small sector of music fans; it is hard assimilating the genre into the mainstream. Hot young talent is coming through and making it more exciting and accessible for those taking their first steps into that arena. I have been talking with Surrey-based D.J.-producer-songwriter Cassi following the release of her debut E.P., Sonder. She discusses her career so far and plans in the pipeline; her reaction to the positive feedback of Sonder and the single biggest influence behind her music.

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Hey Cassi. How has your week been? What have you been getting up to?

Hi Sam! My week has been good thank you. I’ve been at lectures all week although I’ve come down with Freshers’ Flu – so I’m currently under the duvet with a Lemsip and Logic!

For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?

Of course! My name is Cassi and I’ve recently got into the music scene. Considering where I am now; it’s a bit crazy to think it was only half-a-year ago I actually started producing music properly. But I am more determined than ever to ‘make it’ in the music industry so I think I’m definitely on the right path. I also run a business with Jamie Ford called Quantum Arc Ltd. We are predominantly a graphic design company but have expanded to music and commissions on other artwork as well.

Sonder is your debut E.P./mini-album. Have you been surprised by the reaction it has received so far?

To be honest with you I have been utterly overwhelmed by the support I have received throughout.

I was unbelievably lucky enough to meet Jayline, Levela; Intraspekt and The Qemists who have listened to my E.P. and shared it. Now, that is just unreal. I’m very lucky! The best support has come from my friends and family – I wouldn’t be here, doing what I’m doing without them. The tracks from my E.P. have had 498 views so far on SoundCloud; WOW!

The song titles are really fascinating and get the listener guessing. How do you come up with song titles and what inspired the E.P.’s name?

I’ve got a thing for finding deeper meanings; in everything. It means I question everything in life but it also means I never take anything for simply what comes across. I don’t judge books by their cover, you could say – I read every word in the book first and then read in between every line too! I have also loved music and lyrics with deeper meanings than simply what is being said to the listener. ‘Sonder’ is actually a made up word from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows but it has become quite recognised. It refers to the realisation that each and every person is living a life as deep, vivid and complex as your own. The lyrics in Sonder are: “Don’t you know? One day you’ll have to be your own hero. ‘Cause everyone else, is too busy saving themselves”. You can piece the rest together… 😉

Your music mixes Drum and Bass and Electronic. Are these genres that deserve more mainstream exposure and what attracted you to these styles of music?

It’s difficult to say. Yes, I do think Drum and Bass deserves more understanding and respect. I know a lot of people who negatively stereotype Drum and Bass listener but D’n’B is a community with a lot of passion and energy – again, try not to judge books by their covers.

On the opposite side: I like that D’n’B is not in the limelight and being played everywhere. I have no disrespect for the music we hear on the charts and in 90% of clubs in Guildford – those songs are popular for a reason! However, I feel that D’n’B has a certain personality to it; it’s more underground, more thrilling, more dangerous – and so, for me, that makes it more exciting.

How did you decide to get into music-making and producing? Was there a point in life that compelled you to follow that course?

Jack, my boyfriend, is my soul inspiration and reason for why I’m here. He is a Drum and Bass producer, who goes by the name Mania. We had been together for a year before I even thought about actually making music myself. I taught myself to play piano at the age of nine and carried that on throughout. I have written some (awful!) songs on my guitar which have equally awful lyrics to them! I picked up Ableton very quickly and the first track I ever wrote was That High which features on my E.P. Without Jack, I would still be very lost and there is no chance I’d be producing if it weren’t for him.

Music can be very healing and escapist for a lot of people. What effect does music have on you and how important is it in your life?

As well as Jack; music has absolutely saved me. I’m not going to go into my ‘sob story’ but I have had a pretty rough time for around 8 years, and thanks to Jack and music, I am happier than I ever have been.

Music has always been an escape for me but actually making the music gives me a whole different experience. You become the music and with Drum and Bass’s upbeat tempo; even the dark music makes you feel better and stronger. Music has been a huge influence in my own personal healing.

Sonder brings together some great vocal talents like Roxi Yung and Luna Ward. What was it like working with them and how important have they been with regards the songs on the E.P.?

Working with Luna and Roxi is incredible. It can be challenging working with some people but these two are absolute stars. Luna has been a big part of my life for a long time. I started off recording with her and we have so much fun: she’s fantastic at inputting ideas and is a phenomenal singer… not to mention she’s actually studying marine biology!

Roxi is just extraordinary. She’s given me a new look on life and really makes you believe in yourself. Working with Roxi is so easy. It’s as simple as ‘here are the lyrics’ and half-an-hour later we have a song. She’s such a unique person with an unreal amount of passion and talent, and together, those bring out some absolutely beautiful results. I know she’ll go far.

But let’s not forget Mania. He’s the inspiration behind the whole E.P. and features on the track Sonder. The E.P. wouldn’t even exist without him. I owe my whole musical journey so far, and life really, to him.

I hear whispers there might be a new song coming up? What can you tell us about that?

Ah! I’ve got a new track ready and will be collaborating with Roxi for the vocals. There’s talks of Roxi and I producing and recording a whole album together which is very exciting. I’m really looking forward to getting the vocals down for this new track!

Not only are you a musician but you are an artist too. Your drawings are particularly memorable and beautiful. How do you think your art and music connects and is the visual side of music important to you?

Thank you! Art has always been a massive part of my life. I actually had a place at art uni. but I dropped it to pursue music. Art and music come hand-in-hand; art can really add to music in so many forms. Logos for starters. I have created a few logos for artists at A.C.M. which really adds to the professionalism of their work and persona. But art tells just as much of a story as music does . I’d love to learn how to animate so I can create animations as music videos but I’ve tried and I think that’s a little beyond me!

You are currently based out of Surrey. What is the local scene like there and any musicians/artists you’d recommend we check out?

I live in Guildford. Musically, it’s sad that there isn’t much variety; but there is a Drum and Bass night coming up soon which is a fantastic step towards an open music community. I know a lot of people at A.C.M. are pushing for more variety in the genres played around the area so I really hope we succeed in accomplishing that. Uhuru is a band based between Guildford and Southampton which I really believe will go far in the music industry – you should definitely check them out! Here’s a link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/uhurumusic/?fref=ts

Music can be cathartic and meaningful for so many people in so many different ways. What do you hope your music does to people and has it changed you as a person?

Music has given me so much: it’s given me life, confidence; a sense of self. I hope that it does the same for those who listen to my music.

Drum and Bass, in particular, can feel like you’ve left Earth and you’re completely in another realm. It’s a world that you can take everywhere and you eventually see this world through the lens of the other. It probably doesn’t make sense, but music is like a shield I wear – it helps me get through life and enjoy it too. I know that probably won’t make sense to a lot of people but hope that my music at least brings a feeling of freedom and energy to people.

Of all the songs you have written and produced so far, which is the most meaningful to you?

Sonder. Absolutely. The lyrics alone mean so much to me. It reminds me to fight for myself and not rely on others – because at the end of the day you have to keep yourself above the water.

It reminds me to remember that everyone is fighting their own battles and to respect and support them with that – and it also reminds me that I’m not alone.

The male vocals, by Mania, are powerful and strong. They represent the more demanding, almost forceful voice in the female’s head. The female’s vocals are more passive, emotive and almost desperate – as if she is stressing to herself in desperation what she knows to be true. It is supposed to represent a battle of will: a fight to save yourself; an understanding that everyone is treading water.

As a D.J. you will be premiering a new show on Kane F.M. What will the show entail and are you excited about it?

I’m excited and super-nervous for the radio show! It’s an incredible opportunity, but as a ‘D.J’, I need a lot of practice. I wouldn’t even call myself a D.J. at all – a radio presenter, yes; but I need a lot of work to allow myself the title of a D.J.! It’s a specific talent which requires a lot of skill – so I’m working hard on refining that!

The show will be an hour-and-a-half of Drum and Bass and then will follow with half-an-hour of local talent; songs from up-and-coming artists from A.C.M. I think it’s a great opportunity to support my peers and give those who often go unnoticed a voice. I love that Kane F.M. is a radio station that promotes underground, independent music: it gives those that don’t fit into the stereotypical ‘box’ a way to connect and express. I’ve been sent some incredible tracks by my peers to play on the show (which will be every Sunday from 7-9pm on Kane 103.7).

You study at A.C.M. (Academy of Contemporary Music). What has the experience been like so far and are there a lot of like-minded creatives there?

It’s opened my mind to how much talent is out there and how hard you need to work to make it. The music industry is a big and saturated world and you really need to put in 100% to even get a chance. I’ve met some incredible artists at A.C.M. – you’ll hear their talent on the radio show! I’m looking forward to the course. It’s very hands-on, industry-related and will definitely set us up for the music industry! The tutors are incredible. We are very lucky to be taught by such people.

In terms of the albums and artists you grew up listening to: which have been most important to you?

It may seem odd but Ludoviccio Einaudi is my biggest inspiration in music, and being a classical pianist, it seems strange – even to me. But I learned to play piano because of his music and I try to incorporate the way he layers and layers different parts into my own songs. The melodic layering and composition of his music is outstanding and without his music I probably would never have learned piano – and therefore wouldn’t have gotten into music as I have now. His new album is my favourite: it’s called Elements and like D’n’B does; it takes me to a whole different planet – I get utterly absorbed by his music.

For musicians/D.J.s tempted to follow in your footsteps: what advice would you offer them?

Work HARD. It’s a difficult reality but with 40,000 students applying to music production courses each year you really do have to be unbelievably passionate and determined to get there.

Learn to have confidence in yourself. Believe in what you do and truly believe that you’re going to make it.

That’s what I do anyway. Be humble and always take the opportunities you’re given if you want them – even if you don’t feel ready. Sort of like my radio show: by no means can I D.J. but now I need to it has massively pushed me to learn. These are all things I want to be doing and I create pressure for myself to keep me focused. Also, you never know when opportunities will come around again so grab everything with both hands and just run (and keep running)!

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song (other than one of yours as I’ll put that in) and I’ll play it here…

Einaudi’s Experience: the reason I am where I am today.

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Follow Cassi

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/cassiofficial/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/cassi_edm

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/user-188189449

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNeAvsX4c_nhIM0314JZuPg

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INTERVIEW: Baby Queens

INTERVIEW: 

 

 

Baby Queens

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THERE was a vogue for girl bands towards the start of the ‘00s…

PHOTO CREDIT: Eleanor Sutcliffe/Sooty Photography

that followed the wave of legendary acts of the 1990s. Artists such as En Vogue, The Spice Girls and TLC inspired legions of young musicians to follow their example. Whilst there were some notable acolytes – Little Mix are one of the most credible acts – you do not hear of too many great girl groups on the scene. IV Rox are a group I follow but how many others are there? I speak with the two sisters, two cousins and adopted sister from Cardiff: the mighty and meteoric Baby Queens. The girls are all of mixed heritage and seeing their music acclaimed by sources as notable as The Guardian. Taking time out of their busy schedules: the girls talk about brand-new music and which artists have influenced them; how they came together and how Welsh music should be put more in the foreground of the modern mainstream. Cara, Estelle; Monique B, Ruth and Vanity are here to give you a rare glimpse into the Baby Queens world.

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Hey girls. How are you? How has your week been?

It’s been great thank you. We’re really hyped right now with the amazing response to our latest single Tired of Love!

For those new to your music: can you introduce yourself please? How did you all get together?

Vanity: I’m Vanity. I used to make music with Monique when we were about 13 lol! Met Ruth, Cara and Estelle around 6-7 years ago – we all used to jam together down at Cara and Estelle’s house

There are not many Welsh girl groups around. Do you feel a sense of responsibility representing the country or is it quite freeing being one-of-a-kind?

Cara: We are all very proud to represent Wales: our country is naturally very beautiful, rich in culture and history, and is of course, famous for the music and singing (all of which we are very proud of).  Wales, being such a small country, has had to fight real hard for hundreds of years to keep these traditions and keep the language alive; so I guess it’s the whole underdog mentality like when Wales win the football – the excitement and celebrations are off the chain; I don’t know that you could find pride or unity like it anywhere in the world.Although we are very proud to represent for Wales; we truly believe in uniting people regardless of race, religion and nationality. Every band member is of a mixed heritage and I think growing up with many different cultural influences has instilled within us all the ultimate truth (something we do try to push with our lyrics/music) that we are all human; we are all one.

Although we are very proud to represent for Wales; we truly believe in uniting people regardless of race, religion and nationality. Every band member is of a mixed heritage and I think growing up with many different cultural influences has instilled within us all the ultimate truth (something we do try to push with our lyrics/music) that we are all human; we are all one.

Are there any local musicians or acts – or cool artists you have discovered – you would recommend to people?

Cara: The music scene in Cardiff and Wales, on the whole, is full of artists and musicians that the world needs to hear. We would like to see way more exposure for these incredibly talented musicians.  Check out the bands and artists on the BBC Wales Horizons tour; the Hip-Hop/Grime artists of Pryme Cut, the bands on Strangetown Records. There’s way too many cool acts to mention! If you’re looking for Welsh female artists please check out Leah Hutchinson, Sam Jones and Jessie Allen – all three are beautiful souls and beautiful musicians.

Vanity:  There literally is so many;  so much talent out of Wales. I would also add Afro Cluster, Ruel Ellijah and Ellie Paris to name a few (but there are a lot more).

Various reviews have defined you as a mix of Massive Attack and Portishead meet En Vogue and T.L.C. It sounds like a varied musical palette. What genres/bands have inspired your music and sound?

Cara: We tend to describe our music as ‘fusion’ in that we all have very eclectic styles when listening to and writing music.  We are all true music-lovers and are massively inspired by artists and bands throughout history. We love everything from ‘50s Rock ‘n’ Roll, to Hip-Hop and Reggae; from Motown Soul to Grunge and Punk Rock.  The Beatles, Led Zeppelin; Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sublime; Super Furry Animals. All of these bands mixed styles and genres to create their own unique sound and made ground-breaking, beautiful music as a result of it.  We basically take inspiration from any music that is written with heart and soul.  Music that inspires positive change.

You bring Trip-Hop and Soul together with Pop. A lot of modern girl groups lack that cutting edge and experimentation. Do you feel it is important to create music that pushes beyond the predictable sound of the mainstream?

Cara: Yes absolutely. We really want to inject something with a bit more ‘realness and feeling’ into the music industry – especially for young people to have something positive to listen to and hopefully aspire to. We would love to think we influenced some young girl somewhere to pick up a guitar and get passionate about world affairs.  It’s seems; currently, when you turn on MTV, you’ll see a lot of Autotune and meaningless or negative lyrics; very few female acts with conscious or positive lyrics – probably even less playing their own instruments.

I think it’s important to remember we are a Rock ‘n’ Roll band with something to say – not a manufactured female vocal group. Every one of us plays at least two instruments or more; all of the music and lyrics are written by us; we are a full live band.

When we jam together and write music, all of our different musical influences come into play. We have tunes that are soulful Hip-Hop; others that would be classed as Acoustic Folk, RnB; Reggae, Trip-Hop; Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll –  and others that could be classed as a fusion of three or more genres in one song.  There are no boundaries: we play what feels natural and sounds good.

Vanity: Yeah. I think it’s cool to just be yourself and not be afraid to try something new and different.

Tired of Love recalls the great girl bands of the ‘90s but comes in hard and shows real personality. What was the inspiration behind the song and is it something you connect with as musician and women?

Cara: Tired of Love highlights the confusion, pain and sadness that most humans – man and woman alike – will encounter in a romantic relationship; the highs the lows; the back and forth.  It’s the gravitational pull we all feel when love becomes a power struggle: when it exhausts you to the point of insanity  but somehow you can’t give up no matter how you want to (or know you should). I guess it’s talking about the internal emotional/mental battle we all face: the light/the dark, the ying/the yang and how your heart will often override the logic that your mind will provide. Sense goes out the window because love is such a powerful force.

The Guardian just featured you as their New Band of the Week. What was that like getting that honorific?

Cara: It was an incredible honor. I think we are all still in shock; especially considering we were then made ‘Breakthrough Act’ by The Sunday Times the following week!

Your eponymous debut album is imminent. What can you tell us about the song themes and inspiration behind the record? Do you all have a say in the writing and how much control did you have of your visions?

Cara: On the whole, the album addresses many different current issues. We have songs that are not so much anti-establishment but more pro-human rights – songs that are not so much anti-racism but more pro-unity. We have songs that cover abuse; loss of loved ones; all kinds of things that we have experienced personally and also as a group.

We write all the music and lyrics ourselves and generally jam together as a band when writing.  I may come up with a riff on the guitar and a melodic hook. We might then freestyle lyrics and melody over it until we have the song.  Other times, each band member may come to rehearsal with a riff and hook then everyone will offer ideas or sometimes we will turn up with a completed song with a clear vision of what kind of bass line/drum beat is needed. We will all jam it out until we have fulfilled the writers’ vision. Everybody has a say in everything we do there is no hierarchy within the group: we all massively value each other’s opinions, wishes and feelings. Always.

A lot of the album reflects a love of music and feeling – rather than lyrical depth – and wonderful harmonies. How important have the classic girl groups and heroine you grew up been with regards that dynamic and intuition?

Cara: Yes, we are all emotional souls with big heart. We believe music is a very healing and powerful force in the world: the feeling and tone of the music is paramount to all of us.  I don’t know if we have been greatly influenced by girl groups as such although we have most definitely been influenced by girl bands and female artists who really stood up for something or created music with the intention of educating and healing people. Girls that we have mad love for would include Tracy Chapman, Jean Grey; Stevie Nicks, Erykah Ba; Janis Joplin, Lauryn Hill; Angel Haze, Suzi Quatro; Janelle Monae and Patti Smith.

Female/female-fronted bands we are influenced by would include Blondie, No Doubt; X-Ray Spex, L7; Hole, Sonic Youth; The Pretenders, Gladys Knight and the Pips; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Vanity:  The feeling of the lyrics is important of course but you can hear a song in a different language and still know if it’s sad or happy. Not everyone in the world can relate to our life but everyone can relate to emotions: feeling sad or happy or angry or in love. Emotions are universal and that is what are music represents the emotional side of life.

Vocals are a big part of your music. How did you decide who sings lead on which songs? Did you know instantly when writing the songs or is it something you arrive at when rehearsing the tracks?

Vanity: it mostly gets decided while writing the track.

Cara: There are no rules. Every song will be written differently with a different girl on lead and backing, although when it comes to harmonies, Vanity and I tend to sing high; Monique and Ruth mid and Estelle lower.

You each have a distinct style and fashion sense. Estelle and Cara mix surf and skate; Monique and Ruth more Urban and street-level; Vanity purple-haired and eye-catching. How important is style and fashion to you and any idols that have inspired your looks?

Cara: We do all love fashion: it is a beautiful art form; it’s art that you wear and another pure  form of expression. Although none of us would conform to wear something just because Milan or Paris are dictating the season’s ‘look’; we all kind of mix styles up to create our own unique look – ranging from high-fashion items to vintage pieces found in jumble sales, car boot sales and charities.

Vanity:  We all have our own style we like to be individual and can appreciate other people’s individual styles also.

 

Your new music is slicker and more confident that, say, debut single Red Light. What can you attribute that to?

Vanity: Red Light was our first single and the first song we ever played together so I think confidence has grown with time.

After the album: what does the rest of 2016 hold for you?

Cara: We have one more single release this year with a music video to accompany it. We have a string of shows nationwide as well as our album launch party. It’s been a great year for us so far and hope we can continue to grow at the same pace.

Looking back at the crowds you have played and the moments you have experienced: which have stuck in the mind and made you most proud?

Cara: There have been so many incredible shows, journeys; experiences we have shared, but I think a massive moment of realisation for us was playing at Great Escape Festival (Europe’s biggest festival for new music).

It was the first time (outside of playing in Cardiff to friends and family) that we saw a big gang of people in the crowd singing our lyrics back at us. We realised none of these guys personally knew any of us. We were blown away looking at each other like “we have real fans!“; “Actual strangers who like our music and know the words“. We were laughing together about it together but all knew it was a pretty special thing.

Vanity: I think T in the Park was a good one also. Personally, a local beer festival we played a year or so back for me was my most memorable: the crowd were so responsive and everyone was up and dancing was a great atmosphere.

Away from music, do you spend a lot of time together and how do you choose to unwind?

Cara: Yeah; we hang out a lot. We are close friends and family members before we were ever in a band. We are very lucky to have beautiful beaches and waterfalls 20 mins in any direction from our town. Personally, I hang out at the beach and swim in the ocean weekly throughout the summer and into autumn. We all love nature and are often meeting up to go to the beach or walks in the forest. We attend gigs in town together now and then and mainly hang out at each other’s houses making food, talking; relaxing, watching documentaries; jamming on the guitars.

Image result for baby queens
If, between you, you could take 5 albums to a desert island, what would they be?

Cara: I would take John Frusciante ‘s(from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) album To Record Only Water for Ten Days.

Vanity: Mine would definitely be either Songs in the Key Of Life by Stevie Wonder and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Estelle: Best of Pen Island Records

Monique B: I’m taking  Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album

Ruth: Yes. Mine would be Jimi Hendrix Greatest Hits album.

Can you offer any advice to any other bands or artists looking to follow Baby Queens into music?

Cara: Write music from your heart. Be authentic and sincere; practice your instrument/writing/singing/rapping until you feel comfortable and natural to just jam and play freely.  Put all of your doubts and fears into your music; do not try to hide behind a false ego; wear your scars with pride. It is the true nature of any artist to feel vulnerable and insecure and this is why heartfelt music is so powerful and beautiful – because it is real and raw. When you write honestly from the heart people who listen to your music can connect straight to what your soul felt as you wrote it and understand with empathy.

And lastly – as Joe Strummer from The Clash said – never give up.

Vanity: Work hard. Always love what you do and have faith in your dreams.

Finally, and for being a good egg, you can name any song you like (not one of yours as I’ll include that).

Cara: Bishop Briggs – The Way I Do.


Vanity:  The Fugees’ Fu-Gee-La (Sly and Robbie Remix). I heard it the other day for the first time in aaaages and had forgotten how much I like it lol.

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Follow Baby Queens

 Image result for baby queens

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Baby-Queens-523170581048847/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/baby_queens

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/baby-queens

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbhC6mpYkUBEFW_XzZP8ukQ

 

INTERVIEW: Leigh from Echo Arcadia

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Leigh from Echo Arcadia

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ONE of the best things about music is coming across a band that not only takes the…

breath but comes back and keeps on producing great material. Echo Arcadia are a Scottish force of nature who have undergone some personnel change but seem at their strongest – as they prepare to release their latest album. Following from the critically acclaimed Beauty in an Average Life, the band are causing tongues to wags and fans to simmer with excitement. I have been chatting with lead vocalist and guitarist Leigh. He reveals what we can expect from the new album; how the band has progressed and his reaction to Echo Arcadia overtaking Red Hot Chili Peppers in the Dutch charts.

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You are the lead of Echo Arcadia. Where did that band name come from?

The band name is actually a mixture of two things. Our old keyboard player, Majied’s wife, works in fine art and she suggested the name of a piece called Ecce Arcadia. If memory serves; it’s Pan’s entrance into Paradise. We have a deep love in our music for the Roland Space Echo so we chose Echo Arcadia – the drug reference with ecceys also helped us change that first part haha.

How did the band come together and were you guys friends from way back?

I had a band with Dan, our drummer, called Brightside. When some key members left we wanted to reinvent ourselves so pulled in some friends of friends (mush) and my partner Vonny to form the original Echo line-up.

There have been some changes in staff but the core has remained the same.

Kate, who was part of Brightside, has now rejoined us so it’s been like old times.

It seems like there is a lot of jollity and brotherhood within Echo Arcadia. Does the band hang out away from recording and who is the most ‘troublesome’ member of the band?

We do hang out a lot; though as an older band we have less time to these days. We try to make it about the quality of the hang more than the quantity these days, though. The thing I love about being so close with everyone is that it’s always like I’ve just seen them no matter if it’s been a couple weeks or a couple of days.

You have a new album on the horizon. What can you tell people about its songs and themes?

The album is about a journey through my recent life. It’s a little dark: as anyone who knows my lyrics this shouldn’t come as a surprise (and details my recovery from the breakdown of a major relationship to depression and the journey to the other side).

The tunes are poignant without being weighed down in the subject matter. They’re very Echo’.

Beauty in an Average Life was the previous album. How would you compare your current work to that and how has the band changed?

Our producer Garry Boyle recorded us in his studio in Castlesound called the Slate Room. He found the album to be much more mature than Beauty’. It’s a more coherent album too, I feel. It was written and recorded in a year and has a real continuity to it. I like that it feels like a step forward in a journey.

A couple of your members have left – Tony and Jenna – since the band’s inception. Have the changes affected the music or have you managed to remain close-knit?

We are closer than ever; we are a band of brothers (and a new sister) and the new guitarist (Dawid) has been a breath of fresh air.

His input has sparked the writing of album three and it’s sounding great so far. We’ve been together a long time as a core and there’s barely ever a cross word spoken between us all. It’s all held in the belief in ourselves that we love each other and what we do.

I see you have been tussling with Red Hot Chili Peppers in the Dutch charts and Into the Shadows is overtaking Dark Necessities. Any messages you’d give the band to ‘commiserate’?

I’d say: “Don’t worry guys, there’s plenty of room for us both. Dry your eyes on the $100 bills and keeps at it haha

I know the current album has taken a lot of effort and hard work from the entire band. Do you have any immediate plans to tour the album and what does the rest of the year hold?

We would love to tour it. We are in negotiations with two rather large indie labels to release it so that’s what has been the delay so far.

Don’t let our quietness mislead anyone to think we aren’t busting to release this album haha

As a songwriter and singer: what inspires you as a songwriter and what events compel your music?

I’m a morbid wee fucker at the core I think. I do find the whole process of writing my heart into little stanzas to be pretty cathartic; like free psychotherapy. Then, making people listen to them in the guise of Pop songs haha. Life events as a whole inspire me. I’ve lived a storied existence and when I seem to be running low on fodder I just make more by being the fuck up I naturally am.

The band hails from Edinburgh. It is a city notable for its great music. Do you think it gets overlooked in favour or areas like London and Manchester?

Without question, people can’t seem to see past Biffy (Clyro) as all that Scotland has to offer and Edinburgh suffers from this too – in favour of Glasgow bands usually. I feel that a Renaissance has happened in Edinburgh and we are producing some amazing bands and singer-songwriters. Hopefully, the rest of the country catches on soon, though.

Which local bands and artists would you recommend we check out?

Broken Records, Posable Action Figures; Lost In Vancouver, Return to the Sun; Carrie Mac… The list would be never-ending there are so many great and talented people around here

Can you give us some juicy tabloid-worthy gossip about Echo Arcadia? Any members who are particularly unruly or possess a dark secret?

We are a good bunch of mature fellas. There’s a chemtrail theory perpetrated by one member (who is suitably quizzed and mocked in equal measures). A couple of vapors who are single-handedly eroding the ozone layer; but overall, we wear our hearts on our sleeves and are nice to old ladies

For musicians tempted to follow in your footsteps: what advice would you offer them?

It’s cliché for a reason but stick at it.

Write what makes you happy; not what people expect of you.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song (other than an Echo Arcadia one as I’ll put that in) and I’ll play it here…

The Motorcycle Boy Reigns by Broken Records.

 

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Follow Echo Arcadia

 

Official:

http://echoarcadia.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/echoarcadia/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/EchoArcadia

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/echo_arcadia/

Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/echo_arcadia

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/EchoArcadia/

FEATURE: The September Playlist: Vol. 6

FEATURE:

MUSICMUSINGSANDSUCH THE SEPTEMBER PLAYLIST VOL. 6

The September Playlist: Vol. 6

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THE final day of September is…

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just about here so it is time to conclude this month’s Playlists with a round-up of the songs out now – those taken from new albums or ones out in the next week. From Fatboy Slim and Fleewtood Mac – who have reissued albums out – to some new gems from The Wytches and Peter Doherty: a glimpse into some rather varied and wonderful music. It is exciting looking into October so let’s buckle in and investigate some of September’s very best.

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Danny Brown (ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt)Really Doe

 

 

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SlavesPeople That You Meet

 

 

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Nicolas JaarThe Number and the Siren

 

 

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Shabaka and the AncestorsThe Observer

 

 

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KimbraSweet Relief

 

 

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Temples Certainty

 

 

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Deacon BlueThis is a Love Song

 

 

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YellowcardThe Hurt Is Gone

 

 

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Scarlett SaundersI Should Know

 

 

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Tegan and SaraStop Desire

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John CarpenterUtopian Façade

 

 

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 Norah JonesFlipside

 

 

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Pete DohertyI Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)

 

 

The Wytches

The WytchesCrest of Death

 

 

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Bon JoviLabor of Love

 

 

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Chase and Status (feat. Tom Grennan)All Goes Wrong

 

 

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Green DayStill Breathing

 

 

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Kat DeLunaWaves

 

 

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Leonard CohenYou Want It Darker

 

 

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Margaret BergerRunning with Scissors

 

 

Image result for Nevada (ft. Mark Morrison & Fetty Wap) - The Mack

Nevada (ft. Mark Morrison & Fetty Wap)The Mack

 

 

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Fatboy SlimSong for Lindy

 

 

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Fleetwood Mac Gypsy

 

 

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Giraffe Tongue OrchestraBlood Moon

 

 

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Heidi TalbotThe Year I was Born

 

 

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Idina MenzelLike Lightning

 

 

 

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Insomnium Winter’s Gate, Part 4

 

 

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Macy GrayAnnabelle 

 

 

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Sum 41 War

 

 

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Julia JacklinLeadlight

 

 

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Ultimate PaintingI’m Set Free

 

 

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Amy LeeDream Too Much

 

 

Peter Doherty
What a month September has been and what a month October threatens to be. I am looking forward to discovering what the next month has ahead and look back fondly on a bumper month for music. Every day, a new song drops and gives people a chance to discover something wonderful. Who knows what the following four-week period will provide, but one thing is for sure: it is going to be another busy and tremendous period for music.

INTERVIEW: Roxi Yung

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Roxi Yung

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I have just come away from interviewing the multi-talented…

production master Jay Picasso: someone who helps nurture young artists and is among the vanguard of studio names that are making big impressions on music. It seems like he and Roxi Yung could work with one another in the future. Her inimitable style and eye-catching fashion seem primed for the mainstream. It is her voice that really gets in the head and contains so much soul, heart and immense passion. A definite character and a D.J.-cum-musician that has clear goals and definite sights: how long before Yung is a big name?! I got a chance to ask her about music and what it means to her; how important Drum and Bass is and what her career goals are. Sit back and gain an insight into a wonderful young talent unlike any other.

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Hey Roxi. How are you? How has your week been?

I’m very well thank you; tired and sweaty but that never changes. My week has been hectic and I feel as if there is no time for life but it’s all good.

I know you are moving out of Surrey and migrating to London. What compelled the move and are you looking forward to it?

Yes, I have already moved now and I’m currently living in Brixton in my new place whilst working in Sloane Square at Emma Hope Shoes. Moving to London has always been my goal and now I’ve finally done it; moved to the big-wide, shitty city.

Do you think there are enough opportunities outside of the cities for young artists or is it a struggle to get your voice heard?

Yes, if you are lacking confidence, marketing and the obvious tools to gig with then it is very hard to get your voice heard.

I am lucky because I went from Brockenhurst College; to A.C.M. in Guildford and now I’m in Central London so my networking is probably what helps me out the most. It’s who you know not what you know nowadays.

You seem like a very vibrant and colourful person: someone who embraces life and would have fitted in with the ‘60s Psychedelia movement. Your fashion and style stand out. Is imagery – and standing aside from the crowd – important and do you think there are too many musicians/artists that do stand out?

I think in a world like today where everybody is trying to make it within the creative industry. It’s hard to be unique and original, but if you stay true to what you love and you believe in what you’re doing, then others will do too and you will stand out. I wish I was born in the ‘60s hahaha. Life is too materialistic today I like wearing wacky clothes because I don’t like to conform to society wearing whatever you are ‘told’ to wear: plus, life is more fun when you add some colour! 🙂

Tell me about your D.J. work. How did you get into that side of music?

I studied Musical Theatre for 2 years at Brockenhurst College in the New Forest because I thought I could gain confidence and further my singing and acting capabilities that way. After realising (that) in the back of class – I always had Drum and Bass playing in my headphones in the middle of a dance class – I realised that I wanted to learn how to actually MAKE the music, and D.J. it etc.

I’m not saying that I can already sing but I’m saying after 2 years of singing warm-ups, exercises and singing as a choir; I wanted to take on some new skills under my belt. I always find myself searching for famous D.J.s on YouTube and just watching through their D.J. set as if I was there with them.

Being on a stage in front of loads of people having a sick night is what I want to be doing. Good vibes and good music.

In terms of your D.J. work: what have been your favourite gigs the past year and which venues do you particularly like to play?

I haven’t actually played much yet because I’m getting over that whole ‘I’m not ready yet’ thing. I played at Notting Hill Arts Club on my birthday and all my mates came and said they had a great night. I just have to get over the fear of playing to complete strangers. Now I’m living in Brixton: what better place than to start actively D.J.-ing here?!

My favourite gigs that I’ve BEEN to have to include Boom Town; O.M.G., Congo Natty was ridiculous and Sam and I loved it so much that he’s just booked tickets to see Natty next month at Electric Brixton (which is now on the same road as my place – get in!). Along with that… every Macky Gee concert I go to is insane and I always enjoy My Nu Leng.

 

 

How do songs come together do you? Are they inspired by any one event (break-ups or personal struggles) and do you have to get into a particular mindset when creating music?

When I’m writing lyrics I understand that I am in the end creating a Drum and Bass or House track; although I try to write lyrics about things I actually care about: not referencing drugs, relationships etc. TOO much just because those are the things that are usually relatable in music. I’m aiming to write lyrics that are catchy but also more meaningful than sex ,drugs and Rock and Roll.

You are, in addition to being a D.J., a singer and musician. Can we expect any new material or solo E.P.s from you in the future perhaps?

Yes! It’s taken ages trying to get everyone together that volunteered to help me prepare my E.P.; especially when you’re working with friends because you forget to be productive and you end up just going to rave rather than working on your own material .

I will have an E.P. coming out soon that I am not putting a specific ‘genre’ on.

I take a lot of inspiration from all Drum and Bass in general plus I loveeeee Bass House 140B.P.M. etc. I like groovy ‘feel-good’ House music; then I also like a little Grime and Hip-Hop so I’m going to add influences from all to try and finish with some music that everyone can get into.

Most of your work takes you into Drum and Bass territory. What is about the genre that inspires you and which artists, either past or present, are especially important to you?

OK… what do I like about Drum and Bass?

I like Drum and Bass because it’s forever growing, forever changing; incorporating different kinds of instruments, emotions and pop culture into it.

You can party to Drum and Bass! You can add a flute or a guitar or some nasty bass-y drums – or some weird synths.

I think at high school, when everyone was listening to whatever was in the top 40 U.K., I got really bored. I started listening to the stuff I wanted to listen to – Flava D, Cause & Affect; Macky Gee, Nero and Dimension. This kind of music gave me a rush like whatever emotion I was feeling, as long as I had this music playing, I could get rid of my mood.

Your vocals are particularly unique and standout. Were there any heroines/heroes that motivated you to become a singer and how much do you have to work on your vocals as an artist?

Thank you! 🙂 So when I was in year 4, I was in hospital for a while because I had an ‘infection on the brain’ apparently. My parents both had to quit work (etc.) to come and spend every night in the hospital with me for a few months. I wasn’t myself for ages: I couldn’t eat, sleep or rid a bike. Gradually, I started getting better. My mum and dad prayed every day and the doctors said their medication wasn’t working but somehow I was beginning to recover. I would say I’m more spiritual than religious but I definitely believe something is watching over me and my family.

(I come off topic very often).

My biggest inspirations (vocals) are Amy Winehouse all the way! Whitney Houston, Etta James; Ella Fitzgerald, Christina Aguilera (I never used to shut up singing Christina Aguilera; my mum used to go mental); Becky Hill, Miley Cyrus (purely because she’s lived her own life and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks); a little bit of Duffy. I usually like listening to jazzy, laid-back (but powerful); soulful, husky voices.

Guys: I loooove George Michael, Phil Collins; Sam Smith and MNEK. Good vibes!

Having provided vocals (this year) to Optikx’s Blue Soul: are you collaborating with anyone else this year and can you give us a sneak-peak into any other songs you will be appearing on?

So, I am collaborating a lot at the moment with Cassi! She’s incredible and it’s soooo refreshing to meet a girl who is not bitchy; not two-faced; genuinely interested in music and her career and can give me real advice and direction.

Plus, we literally agree on everything. If I sing a bad note we will literally look at each other with this weird face and that symbolised that we both knew it sucked.

I’m working with a lot of students from A.C.M. because I loved my time there and I can’t believe it’s over already – I’ve got some awesome friends that that I’m not going to lose touch with.

I got an email the other day from a really huge label that manages some of my favorite artists – I nearly fainted when I saw it.

I’m not telling anyone until something real happens with it, though – I always get my hopes up and then nothing happens with it haha.

 

 

As both a D.J. and artist, you must have goals and ambitions unfulfilled. Moving to London will be a big help but what is there left to tick off on the ‘to-do’ list for you?

What is necessary to begin my journey is basic marketing and promotions, business cards; a lot of gigs -putting myself out there. I need to take every opportunity I can get and accept that every time something goes wrong or could have gone better, it’s just a learning curve.

If you could turn back time and offer your younger self some advice, what would it be?

Don’t follow the crowd: believe in your fucking self not what everyone else wants you to do. Particular members or my family or friends have not always believed that having this sort of career will be able to provide me with a decent income to live etc. etc. They think I should be doing something serious you know: accountant, lawyer (I get it something where I’m definitely going to get dolla). But it’s my passion for music that will drive my career. I can’t deal with a 9-5 job!

Were you only allowed to take three songs and three albums to a desert island: which ones would you choose?

I’d probably take an Amy Winehouse album to make me feel at peace and to keep me sane. I’d take a UKF Drum and Bass album hopefully with a few old Jungle tunes on there. Then, if I’m honest, I might take a Frank Ocean album to let me chillax. I LOVE the song Shrine by Artificial Intelligence: I find it so emotionally experimental. it’s beautiful!

Many will see what you are doing and want to follow in your creative footsteps. For those reading or hesitant about embarking on such a leap: what advice would you offer them?

To put the work in and believe in yourself. To use the tools around you in every way you can. To never miss an opportunity because that opportunity you missed could have been your ticket to success.

Also… read the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. That book was thrown towards me by my dad and it genuinely has all of the answers on how to follow your dreams and become successful in life.

Finally, and for being a good egg, you can name any song you like; I’ll play it here…

Play Sonder – Cassi ft. Roxi Yung. My mum even likes this one 🙂

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Follow Roxi Yung

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/roxiyung/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/RoxiYung

Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/roxiyung/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/roxiyung/

 

INTERVIEW: Jay Picasso

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Jay Picasso

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MUSIC is often about those on the stage and behind the microphone…

but we do not often recognise the important and relevance of those who make the music come together. Studio figureheads and impresarios at huge record labels seem all about the money and figures whereas those who truly love music and the great underground musicians trying to put their sounds down are to be commended. Jay Picasso is the boss at Starcity Studios and has taken a lot of great artists under his wing and help shape and promote their music. One of the busiest men in the industry; I was lucky to catch a few moments as he explains his role and some of the artists that have come through his doors – who we should keep our eyes out for in the coming months.

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Hey Jay. How has your week been? What have you been getting up to?

Hey Sam; I’ve had a very productive week so far. I have mainly been preparing content for Wayne Woodward’s album release next month and preparing for Signal’s (single) Down release next month (and launch party performance next week).

Can you tell us a bit about what you do?

I am a music producer. I run a recording studio Starcity Studios (London) and write music for artists both signed and independent. I am also an artist manager.

You are the director at Starcity Studios. How did you become involved with the studio and what does it offer potential clients?

I founded the studio in 2012; starting out working with local talent and producing music for bands. Then, a few years down the line, my name had spread a little further than my local town and started to receive offers of work from labels and film production companies.

The studio offers the complete artist experience from writing and rehearsing, through to production and mastering.

At Starcity Studios, we generally do all the work needed to prepare artists’ music for radio and distribution…..top 40 stuff!

It’s a confusing world out there for artists so we try and make the process as straight-forward as possible.

 

 

The name Jay Picasso definitely carries huge weight with regards producing and mentoring. When did you decide you wanted to help musicians achieve their dreams and what is the most satisfying part of your job?

It was a few years ago that I realised I wanted to assist artists in their development. It was probably only a year ago that I actually found myself in the position to do so. The most satisfying part of my job is seeing the development of an artist who has had to overcome the struggles of staying committed to something that doesn’t initially pay.

Being an artist is a tough job. For most, it seems like an easy decision to become rich and famous. Truth is, for a creative person it can be a very challenging path to walk.

So that and witnessing an artist go from a follower of a genre to a pioneer of that genre. It doesn’t always happen so when it does it’s amazing to have been a part of.

Signal – who recently recorded at the studios – releases Down very soon. What was it like working with him and can you give us any cheeky secrets or inside information about Signal?

Ha. Big Sig! He doesn’t like that name but it’s my duty to tease him. Yes, all is well with the project. Signal’s music keeps going from strength to strength. Down is a record I feel very strongly about. It feels like the product of patience and perseverance. Signal is a very hard-working individual with a very strong head on his shoulders.

I really can’t say much at the moment; however, I will say that it was only this morning we discussed the possibility of an E.P./album. It’s early days and we don’t want to put out the right product out at the wrong time. But that might be worth asking Signal about….

It seemed like he had a blast in the studio. How do you help artists like Signal with their music and bring the best from them?

I find the most important about bringing the best out of an artist is to listen to them. Knowing what matters to them, knowing what they are about; what music they listen to and enjoy. I just try my best to make them feel comfortable and in the case of Signal and a few others, I have had the pleasure of becoming good friends with them. This is always great. It makes studio session more like hanging out. Just good fun!

 

 

Which musicians – who have come through the doors this year – have impressed you most and would recommend to us?

Wayne Woodward was one of many that walked through my door. He has come such a long way. I’m very excited for the album release. Blynx is another rapper that I work with who, again, has come such a long way. He has begun to release his music this year (which we started recording in 2012) and has already started to generate quite a buzz on his videos.

You produce a lot of varied musicians and genres but tend to focus around Dance, Grime and Electronic artists. What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

I grew up listening to everything.

My parents both are very musical and had me listening to most popular records of the ‘80s.  I remember lots and lots of Motown. I got heavily into R’n’B, Hip-Hop and Neo-Soul in the ‘90s and then, when I started producing, strangely enough, I really only listen to music from genres I don’t produce.

It’s relaxing. I listen to the charts and Pop records for my own development and being relevant. But it tends to make my mind tick over with ideas too much. So, to relax, I listen to Jazz and Soul music mainly.

Are there any underground treasures you would recommend we listen to? Any artists that are not quite at mainstream level but about to burst through?

There are so many that come to mind. The first would be a young and talented producer King Kev (@KingKevsDCBM). If there were ever a producer who has truly impressed me I’d have to say him. He is an amazing musician and ploughing through the game just like me! I know he has produced some ‘hits’. I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before he is climbing the charts.

Chang (@ChanyUK); a singer-songwriter working alongside producer Melodic Beats. They have some serious R’n’B that is just waiting to blow! I know they are working very hard at the moment.

Deamer (@DeamerArtist; London rapper from south-side of the bridge. Very talented young man. Lots of deep and controversial content; all about the mixtapes.  Deamer has lyrics for days!

 

 

You are a BRIT School graduate and alumni.  What was that experience like and do you think it is the premier birthplace of our up-and-coming musicians?

It was definitely a good start. I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am today without the education and training I received at BRIT. These days, however, I feel talent is everywhere. Although attending the BRIT or any performing arts school might assist someone with their musical careers it’s not enough to make it. You have to have more than education. You need real raw talent and a motivation to succeed.

Skepta recently walked away with the Mercury Prize. What was your reaction to that and do you see Grime and Hip-Hop becoming more integrated into mainstream music – greater widespread acceptance, perhaps?

Skepta deserved it! It was good to read about! Honestly, yes I believe its Grime and Hip-Hop are becoming wider spread. Sometimes, however, I believe that wider spread can also mean watered down. Being acceptable in musical terms really means ‘popular’, which in my opinion kind of defeats the object of such a musical style. However, with production in the right hands, ‘watered down’ becomes ‘commercial’ and commercial allows more people to accept and hear. So, In a very long-winded way, what’s happening to the Hip-Hop and Grime scene is great. I just hope that the genres maintain their integrity.

The mainstream is still overrun and infiltrated by Indie bands and rather bland Pop. Do you think there needs to be a shake-up or do you feel it will become more varied and all-inclusive in future years?

I don’t think so. I think there is so much variety of acts these days that the ‘mainstream’ has always made itself superior to.

Although these acts are full of talent and often new fresh music – the problem they will always face in the U.K. is that there is only ONE chart for all music to compete in.

This simply means that if you specialise in genres like Hip-Hop or Grime, you will be directly competing against the Adeles of the industry for sales. In the U.S., they have a chart for each genre of music. Now although they are much bigger – with many more artist competing for chart positions – this alone means each artist creating a specific genre of music is competing against others within the same genre – makes things a little smoother in my opinion.

 

Being based out of London: do you feel it is the best place in the world for great new music? Has London become the go-to city for the freshest and most original artists?

Haha. Yes and no! London is a bursting scene. Something is always happening. Someone is always performing! It’s great! The only thing I would say is that the world has gotten a lot smaller now because of the Internet and this means artists and talent from all over the world can collaborate at the click of a button and be heard from the simplest of YouTube uploads. Lastly, people love what’s new and people what’s love different. You can find new and different anywhere in world. London just so happens to attracts many of those people.

What does the rest of the year hold for you? Any insight into the artists you’ll be working with?

Lots of release dates; lots of studio hours; lots of shows and hopefully lots of new music available. All the artists I am working closely with have some kind of strategy in place for the next few months. I personally like to have plans made up until Christmas for each of them. We will then take a little break and assess how to proceed in the New Year.

For any producers and creatives that are tempted to follow in your footsteps: what advice would you offer about getting started and making moves in the industry?

Get started now! In my eyes, I’m still on a long road towards where I want to be. Each month/year brings me a step closer but it’s important to know that progress is progress.

Some months can be longer than others but always keep moving towards where you want to be. On a practical note: anyone serious on becoming a producer or manager; work with new talent. Commit yourself to at least once project per year which doesn’t require payment. I find that this often means you’re working towards something you believe in and are seriously passionate about. Prepare for more work than you expect and keep in mind that for the majority of people trying to make it in this industry; it’s a slow game with some real rewarding moments. Lastly, and obviously: yes it can pay huge sums of money. But expect very little to start and know that like anyone else you will have to earn your wage, your promotion and your pension.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song (other than a Starcity artist as I’ll include one) and I’ll play it here…

That’s probably the hardest question you have asked. However, this song is one I heard a month or so ago, an artist from the U.K. and clearly working with some very talented producers…..

Thabo… World War Free

 

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Follow Jay Picasso (Starcity Studios)

Official:

http://starcitystudios.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/starcitystudios/?pnref=lhc

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/starcitystudios

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbuB96voLAdyWXF5xTGETzg

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/starcitystudio/

 

FEATURE: The Legends Are Mortal: 10 Dissapointing Follow-Up Albums

FEATURE:

 

The Legends Are Mortal:

 

Image result for the stone roses 

10 Dissapointing Follow-Up Albums

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The bands and artists who create fine work often have the unenviable task of following it up. The pressure can be immense – critical expectations and fans’ eyes on you – and many fail to fulfil the hype and keep the pressure on. It happens to the best musicians so I have been looking at some of the high-profile albums that have caused critics to screw up their faces and ink-up their red pens. It can be hard following on from such a celebrated album and creating something as important and strong. From Lady Gaga to The Strokes: a peek into the bands/artists who created sensational albums and then took their foot off the gas pedal.

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The BeatlesLet It Be

Image result for the beatles let it be

There is never a truly bad album in the cannon of Liverpool’s finest, The Beatles. Not only one of the greatest bands ever to have lived: they inspired so many other artists to follow them and become more daring with music. Throughout their career you can chart the various phases and how their music evolved. By 1968 – following their eponymous album and its strains – there was hostility in the group. Various members leaving and coming back – Ringo particularly unhappy as a Beatle – many felt ‘The White Album’ would be their final call. Although Abbey Road was the final studio album recorded: Let It Be was the final release – recorded just before Abbey Road – and has an appropriate amount of fatigue and tension. Not as gleaming, wondrous and memorable as their previous work: band tensions and the omnipresence of Yoko Ono perhaps added to the problem. A few classic cuts emerged – including McCartney’s title track and The Long and Winding Road – but by and large, it was a patchy effort. The band did rectify things for their swansong but Let It Be is the product of a group losing their brotherhood and connection in music – only bringing some of their genius to the album.

 

OasisBe Here Now

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No band in the 1990s had such respect, acclaim and importance as Oasis. Definitely Maybe was their defining debut and gave the world such instant classics as Live Forever and Cigarettes & Alcohol. That record brought the Manchester band to prominence and showed they were arbiters of the modern Rock revolution – proper lads who knew how to pen a great tune and not give a f**k about anything. (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Arrived in 1995 – the year after their debut – and can be argued to be a better record. More emotional depth and tenderness can be found: plenty of rock-solid anthems nestling alongside. No matter what your views on both albums there is a unanimous feeling towards (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?: one of the best albums of the 1990s and a natural continuation from a truly world-changing band. Be Here Now was under immense pressure to complete a staggering 1-2-3 and failed to do so. If the first two albums from Oasis were booze-tinged with a bit of marijuana: Be Here Now is a cocaine album from start to finish. Bravado, braggadocio and arrogance can be heard in every number – Oasis were never sort of self-confidence. If (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? suggested a call-to-arms and need for unity: Be Here Now was that message fed through a bulhorn. Songs went on too long – most of the tracks are over five minutes in length; four exceeded the seven-minute mark – and the production was too bland to do the finer numbers justice. Stand By Me could easily rank alongside the finest Oasis compositions – although that is essentially chorus-heavy and lacks depth – but it is the highlight from an otherwise average album. It was the fastest-selling British album at the time and the popularity and fond reviews bowed to public expectation. In hindsight, many have reassessed their views and recognise Be Here Now as the point where Oasis started to show cracks.

 

The Stone RosesSecond Coming

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It is hard to think of an album that was as celebrated and revered as The Stones Roses’ debut masterpiece,  Bringing together elements of the rave culture and sparkling gems of ‘60s Pop: the album captivated music lovers in 1989 and introduced one of the most influential bands of the time. Critical reception was positive when the album was released yet The Stone Roses has gained more retrospective acclaim and respect. Influencing so many contemporaries and still sounding fresh today. Hopes were high for their follow-up but several factors contributed to the sense of disappointment. A five-and-a-half year gap between albums was one; the fact the band withdrew from arena touring for most of that time was another. Second Coming boasts typical; funky workouts and tribal grooves but released in the Britpop era and it seems out-of-place. Not capturing the same imagination, zeitgeist-defining wonder of their debut: it is a record with occasional flashes but not much else. Not quite a disaster but not an album that you’d readily associate with one of Britain’s best groups. New material has surfaced the last year which gives hope of a third album from The Stone Roses – that will be exciting to see.

 

Michael JacksonBad

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Following the tremendous success and celebration of Thriller: many artists would crumble under that pressure and be unable to live up to that hype. Thriller has gone on to become the biggest-selling album ever and rightfully so. Its standout title track – and THAT amazing video – sits naturally alongside street-beat dramas Beat It and the slinky anxieties of Billie Jean. Throw in Human Nature and Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and you have a legendary album by anyone’s standards. Bad arrived five years after Thriller and gained plenty of positive reviews from critics. There are those that feel Bad is less filler-heavy than Thriller and a more solid effort. That is true but Bad contains fewer true epics and standouts; its production is a little theatrical and its sounds treading the same ground as Jackson’s previous work. Bad is only a let-down in terms of Jackson’s standards – compared to any other musician it is a triumphant and sensational work. Dirty Diana and Smooth Criminal are two of Jackson’s best-known tracks and it is hard to fault his confidence and songwriting. What Bad misses is the same drama and accusation as Thriller. Leave Me Alone is the closest thing to a Billie Jean or Beat It – something Jackson would remedy on the remarkable Dangerous.

 

Terence Trent D’ArbyNeither Fish Nor Flesh

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At one point the British media were touted Terrence Trent D’Arby as the next Prince: in fact, the man himself was keen to make those comparisons and big himself up to the hills. His debut, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby, gets near to fulfilling those lofty ambitions. Sign Your Name and Wishing Well are noted as true classics and songs, once heard, are very hard to forget. If D’Arby was claiming to be the most important artist/album-maker as The Beatles/Sgt. Pepper’s’ then some of that ego was fed into some remarkable songs. Two years after his debut and Neither Fish Not Flesh is a little too ambitious and some of its aims do not fully hit the mark. Middle East strings and an even more varied palette means the songs are a little too wide-reaching and unfocused. Neither Fish Nor Flesh does not contain the same instancy and consistency of its forefather. Perhaps pretentious in places and a shadow of the debut: D’Arby still proved he was worthy of close investigation; a musician that could never be boring or terrible. His 1993 album Symphony or Damn regained some of the command and brilliance of Introducing’ but Neither Fish Nor Flesh struggled to gain commercial foothold – the record company rejected it and compelled D’Arby to change his name to Sanandra Maitreya.

 

Primal ScreamGive Out But Don’t Give Up

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Like The Stone Roses; Primal Scream were another band that swung into music with an exceptional album and failed to keep that momentum going. To be fair, the Scottish band was on album number three by the time Screamadelica arrived. Not only (did that album) transcend the time and places it was recorded but ranks as one of the finest records from the 1990s. Kaleidoscopic, colourful and trippy: nobody I know has a bad way to say about the album. You hear songs like Movin’ On Up and Loaded and surrender to their charms and primal powers. Given the legacy and love that album cemented: one would hope its follow-up would at least contain some of the brilliance and sound of its predecessor. Give Out But Don’t Give Up draws its influence from classic Rock and Blues – Screamadelica took from Psychedelia and glistened because of it. Not only did Give Out’ lack the passion, flair and variegation of Screamadelica: it sounded like so many other bands at the time (1994). Rocks is the track we all associate with Give Out But Don’t Give Up yet how many other songs from that album will you be able to name? Primal Scream are still recording today but missed a trick with Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Too disciplined and well-mannered and missing that experimental touch: it is a record worth some attention but not one you will come back to time and time again.

 

Bob DylanSelf Portrait

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Bob Dylan’s career is so long and varied it is challenging keeping up – few artists are as prolific and surprising (even in his 70s). Blonde on Blonde arrived in 1966 and remains one of Dylan’s greatest achievements; following that, the marvellous John Wesley Harding arrived the year after. Nashville Skyline came out in 1969 and the political landscape had changed dramatic. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and riots broke out in some major cities. Richard Nixon was sworn in as the new U.S. President (in 1969) and a great deal of hostility and tension ran throughout the nation. Dylan, renowned for his political statements and of-the-moment commentary, used Nashville Skyline to look at positivity and love – a dramatic commercial shift that was warmly received by critics and showed how nimble Dylan was. Given the times, a 1970 album from Bob Dylan (one hopes) contain political references and a reflection of the times. Self Portrait is a double-album of well-known songs and Dylan originals. Not since his debut album has Dylan received such lukewarm reviews. Upon the release of Self Portrait, many assumed Dylan to be a spent force. If the ‘60s had killed The Beatles then Dylan looked like following them. A few half-decent songs can be found but largely it is a forgettable record that ranks among the worst albums from Dylan’s (largely wonderful) career.

 

The StrokesRoom on Fire

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Like their British counterparts The Libertines, The Strokes are a band that capture the youthful Punk energy of the ‘70s masters and are easily capable of transfixing the listener with their cool, clout and swaggering bravado. Whereas The Libertines follow-up to Up the Bracket (their eponymous debut) was a phenomenal work that kept their legacy burning – although squabbles and fractions in the band meant it was not as meaningful and strong – The Strokes struggled to follow Is This It with anything as impactful. Their debut was lauded as one of the finest (debuts) ever. Simple, snarling and imbued with Punk bliss: music of the highest order a completely assured and perfect introduction. Critical favourites and darlings of the scene in 2001: its 2003 follow-up, Room on Fire, was always going to be a disappointment. In its own terms – and compared to any other band out there – it would have been a fantastic success and incredible achievement. Is This It was so singular, peerless and joyous, it would be have been near-impossible equalling it. The Strokes seemed to retread their debut on some of the songs and there is a sense of truly to repackage an album rather than create a progressive step and fresh-sounding work.

 

Lady GagaBorn This Way

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Love or hate her; you cannot deny how much of an impact Lady Gaga has made on Pop music and what a unique force of nature she is. A U.S. version of Björk perhaps: there is eccentricity and outlandish fashion choices but great music to back it all up – a million miles away from Björk’s sound, mind you. Joanne is her latest album out in a few weeks and will be fondly received by her devotees. If we look back at her first two albums – The Fame and The Fame Monster – one can find plenty of superbly-crafted Pop tunes and personality reigning from every note. They were records that introduced Gaga and just how good she was. Born This Way gathered plenty of praise but like Artpop (its follow-up) it seemed a little rushed and overly-excessive. Excessiveness and bloating defined Lady Gaga’s work but nothing on Born This Way rang as clear and proud as on The Fame Monster, let’s say. It is another case of negative-when-compared-with-the-rest-of-the-world on Born This Way. So far, the U.S. singer has not rereleased a poor album but Born This Way feels too desperate to please and perhaps keen to capture quick attention after The Fame Monster – perhaps some more time in the studio would have benefited it. Some critics noted the persistent sloganeering and strong-in-the-face-of-adversity tropes – a lack of subtlety and lyrical maturity perhaps. The sharp and body-rocking beats and moves were all there but Born This Way follows too close to her early work to provide a necessary evolution.

 

Led ZeppelinPresence

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It seems appalling to put the words ‘Led Zeppelin’ and ‘disappointing’ into the same article. The truth of the matter is Led Zeppelin are as mortal as anyone. 1976’s Presence was certified triple-platinum but is Led Zeppelin’s slowest-selling album and was received with mixed reviews. Perhaps it would have fared okay had it not followed the titanic, world-conquering beast that is Physical Graffiti. That double-album is perhaps one of the grandest statements in all of Rock history – the best Led Zeppelin album in a career that is not short of genius albums. Lead Robert Plant suffered a serious car accident the year before Prescene’s recording and was still recuperating at the time – Jimmy Page deemed the album the most important of the band’s career. Able to face turmoil and obstacles and still sound defiant: this attitude, connection and rebellion swam right the way through Presence. What was missing was the epic anthems and sheer impunity. The band sound almost forced and lifeless throughout an album that betrays their true potential and legacy. Nobody’s Fault But Mine is the album standout and could have easily replaced some of the weaker moments on Physical Graffiti – the fact that album is so astonishing despite poorer efforts says it all. Presence found Jimmy Page exerting more creative control and the band did not tour the album extensively. Not a write-off or terrible album: it is one you only dip into rather than truly absorb and fall in love with.