Talking to London-based musician Darkness on his new single, 'Darling', producing for Dizzee Rascal and his dream collaboration.
What was the inspiration for your latest single ‘Darling’ and how did your collaboration with Ayeisha Raquel come about?
‘Darling’ was one of the beats I first sent to Ayeisha Raquel to work with. I had come across her Soundcloud and saw a video of her on Instagram singing a cover of New Person, Same Old Mistakes by Tame Impala while playing on the piano and I was blown away. We had a mutual friend and I kept blowing up his phone asking him to link us up. When we spoke on Whatsapp and I had sent her the beat, she sent back the demo for ‘Darling’ near enough complete, a few days later. I was amazed and shocked at how quickly she had done it and how good it sounded. When we went to the studio to record it, we added more ideas to the track. I knew for a fact I wanted an intimate song on this beat from when I was making it before I had even sent it to her. When I was making the beat, I had an image of a tropical rainforest under the stars in my head that inspired me to create it and pick certain sounds, that’s why there’s some bird sounds in the beat.
How was the creative process for the track and as a producer, how do you go about creating a track?
The beat was finished before I had sent it to Ayeisha. She had written to the beat in her own time and sent me a demo. The first time we met was to record ‘Darling’. When we had gone to the studio to record ‘Darling’ the song was done based on the demo, I didn’t feel that I needed to suggest adding or changing lyrics from what she had sent me already. In the session when Ayeisha would finish a take and we’d listen back to it sometimes she’ll freestyle harmonies over it and I would pay attention to it and be like “Yoooo, what you just did there?!, add that!!” we built on what we had already and went with the vibe in the recording session.
Production-wise for 'Darling', I started with the chords, bass and soundscape and the drums came later in the process. Normally, I start my beats with drums. I knew I wanted to have vocals on the beat, so I didn’t overdo it with sounds. Instead, I added small details here and there I wanted to keep it consistent and not take away from the artists vocal on the track. Generally, when I produce, I tend to have an idea of what artist or kind of song I would want to have on it when it’s like 95% done. When I produce it’s just a flow of energy; inspiration can come from anything from a chord to even a snare - anything can dictate where I take things.
You also worked together for ‘If You’re Looking’, what was the inspiration for the track?
‘If You’re Looking’ was also one of the tracks in the pack I had sent Ayeisha - it was a curveball. The beat is a few years old. The tempo is at 140pbm. I wanted to get a Grime MC on it, when I first made it. I sent it to a few different artists, but nothing came out of it. It was just sitting there until I sent it to Ayeisha. She sent me back a demo of that, I didn’t know what to expect but she smashed it and turned it in quickly, just like with ‘Darling’.
When I was making the beat, I was inspired to have an introspective and reflective song - I wanted the production to give off that feeling. I wanted to have an MC or a singer say something about something on this beat you know? I felt like the beat could only bring that out of someone, you can’t just say anything - it wouldn’t work. The lyrics Ayeisha came with resonated with me and it complimented the beat perfectly. She even flowed on the beat and found pockets, that got me super hyped when I first heard it. The mix between the softness of her voice and the darker elements of the beat blend well.
You also released the visuals, what was the theme for the video and who did you work with to produce it?
The theme for the video was depression and anxiety the story is led by the lyrics; the lyrics are like a script. I wanted to have Ayeisha as the guardian angel to link the two characters together. Ayeisha was the only one acknowledging the camera in the video but the male and female lead never looked at the camera on purpose. The two leads were always near but never crossed paths properly in the video until the end, but they were bound to and they’re going through the same thing too - it’s sort of destiny. What will happen will happen. I like to believe the ending is a happy one. For the visuals for ‘If You’re Looking’ I was introduced to director M1, he put together a crew to film it. It was shot in two days in West London. We had to gamble with the weather on the second day to try and catch enough footage before the time-lapse shot. We wanted to film it like the story took place in one day.
In 2018 you released your two-track project ‘White Label/Shower Demon’, what was the inspiration for the tracks?
I just felt to release something, at the time I hadn’t put anything out for like a few months. I wanted to put out something that is heavy, and bass-driven (Shower Demon) and wanted something lighter on the flip (White Label). I had those two tracks in the locker for some time. I was trying to get a song done to ‘White Label’ but nothing happened, decided to release the instrumental. The inspiration for ‘White Label’ comes from Garage, I chopped up a drum break and reversed a melody, made some bass synths and built around it. It’s a calm tune but still has an energy to it. The inspiration for ‘Shower Demon’ was raves, I wanted something that would sound powerful on a sound system, stylistically, I took inspiration from Drum and Bass and Dubstep for that one.
You’ve produced for artists Dizzee Rascal, D Double E and Deema, what was it like working with these artists and creatively how is working with other artists different from working on your own music?
Working with Dizzee Rascal was a crazy experience because I didn’t know what was going to come out for sure. Never thought I’d ever be able to say I’ve worked with him also. A massive inspiration. We didn’t have a session or anything. I was introduced to his manager and I sent him beats he liked them and forwarded them onto Dizzee, and I kept sending work through. The track I produced that ended up on ‘Raskit’ wasn’t any of the ones I had sent. He got that beat of off DJ Slimzee who had that beat in his selection at the time.
I produced ‘Wolly’ for D Double E alongside Sir Spyro . I was at Sir Spyro’s house and I was making a beat and messing around with some sounds, he had heard what I was making and told me to add this add that, change this etc. I left the beat at his house and he finished it. A few days later, he called me and told me D Double E jumped on it. Working with D Double E and Sir Spyro was mad for me. I grew up listening to them both.
I had heard of Deema from before because he was doing radio sets with The Square . I met Deema at radio when we did a set together. I was impressed and told him we need to work on something, I booked a studio and we linked up. Deema voiced a completely different beat in the session, I took the acapella from the session and built a new beat around his vocals. I showed it to him, he green-lighted it and it became ‘Spread the Word’. I like working on other people’s music, I just play my part musically I don’t have to think about or get involved in the process of getting the music out there when it's finished. When I work on my own stuff, I must think about how I want to present and release it and all the extra stuff outside of the creation of the music itself. When I work with artists on their stuff, I try not to do what they’ve done before or what they’re comfortable with, I always think it’s a good idea to bring my own flavour and ideas, that’s the reason I’m there.
If you could produce for any artist, who would it be and what kind of track would you want to make with them?
Ah, this is the hard question haha. It would probably be Skepta. I would like to make something with him. I would want to make something introspective, thought-provoking. ‘Reflecting’ is one of my favourite songs. I would want to make something that gives me the same feeling ‘Reflecting’ gives me when I listen to it.
What was the creative process behind your 2017 project ‘Emails’?
‘Emails’ came about because I wanted to do something a bit more creative. I didn’t want to just release an EP, I wanted to do something alongside it. I had all the tracks ready. I decided that I wanted to direct a music video for the tittle track. I grew up watching music videos on MTV and I noticed a lot of the dance or electronic songs that had videos were instrumentals, the videos would be creative too. I thought to myself, I’m at the point I think I could pull it off. ‘Emails’ is an instrumental so I felt I could make the video be about anything.
I had reached out to Joshua who does Parkour with Storror. He had done all the go-pro footage for me and sent me all the files. It was like a jigsaw puzzle. I had all these short couple seconds to one-minute long footage that aren’t linked, and I had to make a story out of it somehow. I don’t know how to edit visuals or work with editing software myself, but I knew a few people that did, I linked up with them to put it together. It was fun to work on; I was hell-bent on trying to do it and getting it done to the point I was happy with it. Didn’t have any backing or funding, literally had an idea and wanted to make it happen by any means.
How did your 2016 track, ‘Arrogance Stance’ and your collaboration with the artists on that track come about?
The beat for ‘Arrogant Stance’ was doing the rounds on radio, this was around the 2016 Grime “resurgence” period there was a lot of active Grime MCs and a lot of attention on Grime music at the time. Some artists did reach out to get the beat, but I held out at the time because the beat wasn’t released yet and I wanted to see how much the beat could do before I thought about getting a vocal on it. When it came to doing a vocal for it, I didn’t want to only get one person, I decided to get a selection of artists and got them to contribute 8 bars like it was on radio and the mic was being passed around the room. The artists I reached out to knew about the beat and had heard it. I reached out to everyone on Twitter dms then I booked out different studio sessions and pieced it together.
Do you feel that your sound is changing or growing from your earlier work to now?
Yeah, my sound is changing. I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t evolving and growing. I always wanted to have a song like ‘Darling’ in my catalogue, a few years ago people probably wouldn’t expect me to be able to make that if you heard what I was making at the time. I always had it in me. I try to keep the fundamental things I learnt while developing my sound. A lot of the things I learnt to do in my production came from trial and error, those things give me flair.
Which artists are your biggest influences for the sound you’re trying to create?
I have so many influences from different genres and even time periods. To name a few, artists like Kanye West, Calvin Harris, Timbaland and Pharrell are an influence, the way they evolved through time and expanded on what they were making within a genre and even switching lanes at some point but keeping some of their fundamentals is inspiring to me when it comes to trying to create a sound.
Name 5 artists you would recommend to your listeners?
What’s coming up for the rest of 2019 and what can we expect from 2020?
I might release an instrumental EP. I’ve got more work with Ayeisha Raquel dropping this year. I’ve got a track I produced for a rapper called Blanq, his cold, I’m excited about that one. It’s different from what people might expect to hear on my production. I’m producing for a few different artists for the rest of 2019. All in all, definitely got loads of music coming 2020 and for the remainder of 2019.