The forward-thinking musician and creative chats about his latest 'La Haine' inspired visual 'For The Birds', creating his 'Stranger Days' comic book and staying creative throughout lockdown.
What were the initial inspirations for your latest release ‘For The Birds’?
To be completely honest, the song was inspired by a romantic situation that didn’t really end in the best way. Sometimes things don’t really work out the way you want and you can feel a lil hurt. In reality there was no bad guy in the situation, at the time when things are fresh, you always tend to create one to get through a situation a lil faster. That’s what inspired the songs hook, it was that feeling of being done dirty but just leaving it to karma to take care of cause you know yourself and you know what your intentions are, so if someone loses out on that - it's their own problem.
For the first verse, I channelled that savage mode mentality and inflated my ego a little bit. The last verse really just through observation of the world, watching the news and trying to challenge this idea that people had about 2020 and the whole “2020 vision” thing in particular cause no one could have predicted that year, so no one really had the 2020 vision that they all claimed to. But in that same breath, 2020 caste aside all illusions and really made people see certain things clearly in respect to race and the structural makeup of our society.
One line that I really wanna emphasis is the line that says “2020 fuck your grades and your charts”. I think I wrote this song the day after the government announced how they would give GCSE and A-level students their predicted grades and the idea of them fucking over all these kids really just irked me, so that’s one of the things I had to address cause if you fuck with the youth the fuck with the future but our “leaders” really don’t have that foresight or the “2020 vision” to be able to see that. So, the song's really just about seeing things clearly and how a lot of the people who claim to be able to really just can't.
How was the process of working on that single?
Working on this song was a really enjoyable process especially cause I have the privilege of collaborating with people who are not only talented but also understand me and what I’m trying to achieve. Hotel October produced the song and he has an uncanny ability to just bring a vision to life and I really can't sing his praises enough. It was also really cathartic to be able to turn a negative experience into art and try to reflect a truth to people cause that’s really the goal to try and touch on things that people understand and really relate to.
How was creating the visual for the track and who did you work with?
I worked with Azeez Bello, he’s another person I’m really privileged to collaborate with. The process of making the video was interesting, it was a challenge as well but it was a fun challenge. We wanted the visuals to be a reflection of the music as a opposed to being a traditional music video, which is why we decided to make it a short film. I was really inspired by the film 'La Haine' and the aesthetics, so I wanted to make something in that vein. So, we pulled references from that and a bunch of other classic films like 'Fight Club', 'Trainspotting' and 'Moonlight' to name a few and we slowly weaved this story together about these these three characters and we wanted them to be a reflection of a reality we have seen and experienced and that we new a lot of people have seen and experienced. We also wanted to add a level of spectacle to it, which I think we achieved. The challenge came in the logistics, trying to put things together during a pandemic makes things a million times harder but we managed to do it safely and pretty smoothly, which I’m grateful for.
"Essentially, they get to have an illustration of my thoughts, which is amazing."
How important is it for you to remain a storyteller within your music?
I think storytelling is the key to everything for me. Everything in life has a story and tells a story. Some stories illuminate, some stories allow us to escape, some stories hide the truth and at some point we seek out all of them cause they all fit a need the we naturally have as humans. I think the key for me is providing that need to people while also telling my story at the same time and bringing people into my world and immersing them in my experiences and my perspective.
How important are visuals to your music?
The visuals are really important to me because all of the music that I make really starts with a visual in my head. Then I turn that into a song and we turn that song into another visual. So, creatively it's important that it all goes through that cycle cause every part of the cycle adds another layer and meaning to the original thought. The cycle only comes about through collaboration and getting other people's thoughts together. In another respect, it's important for me to give listeners and people that engage with my work something else to chew on as well as the music. Essentially, they get to have an illustration of my thoughts which is amazing.
What did you want to explore on your 2020 single ‘Neptune’ and how was the process of creating that track?
On that song I really just wanted to create a complete fantasy. I remember reading somewhere once that it rained diamonds on Neptune and I was so intrigued by it and so baffled by the fact that something we consider to be so precious on this planet simply falls from the sky on another. It's even crazier when you consider the fact that water, which is the basis of our entire existence and the foundation for all known life in the universe just falls from the sky on Earth. For me, its those kinds of realisations that make me question the very fabric of our reality and society and everything that matters to us as a species. It makes you question our priorities when everything we need is really just here in abundance but we inflate the worth of other things for really questionable reasons. But thinking like that all the time can give you a headache, so I just decided to write a love song set on Neptune and create and animated visual of me and my dream girl chilling on a yacht cause why not lol.
But that visual was inspired by my an episode of a show called 'Love, Death & Robots' called 'Zima Blue' and the episode was really existential as well and has come to mean a lot to me. But I think overwhelmingly the meaning of Neptune for me is being challenged with the vastness of existence and just choosing love and spending the limited time you have pursuing things and being with people that make you happy! For the song, I initially worked with idrisonthebeat and Hotel October and for the visuals myself and Azeez Bello worked with Losmunos Project who are a really talented team of animators.
"... when you make something new the fact remains that whatever you have made has never existed before."
How was creating, for you, during the lockdown?
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult, especially with limited sunlight to motivate your body to actually create, but I’m thankful to work with other people that have been there to pull me up. It's been a challenge but we’ve managed to work on some stuff that I’m really proud of.
How do you go about incorporating a range of different sounds into your music, whilst remaining authentic?
I think its just about pulling from places that have inspired me and being like 'I wanna tell this story' and 'I wanna take a bit from all these different places' to do and in the process we create something new. As long as you’re being honest with yourself in that process, that will always be authentic. And collaboration is key because a few minds are always better than one.
How important is it not to confine yourself to genre boundaries but create an atmosphere within each track?
Genre boundaries is a tricky one cause sometimes things just happen organically and sometimes your intention is very clear from the outset. But regardless, when you make something new the fact remains that whatever you have made has never existed before. One of my favourite Basquiat quotes is that “there’s no such thing as new ideas just new minds”. So genre is just an old idea that makes it easer to market music to consumers and it's made it easy to understand the distinctions between different types of music.
But now because we’re able to look back at music so retrospectively, it's easy to pick and choose what elements to include when making a song. It's like when someone moves into a house, more often than not they just wanna create a space that feels like home. But some people may have a really specific late 18th century French aesthetic that they’re going for. At the end of the day, the person that lives there is gonna love that space and so are their guests as long as its inviting. Really and truly its all just an unconscious consequence of collaboration, you know. So sometimes it's important sometimes it's not.
"... the greatest form of art is life and that's where the majority of inspiration comes from, things I’ve felt, seen and experienced and lived through."
Do you take inspiration from art forms other than music e.g. film/art?
Yeah definitely, the greatest form of art is life and that's where the majority of inspiration comes from, things I’ve felt, seen and experienced and lived through.
You also create ‘Stranger Days’ an illustrated comic, how did the idea for the comic come about and what is your process of creating it?
Me and Azeez shot a video for 'Stranger Days' which didn’t really turn out the best. After that we were brainstorming and I sent him 'Take On Me' by Aha and he suggested that we make a comic book for the video instead. So I wrote the comic book and we found an illustrator and we went back and forth on the first issue for like seven months until it was done and we put out a few tweets about it and people really took to it.
What are your plans for the comic for the future?
We’re working on the second issue at the moment and just fleshing out the world within the comic and the story arc of the characters, really fun stuff.
What are you currently working on?
A few things that I can't wait to share. A lot of music, visuals, wavey shit!
Which artists first inspired you to get into music and who is inspiring you today?
I’m really inspired by Frank Ocean and the way he writes and articulates things through music, artists like Kanye and Jay Z, MJ, Kings of Leon all became a standard of excellence for me and they’re all great story tellers so that’s where the inspiration to try and create to that level came from.
If you had to recommend five artists to your listeners, who would you choose?
What’s coming up for 2021?
A lot of cool stuff, a lot of great moments and great music!