‘Two Degrees of Separation’ is the theory that everyone and everything in Amsterdam is two or fewer steps from each other, by way of introduction. This is how we first got in touch with Olf van Elden – alias Interstellar Funk – a few years ago. Not only does Olf know how to run an impeccable party but he also runs a first-rate label named Tape, through which he has co-ordinated the release of a slew of excellent records by the likes of Deniro and Mark Du Mosch. On top of his skills as a label boss and promoter, Olf is an excellent DJ and producer: his debut release “House Train,” which came out on Tom Trago’s Voyage Direct series last year, has been on constant rotation with us since its release. Needless to say, Interstellar Funk quickly established himself as one of our favourite DJs to catch in the city. We therefore thought it was about time to revisit our Amsterdam origins by catching up with Olf and giving you a little taster of his DJing in the form of the 101st instalment of our Truancy Volume series. Read ahead to find out what Olf and Tape have been up to – and will be up to – whilst immersing yourself in Interstellar’s distinct selections: from forthcoming dubs under his own name, established but dear Actress tracks through to current MGUN favourites and newer tracks by the likes of Stingray and Du Mosch.
It’s s been a busy few months for you, playing Boiler Room, Dekmantel and Trouw among others places. What were your personal recent highlights of the summer? “I had a great one, full of great bookings! No week has passed by without me playing a cool club or festival. When I think back to the entire summer, I think my highlights were my set at the X-Ray tent at Lowlands Festival, my set at Boiler Room during Dekmantel Festival and the Studio 80 night in Watergate at the end of August. Next to that, I’ve had some really good times in De Verdieping at Trouw. The atmosphere in there, to me, is how a club night is supposed to be: dark, raw, anonymous and with a proper sound system.” Which sets of others did you enjoy seeing? “The sets by Traxx and Antal on the Selectors stage during Dekmantel Festival were personal highlights – they both capably destroyed the place. Other than that, I really enjoyed seeing Intergalactic Gary during Boiler Room at Dekmantel Festival, as well as Robert Turman’s performance in club OCCI last month. I’m familiar with his music because of a reissue of Way Down. I didn’t know he was still performing so I was pleasantly surprised!”
For the uninitiated, could you talk about Tape a little bit, both as a label and as a night? “We, as a collective, started Tape to release music from our friends that we think should be heard and that’s why we’re mainly focusing on new artists, or artists we’ve been working with for a while now. We released two 12”’s after last Summer: one by Haron and one by Deniro. In the near future we’ll be releasing a new record by Mark Du Mosch and the third installment in our Sampler Series. When it comes to nights, we don’t really have a fixed plan we follow. We organised several nights in Trouw the last few months and there will be one more before Trouw closes (in January, red). Other than that, this year is the first one where we’ll be participating in Amsterdam Dance Event.” What are your favourite things about being based in Amsterdam? “Amsterdam is flourishing. There’s so much stuff happening out here and the city is offering people a lot of opportunities. It’s not by chance that a lot of international artists find their new home here. We have Trouw and Rush Hour, and those combined with newer initiatives like Dekmantel, Red Light Radio and Red Light Records have all bases covered in this city.”
How do you go about playing sets in clubs? Do you go with spontaneous decisions on the spot or do you go in prepared? How does your approach differ from making podcasts, if at all? “I like to take my time selecting records. I always take an entire week to pack my record bag and select the records I want to play, usually. I’ll listen to every record before I put it in my bag, and in fact I re-pack my bag every week, and never take the same bag to different gigs. On the night itself nothing is set in stone: what I’ll play depends on the moment and the atmosphere. When it comes to podcasts or radio shows, that’s where I don’t play for the audience’s reaction.. it gives you more liberty to familiarize your listeners with different sorts and genres of music.”
Production-wise, what does your set-up look like and could you tell us a little bit about your history with and passion for hardware? “I first got in touch with hardware because of the people and friends surrounding me. Before that I had toyed around with Ableton and Logic a lot but nothing about it ever particularly spiked my interest. Music is something organic to me, and that’s why I try and work with computers as little as possible. Every machine in my studio has its own character – for example, when you compare two Juno 60’s, you will find that you can never achieve the same sound. This imperfection as well as its feeling of antiquity is something that interests me. These machines live their own lives and the sounds they produce are in no way comparable to plug-ins.”
Where and how was this mix recorded? Was there anything in particular you were trying to convey with this mix? “I recorded this mix in the studio of Red Light Radio. I used two Technics, 2 CDJ’s and a Pioneer DJM-800. My Truancy Volume consists of tracks that interest me a lot: both music that’s been released in recent times and tracks that will be released in the near future. I tried to showcase a wide range of music that goes beyond what you’ll hear on the dancefloor. It’s not necessarily genre or time bound. I think it is the variation between the new and the old, and different styles and genres, that makes a set interesting.”
What do you have planned for the upcoming months, releases-wise and shows-wise? What’s in store for you this next Amsterdam Dance Event? “The kick-off of Amsterdam Dance Event this year is on October the fifteenth. I’ll be playing the Rush Hour night at Trouw. We’ll also be organising our first Tape showcase with FunkinEvil (Kyle Hall and Funkineven), Marcellus Pitmann and all the artists on our label. Later that month, I’ll be playing a Rush Hour showcase at Dude Club in Milan. When it comes to releases, there’ll be a bunch of new TAPE releases like the new Mark Du Mosch with a Voiski remix and a new Tape sampler coming soon. Both will be exclusively on sale at Rush Hour during Amsterdam Dance Event. Other than that, keep an eye out on Rush Hour Store Jams!”
Beau Wanzer – Grooves No Zone
Morgan Buckley – Weather Report
Actress – Bubble Butts And Equations
Marc Romboy – The Awakening (Omar S Remix)
Gherkin Jerks – Strange Creatures
45 ACP – Bad Ways
Interstellar Funk – Untitled
Theo Parrish – Black Mist (extented version)
Aroy Dee – Beauty ( Ra. H’s Cabinet Mix)
Randomer – Huh
Unit Moebius – Sensor
DJ Stingray – Temporary Bond
Untitled – Untitled
African With Mainframes – Nubian Rainbows (Intrumental)
Mark Du Mosch – Amulet (Voiski Remix)
Crotocosm – Fanatic II
Robert Crash – Natilbox
Mgun – Exort
Mr Fingers – Finger Fuck
Words by Soraya Brouwer, 26 September 2014. Leave a comment
You probably know Travis Scott as the mysterious protege of Kanye West. You may have seen him on the 2013 XXL Freshman List and you may have seen him in the credits of Kanye’s Cruel Summer and Yeezus. You’ve probably heard controversies surrounding stolen artwork and betrayed associates. With no standout single to his name, his production influence has become his namesake. Travis is a rapper/producer from a middle-class suburban city in Texas near Houston, and if his vocals aren’t recognisable enough his drums are his trademark. Out of obscurity, he rose to fame by way of a Kanye endorsement that labeled him the carrier of the sound and sonics pioneered on albums like Yeezus. He refers to himself as La Flame; a personification of his musical personality in the form of kinetic and dynamic beats. While he lacks the lyrical substance and political stance of Kanye, he’s just as left field (if not even further left) as Yeezy and matches the emotional capacity of fellow G.O.O.D. Music signee Kid Cudi. Like Kid Cudi, Travis doesn’t hinge his songs on lyrical content but rather the emotional output via tone and production; Travis has managed to frame a sound based on bizarro rap that fuses trap with experimental tendencies.
Travis Scott’s debut LP Owl Pharoah had all the necessary introductory components but floundered in terms of its experimentation by getting a little too weird at times. It was a true post-modern take on 808s & Heartbreaks, taking cues from what Kanye established in 2008 and remolding it for 2013. Its simple cadence changes and touches on varying flows (like a cross between Migos and Kid Cudi) were a highlight next to the beats and effects of Pharoah. With 2014’s Days Before Rodeo, the free album leading up to 2015’s major label debut Rodeo, Travis has nearly perfected his knack for experimentation whether it’s the distorted vocals, more 808s & Heartbreaks-type crooning or delivery in his flow. One thing Travis Scott has always been known for is his drums, and that couldn’t be clearer on this album. During Kanye’s press circuit last summer, he mentioned that “nobody has drums like Travis Scott” and it’s true. Older songs like “God Level” and “Quintana” have a certain knock to them that bellows out of the smoke and jabs you in the gut with each bass hit. It’s an unmistakable sound; right next to his raspy blunt-roasted vocals split between robotic codeine-fueled autotune.
On Days Before Rodeo, you’ll find familiar Scott ad-libs (“straight up!”, “La Flame!”) alongside some compelling one-liners (“Mama worked for AT&T and we never got that service/She stayed in-and-out that hospital, you know that made me nervous” on “Backyard“) and impressive sonics. Scott’s known to toy with vocals, sometimes sounding like a downpitched demon and other times a cyborg powered by lean. He’s only 22, so he has plenty of time to figure out his sound but currently he’s tinkering with a formula composed of hard drums, distorted vocals and party-rage themes. But imagine when and if Travis puts together a MBDTF-type album in five years or so and we look back through his catalog to all these points of the La Flame persona.. My Beautiful La Flame Fantasy.
Songs like “Skyfall” (featuring 2014’s hottest rapper Young Thug) accredits this belief with one of the most beautiful songs of the year. The line between themes has blurred, but it seems Scott and Thug are comparing drug dependency to the necessity (or irrelevancy rather) of veteran rappers in the rap game. “Don’t Play” featuring Big Sean and a band called The 1979 is a nice single to lead into the album’s release, with Travis unleashing a fierce flow across a fluctuating beat. The video accompanying the song borrows some of Kanye’s Americana tendencies as seen in the “Bound 2″ video and draws it out a bit further. “Mamacita” features production by DJ Dahi and Metro Boomin (as well as Travis) and another great guest spot by Young Thug that sounds organic alongside Rich Homie Quan. “Drugs You Should Try It” is Scott at his most Heartbreak as he sings in his cyborg tune over a smooth guitar riff and darting bass knocks. “Sloppy Toppy” benefits from a Migos and Peewee Longway feature that starts off with a wild soul sample only to fold into a beat that could go on for eternity with its sleepy bells backed by strings and epic crescendos. The scope of sounds is wide on Days Before Rodeo, and “Backyard” shows Travis is even capable of hearkening back to old-school hip-hop style beats through his sampling.
If there’s one flaw to the album, it’s not in its songs necessarily but the background of its development. In interviews with Sway and Hot 97 last month, Scott was quick to emphasise Days Before Rodeo was an album for Houston by a Houston artist asserting it as the new sound of Houston instead of the screwed-and-chopped, Southern trap music H-Town was known for in the previous decade. Yet all of the features (aside from Big Sean) on the album are entirely Atlanta-based (Young Thug, Migos, Peeway Longway, Rich Homie Quan) which makes one wonder how loyal Scott is to his regional roots. There’s no doubt Atlanta has taken the hip-hop throne with the Migos’ most-copied-flow-of-the-decade and Thug’s sheer innovation, not to mention ATL’s Metro Boomin (Future’s “Honest” album, 2 Chainz, Migos, Gucci Mane, etc.) co-produced three of the best tracks on the album (“Mamacita”, “Skyfall”, “BACC”). Alas, these are the problems of 2014 when certain sounds and artists become staples to every project if they want relevancy. The anthem-like, arena ambitions of Days Before Rodeo does its job as a prelude to Scott’s label debut more than well. Continue Reading →
Context can direct the effects of art completely, and it can be a proper dastardly thing. With Punish, Honey, Sebastian Gainsborough’s second full-length as Vessel, there seems to be an asynchronous relationship between his intentions and the reception of the record. For starters, a declared intent to explore, “What does ‘Englishness’ in music really mean?” was tacked onto the end of the press release, which is a curious question in itself, let alone as something to arise from that ever-nebulous scene of Bristolian bass. Despite his departure from a norm of software and electronic hardware production towards self-made instrumentation, tracing Gainsborough’s marks on the map up until the new album supports the change as something coherent and not particularly surprising: working with Kahn as Baba Yaga and El-Kid and Jabu to release as Killing Sound, both beneath umbrella collective Young Echo, plus solo output under the Vessel project with a 12” for Liberation Technologies. Gainsborough has proved his diversity through his creations these past few years, from the symptoms of dub and industrial on debut LP Order of Noise to the quirky house around all that. Having professed more interest in listening to punk and jazz than the electronic music coming from those perceived to be his peers in recent times, the interesting question is whether Vessel’s self-abstraction from the club-oriented environment changes how Punish, Honey fits into our own narratives.
Stream: Vessel – Anima (Tri Angle)
It’s far from an original story; electronic producer forgoes traditional software set-up for ‘real’, ‘tangible’, ‘organic’ instruments (and the quality of the outcome varies). In Gainsborough’s case though, the driving force is a desire to explore further and further, and this is just where his next step has taken him – a situation where he must throw away everything he’s learned in order to distill that raw, unsoiled and wide-eyed creative instinct. This is where the sheet metal percussion and dismembered-bicycle flutes come in, allowing Gainsborough to get his whole body behind the music, and it screams to be felt. Punish, Honey is nothing if not physical. It’s visceral in the sense that even the subtler moments strike with impact, meaning much of the album feels all-or-nothing; Gainsborough’s forays into brash-sounding textures leave little room to breathe and even on the false delicacy of “Black Leaves and Fallen Branches” the claustrophobia seeps through.
Much of Punish, Honey lacks the structuring that so often reveals dancefloor intent in tunes. Sometimes, such as with the title track, Gainsborough feels his way through progressions of sound until he finds his way to a point where he’s inclined to close things down. It’s the only beatless track on the LP however its chord stabs plod along steadily in the absence of any drum. There are pieces that are segmented into stages, too, however, once the intro winds down and the pounds and rattles of “Drown in Water and Light” are introduced, the arcs used can seem a bit too well defined and predictable, certainly when they appear as waves of brooding bass and rising muffled atmospherics. It could even be that Gainsborough had inadvertently stretched out and corroded some dubstep in that case. Sonic motifs take to centre-stage in place of melodies, being the most potent aspect of Gainsborough’s experimentations, usually inducing a variation of moods utilising similar tones from the same palette of rustic, caustic sepia and greyscale. Those cues – everything from the tortured organ of “Euoi” to the rollicking ticks and frenzied triangle licks of “Kin to Coal” – sound well suited to something as immersive as a videogame score.
Stream: Vessel – Red Sex (Tri Angle)
Perhaps just as inadvertently, there are a couple of serious club bangers on Punish, Honey. The record closes with “DPM”, a jam that stammers and bubbles its way up into the sort of hackneyed noise-techno that doesn’t come as expected on Tri Angle. It rips and saws through whirs and drones with dramatic disregard as Gainsborough goes all out on this final flourish of a track that will dissipate the wrong dancefloors just as quick as it’ll catalyse the right ones. There’s also “Red Sex”, which arrives after album opener “Febrile” – a slew of austere silences and the kind of drum rolls that bring to mind the 20th Century Fox ident before pulverising everything with drill sounds. “Red Sex” is the other club-ready track, and is the first real taste of Punish, Honey. True to the album name, it brings the sweet with the sour, foreshadowing some of the record’s influence calling cards such as new wave and industrial.
Hell, there’s a bit of everything in here – Gainsborough maintains he was never actually asking the question of what Englishness in music really means, but he does reckon the core of it lies between “Gilbert and Sullivan, Coil, and British soundsystem music”. There’s a strong case for that in principle, and the inflections of punk, noise and techno, dubstep, jazz and dub, ambient and experimental and all the other (apparently useless) genre tags unleashed into the maelstrom that is Punish, Honey are all propped up on the confluence of cultures found in post-colonial Britain. There’s no justification for England’s invasion of one-quarter of the planet, but grey clouds can have silver linings, pain means pleasure somewhere else to maintain the balance and as you lick your wounds you may well catch a slight taste of sweet catharsis, honey.
Punish, Honey is out now on Tri Angle Records.
Words by Tayyab Amin, 22 September 2014. Leave a comment
The most common introduction we have to emerging artists is a process of gradual budding. We see artists stumble through mixtapes of exploration and hesitation before they finally grasp a wholesome and comfortable identity for their debut effort to be presented to the world, but this has never been a scenario that quite fit Tinashe Kachingwe. The Los Angeles native’s first official album Aquarius is set to release this October via RCA Records and anyone who is familiar with Tinashe in the slightest knows that her body of work is already a force to be reckoned with. At twenty-one, she’s put out three bold mixtapes fueled by an air of casual confidence that’s unique for rising musicians today. Armed with skills of self-production and heightened level-headedness, all of Tinashe’s mixtapes are individually sharp creative statements that still haven’t lost their flair with time.
It isn’t only her solid discography and experience in production that set her apart. Tinashe’s music is a perfect representation of a new age wherein music is wonderfully unrestricted. Rather than a confinement of familiar genres, it’s evolved contemporary music that successfully incorporates elements from a myriad of burgeoning sounds, with vocally strong R&B being at the forefront of inspiration. Tinashe is a new type of artist that is self-reliant and knows exactly what she wants her music to sound like. As a result, her output sounds genuine, well-thought-out and keeps up with the times at any rate. Aquarius is one of the most cohesive and powerful pop debuts to hit shelves in years and acts as a worthy inauguration of Tinashe’s promising career in years to come. We had the delightful opportunity to speak to Tinashe during her brief visit in Amsterdam and discussed Aquarius, its creative process and her plans for the future among other things.
Hi Tinashe! How have you been? Is this your first visit to Amsterdam? “Yes it is! It’s been fun so far. It’s just so different from America. It looks like Disneyland or like a set or something, but it’s real life. We’ve just been walking around and doing some touristy stuff here, we went to the coffee house and checked out the red light district. [laughs]” I actually think it’s so depressing there! “It is! But you kind of have to check it out and experience it first hand, you know?”
Of course. I just want to start off with some questions about your new album. I had the feeling that with all your past mixtapes they all each had their own distinct themes. I read you describe Black Water metaphorically as the silence before the storm before this fall’s album. Keeping that in mind, what do you think the main idea behind Aquarius is? “The main concept of Aquarius is that it’s supposed to be my debut to the world. It’s a metaphor for who I am as an artist. Black Water was the set-up for this and now Aquarius is supposed to represent Tinashe. The time is here, it’s a new era of music, it’s a new time of creativity.”
All of your previous mixtapes sound like they each really have an own thought process behind them. You seem to have a very clear image in mind of how you’ve wanted things to pan out so far. Do you consider yourself a well-thought-out artist, do you plan ahead a lot? “Oh yeah, thank you, definitely! Everything that I do is super strategic. I never just throw anything out there. Every step of the way I have reasoning behind why I do everything and I take it very seriously. I’ve been planning this kind of career for my whole life so I feel like everything is so important. So yeah, you’re right, it is very calculated. In a good way.”
How has it been recording this album for you? You made most of your mixtapes at home, so how has it been a different experience recording Aquarius, collaborating with bigger established producers? “Like you said I’ve been so accustomed to making everything on my own in my room. At first it was definitely a growing and learning process for me to learn how to collaborate with other people with an artistic opinion. To be able to get my ideas across and still feel like I was being true to myself while still working with other people. Because of that, the beginning of the album process was a little slower, but then I really got more into it and became a lot more comfortable. Now, I definitely feel like I have so many songs that really represent who I am. I have too many songs, honestly. I’ve recorded over 150! [laughs] So that’s a lot. The selections have all been made though, so they’re getting mixed and mastered right now. It’s been exciting and now I’m really ready to just get it out. The album has been in the works for so long, I’ve been working on this since the beginning of 2013, so that’s a solid year and a half. It’s just going to be such a relief releasing it.”
I just heard the new track that dropped as well, “Pretend” with A$AP Rocky. so it feels a lot closer! That’s a Detail production right? “Yeah! Detail produced it and he’s pretty crazy. I will not lie. Of all the people I’ve worked with he’s definitely one of the more far out ones. I don’t know how else to describe it other than that he’s just a weird dude. He says crazy things, he acts crazy, he dresses crazy and he’s just quirky, but a lot of the times those are the people who creatively have a cooler perspective. It was definitely cool to work with him.”
How did most of the recording take place on your collaborations, did you actually get together to work on the tracks or was it more like a sending back and forth kind of thing? “It kinda depended on the song and the producer. Some producers really prefer to work face-to-face while others prefer to have their beats already made and then send them to you. In those situations I like to be able to take them home and record my own song, on my own time in my home studio still, because of that comfort and vibe. I’ve just gotten so used to that. So yeah, it depends on the producer. Sometimes they sent them back and forth, like Boi-1Da. He was one of the producers that would always send me beats and I would record at my own house.” What was it like to work with Boi-1Da? “Boi-1da is amazing. He’s a really sweet guy and he’s one of my favourite producers. I think everything he puts out is dope and stuff that I’m into. My taste just really gravitates towards his beats, he’s one of my favourites.”
There’s been a lot of talk of genre labelling with your music. You’ve addressed this in your Dazed interview as you said you don’t believe in either just pop, R&B or indie, but believe in a medium. The teaser you put out for the album definitely shows the more dark side of your art compared to for example “2 On“. Do you feel like you’ve established a happy medium with the album? “For me, definitely, I’ve established a happy medium. Maybe it does make it harder for people to understand my music because they can’t group it into a box. It’s not totally mainstream or totally indie, I do kind of bridge that gap. But I never feel pressured to be one thing or another, I like the fact that I can put out a song like “2 On” and then I can drop something that’s totally weird. People can think it’s the weirdest thing they’ve ever seen. I think that’s cool, you know? To make people uncomfortable and push their limits of comfort. People can get too comfortable with standards and labels.”
Totally. But you did mention that you’re quite strategic just now. So do you put a lot of thought into it in terms of trying not to make audiences too uncomfortable? “Hmm… I kind of just let it happen and see how it goes. In general my music does come full circle, so they’re never going to get too uncomfortable. Because for example, in interviews it’s not like I act like a crazy person. I’m pretty straight forward and down to earth so people can still look at that and think that I’ve got an interesting creative perspective. At the same time, I’m not trying to be someone that I’m not. At the end of the day, I don’t think that people think I’m nuts. But that’s cool too though! [laughs]”
What has been the most enjoyable song to work on for Aquarius? “My favourite experiences of recording are done in my own time and in my own zone. I still really love to record music in my bedroom home studio. So I think some of my favourite songs were recorded there, but of the songs that I did in major studios I would say “How Many Times”, which is a song that I recorded with Future in Atlanta. That was probably one of my favourite song recording experiences. We went to Atlanta, hung out with Future, we were in the studio and it was a whole collaborative experience. It was just fun, a lot of positive energy, he was really funny and he told a lot of jokes. He was light-hearted and he literally wore an American flag jumpsuit kinda thing. He’s a great personality so it was a cool experience.”
Considering everything you’ve gone through recording this album, what have you learned from the process and how has it shaped your outlook for recording your next album? “In the beginning of the process I definitely got caught up in the thought of working with all these amazing producers that I felt like I have to do it in these studios and in those environments. But like I said, at the end of the day, I came back to the same conclusion that when I’m able to zone out and take it into my own space and really be personal with it, that’s when I get the best stuff. So I think going into my next album, I won’t want to even be putting myself into such random studio environments. I think I’ll try to keep it more condensed and controlled, with less people involved. I also know which producers I work really well with now, whom I have chemistry with. I don’t have to work with people that I don’t gel with right off the bat, you know?”
I also wanted to touch upon your own productions for a bit, as you produced most of your previous work yourself. Do you feel like the fact that you have so much experience producing yourself has influenced how you collaborated with other producers? “Yeah definitely. It depends on the producer how it works out. Some people are maybe a little thrown off slash low key intimidated by the fact that I know what they’re doing. I’m very particular and I’m a perfectionist, so I’m very specific and I’ll let them know if something doesn’t sound right. I notice seemingly really miniscule things. To me they stand out, while to others maybe they wouldn’t. I think some producers aren’t necessarily used to people noticing those types of things. For some people that’s a negative thing, because they’re kind of intimidated or weirded out. They don’t expect me to have this whole perspective. Some people think it’s really cool though. They think it’s dope that I know what I’m doing, so it really just depends on who I’m working with for sure.”
Do you feel like working with so many big producers has changed how you as a producer look at your creative process? “Yeah! I think it has definitely pushed me to want to be better. It’s always inspiration and you learn a lot of little tips and tricks that different producers use. Just different strategies and methodologies to go about producing your songs. To know that kind of inside information, that affects the way that you create music.” What do you enjoy the most about producing yourself? “At the end of the day, I enjoy never having to rely on other people to create my art for me. I like to be able to know that I can still do it myself. I can still make stuff that sounds dope and not have to feel like it’s not going to be good. That’s my favourite part about being able to have these skills.”
What type of music and producers have influenced the most, in terms of production? “Production-wise, James Blake a lot. SBTRKT was a huge one too, still to this day I love his production in how it’s very unique and different. And then just a lot of the hip-hop guys as well, people that I have actually ended up working with like Boi-1Da, T-Minus and MikeWiLL. People who I’ve always admired and then to actually work with them is always fun.”
Lyrics-wise, a lot of your songs have a very strong theme of dealing with negativity, confidence in yourself and your unpredictability as an artist. I think your Drake cover was a good example of that. Even though you have a lot of experience in the industry with your acting background, what would you say is your biggest struggle as a musician who is yet to really emerge? “It’s dealing with people who don’t take you seriously, for whatever reason. Whether it be because they just think I’m a cute girl and they don’t think I have a perspective. Maybe they think that I’m young, so they think I don’t know what I’m talking about. Or they think that it’s just a label-manufactured product and that I’m not a real artist. This is is something that I’ve been working on for a really long time, so when people don’t really take the time to understand that, when they just come and take it for granted, that’s frustrating, for sure. Of all things, that’s probably the most difficult thing to deal with. But I feel like people understand that more as they get to know me as an artist. But as “2 On” is my only official single, sometimes people think that’s the only song I have. That is not true at all. [laughs]” I guess it’s also extra difficult because “2 On” is much more radio-oriented than your other tracks as well. “Yeah, so people take that sometimes and they’re like ‘Oh, so this is Tinashe!’ but then I’m like.. really, you don’t know. Get to know, do your research!”
What are some things that inspire you to write, outside of music and your own life experiences? “I’m really inspired by nature, so when I go places that are really beautiful I feel very inspired. There’s something about that that brings out emotion in me. Like you said, life experience and other music, but then different types of art in general as well. Architecture, fashion, movies, painting, all that stuff is where I try to get inspiration from.”
You’ve been in the entertainment industry for a really long time as you’ve been in acting before this. What has your acting career taught you that you still use today as a musician? “What it taught me when I was growing up is that rejection isn’t the end of the world. People will reject you and it’s not personal. You have to continue to push. When you’re a kid and you’re going to auditions all the time and they don’t book you for things, you just realize that you didn’t get it but that it doesn’t mean that this is over. It’s not the end and I’m going to keep going. I think that’s a valuable life lesson, that when you hit road blocks or when things are seemingly bad, that doesn’t necessarily mean that things are as bad as they seem.”
You left acting to focus on music. Still, I saw in an interview that you still intend to pick up acting again after this. Why did you choose to focus on music first? “Music has always been my biggest passion at the end of the day. I really wanted people to know that music is something that I take very seriously. I didn’t want them to get confused and think that I’m an actress who’s just doing music for fun or a girl that’s just trying it out to see if it would work. It’s very important to me, so I wanted people to get to know me as Tinashe the music artist before I started doing all the other stuff.”
I read somewhere that your dad was a stage actor and that that’s how you got into acting. How has having a dad in the performing arts affected you? “He always encouraged me to be in front of people. He always encouraged me to sing in the house. My parents never told me that pursuing entertainment was a bad idea, they never tried to dissuade me from pursuing my dreams. For that reason I’m very grateful to my parents.”
What type of music did you grow up with at home? “We listened to a lot of 90s R&B like Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Sade, Boyz II Men, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, stuff like that was always playing in the house.” And what was your first memory of being in touch with music that really made you want to pursue it? “When I was really young, I loved Christina Aguilera. She was my hero as a kid. So I think the first time I went to a concert it was Christina Aguilera and to see a stadium show, that energy, to hear all those screaming people, just the whole show, that’s when I thought to myself ‘Okay, I can’t wait for that to be me! This is definitely happening!’ [laughs]”.
You’ve definitely been through a lot in the industry for your age. With all that you’ve experienced, how would you define success for yourself as an artist? “I definitely feel like there’s levels of successfulness. I do feel like I’m successful already with the level that I’m at, but I don’t think that I’ve reached the level of success that would fulfill me just yet. I have a long way to go with what I want to achieve. That being said, I feel like true success is just being very comfortable with where you are and not feeling like you could have done something more. That you’ve really achieved what you’ve worked for.” And do you feel like you are successful in that sense? “I do feel like I am, yeah. I feel like I’ve achieved a lot of goals that I’ve set for myself. But I have so many more goals. Yes, I’ve hit level one of success, but I have like twenty-five more to hit. I have very high expectations and we’re getting there. We’re building. It’s a building process.”
Where do you see yourself in three years? “In three years, I hope to obviously have a couple of albums out. I’ll be having my own tours of the world at that point, where I can sell out giant shows for people everywhere and they’ll expect me to be around for a while. People will know that I’m a legitimate force to be reckoned with in the music industry.”
Tinashe’s debut album Aquarius is out on October the 22nd via RCA Records.
Words by Sindhuja Shyam, 19 September 2014. Leave a comment
We are very excited and honoured to be celebrating the hundredth instalment of our Truancy Volume series with a very special mix from none other than Ben UFO. The records released by Hessle Audio, the label’s essential Rinse.fm sessions and of course the music Ben DJs have for a long time been consistent sources of enjoyment and musical inspiration for us at Truants and so today is an especially fitting way to mark this milestone event. For the Truants present at this summer’s Dekmantel festival, catching Ben play a set at the intimate Selector’s stage was a fantastic reminder of his qualities. For us, hearing (to pick but one example) Sizzla, Dat Oven and Soundstream played together in such a way that their disparate qualities complemented each other, and seeing the effect it had in the energetic dancing and happy faces of the crowd is sure to be a long-lasting memory. In addition to an outstanding mix, Ben also kindly shared some of his recent experiences and thoughts on music.
Has there been a shift in the sort of music you play in recent times? From personal experience of seeing you DJ several times I got the sense that your sets have shifted somewhat from house more towards techno? Is this accurate, and if so is it due simply to a change in taste or new discoveries, or is it also related to a particular “shift” in the type of music being released now?
“It depends where you’ve seen me play recently, and I guess also on the definitions you’re using. I’d be uncomfortable identifying as either purely a ‘house’ or ‘techno’ DJ, and I don’t think I sit particularly comfortably on line-ups which make a big deal of focusing exclusively on one or the other. One of the continuing reasons for this is that I can’t relate to much of the language used to describe house and techno – particularly the language people use to distinguish one from the other.”
In the past you have spoken about certain places – such as the Golden Pudel in Hamburg or Robert Johnson in Frankfurt, which you are especially fond of. In the past year have you had the experience of playing someplace new where you enjoyed yourself in a similar way?
“Freerotation isn’t somewhere new, but it continues to be one of the few places I feel able to fully immerse myself in the music when I’m not DJing myself, partly because of how much I like the environment, but I think crucially because I’m there for enough time to relax properly!”
Does locality/sense of place play a role in how you connect with certain musics?
“Absolutely – I think the way I see the music I play can’t help but be connected to my experience of playing it for other people in different places. That doesn’t mean my enjoyment of it is totally dependent on people reacting positively, but it does mean that I have a much less complicated relationship with music I only listen to at home.”
Switching from the perspective of a someone playing music to others to one of an audience member, have you recently seen any performances (whether by artists or DJs, new or established) who left a deep impression on you?
“I had a particularly good time dancing to Leif and Objekt at Freerotation this year. TJ posted the recording of his set on Soundcloud recently, and listening to it back at home triggered a big rush of endorphins and happy memories.
On a slightly different tip I loved seeing Bee Mask play on a Monday night earlier this year at Corsica Studios. The system in there has the power and clarity to do justice to his use of extreme dynamic contrast, but I think the most crucial aspect of my experience was the fact that I’d returned from Australia earlier that day, and was feeling totally disoriented and exhausted. My guard was down and the music hit me hard.”
In the past Hessle Audio show on Rinse.FM slot has been host to numerous interesting guest artists such as Bee Mask, Morphosis and Will Bankhead. Very recently you had a number of excellent guests on the show in short succession. Does the show’s regular, weekly nature give you more of an opportunity to have others play, and how do you go about coming up with ideas on who to invite?
“The nice thing from my perspective about the show being weekly is that it removes any pressure I might feel to ‘represent myself’ fully whenever I do the show by myself. This is also something that’s become less of a concern over time, as hopefully by now our listeners have got a pretty good grasp of what we’re about as a label, and who we are as DJs. I see it as a nice platform to do whatever we feel like, whenever we feel like it. Our guests are generally people we have a pre-existing relationship with, and we try and ensure that it’s as relaxed a platform for them as it is for us.”
Moving onto potentially contentious ground…do you agree with the politics of the position that all cats are beautiful? Further, what do you think of the claim that the detachment observed in many cats is in actuality a performance of critique-via-disengagement of life under post-Fordist neoliberalism?
“I like cats.”
From the subtle, atmospheric sounds of the SUED camp; through Jamal Moss’ inimitable take on house, the experimentalism of 2562, Emeralds & Aaron Dilloway, arresting oddities from MGUN and Ruth White to propulsive techno from the likes of Planetary Assault Systems and Karenn, Truancy Volume 100 is full of special moments and its scope includes some of the most interesting music out there. “I wanted to record something cohesive from start to finish whilst still allowing myself to draw from a relatively broad pool of music,” Ben says. “As with my contribution to Radio 1’s Essential Mix last year, I was hoping to do something a bit more interesting structurally than just steadily building up the intensity and the tempo of the mix over the course of two hours – as a result these two mixes don’t exactly reflect what you might expect to hear from me in most club situations or at festivals. There’s an emphasis on tracks which shift the energy and momentum when they’re played during a DJ set and, relatedly, I wanted to try and include more experimental music in a way that didn’t seem tokenistic or throwaway.” In a number of ways this approach exemplifies many of the aspects of Ben UFO’s DJing which we love so much – the wide-ranging, thoughtful selections and the meticulous attention to detail that allow those disparate sonic strands to be tied together in an always-exciting way, but as important is the sense of humour, warmth and an unparalleled sense of curiosity and love for music which shine through and show why Ben UFO is one of the best DJs around.
Hessle Audio will release HES027 by Bruce on October 27th. You can also catch Ben UFO, Pangaea and Pearson Sound on September 19th at Fabric with DJ Bone and Jon Rust, and in Berlin on September 20th at Stattbad with Beneath, Adam X, Ondo Fudd & Marco Shuttle.
Words by Eradj Yakubov, 17 September 2014. Leave a comment