Functions of the Now II: Inkke

Glasgow is a city of people with vociferous musical appetites, but there are a few individuals and collectives that excel in particular fields of expertise. The staff at Rubadub are pretty much walking encyclopaedias when it comes to techno, and a night of classic dubstep wouldn’t be complete without a set from one of the Fortified family. But if you want an expert on grime? Look no further than Inkke. Nothing if not multi-talented, the Scottish producer has had stints presenting on both Subcity Radio and Nasty FM, hosts club nights as part of Likwit Fusion and more recently I Hate Fun, and even has a side-hustle as an illustrator. For a while he was known as Jinty, and it was under this name that he earned a reputation as Glasgow’s grime aficionado.

A quick look at his SoundCloud is enough to make you aware of his love affair with grime – a breadcrumb-like trail of its influence on him can be found across his mixes, blends and refixes. But it’s his productions as Inkke, which tap into the sound that our Functions of the Now series hopes to chronicle, that have propelled him into a wider sphere of recognition. His free “Pink Dot” EP from 2011 set the template for his sound: laid-back sketches of grime with just the right amount of darkness. “Sakata Riddim”, available on I Hate Fun’s compilation (also free), was a three minute frenzy of militant syncopated handclaps, with a synth line that splintered and ricocheted like a laser beam through a prism. The ornamental gong percussion even nodded its head to the resurgence of sino-grime. The inclusion of his “L-O-K” on “Grime 2.0“, a compilation which sought to earmark the swell of new producers toying with familiar grime tropes, was the catalyst to his ascension from the River Clyde to bigger waters.

With a selection of hip-hop beats forthcoming on a cassette for Astral Black and his tracks making regular appearances on LuckyMe’s Rinse FM show and Slackk’s monthly mixes, Inkke is in prime position to dominate 2014. With this in mind, we approached him for an interview. He spoke to us about grime’s evolution, Trim, and Aaliyah remix fatigue, and provided a blistering thirty minute mix that crystallises some of the key players in this year’s instrumental grime landscape.

I’d like to talk about Glasgow first. I’ve come to think of Glasgow as a house and techno city, a reputation that often comes at the expense of other genres. Is it frustrating at all to be so tied to a sound (as a fan and as a producer, as a punter and as a promoter), that gets comparatively less spotlight? “There’s always been a lot going on up here club-wise, Glasgow is a really versatile city when it comes to its musical background. Although there is a lot of house and techno about, there have always been smaller nights pushing other stuff they enjoy, purely for the fact that they enjoy it. I wouldn’t say I’m tied to grime in particular, but yeah, there isn’t a lot of it about up here – although when we do a night it can work really well. There are a lot of fans of grime here so if we put on an event then the people that come are totally there for the music.”

I Hate Fun has been responsible for bringing acts like Bloom to Glasgow, as well as inviting local heads to play at parties like Strictly Grime. Can you tell us a little more about I Hate Fun – what it is, your role in it, and the position it holds in Glasgow (and beyond) in pushing the sort of sounds that it champions? “I Hate Fun is a website and a club night; I’m the illustrator for the site and I help run the events. I Hate Fun was basically built to be used as a platform where we could push the stuff we’re into musically – we host guest mixes, interviews and other general music-related stuff. The club night is more of a recent thing but it has been great.” You’ve been interacting with Slackk; any plans for an I Hate Fun x Boxed spectacular? “Haha, no plans as of yet but that would be cool. Maybe we can sort something out for next year.”

Has your distance from London, grime’s nucleus if you will, allowed you an outsider’s perspective as a producer? Strict Face told us in his interview that he felt like there wasn’t so much pressure to fit in or sound too much like a particular thing. Being based in Adelaide, he’s a lot further removed from London than you are, but can you identify with what he’s saying at all? “I guess I probably do have an outsider’s perspective but it’s not something I notice. I’m not trying to fit in with anything, I’m just doing what I’m into. I’m into grime so I make a lot of grime, but I take influence from all over the place. If I was living in London I still think I would be making weird shit.”

For two years you presented Gutter Riddim on Subcity Radio; you also held down a weekly slot on Nasty FM for a while. What sort of vibe did you aim for on either show? “I was just playing music; most times I would be on the decks, or have guest DJs or MCs in. Other times I would just let the music run track to track – no mixing, just let it play. It was another platform to get stuff out there, and it was fun! I think when I first started the show on Subcity I was one of only a select few that was playing grime, and almost exclusively at that, so the show became quite popular. Then I started a show on Nasty – two hours weekly on top of my show at Subcity so it was quite demanding. After about six months of running both shows simultaneously, I ended up taking a step back from both stations to concentrate on my studies.”

How is your mix for us different (if at all) from what you’d play on the radio or in a DJ set? “The majority of my sets are all vinyl; this mix was fully digital. Mixing digital is something that’s pretty new to me but I’ve been sent so much really good music recently that I felt I needed to do something with it.” We were surprised by your choice to keep it free of your own productions; was there a reason for this? “I really didn’t feel the need to, I’m happy the mix pushes the tracks that it does.”

Your tracklist features cuts from many of your contemporaries – the two I’d really like to mention are Strict Face’s “Toxic Gunner Refix” and Murlo’s take on Ashanti’s “Movies”. R&B samples have kind of been done to death in 4×4 house music, why do you think r&b and grime sound so fresh blended together? “I wouldn’t say it’s a new thing. Grime tracks using r&b cuts have been floating about since the start of the genre, it’s just that back then the majority were white label dubs. I think producers and bootleggers just wanted to mix the popular vocal tracks of the time with their underground hits, and it’s probably the same idea nowadays. There totally has been a revival of it recently though, which could be to do with the Night Slugs and Fade To Mind camps pushing that style, but it’s impossible to tell. Everyone’s influences are different. I think sometimes it can work really well and other times it doesn’t; it’s a fine line and some tracks have just been done to death. If I hear another Aaliyah remix I think my head will explode.” Your own “Dilemma” bootleg was featured in Slackk’s August mix; we also saw you mention a “21 Questions” bootleg on Twitter. Can we expect to hear a lil compilation of your bootlegs any time soon? “Haha yeah, I’ve remixed a whole bunch of rap songs from that era. I want to record a mix using just the bootlegs, I’ll call it Millennium Edits or something.” Correct us if we’re wrong, but we’re guessing the DJ Milktray “Hotel” edit that I Hate Fun shared the other week is yours too? “Nah Milktray isn’t me, his bootlegs are rad though. You need to hear some of his original tracks too, they’re so heavy.”

It’d be fair to say you came to prominence with the inclusion of “L-O-K” on Big Dada’s “Grime 2.0” compilation. The emergence of this new wave of grime has divided fans and critics alike: as someone who seems to be as indebted to old grime as you are invested in its newer echelons, what’s your take on it and where do you consider your work to fit on the grime continuum? “I don’t see how new grime can be a bad thing, if people know what they are doing and if it is actually grime. It does my head in when someone makes a rap beat and calls it grime, because it isn’t – it’s rap. I’m all for evolution in sound but that’s just confused. I’m not sure where my tracks would fit and I don’t really think it’s down to me to decide. I would rather let the listener make up their own mind on that one.”

Stream: Inkke – L-O-K (Big Dada)

You’re pretty much considered one of Glasgow’s authorities on grime; tell us about when the genre first made an impact on you. ” Haha I wouldn’t say that, I’m just into it. There are plenty of other people that have been about longer than me. I’ve always been into fast music, that’s something that dawned on me recently. I was really into jungle and I think I was introduced to grime through that and just found it interesting. Hooked.” What else do you like listening to? “I listen to a lot of different music but recently I’ve been getting into a lot of jazz and dancehall records. The music I listen to definitely influences what I make,  even if it’s on a subconscious level.”

With the new wave of grime being largely instrumental, who’re your favourite OG MCs and who would you love to hear over one of your own beats? “Ah that’s a hard one, there’s so many. There was a time when everyone was so hungry and radio sets were huge. I’ve always found that some MCs were better on radio than they were on tracks; there was just a type of energy that you can’t recreate in a studio. I’ve always been a fan of Napper, Shizzle, Bruza, Ivan-O and General LOK, Terminator, Wiley, Flirta, Titch, Esco, Stamina Boy and Dizzee. Crews like Meridian, Ruff Sqwad, SLK, Roll Deep, Macabre Unit and Slew Dem. I would love to work with Trim, I think we could build something really interesting.”

We’ve included you in Functions of the Now because of your ties with grime, but tracks on your SoundCloud like “Enoch Beat” betray a fondness for dusty hip-hop styles too. We hear you have some hip-hop tracks coming out on cassette; what’s the word on that? “Yeah, well I’m a big fan of hip-hop. I make a lot of beats like that, they just don’t get heard as often. I’m putting out this beat tape with Astral Black; it’s a selection of real lo-fi and gritty Memphis style rap beats. The project has been a long time in the making so I’m happy it’s finally coming out. Astral Black is a great label too, I’m really happy to be working with them on this one. The project fits perfectly.” When you’re in the studio do you go in with a grime mindset some days and a hip-hop mindset on others? That is, is it difficult to switch between the two styles or can time in the studio lead you down any path? “Nah, I think if you go in with a certain mindset you’re just limiting yourself. I don’t really have a creative process, sometimes an idea just hits you and you have to get it sketched down as fast as you can. It might sit there untouched for six months while you work on other stuff but I try not to throw away any projects. There’s no point in rushing things if you’re not feeling the inspiration to work on it all the time. If you come back to a project with fresh ears it can do a lot of good.”

You illustrate on the side. Forest Swords said something interesting about how being a designer informs his music in a recent FACT interview: “Because I’m a designer, and I’ve trained as a designer, I quite often think in terms of modular projects.” Can you relate to this at all? Does the creative process when you’re illustrating mirror that of when you’re producing? “It probably does, yeah, just in the way that I work. But again I don’t really notice it. I know that when I first started producing I tried to build up the music the same way I would a painting but things have kind of evolved since then. You end up learning your own methods and just develop on them.” Would you ever be interested in designing your own artwork? “Possibly one day. I think I would rather design someone else’s artwork than my own; I’ve got a lot of ideas that just don’t fit any of my stuff. I do like to hold a lot of creative control when it comes to the artwork for my own releases but I don’t like to get too involved. I would rather work personally with artists, photographers and designers that I really like, and just help direct.”

Finally, what else is on the horizon for you? “I’m working on a set of EPs that should be ready for release early next year. I’ve been holding onto a lot of stuff and I’m really excited to get it out.”

Functions of the Now: Inkke by TRUANTS

Rabit – Aztec
Strict Face – Taipan Showers
Slackk – K Double
Kingdom – Takedown Notice (Neana on the Track Edit)
Spooky – Bricklayer
J Beatz – Wave Down (Trends Remix)
Strict Face – Toxic Gunner Refix
Spooky – Need A Girl 2 Refix
Murlo – Robes
Slackk – Too Rare For Them
Slackk – Japanese Showerman
Rabit – Burnerz
Strict Face – Gravetrails
Llesca – 7 A.D. (Rabit Remix)
Logos – Steel Pulse
Breen – Southbound
Ashanti – Movies (Murlo Refix)

Artwork Credit: Joseph Jackson

Sophie Kindreich