Interview: Lockah

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again; Donky Pitch are a force to be reckoned with. Following the debut LP release of The Range who provided us with a mix a couple of months back, the label are on to to the next one. This time the man of the hour is Lockah. Hailing from Aberdeen, and recently taking steps in quitting his job to make long drive down to make a new home in Brighton, it’s evident this is a man with music in his sights and office politics in his rear-view. With releases on his own label Tuff Wax, and others on Mad Decent, Mishka, Activia Benz, as well as remixes on OWSLA and Hyperboloid, the time has come to nestle into the home he’s found at Donky Pitch and release his first album. We caught up with him on Facebook of all places to talk about the album influences, what he’s been up to lately, and Miami bass… all of which descended into swapping some memes.

Stream: Lockah – Heartless Monster (Donky Pitch)

Hey Tom, how’re you? “Hey Jess, all good. I’ve just had my first contact with an Aberdonian in over two months, so I’m feeling right at home here in the ‘B’.” Nice to hear the accent again I bet. How’s the move from Aberdeen to Brighton going? Any resounding differences, pros or cons? “It was a long-ass drive, but once I made it down and sorted things out with my flat it was definitely worth it. It’s very relaxed here, pretty damn warm, an hour’s train from the middle of London. The only downside is that like Aberdeen, the clubbing scene here isn’t exactly crazy. That and the fucking warm beers. Aside from the pro of moving to Brighton, there’s also the day to day pro that I’m no longer working an office job so I can focus on music 100% in a less stressful way.”

You were once quoted as saying that you are ‘violently proud of the city’ of Aberdeen. Would focusing on music still be 100% stressful in Aberdeen as opposed to Brighton? “Haha when did I say that?” In an interview about two years ago for the Fader! “That’s such an odd thing to say. But hey, I said it.” Why the change to Brighton then? Was Donky Pitch a main contributing factor? “It would be less stressful there as well for sure. But I’d be a bit colder, and it would still take me 14 hours and 9 flight connections to get to a gig in a typical European destination. Things have changed in Aberdeen, there are basically no full-time clubs catering to underground dance culture now. It’s crazy, but it seems to have formed a sense of resourcefulness from the long-term promoters there, and definitely inspired some newcomers to throw nights in the smaller atypical venues. Here, my residency at the Green Door Store is on my doorstep, and it’s allowed me to swing through to London for last minute things like support for The Range at The Old Blue Last, and Boiler Room in February.” A good career move really, but what’s in store for Tuff Wax? “We’ll be wrapping up the Tuff Trax series soon, announcing a split 7″ very shortly, another fancy 12″ to follow on from the flashy Jaw Jam jawn last year, plus we’re throwing some ideas around for a low key white label 12″ too. Short term, I’m joined by Bones & Money, Cheap Date and Zubuntu down in the ‘B’ this weekend, to spin with me and generally go ‘buck wild’ at the Lockah album launch party. The Donky Pitch nights here in Brighton have been crazy recently, hopefully that trend will continue!”

Haha, we’ll touch on the album in a sec, but I often like to hear how artists develop an interest in music, specifically production, and you’ve often said you’re no newcomer to making music, tell us how you got into it. “Honestly I was recording music when I was a child in single figures. Wish I still had some of those tapes! I had a kid’s drum set that I replaced with a shitty real one when I was still pretty young. Casio keyboard, various percussive things. I’ve always been obsessed with the recording part though. Always a tape recorder present. Eventually I bought a multitrack recorder, got stuck with it and got given a used sound card for my birthday one year. I spent a lot of time in my teens recording drums, synths, guitars and so forth in that bedroom. When I first started producing ‘electronic’ music of any sort, it was just throwback hip-hop beats on an MPC 2000 XL. That was what I DJed mostly in those days. Eventually I got a cracked copy of Ableton from Bones and decided to bust the synths out again…”

How did you discover and start recording music at such a young age? I recently interviewed Dan Shake who said his love stemmed from a free music making program called Ejay Extreme he found in a box of Shreddies! “Well, I guess my Dad must have bought the Fisher Price tape recorder that I used initially. I would say I was using a computer to record audio from about 14 onwards. I guess that’s the norm now, but I’m 28 so we are going back to the 90s here. Ejay Extreme sounds fantastic from the title alone! I used to use Cool Edit which was pretty respected I think. To get technical for a second, it was pretty useless for MIDI, which is why I never used a computer to program electronic music as such until a good 10 years later. Basically I was working exclusively with audio, so any beats that I made were created by dragging and dropping each sound into place. Likewise with synth parts, I was playing them on an actual synth and recording them in that way. Not very specialised, so that was definitely not the direction I was destined to move in at that point.”

Stream: Dynamix II Featuring Too Tough Tee ‎– ‘Just Give The D.J. A Break’ (Bass Station Records)

So bringing us back to the now; your debut album ‘Yahoo or the Highway’ drops on the 14th of April on Donky Pitch. What can we expect from it? “Well it’s my first pop at a full length, so various principles were important to me. I’ve tried to make it something that people want to hear to completion – what’s the point of 45 minutes of bangers? I also got completely sick of micro Soundcloud trends and meme music taking over the world while in the process of developing the album’s musical themes, so I put in a lot of effort into trying to make something without a really obvious timestamp on it. I was really obsessed with a couple of well known Miami Bass and Italo mixes last year, and those really inspired me – not only in terms of production and writing, but as a nice distraction from the ever-more-dull-microtrend-of-the-week stuff that seems to get harder and harder to avoid these days… Having said all that, I also feel like I am making the strongest and most club conscious music of my career so far at this moment, which is something I’ve often lacked confidence in. So fuck everyone else, the album is ticking all my boxes at least!”

I saw your Thump piece on Miami Bass and was going to ask if the LP had influences of it! Would you say you’ve gained confidence being around the Donky Pitch crew? Must be great living with Dave Grinnell. “It definitely does. The ‘If Loving U Is Wrong…’ 12″ was loaded with Dynamix II references and there’s more of that in the kick programming in some of the album cuts. A lot of the time I would slow down electro/techno breaks to half speed and layer them over the looser beats that I had programmed. As a rule I try to destroy samples in the process of using them. I can’t stand lazy-ass sampling, that’s another trademark Microwave producer move. And yeah, the reason I’ve stuck with Donky since initially working with them is that they’ve become great friends – not to mention them being constantly on the rise, incredibly professional and talented with what they do, and they treat their artists well. Sharing a flat with Dave is pretty good for business too, we talk a lot about opportunities and other things we can work on together, exchange ideas and so forth. Usually while tearing into some of my gnarly-ass food at dinner. It’s worth mentioning that Mad Decent treat me very well too by the way, no reading between the lines there please.”

Haha, you read my mind. Is it fair to say that ‘If Loving You Was Wrong…’ was released almost as a prologue to the album? You must have been pleased with the response it got… Are you nervous about how the LP will be received? “Yeah, it was very consciously chosen to be a club leaning introduction for the album. The feedback has been pretty crazy, a lot of support from DJs, pretty good radio play. Scuba shouting it out and asking me for the stems for his own edit! I’m not terribly nervous, just excited. The build-up to a release is just the most exciting time to me. Really after that, I’m just looking for as many gig bookings as possible to follow on and support it. Oh, and to pay my rent too.” Speaking of gigs, the launch party for the album is this Friday, how’s that going to go down? How can we attend? Etc. “It’s at The Green Door Store next to Brighton train station, and three of my Tuff Wax crew will be representing Aberdeen with me. I have every confidence that it’s gonna be a cold banger of a night. Also, it’s completely free but there’s been a fairly decent queue early on for the last few shows so get there early!”

Stream: Lockah Mix (Boiler Room)

Can’t argue with that! There’s something else I’ve been meaning to ask you; I can never decide if the titles of your tracks are filled with dry humour in order to take things less seriously, or a sincere kind of truth…What’s the deal? “Hmm…They’re a mixture of bad puns, Twitter drafts, and god knows what else. Some of them are kinda deep but I don’t like to go into them usually, some of them are really serious! And really, the other part of it is that I hate 2 word electronic titles that are kind of the norm. So I’d rather go with ‘Shark’s Sad Mouth In The 1st Pic’ than ‘Burning Sky’ or whatever. Laaaaame! ‘Static Moonlight’, ‘Suspension’, fucking nerds.” Hahaha, totally agree. So right now I’m actually listening to your Boiler Room set; tell us about your live sets, how do they come together? “Recently I’ve been moving away more from current music and working more on my own edits of tracks alongside older stuff. Within the broad concept of ‘Miami Bass’ you basically have carte blanche to play all sorts of throwback rap, electro, west coast techno bass, bonus beat type tracks and all that sorta stuff. This was some of the earliest music to use sampling so the crunchy breaks are all around too. I like to keep it quite free and unplanned right now. I’d also like to think things are a little less ‘loose’ and ‘free’ in a typical DJ set than that Boiler Room one. We were heavily…lubricated.”

Haha I saw, bucket hats and beers. Do you have any further releases planned? “Right now the only future projects I have in place are for my own DJ sets only. I’m focussing more on adding some more ‘pep’ to that, and building a real arsenal of exclusive edits.” I gotta ask about your Twitter persona, Lockah and Tom are seemingly two very different people… “I get asked this a lot and it’s embarrassing. We must be the same person, haha, that’s why it is embarrassing. Maybe posting as Lockah makes it easier for me to say certain things, there is probably a psychological or literary term which explains it.” Maybe this? “Haha, that’s a better explanation.” I also found the perfect app for you the other day: BeardSwipe.Rofl

Okay to wrap up, what is your favourite drink and when was the last time you danced? “Oh man… It’d have to be an ice cold bottle of Honkers and I must have had a bit of a boogie in Antwerp, memory’s a little hazy. I had to really. Checking out Coco Bryce for the first time, he was one of the early Lockah influences for sure.”

Stream: Lockah – If Loving U Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Wrong EP (Donky Pitch)

‘Yahoo Or The Highway’  is available to pre order on iTunes, or for the h8trz, Donky Pitch’s bandcamp.

Photo Credit: Dean Gray

Jess Melia

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