Over in Manchester there’s a York born emcee whose been cooking up some gems with the release of his EP “Serving Time”. Now with his imprint Wenlock Music ready for some seriously good Hip-Hop it was on right that we sent our UK enthusiast Tricksta to get this exclusive interview…
When did you start making music and was there a person or artist that inspired you to start writing songs and hit the studio?
I started writing rhymes when I was still in the last few years of school. I used to write poetry at school and got a bucket load of good grades for it, which is about the only thing I did get decent grades for, so I kind of just enjoyed doing it. As I became more and more into music and Hip Hop specifically, they kind of naturally started becoming raps and random bars. Then I started recording with a friend of a friend on a crappy internet mic and we went from there. Now I'm smashing mic booths in studios. It's been a pretty rocky journey to get to a position like this, but it's been worth it and I've learned a lot of hard lessons in the process and for that reason, I wouldn't change a thing. As for individuals or artists that inspire me - there are too many artists to mention, not all Hip Hop either! My Grandad has always been a massive inspiration to me personally, he's one of a handful of men I've ever loved and was a large part of bringing me up. More in the present day, my little girl is my world and I just really want to make a mini legacy for her first and foremost. The difference being, when she hits her teens, I want her to be like "Oh, yeah, my Dad made some cool tracks way back when" rather than "Yeah, my Dad used to make Rap music - fucking well embarrassing"... [laughs] guess that's the thin line we father folk have to tread though.
Let's talk about your latest project, its sounding really tight. Who features on it, who dealt with the production and how long did it take to make?
My last project is 'Serving Time EP'. It's actually sort of my first project too, in my eyes. It's the first time I've done something completely original without 'borrowed' or 'mixtape style' beats. I've put a bunch of stuff out previously - mixtapes, singles, mini-EPs, etc, but nothing completely 100% original. I guess I just kind of shielded myself from that step until I felt I was in a strong enough position. The EP doesn't feature any other rappers, and that's quite purpousful, really. I wanted this project to be more of my own little playground because of the content. It's mostly quite personal stuff, and is a story really of the last 20 or so years of my life, through my own eyes. In that respect, I guess you could say that it's taken a lifetime to create, but in reality it took four and some odd months to write, record, master, and get to release. The only three vocal features on there - other than Uppacut who does the intro - are 3 incredible female vocalists - Mary Jayne, Afrika Fuentes and Ellsie. The production is from Uppacut, who co-executively produced it, Spee69, 7 Deadly and SwissBoy. There's also a track on there which is composed and performed by Afrika.
How would you describe the music that you make? I know it's hard to compare yourself to other artists and styles, but what kind of vibe is your music on?
Um... [pauses] well, I struggle with this question. A friend of a friend caught wind of the fact that I do this the other week and was asking me like "So, who are you like?" and "How would you describe yourself?” I really struggled to answer him, and in the end just played him the single - Serving Time - and he ended up agreeing that it was difficult to pigeon hole. I guess the vibe is kind of downbeat for the majority of this project. I make no apology for it being a little self indulgent, even if that does fuck even me off sometimes. There is something for everyone on this EP though, I think, and it ranges from the jokey, punch line based stuff, to more socially conscious, to raw rhythmic lyricism, right down to me just being a moany, whiny bastard who craves attention and sympathy as much as I crave adoration [laughs]... but I mean every single bit of it! No, seriously, I guess if you pushed me to summarise it, I'd say it's the sound of downtrodden working class hero in the north of England - fight back music, for anyone a little low in the serotonin department.
What do you enjoy the most about the whole process of recording and writing music? Is there something that you absolutely love and is there anything that maybe you don't like doing as much?
I love creative thinking. I love that process of speaking with my producers, getting a beats demo through the post and listening through, scruitinising each track and trying to find its voice. Asking myself 'What is THIS ONE saying? What's the message? What's the hook? I like that feeling mid-verse in the booth when you KNOW you're onto a winner with it and it's going to be a keeper. That moment happens in every verse, and it's awesome. I also love getting the comments I do - people telling me recently that tracks from the EP like 'Hold On' and 'Dear Daddy' are striking a chord with their own lives and that they make it easier to deal with sometimes. Texts from friends saying 'in such and such a place and there's fuck all happening... Just popped such and such a track on and it's all good again'. I also love having to get so intimate with your project for so long, and then that mental fight with yourself to let it go when you release it, those nerves, you know, like, 'Oh, shit, what if people hate it?' kind of thing. Above all though, I love the creative process. Making something front to back and pouring your heart and soul into it - If I never set the world alight, I'll rest forever knowing that I gave nothing less than everything in every track. What I don't like? Wow, there's far too much to be specific, but I guess the number one thing would be unprofessionalism. I address this in 'Learning the Trade'. I'm not expecting everyone to want, or even be able to put as much effort in as the next guy - everyone's situation is different, but don't do blatantly lazy shit, because it's just insulting. Also, if I go out my way to make this work, get on board or fuck off, 'cause there's no way I'm letting my standards slip. Ah, there's a lot of stuff that gets me, but I'd better stop right here on it or we'll never move on.
Are you releasing your music on your own label or do you have a team that is aiming to help you get signed to a major?
Yeah, my stuff is going through my own infant imprint 'Wenlock Music'. It's early days, but I've got Uppacut on board now, and have been speaking with a couple of other artists about joining up, but I'll keep that under my hat for the time being, for no other reason than if it never comes off I'm going to look pretty fucking stupid! [laughs]. As for the majors? Um, possibly. I'd have said no flat out two years ago, but the more I go, the more I think I maybe would. Who knows? I think it's pretty much cloud talk, but if someone came along and offered you a gazillion queen heads for doing what you love, you'd have to start readdressing that stance. You'd be stupid not to.
How are you getting your project out there? Do you have a distributor involved or maybe some shops/websites stocking & supporting your music?
I'm getting my project out there the only way I know how - grafting almost single handed. It's all I've ever done. I've sent more emails and made more calls in the last few months than I ever have before in life altogether. I'm smacking the shit out of the social network thing and am slowly building up more usernames and passwords to music websites than I care to have really. A lot of networking with a lot of people in a lot of ways, alongside some stuff I have planned for 2012.
Getting radio play can be hard for unsigned Hip-Hop artists, but have you had any radio play and if so what DJ's and stations have supported you?
I have had radio play, yes, which is cool. The single was featured on Reprezent Radio's 'Revolution' show by Tarek towards the end of last year down in London. That was a weird sensation, listening to a show I listen to quite a lot and hearing my own shit... little bizarre if I'm honest. Conversations are currently taking place with a bunch of stations up north, and the single was played at half time at my football teams ground in December... see, I'm on that 'hometown hero' shit [laughs]
Do you enjoy playing live? Have you done many gigs and what kind of artists have you supported or played alongside?
I haven't done any live shows since about the mid 00's. I'm hoping this will all change in 2012 though. I can't say too much at this point, so you'll have to stay tuned to get the lowdown. All in good time...
Let's talk image and branding for a minute. Some artists spend lots of money on artwork and other acts aren't that interested. How important is image, artwork and branding to you?
Yeah, I mean, I'll always, always remain of the standpoint that it's music and artistry over everything else. That said, I understand completely the impact a professional set up and image can make, and it just makes things that much more polished. I'm starting to take branding a lot more seriously, because without it, especially in these days of faceless, personality cloned hip hop, it's easy to get lost amongst the bollocks. I don't think you necessarily NEED a brand or image, but keeping things presentable certainly does not harm.
What was the last album you brought and apart from Hip-Hop what other genres of music do you listen too?
Christ, mate, I listen to everything I can. Everything I can that I actually like these days, that is. I mean, don't get me wrong like, Hip Hop is always going to be my first port of call, but I can range from 2Pac and Nas right down to Aretha Franklin and Tracy Chapman, back around to Slipknot and Kasabian and stuff. Also a lot of underground artists - I'm not one of these backbiting British MCs who runs around screaming 'support local Hip Hop' and then doesn't show love to anybody. That's not positive for the genre, and it is, in my tiny little brain, probably one of the biggest things that held the UK artists back so long. I find U.S. and European dudes are far more willing to take the time, share ideas and whatnot than we are, almost to the point it's embarrassing. We could be so much better if we stood together, but we don't. Anyway, that's another one of those topics I could rattle on about all night and I don't want to do that with the negative vibes and shit. Last album I bought? Um... I think... it might have been Royce 'Success is Certain'... [pauses] No, wait, I'm lying, it was Adele '21'. Incredible album.
Have you got any videos on You Tube and have any ever got played on TV Stations?
Zero vids, I'm afraid. That's the only area I am lacking I think, but that's all being addressed this year. We have the video for the single which I'm currently in the storyboarding stage of, hopefully a further two singles after that and some other little promo bits. I'm hoping to launch 'Wenlock TV' this year, and, again, HOPEFULLY that will all feed into one another. I never count my chickens though, so we'll see.
So what does the future hold for you as an artist? Have you got any big plans that you can tell us about before you go?
Oh, bollocks. I wish I'd known this question was coming up; I kind of gave you all my answers. Well, there's obviously the Serving Time EP which is out now at the website www.wenlockmusic.com, I've got, hopefully, 3 singles and videos from it, myself and Uppacut should be hitting the stage in 2012, Wenlock TV, Merchandising, a few collaborations, and a whole heap more. I'm also starting work on the joint EP which myself and Uppacut have coming, which is as yet untitled and has two or three tracks written. I'm also planning to follow up Serving Time EP with a smaller EP to round off that whole chapter and then who knows? I'm open to suggestions, so if folks have ideas or whatever, get in touch. Finally though, can I just say a massive big up to Tricksta for having me and taking the time to find out about my shitty little life, it means a lot. And of course, my fans, they are absolute legends and I love each and everyone of them - stay tuned and spread the word people, I promise what's coming up is worth the effort.
Interview by Tricksta