After first coming to the scene's attention back in 2009 with his production on P-Money's now infamous '1UP', Royal-T's rise to prominence shows no sign of slowing. Heavily backed by the excellent 'Butterz' label and with numerous releases under his belt, his latest project, a flawless remix of Yasmin's 'On My Own' sees years of hard work and dedication to his cause come together. I caught up with him on everything from 'Butterz' to Oxide comparisons and just generally taking the piss:
"I've done quite a lot recently - in 2010, I had a string of different things out: the 'Hot Ones' remix, the 'CD is Dead' remix, the 'Damn It!' EP on Boogaloo City, Hammer's 'Expolosive' and then more recently, 'Orangeade' and the Yasmin remix. I managed to get on loads of Butterz shows and mixes too and I managed to play my first deejay booking, which I was pretty hyped about! One of the biggest highlights was hearing about and then seeing P-Money performing '1UP' at Glastonbury though, that was a really nice moment for me."
As far as styles go, Royal-T's is reminiscent of the sounds born out of the late garage/early grime eras, a transitional period often overlooked by today's producers. As he himself says, 'I just kinda wanted to make the grime that everybody originally intended to make back in 2002-2003':
"For me, it was the whole '1UP' thing that got me in the spotlight. That tune sorta got everyone back on the 2-step, skippy sound that grime had been missing for a while. Having said that, it wasn't long before people clocked what I was doing so I had to take the piss and completely switch things up again - I decided i'd throw some garage elements into the mix and you're kinda left with the sound I've developed over the last 12 months or so. People have actually said I sound a bit like 'Oxide' which is a huge compliment but i get my influences from everywhere - from Todd Edwards to garage and little bits of everything I enjoy listening to. My main focus is just to try and stay ahead of the game and make interesting music that nobody else is making - Butterz have been a huge influence in that regard. I guess, ultimately, I want to do what every Dubstep DJ has been doing for the last 3 years, just with grime - I want to make grime credible you know? I see guys like Skream and Burial etc with big, professional release after big, professional release and it really inspires me. My dream is to be able to pop into your local HMV, head over to the 'Electronic' section and pick out a credible Grime CD as opposed to having to root through the 'Hip-Hop' section looking for anything remotely grimey. In that sense, I kinda wanna be the middle man - I want to unite grime under the electronic bracket. Going back to Butterz, Elijah and Skilliam are on the way to doing that already - they've got no need to do what they do, but they continue to put the work in and put out big release after big release in a professional manner. Eight releases in less than a year is brilliant - its what he scene needs."
Whilst some deejays/producers can point to an exact moment in which they thought, 'I need to start making music', Royal-T insists he doesn't actually know how it all came about - as he explains, it just kinda happened:
"There was never a time when I started thinking, 'I want to be a grime producer' or anything - it just happened gradually over time I think. It went from making tunes in my bedroom, to going on forums and speaking to deejays, networking and whatever to actually getting a bit good at it! I wish I could say there was a time when it all came together but I really don't know. Obviously, coming from Southampton, it was always a lot harder for me to network and meet people and I found it a bit of an up-hill struggle. Even though it's coming together at the moment thought, my situation hasn't changed a lot - I'm still doing lots of stuff via email and Skype because I can't get to London as much as I'd like! I'm hoping that'll change soon though, especially doing so much with 'Butterz' - that's been the transition really, they've helped me get the recognition."
I've often noted seeing Elijah refer to Royal-T as 'the future' in relation to grime on Twitter, acclaim that inspires him to maintain not only his focus, but hard work:
"It sounds so cliche but I've always tried to stay humble and keep myself to myself - I just get on with stuff! It's still really nice to hear though and it does make me feel smug having that approval but at the same time, it drives me. It makes me sit there and think, 'Fuck me, if I carry on doing this, it won't be long before I'll have regular deejay sets and get to do what I like' and it that sense it encourages me to keep going. It's exciting but I can't rest of my laurels - I've gotta keep my head down and get on with making the music!"
Returning to the music, 2011 has already seen two hugely significant Royal-T releases: 'Orangeade' and the remix of Yasmin's 'On My Own'. First up, 'Orangeade':
"It came about as a bit of fun really - Teddy was saying that Gucci Mane's 'Lemonade' beat was the sickest beat about and whatever so I thought I'd make a tongue-in-cheek response and that response was Orangeade. It's the complete opposite really; a skippy, 2-steppy track that just typifies what I'm about - having a laugh! It's created quite a stir - people have said it's shit and whatever but aslong as people are talking, I don't mind! I just want to make interesting, thought-provoking music and as long as people respond to it, whether the response is good or bad is kinda irrelevant - its bringing about a reaction in people that's key! Bearing that in mind, I want to bring in a whole mix of samples and sounds to my new stuff - my Uncle was telling me the other day about some 'Public Enemy' tracks that sampled some proper mad/weird sounds and it made me think, 'Yeah, that's what I wanna do"! I guess for every person that loves what I'm doing, there'll be a person that hates what I'm doing but the aim is to make music that provokes people into thinking something you know?"
And as for Yasmin's 'On My Own':
"She's really talented and has had so much press recently - I think she's been in 'The Sun' more times than some Page 3 girls (laughs)! In all seriousness though, it's been an absolute honour to be involved and be a part of it. It came about through Elijah having a word with her about remixes and from there, I managed to get hold of the acapella and the rest is history as they say. I put it all together and the end result was a proper grime track that I'm really proud of. Everything I've been trying to do over the past year or so kinda came together in that tune and it was just an amazing feeling to do it. Even my mum said it was my best tune to date and she's really hard to please - she's certainly not scared to tell me if i'm making a something shit! I guess it was a bit of a risk including me on the single because I'm still a bit of an unknown quantity when it comes to labels but the response has been brilliant so far - I wasn't even sure it'd make the single to be honest! Me and Elijah decided to just send it off to some big deejays and hoped for the best - MistaJam gave it its first spin on radio and from there, I think he got in touch with management and said it was good enough to go on the single and that was that! It's kinda ensured some good exposure for grime too which is really nice and if it charts I'd be over the moon. It'd be the first step, my first big achievement. I actually did the 'Its Wiley' remix a couple of days after Yasmin's and to be honest, I'm so humbled to have been able to work on both. I guess it shows that slowly but surely, people are starting to recognise what i can do which is sick!"
With 2010 seeing Royal-T get his first bookings and play his first live sets, deejaying is clearly going to become an integral part of pushing his sound. Back in December, he got the chance to play his first set alongside Butterz as well as the 'Pitch Controllers' collective, Dusk & Blackdown and Spooky at East Village:
"Ah it was fucking wicked! It was my first booking with Butterz and although it wasn't technically my first gig in London, it was the first time i really felt comfortable, I absolutely loved it. I made sure I was properly prepared and treated everything really seriously, making sure I put my best into everything I did on the night. I even made tunes specifically for that night, without actually telling anybody. I made a 'Spartan' remix just to play there and that got 3 reloads or something ridiculous - seeing people's reactions to your music is one of those things money can't buy, it's an indescribable feeling. I did a 'Pulse X' remix too and messed around with a Tempa T vocal over 'Hot Ones' and dropped some P Money vocals over different tunes - it's not necessarily the most professional way of doing things but it maintains the fun element and gave my set that shock value you know? I wanted the set to be more of a performance than just any old set and I hoped it'd stand out. I made sure I networked too - obviously I don't get the chance to be in London much so it was nice to meet guys like Teddy and Dexplicit and just generally absorb the whole night and the vibe. There was a one really nice moment where Elijah called me into the booth and just pointed out across the rave and said, 'this is it mate' and it was just an amazing feeling. I have to say again aswell, there's no better feeling than seeing people go mad to your music - I just want to maintain that feeling and keep it going for as long as possible!"
With a steely determination and quiet confidence in himself and where he's headed. 2011 has the potential to be a defining year in the career of Royal-T:
"I don't actually know what's going to happen this year but I've got aspirations and I know the direction I want to go in, I'm just happy to see how it all unfolds - that's the beauty of it! I don't want the fun to end and I definitely don't want to start taking myself too seriously. I want to carry on doing exactly what I'm doing - me and Elijah and the rest of the Butterz team are kinda sticking two fingers up at the industry and just doing things independently and I'm proud to be a part of it. Ideally, within the next 6 months I'd like to have regular bookings and be getting lots of releases out - basically just a continuation but on a bigger scale. I've found that if you really do want to do something, you'll find a way to make it happen - I've made loads of sacrifices but it's all been worth it so far. I dropped out of college last year and I still miss out on social things even now but you can't be half-hearted - if you want something, you have to put the work in and the rest will follow. Hopefully this year will be a testament to that!"
Famous last words:
"The 'Orangeade' EP is out digitally on Monday (7th Feb) and I'm really looking forward to that - it'll be like a baby being born! It's my first solo Butterz release too so that adds an extra special element to it - Elijah and Skilliam were the first guys to play one of my tunes on radio back when they were at University so I owe a huge amount to them - they've been my brothers in this for ages now! I've just done a Sonic Router mix too and I've got my first bookings lined up for this year already: one in Shoreditch, one in Birmingham and my first ever overseas gig in Amsterdam towards the end of March - I'm so hyped for that! Ah and how could I forget, I'm going to be doing a 1Xtra guest mix at the start of March too. I've no idea how it's fallen together like this but it's amazing!"
Pun of the year - The future's bright. The future's 'Orangeade'.
ROYAL-T SOUNDCLOUD: http://soundcloud.com/royaltmusic
DOWNLOAD ROYAL-T'S SONIC ROUTER MIX: http://official.fm/track/199564
ESSENTIAL COP - BUY 'ORANGEADE' (as of 07/02/11): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Orangeade/dp/B004LWW7ZE
BUY EVERYTHING ELSE 'BUTTERZ': http://butterzrecords.bigcartel.com/