Monday, 28 March 2011


Since recording his first free promo, 'And So It Begins' back in 2006, Sketchman has gone on to establish himself as one of the scene's most promising up and coming talents. With two further mix CDs under his belt, a move to Danny C's AIM Studios back in early 2009 prompted him to take a new musical direction, a move that saw Sketch combine his undoubted lyrical ability with a new-found industry level of professionalism. It was this combination that was ultimately responsible for the release of 'The Final Draft' in December 2009, a project that saw collaborations with the likes of P-Money, Killa P, Loudmouth, Dogzilla, Lee Brasco, Purple, Cotti and Z-Dot and one that finally left people with no excuse but to sit up and take note. With his latest project 'The Art of War' due for imminent release, I managed to catch up with him over a quarter pounder with cheese, on everything from playing the harmonica to getting featured in RWD magazine:

"I got a lot of love off the back of 'The Final Draft' and that really encouraged me to keep plugging away - I think the fact it was a free download surprised a few people to be honest! As soon as that was done, I went straight back in with 'The Art of War' and last year saw me start to get a few bookings so special mentions to 'Headbutt The Deck' and 'Oh My Days' who really got me out there - it's just been a case of building everything up really I guess. With 'The Art of War', I wanted to make a true, roots of Grime type album full of war riddims and hype, the type of stuff I used to listen to when I was younger you know? Having said that, I've been in the studio working on lots of different stuff during that time too - I'm always wanting to experiment and try new things. I've got a vocalist in the team, Beckie Sutton, who I've done quite a bit of work with and I've been fortunate enough to meet guys like Nee-Hi and Points - we've all been working on different bits together. Somewhere in amongst all that I managed to buy myself a proper camera aswell so I've been learning about the creative side to music - I've spent a lot of time making and editing my own videos and even got into renting out proper studio space to shoot things with proper lighting levels and whatever! I want to say a quick thanks to everyone who's helped me out over the last year or so too - lots of people have reached out and offered their support which I really appreciate."

As with most emcees and producers I've been fortunate enough to speak to, Sketch  is quick to point out that it was pirate radio that first caught his attention with regards to making music:

"I've always been well into my music, even as a kid. I used to play a toy harmonica i had and neeky stuff like that (laughs) so I guess I was always going to do something music-related. I remember my brother used to take me along to radio with him which is probably my first memory of being around music on any sorta level - I got a feel for it back then and never really looked back. As I got older, I started to feel that I had a story to tell and it was that desire that got me into emceeing I think. Me and my mates were always up to no good at the time and I felt that what we were doing needed to be heard and appreciated - we all used to spray a bit but I realised that without any of your own music to back you up, spraying was kinda irrelevant. From there, I decided that I needed to start making my own tunes - I started back at school, my music teacher at the time used to let me stay late after school and use the facilities which helped me get a basic understanding of how to produce things. I looked up to older guys at school too - Swindle was a big influence back then in particular. Before long it was a yellow pages ting and I found a local studio that I could record at - I went along one day, met Ev James and I was there for almost 2 years. He taught me a lot about producing proper music and in turn, I taught him a lot about the Grime sound so it was a proper learning curve. People had started to take notice by that time so I had every reason to carry on and see where it would take me - I just thought, 'yeah, why not?' and here I am today. Natural progression saw me move to Danny C's which really brought everything together - working with him at AIM has been such an eye opener but at the same time, a necessary one in terms of what I want to achieve. It's kinda mad to think that what started as a little fad amongst me and my mates has led me to do this for almost five years!"
With the scene currently as healthy as it's been for a long time, Sketch feels that it's the production side that's really reinvigorated Grime over the last few years:

"I think the scene's in a really exciting place at the moment - everybody seems to be doing their own thing and nobody's really watching what anybody else is doing. The variation is there now too - people aren't scared to experiment like they used to be. I think Instrumental Grime has been a big factor too, it's really come back to the fore recently and pushed emcees to the side a little bit which has been healthy for the scene - it's given everybody something to sit up and think about. Respect where respect's due, there's also a lot of people helping out now who don't necessarily need to - the co-operation and positive energy in Grime at the moment is really good to see and it helps push things forward. Work rate's are through the roof too - there's no room for slack anymore because everybody is working so hard. Take Z-Dot for example - he always has a bag of releases ready and it's that sorta attitude that makes me wanna keep doing more and more."

Whilst focusing a lot of his energy on Grime, Sketch also acknowledges the influence Dubstep has had on him as an artist and the contribution it's made to helping Grime establish itself on the underground circuit:

"I linked up with Cotti quite a while back now and back in 2005, early 2006 I spent a lot of time mixing with people in record shops. Dubstep was just taking off then so I was surrounded by the buzz it was getting and as I started to take my own music more seriously, I started to take note of how it was doing. Grime emcees can and have used Dubstep as a platform to get themselves heard, me included, but you do need to adapt your sound in order to do it justice - you've got to respect it as a genre and I think that's something a lot of people have started to clock. You've gotta remember grime emcees have sat back and watched Dubstep takeover the underground music scene like it's nothing so regardless of people's feelings towards it, it's an avenue people have got to look at if they want to get recognition. I love Dubstep in all its forms but I favour the more original sound - I love listening to Kromestar, Cotti and some of the early Skream bits."

Whilst 'The Final Draft' showcased Sketchman's versatility as an artist, 'The Art Of War' demonstrates he's equally adept at dealing with Grime's darker side:

"It's the essentially buy for any Grime guy (cringeworthy smile and trademark glisten*) - nah seriously, it's just an album full of bangers really. There's a few story-telling tracks and a couple that are more of an insight into how I see Grime but there's nothing watered down or anything like that - it's all fully Grime. More than anything, it's just me being myself and feeling comfortable so I'm quite proud of it in that sense. I really want people to hear it and digest everything I've got to say because I went about it properly and invested a lot of time and effort in it - I guess it's a total reflection of me as an artist."

As an emcee, Sketch finds it quite difficult to describe his sound, although is quite clear in what he aims to do:

"I try and flow over a beat in a way that does it the proper justice if you get me? I can be quite particular in terms of syllables and things, I like my voice to cut through the mix and I can be quite skippy sometimes so I guess I'm quite versatile! My main aim is to maintain a decent level of lyricism without losing any energy though and I hope that comes across in my music."
Equally adept as a producer, Sketch sees producing his own instrumentals as key to putting across exactly what he wants in a track:

"You won't see a lot of my productions elsewhere to be honest - they're not always everybody's cup of tea but I'll make tunes that I know I can vocal to the best of my ability or build a track that fits a certain emotion or vibe I want to express. If I want to tell a certain story in a track then I'll build an instrumental that'll fit that perfectly. I tend to favour using a cut-up sample with a lead synth and a bassline but I don't mind fucking about and experimenting - working with different people always encourages me to try new things. The production side of things all came about through messing about making loops on Fruity back in the day. Natural progression saw me get onto Cubase because I liked being able to see the arrangement of waves and since working with Ev and more recently Danny, I've learnt a lot just watching my tracks get mixed down. I've just started up using Logic too so hopefully I'll have that mastered before long. I've never watched anyone else though in terms of production - I'm happy to take constructive criticism but I'll always 'do me' - I'm not one to change just to get on in music or in life! I'm a bit stubborn really."
Mastering your craft in the studio is all well and good but Sketch feels that it's out in the clubs that emcees can really learn what it takes:

"Anywhere you can get seen by a lot of people and you really own that moment then you know people are gonna go home talking about you. Having said that, it's difficult though because bluntly speaking, raves are full of drinkers and getting them onside and on your wavelength can be a real challenge. I tend to look at bookings as practice hours though - it's definitely brought me on as an emcee and it's opened my eyes as to what's required. You can't flop either so it serves as a wake up call in that respect. Venue's have a big say in that matter too but generally speaking, people seem to have grown up and now see Grime for what it is - it's not all about violence and aggression and there are a lot of positives to it. To say it's still misunderstood as a genre is a bit of a cliche but it's got a way to before it gets the recognition it deserves."
With a steely determination, a quiet self-confidence and everything in place to keep producing good quality Grime, it can't be long before Sketchman earns the recognition he is deservedly due:

"The Art Of War is obviously imminent but this year I really want to build the fan base. There's a loyal following already there but getting my music heard by more and more people is really important if I want to be as successful as I can. More radio play and general exposure is gonna be key I guess - I always want to be bigger and better than I was yesterday too and that's the kind of attitude I want to keep with me. Press coverage can't be underestimated either - blogs have always had my back and getting featured in RWD was a huge deal for me. I used to read RWD back at Uptown Records when I was coming up so to see myself in there was pretty humbling. As for the rest of the year, I've got a plan in place to keep everything moving in one, constant direction - more collaborations, more co-operation and more releases. I want to leave people with no excuse but to go and listen to my music!"


'Final Draft' free download:

Remember to keep your eyes peeled for the imminent release of 'The Art of War' on Uncle Albert Records!

Saturday, 26 March 2011


With a fresh and innovative approach to his music, Ipswich's Nee-Hi has made a considerable impression on the scene since the release of his much-acclaimed, 'Houston, We Have An L.P' back in December. Recording with Danny C at the formidable AIM Studios and collaborating with the likes of P-Money and Sketchman alongside a host of Ipswich-based emcee and production talent, his track 'Slow Down' was played by Target as part of 1Xtra's '100% Homegrown' series despite never actually being released. Since the start of the year, Nee-Hi's 'Satellite Fly', 'Nice Knowing You (feat. Sketchman)' and 'Game Time' have all drawn deserved praise whilst the accompanying videos have demonstrated a creative flair that supersede just music and his latest single, 'Bagel' serves as a further testament to this - witty, intelligent and parodic, the video confirms that Nee-Hi is far from your average emcee. Destined for greatness? I'd say so. 


'Houston, We Have An L.P' Download:

Everything Else Nee-Hi:

Friday, 18 March 2011


Calling all Scottish Grime fans - Saturday April 9th sees the Newham Generals and Circus Records heavyweight Flux Pavillion descend on Edinburgh's 'Bongo Club' for the 4th in the series of the 'Big N Bashy' and 'Electrikal' nights. They've spent years in the game and never been parred so expect a big atmosphere and many a reload.

You can find out all the information via the facebook event page:

Also be sure to check out the promo mix to get you in the mood:

Thursday, 10 March 2011


As one of Grime's most innovative new producers, Mr Mitch is at the forefront of the recent instrumental resurgence. 2010 saw his highly favoured track 'Skittles' released on the all-conquering 'Butterz' label and also the launch of his own independent label, 'Gobstopper Records'. Regularly producing for the likes of Riko and Trim and currently involved with Hyperfrank's excellent 'Volume Control' project, the future looks increasingly bright for Mr Mitch. I was fortunate enough to catch up with him on everything from 'Crystal Castles' to wanting to have another raid of his dad's disco records:

"Basically over the past year or so I've been working hard to get my music out there and heard. I've had a lot of support from Elijah and Skilliam which lead to me getting the 'Skittles' release on the 'Quality Street EP'. At roughly the same time, I started up my own label, 'Gobstopper Records' - the first release was my own track, 'Fright Night' which also featured remixes from SRC, Deset, Moony and F.A. Kode. I somehow managed to get a track on Skepta's album from a link over Twitter which I was really proud of, and i've been involved with producing stuff for Trim and Riko's new projects too. It's just been a case of working hard to get my music out there and there's plenty more to come! Ah and can't forget being on this month's 'Volume Control' which could hopefully see Durrty Goodz vocal my track - big shouts to Hyperfrank for putting the project together, it really gets supporters involved."

As with many producers I've spoken to, Mr Mitch's interest in music started as a youngster:

"Well I've always had an almost 'in-built' interest in music - my dad was a guitarist and used to tour all around the place with Mad Professor's label 'Ariwa' so I was always hearing 'Lover's Rock', Reggae and Dub as a kid. It wasn't necessarily music I enjoyed at that age though admittedly, I tended to be more into Soul and RnB. Having said that, my dad's Disco and Soul record collection needs to get raided again to be honest! 
I used to have keyboard lessons for a while as a kid too but they didn't last very long but in terms of creating my own music, it wasn't until I discovered an old program called 'Hip-Hop Ejay'  that I got really intrigued - I used to just mess about and make loops but it got me hooked! 
In terms of inspiration for the stuff I make now, there's a whole range - I actually went through a phase a few years ago of listening to loads of indie-electro, bands like 'Crystal Castles' really used to catch my ear but it was the computer games I played as a kid that have had the biggest influence I'd say. A lot of the melodies I put together take a lot from those Japanese composers who really knew how to incorporate that fresh, arcade sound within certain games. You can't forget that melody was extremely important then too, particularly because of the restrictions in terms of what was available to them when it came to producing."

When it comes to trying to define his style, Mr Mitch believes his sound is firmly rooted in Grime although admits that some 'purist' fans of the genre often disagree:

"No matter how much the 'purist' fans would want to argue against it, my sound is Grime - it's just Grime that comes naturally to me. A lot of the forefathers of Grime music made stuff to relate to their surroundings and often made an aggressively charged, gritty sound. I can't ever pretend to have been a part of that lifestyle so my music tends to just reflect my personality - while it can be dark at times, it remains far from aggressive. Don't get me wrong though, I'm from South East London and I'm around a lot of negative stuff but it's never been a defining part of my life so it's not reflected in the music I produce."
With 'Skittles' released on the 'Quality Street EP' alongside tracks from the likes of Terror Danjah, Mr Mitch explains that he'd been pushing for a release with Butterz for quite some time:

"I'd actually been sending Elijah some tunes for a while and he was playing bits on his show with Skilliam so when they started the label, I could see the potential it had instantly and knew I wanted to get a release with them. I think Teddy (Silencer) was supposed to have a track on the 'Quality Street EP' but there was a complication and it wasn't ready for the release, which actually worked in my favour because I'd sent Elijah 'Skittles' that same week and the rest is history!
When it comes to Butterz as a label though, what they are doing for Grime is huge - I don't think if people fully realise how much they are doing for the genre. They are essentially single-handedly bringing Grime back to the clubs but in a way that's accessible to everyone who wants to be a part of it. They fact they're releasing on vinyl gives value to the music and the brand aswell - they've inspired a lot of other independent labels, including my own."

With Instrumental Grime in particular slowly forcing it's way into the hearts and minds of bass-music promoters across the UK, Mr Mitch feels Grime needs to be allowed to broaden as a genre in order for it to be fully appreciated: 

"I think it needs to be allowed to expand really. A lot of people, Grime fans in particular, are quick to label an experimental-souding track as Dubstep or one of the many new, random made-up genres like 'Post-Dubstep' and 'Future-Garage'. Someone like Joker for example, has always made Grime in my opinion but he was one of the only people making the Instrumental stuff at the time, but he pushed it in a way that worked better within the Dubstep scene. I like the variety of styles if I'm honest though - even if I don't always particularly like a certain sound, it's good to see people thinking differently. Royal-T is great at what he does at the moment - he makes that Grime that can tear up a rave but he's also doing a lot with the remixes, bringing Grime to a wider audience. At the same time though, there are producers out there who'll never get any tunes played out but they too should be celebrated the same way - it's all good for the scene."
When it comes to playing Grime to audiences nationwide, Mr Mitch admits he is hoping to start deejaying more often this year:

"I've never actually put myself out there before really because I wanted to focus entirely on my productions but it's increasingly something I'm becoming interested in. I played out once last year at a 'No Hats No Hoods' night in Shoreditch and had been down to play elsewhere until there were a few complications with the promoter but I haven't honestly tried much since then. Just gonna put this out there though, I am officially looking to get back on it!"
With three releases already lined up and a whole host of new projects on the horizon, Mr Mitch seems intent on making his mark this year:

"I've got a release lined up with Boogaloo City called 'The Advocate EP' which should be released on March 28th and I've got further EPs lined up with 'Fortified Audio' and 'Redefined Audio'. There are remixes on the agenda too and they should hopefully come to the fore later in the year. I've got the next release on my  label to sort out by a called 'Deset' aswell - his stuff is next level and it's sounding powerful after these latest mixdowns!  By the end of the year, I'd like to be gigging regularly too and making sure that i'm producing for a variety of different artists - I really want to make real songs with people because I feel that's something Grime lacks. More instrumental releases are also a big priority!"



Sunday, 6 March 2011


After putting together the first exclusive Uncle Albert mix back in February, Doncaster's 'Mistamen' have been busy finalising plans for their second release on Greenmoney Recordings. With the excellent 'What You Do To Me' putting the trio firmly on the map, their remix of Gucci Mane's 'Haterade' was then selected for Sinden's 'Free Gucci II: The Burrrtish Edition' remix compilation, a measure of just how far they've come. Set to push their sound to new levels in 2011, I managed to catch up with Mella Dee on everything from listening to hip hop in Doncaster to the new generation of 'chin-strokers':

"I don't even know what we've been doing really you know! It all seemed to start with 'Lengthy Riddim' about twelve months ago - we sent that across to Seb Chew who really liked it and from there Greenmoney got wind of it and before we knew it, here we are! Can't forget it was Girl Unit who first played it on his FACT mix too which got us a lot of love and the recognition we needed really. Since signing to Greenmoney we've obviously had the first release go out, 'What You Do To Me' - the fact CRST remixed it and the help we had with promotion really helped. The biggest thing we've done though was arguably the Gucci Mane thing, which came about completely randomly. We remixed the 'Haterade' tune just because we felt like it and by chance sent it over to Scratcha, who in turn sent us back the proper parts which helped us to play about with it more. Sinden got on top of us about it and that was it really, crazy stuff - we were really happy to be involved with something like that! "

As with many artists I've spoken to, it was Hip-Hop that first captured Mella Dee's creative imagination: 

"The whole deejaying thing started off with me just wanting to mix Hip-Hop. I had a mate who used to spin a lot about 6 years ago or something but he used to mix purely DnB so I dabbled in playing around with that for a bit. I ended up getting into the early Dubstep stuff that no one in Doncaster was really feeling at the time and also got back into Garage, which I loved as a kid! From there, I got into pissing around making tracks around that time too - Joel and John (two thirds of Mistamen) were a bit more clued up on it than I was and they used to make DnB tracks but I was like 'Nah, fuck that' , i just never felt it at all. I made a few Dubstep tracks but soon got bored and found Funky, which we all agreed was just better (laughs)! Music wise my first love was always UK Hip-Hop though - don't forget I used to listen to it when I was about 12 in some shitty Northern town, it was just never the one really!"
Alongside his commitments as a deejay and producer, Mella Dee also helps run 'Tropical', Leeds' definitive bass-friendly night who are due to celebrate their first birthday on March 11th:
"Tropical actually came about through Radio Frequency in Leeds - I'd spoken to Jera a bit prior but I didn't really know Jangle. We were the only guys who used to play the same stuff so it kinda made sense for us to all come together and promote - they tend to run the business side of it and i've always been more of a resident really but I still love being involved. Really pissed I can't make the Birthday bash actually because the line-up's ridiculous!" 
Despite signing to Greenmoney and drawing praise from some of the scene's biggest names, Mella Dee admits that 'Mistamen' never expected much to come of their music:

"We never expected anything to be honest - we'd done digital releases here and there which had helped us but weren't particularly special. I remember it was a mailing list that first got us in touch with Seb Chew and Greenmoney - Seb got back to us over something I'd sent and told us people were interested and it just went back and forth from there. It's all been a massive bonus because none of us expected any of it - we just do it because we love making music. I used to get shocked when people said they liked our music, let alone anything else!  
The release came about purely through the reaction the tune was getting when it was played out, particularly down in London. Guys like Braiden and Mosca were playing it regularly and then Zinc played it on Rinse which was a massive deal for us, that was just sick! Based on all that, it just made sense that 'What You Do To Me' should be our first release with Greenmoney - they liked a lot of stuff we'd done but that was the stand out tune. We were actually the label's first official release but we're classed as 002 for some reason (laughs) - they must have put out a white label thing before or something! We had to get a remix sorted too and CRST just made sense - we'd remixed stuff of theirs before so I got in touch and sorted it out."

With regards to deejaying, Mella Dee admits the trio have yet to regularly play sets together:

"It's not happened much yet to be honest. Generally, I've been playing for friends and nights I've been involved with before and just used the 'Mistamen' moniker but we all deejay so hopefully we can all get on a booking soon. It's just so happened that I've deejayed more than the other guys over the last few years but it's more of a case of seeing how things work out for us really. You've got to look at it from a promoter's angle too - three guys is a bit long! It might have to be a case of whoever can make it (laughs) but who knows."
Whilst some deejays are content to stick to Serato, Mella Dee continues to make a concerted effort to incorporate vinyl into his sets:

"If I'm ever playing Garage it's a straight vinyl thing, mainly because I can't be bothered to do vinyl rips (laughs)! I'd love to cut my own dubs too but it's such a lengthy and expensive process, which I think is something that holds people back from pursuing the vinyl route. One of the other main problems is the lack of good club setups - a lot of clubs aren't kitted out to support both CD and vinyl so things end up sounding wrong and it's just not worth it. I still buy a lot of vinyl when I can though - I've made sure to cop all the recent Butterz stuff because i needed it in my life!  I do honestly think it makes a difference - we've got a release coming up with 'Audio Doughnuts' in the summer and I think that'll be vinyl which is really nice. I always think if people are making the effort to put something out on vinyl then it must be good - all the big labels like Night Slugs always release on vinyl too so it's definitely a good look!"
As the ever-expanding nature of UK bass music continues to redefine musical boundaries, Mella Dee sees the fusion of different sounds as vital to the scene's future:

"It's the best situation to have really - I make what I wanna make and there's a place for that attitude nowadays which I think is great. Night's aren't boring anymore either - it'd sometimes be the case of going out and hearing four or five different deejays dropping the same tune over and over but those days seem to be long gone! For me personally, the crossover stuff seems to be more concerned with getting people dancing too which works well, there's definitely a more fun approach to it. You don't find yourself worrying about what bracket your music fits into now either, you can just get on with making whatever you like which can only be a good thing. There's so much good music around at the moment as well, too much really to be honest - it's hard to keep up with it all! BPM differences have made a difference too - people like the slower 124 stuff right the way through to 140, which gives you the scope to keep your sets varied. It's all good really!" 
With Greenmoney's support and a whole host of new releases on the horizon, Mistamen look set to only add to their growing reputation in 2011:

"We've got the second Greenmoney release, 'The Panther EP', coming up - we're still not sure of the exact tracks yet besides 'Panther' but we're not far off. There's a remix we've done for a guy called 'Define' coming out on a French digital label in the near future as well and we're having a track of ours remixed by Blawan so hopefully that'll get a release. We've got the thing with 'Audio Doughnuts' due for a summer time launch too! The focus for us really is to just maintain what we've been doing - making our music is the sole aim. We want to keep things interesting too though - I personally never want to make 'our sound' so to speak, I'm more focused on making sure we're making fresh and interesting music. However interesting though, never pretentious, fuck that - not down for the chin-strokers at all!"


Saturday, 5 March 2011


You may or may not know as Ordio Kid, DJ extraordinaire, that has spent the last few years duppying the dance floor as resident DJ with Urban Nerds. Educating the masses and wowing the audio porn inclined in the world of grime, grime, a bit of garage, grime and the rest.
I've played with Skepta, Wiley & Zinc to name a few, at warehouses, clubs, pubs, Fabric and Outlook, and had an absolute blast...
However, now is the time for me to strike out on my own, pull up my socks and stand up tall. To highlight such a momentous occasion, I've put together a cheeky mix and blend for your fine self. 
Have a listen, share with the ones you care for and holla if you are feeling what I am doing...
Over and Out..
Mr. OK aka Ordio Kid."

MR OK MX Tracklisting

- Quick Intro
- Wut : Girl Unit
- P's & Q's (Remix) : Kano ft. Lethal B, Ghetto & Demon
- Murderer (DJ Spooky Remix) : Barrington Levy
- Cowboi : Toddla T & Roska
- Hold On : Foreign Beggars ft. Skinnyman
- Warning : Aftershock
- Thuggish Pulse : Unknown 
- Anywhere : Pay As You Go Cartel
- LIfestyle : Asher Dee
- Little Man : Sia
- Fame & Money : Deekline
- Sticky Situation (Toddla T Remix) : Lady Chann
- Music Please : Royal-T
- Destruction : Kozzie
- Royal-T is King : Royal-T & Butterz
- Highgrade, No Bush : Footsie
- Big Pimpin' : Jay-Z
- My Baby's Left Me (Terror Danjah Remix) : Rox
- When I'm 'Ere : Roll Deep Crew
- Way Down The Road : Scorcher ft. Slewdem Crew & Wiley
- Are You From The Ends (VIP II Mix) : Unknown
- Give You More : Dizzee Rascal ft. D Double E
- Just Leave : Sim Simi
- Gotta Get Thru This : Daniel Beddingfield
- I Wanna Rock (UK Version) : Pierre & Guests



Thursday, 3 March 2011


With a comprehensive portfolio of production work to his name already, Leeds-based musician Rowan Perkins aka 'Debian Blak' is now turning his attentions to the ever-expanding world of electronic music. Assured, quietly confident and hugely ambitious,  Blak's two successful releases on First World Records with the 'East Park Reggae Collective' suggest he has the talent to make a considerable impact on the scene. He has also written music for documentaries and independent films, remixed a number of 'Kidkaneval' tracks and drawn praise from Resident Advisor's founder, Nick Sabine. i managed to catch up with him on everything from flicking through dictionaries to planning live DJ shows:

"I come from quite a musical family so I've always been exposed to music. When I was 6, I started to play the piano and the violin - I continued playing piano right through my teens and still play regularly now but didn't really enjoy the violin so I dropped it by the time I was 12 and picked up the drums instead!  I made a habit of going to 'Womad' festival every year too - i'd go along and plan my own schedule, making sure i'd never miss a band; it was literally a case of taking in as much music as I could and you'd always discover a few gems! From there, the aim was just to get through my GCSEs and find out where to go next. I loved my Music GCSE course so it made sense to carry on with that  and in due course, I decided to take Music Technology as opposed to taking it as an A-level and it was through doing that that the whole concept of writing music on a computer came about. I was well into my Hip-Hop at time time - guys like Jehst, Roots Manuva and Rodney P in particular were definitive for me and I was inspired to make beats. I found it all a lot of fun to start with - I had lots of friends who either sang or rapped so I'd always get someone to do their thing over my beats, just to see how it would sound. Before long, I ended up going to Leeds College of Music to study Music Production and now that's done, I'm looking to really branch out."
Despite such a passion for music becoming apparent as a youngster, it wasn't until the beginning of 2010 that Blak began to take things more seriously:

"I always used to make beats, throw them on my Myspace page and then send them to a few people but nothing would ever come from it - having said that, it wasn't until a year or so ago that I realised! It got to the stage where I started to think, 'this is just pointless' - my music was going nowhere and I'd end up feeling dejected. In January 2010, I started to produce East Park Reggae Collective's music and decided that all my creative energy would go into that. Once I finished their second album, I realised that I needed to put all my efforts into writing my own music and from there, i've never looked back. I wrote loads of music over that period and initially didn't actually finish that much but I've somehow ended up with a nice back catalogue of music now! As for the name, I spent about 6 months flicking through dictionaries and searching on Wikipedia for something original - I eventually found the colour 'debian red' but changed the red to black and decided to spell it 'Debian Blak'. I actually quite like it because people think it's my real name!
Despite producing East Park Reggae Collective's second album, Blak had initially joined the band as a drummer:

"The East Park stuff came around about two years ago - I actually joined the band as a drummer and when I first joined, I used to help out with the bookings and management side quite a bit. Before too long, the guy who writes the band's music, Jonny Tomlinson, suggested I should start to produce for them and it all snowballed from there - it's been a really productive working relationship!
As well as my work with East Park, I've also done quite a few documentaries and films too, initially because I had college assignments. I remember finding these guys called 'The Rainbow Collective' online who were writing a film about street kids from Bangladesh. I hit them up and asked if I could borrow some stills that I happened to like and they said that was cool - funny enough about two weeks later, I got an email back from them asking whether or not I could produce some music for a particular scene. I emailed back saying I could, sent over a recording and they loved it! As a result, I've ended up producing the majority of the film's music, alongside input from Kidkanevil. It's actually been shown in cinemas and at festivals - the support and exposure it's had has been really good. I've done a few other independent films too and I'm actually co-writing some music for one at the moment - few stellar names in this one too!"

Now branching out alone, Blak explains that his sound tries to incorporate the diversity of his influences:

"I take a lot of influence from various different styles of music. The main priority for me though is soul - if a track's got soul, even if it's just a single note, then there'll be something I can take from it. I'm most interested in beat-based stuff on the whole - I tend to try and put my energy and my passion into the music that I make - it sounds a bit cliche but I do try and make beautiful music, music that really engages the listener on every level possible. I suppose as a genre, I'm making electronic music but it doesn't really fit any specific criteria. If I could name artists I take a lot of stuff from and really enjoy listening to then maybe you'd get more of an idea (laughs) - I'm well into Mount Kimbie, Joy Orbison, Bonobo, Flying Lotus and Ramadanman, amongst others. Whenever I listen to anything they've produced I find myself sitting back and thinking, 'this is really special".
in terms of where i think my sound will fit in, the aim is just to try and make the best stuff I can. I'd love to be able to do something special like say Massive Attack or The Prodigy did - those guys transformed the industry at the time but bearing that in mind, I guess I just want to stay slightly ahead of the game without losing track of what's sounding good at the moment. I'd also love to put together live shows to perform my music one day, even if it's just 3 or 4-piece band. I've also always respected the artists releasing on 'Warp' so releasing with them would be a dream. Shouts to 'Ninja Tune' too!"
With regards to one day putting together a live show, Blak admits he's never really mastered the art of mixing:

"The only deejaying I've ever really done has been on radio to be honest and I've never actually 'learnt' to mix - I know how to but I've not really put much time into it. Having said that, I'm in the process of putting together a live show using 'Ableton' at the moment - the idea would be to do a live deejay set I guess! I'm hoping to be able to play lots of my own tunes, mix them in to other stuff sounding big at the moment and throw lots of samples in - it'd just be something a bit different for the crowd really. The plan over the next month or so is to start pushing myself to promoters - I've already had a few festivals get in touch and some promoters have shown interest which is nice  because deejaying is going to be vital to what I want to achieve. I won't always conform to the 'conventional' set so to speak but my shows will hopefully retain a personal element."
Looking at the scene as a whole, Blak feels the fusion of sounds has had a profound and lasting impact on electronic music:

"I think right now there's a lot of amazing stuff coming out - it feels like musicians are coming to the fore a bit more now and adding to everything. I guess people are really taking hold of electronic music now and treating it properly now too which is really good to see! The way I say it, the fusion of different genres is also completely essential to the future of music, as well as it sounding good. For me, it feels like Garage is making a big comeback at the moment as well which is great - the way it's mixing with Dubstep and other new, interesting sounds is the perfect example of how good music can be when it starts to come together. James Blake is the guy that's managed to embody it all really - he's made electronic music really accessible for everyday people. For me, electronic stuff's always been massive but ask the majority of people on the street and they won't have a clue - James Blake and others like him are helping to change that and bridge the gap. Funnily enough, I used to live with a guy called Rob who I worked with on my remix of Kidkaneval and about two and a half years ago, he was teaching James how to use Logic - now look at him! It's brilliant to see him going so far and taking the Industry by storm."
Set to take the scene by storm with his unique approach to producing and deejaying, Debian Blak is most definitely a name to look out for:

"The aim at the moment is to get a few tunes out there and get them heard by people - I need to make people aware of what I'm doing! Press is also a big part of my thinking at the moment too, I'm generally trying to get as many people involved as possible - magazines, blogs, deejays, everybody! It's all about creating that buzz really, which I guess is necessary in order for people to take you seriously - when I feel the buzz is right I'll put in an application for some sort of label signing hopefully. I must have at least an EP's worth of stuff worth releasing now so it'd be nice to get some of it put out. Playing some shows is obviously on the agenda too but it's gonna be a case of seeing how it all goes for Debian Blak. I can't forget that East Park Reggae Collective have a new album out with First World Records in October so I'll be touring with them too!"


East Park Reggae Collective's 'Love Radar':