Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Elijah & Skilliam v Blackdown part 2

Ahead of their Rinse 17 mix CD launch, last week I published the first of four parts of an epic interview with Elijah and Skilliam. This week the conversation continues, ending with, erm... Elijah nearly drowning himself. Don't believe me? There's video evidence. Before that I have a specially commissioned "Roots of..." mix for you guys, blended on vinyl. Enjoy and read on...

"Roots of Elijah and Skilliam" 100% vinyl mix

Footsie "Scars"
Danny Weed "Kick Off"
The Ends "Ends VIP"
Alias "Gladiator"
Youngstar "Pulse Xtra"
Skepta "DTI"
Plasticman "Cha"
Dizzee Rascal "Go"
Wizzbit "Jazzy style"
DJ Oddz & DJ Eastwood "Champion VIP"
Wiley "Ice cream"
Wiley "New Era"
Wizzbit "Jam Hot (Davinche Remix)"
Dizzee Rascal "Strings Hoe"
Jon E Cash "War"
Treble Clef "Ghetto Kyote"
D Double E "Birds In The Sky"

Elijah & Skilliam v Blackdown interview part 2

M: So did being on Rinse force you to go out to get more producers, or did you find more producers and then get on Rinse?

E We weren't officially on Rinse until April 2009. We did cover shows for a period of three weeks, where we covered for Vectra when he was away. He was doing Fridays 11-1, and then we had three guests. Terror Danjah the first one, Swindle the next. Teddy as the last one.

M  This is what I thought was always your first genius move: to notice that there were loads of really good producers that no one was picking up one, because everyone in grime was focussed on MCs. Was that clear mission for you guys or did it just come about?

E: For me it was the dubstep thing, and that kind of sound like our music. OK, if people like Ikonica, they'll probably like this, and Ikonica is doing alright, so if I represent it in the same way, so at least they have a choice, but it wasn't being presented in the same way. So they had no choice.

M: I also got the sense that a lot of the big grime DJs didn't seem to be finding new producers that they maybe should. And as there aren't that many big grime DJs, that means less exposure for new producers.

SK Like TRC, he used to get things about  to people, but I don't think they were recognised. They just thought you were sending tunes and they just played it.

E That where their job stopped. You're a DJ on the radio, so you send  a tune and I play it. That’s it.

M What else can you do to add value to it?

E At that time, “1-Up” was the best example, because we were the first people to play Royal T's tune, and then it picked up. We'd send it to other DJs and then it got picked up by No Hats No Hoods. I was thinking, imagine if that happened in the future and loads of people's tunes got picked up by labels. There was only one label, so it kind of goes back to the point of having to have you own, otherwise its a vicious circle.

M The focus for grime was for producers to make vocals on mixtapes. Why they were called mixtapes though - they didn't have much mixing on them?

E It was just albums wasn't it?

M: Albums without structure

E Even that was dying. 2009 was the year Uptown died, and Rhythm Division died in 2010.

M Yeah but was the king for mix CDs, they nailed that market by basically giving people P&Ds for it, and knocked that market off. I feel less worried about Uptown because they just didn't move with the times, but that has more of an effect on producers because they were finding out that they were mix CDs that they probably wouldn't get paid for. Or the credit for.

E I suppose the people coming through as well, people we were feeling, they didn't want to do that. Swindle had already made a mixtape. His mixtape has like Chipmunk, Ghetto , Professor Green.

Sk People who are big now.

E Wretch 32 too.... When we met Swindle he was done with grime. “I can’t see myself in this.” He was going to do house. And he did “Who Said Funk” which ended up as his last house release, and since then he's been doing kind of 140 stuff. It stopped him from doing urban music kind of things.

M From the beginning though, the first interaction with Butterz really was with Terror, right? That's got the be a really cool thing because the producers you brought through - they became more famous through you - but Terror was bit of a legend before the Butterz the label existed, it must have been quite an honour, how did you get to know him?

E My friend Loud Mouth, he's a big producer and rapper in Aftershock, and we've been friends for like 10 years. He introduced us. We actually travelled up, me him, Miss Bratt and my other friend Dane. We travelled to Nottingham to UK Takeover, and that's where I first met him. “This is my friend, he does that blog, Butterz…”

M Terror is pretty friendly.

E He was like "OK, I'll hook you up with tunes" and you don't think anything of it, but then he kept in contact and if anyone speak to him on the phone, he'll speak forever until you leave. Imagine, at that time there was nothing going on and he said to us that at the point the was at it was worth taking a punt, because these guys never send their tunes to anyone.

SK And he had done it before so he knew the ins and outs

E He said take a punt. Sent in tunes, and even came on the radio show. He invited producers into Rinse, and who does that?

M It seems beyond that, you guys seems to have formed a proper friendship with him, or an understanding that is more than just you putting out one of his records.

E I think we've got the same type of vision of - you know you call it the hardcore continuum - I see it different just like from a rave perspective. And that’s why the Butterz night at Cable was the way it was. But Terror was looking at it going "there's no raves!". The raves we were going to at the time were like....

Sk ...10,000 people!

E  Yeah! So he's talking about raves with 1000s of people, but at the time, to hear grime we were standing in a room with about 60 people. It wasn't raving, it's just in a room listening to music. Terror wanted the whole vibe back, and we hadn't experienced enough of that vibe when coming up on it.

M The other things that strikes me with Terror and you picking up producers and so on , is that, to me, the essential shift from garage to grime is like a redistribution of the power between DJs, MCs and producers. In garage, it's MCs as hosts, and producers making beats for DJs. So DJs and producers were more important than MCs in Garage. But that shifted when 8bar and Sidewinder grime came through, but it almost went too far to when MCs were the only thing that mattered  in grime. Rinse had a go at shifting the power balance back in 2004. The DJ tape-pack idea where they interviews lots of DJs in grime, and they had a rave in Ministry.

E: we were there!

M: I was there too, it was Boxing day or something. So they attempted to shift it back and they also threw all the MCs off the station at one point too. So there were times when they tried to redistribute but it remained - especially when you guys got known - that it was all MCs in grime. So what made you guys different was focussing it on DJing and producing again, you weren't there just to please MCs.

Sk I don't really like MCs to be honest. Not I don't like them, but I like things simple. If someone is spitting too fast, I don’t study what they’re saying too much. I like it broken down. I've got to enjoy the flow before I sit down and see what they‘re saying. If they are just speaking quickly it's a lot of nonsense, I fully won‘t pay attention. I saw a lot of MCs doing that.

M: I used to have these discussions with Chantelle Fiddy, she could quote every lyric of an MC like a record spotter could name a back catalog of a label. Whereas I could tell you what the beat was saying and if I liked the MC, but not the bar. And that example was symptomatic of grime fans at that time that could name lyrics but not necessarily who made the beat. And it feels like you guys shifted that balance back in a meaningful way. You, Terror, Royal T, Swindle… You didn't need an MC to tell you it was good.

E I suppose the other people who were about at the time - who are still around now - like Spyro, who was doing shows with Tinchy and that, they weren't focussed on bringing in new music, so he's just going to go and play what he has, and what was big, and not really breaking in new tunes. Maximum is the same, he's always about with Skepta and JME and playing tunes for them. His brain is wired differently, not breaking any tunes.

JJ and Vectra were like the next two in line for Spyro and Maximum, but they want to be like them, so they're only going to be a clone of them. We're outside that bubble, and we've been customers, whereas they're so born into the scene. The reason why me and Skilliam work well with different scenes and people, and put together a good product as I'd say, is because we've been at the other end of the shop - we've been a customer. At the rave, or the guy on the forum waiting for things to get uploaded.

M We had a conversation before about people getting really big and forgetting what they like. If your objective in life it to make a lot of money, you'll make decisions based on that. If your objective is you love grime and you want to be really good, you can remember that it's likely to be that guy buying records in Independance, or Big Apple or Rhythm Division and hope that it was that good - and then put out your own records to that standard. To me the end goal is never to be Tiesto. It’s to be as good as Slimzee in ‘03 or Hatcha in ‘04 or Oneman in recent times. I don’t aspire to be Tiao Cruz.

E We met some guy, he was 17... I keep telling everyone because it’s so significant… we were just sitting there about to record a CD, and he came up to us and said "You guys are a big inspiration." I was like "what!?". I was like, how old are you, and he said 17, and obviously Cable was coming up as well. So the first sort of raves that he's going to go to, and the things he's been listening to in the last couple of years is probably going to be a Butterz rave. So that rave has to be the best thing he ever experiences. Everything he experiences has to be so different that anything else he can experience in London right now, otherwise he won't go again, and that might warp his love of the music, so that's why Cable was like it was, you know, a bit over the top - people making mad tunes and having whistles, lighters and all this crazy stuff.

We'd go raving just as normal people, customers, and its shit. RnB and hip hop from the last 20 years, and imagine if that was you as an 18 year old, that wouldn't motivate you to rave for the next 10 years.

M This is no different to you treating the 1-3am slot like 9-11pm. It's the sacredness of saying that this moment is really important and so it’s important to be as good as you can, right then.

E I've been to big raves and clubs and all that, and experienced grime in a big room environment, but there were people younger than me who, the biggest they'd seen is Rhythm Factory. That's only 2008, and what has been going on since then?

M: were you those guys that when Dusk and I played after Ghetto’s launch party set at Rhythm Division and everyone in the club left within 5 records, you were still standing there?

E Yeah yeah, sitting on the sofa…

M: yup, they turned the lights on and wouldn’t even sell me a beer! We played the Chubby Dread vocal VIP of “Eskimo” that never came out, I remember you metioning it, and this is just symptomatic of you guys in general: everyone else went for the door but you went the other way.

Sk: we paid money to get in the rave, we wanted to get value!

M That thing about a 17 year old is that people forget everyone has a starting point. Maybe 2001 grime doesn't mean anything to them, but I'm always surprised how young sometimes people start listening.

E [Even] if he started listening at 12, that would only take you back to 2006. Slimzee wasn't even around. Logan is their Slimzee, but who's the next big thing? Who's their Mak10? Now I don’t want to claim that for us but who is going to be that person, what is going to be that label? like that I admired. Like when Boy Betta Know were the shit and I was like “this is the best thing,“ that's how I want Butterz to be.  I wouldn't write on Twitter like "We're the best"  - not in that way. But in the way we do things, we have to have the best raves, the best merchandise, production. Do you know what I mean?

M: I think British people have trouble saying those things whilst Americans just naturally talk like that. But if you don't think like that with your label, and take pride in what you do, then you either lose a huge amount of money because your records won't sell and they're average, and/or you just won't go anywhere.

Sk Like putting out records once a month, it was tough

M People don't know how hard that is. It’s three month’s work in one go.

E And its the volume of music as well. We did 6 in 6 months this year, but there was nothing that we're comfortable with putting  after that. We're supposed to be around the most talented producers and MCs, but there was still nothing. We could have knocked something out, but we didn't want to do that. The Trim situation arose which was sick.

M But you sat on “Boo You” for a while?

E Yeah but we couldn't move on that because we had a back log.

Sk And no one knew about that one as well.

M No one knew! You certainly didn't tell me! The first time I heard from was when you told [Keysound, Hyperdub and Butterz’ distributor] Bill. He was like "They've got this amazing record."

E A lot of labels treat every record the same, but you can't.

M Some records have a lot of play, but some records get just good promotion when they come out. But you guys seem to understand promotion really. I'm never entirely sure, I'm very allergic to forced marketing but it feels very natural what you guys do, but also quite proactive. If there's a lot of stuff about, it usually means someone has put a lot of hours in. What things do you do to make sure people hear about your music?

E It's the radio. I imagine if you go six times in a month, it's a difference. The coverage you get is sick. And social media. All of these things, I just do them because they are what I want to see. Not because this would be a good way of advertising how to sell it. When we did “Mood Swings” video, we thought it would be cool. That's the value, it's not because we wanted to market it. We did it just because it would be nang.

M No one is questioning your motive, but the fact that you chose to do it shows pro-activity.

Sk And we added videos to the iTunes single.

M Another thing that was a really smart move was “Air Bubble,” giving away parts of it. Which kind of goes against label mentality of "this is the thing I'm selling", and not giving it away. Especially broken into 30 pieces. But you did it. How did that come about? It went a bit viral, how many versions were there in the end?

E Nearly 200, something like that. If you go on Soundcloud, there was 130 late last year. The reason why is started was because I thought I’d get a few remixes of a tune, and we sent it around to a couple of people...

Sk ...and they sent it back!

E ...Yeah. Royal T and Swindle work so quickly, if I send them parts today, by the time I wake up they'll have something on the go. And people went “I heard you gave him the parts, can I have them?“ At the time, there was no remixes of anything. You can't find a grime remix from 2009, they don't exist. We like remixes, I've got loads of records that are just remixes. So its that kind of thing again of wanting to hear different peoples takes.

When it got to about 5 or 6 people, I phoned Terror and asked if I could give out his parts on the blog. He said "Not too sure - it's got my drums on it....but alright, go on." He knew I must be asking him for a good reason, and that's why he's wicked to work with. Most people would be "No."

Sk You've got to have a back up to say "OK, I can make new tunes now. You can have that sound- I'm done with that sound."

E “Air Bubble” was sick because we discovered all these new people. I don't know how people used to get tunes to Maximum and Spyro, but I was bait with the email, my email was everywhere, and the volume of tunes I was getting in 2009, 2010 was sick, with all these different names popping up, but it wasn't really consistent - you could only play one tune by a given name. But with “Air Bubble,” it kind of brought all these people in - people who have done other things now: Teeza, Dark Tone Sound, Bray, Starkey... There was quite a few people.

M With the label up and running, and you being an outlet for the music, you've moved from just putting out the beats to almost A&Ring them a bit, and being the filter for their music. It's not just like, here's record and you put it out or you won't, you actually have a relationship with these guys, and you help push their music and develop them, and give feedback. Does that go on?

E That was always my criticism of No Hats No Hoods. They just pick up records: anyone can do that. The record gets big like what happened with The Royal T “1 Up,” Rude Kid, “Ruff Sqwad Mandem,” they had the mechanics to put out records, and that was it.

I remember Royal T saying that you couldn't get through to him and with stuff like that - you're only going to accept what's presented to you. Whereas we're on the radio, so I can say to Royal T you can change it, do this, and go back and forth for three months on a song.

Sk So you might get a radio show and just hear the song developing. You hear swag versions of the first one, before mixdown, and it just goes up into something nang.

E You can hear that with a lot of the tunes put out. Aside from “Woo“, everything else put out has maybe gone back and forth and that's how it should be. Obviously it's a shame that we can't just randomly pick up records at the moment. If there were a good few loose bits I would still be open to putting out a good Merky Ace song that isn't attached to anything.

M You sort of did that with the kind of white labels - with “Woo“, “Ghetto Kyote” and “Wu Glut” and stuff? They weren't records you broke, nor that you A&R'd?

E No, but then the “Woo” stories funny, because Fabric used me to get in contact with him as Ramadanman wanted to use it for his Fabric CD. Who knows things about grime? Let's call Elijah. "Elijah, where’s SX?” This was late last year. So I was like "OK, I'll get in contact with him," and I did, and they sorted it out.
People wanted it on record - people were asking us for “Woo,” and we were playing the Q mix at the time. So we were like shit, let's put it together. It's kind of being presented to you easily.

M The funny thing is that chose to do it without the Butterz branding.

E Because it came out digitally already, so we didn't want to step on its toes. The same with TRC, so we kind of gave it its own little space. We were never doing the digital.

“Woo Glut” happened because Ramadanman just emailed me - imagine that! I emailed him after hearing the tune in June 2010. Your version was sick, do you wantto send it.  He replied saying “na“, and that just for him and his mates. I was like "OK, safe." In February this year he emailed saying, it’s great you put out “Woo” on vinyl, I picked up a copy "do you want to put out Woo Glut?” I don't even care about the money, just put it out as people keep on asking for it." I respected him for that. He is doing a lot at the moment, and that could have easily not happened, or he did it himself, but he was just like "fuck it, let them have it." And we put “Bricks” by SX on the flip randomly and it’s blown up now.

M: Before we move on to the more recent stuff I wanted to ask about “Air Bubble” video, looking at the pictures on your wall… and Skilliam mentioned you’re going to Ibiza again… any plans to go swimming Elijah? Perhaps you should tell people who don't know the story what you did.

Sk He jumped off a boat!

M Which is fine except…

E … I can't swim. And if you jump into the sea, and I wasn't even prepared...

M And were you sober?

E I wasn't that bad, it was in the afternoon. But someone said "You wouldn't jump, obviously?". [I said] "Yeah I would." Took of my socks and bang, straight in. When I got in I thought "oh, this is like the middle of the sea."

Sk Got half way round the boat....

E ... and I looked up. That was my mistake.

M  Was the bet to do a lap around the boat then?

E I jumped off one end and had to go round the back to get back on. But when I was swimming around I looked up, and I was like "shit, that's high up!" They were looking down on me, and it was hot, and I got scared and just froze. You realise you’re in the middle of the sea.

M: And your feet don’t touch the bottom! So were you near death?

E I went under water, but they got me out.

M  Your friends pulled you out?

E No, not my friends… why do you think that? My friends stood there and watched, filmed me!

Sk  That’s why video exists!

E Two random guys just jumped in and pulled me out.

Sk Yeah one guy jumped in all the way over the rail. I was like "raaah!".

M Was it a long way down?

Sk Yeah. One of those movie boats.

E I was pretty scared. When I got back on I was on the boat for nearly another hour because I was in shock, and shaken up. I was like "I nearly just died!".

M But again, back to talking about making an opportunity out of a negative situation, turning it into a video for “Air Bubble.”

E Yeah, when we got back we put it together and that was it. Bit of fun.


Read part 1 of the Elijah and Skilliam interview here. Part 3 will be published next week. Rinse 17 mixed by Elijah and Skilliam is out November 14th


Royal-T – Orangeade VIP
D.O.K – East Coast
Swindle – Pineapple
P Money & Blacks – Boo You feat Slickman
Faze Miyake – Blackberry
Wiley – It’s Wiley (Royal-T Remix)
Mr Mitch – Centre Court
Rossi B & Luca – Lost in Limehouse
P Jam – Arizona Skyz
Terror Danjah – Full Attention feat Ruby Lee Ryder
Royal T – Royal Rumble
Spooky – Spartan (Terror Danjah Remix)
Teddy – Community Links
Swindle feat Terror Danjah, Rude Kid & Wizzy Wow – Tag
Bok Bok – Silo Pass
Royal T & Terror Danjah – Music Box
Trim – I Am (Preditah Remix)
Faze Miyake – Take Off
Swindle & Silkie – Unlimited
Treble Clef – Ghetto Kyote
S-X – Woooo (DJ Q Remix)
Royal T – Music Please (TRC Remix)
Terror Danjah – Air Bubble (Starkey Remix)
Starkey & P Money – Numb
TRC – Into Sync
Starkey & Trim – This Ain’t Me
Swindle – Mood Swings VIP


Mike Darkfloor said...

Another great read. Thanks guys.

Straight on the download for that mix.

Unknown said...

Really enjoying this series. Thank you.

Anonymous said...