The Scottish producer chats to Dummy about his new "rap-influenced pop" EP, which you can stream and download via Mishka.
Scotland has been hyped as the unlikely home of a new wave of experimental rap producers for some years. After the original explosive rise to acclaim of producers such as Hudson Mohawke and Rustie, alongside the growth of the ever on-point LuckyMe label, any future Scottish success stories are less of a surprise and more of a confirmation of Scotland’s growing (albeit concentrated) base of producers who aren’t afraid to experiment with the boundaries of hip hop.
Step up Lockah, the head of Aberdonian label Tuff Wax whose debut EP ‘When U Stop Feeling Like A Weirdo And Become A Threat’ was released earlier this year via Mad Decent sub-label Jeffree’s. Since the summer, Lockah has hooked up with Mishka to release ‘Please Lockah, Don’t Hurt ‘Em’, his second offering of 2012.
To celebrate the release today, we caught up with Lockah for a quick chat about his story so far and how the new EP came to be. You can stream and download ‘Please Lockah, Don’t Hurt ‘Em’ via Mishka below.
Hello, Lockah! For those who don’t know you, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to make this EP.
I’m Tom Banks and I’m a producer and DJ based in Aberdeen, in the North-East of Scotland. I started making music as Lockah in late 2010 and after throwing out a few bootleg remixes and a Tuff Wax 7”, I released my debut EP with Mad Decent offshoot Jeffree’s in June 2012. I’m gonna be loose and say my sound is rap-influenced pop music for the club.
How has the experience of running a label in a city little know for its music scene been for you and your label mates?
Yeah, I run the label with Bones & Money, plus help from the other fam. It’s empowering to do what we do and keep true to where we’re from. We realise the label’s rise has hardly been meteoric but to us what we’ve already achieved is incredible. We looked up to people from Aberdeen for sure, like Offshore and A La Fu, but when we started to come up we were kind of unique in Aberdeen and guess that’s why we were less fussed with what was happening here and more focused on Scotland, the UK and the world taking notice!
We’re shipping 7“s to Australia, sharing mp3s with homies in Denmark and collaborating with legends in Russia and Atlanta. None of us would have believed this stuff a year ago. I met Obey City for the first time in a London club the other day and the dude brings up Tuff Wax. That’s unreal to me – Astro Nautico is one of the greatest underground collectives in the USA right now.
Your last EP for Jeffrees was a really strong introductory release. How do you feel you have developed your sound from that EP to this one?
I was still really happy with the Jeffree’s EP by the time it came out, but even at the time of its release I had already more or less finished ‘Please Lockah, Don’t Hurt ‘Em’. Some people even called ‘When U Stop Feeling Like A Weirdo…’ lo-fi or experimental – it was, I was experimenting with the concept of learning how to produce properly! When I started the tracks for the Mishka EP I was layering everything, going over all the drum sounds, firing through Youtube tutorials for tips and so forth. I also spent a bit of money upgrading my home studio set-up.
It was like a test for myself. I wanted to try and make something totally full-on that would turn heads. I was also obsessing over a Rat Pack tape that I had bought from One Up Records in Aberdeen when I was a child. I used to buy all sorts of odd 12“s and rave tapes back then. If only someone could have been there to explain how it all worked, I might be at the tail end of a producer/DJ career right now instead of just starting out!
How did a collaboration with Mishka come about for the release?
I’m lucky to have a manager who works hard and pushes my music to a lot of good folks. The Mad Decent connection came about the same way. He first got in touch with me last year after hearing some of my bootlegs on Youtube – kinda like Scooter Braun and Justin Beiber, ya know?
The new EP is very bold – it is undeniably a club record. How does the club experience and ethos factor into your production style and mindset?
It’s funny because here in Aberdeen a lot of people like the idea of Tuff Wax but they just don’t get the music. They’ll say, “How can you dance to this?” Well, how do you answer that question? I think to some people it’s still a joke that DJs are playing rap beats or whatever in the club. I used to just DJ 90s rap sets so it’s not weird in any way to me.
We play in art spots, studios, bars, clubs. I pretty much don’t DJ anything with a 4/4 beat. I just play what I want to hear and though I sometimes listen to the tracks on the EP and question that I’m actually playing this stuff in a nightclub, ‘Please Lockah, Don’t Hurt ‘Em’ is by far the most frequently queried track by clubbers looking to ID what I’m spinning, which is a great feeling. So to me, being inside doesn’t particularly mean listening to a thump, then another thump and carrying that one on for eight hours. Plus, the clubs shut at 3am here sharp.
We play forty-five minute sets sometimes. I hate listening to the same DJ playing for two hours, I get way too bored. We used to set up our gear in someone’s flat and get a bouncer on the door at 8pm, head to the club at 11pm then march right back when we got kicked out at 3am – we’d just go back to the flat and play again until the place fell to bits. I did three sets in one night once, but things calmed down around here more recently.
Besides an awareness of clubs, what else influenced this EP?
It’s just kinda been a Scottish phenomenon in general over the last few years. Those huge synth leads, the rap beats and hollers, brass stabs. It’s like a formula of grime and crunk, pop, soulful hardcore/jungle and R&B. What could be less Scottish, right? But it is. Hudson Mohawke and Rustie are known to have made this sound, but you have to pay dues to the other dudes that pushed it too.
I’m a big fan of Offshore and Taz, who contributed an epic remix to the EP too under his other alias, BF Hoodrich. Apart from those obvious production nods though, it’s just pop ecstasy. It’s the Beatles, it’s surf music, Motown, The Human League. You take a three note chord on a piano and you keep going. I’m still trying to see how much more I can get away with.