Koreless interview: “Never bangers.”

14.01.11 Words by: Charlie Jones

Only 4pm in late November and Glasgow’s industrious Sauchiehall Street is already in night-mode. I’m back, 300 miles north of London, in the city in which I lived for five years, and there’s a noticeable disparity in daylight with the dusk inciting an early and extended sense of evening. As the streets empty and smokey clusters gather on pub doorsteps, the stark, driven synths of Koreless’ Up Down Up Down (download above) speed me on through the chill.

Popping round his flat bang in the heart of the city, equidistant between Glasgow music institutions the Sub Club, Art School, the Arches and I wonder how Koreless, or Lewis Roberts to his proverbial, focuses on making any music? After climbing several floors and navigating a warren of corridors, I arrive at his flat. Elevated amongst the roof-tops and worlds apart from the bustle below, his bedroom/studio is a secluded turret.

On his wall is a poster of a giant naval aircraft boat. “It’s the Queen Elizabeth, or Victoria, one of the Queens. That’s the ship I was working on all summer.” Aged 19 and originally from Bangor, North Wales, Lewis has moved to Glasgow to study Naval Architecture and when he’s not busy building boats, he is building beats. 

Still all unreleased, his tunes MTI, 4D and Up Down Up Down have been getting airplay from Benji B and Gilles Peterson on Radio 1 and Ben UFO on Rinse. “Koreless, James Blake, Jamie Woon and Ramadaman – remember where you heard them first” said Gilles on his show last week. To be mentioned in the same breathe as those three is no small feat. “It’s amazing, overwhelming really, getting shout outs from those guys. James Blake was playing the Sub Club last week with Joker and Girl Unit and the only 5 minutes I step outside and he plays my tune!”. A sweet mixture of modesty and excitement, Lewis is still coming round to the fact his music is gracing the soundsystems of clubs. “Those tunes are almost a year old. I wasn’t really expecting them to come to anything. I thought I’d make tunes and they’d just sit on myspace. But then I sent Dark Sky a message and they hooked me up with Alex from Pictures Music, the label I’ll be releasing 4D and MTI on in March. Then Alex showed my stuff to Jamie xx and he sent me a message, he showed Young Turks my stuff and they booked me to play the Alibi. Then Young Turks asked me if I wanted to collab with Sampha (listen to Sampha’s Dummy Mix here). When they said that I did a little dance around my room. It all just links up so nicely. But I’ve been pretty lucky really.”

He previews his Sampha (download his Dummy mix here) collab to me – it’s soulful and spacious with Sampha’s lullaby vocals and Koreless’ refined, muffled drums. But unlike the ubiquitous dark, gritty, future R&B sound of the minute, their collaborative work also has the stripped-back simplicity and cheeky skip of early garage. This compromise of textures arises from their different production approaches “I was sleeping on the studio floor and we were just jamming. Working with Sampha I picked so much up. He has a really cool perspective. I look at like everything in blocks, very symmetrical and one-sized. Its just the way my head sequences everything together. But the way he looked at it was just one big flowing piece of music, more of a let-go and ‘let’s go!’ attitude.”

Although not recognised as a hub of innovative music, Bangor’s scene served its purpose: “There are some cool nights back home, mainly reggae, jungle, dub and also some wobbly, distasteful dubstep. It was when I first heard dubstep that I thought ‘I want to have a crack at this’ and got myself Fruity Loops. I admit, at first they were just Burial rip-offs, but it got me started on exploring the deeper side of dubstep.”

His sound has evolved leaps and bounds since then, something he pins on the musical re-education he received in Scotland. “I’ve always made emotive music, never bangers. And when I moved to Glasgow I started listening to more house. Before it was Burial, Mount Kimbie, Burial, and then I got involved with the All Caps family and they just pumped me full of house.” All Caps are the five fellas with whom he shares a prime time 7-9 Thursday night radio show on Glasgow’s student station Subcity (last night they invited Jackmaster in for a guest mix). “For two hours it’s just mix, mix, mix. Loads of house, loads of Drexciya.” All Caps are definitely a bunch to watch. 19 and under, with a musical knowledge that would put most to shame, they’re slowly racking up gigs. Ryan from the collective works alongside Jackmaster at “Rubadub Records“http://www.rubadub.co.uk/ and Glasgow scene stalwart and party promoter, Shaun Fae Solar has dubbed them a “mini Numbers in the making.” It’s Numbers brazen ambition that has earned them several titles of Label of 2010 and it’s this gall that All Caps share. Lewis tells me they too are starting a label – Alex Coulton will be their first release. For a sneak peak go here.

bq“Glasgow’s been the perfect place to start out. Everyone knows everyone, it’s a great vibe.”

All Caps, however, is not Lewis’ main focus. Currently he is the only one with management; Lucky Me affiliate, head of Ballers Social Club and manager of Lazer Sword, Krystal Klear and Salva, Joe Shabadu, snapped him up early on. “Joe’s been amazing. All City are releasing a collection of collaborations next year – HudMo and Mike Slott are the first ones up – and he’s sorted me a collaboration with Lone!” Although he claims his success so far is based on luck, geography clearly has been a key factor too. “Glasgow’s been the perfect place to start out. Everyone knows everyone, it’s a great vibe. Lucky Me and Numbers are a good fams to be adopted by – I feel like I’ve been taken under their wing.”

This week his remix of The Look by Jacques Greene (read our interview with Jacques here) surfaced on Discobelle.net. At his mercy, the song has taken on a garage bump. Did Bangor ever get graced with garage? “No way. It’s amazing how where you live has such a difference on what music you are brought up on. If I played a garage tune in Bangor everyone would sit down. In London I went to a night and Groove Chronicles was playing and every single girl in the room was singing along. I was quite impressed by that.”

He played a two-step fuelled set before Lil Silva at Bridging the Gap at the Alibi back in December and then he graced the Boiler Room for a Pictures Music special alongside Seams, Dark Sky and Rudi Zygadlo (read our interview here).  We talk about Mount Kimbie’s Boiler Room set and their album. “I’d like to do something like that. A really focussed collection of songs. I’m not fussed about people saying “Wow! Single of the year!” or making big hitters that everyone is playing for a week. I’d rather make a beautiful album.” All the music that he has previewed for me in the last hours has induced goosebumps and an album doesn’t seem that far off on the horizon. He stops the comment full flow and says “Slow down! I’ve barely gotten used to getting guestlist yet…”

Pictures Music will be releasing Koreless at some point in the future.

Check out photographer David Boyson Cooper’s interview over at Pictures Music and his flickr.

READ 2010: WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES TODAY’S PRODUCERS SO DIFFERENT, SO APPEALING?