Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
Slackk has become something of a figurehead in a recent resurgence of bonkers instrumental grime, with his 'Failed Gods' EP for Local Action, his running of London grime clubnight Boxed, and importantly through giving a platform to so many new producers by playing stacks of unreleased dubs on his monthly radio mixes (as an aside, you can download all of 2013's monthly mixes right here).
Logos is also one of the heads behind Boxed (along with Mr. Mitch and Oil Gang), but he's currently in the spotlight with his debut album 'Cold Mission', which has been really well-received by critics since its release through Keysound last month (you can read Dummy's review of it here).
Ahead of Logos' set at the Local Action x Unknown to the Unknown Christmas party tomorrow (December 7th), the two producers sat down for a small chat. Mostly, they keep the conversation focused on Boxed, but the topic of conversation inevitably drifts to cover their creative processes, Twin Peaks and Patrón.
"A good part of the success of Boxed is down to the fact that we were prepared to lose money and just get fucked for the first three." – Slackk
Logos: "So, sum up 2013 in a sentence."
Slackk: "Weed and Patrón."
Logos: "I had chocolate Patrón at FWD>> for the first time recently."
Slackk: "In all honesty, a good part of the success of Boxed is down to the fact that we were prepared to lose money and just get fucked for the first three, and I’ve wrote all my tunes stoned, so yeah, weed and Patrón."
Logos: "I remember doing the door for the first one at Peckham Palais, and the bouncers kept moaning at me, like, ‘what’s this shit, you should put a house night on – no one’ll go to this.'"
Slackk: "My vivid memory of that night was smoking a spliff outside, and a barmaid coming out and going, ‘this is the worst music I’ve ever heard in my life’. As soon as she said that I thought ‘well, we’re onto a winner'. Seriously though, it’s strange to think that we’ve ended up popping off when you consider how dead the first ones were. To do Fabric and Plastic People in our first six months – it’s a big achievement."
Logos: "Well, you could sense that there was something was changing early on, which is why you were so adamant that we should do it."
Slackk: "It stems from the last couple of Maybachs [Slackk’s past club night at The Alibi, with Oil Gang, Tom Lea and Altered Natives], where we basically just played instrumental grime. It went from being a little fuck-about rap night to being like ‘well, we’ve actually got some new music to play here.'"
Logos: "Well there were .zip files going around then – people like Strict Face and Sublo from San Francisco, they were both sending tracks to us."
Slackk: "In my head, Boxed had to happen because of all the music sitting on my hard drive from producers like that. And I knew you had tunes, and I knew Mr. Mitch had tunes, ‘cause I played with him at Rhythm Factory around that time.
"It’s funny that 'Raw Missions', which I was making at that time, feels like a normal record now. I listen back to 'Raw Missions' now and I’m unhappy with it, to be honest. Certainly with Fat City – I feel I could’ve gone in twice as hard. But I suppose at the time, harking back to that weird grime sound was a strange idea in itself, given what was out there. Same with you and Kowloon; I think the idea of that space in a record… I don’t think there was much else out there like that at the time. I remember when I first met you at Wifey, and you dropping some of the tunes – I was like, ‘this is mad!’ And other people were like–"
Logos: "'Play something with beats!'"
Slackk: "Exactly! But now, you’d get that same person turning up to our night, and… I wouldn’t say they expect strangeness, but there’s a willingness to take that on."
"My vivid memory of that night was a barmaid coming out and going, ‘this is the worst music I’ve ever heard in my life’. As soon as she said that I thought ‘well, we’re onto a winner.'" – Slackk
Logos: "I never really play Kowloon anymore, because it’s in my past a little bit, but it’s a strange tune. When I listen to it now it seems under-produced, but that probably makes it seem weirder in some ways."
Slackk: "With 'Raw Missions', I didn’t think it was a weird EP necessarily – though I was quite strung out when I was making it, so maybe that helps – but when I put it out, and I listened to the rest of the stuff that was coming out at that time… I was like, ‘this record is gonna bomb’. If you knew me as a person, and I was sending you dubs, then you’d have seen it coming for a while, but if you just knew me as an observer – someone who followed me through the grime-ish, UK Funky stuff – you would have been like, ‘Slackk’s lost his mind’. But for me it just felt natural – when I was making those tunes it was like, ‘this is what I need to be making.’"
Logos: "Well, I knew you as an observer then, and it seemed like you were taking a conscious step outside, or around, what was happening."
Slackk: "If you want to look at it in a sentimental way, that stuff was my formative music. That’s the stuff that really got me into music, so why wasn’t I making it? When I first heard Kowloon… I wouldn’t say I didn’t like it at first – I definitely liked it – but I didn’t get it at first. It was just a square wave and tons of space."
Logos: "I’ve said this before, but Kowloon’s tempo was 130bpm. I continue to write at slower tempos [than 140], but then it was because I wanted DJs to play it."
Slackk: "It was the opposite for me. I went to 140 so I couldn’t be played in those sets!"
Logos: "Yeah, it’s a different thing. But for me, what was called grime at the time… it hadn’t become that whole trap sound yet, but I still wasn’t into it. Ben UFO started playing my stuff, which was – and still is – really gratifying. Dubstep had died for me, but I still wanted those DJs who’d moved from dubstep into that house realm, without becoming anchored to what’s now 'deep house', to play my weird, spacey music. I was deliberately referencing Eskimo and Wiley, but in as free a way as I could think, really."
"I never really play Kowloon anymore, because it’s in my past a little bit, but it’s a strange tune. When I listen to it now it seems under-produced, but that probably makes it seem weirder in some ways." – Logos
Slackk: "I suppose 'Failed Gods' was a bit of a statement from me. I wanted to exercise my chops a bit more – I’ve been producing a lot of tunes over the last year that had stayed under the radar, or just stayed on my hard drive, and I wanted to put out an EP that is sort of an encapsulation of what I can do as a producer. I think I’ve improved a lot since the early days, and 'Failed Gods' is probably the best representation of that. I don’t know if it’s a definitive statement, but it was a definite progression – definitely."
Logos: "I really love Room Made Vague. I play it a lot, that and Stasis, and it reminds me of that room in Twin Peaks. You know, the Black Lodge?"
Slackk: "Well, with a lot of my tunes from that period, me and my missus had started re-watching Twin Peaks. I don’t know if you’ve watched it recently, but the second time around I was just sitting there waiting for Badalamenti to turn up. I ripped him off blind on Silk Robe, I think anyone who’s watched the show could tell. A lot of the 'Failed Gods' and 'Minor Triads' / sino stuff was just a combination of me watching weird Japanese films and Twin Peaks."
Logos: "With 'Cold Mission', it seemed to come together quite well at the end, but it took a long time and a lot of hard work. I’m just really glad it’s come out."
Slackk: "I know it sounds a weird thing to say, but in terms of colours, 'Raw Missions' was very blue to me."
Logos: "I always see squarewaves as blue. I don’t have synthesia, but I see squarewaves as blue when I write."
Slackk: "For me, 'Raw Missions' was blue – not necessarily depressing, even though a lot of the reviews said that it was a sentimental, or melancholy, EP, which I don’t think it was – whereas, funnily enough, given that it has an orange label, I think 'Failed Gods' is very open and warm. Apart from Empty Bottles, which is probably the most dramatic tune that I’ve wrote, for me it was trying to open myself up a bit and make my sound a bit brighter. Which might sound odd, given how aggressive Shogun Assassin is, but for me that’s just a dancefloor tune."
Logos: "As a producer, though, when you’re developing, it’s the hardest thing to make a tune impactful on a dancefloor. With Jack [Mumdance] I’ve wrote bangers – he’s got the gift of knowing what frequencies work for maximum impact in a club. He’s a good engineer, he understands how to turn an idea into something that has impact. I’m not sure I’ve ever made a proper banger solo, apart from that Pulse X thing, but that’s more borrowed off somebody else."
Slackk: "I dunno, I think Menace or Seawolf are bangers. If you segue a set well enough, then one of those tunes will pop off – but it takes a talented DJ to make one of those work as a dancefloor tune.
"I think with Boxed, though, it’s not a clubnight that deals with typical bangers. A lot of the sets are pure build and release. Your set at the first Birthdays one, your set was just build for a good 20-30 minutes and then it was just bang – in your face! I was reading that thing on Truants with Her Records the other day, where they were saying that Boxed was weird sounds that you can’t really dance to, but I think there’s more of a middle ground to it than that. I do think that what we do is aimed at the dancefloor. It’s easy to say that it’s just weird music, but you only need to see the way our raves pop off, now that they’ve got busy. I think it’s dancefloor music, it’s just a different type of dancefloor music."
Logos: "I think crowds gradually get used to different sounds, too. Young people respond to jungle now, because there’s a historical trigger and they kind of know that they should dance to it, but if you listen to those AWOL live CDs – one of the most mental nights ever – the beats are ridiculous, they’re polyrhythms, and there’s no 4×4 kick, and this was a popular, mainstream drum ’n’ bass night."
Slackk: "People acclimatise to it. The early Boxeds were quite dead and strange, but the recent ones, particularly Fabric and the last one at Birthdays… the idea that it’s progressed so much, from bizarre noises in a room to the crowd accepting these sounds as something that works in a club? Yeah, this is dancefloor music."
Logos will play the (free) Local Action x Unknown to the Unknown Christmas party on December 7th 2013. More information here.