Trim interview: “You just gotta be true to yourself.”

22.04.11 Words by: Ruth Saxelby

Former Roll Deep member Trim is the prolific mixtape maker and founder of The Circle collective who is widely believed to be one of the best MCs in the UK. Becoming Real is London-based electronic music producer Toby Ridler. The two collaborated together on Becoming Real’s ‘Spectre’ EP released in November 2010 [listen to Like Me above]. Toby interviewed Trim on the phone yesterday ahead of rare live performance from the MC at GetMe! tonight at BarABar.

My first encounter with Trim was in his flat in the Isle of Dogs about 6 months ago to discuss potentially working together. When I turned up, he was having his hair
cut by his brother. Throughout the course of our conversation he would continue to have his hair cut and even when leaving his flat there were no signs of his makeover stopping. That was the first time I met Trim.

The first time I heard his music was years previous to this meeting when I was still living in South London. His unique and often haunted – and haunting – use of word play and intricate rhythmic patterns seemed to create this verbal elasticity that is not heard anywhere else within the scene; a true craftsman. Insightful and often aggressively precise in his word play, Trim conjures a world that sits uneasily beneath the steel and concrete, constantly overlapping in the shadows of abandoned car parks and reaching round the corners of dilapidated estates.

Sitting in my apartment overlooking the mournful Tower Hamlets Cemetery, I gave him a call yesterday.

You’ve just released ‘Monkey Features Vol. 2’. I’ve kinda lost track of the amount of stuff you’ve released. How long does it take you to finish a mixtape?

Trim: Err , probably around two weeks and two sessions in the studio. ‘Monkey Features’ is a two-part series. I’m now doing ‘Chelsea Smile’ and one other mixtape.

Recently you’ve been collaborating with a lot more leftfield beatmakers such as myself, Mumdance, Last Japan and even Riva Starr. How have these hook-ups come about?

Trim: Well, people just send me music because they like what I do, y’know? They just shout at me cos they like my tunes. I’m also doing some things with Harmonic 313 and Starkey Beats. Weird music attracts me, even stuff like Keri Hilson or whatever. I don’t really listen to grime these days. I try to find myself within music to make other music if you know what im saying?

Yeah man, Harmonic 313 is pretty interesting.

Trim: Yeah man he’s sick.

In your lyrics you lucidly reference areas around where you live. One track that always springs to mind is Ask For Trim.

Trim: Yeah, yeah.

*You list pubs and shops around E14. The picture you paint with your lyrics seems to extract this weird spectre-ridden parallel universe within these often mundane areas.

Trim: [laughs] Are you saying I’m in another world or something?

Yeah, I totally think that’s true. When you’re spitting about locations you draw out this horror from the situation that seems to be lurking in the shadows. I feel like there’s a Trim creeping round every corner.

Trim: [laughs] Well, there should be a Trim on every corner. I keep talking about my area because it’s where I’m from and it’s what made me. People think I’m from Bow E3 but I ain’t. I’m from E14. Other people round here don’t mention the manor as much and I just want people to know my area is as dark as anybody else’s.

Something else that’s hard not to notice is that your lyrics are distinctly different from everyone else in the grime scene. Do you think that’s anything to do with not living in Bow or wherever else the majority of MCs are from?

Trim: I think it’s more to do with the fact that I’ve always just been myself. Some people think you gotta be a certain way to be successful [but] as Giggs said not too long ago, just be yourself and people will notice it. If it’s different, it’s different y’know? People will see that. I’m just being me; I’m not trying to think of anyone else. So when I do grime it’s just me finding myself and being myself.

Yeah. I think music can be a real therapy as well, to help you make sense of the world and yourself.

Trim: Yeah man, cos it’s easy to get on a mic and say I’ve got two meat cleavers, ten bombs and five grenades. You gotta view it from the concept, and I am the concept.

I was gonna ask you what you thought about exciting new MCs like Screw Fizza, Kozzie and Lil Nasty but since you’ve already said you tend to not listen to grime, what is on your iPod these days?

Trim: Err, again Keri Hilson. I’ve only listened to her in the past five days. I didn’t even think she was that good but she is cool. I listen to Eminem, Drake, Dr Dre and Lil Wayne’s pretty cool.

On a hip-hop tip, have you heard any of Tyler The Creator’s or Odd Future’s music? They are pretty much blowing up right now.

Trim: Nah I haven’t but I do love all types of music. I’m open to most.

You’re playing tonight at GetMe. Do you enjoy performing live? It seems like you don’t do that many live shows.

Trim: I’ve actually had a plan for a while now. I wanted to bring out ten mixtapes and I’m on my eighth. Nine and ten are almost finished so I wanna get them out and do a mini tour, then hopefully get my album out and start doing singles and more performances. But I don’t wanna be someone you can always easily access, y’know?

So every event you do is a bit more independent and a bit more personal to the people there.

Trim: Yeah man, but also a lot of artists that were trying to be successful were saying they didn’t need me there, so I actually just put my head down and thought I’d build my own character so I can do what I want. Then when someone does wanna book Trim, they just book me and that’s it. I do love performing; I just wanna get my mixtapes and music out there first.

I saw on your Facebook a while ago a comment you’d posted saying that the album’s finished. Can you let us know who you’re working with or if there will be any special guest appearances?

Trim: That would be telling because I still haven’t brought out mixtapes 9 and 10 yet!

BR: Go on though…

Trim: Hopefully by winter you’ll hear my first couple of singles from the album. All I can say is Balistiq Beats will be on the album. The concept is based around me – basically it’s 15 tracks done like a-week-in-the-life-of-Trim, so each track will explain situations I’ve been in during my past.

I also heard you might be doing some acting? Is that true?

Trim: Errr [laughs] probably just leave that in the air, man. But there’s no reason why by the end of this year I shouldn’t be Jamie Foxx on telly, if you know what I’m saying.

Okay, my last question is how do you feel about the grime scene right now? You were around at the golden period of grime when it seemed more like an abstract art form in contrast to the mindless bangers and teeny bop hits being churned out by the genre’s potential crossover artists. What do you make of the switch that people like Chipmunk, Tinchy and Skepta have made?

Trim: I think where Tynchy is concerned he’s doing what he feels is best for him; he’s actually done pretty well for himself. Everything happens so fast on that side of the industry so you gotta take time out to be yourself, so I think when he comes back to it he’ll be fine. Chipmunk is also very good artist. But grime music in general, I think people thought they had to be a certain way to be successful and that is why it is the way it is [in the mainstream]. A lot of people have a lot of problems with it since they get millions of fans who think about them in a certain way, when really the artist wants to be the person he wants to be; you should just do your own thing. Anything in life you should just stick to and people will eventually come round. I mean, I did try and do some poppy tunes but I’ve done some mad things in my life, so to just try and be a sweet boy and act like I’m an angel is not me, y’know. Your past will catch up with you. You just gotta be true to yourself. I’m currently making The Circle a label, so that’s something to watch. Look out for people like Obese, Nico, Jane, Sarah Penny, Jersey and the whole team. It’s gonna be big, man.

Toby Ridler interviewed Trim over the phone on Thursday 21st April 2011

Trim plays GetMe! tonight at BarABar with Morgan Zarate, Lixo and Jet Letts