Slackk is someone who's been involved in a lot of great things. I'm not sure when I first noticed quite how many of them but from GrimeTapes.com to "Eski Clicks," releases on Numbers, Local Action and an unreleased Badness vocal of "Theme from Slackk," seeing road rap before others to his hilarious yet fully sick boogie/juke project Patrice & Friends, he's a constant source of fresh ideas. He mixed an exclusive Slackk productions showcase, to accompany an interview, below.
- DOWNLOAD an exclusive Slackk production mix.
Blackdown: Hey Slackk, so firstly I guess I'd like to hear where your head is at musically right now?
Slackk: I think at the moment I'm quite happy with what I sound like to be honest. I know my earlier stuff- and even still now the majority of my releases - were more on a house thing, I guess from the fallout of what was funky, but I've barely made anything like that for over a year now. There's always been a very clear interest in the grime palette for me - as you well know - but I guess for the last eighteen months my Slackk stuff has been focused on the ideas behind what I like in that sound and trying to apply to my own music. Not all at 140 - some of it edging up to juke tempo or hovering around 150bpm - but yeah, I'm really enjoying myself man. Been making some vague r'nb as well, which I think is kind of feeding off the Patrice & Friends stuff in a way. Hard to work with all those samples and that sound and not have it rub off on you a bit.
B: "The ideas behind what I like in that sound and trying to apply to my own music" is an interesting question, a big step in finding your own sound and space...
S: Yeah if I'm honest I'm not sure it was there at the start. When you start producing or at least try to start trying properly I think there's a tendency to throw a lot of sounds and ideas at Ableton or whatever you produce in and your sound ends up a bit disparate as a result. I think that happened to me, anyway. Whereas now I think I'm a lot more comfortable with my ideas and clear in what I want to sound like.
B: I think that's natural, most producers work through their inspirations - I certainly had to with El-B etc
S: Yeah undoubtedly and I think a lot of it comes through the confidence in getting to know your set up and feeling more comfortable in what you're doing.
S: I think I can safely say that when I first started making tunes there were hundreds of things I didn't have a clue about - you can certainly hear that in mixdowns of certain tunes; I can hear a clumsiness in certain riffs and runs & there's a looseness in some things I wouldn't even remotely allow now. But that kind of control or whatever, that comes and I think you can hear that in my stuff now. I'd like to think you can anyway.
B: But equally, with grime part of its sonic flaws is its appeal, right? That is its aesthetic.
S: See I don't always agree with that. I do think that there's a rawness and at times almost a genius in accidental simplicity in some early grime, yeah, but it's a sound that's really been around a long time now.
B: Well that's fine I'm just saying some people like that raw sound.
S: Oh yeah I love that raw sound, the stripped back nature of it, just the coldness of it is unparalelled really. But in turn some of my favourite grime stuff is really melodic and as much as a lot of it retains a certain melancholy underlying to it I think there's a lot to be said for that end of the scale.
B: In terms of the music being made at the moment though that inspires your own, where are the areas of inspiration to you?
S: At the moment I think there's a lot of people who are pushing each other on, indirectly.
S: If you look at some of the stuff coming out of your camp - or what I would class as your camp- people like Visionist, Logos, Wen, I think there's something tangible between them, however loose. People like Samename, MssngNo, Kid D, Walter Ego, Filter Dread. There are so many people doing things with you'd think of a grime ideal behind it or whatever, I think there's a real diverse sound but yeah the little interlinks behind that.
B: Yeah and I'd add Gremino to that.
S: Oh yeah, Gremino's great, I really like his 160bpm stuff actually - heard a lot of people try and do that jungle footwork sound and not quite do it justice but he does. I do listen to a lot of juke and I think the american rap thing is fully flourishing at the moment too. I know you could say that the "trap" idea takes from that and in my opinion detracts from it a little, but there are some mad production coming from there.
B: Yeah for me and Dusk, we used to have a "grime" section (140bpm) and a UK funky/percussive section (130bpm) but now we don't need this separation, it all flows at 130ish but can be grimey, perhaps in a more danceable way.
S: I'd say because I do tend to draw more heavily on the 140 stuff - my own sets tend to hover more around that end of it but yeah with certain bits pitched up - I just think that it's around this sound that the most interesting stuff is coming through these days.
B: The funny thing is your eski clicks was totally ahead of its time.
S: Yeah, I could see why you could say that. At the time I was listening an awful lot to tunes like "Video Clash" and that era to be honest - there was a clear idea when I sat down with that to try and retune those noises into a very straight 4/4 track. The "eski house" idea, which is a name I don't like so much anymore.
S: But yeah I think that idea exists all over the place now, the idea of the grime palette at 130. If you look at the background of "London music" it makes perfect sense I think. Not that I'm from London. However much my music is inspired by the idea of it.
B: Well i was going to mention the US/UK factor: so with the American rap & juke thing influencing you, do you think it shifts things at all for you, creatively?Different aesthetics?
S: I can hear it, yeah. Not necessarily in the drum patterns but I've been obsessed with certain Zaytoven ideas for a while, the space and reverb to his keys in some places- stuff like the lead riffs on this. Not trying to emulate the drum patterns and that as such, but there's ideas in stuff like this and things Lil Ugly Mane beats that I like a lot. The juke thing is another, the sparseness of juke at it's best reminds me of the rawness in grime we were talking about earlier and I think that's something my head will always identify with for whatever reason.
S: Stuff like DJ Clent "3rd World" especially although that is slightly old now I guess… Obsessed is a probably too strong a word for the Zaytoven bit
B: It's funny because even if you're into this London pirate thing, there's always this US/JA/UK dialog going on but at certain times the balances shift. I feel like London is very outward looking at the moment, with euro minimal tech (shuffling) and US rap/trap.
S: Yeah I know what you mean. The shift of MCs from what was grime towards what's now just London rap has produced some good stuff I think - I listen to a few MCs, there are probably loads of better ones out there but there are too many terrible videos on YouTube to find out. It's not really what you'd class as a more unique sound as you would with grime but it's got it's great spots. I don't really like that house sound, few alright tunes but it's never really interested me. I think really if you look at the rap thing and the way the house has gone side by side it's like the strands of what's come before it - grime, funky, garage - have become more clearly split. The MCs to rap, and the grimier, odder edges out of funky by the transition to the more traditional house sound. That's simplifying it a bit but I think it's true.
B: I completely agree with your analysis. I'm desperate to find the next Trim/D Double/Wiley/Goodz - someone with real personality and identity - within the large volumes of the road rap guys, but haven't yet
S: Not to say that there are no worthwhile MCs left in grime, but that's really a much more instrumental scene now in terms of a beat with that kind of structure getting vocalled. In terms of MCing, I think most of it has gone to the rap side of things.
B: It's a bit like jungle - the best guys still rep but no unique guys come through (though that depends on your view of new school d&b I guess...)
S: I liked the Squeeze Section tape (free download here) quite recently, in terms of rap, thought parts of that were really strong- especially the ones going up towards 160.
B: Yesss! i liked that tape too
S: But nah I wish I knew jungle but I don't, at all. I prefer it when it was still mostly sampled drums as opposed to what came after it but otherwise no idea.
S: Oh shit did you listen to the Squeeze Section tape?
B: Re jungle, well I all I mean is you see names like Hype, Shy FX, Goldie, Grooverider on the flyers - just as grime is dominated by people who came from Roll Deep, Nasty, OGs etc
S: I thought that Squeeze Section tape was great man. A bit overlong but it was great. Don't really have much in mind that I could compare those faster tunes too, as much as they're rooted in the rap thing.
B: I think I found out about Squeeze Section from you, but I don't remember.
S: Yeah I see what you mean about grime MCs and that, it definitely makes sense. Really, 90% of MCs coming through now are on the rap beats as opposed to anything resembling grime, which is why the raves are dominated by those names.
B: Yeah a friend of mine does legal aid for lots of the London gang members and says they all listen to road rap.
S: So do I, I can't blame them. Just a lot of shit to sift through, to be honest.
B: Do you have a sense of where road rap is going or how healthy it is? Because - and props for this - you were the first person I noticed to pick up on it, and while there's so much of it do you feel it's evolving?
S: I think it's all a bit scattered, the road rap thing. You can that a lot of it is YouTube focused, a lot of it terrible as well to be honest. I'd say there's an overabundance of cameramen and low rate MCs that make it harder to wade through but some interesting stuff out there. We talked about Squeeze Section there but I think people like Nines & Blade Brown have put out decent stuff lately, Fekky has had two massive tapes in a row.
S: Depends if you're willing to dig around to be honest, but I like London MCs- I got used to the tone through grime.
B: Yeah, tone acclimatisation is quite important - I find it odd to listen to US MCs now, despite having grown up on US hip hop!
S: Exactly. And I know a lot of people kind of dismiss the london rap thing for it's similarities to US rap and all that but I still think there's a definite UK edge to it. Just different because there's no real crossover into the clubs for most of the tunes - I think that's why it's probably had a different reaction than grime or whatever, not many tunes you can actually hear in a club and have them work. I think Fekky makes some good rave tunes though.
B: Don't you think it's mad, the total distance from clubs and radio that road rap has? I accept that it's about exposure/reputation and the quickest path to it, and that path is YouTube, but still…
S: Yes and no.
S: I think if you look at in some supposed succession to grime and that - as you could - then the lack of raves is a shame, but there's always been a rap undercurrent in South I think. It's only really the last few years that it's became the main outlet for an MC I think but just look back to like old PDC tapes etc - the lineage is there really.
B: Yeah, I hear ya. It's just when things get big in the london underground, there's money to be made from raves - so someone will do it.
S: I dunno man, I just download tapes ha.
S: Do you really think they'd let a rap rave exist though? Like to me that seems like the thing that'd get shut down pretty quickly.
B: Well maybe that's our answer.
B: So, I'd like to talk a bit more about your productions. Tracks like "Blue Sleet" seemed like a step change for you, what do you have planned next?
S: Yeah I think you can definitely say that. I spent ages on "Raw Missions;" I know it's only a small EP but I took my time making it, which isn't something you can say I really did that often with some earlier releases. I don't know, if I could go back I'd probably stop myself putting a few things out. I think I was talking about that EP for about six months before I actually had something tangible as a draft. So there's a lot of sketches and loads of half written 8bar tracks on my hard drive, trying to work up to it. If I was going to make a grime EP I had to do it right, you know.
S: As for the next thing, it's another EP for Local Action, probably about a year since the last one. Some grime bits, something at 150 & a slow jam, kind of. That's taken me a while. Some Patrice & Friends things as well; a Greeen Linez remix EP & a 8 track EP of the usual, at some point.
B: Greeen Linez remix ?
S: Yeah- Patrice & Friends Vs Greeen Linez. You into them?
B: Don't know 'em
S: Ah man...
B: Sounds retro! God I can hear so much Patrice in this.
S: That was like my favourite album last year. Homage to all that 80s boogie sound, I got the stems from them and reconstructured them as juke tunes.
- Follow Patrice and his friends on Twitter, livin' that excess. "Hibiscus Pacific" is toooo much.
B: So can I ask about Patrice, how did that come about?
S: I think there are a couple of factors with that really. Like I love that old 80s sound, have collected boogie records for a while. Anyway I just went through a period of really playing them a lot; and I had writer's block at that point - everything was coming out a bit weak, disenfranchised with it a bit actually. Anyway, I heard a chicago record, it's by Manny, and it was this boogie sample chopped up at 160, incredible. The tune's called "Mystery."
S: So I just started playing around with that sound at 160, chopping up bits, leaving massive breaks in at times. Really that first Patrice album was just a massive release - all that music is just a laugh you know, nice to dance to, proper upbeat stuff - so it was just me sitting around fucking with these tunes and then I had an album. Got some vocals done, few acapellas. Then because it was self-released, I think it was about a month after making it that it was released. It's just really fun to make to be honest, which is why there are a couple of albums out there.
B: Yeah it is really fun. Feels like it was done quickly, designed to loose yourself to on the dancefloor
S: Well the originals are some of my favourite stuff to play out in a club you know. I don't always get the chance to do that. So when I'm taking a record that was 110 or 100 and chopping it to juke tempo, the swing to it at times is a madness man. It was just such a laugh to make that pretty soon I'd just made loads of them like.
B: Do you pitch shift them or chop to make fit?
S: Pitch shift and then I'll take it and reassemble it to form a different melody sometimes, depends really. Some tracks are too good to mess with so it's just a matter of a few 16 bar loops and writing some sub and drums to compliment. With the Greeen Linez stuff they gave the stems so that is reassembling tunes, writing little melodies on top of them. as you said you can hear a bit of Patrice in them already, it makes perfect sense to do something together.
B: For people who aren't familiar, can you describe the life Patrice lives?
S: Ha you mean the midget?
B: The midget.
S: Well, I say midget; he's a dwarf. It's funny really, when I was making the first album - which wasn't even an album at that point, more just a few songs that I thought were just going to stay on the hard drive - this woman called Diane Arbus died. Sorry, no, there was a feature on her in something - she was already dead. Anyway, her photographs are all these gritty looking new york street life things, and I was looking through them on google images when suddenly the fucking dwarf popped up. Like without that picture I'm not sure the concept would have had as much mileage in my eyes...
B: Ha, nice… a source of inspiration!
S: ...but that was it from there, he was Patrice. I had a twitter feed for him when the stuff first came out (resurrected now) where the idea was that he was some sex obsessed drunk who lived on a yacht with a load of strippers and me & a couple of my mates just made up the most outlandish shit. Oh yeah, totally a source of inspiration. Dwarf in a hotel room wearing only a towel with some Henny in the back, come on man.
B: While it was never exactly a secret who Patrice was, was it liberating to be able to just dream up the maddest fantasies for him?
S: I don't know if it was liberating as such, I just found it really funny. Plus when you've got videos for the music with wrestling squids who turn into men after sex or blokes on jetpacks flying to save their missus, it's hardly the type of thing you're taking seriously is it.
B: Crazy! I just think maybe lots of pirate/bassy music is quite serious, whereas patrice is pretty fun.
S: Obviously I spend a lot of time on the Patrice stuff, don't get me wrong, but it's all a bit of a laugh like. But I think a lot of early grime had humour to it, but I can agree with that.
S: I dunno, I'm not really that serious a person - I know there's all these producers who like to act as if they're batman or whatever, making music in the caves but fuck that. I love boogie and disco and that, no pretence about it.
B: Awesome. I think what works so well is the Patrice & Friends music is funny AND its really good.
S: Ah thanks man. It's funny like, because when I first made a few of these I thought people were just going to look at me like I was mad. Instead everyone loved it and I played it all over the place like. You can't really predict how things work out I guess.
B: You can't underestimate how much people can tell you're having fun!
S: Yeah I think that probably comes across as well. Certainly a lot of records out there that sound like they were a proper laugh to make and yeah, you can hear that come across can't you.
S: I think there's something to be said for the pop from that era that isn't really about in many places these days as well. I was talking to Kev Kharas from Vice about this a while back, in reference to Patrice, and he had a theory that there was a certain innocence or naivety to the music that isn't necessarily here now. Like these are mostly made from samples from an era where it was a lot more difficult to get to know a girl and that then, without the internet and that, that you had to try harder. I don't know if I agree completely but yeah. Certainly a lot more romance in that era of music I think.
B: Its hard to say definitive things when looking back though. People say the opposite about now - that's people don't meet IRL thanks to the 'net! Hence it must have been easier to meet girls IRL back then! I dunno...
S: Oh yeah undoubtedly. I just liked the idea of that playing into the music, regardless of how much truth is in it.
B: So finally Grime Tapes. Can you explain how that all began?
S: Couple of things really. Obviously there's a deep attachment on my part to that sound, always has been - that stuff just resonates with me I guess. And really I think radio sets were the essence of what it was so I collected them almost obsessively. But then I had an untold GB worth of them on my hard drive and it felt like a crime to just keep them to myself.
B: I think of it like curation, you curated an archive for the benefit of everyone.
S: In addition I viewed it as an opportunity to get even more because I knew there were ones out there that must be great that I didn't have. (I was right). Maybe it was curation. I didn't necessarily view it like that to begin with though, it was just stuff that needed to have a place and a time that did and does need recognition. Would never call myself a curator, like. I've met people since who've thanked me so excessively for what the site was that I realise it was quite important to some people though and I'm quite glad of that. There are still some mythical sets I want though.
B: Hahah like what?
S: There's a Roll Deep Christmas set with Tinchy I've never heard that was meant to be one of the best ever - never met anyone who still has a tape. Any Dancehall Mafia set would be great, same for 187 Click. (Predecessors to Slew Dem and Nasty respectively). My Ontop FM collection is lacking a bit. September 2007 clash weekend, the sets from the Sunday. I'm not exactly losing sleep over them but they'd be great to have. Oh and any old OO Squad too.
S: To me it's just the history of things you know. This entire microindustry and heritage of music in London. I like having all that on hand.
- Download all the Patrice & Friends albums here.