Tyke: DJ, producer, label owner, award-winning bus driver…
There are many sides to Playaz’ resident Music Maker from his youth as a graffiti artist to the fact he wrote the first ever foghorn tune (about five years before anyone else) or the fact he released one of Particle’s earliest tunes on his label Holographic Audio. But there are many more sides waiting to be revealed. Sides like his recent radio heatwave Mind Games.
Without question his funkiest tune to date, Mind Games (with long-time sparring partner Recipe and singer Dakota Sixx) marks the start of a new challenge for the producer who broke through almost 15 years ago but still has the energy, attitude and wide-armed sonic range of someone who’s just warming up.
Inspired for 2022 and currently considering a project that involves live musicians and multiple vocalists, we took a rare moment of Tyke’s time for one of his first – and deepest – interviews in a very long time. Mind out!
Mind Games… Nice to hear the funky side of Tyke once again!
For me, I’m shocked. Hype tells me I should make more of these tunes, he said it’s my natural thing. For me it feels like nothing special, it feels too easy and it’s not enough of a challenge.
Would you say you’re a natural songwriter? I think about Dream Catcher. Music Makers, too. That riffy-ness and melodic vibe. Is that natural Tyke?
People say that to me. I’m not trying to do things, it comes naturally. Music Makers came in about an hour, for example. I’m not classically trained, I didn’t go to uni or anything like that, but I’ve learnt the maths and I’ve got to shout Twisted Individual, he taught me a lot on the musical side. But with Mind Games I actually did set out to try and do something mainstream, which was different to other things I’ve done. The radio support has been amazing, it’s spurred me on to do more things in this way.
The happiest artists are the ones who can do anything and aren’t stuck in a box. Kinda like the holy grail to be able to do what you like. One day drop a mainstream tune, the next drop a stinker…
100%! But I’d say it works both ways, though. I’ve never been pigeonholed and that makes it hard for people to understand you or where you’re coming from. So other producers, let’s say like Guv or Logan D, they are seen as pure jump up. Calibre is seen as pure liquid. You know what you’re getting. For me I’ve never been associated with just one sound and that comes with complications. I was having a conversation with Profile a while ago. He’s a good friend of mine. He said, ‘You make rollers’. I was like, ‘You what? I’m trying make bangers here!’ It wasn’t an insult, but it did surprise me. I’m trying my hardest to make my tunes sound full-on! So it does work both ways.
Okay yeah, so people don’t know where to place you…
That’s it. But I come from an era where it’s all just D&B. It’s not liquid, it’s not tech, it’s not rollers, it’s D&B. You’re probably a similar age to me. Remember when you’d go to Fabric and see Andy C, Hype, Goldie and Adam F all on one line-up?
Imagine that now! For me as a producer that’s the vibe I’m always at – no boxes, all styles. And you are right; the happiest artists are the ones who don’t feel restricted. Like creatively speaking; if you feel stressed or limited or not happy with your label or something like that, then you’re not going to make the best music.
You’ve always seemed pretty happy… There’s always been a consistency in your releases
I don’t know about that to be honest with you, but thank you. I actually went back to work for a year and a half just before Covid hit. And that was a conscious decision.
Woah. What does a Tyke do when he’s not making bangers?
By trade I’m a bricklayer but I actually drove a London bus for a year and a half. It was an eye-opening experience and, as weird as it sounds, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Over the years I’ve become pretty antisocial. I sit in the studio every day, I don’t speak to no one. I go to gigs and don’t speak to no one. I don’t socialise. Being a bus driver was one of the best things I’ve ever done because it reminded me of who I am. I’m meeting hundreds of people a day. It helped me build my confidence about who I am. Making tunes all day, sat indoors, not talking to anyone, it doesn’t help your mental health and changes you as a person so changing things up and doing that was a huge boost for me.
Amazing. What a complete flip!
I needed it. And some things never change. I love challenging myself in everything I do. I learnt how to do the bus thing and within three or four months I won awards for customer services and really pushed myself.
Wow. I’ve never spoken to an award-winning bus driver before. Congratulations, that’s really sick!
Haha. For me it was a challenge. I love challenges. I did the same with gaming, too. In life I like challenge and, back to Mind Games, making commercial music that everyone likes and can be played on the radio is a fresh challenge to me. I said to myself, ‘I’d love to make a tune that crosses the whole scene and can be played on the radio’. Not to become a superstar in any type of way but to just see if could do it.
Amen. That’s the best reason to ever step up isn’t it?
It’s the only reason for me. I come from nothing. I left school early, no qualifications, broken home, there’s a whole other story to tell there one day. But making my mum proud is amazing. She loves Mind Games. She said, ‘Why you making that noisy shit all the time when you can make things like this?’ That’s a nice feeling.
Mad. So you’ve got your mum and DJ Hype telling you to make this type of music. But before you found it not challenging enough, but now you’ve found the challenge in it…
You need to have goals. If you don’t have a goal then you’re going round in circles. I come into a studio with no goal and I’m fucking around. I get nothing done. I go in with a specific idea of what I want to step up to and I usually make something I’m happy with. That’s how I work.
Go on. How about challenges with the label? You’ve been going since 2015 and released music from some artists who are popping now! Guys like Warhead, Particle, Nick The Lot, Damage Report…
Particle is flying now! And I’d say that release Code 3 was a big turning point for him, I’m very proud to have released that. It was mad because a lot of people slept on that, and I thought it was wicked. Look at Nick The Lot now, too. He’s smashing it and I put out his first ever release which blew me away when I first heard it. I got an ear for good music and I’m not scared to put out things from new artists who no one has heard of.
I actually set it up because I was hearing all this mad new music. I didn’t need it, I was doing a lot of gigs at the time, doing a lot of radio, but it brought it everything together for me. And I have to shout out Laura the label manager who totally smashes it behind the scenes. The label wouldn’t exist without her hard work. But what are my goals with it? I don’t know, I haven’t thought about that.
Being a platform for next generation talent and bringing through new sounds that other labels are afraid to is a wicked goal, I think. Testament to your belief in the music and artist.
It’s a reflection of me musically, too. It’s not one style, it a bit of everything and I’m happy I’ve had some great support from DJs and guys like Noisia on the radio. I know I’m doing the right thing not for me but for everyone involved. It’s not about me, it’s about the artists I’m signing and releasing. I’ve been around for some time now and if I can pass on my experience and advice to them then great.
Totally. Speaking of time. It’s been 10 years since Buzzards which I’d say was the start of the foghorn sound. Look at what you started!
Haha. Thank you. I don’t think there was anything before that. Maybe in my own tunes there was a really early version of that sound in previous tracks like Own It, but it progressed into that sound. At that time people put their nose up at that tune and a lot of techier producers who were like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ Hazard got behind it though, and Marky got behind it, and that was great. They’ve always supported me over the years and I respect them a lot.
The foghorn thing is what it is. I don’t get props for it, but I’ve never looked to exploit that. I don’t want to rinse things. I did Buzzards, it did its thing, it has a legacy, let’s move on. People have said ‘Do a remix or a VIP’ But why should I do that when it’s been remixed a million times already?
Hahah true! That whole snobbery thing is over now. 2012 was peak for snobbery between the techier side and the jump-up side when the best DJs – as you’ve mentioned with Hazard and Marky and also Hype – played across the board anyway. But I do think we’ve come back round to that ‘it’s all D&B’ vibe these days.
100%. It’s helped that jump up as improved over the last five years too. The producers coming through now? Their production is amazing! Look at Metalwork. He’s put out a whole album, then he put out an EP straight after! And it’s all sick. How am I meant to keep up with that? That’s inspiring and the quality of jump up now is helping things come together, it’s great for the scene and it’s great for DJs. I’m vibing to the music now as much as I did when I was 15.
Yeah same! And the lockdown thing has made us all appreciate things
I think so too. We need the bookings to come back in a bit more and for promoters to get confident again but the line-ups are getting varied and there are so many good artists to choose from.
What music are we choosing from you? How do you follow up Mind Games?
This is the thing. That’s my best tune so far and it’s difficult to say what’s following it. I got a tune called Skank Let’s Go with Solo Jane who’s so talented and got some proper attitude so it will probably be that. I’ve started working with more musicians, too. A trombone player, a bass player, a whole load of vocalists. I don’t want to do the band thing, but I do want to do show that involves everyone. I want to get everyone working together and highlight these talents in my sets. Like have a few vocalists come through and do a few live tracks but smash things out between because I like to play heavy, too.
So yeah I’m inspired to get back in the studio and I’m inspired to get back on the road, too. It’s a good time and I want to highlight some important people before you go, too…
Go ahead man!
Well it goes back to Mind Games. So firstly my mate Recipe. I’ve known him for years, since we were like three and have collaborated on tunes for many years. He came to me with that sample on Mind Games and I was like, ‘Ah that’s bad let’s make a tune!’ So it went from there.
I also want to shout out Marcus Nasty who I was doing a monthly Rinse show with. He introduced me to Dakota for the vocals. We went for a curry and chatted. She’d had some bad experiences with producers in the past so I said, ‘Cool, let’s do things your way.’ She came down and just head-topped it. Pure freestyle. I loved it. When Daddy Earl heard it, he had some ideas on arrangements.
I’ve got to say he’s had a huge influence on me in the past. A huge influence. He knows a good tune and he gives me a different perspective on things. Just little changes, arrangement ideas. So yeah, everyone knows the tune is me, Recipe and Dakota but Earl and Marcus Nasty deserve some credit on how it came together, too. There always more than meet the eye to these things and more people involved that you first think. So yeah, shouts to them and everyone I’m working with right now. There’s more to come.