Strong name, powerful sounds: Murder He Wrote stirs a unique musical melting pot.
His cast iron cauldron, galvanised by his years growing up as a strict drum & bass head, froths and bubbles over the edges with a rainbow of elements and influences; UK funky, bassline, garage, house, dancehall, grime, reggae all play strong roles in his deliciously unpredictable output that’s held together by his rudimental bass foundations. Every track solves a different crime but the MO is always the same: a distinctly UK sound anchored with rudeness but polished with soul.
Here’s a cool example. Forthcoming on his Flavoured Vol 1 EP next month on Roska Kicks & Snares…
Label-wise Murder He Wrote (real name James) rolls deep with fusionist kindred spirits Roska Kicks & Snares. But through his prolific remix work he’s been spotted right across the board with labels from Black Butter to Wah Wah 45s via Skint. Most recently he’s appeared on Night Shift Sound’s second underground house compendium Night Shift Sound Vol 2 with this moody bass-driven jam – Drawn.
With a new EP en route in a matter of weeks on Roska Kicks & Snares, we caught up with James He Wrote to find out where he’s at and maybe solve a crime or two…
Are you a murder mystery man, then?
I should probably act cool and say “not really” but they are one of my favourite wastes of time. That’s how the name came about… I’d been playing around with productions, not really taking it too seriously, just a few hundred followers on Soundcloud. I wanted to do something fresh and not tell anyone about it. Just a cool mystery project. I was unemployed at the time so I was just making music all day and would usually stop for a lunch break around the time Murder She Wrote was on every afternoon. I thought it would be funny to call myself Murder He Wrote and, well, here I am four years later.
When did you come out as Murder He Wrote to your mates?
Oh within a month. I love spamming my music at people too much not to tell. I couldn’t keep the secret up.
Where are you coming from musically? There’s a lot going on in the melting pot…
I actually came from drum & bass. I grew up in this tiny village in the middle of nowhere and my first experience of drum & bass was youth club where the older guys would be playing it on the decks. That was my first entry into electronic music which led to DJing and production. Then dubstep and the internet exploded. I was pretty militant about drum & bass at the time but once I opened my mind to other genres it was like a flood gate of different styles and vibes. UK funky was especially exciting for me – the focus is on rhythm in a similar way to drum & bass. So I stopped at UK funky as a style that I can really mix everything into. I’m still discovering loads of old records and sounds that are totally fresh to me.
I was going to say – you draw deeply with elements of dancehall, reggae, soul… It doesn’t sound like you stopped at UK funky!
I’m a DJ first and a producer after so I that has something to do with it. Serato really opened things up for me like it did for a lot of DJs. Instead of being limited to just the one style I could afford on vinyl, suddenly I could play everything and really be creative. Also drum & bass – that melting pot of disco, dub, reggae, ragga. A framework defined by rhythm.
UK funky is like that too!
Without a doubt. I’m kinda new to the genre so I’m not tied to any tradition or rules – I’m just playing with ideas that really excite me and interest me. It seems like loads of people have come into the genre with lots of fresh ideas and sounds. They’re not copying that classic boom-clap drum pattern. It means there’s such an insane amount of cool music for me to play.
There’s a few key protagonists here, mixing up the styles like nobody’s business. Guys like Toddla T…
Just listening to his show is a real grounding point for me. He covers everything I like from drum & bass to UK funky to grime. All that in one show is so positive and exciting. It’s varied but the music shares a lineage; soundsystem music, I guess would be a good description.
On the flip side of being so eclectic, some artists are afraid to play or make so many styles because of alienating or confusing their audience. Where do you stand on this?
I think it can slow down bookings because promoters don’t know where to place you. Maybe labels would be cagey too. But ultimately to have longevity it’s important to do whatever you like and want to put out there. I could spend a year banging out a formula but I’d get bored and everyone else would too. Doing it eclectically and diversely is much slower but it’s a lot more grounded. Bottom line; I’m hoping there are people who share similar musical interests to me and will understand where I’m coming from. People listen to a lot of styles of music. Especially with the internet. It’s changed how we can access new music and discover things from all over the world. It’s amazing seeing my Soundcloud stats and seeing plays and comments from people in countries I may never even visit. That’s crazy!
Where’s the furthest you’ve played?
I recently came back from a Toronto show with Roska which was a super fun trip. I’ve also done a mini tour of South Africa. That was pretty early on in the Murder He Wrote project. Such a beautiful country and vibe. Most recently I’ve just come back from shooting a video in Milan with Night Shift Sound. I’ve just down a track for their latest album Night Shift Sound Vol 2
Night Shift Sound are a Manchester crew – how did you hook up with them?
From my first release on Roska Kicks & Snares. Mike, the label owner popped up on the promo feedback sheet and I knew of him from his days producing as part of Heavy Feet so I gave him a shout. I really like what they do as a collective so kept in communication. We’ve been talking about a release for a long time and I’ve wanted to get some house-ier flavours out there so when the compilation came about this was the perfect opportunity. I say house, it’s got a 4/4 kick but it’s still got a breakbeat and that pushed groove and funk to it. I’ve got quite a few ideas similar to it on my hard drive but it’s finding time while I’m working for Roska Kicks & Snares who are my main label.
I’m so lucky to be working with them. They’re really open to ideas and let me do what I like around the UK funky style and always encourage the best creativity from me. Roska’s been my earliest supporter and was the first DJ to play my tracks on the radio and really get behind me so it’s awesome to be working with him and releasing on his label.
Plus a hell of a lot of remixes! You’ve got things coming on Black Butter, Tru Thoughts and Tumble Audio
Yes… I just get really excited and say yes to everything then think ‘shit! I’ve got too much to do! Too many deadlines!’ Like last year I released 16 remixes and only four original tracks so I am meaning to cut down but people keep on coming to me with opportunities that are too good to pass up. So yeah instead I’m just trying to be a lot more militant with my time management. It seems to be working… There’s a new four track EP coming out next month on Roska Kicks & Snares!