Sense MC: The Elephant In The Room

A quick bit of research into primal astrology before we begin, seeing as it’s Diffrent’s year of the Giraffe after all.

“Those born under the Primal Zodiac sign of the Giraffe are unique, vibrant and surprisingly delicate inside”. Considering Sense MC’s coexistence in the void somewhere between poet, wordsmith and MC and rolling with the moo crew, it seems that Sense may in fact be a Giraffe…Or not, Of course. Depending on whether primal astrology is your thing.

However, it turns out he isn’t a Giraffe, but yet an Elephant. The elephant in the room, the metaphorical elephant in a drum and bass themed room.

Sense has been inviting us all to gather round and listen closely to his brand of unique, vibrant and delicate lyrics for as long as he as been about. Either flowing true talk over down tempo, such as the elegant 2011 record 9 Muses with Lynx or more head-nodding steppers, his effortless style is something of his own USP.

Although the new album might conjure up images of a walk around your local zoo; with Elephants, Giraffes and even a Lynx, The Elephant In The Room is a record of three years in the making, with a few nudges and winks from the #BuyTheAlbum hashtag surfacing in forums and GiraffeCasts along the way.

Always focused on the more wholesome aspects of life, Sense’s words on the album have been left in the capable hands of some familiar names and faces from the Diffrent gang; Arkaik, Dexta, Philth & Amoss to name a few. Sense’s intrinsically honest wisdom flows throughout, guiding the listener through life’s lessons of inspiration, loyalty to the self and art. Having an obsessive compulsion towards making art can never be a bad thing. Finding beauty in broken things and remembering that ‘opinions don’t matter, ART does’ will produce only the finest of products.

A man of many words and muses, Sense talks us through the journey of the LP.

Before everything, tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re at and what you’re up to at the moment.

Well, hello there. I’m Sense. In real life, I’m lying in bed at 10 past 4pm on a weekday and I’m relaxing with some exotic herbs and coffee (de-caff to avoid the prang.) In music terms I am a drum and bass MC (amongst other things) who, I guess, has ticked most of the boxes there are to tick if you are a drum and bass MC.

I am blessed to be a part of the legendary Fathom Audio trilogy, I have just released a solo album on Diffrent, I have played all over the world and had a residency at Fabric and I have worked with the best of the best in the last few years including Randall, Dillinja, Goldie, Doc Scott, Zero T, Lynx and many more.. Clearly, I’m kind of a big deal and have a large office that smells of mahogany.

We can smell it from here mate. Who or what is the Elephant in the Room?

I am. I kind of always have been. And now, I have finally accepted my place as the metaphorical ‘elephant’ in this 170bpm themed room and I wear it proudly on my sleeve. Or T-Shirt. Be different and be yourself. It’s literally the secret to my success. Plus, elephants are cool. Obviously. I’m not the ONLY elephant of my particular species (there is a very powerful and rare ‘Northern Estate Elephant’ on the loose in the Manchester region that answers to the name of Del) but I tell you, if Codebreaker’s ear doesn’t get better then I’m afraid it’s going to become a very small herd. Endangered, one might say. Loads of sheep about though still. Alas, such is life these days. Instead of moaning I’m going to release music like this as I believe that is the best way to change things for the better. Keep the faith.

#BuyTheAlbum has been keeping plenty of people in suspense for three years now, how does it feel to finally unveil the result?

Absolutely unexplainable and occasionally overwhelming. I think doing a solo album is by far the most rewarding thing you can do as an artist. I’m very proud. I’m also very grateful to my friends and fam that made this a reality. Diffrent boss Dexta especially. It’s not even possible to put into words the journey we have been on since the day I decided to ring him and ask if I could put my album out on Diffrent Music. I suppose because I have released music on ‘bigger’ labels like Metalheadz, Dispatch, Soul:r, CIA etc I think some people expected me to go the ‘big star’ route but my album was never about that. My album is about the songs on it and that’s it. Dexta my fam. We had a plan and stuck to it. I just took a little longer than we thought haha. 

So it all started with a phone call and Diffrent was the right choice!…

I was thinking about where I should put it out where I’d a) have the artistic control I needed. And b) that I’d actually enjoy the process which was kind of the most important bit. Dexta apparently remembers where he was when I phoned haha. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast though. Great times ensued from that one call in hindsight. And hopefully some art which might last forever. However long that is. Diffrent is the most fun and rewarding label I have ever been involved with. People often talk about ‘family’ in music and sometimes it just makes me laugh. These guys are the real deal I promise you. Also, just look at the talent we have shone a spotlight on… Hyroglifics, Frederic Robinson, Arkaik, Krypticz. It’s a proper star factory! Anyway, Dex, Arkaik, Mauro, Leano, etc are my brothers and have been from day one and I know Diffrent will do amazing and unique things this year. Just like we always do. Moo crew.

And the producers for the album were always in mind?

Kind of, yeah. These people are my family though and you have to understand the budget we we’re working with. It was one multipack of crisps. So as you can imagine there’s been nightmares with everyone arguing over who gets the cheese and onion ones. This has been the very definition of labour of love from start to finish. I now owe all my contributors a ridiculous amount of crisps so if anyone out there has a cash and carry card I could borrow then hit me up.

Lynx in particular, another collab, what works well between you two?

Ummmm. Everything? Steve is quite possibly the nicest man in the history of D&B. I’m not sure if you knew that? We have worked together for years. Since his first album I believe, with For The Rebels, which I still love. He is an insanely driven artist with a completely unique and much copied style and I appreciate him very much. The stuff he’s released from his archives since he left his last label and ‘went home’ as it were, are amazing. There are 10-year-old tracks on there that sound fresher than 90% of the stuff out now! What a guy.

I’d have to agree on that. Tell us, it must have been difficult selecting 10 tracks to represent three years of work?

Sort of. Most people say they just did loads of tracks and picked the best ones. I didn’t do that. I knew every track was going to be on the album whilst I was making it. Personally, I think that makes them more special but that just me. Also, if you listen to your album very closely you may even find a few secrets sprinkled inside. You never know!

Any particular stand out moments over this time?

Performing it live. By miles. I did it last night, it was insane. I sat down with a stand and sheet music and everything. My Dad was there. It was emotional. I got through it pretty well I think seeing as it was all being broadcast live via DJ Mag and recorded for posterity b2b. I don’t think anyone has actually tried that sort of thing before. Pure nerve-racking. Luckily all my friends and family were there and we sailed through it. Pheeew. 

The album’s being pressed to heavyweight vinyl. Was that important to you?

It was really an attempt to minimise the tears of the beard-stroker crew. Nah, so first thing people need to understand is that this project is an album. And it was made as such. We are not releasing any specific singles except in video format. The product is the album. I designed it to be listened to in one hit i.e 30-40 mins.

There’s deliberately only 10 tracks on there (a la Illmatic). Now, the amount of people who will be playing the vinyl in clubs we have to acknowledge is gonna be tiny in comparison to the MP3 crew. But me and Dexta love vinyl. So we looked at the various ways we could do it without compromising sound quality too much and came up with this. 180g is actually way heavier than normal vinyl and I think it’s cut differently. There is no way of fitting all that info on the record and maintaining the clarity of one single. This is the compromise. We think it sounds great just putting it on your record player at home but if you MUST play it out on vinyl hopefully you won’t have people pointing at you and throwing things. Hope that explains it. Sort of. And huge love to Triple Vision for believing in the project and who’ve helped us sort out the vinyl for us. That’s what this album’s been like. 

There’s a range of different moods and styles, like Two Planets for example, is this something that reflects your approach to music and D&B?

That’s something that reflects my approach to life really, not just my music. My favourite albums are all journeys. So that’s naturally the path I chose. No journey is just smooth sailing is it? Life and art is like that in my experience.

Very true, so would you regard yourself a ‘hopeless romantic’? 

Occasionally, yes. Mostly when I’m watching Pixar movies or when I secretly want something off my missus.

And with that lyric in mind, what’s your favourite lyric off the whole album?

Oh god. That’s like picking a favourite offspring. I have a new favourite track every day. If you put a gun to my head right now it would probably be the ending of a song called Two Planets I did with Zero T which is a conceptual planetary science based love song revolving around two planets lost in their eternal dance around the heavens. Sounds a bit pretentious when I say it now but honestly it’s not really, it’s lovely. Even my mum likes it. This bar rounds off the whole story of these two planets who are in love catching glimpses of each other as they get dragged around by Al’s laws of space and time. It is also ironically the one lyric I fucked up on the live stream but hopefully I styled it out and no one noticed. It goes…

“Inevitably waiting for the death of a star.
Another Black Hole, we’re all scared of the dark.
Life’s all about perspective, wherever you are.
If you look to the night sky? At the right time?
They are together at last.”

Technically it’s just four  fairly simple multi’s but it actually ties the whole story up way more beautifully than I could have hoped for when I sat down to write it. Which was lucky.

What helps write your lyrics and what shapes that distinctive spoken word style?

My obsessive/compulsive need to make art of some description. Which has got worse if anything, 20 years after I started. They say it takes 10,000 hours to truly master anything. My obsession has put me there or thereabouts. I’d love to paint and sing but all I am really good at is writing poems and stuff. I’m inspired by everything I read and see. I especially like beautiful, broken things. (Another great album title there. I’m on fire). Yeah basically, I’m a writer so I just write stuff. Books, stories, poems, lyrics, Haikus, the lot. And as much as I’d like to be Eddie Vedder or Trellion I’m just me.

Any other elephants in the room we should keep an eye on in the future?

Jesse Writes and Raphael are two young writers I have met with bundles of potential. I really wish there was more young talent coming through but instead of moaning about it I’m actively trying to change things. The staleness of D&B MCing is obviously an issue but I think the best way out of it is to stick together and try and do better as a whole.

Myself included. I used to just shut MCs down but really I was just shooting myself in the foot. I have tried to apologise for the things I have done wrong and build some bridges but I honestly thought I was doing it for the right reasons i.e. raising the bar for everyone. Now I realise the art is the only really important bit. The rest is just details. I’m ashamed that it took both Codebreaker and Evil B to literally sit me down and explain to me why what I was doing wasn’t helping. But I think I now understand what they mean and am trying to contribute as someone in my position should. Basically, stop being a dick and make art. Good advice, which I am grateful to them both for.

Any further words of wisdom to leave on?

Well, as well as the advice from the last answer, when I was a little guy I was lucky enough to get some advice about 12 years ago from a guy I think we all look up to, Rodney P. I did my little show off rap to him and he looked at me and said, “ok, so you can rap, now here’s the main rule…ALWAYS be yourself”.

I was probably trying to be Jehst or whoever at the time. Looking back, he was right 1000%. I would have got nowhere if I hadn’t found my voice and stuck to it about 12 years ago. I was just another clone up until that point. Having your own voice is scary as it makes you vulnerable but if you really are an artist you must do it anyway no matter what the consequences. Opinions are not important – art is. Copying a guy and just changing the words a bit is not art. You stand out by being yourself. Not some clone of SP or Skibba. Be Diff(e)rent!! Always. Obviously, never give up. That’s a hard one. And if someone tells you to dumb it down my only advice is to do what I do and politely tell them to fuck off. Oh yeah, last one, and this is important, if anyone ever offers you money to advertise some shit you don’t care about? Just say no and put the phone down. Trust me on this one.

…and any final shouts?
AAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHH! Thanks for your time. Be lucky.

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