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Stepping Outside With Chimpo

 

The sun is set to shine over Manchester as one of the city’s finest underground exports returns with the soundtrack for your summer…

Following on from the success of 2020’s eclectic album HIA, Outside sees multi-genre aficionado Chimpo in album mode once again on his forward-thinking Box N Lock brand.

Set for release July 16, just days before the proposed lifting of restrictions on July 19, the eight-track project blends Chimpo’s love for UK jungle and West-Coast G-funk.

Following a period of enforced isolation at the start of the year due to Covid-19, Chimpo used the time inspiringly, catching a vibe and churning out the fun amalgamations that he’s become synonymous with.

At times giving the listener a unique glimpse into his nostalgia-laced memories of growing up surrounded by jungle, and at others seeing his forward-thinking hopes for the future, the album gives a cinematic view into the life of one of the city’s best-loved performers.

“I’m always looking to rep Manchester in everything I do,” says Chimpo, which is certainly the case once again with this project. Containing vocal features from next generation talent such as Salo and Nia Archives, as well as long-term collaborators including DRS, Trigga and Strategy, the project showcases the very best in Mancunian talent.

As usual, Chimpo’s larger than life personality shines through at the very fore of the album. His signature cheeky lyricism combines instinctively with his fellow vocalists, while his relaxed, sprawling delivery effortlessly surfs the bubbling beats below.

Huge fans of the project, we gave the man himself a call to hear about how Outside came to fruition…

We’re only a few days away from your new album Outside. How are you feeling about it all?

Yeah, I’m buzzing man! Really excited with it all. It all makes sense together. A lot of the stuff I do is quite sprawling; I do 100 different things in different styles and I’m always a bit all over the show, but this project has a dead set vibe. I did most of the making of it in a short period of time just in the zone, hammering it in. It’s all a bit summery and uplifting so hopefully people will really like that. We might even be out raving three days after so fingers crossed for that!

I think you summed it up perfectly there in terms of it all making sense. It’s clear there was a clear concept behind the album that you were trying to portray…

Well, the album’s called Outside so I wanted to make an album that felt like just that. I did a lot of the writing and everything at the start of the year when we were in lockdown with an unforeseeable ending. I wanted to make an album that if we were allowed back out could be the soundtrack to restrictions lifting, or if not, could be the kind of stuff you could listen to if you were outside barbecuing and getting drunk in the sun. I also thought it was about time for me to just do a project that was all drum and bass and jungle as that’s what a lot of people who follow me know me for. That’s then combined with the sounds of West Coast rap, G-funk and soul because that’s what I’ve been listening to a lot in lockdown as my kind of escapism. That’s the kind of vibe I wanted to inject into the project.

I definitely heard those influences man. So, all these tracks were made this year? That’s a quick turnaround to get them out…

Yeah, I’d say the lion’s share was made in about three or four weeks. At the start of the year, my housemate had Covid, so I had to self-isolate for a while. I was really in the creative zone throughout Christmas and the new year just hammering out tunes. It’s pretty rubbish just chilling on your own watching telly, so I was getting up and just going straight to my computer with my mic and recording until bedtime every day. Most of my production and writing was done in that time, and then obviously after that I had to get all the verses together from the features.

I was speaking with Sl8r at the end of last year and he was telling me all about the jungle you two had been making together. This project is also jungle in its production, so why is this a style you’re really trying to push at the moment, more than any of the other tempo stuff you’ve done in the past? 

I’ve always made a load of different genres and I always will but making old school jungle vibes is just me being at home. It was my first love and is what I grew up listening to. It’s also something that’s never gone away either. I spend all my time listening to old tape packs and stuff so there’s never been a stage in my life where it hasn’t been a part of me.

What were some of your earliest memories of jungle when you were growing up?

I’ll be honest with you, I heard hardcore for the first time when I was in primary school. I remember going to the library in about ’91 or ’92 and renting out a hardcore tape and just thinking ‘this is insane!’ I think my first experience of actual jungle was seeing General levy on Top of the Pops, and then after that going to the skatepark and hearing DJ SS The Lighter. After that when I went to high school, everyone was just listening to the Hysteria and Jungle Slammer tape packs. My older sister also bought Goldie Timeless when it came out and after listening to that I felt like I’d been opened up to a whole new world. From there I was like ‘this is what I want to do.’ I was dead set and stopped everything else; stopped skateboarding, being interested in football or whatever, and just focused on music.

We’re currently seeing a revival of jungle where people are really pushing that older sound. Why do you think we’re seeing this now?  

I’m really not sure. I do know that jungle resonates with people who are into other types of music like soul or dancehall, especially more than techier drum and bass. The way jungle is made up uses the same elements as soul, r’n’b and dancehall, combined with the hardcore and techno influences of course. I feel that drum and bass lost those kinds of influences along the way, so it lost lots of its initial following. It looks like it might be bringing it back for a degree. Jungle never actually went anywhere, it never actually went away. What people are making now is proper jungle as well; it’s not jump up with a ragga vocal or whatever. There’s a lot of stuff that has been mislabelled in the past, but jungle right now is in a really promising state.

And you mentioned the G-funk influence earlier as well. Was that another sound you grew up listening to or is that more of a recent passion you wanted to convey in the project?

I’ve always loved those beats, you know what I mean? Battlecat’s one of my favourites for example, and then there’s lots of other West Coast producers that I’ve always loved, so I’ve always had a soft spot for those sounds. However, in the last year or two and especially since lockdown, I’ve found listening to that music when I’m walking about outside to be really therapeutic. If you looked at all my liked music on Spotify, it’s probably 80% those kinds of vibes or those 80s soul sounds that have the same chords and progressions. I’ve also got better at making that kind of music myself, so I set myself the challenge of putting those kinds of sounds over jungle breaks. ‘Outside’ wasn’t actually meant to be my next album, I had another project there. Once I made my first beat with the G-funk sounds I just went into a zone where I was churning them out. I was dead inspired by it all, so it was all quite sporadic.

Another thing that stood out to me, like with all your productions, is how your personality always comes across. Whether you’re talking about linking up with Slay or rustling up Rustlers burgers, it’s unmistakably you. How important is it to get that bit of you into every track and really have fun with them as well?

I think it’s important to get yourself across in your songs. I’ve always been drawn to rappers where I feel like they’ve got character that’s shown in the lyrics. There’s a lot of rappers out there who I’d say are great rappers, but I’ve never gathered much of their personality from them. Like I recognise Nas is an amazing rapper, but he’ll never be my favourite because I never really catch his personality or whatever. If you take someone like Redman, you get pure personality and charisma.

I suppose it comes down to being as true to your craft as you possibly can be. If your work can be heard and characterised as unmistakably you, that’s got to be the most important thing as an artist…

Yeah, absolutely. When I’m making something, I want it to sound as ‘me’ as possible. If you do that as an artist, no one can compete with that because you’re at the pinnacle of your sound. If you’re just going out there to try and make something as sick as possible, someone else will come along and make it better, you know what I mean? If you’re just trying to be technical and impressive, someone will always come after and be more technical and impressive. If you make something that is unique to your character, the only way someone can match that is by copying your identity. You can never compete with being yourself.

 

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Absolutely. Let’s move on to some of the vocalists that you worked on the album with. Let’s start with Salo. I know you think very highly of her as an artist…

 Yeah man, she’s the little killer! She’s amazing, she’s my favourite artist at the moment, her writing is incredible. She writes stuff that is unorthodox but just sticks in your head, and her delivery, melodies and harmonies and all that is just crazy. I’ve been blown away by her since working with her, so we’ve got quite a few things we’re sitting on at the moment.

How did that link come about? Was it through Bloc2Bloc?

Yeah, so Banner who’s like my adopted uncle took her on as a DJ at Bloc2Bloc and is helping mentor her. I was aware of her, but we hadn’t properly met. She ended up messaging me asking if I wanted some keys and then after speaking a bit, I found out she sung so got her to sing on something. I thought I discovered her to be honest but she’s always telling me she messaged first.

Tell us a bit about the custom dubs the pair of you are putting together for Keep u Round. Why was that a little extra something you wanted to do with the release?

To make some money haha! It’s hard for us to make any kind of DJ money at the moment with everything. We were talking about it all and I said: ‘why don’t we just do some dubs?’ It gives us a little bit of walking about money in our pockets for the next few weeks anyway.

I suppose there’s that nostalgic element to it as well with jungle’s dub culture…

Yeah, definitely. I love all that shit. I’m always getting dubs, I’d have a lot more money if I didn’t! Any spare money I have always goes on dubs. I know how excited I am when I get to hear my name on a tune that I love, so when I do dubs for people and see they’re mad excited, that’s cool. It’s a buzz sending a dub to someone knowing they’ll be gassed to play it, especially as it’s now all about them. Saying that, the prime reason was definitely the money!

Another young artist you’ve got featured on the album is Nia Archives. You’re obviously an experienced figure in the Manchester scene now. Do you feel a responsibility to help bring through and showcase artists like Salo and Nia? 

Yeah, I suppose I’ve always had an instinct to help the young’uns in Manchester, especially if they’re good and I’m rating what they do. I like to check out what they’re doing and let them know if they want a hand, I can maybe help. With Nia Archives, she just crept under the radar though. I wasn’t aware of her for long but then picked up on what she’s doing, and I think she messaged me asking to work on something. To be honest, I’ve never properly chilled with her or anything. We’ve mainly spoken online, and she jumped on one of my sets one time. She’s sick though man, the stuff she’s doing is mad creative with a distinctive style and aesthetic. It’s like what we were saying before; you can’t compete with unique. She’s got a very distinct vision, or she’s just got such a unique perspective on it all.

And then you had to get the seasoned pros on there as well… 

Yeah of course I had to get a few of them on there. I’m always looking to rep Manchester in everything I do, so it’s just the regular gang really.

That always seems to be the Manchester way. Everyone helping each other, willing to collaborate… 

We’re all mates primarily, so if there’s a chance to jump on each other’s tunes, that’s just a bonus. Apart from [Abnormal] Sleepz, I’ve worked with all my lot a fair bit. The fact we’re work mates or whatever you want to call it is secondary. They’re my family, I’ve known most of them for 15/20 years and chat with them every other day.

We’ve spoken a lot about the past and the nostalgia of jungle on the album, but I want to finish with the track with DRS called Hopeful. What are you hopeful for in the future? 

I just want to get back raving, making some money, seeing everyone, giving them a hug. As soon as I can have all of them, I’ll be more than content.

Chimpo – Outside is out July 16 on Box N Lock

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