Don’t call it a comeback… He technically never went away or stopped making music. But it’s safe to say there has been a lack of Foreign Concept tracks in the last three years.
Until now, as he’s just dropped two new releases. The thundering four-track Sticks EP on Critical Music (featuring Enei and Magugu) and a cameo on 1985’s Atlas 1 V/A album entitled Have On Me. With plenty more in the pipeline – plus a whole other dual life that’s given him a chance to have a positive impact on his local community in Bristol – it’s time we caught up with the Critical artist to find out where he’s at, where he’s been and what life is like when you look like Magnum PI.
Get up to speed…
That moustache man! That’s up there with Waeys’s and Posij’s mozza as one of the best in D&B. We need more moustaches!
We’re a growing movement. There are a few European artists sporting good moustaches now. It would be nice to see a few more in the UK. My missus isn’t a big fan, so I’ve had to make up for that with other gestures. But yeah maybe some interesting facial hair in D&B is due a resurgence?
I hope so! But this isn’t Moustache Growers monthly, it’s UKF… And we’re chatting about your comeback!
To be honest, I’m not billing it a comeback and I was dubious about it being billed as one because that suggests I disappeared completely but really the last few years have been about getting myself into a place where I don’t have to stress about making money from music. I want to keep the creative process as pure as possible. I love D&B, I love making it, but I feel that can be diluted when you’ve got an eye on trying to get bigger shows or do things for money.
I speak about this to so many artists. The happiest ones have other revenue streams. It can keep things pure in a sense…
Exactly. I think there’s a natural progression where you start off making a certain sound and, as your DJ career progresses, your dancefloors grow and they might want to hear something a bit more commercial or heavier. But I don’t want to do that. What I make might not relate to 10,000 people in an air hanger in Russia, for example. My music is made with more intimate situations in mind. Basically I don’t have to tailor what I’m making to maintain my DJ career and I just want to make the music I love making.
This is interesting. You started this way too, didn’t you? You were a banker for a few years and saved up enough to take time off and focus on production, right?
Oh wow I haven’t thought about that but yes. That was a conscious decision to get out of banking. I was 22/23 and I knew I didn’t want to spend my life doing that. But it paid well, so I did just bank a load of money to take some time away and learn production. Yeah so I guess there is an element of that. But also, in life things get more expensive. You have a family or a mortgage or whatever, so you do have one eye on that as you get older. You want to enjoy your life and you don’t want to be stressing over something you love. We all do this because we love it, right? There’s no other reason why you’d get in this deep unless you truly loved it and wanted to devote your time to it. You don’t get into it to make shit loads of cash or become a household name. So I’ve always tried to keep a steady line between business and passion.
What is your other job?
It’s a property business. When I moved to Bristol I found a warehouse and built six studios in it. I rented the others out so it would pay for mine. That led to me starting to find disused places and converting them. There was an old bank that had been empty for a few years and that’s now a coworking office space, we’ve converted a concrete testing plant that’s now a community centre. There are lots of other properties but those ones are the ones I prioritise as they’re jobs I’m really proud of doing and can see the benefit they have.
There’s a bit of the old rave DIY spirit to that!
Yeah totally. These places are properly dilapidated so you’ve either got big developers who just want to tear the place down and build another load of fancy flats, but if you’ve got the time, management and lower budget you can do something that’s a lot more accessible to the immediate community rather than trying to draw people in.
I love that. This sounds very demanding. Was there a point where you didn’t get round to writing any music for a prolonged period of time?
The thing I’ve found with making music is that I need to find proper chunks of time. People talk about flow-state and, to get into that mindset, you need to be on it every single day for five or six days, just doing it , doing it, doing it and getting into the rhythm of it. Basically grabbing little hours here and there just don’t work for me. And because of that, there were some periods of time when I had to put music to one side but I’ve made a lot of music during this time. I either didn’t have the time to promote it or DJ it. So lockdown sped that up. The first six months of Covid, I was stuck in my house and had nothing else to do so that was the genesis of this new batch.
A lockdown silver lining!
It is a bit. But I’m very conscious of a lot of my friends who haven’t had that luxury. A lot of DJs thrive off that synergy between DJing and producing, so when one side of that process was taken away, they lost their inspiration.
There were a lot of lost souls during lockdown
Totally. It’s really hard. Especially for artists who write music for dancefloors because ultimately that’s why you’re writing the music. It’s where the music is intended. So I’ve been very conscious saying it’s not been so bad for me. It was a silver lining though; I’ve got nothing else to do, I might as well make music.
I’m wondering… Champagne Nihilist and Have On Me on 1985 are on a deeper flex. Champagne Nihilist is a persy for me. It’s very Marcus-minded. Were you going back over your roots a bit during lockdown?
Quite possibly. Subconsciously, being away from the dancefloor, you don’t want to make hard tunes and I was listening to loads of music all the time. There’s only so much Netflix you can watch, so I was listening to a lot of music during that time. Also, because I’m less reliant on DJing to make a living I can allow myself to make more expressive musical material. This Marcus homage was definitely conscious though. It’s definitely a nod to that sound.
Now tell me about Magugu!
He’s based near you in south Wales! He’s a very interesting guy. He’s Nigerian and moved over to London when he was young and has moved around through various cities. Particle did a tune with him and when I heard his voice I loved it. that pidgin English style rapping, which is his heritage, but also the texture of his voice. it’s fierce! The track started a while ago when I did the track with Alex Enei. It needed a vocal so we asked Magugu and he smashed it. He makes all kinds of music, including loads of jazzy things. He’s so talented.
Is Sticks the oldest tune on the EP?
Yeah it was made when Alex was living in Bristol, so quite a while ago. Then I think I made Kultja, then Champagne Nihilist, then Last Breath most recently. I’ve made other tunes but we picked these ones to represent a lot of sounds I do. I made about 10 tunes around that period.
More to come, then!
That was back then… I’ve made more now, so I’ve got more like 30 tunes all finished! I send them to Kasra in batches and I leave it to them to arrange the releases. He’ll pick the ones he thinks works. I like leaving those guys to do that. They know the business so they’ll have a much better idea than me on what will work together as an EP. It’s another way to keep the pureness of the creative process then, too.
Ah nice. The business side doesn’t work for all creative artists.
Some people take to it really well and love that whole side of it. I can see why totally, but I guess it’s what you take from it. I do other business stuff, so I get that type of fulfilment elsewhere in life. Music is separate to that. So it’s nice to keep it just as music and not business as well.
I love that. So what comes next after Sticks?
Have On Me is out on 1985 and there’ll be another Critical EP much later this year, maybe early next. There might be something on another label, too, but it’s too soon to say. I’ve got a collab EP with another producer (I wont say who just yet!) that we’re just finishing the last track for. A lot of it is trying to finish things and working out how it’ll be released. Vinyl pressing delays have been a challenge. The Sticks EP was meant to come out months ago. So that pushes things back. But that’s a whole other story. There’s a lot of music coming and that’s what I’m happy about…