Few MCs have sustained an output as regular and high quality as Manchester-based T-Man. In 2022 alone, he has released on labels including Shogun, 1985, and Soulvent (among many others) and secured features with artists including Alix Perez, Sustance, and Operate.
For T-Man, this is business as usual. Since rising to prominence as part of the multigenre supergroup LEVELZ, T-Man has continued to impress longtime listeners and new fans alike with his upfront delivery, no-nonsense lyrics, and indomitable stage presence.
Whilst T-Man is a prominent voice in the minimal and techy areas of drum and bass, he is also not afraid to use his voice to explore new musical realms. Features with Kanine, Zero-T, and Samurai Breaks and 140s releases with Hypho, Monty, and Thelem confirm that T-Man is by no means a one trick pony, and can hold his own over various tempos.
We recently caught up with T-Man to chat about his recent output, sustaining a high-quality output, and musical diversity.
Let’s kick off by talking about your set at Hit & Run last night! Hosting Alix Perez for three hours sounds wild…
SP:MC ended up doing the whole night together, even the opening set! Four hours in the end. We’d never been on mic together before, either. Even though we’ve known each other for years. It was pretty good.
Not a bad way to spend a Monday night if you ask me!
No, not at all!
Did you manage to do a live version of Under Pressure? That one’s a heavy tune.
We did actually! We performed that one and Inferno. Neither got the pull up treatment on that night, but they have before… we performed together at Audio Farm a week before, and Under Pressure got a reload there. You can’t rewind the same tracks all the time, especially if you’re Alix and have dubs for days!
Aside from Under Pressure, 2022 has been a big year for you. Tracks with Samurai Breaks, Sustance, and Vektah… of course there are some producers you will naturally work more with, but why have you chosen to work with so many different artists this year?
Mainly because I know them all! I know PAV4N quite well, so Vektah approached me with a tune they did together and asked me to be on it. I’ve known Sustance for years… he used to record all the tracks I made with Thelem. Samurai Breaks was introduced to me via Sherry S. I just know all of them, and if they come to me and ask for a tune we’ll just get it done! There’s always a reason behind it and they’re all people I’ve wanted to work with.
Building contacts is so important in the industry!
Completely! When you work with people you know, it’s really organic. It just works. I met Vektah a few months ago at a house party and we tried to make a few tunes together, but when he sent me Echo Mode we knew that was the one.
I can imagine you get a lot of producers wanting to work with you, too.
I get quite a lot of shouts, to be honest. It used to be once a week, but since I’ve but out those tunes you mentioned it’s been more like one a day! Unfortunately I can’t work with them all, as much as I’d like to.
If you’ve got that many people wanting to work with you, you must have a few things in the pipeline at the moment…
I’ve got a few coming out on Overview… one with HØST, and something else with T95 on Elevate. I’m trying to slow things down a bit, actually! Give releases a bit more room to breath. I’m also chatting with Teej, Wingz, IYRE, and Hypho, and I want to make an EP or LP next year… There are also a few other producers I’ve spoken with who I want to work with, but nothing has come from that yet. I was speaking with Monrroe the other day. I haven’t worked with him yet, so that would be sick!
It definitely would! I haven’t heard many tunes from you with a soulful vibe, but the ones you have made are amazing. The Mystic State remix of Apollo, for example…
I’ve also been working with The North Quarter quite a bit! I’ll be hosting The North Quarter’s State of Mind Volume 3 studio mix. It’s a bit more chill than what I usually do, but I definitely want to make more music like that.
I love how your upfront delivery juxtaposes chill instrumentals.
I want to show people a different side of me!
Sounds like you’ve got a lot of work lined up for someone who is reining things in!
I just don’t want to be putting out forty or fifty tunes a year. The quality control could get a little worse. Now, I can spend more time writing, and see what happens! Working just as hard, just less output.
What’s the secret, then? How do you have such a high volume of output at such high quality?
I don’t know! I’ve just been writing bars since I was a kid. I started when I was eight years old! I’ve been known for writing bags and bags of lyrics. It’s a natural thing. There was a group of friends in my class, and we just started writing bars together and recording them on tapes. It was just something to do! There was no aim to the game, we were just doing it. Spitting in the playground in a circle.
You’ve been grinding since day one!
Yeah! Then you get older and people start reeling you in to do this and do that. It’s been good.
Duppying other kids on the playground must be a great way to build your confidence! Looking at your lyrics, confidence really comes through. Confidence in yourself is surely vital when producing new work?
If you’re unsure in yourself, you can’t do anything. A lot of musicians have that problem. I’ve had that problem before, too.
Confidence is arguably needed more by MCs, especially in a live setting…
The crowd will read it if you’re not confident! If you’re not confident and you tell the crowd to make some noise, they just won’t do it. When you’re MCing, you’re exposed. Especially if you’re on a big stage. Sometimes you can hide behind the DJ, but I prefer being in front of the crowd. You’re probably less confident if you hide behind the DJ, because then you know that the crowd can’t see you.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see you MC quite a few times in Manchester, and you definitely bring the energy. Local scenes are incredibly important for the genre.
Of course! Big up Rich for Hit & Run. If it wasn’t for that, LEVELZ never would have come about. Hit & Run helped with my confidence a lot as an MC. Getting in front of a crowd regularly for ten years!
Hit & Run are known for putting on a good mix of 140s and drum and bass events. How come you are able to go between 140s and drum and bass so seamlessly?
Being around LEVELZ and people like that. Loads of diverse musicians. Rich is such a diverse DJ. CHimpo chops between genres. I thought I would have to pick one genre, but being around those people made me realise I can just do both. If I enjoy it, I’m going to do it!
What made you gravitate towards 140s and drum and bass in the first place?
Going out raving! Manchester has always had a good mix of both. It’s just the music that’s playing, and if you have the bars to spit on the bit, you’ll spit on the beat! I was seventeen, and people I went to college with took me to them. Legal ones and illegal ones. At first, I didn’t know people MC’d over this kind of music! But I knew I wanted to get involved.
At the end of the day, who we’re surrounded by and what we’re exposed to shapes what we do. That goes for everything!
Of course! Before this, I MC’d to Grime, and that was it. Grime was all around my school, surroundings, and area. I knew about drum and bass, but I had never gone out and experienced it.
Why do you think 140s and drum and bass work so well together?
It’s just the bass! Raves and bass. To me, it almost seems like one thing.
Things which seem separate aren’t always that different…
Exactly! Alix’s set yesterday felt like one set. It didn’t feel like he played one 140s set and another drum and bass set.
It’s always good to be able to handle anything which comes your way.
It makes it more fun as well! You never get bored that way.
Speaking of handling things which come your way, do you want to work on more music outside of the realm of 140s and drum and bass?
If it came along, and it was right, then for sure! I just don’t get that many shouts for other bits. Most of the producers I know either do 140s or drum and bass. Even the new The North Quarter bits I’ve been working on are a new direction for me. A lot more jazzy. Making new things is a breath of fresh air.
That attitude is great for life in general!
You’re always learning!