Debut albums aren’t meant to be easy. The accumulation of an artist’s life, inspirations and abilities so far; future echoes of where their heading; the fact they never get a second chance to make another one. In the case of Trex, there was a point where he was feeling like he may never write another one…
Cue: High Time, Trex’s debut LP on Randall’s Mac II, a label that’s championed the London-based artist since 2013.
Two years in the making, but closer to 10 years in the germination stage (and a few more years soaking it up as a fan and a DJ) High Time is the sound of Trex investing every ounce of time, energy and creativity into leaving his own mark on a sound that’s driven and inspired him since childhood. It’s also the sound of him reflecting over lost loved ones and the sound of him settling down with a family with vocals from his wife Ella Jones and an image of his son on the cover. Perhaps most pertinently, though, it’s the sound of a man who can seriously roll out.
Whether it’s his Bristol and London influences, the fact that he’s been hanging with Randall for the last few years or the fact he’s been on this for years, gradually honing his craft in a classic slow-and-steady style that always befitted D&B’s old (sometimes forgotten) tradition of taking time over releases and not rushing any old guff out. Whatever. High Time is both deeply personal to Trex and highly vibey to anyone who appreciates a roller in all its many shades from soulful to savage. And this is its story….
I always thought you were from Bristol but you sound pretty London to me…
I was born in north west London but moved near Bristol from age 11 and lived there until I was 20 before moving back to south east.
Musically there’s a Bristol vibe to your sound, though… Rolling.
Yeah I grew up around that sound when it was all kicking off. That was my education. Full Cycle used to do a weekly in Lakota’s Room Two, testing dubs before they went off to play their gigs over the weekend. You’d hear so much amazing music. They’d have the reggae sirens and smoke machine in there. Proper sweaty little room. That definitely inspired me.
You can hear that classic sound in your music. Not surprised Randall picked up on you the way he has over the last few years
He’s been so supportive, it’s been incredible. A lot of the older heads have picked up on what I do, especially with the album, it’s mad really. Very fulfilling because they got me into this in the first place. I feel very lucky in that sense.
I think it’s more about skills than luck. You’ve been doing this for a while now, right?
Off and on yeah. I wish I started to produce earlier but life never went that way.
In what way?
My life got messed up in my mid 20s and I lost a few years, then I met my missus, settled down and started up a hog roast company. But I was always making beats when I could. Like with the album I just wanted to leave my mark on drum & bass and have something to show for the time I’ve put into it. So if I quit now, I’ve left a body of work I can be happy with. That was the idea when I started the album two years ago but I’ve had loads more attention and cool things happen since then so I think I’ll crack on.
Still cracking on with the hog roasting, too?
Nah. I did it for three years and it kinda became too successful. We ended up running two pub kitchens in London. I wasn’t even a chef to begin with and I was doing this! It was mental and it all got on top so we sold the company and got out of there!
So all that time you were writing tunes?
Yeah when I had the time. But in the last two years my missus, who’s a musician as well, she’s had a lot of work on so I’ve been able to spend more time on the album. That’s why it’s come together quite well.
So can I ask what happened in your mid 20s before all this?
My father died when I was 23 and the fall out from that lasted for years. It was very hard and painful to deal with so I spent a lot of time escaping that, going out and all everything that comes with it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great laugh with my mates, but it took its toll and then I met my missus Ella and my life turned around. But yeah there’s a track dedicated to my dad on the album.
That must have been a heavy one to write?
It was quite emotional. If I’m a bit tired or vulnerable when I hear it, it hits me. I never really talked about it for years, this song is me expressing myself.
That’s awesome. You said your other half’s name is Ella, is that Ella Jones who’s sung on some of your tracks?
She is! She’s a proper gigging musician who’s put in so much work it blows my mind. You know the classic old school musician path of just smashing the gigs for years and years until people pay attention? That’s what she’s done and it’s paid off. She plays piano and sings and has some great residencies in London and teaches music as well.
Amazing, what’s it like jumping on a track together?
We don’t actually work that well in the studio, we start arguing! The politeness you might have in a collab with another producer just isn’t there. So I’ll tend to put up an idea and she’ll come in and do her thing and we’ll work that way. It’s really nice having her vocals to work with though. Quite special.
Speaking of vocals how do you know Doc Brown, he’s a well known comedian as well an MC!
He is. We met at a London Posse gig. Some mates knew him and it turned out his wife went to the same school as my wife. I was a bit drunk so I was like ‘I do drum & bass, you fancy getting on a track?’ He was up for it, I sent him a beat and he came back with an idea within a few days. It took a while to come together and get the video done, but I’m really pleased at how it’s come together.
Earlier on you seemed surprised that thing were beginning to really take off for you and that there was a sense of you maybe quitting. Please say this has all changed now?
Not quitting, I’ll always have a tinker, but I was definitely thinking of not putting so much time into production. But yeah I’ve had more stuff signed and I feel I’ve developed my sound during the process. I made it a mission to put something out that’s special to me personally. I’ll always hear things I want to improve in my mixdowns but I do feel I’ve improved or developed my sounds during my album process.
I imagine you’ve developed a personal theme to the album as well. Who’s the kid on the cover? Your son or you when you were younger?
Yeah it’s my son! I have to shout out my mate who’s got a design company called The Tin. He hooked me up and got one of his staff to do it as a project. We explored a lot of avenues and he did drafts, it was a proper professional experience which I’d never been through before. She took the picture of my son and developed it. It was actually taken at Glastonbury. You’re right it is a very personal album right down to the cover.
So an album should be! Especially a debut; summing up your thoughts, passions, influences, inspirations and everything that’s made you up to this point.
Definitely. I put a lot of blood sweat and tears into it. Please spare a thought for my poor wife and son who’ve have had to listen to every track of this album at least 1000 times before I was happy so I think they’ve put in a lot of hard work too!