Welcome to my very first artist interview for 4vinylloverz!
I’m so excited to be launching this new step for my blog, and I hope that you guys are as well!
I had the privilege of talking with a really talented artist that goes by the name of LIFE.
We sat down over a cup of tea and talked about his latest EP release, his personal love for music and vinyl and his recollections of the night of the tragic Grenfell Fire that happened on the 14th June.
NOTE: Please excuse the background noise within the audio (the interview was conducted in a public setting.)
There is a transcript below of the interview.
Rachel Camille: My first question is, what was the inspiration behind your name?
LIFE: It was originally Lifelines. The meaning behind Lifelines was the whole thing of being in control of your whole set up in every situation you’re in or about to go in. Cos a lot of people go through things and they don’t realise that they like to blame other people or shift the blame. And it’s very easy to do that. The hardest thing is to say , “you know what, I put myself in that thing”. And that was the whole thing behind Lifelines. But over time, I kind of just grew out of the Lifelines thing and I just felt like LIFE was a bit more general for me and it just covered more aspects.
Rachel Camille: Why music? What is it about music that made you say “this is me”, “this is how I want to express myself to the world”, “this is what I wanna do”?
LIFE: The music… It started off as poetry; it was poetry first. And I had a friend who I went to school called the Oratory around the corner. And me and this guy were the only black people in the school. Literally the whole thing.
RC: The whole school?!
L: Yeah it was white; Tony Blair’s kids went there. So the whole school was just white. Me and him were literally the only two black people in the school. And he was into music as well. Where I was writing poetry, he was saying “I like that, but you could make that into rap”, (cos he was already into the rap, he was in it, his brother was a rapper) and um he was just saying to me the poetry thing is cool, but if you could find a way to translate that into rap, it would work. So um yeah that’s how it started. It started off as poetry.
RC: So you started off with poetry. So would you say that you’ve always taken music seriously then? It’s always been a part of your life?
L: To be honest, when I first started the rapping thing, I didn’t really know the direction I wanted to go into. I had to go out of my way and listen to music and naturally the kind of music I gravitated towards, was your Talib Kweli, or like your D’angelos and your Commons and stuff. And when I heard that music, I thought ‘nah i wanna do that’.
RC: OK, so, back in April, you released your EP entitled Fix. Can you tell me a bit more about the EP i.e. the inspiration behind it and what you love about it personally?
L: I’ve never actually explained this to anyone. The main thing behind it was… first of all, I never used to smoke right. So I started smoking and stuff about two years ago and it was through this chick. This chick that I started seeing was like a heavy smoker, but she was into the exact same music as me so it just kinda… I just got drawn out … she just kinda drew me out, so I just started smoking basically and then it kinda went a bit pear shaped with her. But the whole thing behind FIX was, when we went our separate ways, I still had feelings init. And that EP is solely about her. It’s like a metaphor. It’s like, taking the drug in substitution for the girl. Does that makes sense? So yeah, when I kind of fell out with her, I just found myself smoking twice the amount and I was doing a lot of overthinking. But the overthinking helped; some of it was a bit stressful, but other parts of it made me come up with the music.
RC: As a kind of side-note, is that why you have the female commentary running throughout the EP?
L: That’s the actual girl. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t know that I’ve even done that. But that girl’s the actual one. That’s why I wanted to call it FIX, cos the lead song is ‘Fix The Feeling’. I had that song before I formulated the rest of the EP. The whole thing behind FIX was that, I’m taking this drug as a fix, to substitute a fix of you.
RC: That’s cool, that’s cool. I’m liking getting into your mind and stuff, cos I’m able to find out this stuff for myself. That’s pretty cool. Um, so I’ve loved the EP, cos it has that nostalgic, summery, hip-hop vibe to it. Would you say that you draw inspiration musically from the old school sounds of hip-hop, R&B and soul?
L: Yeah, definitely. D’angelo is like a music Bible to me.
RC: (excitedly) YES! I agree 100%.
L: He’s just too ill. He’s way to ill. D’angelo, Questlove, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, even Jungle Brothers, The Pharcyde – all of that kind of stuff I just love. And to be honest, this kind of stuff – the newer stuff , like the Neo-Soul, 90’s hip-hop stuff – is what crafts the music, but the general overview of my inspiration is the stuff before them, the stuff that inspired them. Prince, Hendrix, Anita Baker etc.
RC: yaaaaah! On Monday, you released a new track called ‘No May In June’, in honour of the victims and those affected by the Grenfell tragedy. In light of everything that’s happened in the last few months, would you say that music is also another way for you to channel any anger that you may have, particularly towards the government system, or just with the way that the world is general?
L: Yeah I definitely feel like that. And even with the ‘No May In June’ thing, it’s mad. I don’t know if you’ve seen on twitter, I put a statement of why and how the song came about. Long story short, I was actually meant to be in that building. I’ve got a friend who lives in there. Her dad’s a DJ, so he DJ’s in Ibiza for 90% of the year. And um, I was with my friend Angel, he’s a musician as well, he’s a British singer. But we record in a studio around the corner from Grenfell tower. And she told me come round for drinks and stuff. So I said “alright cool, I’m just in the studio, when i’m finished, i’ll come over there”. She told me, come for 1am. She had two friends coming from Croydon, two from down these sides. My mans computer wasn’t turning off. At 1 o’clock, he was still there mixing things and he had spent the whole day in there. When it came to leaving, his computer was giving him the runaround. He couldn’t just shut it down, cos he’d lose the entire days work. So we had to call an engineer to come and sort it. That ended up taking a next hour. And when we came out ready to go, we just looked up the road, and we just saw it. It’s just a blessing blud, the way these kind of things happen. Cos had we left at the time, it would’ve been a different thing.
RC: This is the thing, as just a side note, I think a lot of people take for granted the fact that, a tragedy such as Grenfell, it could’ve been them. And my personal opinion, I feel like the government typically overlooks things such as this, just because it’s a certain demographic of people, and they can’t relate. But I think people need to recognise that it could be anybody. And it was everybody.
If you are reading, please just take a moment to reflect on the Grenfell tragedy. We must never forget those who have departed, especially because we are still clueless about those who are “missing” from the fire.
We must never forget.
RC: In general, when creating, where do you gain inspiration for your lyrics and flow?
L: To be honest with you, because I’ve been inspired by the similar artists for so long its kind of embedded in me naturally when I hear something, I just naturally am just geared towards a certain flow or a certain way of doing things. I like listening to everything. There’s a lot of new people; like J Cole I think is bad, Kendrick’s bad, even Drake is bad at what he does. But sometimes inspiration comes from random shit. So like, I’ll listen to Jazz, Billy Joel, or like Dexter Gordon, or just someone different, you know what I mean?
RC: What comes first for you – the lyrics or the music?
L: *chuckles* It depends. For the most part it’s the music, cos that’s what kind of gets the pulse going. But it’s mad, cos inspiration can come from anywhere. I can just be outside, I’ve left my earphones at home, and I’ll just think of a lyric, I’ll see something and just think of it. And I’ll have to battle to remember that until I get home. But yeah for the most part it’s the music that comes first.
RC: You have your own record label, Crmxsda Records (Cream Soda Records), under which you released your EP. What made you decide that you wanted to have your own label or have something that was yours?
L: Do you know what it was, I’ve been very close to people who are deeply embedded in the industry and I’ve seen how shit goes left sometimes. And it’s always been very close to home. And I’ve always thought to myself, I’m not really on jumping in that, you know what I mean? I’d rather just have my own set up where I know I can do anything I want. and it just makes more sense to me.
RC: I agree 100%. I think a lot of people, if they’re not in the music industry they have a lot of assumptions as to how things go, but they don’t see the realities of things. So what difficulties do you face being an independent artist would you say?
L: um, I guess the biggest difficulty is tryna build up the awareness for what you’re doing. When you’re signed, you’ve got like a colossal machine behind you and they’ll just put you in every position you need to be in. But when you’re independent , the groundwork just needs to be impeccable. I feel like, it’s not a one man job. You need to have maybe 2 or 3 people around you, just a team of people around you, that are as passionate about your record as you are. Like one person who might just be doing it for the paycheck; it has a ripple affect on everyone whether they’re in it for the money or not. That one ill thought of ‘OK, I’m just in it for the money’, it’s not good.
RC: What’s great about being an independent artist?
L: You can do whatever the hell you want! You can put anything out, whenever you want. You’re not worrying about release dates, you’re not waiting on the marketing guy, or the PR guy or any of that jazz, you’re just doing whatever you want.
RC: And you’re in charge of what you create as well isn’t it?
RC: So what can we expect from you musically in the future? Any collaborations with other artists or a plan for a full album?
L: A full album? To be honest I’m thinking about it. I had like an idea of a demo series. FIX was a demo; that’s the way I’ve styled it. I went out of my way to record it like a demo, that’s why it sounds very old.
RC: I love that retro sound by the way
L: And that was genuine. I literally used vintage mics, and tape machines and everything to get it how I wanted. Even the musicianship, it wasn’t like beats that were sent to me. We were all just like chilling in the studio and they’re just jamming and vibsing and I’ll like that and make that into a song. But um, for future releases, I just wanna do demos. I like the idea of giving someone something, not necessarily that isn’t finished, but giving someone something that I don’t know what the end result is. I’d rather start something, give it you and you can tell me how you like it or what you wanna hear.
RC: I think , having listened to the EP, it doesn’t sound finished but I like that. Cos it leaves me expecting more from you.
RC: So moving onto the vinyl element of the interview, when did you start collecting records and why?
L: um, when did I start?… I probably started about two years ago/two and a half years ago. My mum used to have loads of them – or she claims she had loads of them. When I started she only had 50, but she claims she had 100s. Anyway, she had about 50 at home. And um there was this YouTube series online called Vinyl Collections, it was by VICE, or someone along them lines, where they went to different celebrities, producers, artists . They dug up J Dilla’s collection, they went to Swizz Beats, they went to everyone you can think of. Anyone in our world, all them producers, the vital, integral people in our world are all vinyl collectors. So I saw the kind of records they had and I was hearing music I have never heard of before on vinyl – and they just know it. The way everyone in that circle just knows , the year that D’angelo came out or what went into this (etc) and I thought, ‘nah, i need to jump on that’. So I started once a week – there was a shop two roads away from my house. They only dealt with original presses. So anything you find in there, is from the original year. They were mad expensive. But this guy, he saw me come in there, and he started this thing called the Pound Crate. So he had these amazing vinyls, just in a crate for a pound. I used to go there at least 5 times a week, and just spend £20 on vinyls and that’s how it kind of started. I’ve got over 1500 now.
RC: Collecting records becomes an addiction! It can make you broke! I’ve had to stop myself now.
L: How many do you have?
RC: ooo I haven’t even counted. Maybe about 50. I started collecting in October last year. What are your top 5 favourite albums that you own on vinyl?
L: D’angelo – Voodoo, Anita Baker – Rapture, Aja by Steely Dan; I dunno if you’re familiar with Steely Dan. They’re like a jazz rock band, but they’re amazing. umm Off The Wall by Michael Jackson. Common – Like Water For Chocolate.
RC: Those are some good choices! Name your top 5 favourtie artists of all time.
L: D’angelo *both laughs*, Common, Nas, Jill Scott. You know the thing, I really wanna say Lauryn Hill. I’m like an inch away from it. But, I just have to be fair on myself. I think I would put Erykah in there, only because with Lauryn Hill, it sounds a bit deep but it’s just one album. With Erykah, she’s been Erykah for years, you know what I mean?
RC: Literally. That’s always the struggle. I always wanna put Lauryn as my favourite as well, but it’s only the one album. Obviously I love her to death, but I always pick Erykah over Lauryn for that exact same reason. So the 4vinylloverz slogan is ‘Yesterday’s Memories In Today’s Music’. What memories do you hope to create within your listeners? i.e. what message do you want to give them? How is it you want them to feel after having come into contact with your music?
L: That’s a good question. Do you know my thing, I’m very open about love in my music. A lot of it is um, it’s not soppy or anything, but for the most part, I’m not afraid to talk about emotions or how I feel. And for the most part, I want people to be able to listen to that and just feel like, you know what, it’s not always about having this facade, about having this image and not being able to speak about how you really feel. Apart from Drake, I can’t really name you artists that are global that don’t care about talking about emotions. And I think that’s admirable. And I think, when push comes to shove, emotion’s the one thing that we all have in common, you know what I mean? And it’s good for people to listen to something and feel like, “you know what, I connect with that, I relate with that”.
RC: OK, so can you tell us how we can follow you and listen to/download your music?
RC: Well I just wanna take the time to say, thank you so much for agreeing to do this. If you guys could see me, I’m grinning from ear to ear cos this has been fun. I’m chilling drinking my drink , got records as well, so yeah, we’re just gonna have another chit chat and that’s that. So thank you so much!
L: Nah man, it’s all love!
*END OF INTERVIEW*