Trying new things is imperative in the creation of music.
But the real skill is changing things up while remaining true to your original voice. The elusive the ‘same but different’ status is highly sought but as hard to achieve as anything in creativity. One producer that has managed to walk this delicate line is drkmnd. Amassing over million monthly Spotify listeners with his large, but varied, discography. Over his career the young British producer has been able to express himself in his own unique voice but keep things fresh every time. With some big projects on the horizon, we sat down with drkmnd to talk inspiration, process and the future.
Let’s kick off with ‘Hibernate’. It’s a very cosy, warm, full album. What is the concept behind this project?
Well I started making it around October/November time because I really wanted to put out a themed tape for around winter because, I don’t know, it just seemed appropriate for the time.
So it was exploring that idea of themed tapes?
Is that something that you’ve with experimented much?
Well in terms of making a tape for a specific season I would say ‘Hibernate’ is my first go at it but I always try to go into every tape or album with a bigger picture concept in mind. It helps me to see the big picture and then break it up into little bits, which eventually just becomes the tracks, really, I guess.
The project before ‘Hibernate’ was ‘Things Left Unsaid’. What was the process with that one in comparison to ‘Hibernate’?
Well for ‘Things Left Unsaid’ I was approached by Dezibelle Records to do a record for them. And because I never had anything on vinyl before I didn’t want to go too crazy experimental. I just wanted to keep it relaxed and kicked-back with just traditional Hip-Hop stuff. So the drums are, you know, a bit more quantised, a bit more synced up with the samples in that traditional way.
When you make music how do you normally approach it? Like, what’s the process normally like?
Well it really depends on what I’m making. If I’m working on a Lo-Fi project say, then half of the time I would pull up a plug-in or get the guitar or something and just, kind of, mess around until I find something that catches my ear or I think I can make into something. The other half of the time I already have an idea in my head of where I want to go and what direction I want to take the instrumental in and each layer of it.
Would you say that you mostly create original compositions or is it a mix of sampling as well?
So I used to try and keep it rigid. I’d be, like, okay, so I’m going to do x amount of sample tracks and y amount of compositions. Towards the beginning I just used samples because I didn’t really know. I didn’t really have much of an idea about compositions and stuff but then, as I got better, I moved to the 50-50 model but now I’m starting to go with, (in terms of Lo-Fi and stuff), more original compositions.
Do you have to be in a specific state of mind to create music or is it something that comes quite freely?
I would say it’s pretty free-flowing but obviously as most artists do, you get days where you’re just, you know, not really feeling it or you just whatever you make seems to not interest you at all or anything.
Yeah I feel you. I mean going through your discog, it’s incredible how much you have released. How do you maintain this level of output? How do you mitigate the creative blocks that artists can sometimes have?
So I don’t really. When you start out everything is fresh and brand new to you, so there’s loads of stuff that you can pull from or use. But then, as you evolve, the amount of that new stuff seems to kind of, shrink. So you have to look for more specific areas to pull inspiration from. My two main catalysts in that are movies and just listening to new music I’ve never heard before. Different genres and stuff.
And you find that keeps the creative fire stoked?
Yeah, it just keeps me on my toes and keeps me excited to see, oh, I wonder how is there a way I could make this sound? Or could I turn this into something else? It just keeps giving you things to play with in your head.
In terms of influence, who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
So I’m a huge Hip-Hop fan. Like, Old-School Hip-Hop, but I’d say some of my biggest influences are the producer, Apollo Brown, Sean Price. I also like old Eminem, Dre, Mobb Deep, you know, stuff like that. Just the real dusty, gritty stuff you can really get into. In terms of Lo-Fi artists I probably have to say Knowmadic was one of the first people who I’ve talked about Lo-Fi with. Also Oatmello, [lucky.s.] is up there with Arbour as well with some bigger ones like Samiyam. He was a pretty big influence on me.
You have multiple releases with multiple different labels. Like you’ve released with Chill Hop, Dust Collectors, Inner Ocean. What do you think about the rise of the Lo-Fi label/collective?
I think it’s good when it’s done correctly so you don’t just let anyone jump on. If you, kind of, keep it semi-exclusive but then you don’t just shut your doors to every single person out there. You’ve got to find the right balance between quality of artists and the amount of people you can afford to have on your label and promote at the same time because within the group you don’t want to create an environment where some artists feel that there’s favouritism going on or whatever.
What’s your take on the trend of signing releases rather than artists? Is that the way you see it going in the future or do you think it’s going to go a little bit more like the rest of the industry as the genre grows?
I think, from the label standpoint, I think it’s definitely a safer option because, you know, you’ve got that one project, you’ve heard that one project and it’s good so you can release and support it fully. But in terms of the artist’s point of view I think it’s okay but there could be more stability in terms of artists getting paid regularly. Like, you know, just making sure everything’s above board and everyone knows what’s going on. Whether you’re signed to a three-album deal or a five-album deal over a certain number of years for example. I think it’s going to be important in the future to make sure there’s an environment where it’s stable and it’s okay for artists to try and make it.
Yeah and I guess as well it gives artists more freedom to be experimental because they can they are covered for multiple releases.
For sure, yeah. It allows you to not worry about, you know, rushing anything. You can just take your time and making new, quality stuff.
So you are also a part of Death Lab Hip-Hop. Can you explain little what that is?
Death Lab is, kind of, a side project or alias between me and the rapper, itsWeirdScience, who is currently in the States. We decided to make a duo with me producing and him, rapping. We just wanted to see where we could take it and how far. So far it’s going pretty well.
How did it all come about? Did you hit him up or did it come organically or?
So it was, kind of, a bit of both? I mean, before I started making Lo-Fi and Chillhop beats my main goal had always been to produce for rappers. Making Lo-Fi is great within itself but I, kind of, see it as a different area as opposed to producing beats for MCs. So I always felt the need to work with someone else on something like that. So yeah we met, I’d say, about a year and a half ago now? He bought a beat from me and then we didn’t talk for about six months. I mean, we just made the transaction and then both went our separate ways. But then yeah, we started getting to talking again and we just decided to make a load of tracks and see what happened, really.
What’s the next step with it?
Well, at the moment we have a lot of different projects and stuff planned for the future and I’m currently mastering one now that is a big Hip-Hop album basically. Nothing Lo-Fi or really chill on it.
Oh that’s sounds interesting! Definitely look out for that one! So you’re from the UK. What’s your perspective on the UK Beat Scene?
So, a lot of the producers and beat makers that I’ve been in contact with in the UK, they’ve all, kind of, got their own individual style. As in, you can tell if this guy’s making beats in Bristol and this guy’s in Manchester, or whatever. So, every person I spoke to has definitely got their own individual view, I guess, of where the Beat Scene in the UK should be heading or, you know, going in the future.
Sure. I mean, it’s definitely on the rise but how do we take it to that next level from your perspective?
I think we need a lot more public repping that you’re from the UK. I mean, you know, if you’re making big moves or big deals or whatever, you need to put it out there. You’ve got to show your roots. I guess one of the ways to show the world that the UK has a beat scene is just to keep making dope tracks and then get into contact with the big, global labels. Places like the States and Germany and stuff, already have well-developed beat scenes so we just need a little bit of a push start into developing a UK scene.
Yeah I feel you. I think the UK scene needs to do is use the fact that we’re in such a small country to our advantage. Like do more things together across the country.
Yeah, that makes sense.
Do you see that unity factor is important?
Yeah, definitely. It should always be a big deal when lots of the same groups of people get together and do something. For example, like when they do NBA All-Star Games, when all the best players come together for a game, it’s a big deal. I feel like the effect that has on the fans can be the same if a load of artists, you know came together to make an album or something. I reckon it would resonate the same way.
Totally feel that. So last question, what can we look forward to from you in the future?
Well I’m working on a big Hip-Hop project for Death Lab. I’ve got an album coming out with Inner Ocean this year. I’ve also got an EP coming out in April, so that’s pretty soon and I have got an EP coming out with Dust Collectors in June. I’m also working on a, kind of, a collab tape with the Chillhop producer Nokiaa but, that’s kind of, in the early stages.
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