Riding the wave of a fruitful 2013, North London Grime upstart Reece West chats to SB.TV about his latest effort Poison, being on his best behaviour with Dappy and Devlin in Malia and his one weakness – Sambuca…
So tell us a bit about the track Poison…
The track is about the summer but also about a couple who are going through a difficult period in their relationship and they’re trying hard to make it work. The concept for the video was about this couple going abroad and giving it one last push, and the contrast between me having a good time and enjoying the summer vibes and the more emotional holiday that these two are having and bringing it together.
You guys went out to Malia, Greece to shoot the video right?
The video is really interesting – it reminded me of that show on BBC3…
[Laughs] Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents…
That’s the one, that’s the one – it looked like you guys were getting up to some naughtiness out there. If I snuck your Mum down on your next trip to Malia, what would she see?
[Laughs] Just me having a good time…[Laughs]
OK and what does that consist of?
It was priceless because Dappy was out there at the same time as me, along with Devlin and Jaguar Skills. Everyone was performing at the Malia Festival, a beach festival that was the biggest event out in Malia at the time. It all worked really well because I also went out there to shoot the video for Poison, Digital Dan filmed it and he was the main video guy for the Malia Festival along with ITV and so it all came together perfectly really. It was like fate man…
So you, Dappy and Deviln were good boys out there right?
It’s crazy. That was actually my first lads holiday, because I had a couple of friends that were out there as well and there’s this whole mentality of just drinking for seven days straight. I came back and was a bit of a state, I was just ill and slumped over for a few days.
Yeah, there was some interesting tweetage from you…
It was crazy out there, it was really good and I enjoyed myself – a week felt like a month [Laughs]
You’ve evolved over the years, I read you started out in a band before taking the stand as a Grime musician. Take us back to be being in a band and getting to know music…
When I was about eleven or twelve years old I started taking piano lessons, because I was always into playing keyboards and wanted to build upon it – but I only made it to grade one and got kinda bored. As I got older and into school I was listening to a lot of Grime and Channel U at the time was really big – I was listening to all the artists and watching all the videos – it inspired me to start writing some lyrics. Some of my friends were in a band, and I started playing guitar and bass, tried to produce…I’ve always loved music.
The band was called Odd Socks right?
Yeah, the band was a bit of a – [Pauses] a bit embarrassing.
We’ve all been there, believe me…
[Laughs] Yeah it was good though, it was a good experience. I was rapping over tracks, writing lyrics and playing bass. At time I liked the Arctic Monkeys, I liked covering a lot of their stuff as well as The Klaxons and a couple of their songs. That time still has an effect on the music that I make today, I still pick up the guitar at home sometimes and have a little jamming session.
Are you ready for vintage clips of the band playing in random school halls being posted all over YouTube?
I don’t think that there would be any [Laughs] maybe the odd track here and there but I think that they are locked away safely [Laughs]
So you played in a band, you’re a fully-fledged Grime artist and you model. You’re pretty versatile, what else is up those sleeves?
I wanted to do presenting when I was younger, and studied Media at school. I did work experience with the Discovery Channel and did a few different placements here and there building up experience and stuff like that. I was always doing raves as a Dubstep MC but that was more of a hobby, I loved hosting and being on the mic. Then I got the opportunity to do this music on a higher level, I am happy where I am today and how it’s progressed.
So what is your poison? I’ve read tweets from you that point to Sambuca shots, McDonalds, Midnight Munchies…
[Laughs] Sambuca is definitely a bit of a poison. I was at a mansion party up in Kent and that was for a new series that E4 are filming that I got invited down to, it’s called the Party House and it’s out in January. I think you might see a little cameo of me, drinking a bit of poison.
I read a piece in which you were expressing love for the Grime scene up north. You don’t see it too often where a London Grime artist looks outside of the London bubble to really recognise what’s happening up north…
I’ve always had a strong interest in Grime, you could always find me watching SB.TV and some of the other big YouTube channels like JDZ and P11O in Birmingham – the Nottingham Grime scene is getting massive. It makes me happy to see that Grime is not just a London thing anymore, it’s a UK thing. To be honest it’s mostly Birmingham and Nottingham that are pushing it more. You see Jammer bringing artists from all over the UK into Lord of the Mics to clash and showcase the talent that they have. I’m always watching the their sets online, and even the producers coming out of Birmingham that were doing Bassline and Dubstep before are now jumping on this Grime thing…it’s crazy some of the productions that I’m hearing, they are really intriguing.
Are there any particular acts we should be looking out for?
R.I.P Depzman, it made me so sad when I heard about him recently because he was one of my favourite acts coming out of Birmingham so it’s was really, really sad to hear about that.
JayKae from Invasion Alert is one of my favourites, he is really good. From Nottingham I like Jay Eye – look out for them definitely.
A few have observed that the grime artists coming up from outside London, are hungrier and more fiery because they won’t be handed anything on a plate and will be effectively seen as second in line behind all the London acts – have you noticed any of that?
I like the raw bars, lyrics and flow – it’s not watered down, they are chatting about their lifes and chatting about what they are going through. Then there is the production side with all the instrumentals, it all comes together really well. I like that sort of raw thing, which is kinda lost in London. Grime has adapted and evolved from what it was, in 2008 when everyone was saying ‘I’m gonna shoot your Mum, and kick your head in,’ [Laughs] but it’s still got that raw edge over up there as well as intelligent rhymes and similes and stuff like that.
On another level, I read a couple of tweets from you and others which you co-signed that seemed to suggest you being surrounded by disloyalty and fake people resulting in you having to burn bridges. You’re only on your second single and so when all this gets bigger for you you’re undoubtedly going to attract more of that…are you ready?
2013 has been a rocky road, it’s probably been one of my most successful years to date and one of the most fun and positive. You learn new things and I’ve learnt a lot this year like you have to burn some bridges and put yourself first sometimes, you have to realise what is important to you and go for it and that’s the only way you fully succeed – sometimes you have to be selfish. I’m not unhappy about it, it’s just the way things are, you get used to it – it’s life. Hashtag life.
You had quite a close relationship with Choice FM before it’s rebranding, I know you were interviewed by DJ Quincy at some point on air and had your first track Guilty played on the station – what are your feelings about the station’s new chapter as Capital Xtra?
I was quite shocked, but when I thought about it, when I went to my interview they had Capital FM and Classic FM in the same building. I did sense something was gonna happen, and that there might be a bit of a change going on there. I don’t think Quincy is on Capital Xtra, but big up Quincy – he was playing Poison on the last show that he did on Choice FM so I give him big props for that. He is doing his thing has well, I think he is doing shows on Soundcloud – so look out for him. It’s early days, I’ll have a listen to some of the Captial Xtra shows and the music that they are playing – hopefully they don’t make it too mainstream and keep the late night underground shows or the hours where they play all the upcoming UK stuff like Quincy did.
Can we expect a mixtape or an EP to follow Poison?
Yeah I am putting together an EP at the moment and the week just gone I just finished recording a new song called Silent Business so look out for that. I’ve got some ideas for the title of the EP but I don’t wanna release it too early.
So we are coming to the end of 2013, looking in and around Grime what have been your favourite songs of the year?
Ooh you’re putting me on the spot [pauses] near to the end of this year Drake’s album was massive. Quite a few of his tracks I’ve been playing a lot [thinks] I don’t know I’ll have to get back to you on that one…
I don’t have anyone in my life with this surname and I still don’t understand it, so I’m just gonna ask you – is West your surname from birth?
…Would you ever name offspring of yours North?
[Laughs] No…no [Laughs]
Does it make sense to you? Because I really don’t know anymore.
I don’t know what Kanye West was thinking to be honest, he’s a bit…it’s different I’ll give him that but I dunno. You might has well just called her Kilburn or something…[Laughs]
…and your actually from north west London.
Quite a lot of people assume that as well, that I’m repping west London but I’m a north London boy, you know what I mean?