Artist Feature: NTS WIP participants 2020 - part two

Click here to listen to part two of the NTS WIP Participants 2020 radio show.

This month’s Carhartt WIP Radio show is a special feature, which delves into the work of multiple artists, each of whom is part of the 2020 installment of the NTS Work In Progress artist development program. The mix has been carefully assembled by NTS’s very own Charlie Bones – host of the station’s stellar weekday morning show – in collaboration with each artist.

A diverse and eclectic array of sounds feature, with contributions from London-based group Babeheaven – known for their woozy trip-hop sounds and introspective lyrical approach – as well as Jaxxon D. Silva, a rapper, also based in London, who brings a brooding, melancholic quality to proceedings.

Nazar – who is based in Manchester, by way of Belgium and Angola – showcases his warped, industrial aesthetic first seen in full on his debut release in March of this year. Meanwhile, Malian producer Luka Productions draws on his own cultural heritage, merging elements of West African music with expressive hip hop.

There’s also contributions from Paris Aden, who has previously produced incendiary beats for the likes of Lil Pump and Bbymutha, while also releasing solo projects such as 19 & Drifting (2020); LA-based multidisciplinary artist Slauson Malone, who employs a bricolage approach to sampling; and VIOLENCE, the New York-based single-person band, known for their dense, murky mix of everything from black metal to grime. The final contributor for this month’s show brings it back to London, with Nala Sinephro, a Caribbean-Belgian composer, producer, and musician, known for her shimmering, synth-laden harp sounds.

To complement this aural journey, we also spoke to each artist, touching on their career to date, and how each of them is crafting their unique sound under NTS’s mentorship. Please read part one of our interviews below.

Paris Aden

What does the participation at NTS WIP 2020 mean to you? Do you think the program can elevate your artistic expression as well as your career?

Paris Aden: It's cool and useful. But y’all know I don’t really give a f*** about none of this music s**t, I could not do a damn thing and be perfectly fine with life, but I guess this jawn gives me something to do and I appreciate it, thank y’all. Honestly, I think the NTS team is just some f***ing geniuses and so genuine. The concept itself is genius. The team inspires me, they are the future of radio, and I'm honored to be considered part of the family.

What are your favorite NTS Radio shows and why?

Paris Aden: I don’t have one, I don't even listen to my own show. But I be looking for the bad b****es that's on there. Talented b****es inspire me so if I spot a lil somethin’ on the IG page, I might click. It's always some super foreign s**t, I love it, shout out to them bad foreigns cause these American pieces ain’t on s**t.

How did you first get into music and performing?

Paris Aden: My cousin made beats on FL studio way back and I saw him and was like “this is how music is made, I can do that s**t”. Travis Scott: Don't Play was my favorite song at the time and I had a new Macbook with garage-band so I got bored one day and hopped on there, learned a bit of the program in about five minutes, and remade the beat to that song. Eventually, after days of trying to perfect that, I completed it. I was amazed. Anything I've ever done, I've capitalized on. I said “I’ma do this s**t foreal” – it's the best decision I've ever made.

What is your creative process like?

Paris Aden: How I developed my sound and what I find as my best and most degrading process: I usually just starve myself for a few days, not sleep, basically lightly kill my body. There’s a literal high or rush I get from that. I only get inspired if I feel like I'm dying... It makes me jump up and force myself to dig into the deepest pit of myself.

The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the political and social role of artists today?

Paris Aden: All I’ll say is, if you don't claim as a Panther, you are not helping. My whole purpose is to use my platform for the future/world. I'm too well off to ignore or act like I don’t know what's going on, and I’m too intrigued to not intervene as hard as I can. Honestly, everything I do is for everyone else, I think that's why I took up DJing or whatever you call it. My purpose is to be Godlike/like God – to create. The only reason I even considered DJing is seeing so many of my close friends making music, and me having the NTS platform to put them out. I could have just done that one guest mix and called it a day, but I just love my friend's dawg. Thank God for them, am I right?

How did you first get into rapping and who influenced your first steps?

Paris Aden: People weren’t trying to pay for my beats back in 2018 or at least riding my beats right. So one day I was making the Paris Corleone beat and was like, “Let me show these niggas I don’t need them.” Since then I’ve recorded two more songs and that's it. I may dabble again soon, being a rapper is fun.

How do you write your lyrics and what is the main influence on your words?

Paris Aden: I don't write when I do record, but I feel like every recording artist raps, sings, does poems, or whatever like how they actually talk in conversations. Like I’d say something like, “Vietnamese strip club, ordered bun bo hue like extra pig feet extra blood” – that's because I just came from the Vietnamese strip-club and had ordered bun bo hue with extra pig feet and extra blood. It's all real, I’m talking to you.

What makes a good song for you?

Paris Aden: If the ladies can shake their ass to it, it works.

What music did you grow up listening to?

Paris Aden: Dirty south and dirty south only was played from age zero to six. Then, when I was around my grandfather more – he was also a DJ –  at his house, all he played was blues and jazz. At eight I received the gift of Guitar Hero from my cousin and got introduced to heavy metal and rock. I was immediately intrigued and actually picked up the guitar at nine.

You produced music for Bbymutha and Lil Pump, what was your introduction into the world of producing and can you guide us through your production set-up?

Paris Aden: Producing sucks, thank God I have multiple occupations. At first, money-wise, you don't make s**t, you get any respect, and the fact you're just diving into that not knowing anything sucks. But luckily I’m a survivor, I’ve prevailed through the bulls**t. Honestly, I’m still going through it to this day, it’s like if it ain’t one thing, there’s a-f****ing-nother. Anyways, my set-up is basic, I don't use keyboards or none of that s**t – it's for p***ies. I just need to be able to pack my set-up and go anywhere, so basically all I’ll ever need is my laptop, a good speaker and headphones. DJing, set-up wise, I don't like using a mixer or board or whatever they be using  – that’s also for p***ies.

In your opinion, when it comes to hip hop these days, who's at the top of their game and why?

Paris Aden: My friend BBY KODIE, tap in and you’ll see why. I’ve seen him go from nobody showing up to his show, to him still working and being able to get around the country to perform. He’s been through a lot, I’m so proud of that boy. I’ll slap the shit out you bout my nigga Kodie. I love when niggas try and talk down or act like they poppin’ s**t, so I can be like ‘Kodie been did that.’

You are from Port Arthur, Texas. How has the music scene in Texas influenced you?

Paris Aden: Completely. My home is the center point of every culture. I hear it in every wave of music from all over the world. From traveling I've realized we are the base structure for everyone’s inspiration, the slowed-down swag, “DRIP”, the lean and double cups. I get to see it firsthand so I’ll stand by that s**t. Not gonna lie, music-wise, Texas did not inspire my sound. We have that slowed down s**t, but I always like turnt up moshpit s**t. I see why we connected with Memphis niggas so hard, like Three 6 Mafia. And saying that, I see why me and Bbymutha connect so hard. 

Nazar

What does the participation at NTS WIP 2020 mean to you? Do you think the program can elevate your artistic expression as well as your career?

Nazar: Yes, totally. I believe that it will amplify my broadcasting signal to new ears thus partly justifying why I make music in the first place: To make people dance, think, learn.

What are your favorite NTS shows and why?

Nazar: I.D.S.T by Shannen SP. For being the very first shows I listened to on NTS and one of the first shows I’ve got invited on to mix. Shannen knows what’s going on musically in many parts of the globe and her show is a bridge between the UK scene and a big part of the African diaspora, where our sounds have a central place on her shows.

How did you first get into music and performing?

Nazar: Right after moving to Angola. In Luanda, beat-making was a reality of some of my classmates, so I quickly found out what FL Studio was before getting it on my father’s laptop. That was how I would make up for the time being alone.

What is your creative process like?

Nazar: I believe that I have a distinct process that is hiding under layers of the illusion of randomness if that makes sense. I’ve never sat back to consider my creative process, but now that I’m doing so, I realize that most of the time, it starts with a feeling triggered by the consumption of another medium. Especially films, but also memories and documentaries. Also words – written or spoken.

In films, a specific emotion or a scene can get the ball rolling for me. I’ll stop watching and start to materialize the idea I got because of a scene I’ve just watched that impressed me and made me feel a certain way. An example: when Mouse in The Matrix realizes he’s stuck in the building before a SWAT team executes him. Shifting moments like these and the sudden introduction of danger to the character is what gives me inspiration and motivation to start making a song that I know will be hard to materialize because of the subjectivity of the source but it is rewarding at the end. On Guerrilla, a few words from deep conversations with my dad about a specific location in Angola were the starting point of many songs of the album.

What's your set-up? What are the main production components and how do you improve them?

Nazar: My set-up is minimal: a laptop or PC. I have the tendency to try to do the most with what I have. It helps me to push the sonic boundaries and helps me to be consistent in terms of sound signature. On my "Guerrilla" LP, it’s just me continuing to fine-tune components from my Enclave EP, for example. I also capture a lot of everyday sounds that I then turn into percussion, subs, and so on.

You describe your music as “rough kuduro” – could you see yourself also producing slow, calm music, that is less uptempo, energetic, and danceable.

Nazar: Yes, of course, and I’ve been doing that since I started making music. The album has few passages of it. The reason why I’ve never limited myself to making just rough kuduro is that I’ve always made songs for myself. Things that I want to hear, dance to. When I was ten, I would beatbox and record mouth-lead melodies over mainstream songs that failed to fully satisfy me, just because I wanted to hear it that way. And that was years before I even pondered being a musician. So naturally, this trend continued when I started making music. But instead of voice recording over songs that weren’t mine. I’d do entire songs of the genre I’d wanted to hear.

Your debut album for Hyperdub is called "Guerilla". Its track titles refer to the war in Angola as well as to your personal family history. How much do you think music, especially dance/club-oriented music, can educate people and give them a deeper insight into complex socio-political?

Nazar: A lot. It's just a matter of finding how. I’ve grown up when songs that did that task weren’t as stimulating. They’re either too cliché or not clear and straightforward. Id’ say obscure, even. Music is language and for that album, I knew that there is no point in speaking a sonic language that no one will understand just for the sake of it. But emotion is a universal language. The narrative and implications behind the album are complex but the emotions can be directly felt by the listener.

Your debut album was released the day when almost all Europe went into lockdown. How much did the pandemic affect your plans and how do you reshape them now?

Nazar: A lot, but I try not to think about the alternate realities where all of this wouldn’t have happened. It’s not productive and just makes it harder to bounce back from it. I am grateful that I got to release the album and that the chaos brought by the pandemic didn’t stop it from being heard or appreciated.

Slauson Malone

What does the participation at NTS WIP 2020 mean to you?

Slauson Malone: NTS represents a “working utopia” where the organizing and archiving of music is challenged, blurred. As they say, “Don’t Assume.”

What are your favorite NTS Radio shows and why?

Slauson Malone: Death Is Not the End, because after every episode I feel like I’ve learned something, and Rave Reparations, because it’s a radical actualization of queer black space without the room.

How did you first get into music and performing?

Slauson Malone: My father is a jazz musician and my mother is an actress. I grew up behind clubs, sets, and tours. This third privileged perspective gave me a deep understanding for the discipline required in the arts. But it has also ruined the magic and innocence of creation – I’ve seen so many facades and their backs.

What is your creative process like?

Slauson Malone: I guess somewhere between essay (research) and conspiracy (redaction). Usually, a sound will get stuck in my ear and then I’ll try to chase its cultural significance like the Young Chop snare or a falling minor 3rd. I’ll move between different instruments and mediums to challenge its elasticity. If it can stretch, I know I’ve found something.

Your sound collages and style of working with samples are evident on your debut album A Quiet Farwell sounds very intuitive. Can you explain your set-up for creating work?

Slauson Malone: I had a desk job at the time and while I was working I’d have YouTube running, passively listening to decades worth of music. When I heard a lyric or progression pop out I’d write down the timestamp in my sketchbook. Making "A Quiet Farwell" was a sonic manifestation of visual notes. “The razor with which the newspaper is cut up and made to speak against itself…”. Like text, I wanted to create something that could refer back in on itself, oscillating to create new possibilities and meaning. Something autonomous.

What are your main influences when it comes to producing music and creating art?

Slauson Malone: Anthropocene, Blackness, Saidiya Hartman, Prince Jazzbo, Arthur Lee, Arthur Russell, Simeon Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Pierre Huyghe, King Tubby, rhizomes, craters, Harun Farocki, Ligia Lewis, Mark Leckey, James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas, Arca, Guston, Young Chop snare, Charlie Christian, Dada… and many many more.

Another interesting aspect of "A Quiet Farwell" is the very unusual song structures and song lengths, sudden breaks, and short loops. Do you feel like the music world is holding on to too many common structures?

Slauson Malone: I think the conversation around form and function needs to be collapsed because their roles have become obsolete. Think of cyberspace or an iPhone. What about its shape tells you what it does. Or an Apple Watch, why does it have a clock hand theme? The shape of objects have lost themselves to time, trying to reconcile their relation to a violent past. An identity crisis. As Mark Fisher said, “The future has been canceled”. We’re haunted by specters and, in turn, we mock them. An evil sense of nostalgia.

When the 78 record was invented its run time was only 4–5 min per side. It could only be recorded directly from the source so the performance was the recording. This physical limitation changed the way music was composed and thus sounded. We now live in a time where music exists as infinite “metaphysical” data. We’ve seen how SoundCloud has impacted song-length in popular music. There’s no reason why music couldn’t be one second long. We should be defining this new relationship instead of trying to make it “great again.”

How do you listen to music?

Slauson Malone: YouTube and piracy are my main sources for listening. I’ve grown fond of the sound of codec compression and digital distortion as others are of vinyl crackle and analog saturation. I usually assign myself albums which feels a lot like school. I usually don’t enjoy most music I listen to, but it gives me a wider perspective on what is possible or impossible in the collective imagination of popular music.

As far as records go, I don’t really care. I understand they’re archival and the consumer purposes they serve, but they feel too anachronistic, very steampunk. I never liked the culture of record stores. Like museums, all those people and things feel dead. Cesspools of mythology and bad gods. Necropolises. Private collections are hidden. Music’s freedom is about its absence of the physical. The archive feels like the factory of so much pain, white supremacy, and unfreedom.

You are a multi-disciplinary artist, how does your process of creating within each discipline differ, and do they influence each other?

Slauson Malone: I had a show in Minneapolis at Midway Contemporary Art in 2019, "♪ A star like any other—". I flew out a month before the show to finish some pieces and shortly after I joined Injury Reserve in Texas for a US tour. That compression of time made me consider the possibility of continuity between my two practices. I previously felt this emptiness in intention musically that I filled with other people, like vocalists and MCs. I picked up the book Performance in Contemporary Art and it got my wheels turning. I started to realize the Star and Club motifs in my paintings came from social and sexual alienation I felt in the “music scene.” I asked the director, John Rasmussen, if he could make my show catalog the physical for my album. This 200-page book became Crater Speak which I sold as tour merchandise. As my friend Bali put it, everything was coagulating.

The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the role of artists today, politically and socially? And how do you try to react to this in your work?

Slauson Malone: I don’t think artists should take on the role of activists. Artists are inherently selfish creatures and when art services idealism or a “higher power” (i.e. rules) it becomes dangerously close to propaganda. You get some bad version of Italian Futurism and then, fascism and so on. Art requires ambivalence and contradiction to develop its freedom. Art makes things messy. To prove the impossibility. But maybe I’m wrong.

Luka Productions

What does the participation at NTS WIP 2020 mean to you?

Luka Productions: This participation signifies an opportunity to exchange and share values and it will help me to grow as an artist by feeding on experiences, but also in my singing career and through future connections.

How did you first get into music and performing?

Luka Productions: Both happened simultaneously when I was a drummer at the church and little by little music became vital, I could not imagine myself without it, it was now part of me.

What is your creative process like?

Luka Productions: As my music doesn’t have any boundaries, my creativity likewise is quite broad and curious towards all kinds of music.

How has your process of producing and writing music changed since your debut album Mali Kady?

Luka Productions: "Mali Kady" is my first album known by westerners because it was released in the USA; but long before that I’ve released two other records which allowed me to pay tribute to older and more experienced musicians in Mali, but also to reach a wider audience to promote my studio space capacity. My first album was called "A be Ka dafa",  which is a genre of gospel, and was released in 2015. The second one is called "Nafolo", which means wealth. It won a prize for the best album in Mali in 2016. To answer the question, I think my writing and producing process have changed over the years in a positive way, knowing that I always seek out and listen to my mentors, in order to continue to improve rather than standing still.

What is it like to be a musician in Bamako, Mali, and how would you describe the music scene?

Luka Productions: When it’s well organized, the music scene in Bamako provides moments of dreams that fulfill the spirit and give back tasteful music. Still, the scene is very hard here: artists struggle to live from their art because piracy dominates everything. Musicians will only get paid from gigs, which are very rare because they are so expensive to organize. The ministry of culture is practically absent when it comes to different scenes that provide the country’s cultural wealth. I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to make a call to all governing superiors in Mali for them to demonstrate patriotism by reviving the arts here, especially music. Currently, it is sinking into oblivion because artists never meet political leaders outside election campaigns. It’s a real danger in Mali because our social life is the only thing that binds us to each other.

What did you listen to growing up and what has shaped your musical vision over the years?

Luka Productions: I started enjoying music when I was very young, I would listen to anything coming my way, especially Mandigo sounds and rap from my elders – Salif Keita, Oumou Sangaré, Fanga Fing, Les Tata Pound, King Massassy

You are a multi-instrumentalist, do you have a certain instrument that you feel like you can express yourself through the most?

Luka Productions: Even as a multi-instrumentalist, and as someone who uses traditional and modern instruments, my favorite one is the piano – despite my great love for the instruments from Mali. All the more reason for me to find the NTS WIP program as a new means of bonding, at the end of which I could come out with new knowledge on the piano because you never stop learning.

Is there an instrument or a style of music that you are not so familiar with that you would like to explore in the future?

Luka Productions: My love for musical instruments has no limits so I would like to learn all the instruments of the world if possible, the ones that make the heart echo, that soothe minds, that build and restore hope in people.

What are your thoughts on electronic drums versus a real drummer?

Luka Productions: I work with both all the time but personally I prefer electronic percussion.

Can you name an album that is the soundtrack to your life at the moment or a certain moment in the past?

Luka Productions: My second album released on Sahel Sounds, Fassokan.

You’ve released all your albums on Sahel Sounds. How important is the label for your career? We ask this, as in some circles there is an ongoing discussion, with some arguing labels like Sahel Sounds are enacting a form of cultural imperialism. What do you think about this critique?

Luka Productions: In my opinion, humanity and my personal career can only benefit from cultural exchange, because this program brings us together on a societal level despite our cultural diversity.

What was your childhood like?

Luka Productions: I am happy and free to express myself because I have been supported in my art by my two parents since my childhood. I am the youngest in the family and my father – peace in his soul – at the beginning of my career, thought that it was just for me a way of expressing my joy therefore a temporary means of leisure.

My mother – eternal peace in her soul – when I played my first musical instrument (the djembe), looked at me with admiration despite the fact that music was not a family legacy in my home. My father took my art seriously the day I presented my contract papers to him to go play in Switzerland. He was worried that day; seeing that soon I was going to take the flight to a distant country which was unknown to me but also happy to see his son who was slowly growing up, positively, in a field he chose. To tell the truth, my father and my mother supported me a lot. Even in their final hours on their hospital beds, my two parents really supported me and I think since then I have continued to live with their blessings and the protection of the Lord. On his hospital bed, my father said to me, "Son, I bless you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and that his protection follows you wherever you step". Dad, mom, I love you and in return, I will continue to make you proud, as always, until my death, God willing!