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Soulful, funk-fuelled beats from Australia via Amsterdam

1969 Dec 31     
2 Bit Thugs

We meet the Aussie beatsmith whose new album features the likes of Recloose, Danielle Moore, Steve Spacek and Mark De Clive-Lowe

Releasing not one but two full-length albums in 2015, and with another having just dropped on BBE Records, Australian producer Inkswel must surely be one of the most prolific producers on the planet right now.

Now based in Amsterdam, the self-confessed B-boy is equally busy as a DJ, playing at venues across Europe every weekend alongside the likes of DJ Spinna, Red Rack’em and Soul Clap, artists who’ve become friends and collaborators. His 2014 breakout EP Cloud Eaters with Virgo Four’s Merwyn Sanders is already something of a modern classic, and highly sought-after by vinyl collectors.

Inkswel’s new album Unity 4 Utopia features collaborations with Steve Spacek, Recloose, Danielle Moore (Crazy P), Lay-Far and Mark De Clive-Lowe, among others, making it a very exciting prospect for lovers of futuristic soulful sounds. Happily, the hard-working beat-botherer found a moment to answer a few of our questions on the eve of the LP’s release.

Did you start out DJing or producing?

"I got into both around the same time. I was heavily into hip-hop and beats culture as a kid - my upbringing in this was based around cassettes and obsession over rappers and DJs in my early teens. Instead of getting into sports like most other kids, I pursued hip-hop, buying my first turntable, beat machine, DJ mixer and never looking back."

Who were your first DJ and production heroes?

"Wu Tang and Pete Rock shaped my taste early on. As I grew into my teens, I branched out listening to a lot of other music. I was lucky enough to catch the start of the backpacker era with artists like Mos Def, Hi Tek, DJ Premier etc. I think Hi Tek was a big influence on me around then and this made me discover other producers like J DIlla and Spinna, which made me love and appreciate the production aesthetic of things more than the other elements."

Was there a thriving scene in Australia when you started out?

"Not really. Back then - we're talking late 90s - the hip-hop scene was in its infancy and I hadn’t really traversed into house or club music then. But there were some great underground artists in my hometown of Adelaide, such as Quro and Mostyn, Social Change, Finger Licking Good and DJ HMC.

"In my teenage years, the hip-hop scene became huge in Australia and it's grown ever since, but pre-adulthood I kinda broke out of this vibe and moved more into club music: breaks, funk, soul, boogie, disco and house. The early 2000s really opened my eyes: hearing early broken beat sounds and modern funk and soul stuff made me think outside the box."

What prompted you to move to Europe?

"I've been living all over the place for years - London, Amsterdam, Melbourne, Adelaide. It's cliched but the saying "It ain't where you’re from, it’s where you’re at" applies. Location means little realistically except for the influence on the physical. I moved here in the physical for my family, to expand our horizons and opportunities."

How do you find the music scene in Amsterdam?

"Small but expansive and very unified. You have great teams doing great things there, from Rush Hour to Paradiso to Kindred Spirits to Dekmental to Future is Now! to Redlight Radio. Amsterdam is actually a very small place, but the buzz there is great. It's a beautiful city backed by some very creative people."

How did you link up with the legendary Merwyn Sanders?

"I opened for Virgo Four at their first Melbourne concert. We met at the party and got along really well and exchanged contacts, then a few months later we got talking about doing a project. Then the Cloud Eaters EP was born, which was the biggest seller on my label Hot Shot and has some great reworks from Gifted & Blessed and Linkwood. These tracks were later re-released on BBE for the Superfoods trilogy to great praise!"

How did you connect with BBE Records?

"My connection with BBE comes about via my independent label Hot Shot Sounds. They contacted me initially to license some of our material on a compilation called GI Disco, put together by Jazzanova’s manager Daniel Best. This formed an early relationship that then expanded into what we have today. I'm happy to be part of a very dedicated and loving team."

As a DJ, what are some of your favourite venues to play and why?

"It's hard to answer that... so many great places and cities with different vibes! I'm a huge fan of Denis Simachev in Moscow, which is booked and run by DJ Orange and the Low Budget crew. It's an amazing mini-club with great service, a great soundsystem and always a great vibe! Second, I have a soft spot for Paradiso in Amsterdam, a great place with a rich musical history. More recently I've been loving spots in Berlin such as Prince Charles, Chalet, About Blank and Renate - all amazing places!"

Do you still buy a lot of records, or are you a digital guy these days?

"I'm a vinyl junkie through and through - I still buy records almost daily. Digital has its place for sure, but in real DJ culture there needs to be a balance. That’s what really separates DJs and selectors in my opinion!"

You've been involved in some fantastic collaborations. Do you make tracks with vocalists in mind, or do you finish beats and then target choice singers?

"I come at this from all angles. Sometimes the collaboration is already arranged and we just go in straight up, other times there's finished tracks and I get vocalists to add their sprinkles on the final product. Always with the hope of making something great. I'm extremely proud of the work I have done with others, and to me this is the whole point in being an active part of the music industry. Without collaboration I don’t really see the point!"

The Superfoods album series was an inspired concept. Are you a chef yourself? Do you see a connection between cooking and music-making?

"I used to cook full-time - I think a lot of DJs and producers have worked in kitchens at some point. Maybe the hours attract the creative? I no longer do this, but I love a good meal and I think sometimes music pairs perfectly with food. My homies Soul Clap are a good example of this, they're about to release a cookbook put together by DJs!"\

Unity 4 Utopia is the new album. Tell us about it...

"It’s a concept album, mirroring my early sentiments about the importance of collaboration. I really wanted an outlet to showcase all styles musically and vocally from all the artists I work with, and somehow make sense of it into a cohesive project, and thus Unity 4 Utopia was born. I'm super-happy to finally have the project out and look forward to following it up with a similar concept!"

Words: Will Sumsuch

Unity 4 Utopia is out now on BBE





Tags: Inkswel, funk, disco, boogie, Steve Spacek, Recloose, Danielle Moore, Lay-Far, Crazy P, Mark De Clive-Lowe