Now resident in L.A., his new project Yes King – made in collaboration with Rhys Adams – builds on his great love of Jamaican music (reggae, dub, dancehall), and fuses it with hip hop beats and vocals from some Jamaican greats and top ranking MCs. Their album 'Rock This World' is out now on Yes King Records. In part one of our Yes King interviews, we grabbed Mr. Rae for a word…
You're living out in LA at the moment. Why did you decide to move away from the UK?
"I wanted to write a new solo album and also to make use of the film industry over here, get into screenwriting which I've been doing for a while. And also making use of our music in film and stuff which is one of the survival techniques of the modern music industry!"
'Rock This World' has got a heavy reggae and dancehall feel to it throughout. Was it your work on 'Two Culture Clash' that necessitated your new direction?
"That was definitely a major factor, but me and Rhys had worked with Jamaican artists previously, myself with Rae and Christian and my first solo album, and Rhys with Rockers Hi-Fi in Birmingham. We learnt a lot about modern electronic dancehall beats while we were there, and didn't actually go in the that direction with the album, but it certainly re-ignited our passion for music."
You've worked with some legends on the album, including Dawn Penn, Tippa Irie and more. Who was the biggest pleasure to work with?
"To my mind Ayak was the most consistent person, she'd come every Wednesday and to watch somebody with her talent write on the spot as she did over our beats was the most rewarding thing. Mystro was also good, to just listen to the lyrics that he came out with. A lot of the other artists were only doing one track, and those two were certainly the most committed to the project."
Is this Jamaican-inspired direction something that you want to continue to pursue?
"I think we're definitely doing another Yes King album, but Rhys Adams will lead that, because he's got more production chops in that direction. He did a brilliant remix of a Nextmen track which sounds like proper '70s roots reggae thing. Myself, my solo stuff is entirely different to anything I've done before, I'm playing guitar and singing on it, so its got no reggae in it whatsoever! I'm taking my time with it, I've written it now, it's more of a matter of getting it to sound how I want, and that's more difficult to achieve out in LA, because its less of a music town with less studios, there all film based studios or focused on sound design, you know?"
What kind of vibe can we expect from that album?
"It's hip hop and hard beats, synthesizers, organs, but then it's got fun lyrics about my moving to Los Angeles. I've never had so much writing material in my life. I went for it really and wrote about 200 songs, and got down to about nine that I like."
What other music are you digging out there at the moment?
"I DJ all the time, and like a lot of DJs now I use Serato Scratch, I got into that while I was still in London. I've been using that for two years now. I get a whole host of music sent to me from around the world, from fans of my music, and you can get stuff from the internet, but there's also people who do music supervision who get sent all the releases around the world in order to place it on film, and I just burn the tracks that I like. And then there's the San Francisco house scene, which is all that twisted stuff, like Claude von Stroke, Dirty Bird, that type of stuff. And I still keep up with the Jamaican stuff, but that's hard, cos it's not like Notting Hill, there's no Dub Vendor!"
The cover of the album depicts the Trellick Tower in Ladbroke Grove. Why did you choose this imagery?
"Yeah I lived there as well. When we made the album we could see the tower when we worked. It's an icon, and there's not many places in the world where you could work with a Nigerian, a Sudanese, a Jamaican, English, and all different types of people, it's a very West London experience, you know? The whole of London can be like that."
What's next for Mark Rae and Yes King?
"With the second Yes King album, Rhys and I will be putting music forward for that, on the back of getting this album out. And then I'm going to be finishing producing my solo album with the help of some people over here. I can't see much further beyond that really cos I'm about to get back on the bike and get these tracks done."
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