How did you first start working with Mark Rae?
"First off I was working for Different Drummer, a record label in Birmingham, and we also ran our own club night. Mark used to come down and DJ for us. We used to put Grand Central DJs on there in circulation. And I did a remix of Rae and Christian's 'Hold Us Down', and it was around the same time I met him. And every time he used to come and DJ he used to stay at the house and we hung out at the studio, I think he was into the sound we were doing. And then I ended up moving to London, and he was moving down himself, and he said do you want to work together, and we started working on his 'Mind, Body and Soul' album, and remixing stuff."
The influence of reggae and dancehall is all over the 'Rock This World' album. Did your experience in Jamaica recording 'Two Culture Clash' have a big influence on the project?
"A massive influence actually, we'd been writing together for a while and we had a hard drive full of beats on that tip really but we didn't have a project at the time that we were directing it towards. So every time we did something like that we put it to one side for something in the future. We got a call saying that they definitely wanted us to go to Jamaica to work on 'Two Culture Clash', and we took all these beats and went over there, and it was quite a phenomenal experience actually, meeting Big Youth, Horace Andy, and Tanya Stephens. Junior Reid started singing over one of our tracks, in the afternoon all sat around the swimming pool, it was like something out of a childhood dream really. So that had a massive effect on the album. When we got over there, the beats we'd made here didn't really sound right, so we started afresh. Tanya Stephens demoed a beat from the album originally, but due to unfortunate circumstances, we couldn't get the vocal off her, she ended up giving it to someone else. The President Brown track that ended up sounding too traditional for 'Two Culture Clash' we ended up using for our project. We'd been keeping ties with people we met over there, and Jon Baker who had the studio over there. We would love to go back again for the next album!"
Did you get more into dancehall when you were out there?
"Absolutely, I'd always liked reggae and dancehall, more so when I got to Different Drummer, met up with DJ Dick and started working with the Overproof Soundsystem, I learnt quite a lot from them, but a lot of it was quite traditional, particularly on a dancehall tip. And when you get out there, you'd actually go to a dancehall and hear the modern stuff in situ, with the guns going off on the tin roof and stuff, it does have an impact on you, you can't really stop that. We ended up trying to write beats that were quite similar to that for a while, and there was a lot more stuff that we ended up pulling into it, various Greensleeves rhythms."
Do you have any favourite tracks on there?
'Rock This World' is one of my favourites. That track was for Dawn Penn, and it was a calypso thing originally, it was a completely different rhythm, and when she came in it was a bit weird, I didn't want to do a track with Dawn Penn that was half way there. So I had to re-write all the music behind it. Everybody ended up slotting into place on it. But 'Rock This World' defines the sound of the album for me, all the influences that have gone into it, and my own life to be honest, hip-hop, reggae, soul. Sweetie's track is really good, it's great to play out, and 'Elevate' I can never get bored of, I think it's a really mature track for Ayak, she was only 22 when she did that. She pulled the project together, to be honest. We had loads of tracks and rhythms, and we didn't know how it was all going to work, it was going to sound really disparate, and then Ayak came in on the scene and it all kind of pulled together with her, she was really fundamental on the writing process. She was a real driving force in bringing the project to its fruition."
Do you have any of your own projects in the works at the moment?
"I've been releasing stuff in the past as Frankie Valley, I ended up making more disco influenced stuff when I was in Nottingham with Neon Heights, and I did some stuff with Dubtribe Soundsystem from San Francisco. But at the moment I haven't been really, I've been doing a lot of remixes, swaps and stuff for the album, and writing beats for the next one. And I've been producing for other people, I've been working with Ben Onono, his album is coming out in April."
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