Interview with Raze
As many of you will by now know, I do like to help spread the word of lesser-known artists. I mean after all, talent is talent, regardless of its incarnation. So today I bring you an interview with Raze, a hip-hop producer from England’s Midlands. We discussed his roots, the journey music has taken him on so far, and also the new release from the duo he is half of; Raze N Lava Flo. Here’s what was said…
Gav: Thanks for sparing the time to speak with me. Do you want to first of all explain who you are and what you do?
Raze: I’m Raze Brooks, one half of the Birmingham/Tamworth based duo Raze N Lava Flo, primarily a hip-hop producer, but was known for emceeing – back in the day.
G: Ah back-in-the-day! So, how have your exploits as an emcee brought you to where you are today? What’s different now to back then?
R: Back in the day hip-hop was something special, that if you we’re into, you felt like you owned a part of it. There wasn’t that much exposure of hip-hop in the media, so you had to go and dig for the latest tunes, you we’re reliant on only a few sources of information on which artists had albums/singles dropping you had to read Hip Hop Connection, stay up and catch the Big Beat/ National Fresh. Plus there wasn’t many people doing it back then, now everybody’s an emcee.
G: So did there come a point when you thought “actually, I wanna give producing a go”?
R: I started spittin’ in 89, just rhyming over instrumentals, I could play the keyboard anyway, and that was something that my parents insisted on, that I learn how to play a musical instrument. Back in those days there was; myself, M’add Archer, Wordsworth, Craig D & Dynamic Ammo, rhyming in Tamworth and nobody was producing. In 91 I copped a keyboard and started making dreadful sounding beats that everybody laughed at (think early West Coast but a hundred times worse).
However I carried on, copped an old Akai sampler and things started moving from there. I did a few things with the late Edwin Starr, met some guys at college who were into digging and formed a trio with them, then broke out solo.
G: That’s fair enough. So how did Raze N Lava Flo come about?
R: I was friends with DJ Cro and he introduced me to Lava in Massive Records in Birmingham. Cro said “you’re a producer, she’s a singer, lets do something.” Initially it was meant to be a trio, but he was busy with his radio show, “Deadline and Sonny Jim”, so it was left to the two of us.
G: Explain your sound, and perhaps what you are trying to achieve stylistically, with Raze N Lava Flo.
R: Well from a purely instrumental point of view I make hip-hop tunes. My main inspiration comes from hip-hop producers like; Pete Rock, Large Professor, Diamond D, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, etc…
But I’m also into a lot of other styles like DnB, old soul like; Al Green, Brothers Johnson, Stevie Wonder, and some house and disco. But I was also a big fan of the old school British hip-hop like; Gunshot, Blade, Killa Instinct, Hijack, Two Tone Committee, Katch 22.
G: What about Lava Flo? Not to want to make you speak on her behalf, but what are her tastes and influences, and how does that transcribe into the Raze N Lava Flo sound?
R: She’s into all the same stuff as I am, but also a big fan of more left-field stuff like; Boards of Canada, Kate Bush, Mo Wax, Ninja Tune, Warp, Jill Scot, Dwele, Amp Fiddler, Trojan. She’s a lot more spiritual than I am. I’m very pragmatic as a matter of fact.
G: I see. So when it comes to creating the music, do you just create the beats and then say “put some vocals on that”? Or is the whole process more of a team effort?
R: With this album that’s how 80% of it was done, however the Coffeehouse was something that Lava started, then bought it round to my gaff to put some drums on it and mix it. Plus the remix of Wherever You Go was done by myself and keyboard player Paul Osborne, to fit around her vocals.
However, I sometimes make changes in the arrangement to gel the song together after the vocals are finished.
G: As a producer, and one half of a duo, in the Midlands, what are your biggest frustrations with the industry and trying to break through?
R: I think the biggest problem any new artist has got is just getting people to take time to listen, I’ve found once they do, well with this album the feedback has been positive.
G: Exposure, I’m sure that’s a major obstacle indeed. You’ve mentioned an album, I understand that it has recently been completed. Tell me about the album and when it will be available.
R: The album is called “It’s Not Just About Roses” by Raze N Lava Flo, it’s available now via the paypal account on our MySpace page, plus in record stores across the UK. We’ve also got distribution sorted in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany.
Sonically I would say it’s hip-hop soul.
G: Naturally your own sound is your own, but if you had to say that the album sounded at all in parts like any other well known artists, which names might you mention?
R: I would say personally somewhere between Pete Rock & Massive Attack. Unfinished Sympathy being my favourite tune ever, and Pete Rock being my favourite producer.
G: It’s funny you should mention those names, as listening to the tracks on your MySpace page, those were the names that popped into my head! So, what’s in the future for Raze N Lava Flo?
R: We’ve got a band together; we got a bassist, tabla player, beatboxer, two backing vocalists, and a keyboard player. We’re doing gigs to promote it, we’ve had a few spins on Galaxy.
G: That sounds promising, good luck with that and also good luck with the latest album. I really do appreciate you taking the time out to speak to me. Are there any shout-outs you want to make or messages to give the readers?
R: First I gotta give a big shout to Lava Flo, who has made such a big commitment to the group and the label. Then; Semantix, Lokjaw, Canedrive, MC Serch, Blade, Akua Naru, Keaton, Sonny Jim, DJ Cro, Frantic Motionz, Deadline, and all the other people who I’m working with on new material.
And people like; yourself, Madrox, Tricksta, HHb radio, Lunatix, Andy at HHC, Eastern Eye, all the journos who have put their reps on the line pushing our stuff, oh yeah can’t forget Wigs, Debb & Vee.
G: Cool. Thanks again for your time.
Raze was also kind enough to send me over a track from the Raze N Lava Flo album, the title track of the same name; It’s Not Just About Roses…
Raze N Lava Flo – It’s Not Just About Roses
>> download <<
This download is a sample of the music only and must be deleted from your computer within 24 hours of downloading. This download link will expire on 6th July.
I’m certain we’ll be hearing more from Raze N Lava Flo in the future, but don’t forget to check out their MySpace page, add yourself to their friends list, and let them know what you think of their tracks.