Friday, 21 January 2011
INTERVIEW: Royal T [Butterz]
Grime has been finding its feet again recently. Whilst the pop charts have been under an onslaught of 4x4 electro house beats with emcees riding the pulse, the underground roughness has always been there, bubbling under the surface and exploding out in peaks. Making some incredibly notable noise right about now a new wave of producers are coming through and taking back the scene; sounding fierce and releasing physical product. It’s all pretty refreshing to see the coverage the resurgence is getting with players like Butterz crew Elijah & Skilliam leading the charge from the regular slots on Rinse FM.
Releasing music on the Butterz imprint is Southampton based producer, Royal T. He caught a lot of people’s attention last year with his beat ‘1UP’ on No Hats No Hoods, a track that samples Nintendo’s pixelated flagbearer Mario, had a top quality vocal by P Money and even got spat on by Dizzee Rascal live on radio. After releasing a couple of other soundsystem heaters like ‘Beat Fighter’ and his ‘Hot Ones Remix’ he’s about to roll out the Orangeade EP on Butterz.
Bringing the rave back to grime T is taking his sound back to the dancefloor rather than the mixtape, putting down his gaming controllers and making some hyped-up-funk-infused grime beats that hit hard. With other remixes floating around for the likes of TRC and Wiley, that have a serious flex to them, building heavily on the garage vibe, he’s proving that he’s no one trick pony, showing he’s adept at tackling different approaches with vigour.
We caught up with Royal T, grabbing the chance to premiere his new ‘Special Stage Mix’ (aka Sonic Router Mix #65) as we did it...
Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from what do you get up to on the daily?
I'm Mark Taylor, also known as Royal-T and I’m a Grime producer from Southampton, England. I can't swim, I’ve never watched a Star Wars or Lord of the rings film in my life, I love my football, my beer and I will kick your arse at FIFA if need be.
What got you into grime in the first place?
This question's always hard for me to answer because I always struggle to think of a definitive moment. I feel like I’ve been listening to grime all my life. My earliest memories of listening to it was from stealing random garage and Sidewinder tape packs from my brother’s bedroom when he was out - also I was one of the first people in my primary school class to have the first So Solid Crew album, I walked into the playground thinking I was some gangster. I took the typical garage into grime journey of listening before really understanding what grime even was. I was always that 'go to guy' for all the grime music at school on our Nokia's sending random tunes through bluetooth.
How did you get into making music, did you jump right into grime beats or have you dabbled elsewhere?
My Uncle gave my brother and me a copy of Fruity Loops 3 when we first got our computer. I've never been musically trained or anything, I didn't take up music for my GCSEs so I've basically orchestrated everything I’ve ever made just from ear. I've been making grime beats ever since I started. There's been times in the past where I might have experimented with tempo or styles but even those tunes had that grime influence.
What’s your production set-up like?
I just make and mix down tunes in my bedroom. The process from bedroom into bedroom/studio started from when I got a part time job. I saved up to buy some big monitor speakers, a MacBook, some decks and everything else and that's all I’ve been doing since. I installed Windows on my MacBook and use that side just for Fruity Loops. My Dad and me constructed some little workspace for myself with everything I need on it. I bought a double bed recently and now I practically have no walking space in my room at all. It's all good though, it's for the music but I no longer have any space for activities (step-brother’s joke).
How do you go about laying a track down?
Most of the time I have an idea or an influence in my head already, so I’ll try to put that into Fruity like putting ideas from pen to paper and then just go from there. It's just like finishing a painting by colouring over a drawing I’ve made. The time it takes for me to finish a track varies but it means I can come back to the project a few days later with completely fresh ideas. On the new Fruity you can see how long you've spent on a project and most my projects average out at about 8 hours when finished now. That does includes all the time for mix downs and for all the time I’m not even making the tune and just browsing the internet or playing Football Manager with Fruity Loops open.
Where are you getting your inspiration from right now?
I'm only really going through old CDs I’ve found in my house at the moment, like loads of old school garage compilations, Oxide and Neutrino's first album and a lot of Mike Skinner's material. My mum even came and sat down with me the other day when I was making a tune, telling me the bits she did and didn't like. She's my greatest critic; she'll tell me if she doesn't like a song I’m making. A good indication of knowing whether she likes a tune or not is that if she ain't dancing to the beat when she comes in the room, hoovering or cleaning, it's probably not that good.
You’re really bringing back that skippy ravey grime vibe with a load of your tracks, there are some garage influences creeping in, some nice 8-bar switch ups and some tough twisted drops. Is it something that you thought was missing when you first started making beats?
Yeah in the last couple of years I felt that there really was a lack of danceable or club standard grime tunes about, it’s just iPod music for teenagers - nothing really musically stood out and everything was about the MC and his mixtape. To breakthrough as a producer it used to be all about how many vocals you could rack up. Due to my location this was nearly impossible for me because I could hardly meet MCs or be introduced to anyone as I literally came in the scene on my ones. The only people who would listen to me and my music were DJs. So I was making music for them to play and I adapted my sound to something no one else really was making at the time. I took a bit of a shortcut but it paid off eventually.
Your new EP, Orangeade, is out right now; tell us a bit about those tracks...
‘Orangeade’ is just me having complete fun with grime without having to parade it as dubstep or ‘trap music’ in disguise. I just made the grime I think we all used to and still do love to hear. I made ‘1UP,’ ‘Hot Ones,’ my ‘Air Bubble Remix’ [original by Terror Danjah] all with the same vibe. It was my sort of statement to the scene about us nearly forgetting our sound. ‘Orangeade’ came about because Teddy mentioned on Twitter that 'the best grime tune around at the moment is Gucci Mane's ‘Lemonade’ instrumental.' I just thought 'eff this' and ‘Orangeade’ was born.
Your remix of TRC’s ‘Oo Aa Ee’ is too much, what made you go for that garage flex? It’s a pretty interesting meeting of minds when a bassline producer makes a grime beat then a grime producer flips it into a garage track...
Thank you. Well, DOK made a really good grime remix so me making another grime remix wasn't really going to achieve anything. At that time I’d been making loads of garage drum patterns, messing around with swing and thin cut drums. Now, going on with what I was saying about the grime sound progression, I notice that people are starting to clock and re use the 2-step formula which I’m completely happy with, but I’m just enjoying doing the complete opposite every time. I like to think people attach music to memories so I want to make tracks that not only make you nod your head, but take you on a little journey at the same time.
You’ve had some bangers with the OGz (P Money, Blacks, Little Dee, etc), ‘Hot Ones’ and ‘1 Up’ where big ones for me. You’ve got some good chemistry together. What’s it like working with them and have you got more in the works with those guys?
I've been in contact with Blacks for a while now. He was the first well known MC to really listen to what I had to offer musically and he stuck by me. My first time having anything played on Logan Sama's show was a Blacks vocal. I had only spoken to P Money once or twice before he vocalled ‘1UP’ and I’m so pleased to see him go further, he deserves it. We both have the same ideas and focus on how we want our songs to sound like. We have tons of tunes on the way. Otherwise there are plenty of sets you can download with him spitting on my tracks.
What other MCs are you feeling right now?
Someone who has stood out for me recently is Merky Ace. I think he's sick. We have a tune together pending release which should be about soon. He should have a huge year I hope, along with Kozzie and the rest of the MCs that have had a buzz in 2010 and I always look forward to hearing any new MIK material too. I always carry his vocals in my DJing playlists.
Talk to us about Butterz, how did you get involved, what tracks got their attention and what’s it like working with those guys? There seems to be a cool community vibe to it all with producers hooking up for collaborations and remixes all the time.
The first time I ever got any sort of radio play with my music was around 2 to 3 years ago on a University Radio Station by two students who go by the names of… you guessed it, Elijah and Skilliam. They played my old ‘World War 4 Remix’ that I made ages ago. Elijah was the first person I sent ‘1UP’ to and he aired it on radio before anyone else did so I actually owe a lot to them both for their support. I think he still has that e-mail somewhere. We've stayed in contact the whole time exchanging ideas and just working really so it was only right somewhere down the line that we were bound to have some sort of project together. The funny thing is even after a nice 2010 we haven't even got started!
You’ve remixed Yasmin’s ‘On My Own’, it’s got to be one of the first commercial grime remixes to appear in god knows how long. How did that come about and what was it like messing with that kind of music compared to what you’re normally used to?
I was really proud to see the reaction it got by the people on twitter, soundcloud and everywhere as there were some cool names on the other remixes but my track achieved more hits in two days than any of the other remixes did in something like a month. It was great to finally work on a track with a female vocalist officially as I’ve always been too lazy to write tracks with vocalists before. The great thing is I didn't have to change my sound to get it heard. I kept it true to my sound and how I would have liked to make it and its bloody great to see it get recognition from other audiences.
There is a sick mix you’ve done of Wiley’s ‘It’s Wiley’ floating about right now that’s sounding large. You’ve got that garage rhythm going on and a load of cheeky bits that flip old Wiley signifiers back into the mix. How did that all come together?
Elijah got into contact with Prodigal, who did the original, about getting a remix sorted by me and I was a lucky git and got the acapella. I actually started the tune on Christmas day too. Unfortunately Father Christmas didn't bring me anything to keep me occupied that day and there's only so much enjoyment I could get out of Shower Gel and Deodorant combos. I really wanted to push the boundaries again and almost make it a tribute to Wiley and the Eski era. I was listening to a lot of old Wiley sets and the famous Wiley ‘Grimetapes’ collection in preparation where he was spitting on a lot of beats you wouldn't normally hear him on, like some nice old school dark garage, 4x4 and early grime stuff and it had been a while since I’d heard him on anything like that so i thought 'why not?'. It's really set the pace for 2011 for me.
What releases have you got on the horizon?
I've got the ‘Orangeade’ vinyls floating about now and the digital version will be due around the end of January. The Yasmin remix will be getting a release with the original single and the Wiley remix will be getting a full vinyl release scheduled for early February hopefully. Then onto the next few months I have some unreleased Butterz material to unleash and I have a couple of tracks with P Money and Blacks on my hard drive begging to be heard. I cannot wait for everyone to hear them.
Any words of wisdom, for our readers?
Stay focused on what you want to achieve and do whatever it takes to get to your goal. If you want to be able to move forward, sometimes, the simplest way to take the first step is by changing your whole outlook. As soon as you're able to accept that you may not always be right, you'll already be on the right track.
Oh and Nando's is overrated, don't believe the hype.
DOWNLOAD: Royal T – Sonic Router Mix #65
0. Sonic 2 - Emerald Hill Zone
1. Royal-T - Chaos Emerald
2. JME - Shut Up And Dance
3. Royal-T - Shut The Funk Up
4. Royal-T - Bounce
5. Spooky - Spartan (DOK Remix)
6. TRC - Oo Aa Ee (Royal-T Remix)
7. S-X - Woooo Riddim (DJ Q Remix)
8. S-X - Woooo Riddim (Royal-T Remix)
9. D Double E - Bad To The Bone
10. Oxide - Nuff Of Dem Watch Me (Instrumental)
11. Wiley - It’s Wiley (Royal-T Remix)
12. Royal-T - Orangeade VIP
13. Swindle - Mood Swings
14. Yasmin - On My Own (Royal-T Remix)
15. Mr Slash - 1999
16. Royal-T - Royal Rumble
17. The Streets - Skills On Toast
Words: James Balf
Photo: Rob Vanderman