Interview by Couch Sessions contributor DeVon Thompson (@soullovenet. )
I sat down last week and via phone talked to London MC Kano. His latest album drops on August 30th some may have heard of him as the Grime sound trickled over to this side of the Atlantic but he’s been making noise in the UK and world wide for several years now. “Method to the Maadness” is his fourth album and Couchsessions talked to him about this much anticipated release. Kano gives the readers a quick history lesson in Grime culture, what it’s like to be independent, his thoughts on bringing his sound to the U.S. and whether or not the blazing hot track Artillery is going to make the cut for the album.
So let’s get Right to it, you have a new album coming. Method to the Maadness. It seems like there is a lot of energy behind it . What can people expect on the album?
Kano: Yeah well there’s definitely a lot of energy to it. They can expect that, you know just also some experimental stuff. New styles, new sounds being put together that’s quite interesting. A great cast of people that help put it together they can expect that. I worked with the likes of Damon Albarn, Chase and Status, Vybez Kartel, Diplo, Boys Noise loads of people on this album, it’s definitely going to be an exciting album. I’m really excited about it, I can’t wait for people to hear it. It’s different from my past material I’m definitely trying to take it one step further again always be forward thinking and just remain making music in that way.
How does it differ from your previous work? Is Method to the Maadness a more classic Grime album?
Kano: No, it’s not really a classic grime album. It’s got a lot of different sounds and influences. You may hear things you think ‘yeah it’s got a little grime flavor to it’ but you might hear some dancehall elements. I went out to Jamaica to work and went out to Germany to work, you’ll hear hip hop elements. It’s a lot of different styles coming together. It’s just not all one thing… it’s not all Grime, no.
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The single “Get Wild” is a really high energy track.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…that’s one of the high points of the album in terms of excitement and energy.
Ok, So it’s a little something for everybody you can dance and just…
Yeahhhh I don’t really feel that i’ve done that before. I’ve obviously had a lot of upbeat tracks but not really upbeat tracks that you could really move to and dance to. If anything my more upbeat tracks were more hardcore like P’s and Q’s. Something like Get Wild, it’s got those raw elements, it’s got nuff flavors. But it definitely gets the party started as well. People love it.
Do you consider yourself a Grime artist?
Kano: No I never really have considered myself a Grime artist. Artists never like to put themselves in too much of a box. I just think from when I started making music from my first album. It wasn’t really a true reflection of what I was, when I listen back to my old music it was like this is not just grime so therefore I can’t just be a grime artist. I know I was very important to the Grime scene and the grime scene was very important to me. I made music that they embraced and I had ownership to it, I was very much apart to that scene that we never called Grime but other people started calling it grime and the name came about…maybe they just wanted to give something a name and there was a certain few people who were like no, we’re not just that we can do a lot don’t put us in no box. You know what I mean? I think even to this day the music I make, I’m still showcasing the fact that I’ve got a lot more to me than one style of music.
For those that don’t know can you tell them what Grime is?
Ultimately, Grime…It’s more of a culture, at first it was something that came from Garage that evolved into Grime.When we started doing our thing there was a hip hop scene, there was a UK hip hop scene but we were very much into the UK garage scene. You know Garage was about 135 bpm, when we got into it we started speeding up to about 140 bpm and the music started to get a bit more harder and harsher and a lot more base line driven. A lot more artist driven rather than…DJ’s, you know Garage was like maybe the DJ would play a song and maybe be on the hook or whatever but we came into with an artist mentality writing verses and choruses, that’s how it kind of changed from Garage to Grime but ultimately it’s the music that started in East London. We got big through the pirate radio scene and then it turned into this culture that is now called Grime.
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You’ve been rhyming since 2004 was being an MC something you always wanted to do?
I probably never said it but when I look back it was something that was always in me. Even before I started taking music seriously as an artist and writing songs for albums and things. I always used to MC and write lyrics here and there; do little battles, it was more of a hobby it was nothing I ever thought I this is what I wanted to do with my life and I want to have a career with this, it was more for fun. Then I made a couple of songs that became popular in the area, in London. Then I realized this is something that I could do and… that was around maybe… 17,18 years old but I was making music from probably about 15 but just not taking it seriously.
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You did a song on the Gorillaz latest album Plastic Beach how did that collaboration come about?
That came about because I worked with Damon Albam who is the Gorillaz him and Jamie I worked with Damon before on one of my songs called feel free. I just had a friendship with him ever since we’ve traveled together done loads of things, been to Africa…Nigeria, Ethiopia and always kept in touch with him and he always said ‘ we do the next Gorillaz record I’m gonna get you on it’ and then one day the call came, I was like yep, cool went to the studio and just dun that really. We also made a song for my new album, and Gorillaz is something I was always a fan anyway. The music always inspired me and I always thought their music is so fucking crazy the ideas they had, so creative with it so I always wanted to work with them, I’m glad I got a chance to do it.
Any plans to work with them in the future?
Well, the future thing is the tour. We did a few shows lately, we did a couple shows in the middle east two weeks ago we done Beirut and played in Syria. That was crazy! We’re gonna tour the UK in November, but they’re doing a world tour and I’m gonna be part of that. They’re doing Australia, America. They’re playing Madison Square Garden, you know big shows…it’s gonna be a massive show I’m gonna be a part of that.
Is the U.S. Somewhere you are looking to expand your musical presence?
It definitely is and there is a time for that. Up until this point I always felt that I’m trying to establish myself at home, I’ve got a few albums out now but it wasn’t something I was interested in from the first album like “yeah I’m gonna go over to America and conquer it and blah blah” none of that! that’s not what I was really about. Now I’ve got a few albums under my belt–this is my fourth album–I can go to America. I’ve got material. I’m willing to see what people think. Maybe hook up with some people I know over there. I know some great people over there, like Mos Def and people like that. Yeah maybe there is room for me to go over there and do that but up until this point I never felt that it’s been the main goal. But now especially with the Gorillaz tour it’s definitely a great platform.
What can people expect to hear from you in let’s say the next year?
Well after the album drops on the 30th. In September and October I’ll be touring the UK, I got the Gorillaz tour and then [I’m] recording another album because I think I kept people waiting quite long for this one. I took two years to record this album, I wanna get straight back into recording maybe I’ll record on the road. Just put out some more music. I’m gonna be out n about a lot but just try to get in the studio and put out some music hopefully next year.
You seem quite focused on your music but do you have plans to branch out beyond music maybe do some stuff behind the scenes?
Yeah definitely. I’ve already done that. When I was recording my album I was also producing, co-producing and writing for other artists. I’ve written songs for Tinchy Stryder, these are acts over here, Chase and Status. I like doing stuff like that, I think eventually I will be getting more into that and maybe sign some artists as well. I’ve got my own record label now. Bigger Picture music where I’m putting my record out on. I definitely think I’m gonna sign some artists in the future, in the near future.
So you have your own record label!? You’re completely independent?
Yeah, yeah I’ve got my own record label, this is what I put my music out on.
Now that you’re independent how does that feel? Do you feel like more artists should go in that direction?
I think depending on what type of artist you are. If you’re the type of artist that wants 100% creative control it’s great for you, you know? and just to have that freedom you know? Just do it and put out music when you want to. Because me I’m all about the music and at the moment this is the best way for me to be 100% creative.
Yeah, the music industry has shifted, more and more artists are doing it themselves because people aren’t buying album like they used to.
Yeah, they are…exactly. All these record sales are going down and there is less money to be made and you need to be making the most of it rather than letting some other guy make some money off your back. I look at people like Jay-Z and people like that, that have started their own record companies and I know they got major backing. They took a chance and the belief in themselves that they could do it and that’s definitely appealing to me right now.
Kano’s album, Method to the Maadness drops in the UK on August 30th.