A veteran of the UK scene, Braintax doesn’t really need much of an introduction to true UK hip hop heads. After years of running Low Life where he has brought us some classic albums such as Skinnyman’s – Council Estate of Mind and Jehst’s – High Plains Drifter, this is only his second solo release after a wait of nearly five years since his last album Biro Funk.
I met up with Mr Christie in his Low Life offices in London to talk a bit about Panorama and life as Braintax.
Panorama is your first piece of work in about five years I think, why did you wait so long before producing something, was it because you were busy with Low Life stuff?
Yea this is my first album, first Braintax thing… in a while anyway… I mean I was just busy doing other stuff. I did the Skinnyman album, that was a lot of work, I produced most of the Kashmere album, mixed, recorded it and everything so that was also a lot of work, so yea I’ve just been busy doing that… plus I’m not really into putting out albums for albums sake. I’d rather just put it together when I feel I have the right tracks for it and that’s why it came out when it did.
Did you ever think about quitting your solo work during that time?
Quitting? No, I mean it’s not like a job so you can always quit or just stop doing it whenever you want to stop doing it. It’s not like I have to make a big thing of it and say right I retiring now… you know. I was just never really ready to put anything out, so I never put anything out. I always wanted to make another album because I knew I had ideas and a lot of energy to make it, so we just waited on that to culminate to add on the tracks.
So those ideas must have been brewing for quite a while then?
Yea some of the ideas, like A Day in the Life of a Suicide Bomber, were some lyrics I had for a couple of years… Monsoon Funk was a beat that I had for a few years that I still haven’t written to. Decade was an old Ben Grim track actually that I just kind of re-worked. So yea it was all kind of brewing but it just took four years to really come to a head to a point this summer where it was ready to come out.
“…You get a bit older and wiser and a bit more mature as you grow up…”
When you released it, did you have any particular thoughts on the UK Hip Hop scene as it stands now, especially as there is a lot of talk about up and coming rappers on forums, but then when you go out you usually see the same people playing out all the time.
Well I don’t really go out, so I don’t really get involved in that and I don’t go on the internet to read about hip hop so I don’t really get involved in that either. So I am not involved in the hip hop scene socially, as I used to be. I don’t really go out too much to hip hop clubs or anything like that. So my thoughts on this are obviously kind of less than they used to be.
How do you think you have changed since Biro Funk and within yourself, up to this album?
Same way everybody does really. You get a bit older and wiser and a bit more mature as you grow up. The same way that you and I and everybody else does, that’s the main way. But then, I’ve become more interested in other kinds of music and less fixated and obsessed with hip hop since Biro Funk came out.
What kind of music do you listen to now?
All sorts man, I listen to everything from sort of like house to rock to soul, all sorts, I am probably less single minded now than I used to be. I’m a lot more open minded when it comes to music.
Do you think that shows on the new album?
Nah, not particularly… to be honest with you because I can be into all forms of music but when I sit down and make the music that I make, that’s Braintax, then it’s straight up hip hop, that is what I do, it’s not really trying to be kind of avant-garde or leftfield or anything like that it’s just straight up hip hop, that’s what I know best and do best as well. I think its good to be open minded about things but it doesn’t have to come into play when you sit down and make a track.
Your new album contains a lot of social awareness issues, is that something which you feel strongly about and you want people to stand up and take note about it or is it just something you find interesting to rap about?
The thing with Panorama… no the thing with me when I sit down and write tracks is that I do just sit down and write whatever is in my head at the time… I just sit down and write what I want to write. So this time I ended up sitting down and writing lots of tracks that were kind of more socially and politically aware.
When I was doing Biro Funk I was more fixated with the hip hop scene and what was going on in hip hop. Now I am less interested in that and more interested in what’s going on in the world with political and social stuff.
“…when I sit down and make the music that I make, that’s Braintax, then it’s straight up hip hop…”
I just generally find that more interesting and I think in a time now where hip hop had become really one-dimensional and people just rap about the same things all the time, I think that stands out even more when you rap about social and political issues. So I was like yea, let me put five tracks on the album that are like that, because that makes it stand out.
Is that the reasoning behind your choice to sample people like George Galloway on the new album?
Well I sampled George Galloway because I agree with nearly everything that he says, and he also sounds wicked when you put him over music too! That’s the reason that I sampled him and he says things that fit in with the context in which I am rapping about. But yea, you have to realise that certain things make people interested in you as an artist and makes people want to buy your records and sometimes its good to bear those in mind and try and carter for that as long as you stay you and as long as your still happy with the record, then I don’t think that’s a bad thing to do, whereas some people just sit down and just big headedly write about the same issues over and over again without realising that if they rapped about something else going on in their life they would sell more records.
Yea people might take more notice as well… So when it comes to running Low Life, you’re obviously quite busy doing stuff, did this make it harder when you were trying to release Panorama?
Yea, that’s mostly to do with the gigs, because it means I don’t have my weekends free… for like the last six weeks I’ve been doing pretty much gigs every weekend, so it just means you get to Friday and its not the end of the week… it’s like ok we’ve got a gig tonight, then we got a gig Saturday night… and then I might be able to do my washing on Sunday… perhaps.
I see a couple of dates you’ve had in London recently. Have you had more dates up in Leeds?
I’ve just done the major cities, I booked a limited amount of dates because I didn’t want to just keep taking gigs because it is a real drain and it stops you doing other things, and being an artist isn’t the only thing I do, it’s not my main thing. I run the label, I’ve got other things going on as well outside of music, so I am really just trying to hit of the main cities so we did like Leeds, Bristol, Oxford, Manchester, Liverpool and London.
“…it’s like ok we’ve got a gig tonight, then we got a gig Saturday night… and then I might be able to do my washing on Sunday… perhaps…”
What’s your favourite Low Life release to date?
Erm… I don’t know, what’s yours?
Mine? It’s probably the Voice of the Great Outdoors, because of the tune Cosmic Gypsies.
Yea, Cosmic Gypsies is probably one of my top three Low Life tracks of all time. Erm my favourite release… yea I mean if I had to choose one I think it would be pretty fair to say the Voice of the Great Outdoors. But I like them all for different reasons. I like High Plains Drifter as well, I like that a lot but I like my first album still. I like them all, but I think to choose one would be wrong but Cosmic Gypsies and the Voice of the Great Outdoors are the ones that stand out definitely.
Finally, what kind of direction do you hope to take Low Life in the future?
Just the same direction man, people ask me this in every interview and like people get a surprise because they think I’ve got these amazing plans and you know what people in hip hop are always talking about their plans and 90% of it is just bullshit, people just talk about what they are going to do all the time and half of them never do it. But with Low Life I’m not going to bullshit you, were just going to carry on what were doing, we just put out good hip-hop.
What are the upcoming releases we can expect?
We’ve got Dubbledge in the New Year we’re going to try and build him up with a few releases and then put his album out, and I’ve got a new album to do next year and I’m also thinking of doing off cuts from Panorama. I’ve got some tracks that didn’t make it and I’ve got some bits and bobs that I still would like people to hear so I’m going do that, so probably produce two CDs from me and then the Klashnekoff on the Riddim Killa Low Life offshoot, that comes in February, so obviously that’s going to be quite a big thing for us. But I always say to people, Low Life says what it does on the tin, that’s it, I am not about to expand and try and put out American hip hop or instrumental hip hop or this and that. If I was going to do that I would do it on another label, but Low Life puts out good UK Hip Hop and that’s what it is known for and that’s why people respect it and it’s why people buy into it as a brand as well, so I would really just leave it as that. I think when you try and get a bit blinged out and a bit flashy, the music industry tends to be when it falls apart.