Next up in our Producer interview series is all round guru Chemo aka Telemachus. I started out asking Chemo the same, if not similar set of production questions that I asked Butcha, to see how they operate differently, and then, as before, we drift into the more serious stuff. I’ve also known Chemo for a number of years, although I’ve never had to defend his loudness making beats to my neighbours. I still consider him a friend and he’s done me a few favours over the years. I can also lay claim to being the first person to play one of his tracks on radio from his group Frontline, back in the days.
Chemo is a talented guy. He makes a lot of proper musical tunes alongside the straight up Hip-Hop he does for the top UK emcees. I personally don’t think Chemo gets enough credit outside of the UK Hip-Hop scene yet, but I’m sure that’ll come in time, hopefully with the release of his new album. He’s easily one of the most consistent producers and is another guy who gets his head down and gets shit done.
Like Beat Butcha, he is also a joker and to be honest I’m really pleased that I managed to get such serious interviews from them both, ‘cause for all the joking they do it shouldn’t take away from the quality of music they make.
In his most thorough interview yet, UKHH gets the scoop on his love for the term ‘Trip-Hop’ and his secret Banjo. Pop that kettle on again and settle down with the kush.
UKHH: Did anybody else in your family get involved with music?
The only family member I have who was involved in music was one of my French uncles, Francois Gerald. He was the drummer for a 1970s Lyonnais Prog Rock group called Vortex ( http://www.progarchives.com/
UKHH: What are your earliest memories of Hip-Hop?
Alas my memory is incredibly poor, but I do remember the first or second year of secondary school having a dubbed tape of (Wu Tang Clan’s) ‘36 Chambers’. Back then I was into Jungle, but I do remember listening to all the strange slang and wild metaphors and thinking that I could get into this…
UKHH: How did you get involved in the production side of things?
Mixing Jungle with Classic FM on a Hitachi boombox was my first step at making music. Although I did record the Mr. Blobby song off the TV into my mum’s Dictaphone when I was 9…
UKHH: What was the first equipment that you got really comfortable working on?
I started off with the Akai MPC 2000, and although I rarely use an MPC nowadays, I still have a great fondness for this ugly, functionalistic grey slab of electronics!
UKHH: What is it about a sound that you’re looking for?
It has to be crispy and not a belltree. Belltrees are evil.
UKHH: What catches your eye about a record if you’re sampling?
Firstly the cover. If there is a psychedelic painting, it’s going in the bag. If there’s a man with an ostentatious moustache, then it’s also in the bag. Secondly I like to look at the instruments. If there’s a Sitar, it’s in the bag. If there’s a mellotron, it’s in the bag. If there’s a saxophone, it’s invariably not in the bag.
UKHH: Do you usually do drums first?
Invariably yes. Drums are the only reason I like making music, all the rest is just decoration.
UKHH: Do you use actual drum loops or just hits?
Absolutely love breaks. Have been known to loop them!
UKHH: What are some of your favorite drum breaks?
The Meters – Handclapping Song
Jimi Hendrix – Little Miss Lover
Booker T and the M.G’s – Working in the Coal Mine
UKHH: Do you layer drum hits?
I used to. These days I just use EQ and compression to get what I want.
UKHH: Do you compress the finished drum track?
UKHH: Do you play any instruments?
I own lots of instruments… Oh, do I play instruments? No.
UKHH: Did you ever work with a live band?
My band att the moment is called ‘El Crisis & Thunder’. It’s a strange sound, but I would describe it as Afro-Space-Folk. http://www.
UKHH: Are you still out there digging?
Absolutely. This week I bought Dr Alimantado, David Axelrod, Nektar, and a Cuban Drum Library educational record. I buy more for listening and inspiration, but still use mainly records for sampling.
UKHH: Tell me about something you do in production which you think is a Chemo method, like something you always do to a sound or drums?
I almost always compress the bass and kick together. And I always put a banjo solo low in the mix on the chorus.
UKHH: You must have a huge stash of beats that never came out.
Absolutely. I have loads that I dislike for various reasons, and also I have 4-5 finished projects waiting to come out. I always seem to be working 1-2 years behind what actually is coming out.
UKHH: What do you think gives you the knack for putting beats together?
Practice. 15 years of.
UKHH: What have you done with Beat Butcha? How did you guys hook up?
He’s in the basement. He was bad so I had to cage him. I gave him a MiniMoog to play with so he can see in the dark, so I think he is happy…
Nah, me and Butcha have known each other for a long time. I guess we have inspired each other over the years, even though we are on slightly different paths professionally. He is doing so well now, I am truly happy for him!
UKHH: Talk to me about the studio. It’s been the place where a lot of people have passed through and recorded. When did it all begin?
I started recording people for my own tracks in my mum’s house in Streatham, and after honing my skills and working methods for a few years, I figured out that there may be a way to actually make this into a job. I went to university to study Graphic Design which was a complete waste of time. If my children want to go to university, I will have to insist that they do a proper academic degree, not just playing with glue and crayons like I did!
After I left, I decided to make a real go at starting up a proper studio, and thus Kilamanjaro Studios http://www.
UKHH: Is there a project that you’ve recorded or worked on at the studio other than your own that you’re particularly proud of?
I’m proud of most things I have done to be honest. Some of my discography is perhaps of varying quality, but it’s all a journey and I have nice memories from the majority of projects I have worked on.
UKHH: How important is it to have an understanding about the business side of the industry in order to make moves?
I’m not sure if I am well placed to answer this question as I have always shied away from making any ‘moves’. I have an understanding of how the industry works, but it depresses me to think about it.
UKHH: Tell us about your older releases.
‘The Stomach of the Mountain’ http://itunes.apple.
UKHH: At the end of 2011 you dropped ‘The Adventures Of Telemachus Vol 2’, which was in lead up to the Telemachus album ‘In The Evening’. Does that mean you have a release date for us?
The short answer is no. The album is, shall we say, more than ready… But I am biding my time, and trying to preach the gospel of Telemachus in the meantime. It’ll be released via YNR http://www.ynr-
UKHH: So what’s with Chemo and Telemachus?
Let me explain the difference between Chemo and Telemachus. Chemo is a producer who works for other people. Sometimes for money. Telemachus is an artist. A hermitic genius. He is an ego-maniac who only cares for his music and his plants.
Is that clearer now?
UKHH: The album has been a long time coming, what do you hope it does for you that you’ve not already achieved?
I just hope that it is well received. Some nice reviews perhaps. I don’t think I have ever had a, what I would call ‘proper’ review. Something where the reviewer really takes time to listen, analyze and interpret the music, so that would be great.
UKHH: Talk us through the album from your perspective.
A bit of rapping, a bit of singing, and loads of atmosphere. Over half the album is instrumental only, more similar to ‘Ferndale Rd’ http://www.youtube.com/
UKHH: What’s next for Telemachus after this release?
I have already finished up the album that I made in Morocco, which is purely instrumental – a combination of sampled sounds, live instruments and atmospheres from my 2 months surf trip at the end of 2011. Anyone with even a passing interest in unusual, international music and rhythm should find it intriguing at the very least.
Aside from that, I am working on new projects all the time, both as a solo artist, and in collaboration with vocalists/musicians. Stylistically there is now a focus on what I hate to categorize as down-tempo, organic electronica or ‘Trip-Hop’ even though I vigorously dislike the term. Trying to describe your own music is so pompous and ridiculous. Fiddlesticks!
UKHH: What keeps you motivated?
Travel and collaboration.