EyeKnow: How long did it take you to put I Remain together?
Verb T : In terms of the beats, They’re ones I’ve collected over the years. I’ve had an MPC 1000 since about 7 years ago and I’ve been slowly teaching myself. About 5 of the beats on I Remain are old beats that as I’ve progressed as a producer and learnt more about the machine, I’ve gone back to. I’ve been collecting bits and pieces for a really long time, but in terms of really going in and working on the album, it’s the past couple of years that I’ve been specifically shaping them into a body of work.
Were you looking for a specific sound in your samples when you were piecing the tracks together?
I definitely put a lot of effort into making it sound cohesive by being very selective with the track list. Although I wouldn’t say I have the technical skill of a lot of top producers out here in terms of having the equipment, hardware and plugins. If you listened to the original break for Control Madness you’d see how much I’ve put effects on it, changed the pitch and changed the notes; even though I’m using samples I still try to play them out as if I’m actually playing them. I really tried to give everything it’s own mood on I Remain, almost like you’re stepping into a different realm when you hear it. I tried to make everything quite hypnotic, something to evoke emotion.
It’s definitely that, that’s why the comedy element on Toast Jazz stunned me for a second, I was fully in the zone.
That was definitely planned, when I listened to the album without the lighter parts, I found it wasn’t fully reflective of how I like to be as a person, and as an artist. I felt like it needed to have those elements, and I tried to make them musical so you’re not just listening to me doing a funny voice and pretending to shoot someone, it’s still something you can have as part of the album. I try and make full albums, not just a track list full of bangers. Essentially I want people to be able to put it on and let it roll as a full piece; for the car journey, the walkmans, the ipods, that’s what I’m going for.
Did you base the characters on people you’ve met?
If you go back to my older work there’s characters like Dick Trusay, Philip Wasteman, and they’re not based on one specific person; with comedy characters like that there are people who inspire you, but you take it to a new place and create your own character. Without giving too much away, I have been in those situations, but I take it to an imaginary place and I’m not trying to offend anyone that’s done that to me in the past, it’s all in good fun.
How do you feel about battling now? Do you ever consider taking part again?
I might do, there have been some that I have been offered that for one reason or another didn’t come about. I’ve still got love for the Don’t Flop movement, I’m still a fan of it, and their company’s done really well to expand to level it has. In terms of whether I’ll go back to it I don’t know; I’ve always had that competitive urge, but I’ve found it hard to perform to the best of my ability in the battles because I always had so much else going on. It’s a whole different frame of mind to be in. When I’m on stage I’m used to having my beats playing and reciting verses or freestyling over them, but battling’s not an easy thing to learn, it’s a very specific skill. I really rate the people that can do it well. You may well see me on there again.
How do you balance your musical career with your family life?
Music is my 9 to 5 now; which is living the dream, but for that to be the case I have to work non-stop, Seven days a week. I have to be constantly making music, speaking with promoters and the label, playing shows and interacting online, that’s a big part of it now. I’ve got young kids, and I take care of them in the day, so don’t sleep is the simple answer. I’m up at about 6 in the morning, if I’m lucky I’ll get to bed by 11 or 12, but if I’ve got a gig I won’t sleep that night, then travel back home first thing, It’s a non-stop grind. If you actually paid me an hourly rate, the money I get would probably work out to be 3 or 4 quid an hour just because I put in that many hours. At the same time, I’d never complain, I’m doing what I’ve always loved for a living.
You were quite young when you first started going to open mics, was there a distinct point when you decided to make Hip Hop your living ?
The live side of it took some getting used to at first, with having the nerves before going on stage. It seems so distant because now it’s just what I do, and there’s not really a stage that makes me feel nervous. I was Eighteen when was doing open mics and had my first experience with putting something out on a label. In my head I always believed in myself as a full time rapper, and had dreams all the time like ‘this is gunna be me, this is what I do’. I had day jobs from the age of Eighteen aswell; working in video shops and clothes shops, but every time I made songs I knew that’s who I was, my day job was just temporary. It feels good to have gotten to the stage I’m at now, the hard work only increases, but so does the reward.
Do you have a specific process when you write lyrics?
It differs from time to time, Sometimes I’ll have a thing that I want to say or a specific beat to write to, that’s where it’s more of a conscious thing. There’s other times where I’ll work purely off inspiration, and that’s the way I prefer to write, that’s how most of I Remain was written. I’ll spend so long making a beat to get it sounding how I want, then after that process I’m drained, it’s Two in the morning and I’m half asleep, almost dreaming, then I’ll write. That’s when it’s quite subconscious. Certain times it’s like I’m being delivered these words. Even with the stream of consciousness type lyrics though, I always have to listen to it and make sure that the story I want to be in there is in there. Take the second verse from the track Lost; you can hear the stream of consciousness in the rhyme scheme, where the rhyming words in the line is different each time, so it’s not like I’ve set out a flow pattern and followed it, I’ve just gone with whatever’s come to me. Even though it’s quite cryptic, it still has the story, it’s not just random words. My style has always been to say something with each verse, and I feel I’ve done it in a new way on I Remain.
What else have you got coming up?
The album is out on the 23rd of October and the London Launch Party is the Saturday the 26th of October at Plan B in Brixton. There’s a tonne of really good people on the bill; all the High Focus guys, Split Prophets, Mystro, Ramson Badbonez, and more. Then the day after that I’ve got another launch in Bournemouth.
Any news on the new Four Owls?
I want people to know that we’re working on it. We owe it to the fans and the people that supported the first album to not short change them and just churn out an album. We need to meet a very, very high standard, so me and Flipz are guna go down to see the other boys; have a couple of days jamming and put our heads together. We’ve got a lot of really good tracks already recorded. I’d say we’ve recorded maybe Fifteen, even though we could release that as an album we don’t want to just throw it out there, we want to do something special. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t out by the middle of next year, but we’ll keep everyone updated with the progress.
What are you listening to right now?
There’s a lot of kids coming up, Dan Oddysee is really dope, Madlean is really dope, More1, Denziller. I’ve more listened to them since I’ve wrapped up my album. I love UK Hip Hop but when I’m making beats and creating I switch off the Hip Hop so I’m not influenced by it. I think that’s how a genre can end up sounding samey and generic. I’ll listen to old John Carpenter soundtracks, ambient music or even emo, indie type stuff, no specific genre, but the right type of song really strikes a chord. I know I’m way late but I just recently discovered Mount Kimbie, you put it on and it takes you somewhere, people that have that type of music influence me. I’ll make myself a playlist of different artists that all have a certain mood in their music and drift off, then turn on the sampler and see what I come with. I try not to sample too much, and if I do I filter it down, have it low in the mix and then build elements on top of it.
Do you still go digging for records?
It’s really changed, when I first started producing I just went to charity shops all the time to try and find good vinyl, and whenever I was out of the country I’d buy records. Now I’ve got quite a good little library of samples that I’ve acquired over the years, and I’ll wait and see what I want to make, I wont wait to find a sample and then make a song; I’ll decide on the sound I want and then dig for the specific vibe I’m after. I’ll always compose something in my head first, and have an aim with the beat, I’ll never just go and randomly flick through a record without knowing what I want to find.
If there’s one message you want people to take from the new album, what is it?
The reason I picked the title, I Remain is it’s a powerful thing to say to yourself when you’ve been through a lot. I’ve got a chronic illness, Crohn’s Disease, for people who saw the hospital bars on High Focus TV that’s what that was. Having that illness has really shaken up my life, but without getting caught in that; I’ve been through a lot of stuff whilst trying to stay productive as an artist and support my family, sometimes it’s easy to let things get on top of you, but we’re all built to survive these things. Your strength of mind is essential whatever you’re facing. I Remain is a statement of power that doesn’t just apply to me, I’d like it to apply to the listeners aswell. If you can relate to any of the struggles I’m going through, you can get through it by using that same strength of mind. It’s a statement of self empowerment, The Power Within. People are quick to tell themselves they can’t do things before they’ve even tried, or before they’ve even put their energy into it. You can’t do everything, but with hard work there are certain things you can achieve that you might never have thought possible, it just takes the right mentality. There’s a lot of struggle, but if you can keep your self belief in tact, then that’s a very important thing in life.
I Remain comes out on High Focus Records, on October 23rd.