Roast Beatz- Heavy Ear Play (Interview)

by • October 16, 2013 • Blog, Features, Hip Hop, Interviews, Music

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With recent signings to Break Beat Paradise and Riddim Fruit Records, DJ Roast Beatz has taken his experiences on the Hip Hop scene, where he’s worked with the likes of Pheonix Da Icefire, and developed a more up beat, funky style that takes influences from Break Beat for an up front, dance crushing sound. Never one to forget his roots, his forthcoming Heavy Ear Play EP merges that with vocal features from some of Hip Hop’s top underground MCs. As well as featuring Pheonix’s tight flows once again, he’s joined by Hackney based Brotherman, UK legend Jehst, Team Hate’s Stig of the Dump, man of the moment Dabbla and Birmingham born Rtkal. What’s more, one of the US’s finest recent exports Action Bronson adds a US touch to two tracks. Between them, they take on Roast’s light hearted, bumping beats for a four tracker that, although varied, is defined by it’s funk fueled nature.

It’s been a while since I heard anything new from Brotherman, who’s debut album The Dark/The Light still gets regularly bumped (check our video interview/guest bars with him here), so his verse to kick things off is highly welcomed. His bars begin proceedings on fine form with a smooth verse referencing the Avante Garde between casual multi’s over Roast’s guitar and wind melodies and strong bassline. Followed by Bronson, Jehst and Stig, it’s a monster of a track, the neck snapping beat of which does justice to the four heavy weights sitting on it. Taking things further into the funk, Humble Pie sees LDZ/Problem Child/Dead Players work horse Dabbla flexing his vocal muscles over squelching bass, drum rolls and a horn led hook that’s simply impossible to sit still through.

Oh Yeh lets Rtkal take sole control over a Latin tinted beat where synth stabs juxtapose it’s natural, metalic drum break, pianos and trumpets as Rtkal’s intricate lyrics bounce back and forward between drum rolls and Roast’s tight cuts. Lastly, Phoenix’s swaggering lyrics sit between a Bronson hook over the cymbal crashes and sliding guitars of 5 Star General, taking it back towards the Hip Hop side of things where the EP started off, finishing off with an instrumental section where Roast steps forward for his solo moment with guitar flourishes and battle scratches.

A crossover EP that takes some of UKHH’s finest lyricists to a variety funk fusion beats, it’s another top notch addition to Roast’s discography, showcasing the development in his sound while fully representing his roots. Cartoon sound effects, drum rolls and hard scratches populate bouncing, dance floor beats which combine with lyrics that are at times deep, at others smooth and more often than not just straight swaggering for a sound equally as home in the club as it is at the yard. Dropping through Riddim Fruit on 6th November, it comes fully BC cosigned. We caught up with Roast to get the full low down. Check the previous interview here for the back story.

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Yo Roast, congratulations on getting the EP finished. It was over two years ago that I last interviewed you, what’s been going on since then?
Easy Max, thanks. Things have been going really well since we last spoke. I’ve had some crazy gigs happening, been out headlining in China and Austria, done the festival circuit, started my own nights in Bournemouth, put out numerous mix-tapes, free mash-ups and now all my official releases are seeing the light of day so I can’t grumble!

Back then I was in the habit of asking the question of who you’d like to collaborate with most, to which you answered Jehst, Action Bronson and Mystro. Well the first two feature on Heavy Ear Play and Mystro laced one of your recent singles, how do you feel about how it’s all come on since then?
I guess my 1st album was kind of a learning curve. Due to the scene I was in and living in London I had the chance to collaborate with loads of dope artists. Looking back I should have never released an album; technically I was a novice and I took the term album too lightly. Since then I’ve really started to think about the kind of music I want to make and I take it a lot more seriously. I’m learning how to use my equipment more, investing in collaborations and proper studio mix-downs.

A natural progression is to hit self-targets after working on projects.  You look back and say “What did I do wrong?”, “How can I make it doper?” and “Who would I like to work with now?” I’ve known Jehst for a while through Ideal and Chemo so that was just a phone call. With Mystro we just back and forthed beats until we hit the right one, I wanted to make a party banger with influences of the Ghetto Funk scene I’d become more involved with. As for Bronson, I hit him up before he blew up! I paid him a pittance compared to what he charges now I’d imagine. I’ve been sitting on that verse and hook for ages.

So that’s kind of how it’s all come on.  My new album is no more, I’m releasing a series of EP’s instead, purely because if I made an album right now I don’t think it would reflect me musically as an artist. I’ve drawn so many inspirations from people, music and learnt how to use my equipment a lot better but there’s still much needed work. I will release another album, but not till I’m good enough for it to make its mark!

I remember a conversation with you a while back where we were talking about the UK Scene and what you felt your place was in it; you were saying you’d become a bit tired of making deep thinking hip hop and wanted to make tunes to rock a dance floor. Heavy Ear Play seems to tread both grounds, Brotherman’s avante garde reference over an up beat, funky break for example. Is that something you’re still wary of and how do you feel about the balance you’ve found on this release?
I’m certainly not tired of deep thinking hip hop. I think without deep thinking hip hop it’d wither away as a genre and become worthless. I think what I meant was my role, predominantly as a DJ, is to rock crowds. When we spoke previously my artist page was at 300 but it’s now 3500, my sound cloud was 100 with 1000 plays, it’s now 1000 + and had 40,000+ plays. Back then I was militant about the music I’d play; it would be underground hip hop and nothing else. Since I’ve started to fill my sets with more eclectic music ranging from Hip hop, Reggae, Latin, Ghetto funk and Break beat I’ve enjoyed Dj’ing a lot more, had a wider reach, had more opportunities, been signed to an agency and had fresh inspiration.

I think the more my music career became focused on being a party rocker the less time I had to listen to 82bpm underground tracks. I still love them; I’m just currently more passionate about finding a funky Latin break, putting a boom bap beat under it, scratching a q tip acapella and filling a dance floor.  The same as I don’t skateboard any more, I still watch skateboarding every day and have the utmost respect for it.  With down-tempo UK Hip hop, I don’t play it at gigs as it doesn’t rock a crowd as well, but I will always listen, respect and promote it to the max. I’m just more focused on bringing a party that fills dance floors, isn’t that why all DJ’s start in the 1st place? Check this interview with one of my favorite DJ’s and what he says about DJ’s playing different genres.  He’s bang on the money!

Ok that makes sense. Your recent singings to Break Beat Paradise Recordings and Riddim Fruit Records seem to highlight that attitude and you’ve been putting out some more funk/break beat type bits, how did that all come about?
Purely from approaching both labels with new music, luckily they felt it! I hit up Riddim fruit as I was a fan and literally bought everything they’d released, they had a fresh outlook and were putting out what they wanted regardless of genre. My first release with them was on their bootleg label Booty fruit. Through chatting on the net and doing various gigs the label owner Ben has become a good friend of mine. He’s signed me to the Riddim fruit agency, got me some stonking gigs and we’ve had some serious chuckles. All the guy’s I’ve met from that scene in Exeter and Bristol are safe.

Originally my music was going to be released on Boogie Boutique.  They kind of screwed me around and the label folded weeks after my single with Mystro was released. It was a shame, I felt that track had legs and would have done a lot better if there was a more focused label behind it. I found out they were going under through Facebook just before I was going to warm up for JFB at a night I was playing at.  When they folded I was so pissed off, back to the drawing board! Luckily, a guy called Badboe, who’s a musical inspiration to me, checked out all my stuff and is now putting it out on his label Break Beat paradise. They’re on a role right now; so much good music in the scene is coming out via them, so I finally feel I’m in a good place release wise with my two labels: Riddim fruit and Break Beat paradise.

Gig wise I’ve been signed to Cut la roc’s agency which is a bonus. He’s got heads like Jimmy Needles and Harry Love on the Rosta so I’m in good company! Hopefully some fresh gig’s will come out of that!

In terms of the development of your sound we touched on earlier, there’s a lot more synth work in your beats now days, what kind of software/hardware are you using?
I’m still pretty basic if I’m honest.  I will always be sampling breaks, but have definitely enjoyed learning how to use synths etc. Currently I’m just using an M audio 49e on Logic 9 with Massive and various other synth plugins. I’m trying to learn a lot more to keep up with it but I’m a Dad so my times eaten up with my wonderful family!

Word, congratulations on mini Roast by the way, even if it has be a little while. Last time we spoke we talked a lot about Bed Stuy, a Bournemouth hip hop night you were involved in at the time, what happened with that?
The guys who were running it finished Uni. I didn’t have a foot in the social scene they were in so for me to take it on would’ve been stupid. Plus towards the end of it the club was trying to get us to make it cheesier. I didn’t need the money as much as I had previously so thought fuck it, I’m done.

When we had guests like Jehst it was cool, as it bought the real heads out, but your average Wednesday night was dominated by students who wanted to hear what ever shit was on radio one that day. It was good while it lasted though, and it dug me out of a financial hole. It’s demise led me to the realization I could run my own nights at venues who won’t try to tell me what to play. Since then things have been going good.

So what residencies are you holding down now and how would you describe an average Roast set?
Right now I have: Smokin stax, my monthly residency at Smokin Aces.  Secret walls, I always handle the Battle set.  Also Friday Night Mixtape at Orange rooms is my new venture!

An average Roast set will take you from 100bpm – 130 bpm. You’ll have Reggae, Mash-up’s, Hip hop, Glitch hop, Funk, Ghetto funk, Latin and a large portion of scratch routines, live remixes and doubles. It always varies from crowd to crowd; I have bassy set’s, funky set’s and more hip hop set’s. I’m always keen to try and win over any crowd as long as they’re not expecting mainstream bollocks!

What kind of stuff are you listening to a lot outside of DJing/beat making recently?
It’s hard as, when I’m not with my family, all I’m doing is Dj’ing and beat making so whatever I listen to is 100% geared to that. Beat wise I’m always digging for Latin, Brazilian, Reggae, Blaxploitation stuff. Playing out I’m usually playing a lot of stuff from my labels so check out Riddim Fruit and Break Beat Paradise.

I’m mad in to Quantic, he’s the nuts. Also I’m still loving Bronson, checked the new Casual album that was hype! The Mouse Outfit album was in Heavy rotation as has been the Laptop Funkers EP and anything The Allergies do!

Good choices! I’ve been rinsing that Mouse Outfit LP in particular. What else you got forthcoming?
Ok….(deep breath….. The EP Heavy Ear Play drops on Riddim Fruit on the 6th November. That features Action Bronson, Brotherman, Jehst, Stig of the Dump, Phoenix da Icefire, Rtkal and Dabbla.

After that I’ve got the Ghetto Soul EP coming out on Break Beat Paradise, featuring Crystal Carter, Kylie Earl and Dizzy Dustin.  It’s got remixes from Tom Showtime, DJ Rudd and Badboe. Then there’s the Luxury Boom bap EP, also on Break Beat Paradise, featuring Dr Syntax, Manic, Kristy Kawolski and Koaste.

Next year I’ve got two tracks on Dabbla’s album featuring Grazellia and Rag n Bone man. I’m also working on more music with Brotherman. There’s an EP with my buddy Manic from Freefall collective also dropping on Riddim Fruit. Lastly, an EP with Dr Syntax, one with Koaste and a few remixes for Cut la roc and Mr Bristow.

In terms of mixtapes, I’m doing one for Phoenix da Icefire, one for Think Zebra clothing and probably a few promo ones chucked in and about, a fair chunk! When I write it down it makes me wonder where I get the time!

Ok so lastly, where would you like to be if we chat another two years from now?
House in the country, studio in the garden, more kids, more money, more skills, more releases, more vinyl, more travel through music, more trainers and less requests from pissed up girls.

Haha, sounds like the dream! Good to catch up mate, any final pearls?
Firstly thanks for the catch up! Secondly, Damn, wisdom has never been my bag! I guess if you’re looking to up your game or steez, remove yourself from the genre you’re in for a sec. Look around at others (this should be easy for an eclectic crate digger), pick the dope bit’s, try and integrate them to your set’s or style and see what it sounds like. For me moving from London and out of that scene made me widen my horizons musically. It helped me discover some dope music I used to hate on and has helped mature my sound. Thanks for reading and big up’s if you buy a Roast Beatz release or catch a live show!

Check Roast on Soundcloud here.

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