If you had told me in 1997 while I was listening to “Mutant Jazz” that ten years later I would be interviewing him the week before his debut performance in Wellington, I would have told you to shut the fuck up.
However 2007 rolled around and as it transpired T-Power was rolling through New Zealand to catch up with some mates, see the sights and play the odd gig.
So when Ddog hit me up on msn and asked me if I wanted to interview T-Power I wasn’t going to say no and hey that week I’d spoken with Mala from DMZ and MC Navigator, so I was getting pretty good at understanding those hard UK accents.
For those of you who don’t know T-Power first came to prominence through his work with hardcore techno group “Bass Selective” who’s 1991 hit "Blow Out Part II" was an influential proto-jungle track. He then rose to new acclaim as a solo artist with an experimental blend of lush ambience and often over-the-top rhythmic complexity. His 12-inch 'Mutant Jazz,' as well as the full-length 'The Self-Evident Truth of an Intuitive Mind' are considered early masterpieces of jungle.
Although subsequent work has strayed from jungle's rhythmic syncopation into breaks and ambient (Atomic Dog, Chocolate Weasel, Agent BLK, Ebony Dubsters), drum and bass remains the core element of much of T Power's music. In recent times it is his work alongside Shy FX that has achieved him the most fame. Their albums ‘Set It Off’ and ‘Diary of a Digital Soundboy’ spawned huge dancefloor and crossover hits such as ‘Shake Ur Body’, ‘Feelings’ and ‘Everyday’. The Digital Soundboy imprint in its short 2 year life has become quickly established as one of the most quality labels out there with a rapidly growing artist roster and many well received releases.
I gave T-Power a buzz about 7pm Tuesday and after a mutual confession we’d both had a couple of drinks that afternoon decided to stray away from the typical interview format and focus on something more fun and interesting for the average reader.
I quickly discovered that after a few short days in New Zealand T-Power was loving the place, had already played his first set at FU bar and was looking forward to travelling around the country and seeing the sights. A hike to the top of Mt Cook was planned, as well as visiting Fiordland and ‘The Remarkables’, just outside of Queenstown.
“I’m a London boy, born and bred, so anytime I get to go and see even a little bit of nature I totally lose it. I get so much inspiration from travelling around and seeing the sights. I spent the last few months travelling around Canada and spending time in Alberta with my girlfriend and that was amazing as well, playing at big outdoor festivals on the west coast with people like Marcus Visionary. It’s been some great motivation to help me finish off my album”
T-Power has been working steadily for the last few years on a new album entitled “Music for Life”. Provisionally the album will be divided into two parts, the first half will be conceptual music from across the board of styles that T-Power is into followed on by a straight up dancefloor drum and bass section, or as I put it “Music for raving and comedown music for the next morning”. T-Power couldn’t reveal too much about the album but he did have this too say.
“I have about 300 songs that I’ve made over the last few years and I’m currently working through them and picking out the best ideas then refining them. To be honest it’s been pretty up and down, some days I feel like the album is close to finished, other days I feel like nothing is done. I’m being extra hard on myself this time round, really going over everything with a fine comb.
This sort of process isn’t always a good thing, sometimes you over listen and lose that initial impact.
In a lot of ways no music is ever really finished, you could always add or subtract more, but at a certain point you have to put it down and step back. I have really been focused in album mode for a while though, and when I’m in album mode I don’t really listen to other people’s music. I’m trying to keep away from other influences and really be honest with the music I bring forth. I want to give the people ‘my sound’ not an imitation of some other persons ideas. It would be way too easy to just go and copy what is currently working in the clubs and write a whole set of tunes based around that format.
I work on a powerbook in logic pro and it’s been an amazingly liberating experience to be able to just make music as I travel around the world seeing these beautiful sights. When you are working in a studio setting on a day to day it becomes too much like drudgery and actual 9-5 work for me. You have to understand I signed up for a career in music because of the freedom it offers.”
From a personal point of view T-Power is one of the few drum and bass artists still active on the circuit who I have always been really excited about seeing play, but he has never toured the pacific before and wasn’t ever around performing in the other countries I’ve visited over the last few years, so where has the man been?
“I stopped DJing for a good six years so and just worked hard with Shy in the studio.
I didn’t have enough music that I wanted to play in the style I wanted to be known for and vinyl never worked for me as a medium.
You see I like to be able to combine any track from any genre or time period of music in my sets and the reality is you can only do so much with a mixer and pitch controls. So when programs like Abelton live emerged I was really excited about the possibilities and dived back into the live performance circuit.
I wouldn’t call what I do a live PA, I think you’d need a few people working on different laptops to really do a live drum and bass performance on Abelton. What I do is a more a happy medium between performing a dj set and creating live remixes/re-edits on the fly.
I also like to play across the board and move outside of just dnb and incorporate hip-hop and funk elements into my sets.
Ddog managed to listen into a late night radio set from T-Power on George FM earlier in the week, and yes T-Power will layer a funk track over a jungle track and keep them running for the duration of the whole funk song.
What can I say? The man does it his own way…
I didn’t want to get into too much of a typical line of questioning with T-Power and I definitely wasn’t going to ask him what labels/artists/tracks he was feeling but we did have a brief discussion about the emergence of dubstep.
“To be honest man I haven’t heard that much of it yet, and what I have heard sounds like a mixture of southern hip-hop with drum and bass noises and less vocals. I think it’s a good template and could definitely go somewhere with a bit more work.
Like I said though, I’ve been in ‘album mode’ and when I’m in album mode I don’t really listen outside of my own material.
To my ears dubstep sounds like the producers answer in the whole grime debate. I mean grime music has this fantastic energy to it, but in general the beats are a bit shoddy production wise. I think dubstep has a higher focus on production values and once the current age group producing and driving the sound really mature musically I’m sure we’ll hear some great things. Development is something that takes time and it doesn’t always happen quickly or cleanly.
After the realisation of a few common friends and a couple of in-joke based chuckles it was time to wrap things up with some final words.
It’s been amazing man, to have had the opportunities to travel around the world like I have had through music and see so many great things, meet so many great people. I would have never guessed it would go this far. Here I am looking out this window sipping vino on a Monday afternoon on a gorgeous day in New Zealand and I’m just thinking about how lucky I am. I’m here for a month and that’s a while, but I’m starting to think it’s maybe not enough time to see everything I want to see in your beautiful country.
I’m really looking forward to the rest of the tour dates while I’m here. Trust me the shows will be heavy”
And with that I left the man to sip his vino and enjoy the last of the evening sun.
Saturday 3rd of March @ Sandwiches (Wellington)
Saturday 10th of March (with Ed Rush and Optical) @ Ministry (Christchurch)
Interview by Martyn Pepperell
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