This is a pretty big week for Paul Lynch.
As producer, DJ, promoter, and now label boss, Slackk is undoubtedly one of the figureheads of the UK instrumental grime scene.
Tonight, Boxed – the night he founded in 2013 with Logos, Mr. Mitch and Oil Gang – is celebrating its 3rd anniversary at The Laundry with their biggest rave yet. Mumdance and Trends join the residents, along with another secret special guest. If it’s anything like the last two, it’ll properly kick off, and feel like a consolidation of all their work to date.
Friday sees the release of the highly-anticipated Aviary on R&S, his second EP for the legendary Belgian label and possibly his most accomplished release to date. As richly melodic as ever, it sees him pushing his grime-rooted sound in all sorts of interesting directions.
Oh, and there’s also the small matter of his wedding on Saturday.
If he’s a bit stressed – and who wouldn’t be with the kind of workload he sets himself? – then there’s little trace of it in his lightning fast Scouse delivery. I manage to grab him on his lunch break (“loitering around outside the office, looking like a chump”) to chat about new projects, media attention and the future of Boxed.
So, you hosted a room at Bloc the other weekend. How was was it teaming up with the R&S guys for that showcase?
Yeah, really good actually. There was a decent contrast between the two styles, and to be honest the room felt like a Boxed night to us, just in Minehead. There were a lot of people that we recognised anyway from the raves, a few people in Boxed t-shirts.
What did you think about [festival founder] George Hull’s Spectator article?
Oof, err… That’s a can of worms! Kind of put a little dampener on the festival, like. I thought he was a lot older than he actually is, y’know… when you’re talking about “back in my day” and he’s only 32, I’m thinking, he’s not much older than me! It’s not like he was missing out on a golden era of warehouse raves or anything like that. I just thought he came across as a bit of a twat.
Do you find there’s any sort of problem with the way people are partying in 2016?
I don’t have any issue with that, other than a problem with the lack of venues. I mean, you’ve been to Boxed. I’ve never viewed it as anything other than just being a sick rave. To sit there and say a generation ago people were more up for that sort of partying is a fallacy. All anyone really wants to do is go out and have a good time, isn’t it? So I’m not buying into it. I’ll presume he took a hit on the festival itself, maybe lost a bit of dough and now he’s come out pissed off with a comedown and thought, “I’ll make a bit of cash from The Spectator.”
Yeah, I think that’s fair enough. You were in New York a couple of weeks ago, what was that like?
It was great, I played in this place called Trans Pecos which is in the wilderness of Queens. Really good reception. You get people knowing the tunes and being genuinely into it, which is a bit weird considering the distance! I played in the Palisades in 2014 as well, and hopefully I’ll get over there a bit more in the next couple of years.
Might you think about taking Boxed over there?
It’s tough to be honest. If you’re gonna do it on that scale you’ve gotta organise a tour, and obviously the financial aspect of flying four of us out there is a bit of an issue. You’re more likely to get one or two of us as opposed to throwing a proper Boxed rave. Unless we did something like SXSW, but we’re not really planning that at the moment.
Well, you’ve got the Boxed 3rd Birthday next. What have the preparations been like? It’s your biggest venue yet, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s definitely the biggest Boxed solo rave we’ve done. We’ve done Corsica before – which cumulatively over the two rooms is probably just slightly smaller than this – but there we had Local Action doing the second room, so this is a step up. Preparations have gone really well, although we’ve got loads of other things going on at the moment, so it’s a bit of a balancing act. I’m just looking forward to getting in the rave now.
What else have you got going on?
Erm. I mean, I’m getting married on Saturday, so there’s that for me.
Ah, thanks mate. But yeah, we’re trying to sort the vinyls for Boxed 002 and 003, and also trying to assess venues for the club date after this one. And obviously I’m trying to write some music and put all that together. Bit of a hectic time of the year, this.
What’s the plan with the label, are you gonna do more compilation releases or focus on single artist projects?
Nah, the whole plan of the Boxed label is to have four artists on each one, so we each pick a track towards every project. We’re not really planning on doing single artist releases. It’s gonna be four different people, four different tracks, four different styles – we’re trying to reflect the night itself. There’s a lot more labels that have sprung up [since we did the free compilations], so our step now is more towards putting out physical products and actually having something tangible. We might do a bigger album type thing later on, but we need to get like five or ten of these Boxed vinyls out of the way before we can start thinking about that.
You’ve got the Aviary EP out soon – was it written in the knowledge that you were gonna release it on R&S?
When R&S got in contact with me initially the whole idea was to do a couple of EPs with them, so I was writing some of these tracks with them in mind. Although I wasn’t sat there thinking I need to write an ‘R&S’ EP, it’s just a continuation of what I’ve been doing for a while. There’s not an overlying theme that goes through it as such, just tracks that fitted together. We’ve been working on it over the last six or seven months and trying to get it right. ‘Returning Geese’ was initially gonna be on the first R&S EP, but it didn’t quite fit, so that’s the only real holdover.
What are you working on at the moment production wise?
Ehh, bits and pieces. In theory I’m writing an album, but it’s very nascent. Prospectively it’ll be on R&S, but I’m nowhere near nailing down anything like that, it’s just sketches and drafts at the minute. Maybe that’ll come later on in the year, maybe it’s next year. I’m also trying to get some collaborations done – I’ve just finished a tune with Grandmixxer, I’ve got one with Boylan that’s half-finished, and I’m gonna be in the studio with Logos a bit later on this week. There’s actually a new Patrice & Friends project on the way, but that isn’t anywhere near finished either. Might be out before the summer though because it’s easier to work with samples.
With all the different projects you’ve got going on – the label, DJing, the production side – have you learnt any tricks over the years for juggling it all?
Mate, there aren’t any tricks. It’s just… no sleep, y’know what I mean? Get home from the office and have my dinner, wait til my missus goes to bed, and then sit up til daft o’clock and work. I sometimes take odd days off from the office where I’m dedicated to studio time, but there’s no tricks, just a lot of exhausting work. Obviously I really enjoy it otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it, but it’s just a matter of sacrificing little aspects of your life to try and create a tangible thing.
It must be satisfying when you go to the raves and see it all paying off.
Oh yeah, it’s great. My own profile has sort of risen in tandem with Boxed, and to see the progression that we’ve made – bigger crowds, bigger raves – to find yourself watching your own idea rise and become something a lot more well known, yeah, it’s really satisfying. There’s a whole new generation of producers who are associated with us or we know them from the raves or whatever, and to see them coming into the spotlight as well is really refreshing.
Do you ever feel like there’s a danger of it all getting too big, of it getting too much attention?
Ehh, from a media perspective, yeah. There was certainly a period last year where every 20 minutes there’s a new article. It’s like, “oh fucking hell, here’s the new grime, the new grime, the new grime.” That gets boring, so you’ve just gotta shut all that off for a while. I’d sit there and read every one of those articles, and now I purposefully avoid it. You’re better off focusing on what’s happening around you and ignoring the media constructs around it. I don’t really view us getting too popular if that’s the question, because there’s no real commercial appeal to Boxed. Y’know, it’s a niche electronic thing, isn’t it? Maybe it’ll get bigger and bigger – hopefully it does – but face it, we’re not gonna be Eton Messy or something like that. It’s still an underground thing, and you just hope it retains those energies as it gets bigger. We want to keep the same dark moody room vibe, that’s paramount. Not to be too bait, just to find places where you can expand the formula to a bigger size without losing it.
If the media attention keeps growing, do you feel like there’s a danger of people trying to jump on a bandwagon?
I mean, we did have certain producers I’ve known from various raves and all that… people who were on a techno or a house thing but are suddenly grime producers with different names. As soon as something gets a bit of hype you definitely get bandwagon jumpers no matter what, but you’ve gotta take it as a compliment. If it wasn’t for what we’ve done, they wouldn’t necessarily want to be involved, so it is an achievement. I mean, I’ve got tunes from producers from ‘other scenes’ that’ve been good and that I’ve played, so I’m not slagging everybody off. As soon as you’ve got a sound out there, Soundcloud will latch onto it, no matter what. I don’t think there’s any way of ever getting around that really. Anyway, the media focus now is more towards the MC side of things, which gives us a bit of breathing space and we can just continue doing what we’re doing.
Aviary is out March 25 on R&S, pre-order here.