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Risky Roads: Slackk

Paul Lynch has built a reputation as one of the most all-encompassing producers of recent times. Initially the purveyor of radio rarities via the now defunct grimetapes, he’s released records on Numbers, Diskotopia and Unknown to the Unknown in the past. Lynch’s Patrice & Friends was one of the most refreshing and original new projects to emerge from 2011, reflecting 80s funk, r’n’b and boogie through the frenzied prism of footwork.

Grime is now firmly on the agenda, however, and this week sees his ‘Raw Missions’ EP released by Local Action. Touching upon the influences that shaped his history, it represents some of the best work done by the Liverpudlian yet, channelling an intensity that evokes DJ Oddz and Youngsta in equal measure. We caught up with him to discuss the makings of Raw Missions, the balancing act of nurturing multiple projects and plenty more.

So Raw Missions is out next week on Local Action. The EP’s named after the now defunct pirate station Raw Mission. Was this where you first experienced grime?
No, its not necessarily where I first experienced grime. To be honest im not even entirely sure what station it was, it was just more pirate stations, I wouldn’t say there was just one in particular that came from, raw missions was a title that just made sense when I was putting it together. It just kind of fitted with the tracks I was making at the time.

Obviously with grimetapes and your previous productions, its clear it’s a massive part of your history. Is Raw Missions a tribute of sorts to a sound your indebted to?
Yeah it is. I guess as you said to pay homage to the era that I was into. But it took me a long while to get to the point where I was happy enough to give it out to people with the idea of releasing it. But I guess that is the idea behind it, to reference where, I guess, my musical background came from in terms of the music I make, definitely.

I was reading an interview with Mosca and he’s working on some grime, but doesn’t want to do an ‘old school grime thing’. Where do you consider Raw Missions to be on the spectrum?
I guess in a sense it has got an old school influence to a couple of them, in particular 90 years, which is kind of based on the idea of the old Pulse X or Eastwood tracks or whatever, where it’s just very stripped down, with the bass and that. Fat City I suppose in a sense references the old Ruff Squad productions, but I wouldn’t say that, as much as it is a homage to where I came from and that, I wouldn’t say that I went out intentionally to make an old school release, you know, intentionally put myself in the bracket of the old tunes because there’s no point. I think at the stage I’m at it’s something that’s inexorably influenced me, I do wear my heart on my sleeve in that sense. But it’s just music that I’m making. I wasn’t making anything with ‘old school’ as an intention or whatever, but certain things fitted that way, probably because I listened to so much of it I guess.

Patrice & Friends is obviously a million miles away from Raw Missions, but you also produce a lot of house as well. Do you think it’s important to maintain that diversity when making music?
Erm, I think it just comes, in a sense that, like I certainly couldn’t sit down and intend to write house every single time I made music or indeed grime every single time, ‘cause it’s not like I listen to one thing exclusively. I don’t know, your attention span wanders at times so you kind of find yourself shying away from doing the same thing over and over again. In a way I feel like you’re keeping yourself on your toes by not relying on a formula and sticking to one particular tempo every time you make a track. It’s just whatever comes to you on the particular day you want to make music I guess. I like all kinds but I’m quite bad at some of it so you never hear it, you know what I mean, but erm, I tend to make R’n’B, been going through a lot of rap stuff recently as well. I don’t know, it’s just what comes to you in the mood when you’re sitting down to make the tune. I guess that’s it.

Can we hope for more curveballs like Patrice & Friends?
Well the Patrice & Friends thing is ongoing. I’ll be playing out a little bit through DJ sets, testing out a couple of bits, but I’ve got no intention of knocking that on the head. I just don’t want to get trapped into the idea of a producer with a specific mode, because it’s not what I do, so the idea of people viewing me as that is a bit…it’s not what I want.

So would you say your productions are based more on spontaneity then?
Erm, I guess so, I mean I wouldn’t…it’s a bit hard ‘cause I don’t want to sit there and say someone who will only make house tunes or only make grime tunes is any way different to what I’m doing. It is literally just whatever comes to me at the time when I sit down, so yeah I guess it is spontaneity or just…I don’t know if I just get bored of myself (laughs)

There’s a lot of colour and character to your releases, whether it be from Patrice & Friends or Slackk. How do you ensure you maintain a distinctive atmosphere with each production?
Erm, I try not to reuse the same style, try not to reuse the same drums, the vast majority of the time if I use a snare sound or a drum sound or a synth I’ll actively sway away from using that again. It can work to some degree, whether you’ve got a specific sound and you can hear it and go…you know you’ll hear a kick drum and you’ll know who it is, but from my perspective I just try and start from scratch each time I make a tune, that’s why some of them sound a bit different to the others I guess. That’s something I’ve always tried to do in my productions, I’ve never tried to reuse anything.

How long have you been producing?
Erm, well, I’d say seriously or to a standard that I’ve been happy with, probably about four or five years but probably about 10 years. Started making music quite young, making very, very, very poor rap and all kinds from that period. It probably took me about five or six years to be happy with where I was, but then again I can hear the difference in releases now from stuff I was putting out at the beginning myself so I guess it’s always progression.

Did you start DJ’ing before producing?
I think I probably started DJ’ing as a fuck about when I was 14 because we always had decks in the house and all that. I suppose I’ve always been around it in a sense although my dad did give up a long time before I started. So yeah I guess I started DJ’ing a couple of years before I started producing. It’s a bit odd to be honest, when I was first making music it was so far removed from what I was playing as a DJ, but things gradually fell into what they are now.

Do you find your mixing feeds into producing well and vice versa?
I don’t know whether being a good DJ means you’re a good producer or the other way around, I mean I know from my own perspective, I don’t know whether its because I’ve been DJ’ing for quite the while sort of off and on, but you can always gage a specific type of track in terms of how it goes down, you’ve got to be quite conscious of who you’re playing to, some people kind of go off on their own and neglect the audience basically, who are effectively paying to see it, but I think DJ’ing certainly helps your production because it gives you a unique perspective to see how something that you’ve made months of weeks before a release goes down in a club, because at the end of the day if you’re producing tunes and there’s no reaction at all when you’re playing them in the club then they’re irrelevant really.

What sort of scene is there in Liverpool? How do the nights compare to London’s?
London’s are a lot more varied a lot bigger. There are a lot more scenes, a lot more cultures that are immersing you in London. Liverpool does have it but nowhere near to the same extent, so when you do go back it always seems a bit limited in that sense, but I suppose with the size of London it’s inevitable.

Are there any producers/DJ’s that have been significantly influential in the progression
of your sound?

Erm, to be honest it’d probably be a bit of a cliché for me to say it but my biggest influence are the DJs and indeed the DJ’s related to how I produce. You’re looking at a Slimzee or a Mac 10, the really big selectors or Bossman from back in the day. Modern day I like all kinds of DJ’s, but I suppose if you look at the one area that I focus on the most or the one area that I’ve paid most attention to, certainly that old grime area, producers like Eastwood and Youngsta and Oddz, really sort of stripped back, very minimal sound. There’s just that impact and that vibe to it. That’s certainly what I’ve attempted to emulate in the time I’ve been releasing music at least.

How do you view the current state of grime now compared to previous eras?
Erm, the MC’s aren’t really what they were but I think production, certainly in the last few years, has come on leaps and bounds. There was a sort of…I wouldn’t say poor period, but quite a quiet period, but personally I think modern grime in terms of instrumental sounds is, for me, really up there. I think the last few years have made a big difference in terms of the quality of the stuff that’s being released and the quality of the stuff that’s being pushed out to DJ’s. The instrumental scene I think is quite vibrant. MC wise, I don’t know, there really aren’t many new MC’s that hold my attention enough to say that that side of it is thriving, you know you’ve got like Family Tree, but they’re the rarities, and that’s a bit sad to be honest.

What else do you have planned for 2012 now that Raw Missions is just around the corner?
I’m trying to do a road rap tape with a couple of MC’s from London as well, and some more Patrice & Friends at some point before the end of the year. I’m about 6 or 7 tracks deep in that so we’ll see, but hopefully that should be out by the end of the year. Otherwise just cracking on with a couple of remixes and obviously DJ’ing as much as I can.

Where are you at next?
Our next thing is Maybach at the Alibi on the 26th, and then I’m playing the Bussey Building on the 1st of June with Wifey and Wavey Tones, with DJ Funk and a couple of other people there. Should be good.

Interview: Seb Mehrej

The ‘Raw Missions’ EP is now out on vinyl via Local Action Records, with the digital to follow on June 4th.