London-based producer, Guava is a guy with a story or ten to tell. With many strings to his bow, his musical exploits cover numerous bases; composing music for film, touring as a session guitarist and producing juicy tripped-out club music.
Recently appearing on Desert Sound Colony’s club-ready imprint, Holding Hands, we sat down with Guava to mind out more about the man behind the fruity moniker.
For those who don’t know – Who is Guava?
The name ‘Guava’ actually came from me going on a night out. I’d been to a house-party in Turnpike Lane and I was walking back to my friend’s house in Alexandra Palace. It was around six in the morning, it was summertime and I was feeling happy. I went into a convenience store and I was like ‘hmmm, what am I gonna get?’ and there I got some Guava juice! I saw that sparkling Rubicon Guava and I was like ‘Ohhh, I’m gonna get you!’. It sort of stemmed from there, I thought it was such a sweet and naive word and no one else was making music under that name, so I thought I’d go for it!
So you’re obsessed with Guava. What are the top things you have learned about Guava?
It’s an alkaline fruit, so it’s very good if you have stomach ache…
Going back to the roots of Guava and your music. Where did your relationship with music begin?
I have very early memories, the first piece I can remember was ‘Jupiter’ by Gustav Holst when I was around two years old. I remember my dad’s record collection and asking him if he had any songs about trains (I was really into trains around the age of three); He picked out ‘Trans-Europe Express’ by Kraftwerk. That was pretty formative for me, as was ‘Crime of the Century’ by Supertramp who I was also really into. All of these were possibly indications of what was to come, with my writing music for film, making electronica and touring as a session guitarist.
You clearly have a strong musical background with memories from when you were only two years old and being into such a variation of good music. At what point did you turn on to making electronic music?
For a while, electronic music wasn’t something that I considered getting into. 2007, Brostep was really taking off, I knew kids at school who were into people like Skrillex and older kids were going to Pendulum gigs. But it all gave me a really bad impression of it straight up. I’d never listened to anything by Hessle Audio then. My god! If someone had shown me Pearson Sound at that age, my mind would have been completely blown. What eventually got me into electronic music, was the fact that I was a really big Radiohead fan. I remember this interview with Thom Yorke and he was saying how much he loved ‘Freeman Hardy Willis Acid’ by Squarepusher and Aphex Twin.
You were recently part of the first various artists compilation ‘Slam Jams Vol 1’ on Desert Sound Colony’s, Holding Hands. Can you tell us about your relationship with Desert Sound Colony, I understand you guys are good friends?
I met Liam in school. He was a few years older, but we would see each other at house parties and chat music. My first meeting with him was when I was sitting in this corridor beside the toilets at school playing my guitar. I was playing in there because it had a really good reverb (I still haven’t heard a reverb quite like it to this day). Then Liam came out the toilet and asked if he could play my guitar for a bit and we started talking about music. Later after I had left uni, I was feeling quite disillusioned with what my tutors had told me about getting a job in the music industry; versus the reality I was facing. Liam, very kindly, invited me over for a chat and we just had a whole day of talking about music, showing each other tracks.
Your track on the Holding Hands compilation, ‘Super Cub’ is the perfect blend of psychedelic feeling and gritty bassy club music. This crossover in sound and feel is really interesting. Can you tell us about some of your musical influences and how these manifest in such crossovers?
I guess it starts from when I was at uni and I used to write these essays on production technique. I was looking at stuff from people like Nigel Godrich, Trevor Horn and George Martin. All of these guys were amazing producers and I was really engrossed in the way they were making music. I wanted my music to sound just as good as theirs, so I spent a really long time learning about mixing. For example, something I really laboured over was how to get a really good drum sound.
Then, I started producing with a really long-term friend of mine called Steve Roe. We became really good friends from our first day at uni and he got me into people like Burial and Horsepower Productions; he was the guy who finally got me into dubstep! We started producing together and I began to learn more electronic production techniques. Since then, I’ve been fusing the earlier production techniques with my electronic productions. This has been done very subconsciously I have to say, it’s just the way I’m programmed.
Cool, so just out of interest, is there any meaning behind the name ‘Super Cub’?
Yes actually! Throughout my entire life to the age of 12, I didn’t want to be a musician, I wanted to be an airline pilot. That manifested in me later getting a scholarship with The Royal Aero Trust that paid for all of my flying and I ended up doing gliding. I did national competitions, competing at quite a high level. The furthest distance that I’ve flown is 450 Kilometres on my own; that was flying to Wales and back in one day.
The age of 12 was an interesting time in my life as I went through this switch over; I was doing flying but I’d also just got a guitar and I really loved music. Later I came to this point where my scholarship money was running out and I really wanted to do music. I had to make a decision and I chose music. I then went through this faze much later on, where I’d struggle to finish tracks that I didn’t have a personal connection to. I started naming my tracks after experiences or things from gliding and ‘Super Cub’ is the name of the plane that pulled me up for my first ever solo flight.
That is a really unique story! Adding to this, you’re also working as a composer for film. Having worked with brands such as Netflix and The BBC, can you tell us about one of your favourite or most interesting composition projects to date?
Over the past couple of years I’ve had a lot of experience doing music for film as a composer. I’ve done some work for advertising before and I was an assistant composer for a Netflix series called ‘The Same Sky’. I’m currently collaborating with a really talented up and coming filmmaker called Margarita Milne. We met through friends and she showed me her film ‘Cherry Bomb’; I was like ‘Wow!’. I really wanted to focus on working with someone who I really got on with and who was interesting. I find that the music for film industry is quite cut throat and hard work. I wanted to work on something where I was on board with the director and things were more a labour of love. Working with Margarita, I’m not even bothered if all the music I make doesn’t get included in the film. I’m just happy to be working with such great visuals and such a great script.
Speaking of great working relationships. You’re also a session guitarist for an Argentinian artist called Malena Zavala. Can you tell us about your relationship with Malena and some of the interesting experiences you have had working with her?
It’s a funny one because I was having a break from music and randomly met Malena while we were both working in this cafe called ‘Fred and Gingers’ in Berkhamsted. We didn’t speak for the first week or so because I was pretty miserable working in a cafe – it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. When we eventually spoke we hit it off and talked a lot about music. She mentioned she was looking for a guitarist for her band; I was happy to sit in and play a show with her. We started playing music together and it seems to have gone really well! She released her album ‘Aliso’ last year and we are on our first European tour this month.
You mentioned you stopped doing music for a bit, how come?
I was feeling a bit tired of grafting really hard and ultimately, my enthusiasm for success became overshadowed by not looking after myself. I was so passionate about music that I let it take over my life. However, I wasn’t looking after myself as a human being; and that’s really not a good thing. I ended up working with some people who were really unhelpful to me. I wasn’t getting paid and I was constantly exhausted and dealing with negativity. This all contributed to stress that then led to me getting Tendonitis, and I had to quit playing guitar for six months, which broke my heart. But since then things have gone great, my recovery was funded by Help Musicians, I joined the Musicians Union which acted as a form of legal representation and I’m now working with incredibly talented musicians.
As a young producer living in London, you’re doing well at doing your own thing. Can you tell us what this means to you and what it has taken thus far?
The cliched and unhelpful answer would be ‘hard work and determination – if you work hard you’ll get it’. I’d say that only makes up about ten percent of it all. I’m privileged to have friends and family around me, who have encouraged me. To have them say to me ‘keep doing what you’re doing’ means a hell of a lot to me at the end of the day.
What is coming up for you in the world of composition and guitar playing? Can you tell us about any exciting projects and happenings?
Well let me get the calendar out! It’s starting to get busy to be honest! I’m on tour with Malena for about a month now and then I’m also going to be touring with Band Of Horses in June. I’m going to get to play Kentish Town Forum, which I’m stoked about! There are potential films in the making and I’m also working on an EP at the moment.
Can we catch you playing anywhere as Guava?
I’ve never really sought out being a DJ to be honest. I’ve always liked to go and experience the music but I’ve never thought ‘Oh I’d really like to be the one behind the decks’. However, I have started doing a little bit mixing – playing a lot of jungle and it’s been quite fun. Maybe you’ll hear a Metalheadz-style Guava DJ set at some point – who knows.
Words: Sophie Mcnulty