Interview: DJ Milktray

First coming to fame in 2014 through his unstoppable refix of Cassidy and R. Kelly’s ‘Hotel‘, DJ Milktray has been putting his hometown of Glasgow’s grime scene on the map. His own work fuses ’00s RnB and RnG with grime-inflected textures, and has seen him release on Astral Black and bring his infectious blends to the various Boxed nights.

Having spent part of 2016 touring the US, DJ Milktray has returned to the UK, recently competing alongside an array of producers from northern England and Scotland at the Red Bull Studios Riddim Rally, including Astral Black label mate, Bushido.

In the light of the Riddim Rally rounds – with the next heat taking place on April 5 – we caught up with DJ Milktray to discuss his shows in the US, his plans for 2017, and Glasgow’s bubbling music scene.

The Scottish grime scene (Glasgow in particular) is forging a melodic sound for itself, where does that come from? Do you think this might help Scottish MCs develop a stronger identity?

I don’t know where exactly it comes from. But as there are so many people making grime music, it’s good to have a distinct noise that helps you stand out amongst others. Proc Fiskal is a prime example of someone whose production sounds extremely Scottish and unique through the melodies and percussion he uses.

You’ve said before that, outside of London, grime finds a home in tighter knit communities, where it’s just a few friends who are into grime. Do you feel something might be getting lost through grime being so widespread? That perhaps these smaller scenes are going to stop?

I think it spreading means everyone that has been pushing the sound has done their job properly. Obviously, some people jump on the bandwagon but that’s just life. The smaller scenes still remain and more little collectives are popping up all the time – whether it’s a record label or a club night.

What did you do to ensure that you were at your best at the Red Bull Riddim Rally? How did you find it?

I tried my best to have a clear head and not panic too much – which didn’t really work and I ended up pretty sweaty. It was fun to restrict myself to a beat an hour. The fact that you didn’t know who you were battling also meant you couldn’t specifically focus on one person and had to make music to cater to everyone in the battle.

Are you happy that grime producers from the north and Scotland are getting recognition with the Riddim Rally?

Yeah, so many people are doing great stuff and it’s good to come and show that in places other than Scotland. Also, a lot of us have only spoken via the internet, so it was good to spend a day together making and discussing music.

Your sound is kind of atypical with regards to the wider grime scene, what was the reception to your material when you toured the US last year?

The reception was great – they were really into it, which was nice. I had emergency stuff to play in case it all went wrong but it wasn’t needed. Pretty similar vibe to Glasgow crowds in that they go mental to anything, whether they’ve heard it before or not.

As someone with a big love for ’00s RnB/RnG stuff, how does it feel to be credited as part of the revival of that sound with the various refixes you’ve done?

It’s nice to have been part of it, like, it’s just really fun music that instantly hits that nostalgic spot for so many people and gets them moving to it! These are so many people making them now, people are spoilt for choice.

A lot of MCs seem to be moving into the soulful, more melodic sound you inhabit these days. Have you got any plans to collaborate with any MCs in the future?

I do actually! I’m currently working on some beats for a London-based MC. It’s always interesting to have an original vocal on one of your productions and see how they interpret your instrumental.

Have you got anything planned release-wise for 2017?

I’ve been making more music recently after taking a bit of time out. Along with the beats that I was talking about above, another release for the family Astral Black is definitely on the cards!

The next Riddim Rally heat will take place on April 5, the final takes place May 17. More info here.

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