When the world goes into lockdown, how does life change for a performer? We catch up the motivational MC, poet, rapper, Kings Of The Rollers frontman & Hospital Records artist Inja to find out how life has changed over the past few months.
It not often we get to speak to artists when they’re not trying to sell anything or promote something. This time round we’re just shooting the breeze about life in lockdown, his writing process & more…
Do you feel that as an artist these days, with social media, that there is always a pressure to be seen to be doing something or promoting something?
I only see there’s a pressure there if you want to force it. Otherwise, for me personally I just speak when I want to speak. I talk on what I want to talk on. I say force it cos I do clock that some people are out there are trying to push their way through, and that’s cool, but for me everything should be natural. On my socials I talk about what I naturally want to talk about, if there’s not music to promote I like to check on the wellbeing of everyone, trying to keep everyone in a good mental state
Speaking of mental wellbeing, how have the last few months been for you? How have you coped? Have you used this time away from events productively?
Well for me this all started back in March trying to escape Australia with Serum. We were on tour out there & the World shut down! On the day that we managed to get a flight back to the UK, we were on one of only 3 flights coming out of Melbourne. I mean, this is a huge international airport!
Eventually we got back to England & it was mad, what with all these flights coming back from various countries that were locking down, I was the only one wearing a mask & gloves and everyone was laughing at me, sort of taking the piss!
When our country did finally lock down, I basically spent the first 3 months relaxing, sleeping & loving life
I think it’s important to do that, especially in the nightlife industry where you’re always hustling for the next job, on the road all night & trying to do be creative during the days. We don’t often have time to stop, reset & take a look at where we’re going
Towards the end of the summer everyone was starting to get optimistic about events starting again before the end of the year. While I am an optimist, I’m also a realist, and I didn’t think things would be going back to normal in any shape or form at least until the new year.
Way before the government decided to tell us all to retrain, I already went to get myself a job. Mainly because I needed to get out the house & have interaction with other humans. After not interacting with anyone for so long, except for my daughter on the days when I have her, I decided I’d slept enough & I’d become bored of writing, so I sold my car, bought a van and became a delivery driver in a cute little village.
I’m literally only out my house for about 3-4 hours a day & that’s enough for me to interact with people in a socially distant manner. The hi’s & hello’s are very important, even from strangers.
Come Christmas time people on my route we’re giving me tips, making me mince pies, putting the kettle on for me if I ask them. It’s been really nice.
One of the main reasons for me starting this website was to keep me busy while I’ve been out of work from promoting events. I thought about doing this before, but I’d always been too busy. Now was the time. Everyone in the music industry has had to learn to pivot just to get by
Of course, now is the time! I’ve always managed to hustle between live events & selling music. I’ve always managed to skip through life by performing & always being on stages, regardless of genre. I’ve always been about performing. It’s been very interesting having that taken away.
A lot of artists were approaching me to write bars for their tracks, but I had to turn them down. I mean bare in mind I’d just finished an album & had appearances on plenty of other tracks, but I need to be around people to draw inspiration. Within the first couple of weeks of doing my delivery round I was like, you know what, I can start writing again!
Talking about the album, I just went back and listened to Blank Pages today. It’s a great album. In hindsight is there anything you would have done differently? Tracks that didn’t quite make the cut that you wish had? Or a certain producer you’d have liked to work with?
Not at all, I’m very much of the vein that I don’t look backwards. Hindsight is amazing, you can make everything right with hindsight, but that’s all happened, you can’t change it. For me it’s always about moving forward. On the final version of the album, everything that was there I think is right & exactly how it should have been for that project
One thing I did notice was that there were no other featured vocalists on the album. It was just you
Yeah. That was the aim
How important were Hospital Records in the A&R process? Does it help to have a label there to guide you in the right direction to make a better end product?
To be honest, it was mainly just them saying yes or no. There wasn’t really that much toing and froing, they’d let me know which tracks they were into, then I went off and got back to them once the album was finished. For me it’s art. The whole album as it stands is my reflection of my art at the time. I’m not one of these guys that’ll make 50 tracks and hand them over to someone to pull apart and take just 15, I’m more of the mindset that I’ll make a project, and if you’re not into the project then that’s fair dos
I think the fact you’re calling it a project is a good thing. A lot of artists make a collection of singles, but that’s a compilation, not an album. I think an overarching concept makes an album more enjoyable to listen to
Yeah. For me an album is something you listen to over & over again. You can hear the albums that have been thrown together. I mean that’s all good, if you can make a shit ton of singles that you can release as an album and they all sit well together as a project then salute to you, but for me I want to be able to make something people can listen to from start to finish
That’s why I like Voltage’s recent album. He stepped away from what people expected and made ‘an album’ and it really worked
Exactly! he made an album. And when you think, there are no clubs open right now, he made a really good reflection of himself as someone more than just Voltage the DJ who is known for smashing up DJ sets. I think if we had all been out in clubs doing what we do, his album might have been a very different reflection of himself. Right now were all making music to make ourselves happy, not to just to fuck up a dance
She Just Wanna Dance
Bouncing off that, the She Just Wanna Dance track off Black Pages had a bit of a message behind it. Do you think there’s a lack of conscious lyrics in drum and bass? Is there a responsibility for someone with a platform to inspire?
No. I feel it’s down to artists to portray their art as they want it to be portrayed. I’m not one to judge anyone else’s art. I can only judge myself. I appreciate art in any way shape or form. Some of it might not be to my taste or liking, but I guarantee if the frequencies of that art hit me at the right time then YEAH!
What I will correct you on is, I’d say that track had a bit more than ‘a bit’ of a message… It was a big bloodcart message!! You got underlined by Inja right there 🙂
What was the inspiration behind that track?
I only write to frequencies, I don’t write anything without the music first. Unless I’m doing straight up poetry I don’t have any ideas premeditated before the music because it never works for me.
With the whole She Just Wanna Dance thing I started with a 130BPM beat and the words just came. When I write I press play on the music & the music tells me what to say. I didn’t know I was going to say what I said, but I must have seen the story so much in my head I was just like ‘I GOT THIS’!
As an entertainer & as a man, I’ve seen every scenario in that track first hand. You take away the drink aspect & those things happen. Take away the night life aspect & those things happen in the workplace. It happens in the shops, walking down the street. I mean I was brought up by strong women that weren’t taking no shit off no one, that obviously influenced my outlook
What sort of lyrists inspired you to start doing what you’re doing?
Rahhhhh! Well drum & bass wise it’s the 3 kings… GQ, Stevie Hyper D & MC Bassman!
Them 3 are very different in their own ways, but I’m a child of them guys. Also people like Shabba & Skibadee. In the more modern times there are very few writers as good as Eksman, Harry Shotta or Evil B & the way they can deliver their writing is amazing! Let alone people who broke down doors for people like me, which is Azza & Grima.
People like Trigga, Spyda & the legend that is MC Fats.
With drum & bass I’ve always been a fan, and I’ve always been a listener. For me there ain’t no sub genres in drum & bass.
As for my writing I’ve always been inspired by UK hip hop, of course all my family are jamacian so I’ve listened to a whole heap of reggae music throughout my life. I’m inspired by music in general, there is no one category. Look at my back catalogue, D&B, hip hop, reggae, grime, soul and poetry
All those guys you mentioned are talented. Do you ever see a movement of MC’s fronting their own shows, like they do in hip hip? I mean your Blank Pages album was just you… There was a show in that! I feel Harry Shotta is the only D&B person I can think of that’s tried it with his Harry Shotta Show
Yeah Shotta’s done it. You’ve also got Evil B that does his Evil B vs B Live thing, Charlotte Haining & Tempza, Koven. I think there definitely is a place for that. I mean lets be real, a lot of the biggest jungle / drum & bass songs have got vocals on. There’s also the factor that a lot of D&B vocal tracks are timeless, tracks you can play in any country and everyone will sing the words. It’s like people have been missing a trick.
When can we expect the next Inja album?
It’ll be coming in 2021. You’ll start hearing more in a couple of months time
Right I have a few questions from our LoveThatBass social media pages.
First one, Tony Coleman aka London Elektricity says, where do you go for your hair styling?
I don’t… I style it myself. This style I got now is the same one I was rocking at 8 years old
Do you have any habits or routines to help you get in the mindset for writing?
No. Just living life. I only write when I want to write. I’ll go a couple of weeks without writing anything, then when I’ve got the inspiration & vibe I could write 5 songs in a day. I don’t work on anyone else’s timeline except my own
Here’s a tough one… What’s your favourite track of all time?
Sam Cooke’s ‘Change Is Gonna Come’
Which venue or event have you missed the most during the pandemic?
Sun And Bass! It’s the most relaxed festival I’ve ever been to or played at in my life. It’s fucking beutiful. Italian food, amazing weather, amazing music. It’s a winner
Finally, how do you stay so upbeat? Apparently your Instagram stories brighten up people’s mornings
I stay up beat because every morning is a brand new beginning. I get to make a fresh start every day. It doesn’t matter how I felt yesterday, as long as I get my head down I can wake up fresh and I have every possibility to change my life & my world every morning
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