LoveThatBass goes head first into interview mode from day one featuring one the biggest drum and bass MCs in the game right now – Harry Shotta. Jamie provides the link up to discuss everything from lockdown mode to his favourite tracks…
2020 has certainly been a unique year so far however, that’s not stopped artists being creative in a different ways and it’s certainly not stopped you releasing music. How do you carry the same workrate during these crazy times?
To be honest when the whole lockdown scenario came into play it motivated me even more to write and record. I was particularly focused on writing a drum and bass album because I felt like the live side of what I love doing had been taken away so I needed to keep a close connection to the supporters and the scene. For me the best way of doing that was to write the full drum and bass project that people have been asking for for a long time. So I got on it hard, hitting up producers I rated then setting aside two full writing days a week.
I couldn’t even go to the studio in the first part of the lockdown so I just kept stacking up the tunes ready to record then when the restrictions were eased a little I immediately booked loads of studio time and recorded all the tracks. In terms of motivation I’ve never been the type of person to let things get me down or hold me back so when we were initially on lockdown I thought to myself I’m coming out of this madness with an album for all my supporters.
From seeing the SASASAS crew daily at the start of the year, how did the lockdown change the dynamics of the group? Were you all doing quiz shows on Zoom like everyone else in the UK on a Friday night? If so, I bet Phantasy was the host!
He definitely would have taken that role if there were any quizzes to be had! Everybody’s drive and focus went into warp speed. Macky dropped a massive album, Phantasy dropped his project Generations, Skiba started killing it on Facebook with his streams and Shabba set up a label and his Rods Reels & Bass business. Obviously I was doing my album but I also appeared on Hot 97 in New York and as I couldn’t go to the gym, I got really into running. I did a big feature on Example’s album and also wrote some music for a film project. Everyone was so busy and we all just adapted to the situation. That’s the thing with SASASAS, as a collective we all inspire each other, we are all here to support each other and there are no egos which I think it’s lasted so long.
Talking of workrate, how’s the fitness training going? Looks like you’re back in the zone with that? Any other MCs or artists in the game pushing that forward with you? Navi and Erb n Dub seem to be having a running competition on a regular..
Yeah as I mentioned before on a personal level one thing I also thought I can’t let go of is the training and fitness side of things. Firstly I joined a group put together by a brilliant personal trainer who is also a drum and bass fan called Will Davis. He was putting together workouts you could do in the home so I was doing one of those a day initially. Then I thought you know what I’m gonna try running. I was pretty slow at first and I got about three stitches on my first run but it was a start and I did just over 4km. Then I upped it to 5km and within a couple of weeks I ran up to 10km and my general fitness and stamina really improved. I started to really enjoy it.
I remember going out running once in the midst of lockdown, playing Degs’ album really loud, the sun was blazing and it just made me feel good even in the midst of such a strange time where I was missing normality and family and friends. Myself, Navi and ErbN were all tweeting each other about our runs, times, improvements etc and it was another thing that kept me going. My longest run was actually 21km and even though I’m back in the gym now I’m still running 2-3 times a week. I love it.
The Harry Shotta ethos has most certainly been about keeping things fresh and pushing boundaries, right? Have you ever had moments where steam just runs out? If so, how do those feelings affect your mental health? What’s the bounce back?
I actually can’t recall a time when I’ve run out of steam but it’s a good question & one I get asked all the time. Part of the reason I don’t think it happens is that I’m such a fan of the music and the artform of MCing. I’m always listening to new music and I always feel inspired and if I don’t feel there’s not much new out to catch vibes to, I go back and listen to Mobb Deep’s whole catalogue and then I’m right back at it.
Music is like medicine to me but I can’t lie about a week ago I did start to feel low. I saw everyone going back to work and I started to really miss the live side of things. The vibe I get off performing and the feeling that reaction from the crowd gives me is addictive and obviously I haven’t been able to feed that for five months now so yeah I actually felt pissed off and quite angry about the situation. And the reason it was worse is because I wasn’t talking to anyone about it. The moment I let off about the situation to my wife and expressed the way I was feeling I felt better and I was able to focus on everything I do have. I then realised how lucky I was and was able to feel positive again. I guess we all have our moments.
If you’re forcing it, that’s how it will sound and you’ll never come out with your best work
Do you have any advice for up and coming MCs regarding this? Especially those stuck in a rut developing their own style.
Yeah I would say that if you get stuck in a rut when you’re writing or when you’re pushing your music evaluate the situation and come back on it fresh. When you’re writing bars they should never be forced. If you’re forcing it, that’s how it will sound and you’ll never come out with your best work. You have to create when you’re inspired and when you’re feeling the energy. That’s why I like writing as soon as I hear a beat or even writing and recording in the studio on the spot. It creates a wicked energy and the best music is always built on vibes.
‘Stormy Weather’ and ‘Time Out’ – some recent releases that have been killing it on the streaming platforms. How’s the album doing since release?
The first one is ‘Curse Of A Perfectionist’. I’ve always wanted to work with Evil B, I rate him so highly. Why this is the first time we’ve collaborated I don’t know? It should have happened much sooner but it’s a moment I’ve been waiting to capture on a song for quite a while and I’m so glad we finally got to do it. Evil is just as much as a perfectionist as me so when I came up with the concept I thought it would be the perfect track to get him on. And that verse he came with proved why he’s one of the best in the game.
The next collaboration is with Shabba. One thing I’ve always loved about Shabba is his energy on and off the stage. He always brings great energy and is always smiling. He loves the scene and is so passionate about drum and bass so I wanted to create a tune that was all about good vibes and good energy to reflect that. I’ve travelled all over the world with Shabz and every moment has been a pleasure so I had to have him on the album.
On ‘Do Me’ I hooked up with two of my favourite people in the scene, Dreps & Blacks. As soon as I heard the beat from Ego Trippin I heard Dreps’s flow on it, I knew he would kill it. I’m such a fan of all the different flows and patterns Dreps comes up with. He literally brings groundbreaking ways to attack the beat every week and I view him as family so we’ll always work together on music. With Blacks I think his energy on tracks is amazing. I’ve been a huge fan of him and all the OGz for years. I used to play all those Logan sets on rotation when I was travelling around the country doing shows. He smashed his verse, everytime I hear it I get on a hype.
As far as Skiba goes, I couldn’t do an album and not have Skibadee on it. Skiba and Shabba are literally the whole reason I MC to drum and bass so when Erb N played me that tune I was like ‘yes hollering at Skiba’ for the middle verse on this one and it came out great. I love working with Ski, we bring the best out of each other. Maybe we should do a full album together one day? That would be sick.
The last guest on the album is my bro Patch Edison. He’s an amazing vocalist I hooked up with through Melinki and Erb N Dub. I love that guy. He came to the studio, vibed and we came up with about four or five tracks. Prison Of Mirrors was my favourite at the time so we finished it off and put it on the album. But Patch is so talented. I’ll continue to work with him in the future for sure.
What does it take to write an album? Do you schedule time in a day to write or is it more about inspiration on a daily basis and whipping out something to take notes on?
Well normally it’s kind of based on daily inspiration and writing when you hear something you’re really feeling. But with this album I did regulate set times to write. That’s not to say I didn’t just write bars organically when I felt to but having that allotted time where I knew I would be spending all day writing for a specific project definitely speeded up the process. I also think where I wasn’t getting side tracked on writing to other genres or other people’s tunes it gives the whole album a more cohesive feel and makes it more a product of its time. Like when I wrote ‘Time Out’ it was the first track I wrote for the project so I literally was rapping about the lockdown and making this album.
When I hear that tune it still takes me back to the emotions and feelings we were going through at the time. Same thing with Meditation which is literally nearly five minutes of me just pouring my heart and soul into the track. All the mixture of angst, losing people, trying to stay positive whilst missing family and friends and so many other deep feelings got thrown into the mix on that one. That’s why I think so many people relate to it which is a big part of what makes us human. We empathise with each other.
I was a completely different person with a very different lifestyle
For anyone that’s not checked either ‘8 Days a Week’ or ‘Screaming at the Skies’ can you suggest a tune from each that will give the listener an idea of what you’re all about?
Well let’s start with ‘8 Days A Week’. I was a completely different person with a very different lifestyle to now when I made that. So lyrically a lot of the tracks reflected that. I wrote that when I was making the transition from my original hip hop stuff to the Harry Shotta style which combines more influences from drum and bass and grime in terms of flows and delivery. So basically what happened was, I had started to blow in the drum and bass scene but I wanted to show people I was actually an artist who could make tunes. So we put the best tunes I had together and made that EP.
I guess ‘Fire Barz’ would give a listener a good idea of what I’m about when it comes to those rapid fire flows. The beat Crissy made on that was mental and me & Skibz had a lot of fun smashing that to pieces.
With ‘Screaming At The Skies’ that is a much more mature defense which I wrote when I felt like I was ready to become a father. So I would say ‘Good Intentions’ would be the track people should check. When I wrote that I was in reflective mode thinking about my journey in life and music so far. I was fighting my inner demons, being very honest about my past and how I saw my future. On that song I was challenging myself on that song and actually owning up to mistakes I had made and how I wanted to change for the future. I think I had a light bulb moment on that tune where I realised I was finally good enough in my mind to become a father and I was actually not going to mess it all up which was my biggest fear.
Artists have been talking a lot online recently about dream line ups and asking fans who they want to see them team up with on a track. If you had that one wish to go bar for bar with another artist on, dead or alive, who would it be and why? Being a big hip hop fan this one might be quite tricky!
It is tricky because as a hip hop fan there are so many MCs that I would love to team up with from Ghostface to Big L to Royce Da 59 but I think if I had to whittle it down to one artist it would have to be my favourite MC of all time who is Big Pun. I think Pun was in a league of his own when it comes to flows, it all sounds so effortless but what he was doing with the multi syllable rhyming was next level. Even on the more r’n’b tracks from his first album he was still going hard with the bars. Super Lyrical with him and Black Thought is one of my favourite tunes of all time in any genre.
If you could cast your mind back to 2008 and the Drum&BassArena podcast alongside Zen, Skibadee and Fun would you say your journey so far in the scene has gone as you had imagined?
Nah it hasn’t actually because there have been so many twists and turns that have changed the course of my path. I couldn’t have been more blessed in many ways, coming in with UNCZ which was the biggest crew in the scene at the time. Dropping that Dubzone video and that going viral with millions of views which took me to places like Canada in my first year in the scene.
Then myself & Phantasy created the Harry Shotta Show which changed the format of how a drum and bass set could be presented. We had a great time touring that which led to the whole ‘Animal’ debacle which ended up getting in the Guinness Book Of Records for most words in a song and created quite a huge stir in the States.
Also I’ve done crazy things like the first illegal dnb rave on a train with Troll Station which yet again went viral and hit the national press. I’ve had so many crazy scenarios during my time in the game. The whole SASASAS thing too. We’ve literally bought drum and bass on our terms to some of the biggest festivals in the world. It’s been a crazy journey but if I had to go back I wouldn’t change anything.
Apart from the album, what else is in store for the rest of the year that you can predict?
I have got some hip hop tracks on the go, a more story led conceptual EP and another project with Erb N Dub to drop before the end of the year. Right now I am in full drum and bass mode. I literally am addicted to writing to drum and bass at the moment so you can definitely expect more on that vibe very soon.
In your opinion, what’s the future of raving for 2021? Will we all be dancing in cages of 4-5 people for years to come?
I think, I hope and I pray that in 2021 we will be back to doing what we love and if it has to be socially distanced for now so be it. People’s safety has to come first but I really really miss performing now. I’m hoping next year will be more of a positive year for everyone and we can all have a great 2021 full of good vibes, lots of drum and bass and loads of amazing parties to make up for this year.