Heading a new army of YBSSs (that’s Young British Singer-Songwriters), Jamie Woon’s personal, heartfelt and funky tunes have had critics fawning recently. Ahead of the Londoner’s gig at the Rescue Rooms, Shariff Ibrahim sat down with him for a parlay…
What can people expect from your live shows, and how do they differ from your album?
I’ve come from a live performance background – singing, playing guitar and using Loopstation, then I moved into producing my own records which I’ve been doing for the past couple of years. But then I got to the point where I wanted to play the album live, so now I’ve got a four-piece setup with myself and three other guys. There’s a lot more freedom for me now to really get into having a little groove on stage and being more of a frontman.
You’re often categorised in the same bracket as dubstep artists. Is that a fair assessment?
It’s been really nice because I’m into that kind of music and am always interested in working with different producers and getting remixes of my tunes. My own stuff doesn’t come from that background but Iʼm inspired by the sounds from a distance, without knowing all the tunes and all the DJs.
It’s been a long wait since your first EP came out in 2007. Are you a perfectionist?
I think that’s a big part of it. And also I didn’t have enough songs and I didn’t have the sound. I was just having a lot of fun doing my solo shows and making a living from doing that with selling my CDs at shows and doing the whole troubadour shtick. I was just about scraping by, living at my mum’s. Then it got to eventually a couple of years ago when I was ready to start, so I got my laptop and took it from there. It did take a bit longer than I wanted it to, but twas ever thus.
How did the title Mirrorwriting come about?
Mirrorwriting is a code that Leonardo da Vinci used to write his notebooks in, which is basically just writing in mirrored characters. People didn’t know it then, but obviously once you realise, it’s a stupidly easy code to crack, but I like the idea that all these songs are personal, coded notes about myself. There’s a song on the album called Street which is about a really beautiful day in the city when possibilities seem so huge and endless – it’s almost a bit scary and a bit sad. At the end of the day I’m singing these coded messages to other people and I want those people to hear them as well, so it’s kind of like a crap code.
What did you grow up listening to?
A whole bunch of stuff. My mum’s folk singing and commercial session singing career got me into folky singer-songwriter stuff, but also a lot of pop radio like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, things like that. My dad’s more into Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and other well written songs. So I was exposed to both of those communities and then I personally got into things like Britpop which made me want to pick up the guitar and write songs like Oasis. I became a massive Radiohead fan and that got me into DJ Shadow and then more into hip-hop. Plus, I was always into Michael Jackson as a kid. You’ve just got to love a bit of Jacko.
In hip-hop, there are few artists who can command the stage with a live band as well as they can hold it down on record. However, The Roots have forged a reputation for exactly this and Notts’ own Duke01, along with hip-rock-funk-hop combo Papa La Bas, do the same.
Release The Kraken sees the former Non Thespian frontman clashing with production titan Dwyzak the Elevator for five tracks of quality local hip-hop. Clarence Boddicker sets the tone, with Duke01’s quick-fire raps supported by some live funky drums and guitars from PLB, as well as Dwyz’s scratches and the inviting “Here we gooooo” refrain. Dwyz then steps out from behind the decks to lyrically partner Duke01 on Delta Squad, along with fellow PLB member Suzi Ruthless. Things take a rockier turn for the title track, with action-movie guitars supplying the MC a platform to verbally wile out, as opposed to the more electronic Infinite Blast Radius, with the Duke supported by Suzi’s MIA-esque chorus and some Malcolm McLaren scratches. The synth-heavy Crashing Down closes the EP perfectly. The close musical relationship between Duke01 and Dwyz is evident. The raps have the old school vibe of Hijack or Blade, matched perfectly by an energetic live band and solid production.
Release the Kraken is available to download from duke01.bandcamp.com.
Originally published in LeftLion magazine Issue 40, April – May 2011.
MC Karizma – Nottingham’s own Alex Mighten – is something of a legend on the local hip-hop scene. From his debut with fellow Notts hip-hoppers Out da Ville in the 90s, his mic skills and nice guy persona have seen him firmly cemented into gig schedules. Since LeftLion last caught up with him, Karizma has released his first official mixtape.
Hip-hop is my heart. It isn’t just a 96bpm beat; it’s an expression of yourself. So what I’m doing is still hip-hop because it’s me expressing myself, just with different music underneath. Dubstep at the minute encapsulates that very feeling I got when I was 15, listening to hip-hop. It makes me screw my face up and want to rap. The youngsters are really excited for the genre and have that drive which in turn drives me. I’ve put this mixtape out to show people that I can do dubstep as well, but there is one hip-hop tune on there as well – it’s not like I’m deading it out.
Originally the mixtape was going to come out in October last year – 10/10/10, which is also my birthday. But I waited, and that gave me the tune Badboy in a Different Way. I didn’t hear the Starkey beat until like November, so waiting was actually a benefit for me. But 10/10 is also the standard everything of mine has to be – the highest quality lyrics, delivery and personality. There’s no point in bringing anything out a 4 or 5 out of 10; I might as well just scrap it and move on.
Simeon did very well, but if he hadn’t given away that extra point, he would have had a grand! Silly boy. I keep it real in the kitchen – I even make my own dahl and chappatis, mate. I had a good palate when I was growing up and would eat anything in reach. As long as it doesn’t have cream in it; that’s just cow juice.
Some people are just genuinely nice – Philip Schofield, Holly Willoughby, Howard Marks – but it’s a rare commodity in the music industry. Jamie Woon is one guy who is showing that not all artists these days need to be arrested for being under the influence, or wearing a meat dress to an awards show. He just brings honest, brilliantly written songs.
Commanding the stage in note more than a black shirt and an almost apologetic personability, the singer serenaded the audience at Stealth with some of his dubstep inspired soul. He’s probably best known as being something of a Loop Station master, so it was good to see him putting that tech to good use with the aid of a guitar and drums. Oh my, those drums.
The lovely lad from London lad ran through a couple of his best-known tunes mixed with some material from his upcoming long-player Mirrorwriting, before the absolutely massive Night Air. The double-time snares and escalating guitar mixed with Jamie’s Milk Tray-like vocals were just irresistible.
He then ended with a souped-up version of his now-classic Wayfaring Stranger. The tune just encapsulates his whole vibe as well as showing off his voice – that soulful crooning that drips black America and UK folk. Sounding like Deep South blues put in a Moulinex with heartfelt lyrics inspired by Dwele and D’Angelo, this was a perfect end to the set.
It was testament to the Woon’s wide-ranging appeal that on one side of me were some dubstep-loving student types with lurid t-shirts, and on the other side were a couple who were tersely discussing the babysitter implications of such a late performance. That’s diversity, right there.
At just 30 minutes long, Jamie’s tight set packed more into the short slot than some hour and-a-half gigs. It will be good to catch him in a few months time at Rescue Rooms, rather than the tiny sweat pit that is Stealth Room 2. This kid should be playing the big rooms!
Jamie Woon played at Dollop at Stealth on Friday March 4, 2011.
Originally published at LeftLion.co.uk, Monday March 7, 2011.
Following the rap royal rumble that was Scorzayzee at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms t’other week, the rhyme heavyweight’s first ever headline gig has been captured for repeat watching on YouTube. Director Faolan Jones helms the short gig-doc…
Award-winning burger van owner, discount retailer, gang show entertainer and plastic carrier bag devotee: Angelos Epithemiou’s CV is an impressive read. He’s bringing his show, Angelos Epithemiou & Friends, to the Playhouse for an evening which promises the same kind of surreal shenanigans that earned him a regular slot on BBC’s Shooting Stars. Shariff Ibrahim intercepted him on the way to his favourite cafe for opinions on Paul Daniels, the French and everything in between…
You’re in catering yourself, aren’t you?
Yeh, I used to do catering in the burger van, but I’m out of that game now because the van – I don’t know whether you know this or you don’t know this – has been blown up my mysterious forces. I say mysterious forces; it was my brother what done it, so I do know actually. Luckily no-one was injured apart from my van, which was absolutely buggered. The stock’s all gone too, it went up in flames and ended up in the river. Disgusting, innit.
What kind of business do you do now?
I’ve got the pound shop now. Everything in it’s a pound, apart from the things what are a tenner; they don’t sell so well. I just get stuff off Ebay, flog it, then charge people more money. ‘Cos there’s this recession on, I would have thought I’d be cleaning up, but I think the problem is what I sell is mostly shit. People don’t want it, really.
How was trade over Christmas?
With things like Christmas lights, Christmas trees, decorations and all of that sort of stuff I make a killing. But then people get it home and none of it works so they bring it back and I end up losing in the end. There wasn’t a big Christmas toy though, not in my shop. You’re talking about Hamleys and erm, whatshisname, Buzz Lightyoung and Argos and stuff.
Now you’re on Shooting Stars. What’s it like working with Vic and Bob?
They’re idiots, they’re chancers – members of the ‘lucky club’. They just turn up, make stuff up and then go home again. If you’re telling me that stuff wants bunging on the telly then you’re as big an idiot as what them is.
But Ulrika is a bit special?
That’s another matter all together. That reason on its own was why I did the show, and I’m getting closer to her now [voice gets very high], let me tell you that for nothing. I’m outside her bedroom window nowadays, rather than just the kitchen window, so I’m nearly there. I’ll soon be sidling in there big time, giving it to her both barrels.
No girlfriend on the go at the moment then?
I’ve got one or two. I’m after getting on with that Kate Moss, but she keeps ringing me and I keep ringing ‘er and we keep missing each other. It will happen, it’s just a matter of times. I mean, she likes an egg, I like an egg, we’ll go and have an egg.
I can see myself in all of them hotshot places and parties what she goes to but she’d have to dress up a bit cos I don’t want her embarrassing me, looking like an idiot. You know what she’s like.
Muse continued their run of superb Word of Mouth nights with more live hip-hop and soul to mark the quadrennial festivities; perhaps in special honour of rap footnote Ja-Rule, who saw his first glimpse of bling on this ‘Leap Day’ 32 years ago. The line-up was an impressive roster of Nottingham talent, with local boys Ill Citizen topping the bill once more.
Warming up the crowd was hip-hop stalwart DJ Squigley of OhMyGosh Records, spinning some anthemic classics from his extensive crates. Once proceedings had begun proper, soul siren Jay Thomas took to the stage to deliver a soothing performance which was greeted well by the now near capacity audience. Next up: Lady Paradox, who with her assured set and solid delivery broke my previous conceptions of her, demonstrating why she is the eighth most downloaded female artist in the whole of Japan! (apparently).
Local favourite Karizma dropped by later for an unbilled but more than welcome appearance, spitting some of his well-known tunes and indulging the throng before him with some improvised freestyling. Audience participation was a highlight, as the rapper asked for words and phrases to be shouted out for reference in the ad lib rap. Any man who can incorporate pork pies and nods to this fair city into his verse at the audience’s will deserves a pat on the back.
The headliners, Ill Citizen, whose devoted fan base had all but packed out the venue, continued with their winning formula of quality beats and rhymes, with production coming courtesy of Tom G, who also represents on vocal duties with Canni and Allergy. After numerous performances at different venues, the boys have now got rocking a crowd down to a tee. Some new beats accompanying classic material was the basis for a solid set, with the tune Now What proving popular with many of the revellers forcing themselves towards the front. It’s always refreshing to see fans at gigs actually enjoying themselves rather than the traditional image of independent hip-hoppers morosely nodding their heads at the back of the room. Ill Citizen certainly got the place livelied up.
The venue is always good for this kind of event, with acts taking residence on a raised seating area, and the crowd afforded a spacious dance floor and sofas. Publicity for the night was extensive, so the floor soon filled. This enlivened the atmosphere but also meant that getting a drink in/moving was sometimes a bit slow.
But for £3 on the door for a good five hours of top music, you have to try pretty hard to find something wrong. I’m glad I won’t have to wait another 4 years for such a good night out, as Taskforce headline Word of Mouth in a month’s time.
Ill Citizen played Muse on Friday February 29 2008
Originally published at LeftLion.co.uk, Monday February 3, 2008.