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Skiman Interview

February 18, 2011

Skiman - photo by David Baird

Daniel Waithe – otherwise known as Skiman – is a prodigy of Notts superproducers The Elementz, the latest in a long line of bar-spitting behemoths from the NG and the man behind dancefloor-destroying mixtape Afterdark. And he’s still only 18…

When did you first start rapping?
I used to rap in my bedroom with my brother to Mike Shinoda, the rapper in Linkin Park. I grew up with a lot of UK garage and grime; there’s always been people like Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Pay As You Go on my stereo. I also used to watch Channel U a lot, or Channel AKA as it’s called now, so I would always see a lot of homegrown MCs.

How did the name Skiman come about?
It’s a bit of a boring story, really. It was more of a joke, going on my nickname Danski – like the Russian for Dan. Then my dad, who doesn’t even know why, just instinctively called me Skiman. So when I started rapping and I was looking for a name, I thought I might as well use that. I’ve never actually been skiing, but I’ve been water-skiing once in Turkey when I was twelve.

Tell us about Afterdark. Does it have a darker vibe than your earlier stuff?
The cover’s a bit scary, but I wouldn’t say it was dark, because there are uplifting songs on there. It’s for the club scene, more like dubstep for when the lights go down. If my previous mixtape Top of the World was me in the daytime, this is what happens at night. The beat on my new track Darkside was made by a good friend of mine called Fable. I heard the tune and thought: “I’m going to take that beat and do a dub to it.” It wasn’t supposed to be a big thing, but we really liked it and did a video with Faolan Jones, of Jungewire video. It got just under 5,000 YouTube views in its first week. There’s also a tune called Too Hard which is more grime. We got the beat from a guy called NAT, the producer from a group called Black Ops. Again, I dubbed that and did a video with Anthony Hopwood that’s also gone down really well on YouTube.

Are there any beats by The Elementz on the mixtape?
Yes, we added a track at the end called Afterdark. The beat was originally made for a group called T’SOTU which the Elementz were a part of, but then everyone went their own way and left the beats with them. I heard the tune on the studio laptop and thought “Yeah, I’ll vocal that.”

How did you hook up with The Elementz in the first place?
I was on holiday in Kavos and I met a guy over there called LA Golding who, at the time, I didn’t know rapped or sang. Then when I came back to England, he said he’d seen one of my videos on YouTube and he’d take me to the studio. So he brought me here, where I met Liati (one half of The Elementz) for the first time, booked myself in for an hour and got three tracks done. I’d never been to a studio before, but I was quick, the delivery was good and I impressed them. Then I rang them up and asked if I could come back to the studio and watch how other people do it. I didn’t want to be ignorant – you’ve got to learn from different people.

How many hours do you spend in the studio per week?
I’m there pretty much every day, just writing and stuff like that. But the studio is busy and usually booked up, so I only really get time to do anything when there’s a backing track that’s already made and ready to go. Recently I’ve been recording about two or three times a week.

If you weren’t an MC, what would be your ideal job?
I want to train to be a primary school teacher. I might not teach them all to rap, but I would definitely bring music into the lessons. I think that’s what kids want to do nowadays, they all want to be music stars.

Would you get the kids battling in their break times? Are you a bit of a battler?
I’d love to do some battle raps, but I can’t really freestyle. I’d definitely get the kids doing it, though. Like on a Friday daytime – “It’s ‘rap battle time, kids, write your own lyrics and battle each other.” I’d have loved that at school.

You competed in the Notts Unsigned event at the Arena last Summer. How was that?
Words can’t describe it – it was probably the best day of my life. They cut off half of the Arena. so it wasn’t as big as it can be, but it still felt huge. There were a lot of people there too so obviously it was quite nerve-wracking. Before I went on, my legs just wouldn’t stop shaking! But I did a good job and came second behind Long Dead Signal, who got the overall prize to perform at Splendour festival, so that was quite an achievement. I didn’t really expect to win, I just wanted to go in for the experience, but it’s definitely something to put on the CV.

What’s come of all that publicity?
I’ve had loads of bookings and people asking to do collaborations. But I work with lots of Nottingham artists anyway, people like Karizma, The Elementz and Nick ‘n’ Nash – who are doing really well and will be making a lot of noise in 2011. I’ve also just got back from doing a tour of a couple of primary schools with Dog Is Dead. We did a performance hosted by Mark Del from Trent FM who does the Notts Unsigned podcast. Afterwards we did a Q&A with the kids asking us how to get into music and what our interests are. It was really good fun.

What are your plans for 2011? Will there be an album coming out?
At the moment we’re just going to concentrate on the single. Then there will be my EP with a few tracks and a few remixes as well, so 2011 is looking good for iTunes. There will also be more bookings and gigs to look out for.

So when you’re a mega-rich rap star you’re not going to forget your Notts roots, are you?
Of course not, they’re all coming with me! As soon as I go, that’s it – Nottingham is on the map. But the first thing I’d do is buy my mum something nice, like a house.

What do you think of the music scene in Notts?
It’s really strong at the moment. You’ve got people like Wariko doing his projects in London with all the grime MCs. Then there’s also the indie rock scene that’s really taken off with bands like Dog Is Dead and Long Dead Signal. The club scene’s pretty good as well. It’s predominantly a student city so of course there’s a lot of them around, but if you’re from here, you know what it’s like – full of girls. I love it!

Skiman’s Afterdark mixtape is available to download free from theelementz.co.uk, or at gigs.

Skiman on MySpace
Originally published in LeftLion magazine, Feb-Mar, 2011.

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