Interview: Manchester’s Fox talks dances in Jamaica, Swing Ting label + more!
2014 has been a massive year for Fox, stretching from the dancefloor destroying ‘Masterplan’ with My Nu Leng back in February to championing the first release from club-night turned label Swing Ting last month, as well as a whole host of collaborations with the likes of Red Eye Hifi, Lenzman, Calibre and Marcus Intalex, not to mention his involvement in Manchester’s blistering new crew ‘Levelz’. Here Fox give us an inside look into his year, his influences and the freshest releases we can expect from him in the coming year!
For anyone who is less familiar with your background, give us a little run down of your entry path into the music game!
I’m older than a hill but younger than a mountain so the story is long, but suffice to say I’ve been in and around sound system culture and pirate radio since the 90’s in Manchester, which was a violent war zone, a time when the ‘Gunchester’ moniker took hold, but it was also a very creative time. Its a bit cliché but basically, while I was living the wild road life I discovered I loved music and it became my saviour and calling.
I used to be in a hip hop group called Subliminal Darkness, which Jenna G was a part of too. But then i got disillusioned with the way the industry works and took some time out. Fast forward to 2013/14 and I got persuaded by a couple bredrins to do more than just teach workshops so I got back on it.
You’ve featured on so many great tracks this year, from modern classic ‘Masterplan’ to your latest ‘Skank’, so could you sum up your 2014 for us?
2014 so far has been good musically. Masterplan with My Nu Leng sorta set the year off well and I’ve had a good few releases so I can’t complain. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting how well Masterplan was received but its a happy surprise.
I’ve also had a few releases out with Red Eye Hifi on a reggae/dub vibe, a lovely track with Tokyo Prose and Lenzman ‘Wont Let Me Go’, and a massive release on Signature with a couple G’s by the names of Calibre and Marcus Intalex, which I’ve been waiting to come out for over a year. ‘Runaway’ in particular off that Signature release is a track I’m proper proud of.
Recently, as you mentioned, I’ve had the first release on our Swing Ting label with Brackles and that’s been getting nuff love. Behind the scenes, I’ve been in the studio a lot so its been a satisfyingly busy year.
Your latest projects include your link up with Red Eye Hifi and the launch of the Swing Ting label, could you tell us about them and the sorts of things you’ve got lined up for 2015?
Well, Swing Ting is a night I’ve been resident at for a few years now alongside a roster of musical dons: Samrai, Platt, Joey B, Murlo and Brackles. Hands down, no gas, its consistently my favourite party to play. The first one of 2014 was with Zed Bias as guest, I turned up at 11 and the queue was halfway down the block. I thought we must not be open yet, only to find out we were already at capacity and it was going off inside.
Swing Ting has had great guests, based on us liking their music and styles as opposed to booking them with an eye to profits. Anyhoo, as a natural progression its led to us doing the Swing Ting label. The first release is ‘Skank’ with Brackles, complete with a remix by Famous Eno ft Trigganom, as well as ‘Carbon’ and ‘Palos y Piedras’ (both Brackles’ tracks). We’ve had great feedback on the release so we’re buzzing!
I also work a lot with Red Eye Hifi hosting sets and recording and this has seen some great releases, the most recent being ‘Raise the Alarm’ on NB Audio. I love the Red Eye lot, its always jokes and good times but within that there is a commitment to progression which makes me happy. Red Eye has also started a live band, and two gigs in they are now looking like they’ve played together a lot longer.
2015? Woi! As I’ve said, I’m constantly busy creating and as such, there’s a lot in the pipeline. New tracks on Mouse Outfit’s new album, my own EP on Estate Recordings, an EP on Swing Ting, loads of fresh music with Levelz (a mancunian collective of such as the world has never seen before) and loads of collaborations including stuff with Zed Bias, Riya, Collette Warren, Skeptical and Voltage are all on the way.
Considering more and more independents are being set up and the bigger labels are losing profits, the future looks bright for the underground scene. Have you felt any change in the scene this year?
That might indeed be the case but I can’t truly say I’ve seen or felt the effects of that, especially financially. If the big labels are losing money, I’m not sure where its going other than not in my pocket! On a level though, from what I’ve observed in life, diversity is always a good thing so it must be beneficial for the music scene when power and wealth is spread out a bit more.
If anything, I think the “bright future” for the underground is manifested at the moment in terms of ability to feel free creatively and to put music out with less red tape, but with tracks selling for pennies these days, labels will have to move a stupid amount of units to really feel the benefits. It’s possible that the power may have just shifted from big labels to big festivals, as that seems to be where the money is at these days and if so, artists on indie labels still face the same struggle: i.e how to break into an exclusive environment and be sustainable.
It feels like there’s still divides between the North and South in the UK scene, especially between the MC’s, has this affected you and do you think there’s been progress in removing these divides recently?
The North/South divide is real and goes beyond music. We live in a hierarchical society and its a well established fact that more emphasis is placed on London, the capital city and where the seat of government is, than anywhere else in the UK. That being said, I get on well with loads of ‘cockneys’ (yeah I’m fully aware that not all Londoners are cockneys, but up North you all are!)
Some of the MC’s I rate highly are from down south or live there: SP:MC, Lowqui and Crazy D are all safe as f*ck and sick at their jobs! Long as people are not on some superior type mentality, I will get on with them to some degree regardless of where they’re from. As for closing the divide, some of my lot are great Mancunian ambassadors and sell the Mancness well i.e DRS, Strategy, Chimpo, Skittles, Dub Phizix, Hoya crew and Swing Ting.
You’re an MC who’s known to be comfortable in any genre, what would you say your musical influences are and do you have a favourite?
My parents took me back to Jamaica when I was a one year old and I give thanks to that environment for a lot of my influences. Not just the artists and sound system culture but the culture of ‘anything goes’ musically. I’ve been in the sickest of dances in places like Tivoli, Red Hills Road or Harbour View round about back in the day and wouldn’t feel surprised or turned off to hear a Dolly Parton tune or Tracy Chapman in between some Shabba and Supercat! I love Jamaica and more so Kingston, its so open to music.
Its hard to ask me to name a favourite artist simply because I have so many: Al Green, Ninjaman, Biggie, Aretha Franklin, Dennis Brown, Sade, Sizzla, Capleton, Beres Hammond, Joey Badass, Ab Soul, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Hiatus Kaiyote, Massive Attack, Calibre, Muddy Waters… and on and on and on!
My influences as you can see are wider than the island of Jamaica. As a vocal artist in the current environment, I’d have to say DRS is a massive influence in terms of his creativity, work rate and how he carries himself in this industry. I’d not heard any MC in DnB do such a good album as “I don’t usually like MC’s but…” and it definitely had a profound effect on me.
Following the success of the Red Bull Culture Clash this year, could we possibly expect to see the Levelz crew clashing crews like BBK or organising any crossover events in 2015?
Mad that you’ve mentioned that! I went to the London clash and said to Chimpo and Serocee that there should have definitely been a Manchester contingent on stage. We didn’t even get a clash in the city and that needs to be rectified!
I was involved in the Leeds Red Bull clash with Chimpo on the Brotherhood Sound and it was a mega sick affair! Chimpo only rinsed dub plates and the place went off! Played the Birmingham one too and though I wasn’t on the winning team at either one (obvious fix haha), I had a great time.
As I’ve said, I’m brought up on sound system culture, I used to ‘tief’ out the yard to watch a sound knowing full well I was gonna catch a beating the next day. My bredrin’s dad set up Exodus 4×4 when I was a yout and I just generally get a mad gleam in my eye when its a clash. So yeah Red Bull, sort it out, point them out and we will tek dem out!