Nico Lindsay is having a stellar year.
Having come up via a loose affiliation with the grime scene, including features on his cousin Trim’s Soulfood mixtape series, the MC has branched out far beyond that, and is now best known for his deft handling of some of the more experimental sounds to have surfaced in London over recent years.
Having caught the ear of Nervous Horizon co-founder Tsvi, who invited him to vocal ‘Storm’, released last June, they teamed up again over the summer, alongside Wallwork, for a two-track vinyl on boundary pushing imprint Black Acre.
Clash spoke to them to find out more about that, and discuss the transnational nature of their collaborations.
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First off could you explain a bit how this collaboration came about? Who reached out to who?
Nico: Lorenzo BITW hit me up on Facebook about a collaboration and I was feeling the beats, so he suggested I recorded it at a studio he knew in Hackney that was run by Wallwork. After we recorded that track – ‘Storm’ – me and Wallwork started to work on some other stuff and we came up with ‘Facts’.
Wallwork: Yeah so Lorenzo sent Nico mine and Tsvi’s way. They came up with the idea of getting him to jump on an Afro/UK Funky sounding track, and when they made ‘Storm’ it all came together in a really great single.
Me and Tsvi have been running our label Nervous Horizon for a couple of years but had never released a tune we had made together, so ‘Facts’ seemed like a good occasion. Nan Kolè we met through our common friend Pugz. He inspired us with the stories of his documentary in South Africa and the gqom music that he was releasing on his label, GqomOH!. I thought it would be cool to make something together so we started exchanging ideas.
Also the thing we have in common is that we are Italian producers with a passion for UK funky and grime. I’m half English and have family in London, so I heard the genres early on, but for Italian producers to be making UK funky bangers is definitely something rare and special!
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For Italian producers to be making UK funky bangers is definitely something rare and special!
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What in particular about Nico’s vocal style caught your attention, in terms of his previous work and approach to music?
Wallwork: His sets on radio first, then the Lamont release. I think he was also the first UK MC to jump on a full gqom set – with Nan Kolè on Rinse FM – so we realised straight away that this was the man for the job!
How would you describe the contrast between the two tracks? Which of the two would you say is more geared towards the dancefloor?
Nico: I reckon both, but ‘Fyah’ seems like the one that might do damage in the dance – the percussion in that tune is mental. Wallwork: Now that I’ve played them out quite a bit they both seem to have a great reaction on the dancefloor. ‘Fyah’ is more of a standalone track; ‘Facts’ has a stripped back production with the bars more upfront, so it’s great to blend in with other percussive tracks whilst leaving in the vocals.
The release can’t really be pegged to one genre, but could be said to incorporate some elements of funky, gqom, grime and even aspects of early Rustie and Zomby productions. How hard has it become to carve out new, discrete genres, or assign music to any given label?
Wallwork: It’s becoming harder and harder. Everyone is influenced more and more by niche genres, styles from across the world and specific regional club cultures, so tracks are gradually becoming harder to place in those 10 standard genre charts and sections, online and in record shops.
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Personally I don’t know what to call it – but I like it.
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Would you say that’s a positive development? If you were to describe your sound, what words would you choose?
Wallwork: I think it’s a great moment to be in artistically. There are no rules, just have fun while you are making a track – and try make people dance if it’s a dancefloor oriented track of course. I feel that anything goes in the UK at the moment, from 94BPM to 170, and there’s a lot of 100BPM stuff emerging, and 150 too. Regarding these two tracks, ‘Facts’ is Dutch bubbling sounding with a Baltimore kick and ‘Fyah’ is UK funky with an Afro twist. Obviously everything is glued together by Nico’s bars, but I don’t think this single can be classified as a grime release. All the shops have put it in the grime section though!
In the years since the proliferation of the internet it’s become much easier to discover, as well as broadcast, musical styles from around the world to new audiences. Is that something that you’ve found has had an impact on your development as musicians, in terms of access to wider influences for your work, as well as your ability to reach listeners?
Nico: 100% – if it weren’t for Lorenzo from Italy hitting me up to work on ‘Storm’ this tune wouldn’t happened happened, so I think this current release is a reflection of the internet’s influence on music.
Wallwork: Facebook and Soundcloud have been extremely important. If it wasn’t for these two media getting places and getting heard would have taken a lot longer. Obviously the internet has changed everyone’s lives, but it’s still great to meet fellow artists or label owners in person at radio stations or nights and have a more human interaction.
Nico, you’re someone who seems to be drawn to more experimental producers. Was that a conscious decision to seek out different styles, or do you just choose beats that appeal to you, regardless of tempo?
Nico: I just jump on anything I like to be honest, whatever the tempo or genre – as long as I can catch a vibe I’m involved. I get producers contacting me all the time, and the same with me contacting them: I’ve always got an eye out for new talent. This ain’t a grime record. The lyrics are grime bars that I would spray on radio but the combination of the lyrics and the production create a different space. Personally I don’t know what to call it – but I like it.
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‘Facts’ / ‘Fyah’ is out now on Black Acre.
Words: Alex McFadyen