Labrinth loves music. During our chat before his appearance at GFest he hinted at a new, rockier direction, revealed a knowledge of gospel, country and jazz and spoke of the importance of creative freedom.
When Labrinth welcomes Blog Preston into his cabin he shows immediate interest in the sound quality of the dictaphone being used to record the interview. “Testing, one, two!” he laughs when it’s turned on.
The London based songwriter and producer tells us how he has lived amongst music his entire life, being raised within a family with a gospel background. Does this still influence him now? He jokes,
“It made me scared to say naughty words, haha… I think I wouldn’t have really have understood instruments if I hadn’t grown up with a gospel background. So that’s very heavily involved in what I like to do. I was inspired by dubstep, house and, basically, dance music, but if I need to switch it up and play some country or jazz I know how to do that as gospel has all of those in one!”
Labrinth first broke through in 2010 as the producer of Tine Tempah’s BRIT Award winning “Pass Out”. Now signed to Simon Cowell’s label, he is a highly sought-after producer and recently revealed that he has been in the studio with US stars Usher and Busta Rhymes. When asked whom he would choose if he could work with just one more person, living or dead, he grins and relishes the question.
“Just one? It’s either Quincy Jones or Ray Charles! Ray Charles as an artist did some amazing things… and didn’t let anyone affect his choice of direction. That inspires me. As a businessman he was amazing, making sure he owned his masters and had creative integrity. Quincy Jones made some amazing music and has done some things where his fans have thought ‘is that Quincy?’ I love musicians like that”.
How does Labrinth feel about surprising people in a similar way? He refers back to debut album, ‘Electronic Earth’.
“I didn’t have a sole theme, my main sound was more electronic music and that gave people the impression that is all I love. Everyone has their central sound, but if you love music you’re not going to say “no” to anything.”
When asked if there’s any kind of music he likes that may surprise his fans, Labrinth speaks of his love of the American rockers, Foo Fighters!
“I tweeted I was listening to Times Like These and my fans were like “I didn’t know you liked Foo Fighters” and I was like “why wouldn’t I like Foo Fighters?” Maybe rock music would surprise people as they see me more as an urban artist.”
Can we expect any rock songs on album number two?
“I love doing it and I’m definitely going to make rock songs, without a doubt. A lot of the records on my album had rock elements, but I wouldn’t say they were rock. I haven’t got into the live room, but on the next album that’s definitely going to happen.”
Labrinth’s eyes light up when asked what else he has planned for his follow up – music aimed at his detractors.
“I wouldn’t call it an album…I call it “shut the fuck up music”. It’s just for anyone who may enquire whether Labrinth has any skill or not. I think that a lot of artists go through this industry and feel like they have to sell music instead of enjoy music and have fun.”
He advises other young musicians following in his footsteps not change for anyone and play because they enjoy playing.
“Don’t listen to anyone who tells you not to be you. Don’t let them insult you like that and also enjoy life, make sure you’re happy. If money doesn’t make you happy then don’t chase it!”
With all his influences, is there actually any kind of music Labrinth doesn’t like? He laughs, “I don’t like shit music!” before hinting he may not be a huge fan of manufactured pop.
“I don’t like when music is made for people and they don’t have their own direction. It’s like someone taking pictures with their own camera and giving it to you so you can say “that was my holiday”. Those who make their own memories or moments, I kind of respect. They bring you into their world instead of someone else’s…”
Labrinth certainly aims to bring people into his world and is pleased to be in control of his own direction, citing in past interviews that he has a lot of creative control. That must be fantastic…
“Yeah, that’s really good man. I think it would have been crazy if I wasn’t given creative control because I produce my own music and put it together myself, it’s going to be a bit difficult for someone else to give me my personality.”
Did he find it easy reaching to a point of independence within the music industry?
“I think I’m naturally a person who enjoys to work. If I have a passion for something, that’s all I do every day. For me it wasn’t weird when I came into the music industry, it was business as usual – well not business, just studio as usual, life as usual!”
Before we close, I ask if there is anything he’d like to say to fans waiting from him to take the GFest stage. He shows a warm admiration for all his supporters.
“We wouldn’t exist without all you fans, every artist knows that and try and hide it, but it’s really obvious. I really respect my fans, man.”
Labrinth’s album ‘Electronic Earth’ is available now on Syco records.