George Roberts interviews Chini from The Mouse Outfit for Urbanista.
URBANISTA: Jagged Tooth Crook is a huge departure from your first two studio albums. What inspired this change in direction, especially the extensive use of live keys?
CHINI :Previously our music has been a blend of live instruments and samples (mainly from old records +sample packs)
We made a decision on ‘Jagged Tooth Crook’ to try to create a wholly original album instead of relying on sampling existing material. We have a reputation as a live band and felt that it was time to do an album created using only live musicians.
We also realised that to get your music licensed you need to own all the material so creating music using samples is pretty limited unless you want to try and get sample clearance, which can be a long and expensive process.
As a keyboard player myself, I always enjoy getting other keys players in to do sessions so I can see how they approach things differently. I was fortunate to work with several great pianists in developing the tracks for the album.
URBANISTA: How do you get everyone together and keep strong and unified in what you do? Having been in a large live hip-hop outfit myself, I know just how hard that can be..
CHINI: It can be difficult, as with any collective of people, but I think our drive and determination has allowed us continue. When you’ve put this much time into a project you want to really want to see it succeed.
URBANISTA: Do you think there is any danger you could alienate any of your fanbase with what I see as a more nu soul type of sound?
CHINI: Yes. I think some of our fans may feel like we’ve changed direction and prefer the more traditional hip hop sound and we totally understand that. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to move to a more nu soul sound. We just happened to collaborate with some different sounding vocalists and we liked what they were writing so we released the tracks. We were aware that we had never featured any female vocalists on our tracks before so we were keen to redress that balance. On the flip side, we’ve definitely gained new fans who might not have connected as much with our earlier material. Tracks from the latest album now account for the vast majority of our streams + Youtube views.
URBANISTA: I’ve a lot of friends who are massive Dr Syntax fans, and are a little disappointed that he only features on one track. My instinct is his style might be more suited to traditional sampling??
CHINI:We work with a huge number of musicians and vocalists so we’re not always sure who we’ll be touring or writing with next. We kind of just go with the flow and work with whoever is available at the time. Syntax has been collaborating with Pete Cannon and several other producers so he is still very busy writing and touring on his own. His contributions to ‘Escape Music’ were invaluable and he captured the mood of the time perfectl
URBANISTA: Will you be playing many tracks from your earlier albums at live shows and how will you organise the sets? Or will we just have to wait and see?
CHINI:Our live show is mainly arranged around the MCs that we are touring with at the time. Currently that is Dubbul O, Ellis Meade + Berry Blacc + occasionally KinKai. We have also been bringing a singer along to some gigs so that we can perform some of our IAMDDB tracks + tracks from past albums
URBANISTA: Who are your musical inspirations? I picked up a lot of 70s funk, acid jazz, and nods to more recent artists like Galliano and Jill Scott.
CHINI: My main early inspiration came from my Dad. He always had music playing in the house and took me to loads of jazz gigs at an early age (Miles Davis/Buddy Rich etc). I also grew up in the Madchester era + watched a lot of local bands and loved the sound of the emerging dance scene and remix/DJ culture.
I was a fan of Galliano and acid jazz at the time but it was years later that I found myself producing similar music.
URBANISTA: Do you think you have found an overall more coherent sound and atmosphere with this album?
CHINI: I think it’s hard to compare this album with our previous releases.
We were very happy with how this album turned out and Metrodome’s influence and use of effects certainly helps gel the whole project together.
‘Escape Music’ was not planned as an album, it was more a collection of tracks but somehow it seems to come together until the title really well.
URBANISTA: Where can we find details of upcoming shows? I came to see you in Liverpool with friends a couple of years back and had a great time. It’d be great to see you again!
URBANISTA: Where do you go from here?
CHINI: I have loads of new beats in development and have been reaching out to a wide variety of singers and rappers. Again, it’s all using live musicians and I’ve played keys myself on a significant number of tracks as well. We’re hoping to bring out a string of single releases throughout 2019