- Thu, 2010-11-18 15:22
Roll Deep have been storming through the UK grime scene since their formation in 2002. Headed up by UK grime lord Wiley, the crew have a string of famous past members including chart toppers Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder amd Skepta. Not that the crew need the efforts of past members to reach the top spot; 2010 has seen the crew burst from the underground and officially dominate the UK charts with their pop-led singles Good Times and Green Light.
I Like Music caught up with Manga, Scratchy and Breeze at Universal Records, their swish major label home. We chat about the grime scene, making tunes for a pop market, what we can expect from their fourth album Winner Stays On and why Roll Deep top trumps, hover boards and plastic chains are a very, very good idea.
"I Like Music because… the world would be very dead without it.” Breeze, Roll Deep
"I Like Music because… it's got me lots of free trainers.” Manga, Roll Deep
"I Like Music because… I get to express myself once and then hear it forever” Scratchy, Roll Deep
ILM: How are you all?
Scratchy: We are well. Tired. But it's good tiredness. Means we been working hard. Which is what we do!
ILM: We spoke to Target around the release of Moving Circles. So...it's great to meet you three! How are the rest of the crew?
Breeze: We've been playing a football tournament for the last few days. So we're still a bit wiped from that.
ILM: Did you win?
Scratchy: I scored! I was the only person who scored. On the whole team.
ILM: Did you have a goal celebration routine?
Breeze: Yeah. Just a suprised look on his face!
ILM: How would you describe your new album Winner Stays On? Where does it sit in the Roll Deep journey so far?
Breeze: It's kind of a story. We've progressed so much over the years. Coming from In At The Deep End, which was out five years ago, to now. So much has gone on. Our music has changed so much. We're in a position now where we don't put things out until we're comfortable with them. So we're happy with this album. We just want everyone else to be!
ILM: It's been ten years since Roll Deep started and you've been on a mad journey. How has the Roll Deep ethos, the Roll Deep mentality changed?
Breeze: It's more of a job now. We'd like to think of ourselves as professional, believe it or not! It was a hobby for us at first. We've got to take it a bit more seriously now because we're in the public eye, we're more mainstream artists.
Manga: Making music is the fun bit. When we're in the studio we're just enjoying it. The shows, interviews, promotion, everything after...That's what we've had to get right. When we're all together we're going to make music anyway, catch jokes and make a song. But it's about the follow up too. There's a lot of competition, there are people out there who are on it 24/7. We gotta be the same.
ILM: You've had huge mainstream success; you're in the top ten, you played Glastonbury, you're doing sponsored football tournaments... You were originally known as a grime crew. Is that the same now? Are you a pop act?
Manga: It's about moving on. You said you liked our track Team. Well that's a grime song, Scratchy made it. Songs like that are natural to us.
Breeze: We started out doing grime. It's easy to us.
Scratchy: Yeah. We done that now.
Breeze: Learning the more mainstream stuff, that's been our challenge.
Manga: Being organised on the stage, being good at interviews, being on TV, that's the hard stuff. Doing a grime song, doing grime raves, that's easy.
Breeze: In the grime scene you might go into the studio and record a song and you'll go mad. And that's it. It'll get put out on the radio and that's what you gotta do. You might get a few interviews in this magazine and that magazine, and there's not that much to it. This, what we're doing now, this is intense.
Scratchy: There are so many of us too. It's not like one artist, where he'll do one interview and you get his point. There's a lot of us with different views and things to say. We need double the amount of everything, just so people can begin to get to know us as a whole crew, to know all our personalities.
ILM: How do you balance those ideas in the studio? Grime vs. pop? Do you at times say this is what we would have done, but we need to flip it round if it's going to get in the charts...'?
Breeze: Yeah, yeah.
Scratchy: The balance has got to be just right. Just enough water in your orange juice. Not too watery and not too strong! Just the right balance. I think we've done it right on this one. On this album there is a lot of energy. A lot of dancey songs. You do get the grime ones, like Team. We could do that til we're blue in the face that music. That's half hour work. The other songs, you need to get it right, get singers for the chorus.
Manga: With Team, we were going to just leave the chorus repeating. Two years ago, we would have done that. But now we were like oh, we need a chorus. We can't just leave it raw because people need to understand it. We built on the idea. That's one of the big ways we've changed.
Breeze: Like Scratchy said, it's had that little bit of water added to it. It's about getting the right mix.
Manga: And with that mix we can go to more different places, do bigger shows and do bigger everything.
ILM: Female vocals have played a big part in everything you've done recently. What do you look for in a Roll Deep vocalist?
Scratchy: The producers that make the beat, they sort out the vocalist. They tell us the idea and we'll just write our lyrics to that. The producer that makes the song, he gets the singer. He knows what will sound nice on his beat. The singers will be on Universal as well. They're connected to us through that.
ILM: How does it feel to be part of a major record label?
Breeze: We were signed to Relentless five years ago, which didn't go as we planned even though we had singles in the charts. This time round it's totally different all around. We've had number ones.
Manga: You can see the difference compared with trying to do it yourself. While we're sleeping there's people working on things for us! That's the difference really. So much stuff has been done for us. It's nice to have a team. Ha! Team!
ILM: Urban music has become even more prominent in the charts over the last five years. Why do you think that is?
Manga: It's like it's made by them. Kids that are doing it, are the kids that are listening to it. They can relate to it.
Breeze: They're making it as well. There's also sorts of collages and scenes going on for them to make music as well. When I was young I never had anything like that. It can only get stronger for the UK.
Manga: Kids see that they can do it. You know, you can't be an American rapper, but you can be an MC, a producer or a singer. If you can see what you can be, then it can be done. Ha! Save that! If you can see what you can be, then it can be done. Ha!
ILM: OK. I'll make it bold. (So true to our word...)
IF YOU CAN SEE WHAT YOU CAN BE, THEN IT CAN BE DONE Manga, Roll Deep.
ILM: How do you push Roll Deep to evolve?
Scratchy: Making up new songs from a different angle. Performing live is good, we'll look at that more.
Breeze: It's all still a learning curve to us. We're still getting our bit together and getting it totally right, before we start branching out and doing other things. There is still a lot of work to do in-house if you like. Then after that, the sky is the limit.
ILM: What's it like being part of Roll Deep?
Scratchy: Fast. Like a Lamborghini. Fast.
Manga: With no breaks!
Scratchy: Yeah. So fast you don't even know you're on it. You don't know what's happening, it's just all happening...
Manga: And the driver is drunk!
Breeze: It's a difficult question to answer because we don't know anything else. We're only starting to see repercussions from what we've put in over the last ten years.
ILM: What have been some of your best moments?
Manga: Right. When we got to number one for the second time, we went to Radio 1 and there were people outside! The first time there was no-one. Walked in, came back out, no-one there. But the second time! There were people and cameras outside! I thought, safe! I can see the difference!
Scratchy: Walking down red carpets with everyone taking pictures...
Manga: And when they say 'UK's number one act!' At Love Music Hate Racism someone shouted 'Next up, the UK's number one act!' and I was looking round, like, who is it? And it was us! Hahah!
ILM: A lot of stories to tell the grandchildren then...
Breeze: More like a lot of stories NOT to tell the grandchildren...haha! I dunno. Loads has happened. Like Scratchy said, it's too fast sometimes.
Scratchy: I should have kept a diary! If I wrote one now it would be SO thick! We've done so much, been to so many places. Dubai, I'll never forget that.
Manga: If we ever stop, that's when we'll sit down and think about everything that we've done. Our 'We went...' and 'We done...' lists would be well long!
ILM: What's your advice to young people on following their dream career?
Breeze: You gotta believe in yourself and your dream for it to come true.
Manga: Don't take no for an answer, no matter how many times you get knocked back.
Breeze: You just need to perservere.
Manga: If it's your dream then you'll know what you've got to do. Really. Just do it. We knew what we needed to do but sometimes we didn't do it.
Breeze: It's easy to be lazy. It's harder to stick to it.
Scratchy: If you wanna get noticed...just wear high-vis. Make sure you're like....3D basically. Make sure you put on that colour!
Breeze: And even when you are noticed...don't be complacent.
ILM: What music have you been listening to recently?
Breeze: Honestly, I've been listening to...
Manga: Why'd you say honestly?
Breeze: Cos you wouldn't think I'd been listening to it...I've been listening to Plan B, Florence and The Machine...
Manga: What's wrong with that?
Breeze: I know, but just on a daily basis. A LOT. And I've been listening to Seal and our album. That's it for the last three weeks.
ILM: What do you think of Plan B...making that swip from rap to soul?
Manga: We wanted him on our album but he didn't have time.
Scratchy: He's amazing. A singer, actor, MC and he can stand up with a band and perform. I take my hat off to him.
Manga: He's a good example of real, strong UK talent. But Seal though eh? I've been listening to that Tinie Tempah track with Ellie Goulding. Nang. Nang track man, that's the best on the album.
Scratchy: I just listen to myself in the bath.
ILM: Over The Rainbow, the last track on Winner Stays On, suggests there's more to achieve. So...what's next for Roll Deep?
Breeze: Oh. There's loads left. I want this album to sell out first and then...
Manga: I want an action figure! And Top Trumps! If we had Roll Deep Top Trumps yeah, what would your thing be? Your special move?
Manga: Yeah, your vocab would be a 10!
ILM: Number of trainers...
Breeze: Ha! I ain't got that many man, I've been throwing them out!
Manga: I got nuff.
Scratchy: The space in my house for them is killing it man, I gotta get rid of some.
Manga: No! Don't throw them!
Breeze: Mine aren't in boxes, they're just piled on top of each other.
Manga: You don't keep them in boxes?!
Breeze: I can't! There's no room!
ILM: How many pairs do you have?
Breeze: I don't know...
ILM: Over 100?
Manga: Yeah! I wear like four! And I got loads I ain't worn, nuff!
ILM: How do you decided which ones to wear?
Breeze: Just what goes with whatever. Clothes. Colours. But I'm giving my clothes and trainers away. I have to. There's no room.
Manga: Oh. I don't do that. I'm selfish.
Scratchy: And we'll have plastic chains. Nah. Like rubber chains! That's what Brazen said. Yeah, like a rubber chain. Then if someone wants it, he can just take it. Like, oh no! He's popped it off of me! Hahaha!
Manga: And hover boards.
Scratchy: And more songs. And smashes.
Manga: Oh yeah! Music! Yeah, forgot about that! Ha! More music!
Guest Edit #12: Roll Deep Take a look here