Get Familiar: Apron Records Part 1
Apron Records has been instrumental in shaping the current landscape of contemporary electronic music coming out of the U.K. since 2014. After almost a decade of pushing their unique vision has made the Apron Records imprint one of the most in-demand labels in most independent record stores. Now more than 45 releases deep in their journey, Apron Records have teamed up with Patta Soundsystem to work on their first various artists release and to celebrate this monumental milestone, both camps have collaborated to create a clothing capsule to accompany this release. After working with the artist formerly known as Funkineven on ‘The Wave’ late last year, it was only right to showcase the diverse talents behind this movement. We caught up and got familiar with the producers behind the tracks on the record.
How did you first get into music?
Oh, video games for sure, back in the day they would have a lot of drum ‘n bass and techno in it and it stuck with me and ended up seeping into my sound. Games like Ape Escape, Tekken Tag Tournament, and Zone of the Enders had a huge impact on finding my taste in music. I eventually started making beats at the age of 13 on Fruity Loops with the help of my dad's friend at the time.
What music was around you growing up?
Other than the video games I consumed, my dad used to be an Emcee so I heard a lot of the stuff he was working on growing up. Also, my mother would play a lot of gospel and, for lack of a better term, “Neo-Soul”. She would go from Fred Hammond to Jill Scott to A Tribe Called Quest. Pops did put me onto Brotha Lynch Hung when I was in kindergarten or 1st grade and some of that stuff is still fire.
Who did you look up to in music when you were coming up?
When I was only concerned with this “Beat Scene” stuff back in 07’, it was Ras_G, Dibiase, P.U.D.G.E, Fumitake Tamura, Mndsgn & Flying Lotus. Since being involved with dance music it's been the whole NCA squad, Actress, Moodymann, Basic Channel & Stanislav Tolkachev
How would you describe the music you make?
It's all over the place but it's emotional. Somehow consistent. Sometimes hip hop, sometimes ambient, sometimes techno, sometimes deep house. A lot of blue and purple in my music.
What is the scene like in L.A?
Too many scenes honestly in L.A. But for dance stuff, there are pockets for everything, just gotta know the right people or know where to look. Disco, Electro, Industrial, Deep house, Aggressive Techno, Gabber/Hardcore too. It's all in L.A.
How did you connect with the Apron crew?
Brassfoot somehow stumbled upon my SoundCloud and followed me. What's funny is that I only had my hip hop beats on there. I messaged him and said, “bruh how’d you find me?” I was buggin because I was already a fan of him and Apron and it didn't make sense to me. Strange enough he didn't know either, he just landed on the page. I showed him the dance stuff I've been working on then he wanted to do a release with me which ended up being NCA PAN. Steven heard that and then wanted me on the crew.
What was it like growing up in Compton?
Growing up in Compton was unpredictable and a little bit stressful. Anything bad could happen on any day and at any time. I was living on the west side so it was pretty tame for the most part but still, people were getting shot outside of my neighbourhood. It's not the 90’s but things still happen. I almost lost my life coming home late from an afters for “moving too fast” across the street. So yeah, unpredictable but other than that, growing up in Compton is what I needed. I'm very glad I grew up there, not for its cultural significance but for how the city functions. It prepared me a lot.
Why do you feel it is important to highlight the African diaspora’s presence within techno and house music?
It is important to highlight because there are a lot of promoters, agencies etc. who are spending a lot of money to basically make it so black people's presence is non-existent in house and techno. This is foul because people Black people invented house and techno. At the same time, it's important to highlight the right ones. There are a lot of Black people doing this that are not genuine, in it for the clout and the looks and they need to be weeded out so this techno and house ecosystem can remain true.
Were you surrounded by music growing up?
Not really. I was born and raised in a small town on the coast of Calabria, Southern Italy. There's not much of a music culture there. My mom had a couple of cassette tapes but that was it. There were other beautiful things though, like sand, the sea, and sunshine.
You also have your own label, Okay Nature, what direction do you feel like you are taking club sounds?
My direction has always been broad and quite diverse. The core of everything I do has a specific identity but it branches out into a lot of different moods, genres and tempos. My goal has always been to be vast and contain multitudes, like Walt Whitman. Right now I am working on making 1 billion listens, smashing pop hits without compromising my sound.
What is your NTS radio show all about?
My show is a monthly broadcast of my emotions, delivered via subliminal messages, in the form of radio waves.
System Olympia is a strong name, where does it come from?
I originally didn't want people to know I was a woman. I was gonna hide my identity. I was tired of hearing silly comments about me being so good at producing despite not being a guy, or people assuming I had a ghost producer. I wanted my name to sound like a band. I knew my music would have been perceived as fitting in more than one genre, and as a person, I am also quite complex, so I chose the word "System" because it describes a whole of elements working together. "Olympia" comes from a song by Hole I used to like as a teenager.
Can you let us know what your NTS show is all about?
I've played on NTS for a number of years now. It's called the NCA Show, but you'd have to follow it each month to fully understand what its truly all about. It can be many different things all at once. It's mostly a collection of layered moods, coarse textures and witty instances all stiched together in my own way. I play music from NCA crew members like Black Void Smith, J M S Khosah and Ashtrejinkins. As well as the full spectrum of sounds that inspire me on a daily basis. My inspiration takes me to some strage places, so that could include anything from Psych Rock to Noise, Jazz, R&B or 90's Hip Hop. I'm very much into to film and video also, so most of my shows are driven by a non-linear narrative of sorts. Everything unexpected seems to connect in the world of NCA.
You also co-run NCA with JMS Khosah, what is this crew all about and what role do you play?
We're a DIY company, essentially. We run everything ourselves and if there's something new that we need to do, it generally gets done in-house, by us. I have a design background, so all the artwork and design is executed by me. The music comes to us as an expressive outlet, and all concepts come through our connection to something much greater. We're also all about physical releases, not exclusively, but it's a major part of what we're doing. We're always keen on ensuring that there is something tangible as a reference point for each release.Nothing truly exist in this realm otherwise, and it's my personal connection to both narrative and symbols that really helps to facilitate that with each release. NCA is my sketchbook.
When you’re not working on music what keeps your hands busy?
I'm always creating something, whether it's music, design, art or food! I'm very keen on bold colours and coarse/contrastng textures and often can't resist the urge to create something once I have an idea in my head. I have an obligation to bring an idea to life within this realm before it leaves me. I also probably have equally as much video hardware as I have music gear, so it's often a flip between those two passions!
How did you first link up with Steven and get involved in Aprons Records?
I've known Stevie for years. We're both from the same part of the Caribbean, so the link was actually there before we even knew it. But essentially we met through music and mutual friends. When I returned back to the UK from a few years in living in Tokyo, we caught up with eachother again and out of that reuniting came a bunch of wild Apron releases. Stevies ears have always been naturally tuned to be well ahead of everyone elses, in my opinion, so it was only right that Apron Records was the first place to introduce my sounds.
And you are also a vocalist too?
I actually started off writing and rapping. I started making my own music out of necessity. I just wanted to create my own soundspaces that brought-forward the moods that I pictured when I look around my city, or the feelings that the people I knew and loved carried around with them. I grew up in a musical family and my Dad built a music studio in our home. The studio was next door to my bedroom, so I would go to bed and could feel the vibrations through the walls. When I was in my teens and massively into Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang, my Dad was working with a rap crew called CD (Criminal Damage), I got on really well with them all, as they were making the music that I loved and could relate to most. The founding member of that crew was Black Void Smith and we've managed to keep in touch and collaborate musically still to this day. I'm always writing, and will definitely continue to do so, even if the outlet isn't delivered in the most expected format. So stay tuned! (wink wink)
Your back catalogue is actually very diverse, branching many creative styles together, what sounds can we usually catch you experimenting with?
I'm from Camden, North London, so I grew up around a lot of different influences. When I was a kid, growing up, my area was known for Punk music and other types of experimental music. So I never really shunned any of it, as it just added to my personal musical experience and my overall comprehension. Because of that, it's been impossible for me to not mash all those influences together, and I guess that's evident in everything that I've been doing artistically. This ethos is definitely part of the framework that has developed NCA, and with my next release, I'll be cementing that concept even further.
How important is collaboration to your creative process?
I usually only collaborate with my NCA fam or Apron affiliates. They're naturally part of the process and when that family grows, it does so organically. Over time, I've learned that it has to be this way, to be truly genuine. People throw the word collaboration around far too loosely IMO and when I usually create my best work, it's just me, my shadow and the portals surrounding me. This doesn't mean that I'm not open to collaborating, I just haven't had a need to do it outside of my immediate circle.
What was it like growing up in London?
I couldn't have chosen anywhere better to grow up. However, I have a undeniable love-hate relationship with this wicked city. I love a lot of different cities, all for various different reasons. Tokyo, for it's futuristic elements, Montreal for it's attitude and atmosphere, Ljubljana for it's beauty and humility and Amsterdam for its air quality... (wink wink). But London is the true foundation of my sound and it has massively contributed to my so-called human experience. I've been fourtunate enough to grow up in a place where almost everyone had roots somewhere else. So when we all grew up together, we shared our differences and bonded through our similarities and aspirations. London drove us all to express ourselves through our talents and creativity, but in the most uncompromising and unapologetic way.