Interview | Intalekt [Nov 2015]

Musicianship is described as: the knowledge, skill and artistic sensitivity in performing music. It is also described as something that is held in very high regard by instrumentalist and producer, Intalekt, “I’ve dreamt about it – I’d like musicianship from the UK to be spearheaded by someone like me… or me”. Despite capping of his sentence with laughter, Intalekt expresses his belief in his own abilities. His confidence was instilled from an early age with his stage name being attributed to his personality, “I just genuinely thought I was a smart kid” the producer proclaims, “Not in the sense of academics, but just wise, and [the name Intalekt] stuck. I found a meaning in it later on – I found out I didn’t really know much about life – so I found the irony in the name, which is also shown in the way I spell it”.

Intalekt has managed to attain an extensive knowledge of music throughout his time, irrespective of his parents’ slight hindrance during his upbringing, “When I was young, my parents didn’t let me listen to much [music]. Because I was their first-born child, they were really protective of me with as to what I listened to. I remember the Christmas my Grandma bought me an iPod. I went crazy! I got every bit of music I could get”. Intalekt became relentless in his search for music to stimulate his fascination with sound, something that had engrossed him from an early age, “I just love sound, in general. I remember making a conscious choice when I was 8 or 9, while at a church service watching somebody play keys. The way he was playing keys – I was amazed. I’d never seen anyone play contemporary music on the keys. I was blown away. I went up to him after church and told him that I needed lessons”.

Compared to some, Intalekt familiarized himself with the production element fairly late in his musical growth, “I think I was in year 10 or 11, and I thought I’d just give it a go and see what happened”. His seemingly blasé attitude toward music production only lasted a short time before he began to look at it from a different perspective, “I was on the Music Technology course, so obviously I was involved in production but I played keys. I hardly did any production because the live music people were learning to play instruments”. His opportunity to fully immerse himself into production came during his period at university, where he not only expanded his musical perspectives, but also had more time to focus on the craft, “I think it was at the start of University, [and] over the summers, I kind of found where my place was. When I started university, the first thing I did was get an overdraft and bought a Mac. From there, the game changed! So, that’s when I was like, ‘Let’s really do this’ ”.

Intalekt then had the freedom, confidence and software to experiment with sound, whilst beginning the process of developing his own, though the producer admits there is not particular method to his creativity, “It can start from anywhere. It depends who I’m with, actually. If I’m by myself it varies, I might find a sample or it might be a chord progression, it can start from anywhere. I think that’s one of the things that makes me want to continue making music – I never know where it’s going to go”. Wide eyed like the proverbial child in a sweetshop, Intalekt expounds animatedly, “When I produce, I stack loads sounds and instruments, then I mute certain bits and bobs then I’m able to build from there. I think one of my biggest problems is that I want to give the listener more. I want to give them more ear candy. Sometimes it’s already there and it’s cool, because there is such a thing as overkill and I’m learning that”.

Of course, the producer’s sonic direction was always going to be affected by his musical influences, “My biggest inspiration is J. Dilla, it’s got to be J. Dilla. I can never forget listening to ‘You Know What Love Is’ [by Slum Village], I remember just listening… The swing was just crazy”. Enthusiastically, he continues, “Flying Lotus is another big influence. I don’t even think of him as a producer. I think he’s taken sound to a completely different place. I feel like it’s making people question why music has to have a certain formula. I’m hoping that’s what my project can do as well”. The emotive, yet technical depth when explaining his influences demonstrate how meticulously he approaches music “I feel like Pharrell taught me about chord progressions. Pharrell really taught me about B Sections and how important they are to a song”. Intalekt also lists the likes of Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Kanye West, Quincy Jones, Tyler, The Creator, Kaytranada & Mr. Carmack as musicians that make up his palette of influences.

Intalekt’s latest musical canvas comes in the form of his project IIWII – It Is What It Is. “The first meaning [of the title] is that it can be whatever you want it to be. I’m tired of people pigeonholing music so that we understand it. Some things can’t be categorised. It Is What It Is is almost giving power to the people – they get to define what it is to them”. Attempting to enlighten us on what to expect from IIWII, he explains, “I think every song is a story and I feel like people really have to pay attention to this project. Some of the songs are easy listening but some songs you really have to sit with and take them in. With this project I’ve put everything I could think of creatively, so I could understand if it was commercially slept on, but musically it’s the best I’ve ever done”.

Intalekt wants the forthcoming project to act as a platform for future success, adding, “I just want it to get me to a place where I can actually meet certain artists and they’d say, ‘Oh, I’ve heard this, I’d really like to work with you’. That’s what it is for me right now, I just want to keep building”. However, finding artists to collaborate with has never been an issue that the producer has had to face, with relatively established featured artists on IIWII that include Kojey Radical & Jay Prince, as well as the likes of Ella Frank and Dani Sofiya, “I think I’ve been blessed, because all the people I’ve worked with, I was fans of them originally. So in a weird way I think it’s just God’s plan. The people have been accessible to me. I don’t find it hard, I don’t stress it, I feel like when people hear the work that I’ve got that other things will fall into place”. Intalekt also recognises that an effective working relationship is usually shaped through a mutual understanding of music, “I’d rather work with like-minded people, than the people that are really popping. Like, if [Little] Simz didn’t want to work with me, I’d understand, I’d fully understand. I’d try and build the sound she’s going for, but if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work – I can’t force these things. It’s got to be organic”.

Though still in the infancy of his career, the talented instrumentalist reluctantly accepts the darker side of the music industry, sharing that, “In the music industry, funny stuff happens. Silly people come along but it is what it is, just let it be. Life goes on. We need to remember that it’s a business, at the end of the day, and we need to bare that in mind. As long as you stay true to yourself, if you stick at it, labels will see that and they will show respect, especially if you’ve been grinding by yourself”. As he continues, the reasoning behind his name becomes clearer, “Make the music that you want to hear and if your sound becomes popular, that’s a bonus for you. I feel like music is losing its touch, on radio in particular. People stay away from it because it’s not really great at all”. Intalekt expresses his concerns that such things are affecting people’s creativity on a broader scale, “I feel like people are afraid to make music, or be an artist because they feel like they’re going to get criticised, especially people who come into it later, [other] people feel like they’re just ‘jumping on the wave’. Creative people are popping up a lot, and some for the wrong reasons but if their heart is genuine and pure, you can see it. I feel like people use creativity to look cool. I’ve seen it. Who am I to judge them? I can’t knock what they’re doing but I feel like… Their motives weren’t good at the beginning”. During this passage of speech, Intalekt allows his unadulterated passion for the art of music to be presented.

Looking beyond IIWII, which is scheduled for an early December release, Intalekt expresses that he’s hesitant with regard to making solid plans, “I’m still undecided. In an ideal world, I’d like to have a team around me – like a production team – one producer and maybe a songwriter. I’d like to work with different producers and I’d like to make a completely live EP”. Though ideas have been thought about, he concedes that it’s a little bit out of his control, “I need to see what this project does, then I can make my decision on certain things”. Hopefully his decisions result in more music from a man whose heart is obviously in the right place with regard to his art.

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