Interview | Selvsse [Jun 2016]

There is a certain air of ambiguity that surrounds Selvsse. Perhaps it’s the way he stylises his name (with a ‘v’ replacing the ‘a’), or the artwork (comprised of various silhouettes) for his most revered project to date, Rituals, which was released via SoulEtiquette last year. Whatever the case, the cure for the curiosity was taking an opportunity to find out more about the man himself. “[I’m a] pretty simple guy, man”, he describes as an introduction. “I’m just passionate about life, really, and about learning”. This is made apparent through his spiritual and philosophical outlook, as before our discussion shifts to music, we touch on topics such as the differing mentalities of our generation. He also shares how food and photography act as other outlets for his untameable expression, a term that will be referred to throughout our conversation.

Despite being recognised as a producer & DJ now, Selvsse reveals how his first foray into music began as a rapper, before switching his focus to production, “I really started to build a strong affinity for production that just opened another side of my brain. The same way that thinking of words to put together just engaged my mind, production did the same thing”. Regardless of his switch of focus, Selvsse still feels strongly about his MC alter ego, and displays various instances of such by freestyling throughout the day. “I feel like I value writing more than I do anything else”, he says. “As of late, I’ve really been finding another respect and love for it again, not particularly for myself, but being able to hear a good lyricist, or someone that is able to really convey their expression through words – that fascinates me”. Inevitably our conversation leads to questions of whether we’ll see a return of ‘Selvsse – the rapper’, with the producer responding, “I don’t think you ever really stop [writing]. It’s more that I don’t feel like I’ve got much to say to people, but who knows where life will take us? I might need to speak up again”.

Until then, Selvsse remains absorbed by his production, and in particular, the idea of expression, “I’d say my main motivation is really just expression. Just being able to unlock certain parts of myself that aren’t so clear and then share that”, explains the 25 year old. “Most times I don’t really expect people to ‘get it’ straight away, but that’s the beauty of sound and music. Someone could come up to you and they’d tell you exactly what they felt, from what you were trying to translate in the music, and it will sound like they were almost in the same space as you when you were creating it”. He defines his approach to production as “reclusive”, before exploring further, “I think my process always begins with really trying to zone out and find exactly what it is that I’m feeling or trying to translate. I’ll make five or six beats in one sitting, but just save one. I’m really trying to connect with whatever mood that I’m in and that’s essentially what I’m always hammering towards”.

The producer then shares his views on his own development, citing a greater understanding of music being a key factor, “I feel like the older beats that I was making; the feeling was more raw, and the more current stuff, I understand the sonic structure of things”, he tells. “Loops are just life, you know what I’m saying? Once you’re able to create a loop that you or other people don’t mind hearing over and over again – that’s essentially what rap music is, anyway – I just take that whole concept and expand on it when I’m making beats. Most of the samples that I was collecting and I was chopping, I had to know those songs. I can’t just hear it and it just be something, I had to ride around to it and really understand what was being conveyed through this music and then put my own interpretation on it”.

When listening to Selvsse’s discography, it is evident that he has a varied musical taste, just like that of his biggest musical influences, a list that includes some of Hip Hop’s most admired and respected. “I have to start off with the God – [J] Dilla”, he announces, almost apologetically. “He’s obviously every producer’s favourite producer, you know? Hip Hop wise, I feel like he really honed in on a production style that not many producers had really delved into. Obviously there’s Pete Rock, there’s [DJ] Premier and all of these guys who expanded on the art of sampling, but I feel like Dilla went layers deep with rhythm and sampling. He was a producer that I gravitated towards strongly and he’s a percussive guy – I find myself the same, as well“. He continues, mentioning names such as Just Blaze, Madlib, Kanye West & Flying Lotus, but outside of Hip Hop, his musical influences mostly come from Jazz, “I’m inspired by a whole heap of Japanese composers. I just admire the way they arrange music – it’s second to none”.

A true culmination of Selvsse’s influences came in the form of Rituals, his 8-track instrumental project released in 2015. “I feel like [the response to Rituals] was slow building, but then I expected that”, he claims, whilst reflecting on the project. “I was really trying to find a sonic way of painting an idea of someone’s personal journey. People that really got it, got it. It was an instrumental piece, which followed straight after a run of re-works and remixes that I was creating, so I feel like the general anticipation was that I was going to expand more on that”. Irrespective of the twelve months that have passed since its release, Selvsse believes that there’s still life left in Rituals, “I still feel like people are discovering it, [and] it still gets love. It’s [been] a whole year since I put out that project and I look on the Internet and it’s everywhere. It’s all over YouTube, and I didn’t put any of those songs up there”. When questioned if the positive responses have altered his attitude toward his current work, Selvsse suggests how it has, in fact, aided it, “I don’t think it’s affected [how I work now], it’s just made me more aware of the stuff that people appreciate from me, if anything”.

One aspect Selvsse is actively trying to incorporate into his current material is collaborating further with other artists. This perspective sparked the initial idea for his forthcoming project, Wealth Of Man, something that’s been in the works for about a year now. “The idea came to me mid last year and I knew that I wanted it to be a project just with female vocalists”. SueLily, Ray Blk, IDEH & Faye Nash are some of the singers that Selvsse has worked with so far, with the intention of including them on the project. He goes on to describe Wealth Of Man’s “R&B/Jazz fusion” as “almost like an extension of Rituals”, in addition to using an analogy coined by a friend, offering that sonically it’s comparable to a “rainforest in space”.

Selvsse expresses that he wants a lot more “freedom to create” in an attempt to ease some of the expectations of his future output, explaining, “I feel like I haven’t even had a real opportunity to tap into the full extent of my potential and there’s already been so much positive response. The weight of that – I feel it. I might be a bit nonchalant sometimes, but I do feel the weight of that”. Admissions such as this are an indication of how far Selvsse has come, and how much he still yearns to convey through his music.

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