Interview | Talos [Jan 2017]

A flash of my phone’s screen indicates a message that confirms Talos has just arrived. As I go outside to greet the gifted producer, he is sat waiting in his car – a setting that he’s very in-tune with as it provides the ambiance for his debut EP, Lowlight, which was released in November last year. “I spend a lot of time driving, I’m always driving around everywhere, so I wanted to incorporate that sound [and] those sound effects because that’s how I was actually listening to the music”, he later explains.

Despite his foray into music beginning as a DJ (“not like a proper DJ, but I did a couple of sets when I was like 14”) and then becoming part of that age old story of making Grime beats on Fruity Loops” in his mid teens, it wasn’t until Talos went to university that he began taking the art of producing more seriously. It was also at university that he met Coops, with whom he built a relationship that facilitated his musical creativity. “I didn’t even finish my course at university, so [meeting Coops] was the thing I took out of it”, he declares.

“When we linked up, we were both a bit… We didn’t one hundred percent know we wanted to be musicians, and you could kind of tell that, but after a while, it just organically became a thing where Coops was the rapper, I was the producer, [and] we were working on something together. Also, we probably inspired each other, [and] got energy off of each other, because he was a sick rapper I could work with whenever I wanted, and he’s thinking, ‘He’s a hard producer I can work with whenever I want’, so there was a mutual benefit”.

Although Talos’ sound – mostly exemplified through his work with Coops – is very heavily influenced by the sampled-based, boom bap style of Hip Hop first popularised in the 90’s, his own adaptation took time to develop. “When me and Coops were first making music together, I wasn’t making that 90’s sound, that wasn’t my thing, I was still young and developing. So, I just became exposed to my influences by gradually making music and hearing things”. He describes the consumption of his musical influences as “research”, explaining, “You listen to one person, you find someone else, [then] you find someone else. I was listening to Illmatic, The Score – The Fugees album – I used to rinse that. Then I got into Dilla and Madlib a little bit later. I wasn’t listening to Roy Ayers, I wasn’t listening to that kind of music, but now I appreciate it because of Hip Hop and if it weren’t for of Hip Hop I would never listen to that shit in a million years. I wouldn’t have seen it in a certain light.”

This eventual exposure to other genres of music aided Talos’ development as a producer, shown throughout his inspiring instrumental projects Knee Deep In The Beats and Soul Tape, and then crowned with his official debut EP, Lowlight. “[The Lowlight EP] basically came about by wanting to make a project that wasn’t just [in the] super rough, chaotic, beat tape style”, he clarifies, referring to perception of his previous output. “I wanted to make a project that could be appreciated a bit more by a wider audience because it’s more structured – there are songs that are three minutes and twenty seconds on there, with bridges and hooks and shit. Everything’s perfectly organised”.

Talos acknowledges that the level of artistry on the project might have come as a surprise to some, but suggests the process to be a natural progression. “Some people were probably surprised, but then again, if anyone knows me, it’s because of my work with Coops – probably because of Lost Soul, and that’s closer [in style] to Lowlight than it is to any other things that I’ve done”, he states. “That’s where I started off and that’s still what I love to do. I still love to have a structured song, get a singer in and do this and do that. I enjoy doing that as much as I enjoy finding a sample on a record and just looping it. Some people were probably surprised but it was quite natural. Really it’s just a progression. When I work on something for so long, I want to do something different. I was working on beat tapes before that, so I thought, ‘Let me work on a project with singers and instrumentalists’”.

Appreciation for his most recent work has been forthcoming, with the producer describing the feedback he’s received as “positive”, but at a time where a lot more attention has been focused on Grime’s revival, it could be understood if Talos’ impressive work was at risk of being overlooked. When questioned about whether he feels his music would be appreciated more in the U.S., he provides an intelligent and thoughtful answer. “Nah, I don’t think it would be more appreciated, I just think it would have an audience already there, [because] to [people in the U.S.] that’s what Hip Hop is, and certain people [in the U.K.] don’t understand that that’s Hip Hop. [They don’t understand] where boom-bap came from – which is Soul music and Soul drum breaks and shit like that. So, I don’t think the music would be appreciated any more, it’s just that the audience is more receptive over there for that kind of shit”. And when I suggest that U.K. artists who prefer to adopt the boom-bap style will always be second to their Grime counterparts, he agrees, before adding, “I think [U.K. Hip Hop] will always be a little bit underground, but you can still have success in the underground, you’ve still got enough people there to make money and have a career. It just depends on who will come up and who wants to do stuff”.

While listeners are likely to be familiar with Talos’ work with rappers, it was his collaborations with singers on his Lowlight EP that truly earned him plaudits, and working with singers has always been an intention of his. “I always wanted to do it, I definitely always wanted to do it. Some people pointed me in the direction of certain singers, but… they were good singers, but maybe a bit more R&B [in style] and I didn’t want to cater for them, which is kind of selfish, but this is my sound. I knew there were people out there who could sing just as sick as these R&B singers, but also get the wave as well, they listen to that kind of stuff, they know how to write to it, stuff like that”. Poppy Ajudha and Jerome Thomas were the singers who contributed vocally to Lowlight, with the latter also calling on Talos’ skills to help craft his own debut EP, Conversations, on which he produced two tracks. The duo are also planning to release a project together this year, with Talos sharing, “It’s not gonna be very long – it’s 3 or 4 tracks – but it’s stylised to be like 70s soul instrumentals. Its like Curtis Mayfield, Barry White kind of vibes musically”.

The opportunity to work with an individual in order to create an entire body of work together is certainly an attractive proposition in Talos’ opinion, but, he insists that there has to be a certain level of trust within the working relationship. “They have to have trust in me, because a lot of the time I have a vision and people underestimate how much a producer’s vision will affect a project”, he details, as if speaking on behalf of the entire producer community. “At the end of the day, if you’re using one producer, our music is the whole bed of sound for that project, so, if we’re saying we need to do this, this and this, people need to have faith in you, the same way I need to have faith in the artist as well”.

He believes that this method offers a chance to “showcase your talent as a producer a bit more”, before proceeding to say, “I know some producers that make beats and just send them out all over the place. They get little spots everywhere, but I want something like a body of work. ‘Me and this person worked together and made this’, I didn’t just send them a beat and then forgot about it then they made a song and I wasn’t involved in the process. Fuck that, I need to be involved in the making of the song, so it gives you a reason to get on your Quincy Jones shit, directing shit, on your P. Diddy”. Talos reveals that his ideal collaborative project would be with MF DOOM, who he cites as a “big inspiration”.

Talos is aiming to maintain the momentum he has built in 2016 with further releases this year. Predictably, he’s working on new music with Coops, in addition to the aforementioned project with Jerome Thomas, but his main solo effort seems to be the project that is occupying most of his time. “I’m working on a project now that’s a bit out there. It’s like a mad concept album, basically. I’m half Greek-Cypriot and [my parents] called me Talos after a bronze giant in Greek mythology called Talos who protects Crete from invaders”, he explains, seemingly off topic. “So basically, I had this idea of having a giant robot thing called Talos, but it’s on a bigger scale – he protects the earth from bad vibrations, bad music and bad energy, with good music, good vibrations and good energy”.

The project, which is yet to be named, has been described by Talos as “like Knee Deep In The Beats on steroids and not as scattered”, mentioning that its story is likely to be one of the major differences. “I’m trying to get everything so it fits perfectly and tells a story. I’ve got a sick digital artist working on a video and character design, I’m going to have a whole animated universe for this guy, so I’m trying to go in. It’s a challenge. What it is in my head is going to be a challenge to make, but I like it, I’m embracing it. Every year I like to progress and get better at my craft, so, this year I want to do that”.

Regardless of his healthy work ethic, Talos is aware that gaining listener’s attention can be the most arduous aspect. “That’s the bit that’s the hardest, basically. The making of the music is natural to me, I enjoy doing that, [and] I’ll always do that even if no one is listening. That’s what I need to do this year – I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I just said to myself that this year I just need to get on job with how my music is packaged and how it’s distributed. It’s just as important. I need to start targeting certain record companies and certain labels. I’ve got a few in my sights lined up, I’m just waiting”.

“[I want to] get the business side sorted not just for my sake, [but] also for the people who like the music. To get it in a professional package, I want to do physical copies so people can have it and it’s not just something on SoundCloud, it’s a bit more personal. It’s only right that if they like my shit, that they can get a hard copy or download it. A lot of my shit you can’t even download it. I will get motivated off of that if that goes well”.

Motivation does not seem to be an issue for Talos, though, as he prepares himself, as well as listeners, for another potentially outstanding year. “Just get ready, because I’m trying to come hard”, he affirms with a determined tone. “I’m trying to come with a project that is levels to what I’ve done before. So, if you like my shit before, fasten your seatbelts because I’m trying to go in”.

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