seangran has come a long way. From escaping his London-induced fatigue by relocating to Japan for three years and discovering his sense of purpose through his Stay Cool brand, the DJ, curator and self-proclaimed creative has made a definitive impact since his return to the capital.
One particular incarnation of seangran’s Stay Cool platform is his popular radio show that has garnered attention from both artists and music fans, which has seen the platform grow exponentially in the past year. His work has earned him support from artists such as Evil Needle, Sivey & Sango in addition to the legendary figure DJ Jazzy Jeff, many of whom have contributed to his Stay Cool compilation entitled Altogether (part one of which is available May 18).
Sean found the time to speak to NayeMusicJournal.com about his swift rise in status within the music industry, the potential of his Stay Cool brand and how he hopes to unite people across the world through the power of music.
Professionally, you’ve come from a background that includes graphic design and illustration, so when did you realise something music-related was what you wanted to pursue as a career?
“It was only really in 2012, when I discovered Soulection and stuff like that, that I realised that I really had a heart for music. People were telling me that I had a really good selection and really good taste. I moved to Japan in 2013 for three years and just before I left I got a DJ controller, so when I went out there the only other black guy in the town was this dude from New Orleans called Hantz, who was a popular DJ. [He told me to] put some stuff together, start learning how to spin and he’ll start giving me gigs. So, I was doing gigs within two/three months of getting there and that went really well.
“Before Japan, I did an interview with Sango – it was the first one I’d ever done – and after I did the interview [Sango] was like, ‘These questions are amazing, you’ve gotta keep going’. Stay Cool then became a platform to do DJ mixes but also on Soundcloud I was uploading interviews with people and I ended up interviewing founders of labels like Darker Than Wax, Fresh Selects, Mellow Orange, as well as artists like Evil Needle, Sivey, Taku. After that, I realised I was pretty good at it, so I wanted to see if I could take it more seriously and come back to England and find out.”
How difficult was it to re-establish yourself after spending three years in Japan?
“One of the reasons that I’ve done so well now that I’m back in London is because I have all of these connections that I made through music and a lot of them are close friends now.
“The reason I left for Japan for three years and didn’t come back during that time was because I was feeling quite dead in the city and I feel like there’s a certain fatigue that you get in big cities that can swallow you whole if you’re not really sure of what your purpose is. By the time I was coming back from Japan and I had my sense of purpose, it was really because of these people that I was able to hit the ground running and keep running.”
So at this point, what acts as your main motivation?
“Honestly, it’s just about uniting people and being able to have people understand that it’s not really about numbers or social media, it’s just about vibes. If something bangs, it bangs, you know? It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got two followers or whether you’ve got 200,000.”
Are there any particular people who have trodden a similar path to you that you admire?
“I guess the big one for everyone to do with a platform that starts on Soundcloud then goes bigger than that is Soulection. Because I clocked onto them early and since then I’ve interviewed Lakim, Evil Needle, Sivey, Taku, Sango, also JoeKay, Andre Power and The Whooligan – they’ve been a big inspiration from day one.
“I’d say my big inspirations now are probably two or three people – Kenny Fresh of Fresh Selects. There’s a certain perception of his label. When you think about Fresh Selects, there’s a certain quality that comes to mind, I feel, and that’s something that I really look for. He’s been a bit of a mentor to me, just in terms of asking questions. I’ll ask him questions about how he did a certain thing and he’ll help with that. Also, Larry from TreeHôuse Vibes because he was one of the first people who met me after I came back from Japan and said we needed to start doing things and just really believed in me. To see what he’s done with his label and his brand is really inspirational. Beyond that, Inner Ocean Records as well. I’ve come across them a bit more recently but they’re another label. They started out with ambient stuff but now they’re more Lo-Fi Hip Hop and general Hip Hop and all of their releases are incredible, really well curated, they all sell out, they do cassettes and vinyls. Sometimes they give the profits or proceeds to causes, so they’re just really inspirational.”
Your show – Stay Cool – has steadily grown in stature since it began. Are you beginning to realise the vision you had when you started the show?
“…I mean, yeah. People ask me what my goals are and that’s always been difficult [to answer] because I don’t think, in general, that I set goals, I’m just doing it for the love of it and I’m more in the moment than in the future. But as people have had certain requests – [for example] as the show has grown people have been looking for merchandise, so we made the t-shirt and that sold out quickly. Then people wanted music and now [the compilation] is happening. At the start there wasn’t really a goal other than to just help connect people and spread sounds, but, especially since the show went live in October, it became a hub. I think then my goals started to become clearer and that’s when I really started to think about putting the compilation together and putting music together. The goals have never been that clear, it’s just about enjoying myself and making sure the purpose is right and seeing what comes with it, but definitely now, as that’s happened, I’ve started to see the bigger picture.”
Your show was formally aired on Radar Radio, which has closed down in the recent past. How disappointing was Radar’s demise for you and other DJs who weren’t part of the controversy that ultimately led to its closure?
“It was really disappointing, it was heartbreaking, not so much for me but just because of the amount of amazing people that I knew that worked there, sometimes for free. So to see it fall in the way that it did was really upsetting because I know that a lot of people that did work at Radar are going to have that attached to their CV’s and a lot of people were trying to gun for anyone who worked there rather than the looking at the individual cases and trying to understand that. A lot of DJs who left weren’t privy or weren’t aware of what was going on and a lot of people who worked there probably didn’t feel like they could speak, you know? So, at the same time, have some sympathy for people.
“It was disappointing for my show as well because I felt for a while that the show was really on the up and the last show that I did had Coops and Milo and it was one of the best shows I’d had so far. The people who were tuning into the show at Radar were like, ‘We need to have more focus on this show and we want to help you take it where it needs to be.’ That was the Saturday and then people were telling me about this Pxssy Palace statement and by Monday I was having to put out my own statement, so it was a bit wild. So it was more disappointing for other people rather than myself and I think the reason it wasn’t as disappointing for me was because I always kept the main fan base on Soundcloud and that was really important to me. Even though Radar had the upload on Mixcloud and the show was live, it was Soundcloud that it performed the best and through cultivating that fan base that’s where I was really able to grab the listeners and their attention so that by the time that the show left Radar I wasn’t too worried about it.”
You’re on the cusp of dropping the Stay Cool compilation project. When did you decide that it was something you wanted to do and how difficult was it bringing it all together?
“I kind of realised I could actually drop something and we have enough people [willing to get involved] to make a project that’s really good. I actually originally wanted the project to be British artists meet global producers, and that’s something I’ll look at in the future, so it’s interesting how it’s panned out. Originally, the idea was to have 12 tracks – a decent, solid compilation – and so I put the feelers out and a lot of people were interested. After a week I had like five tracks, so I was like, ‘This is going slowly, but maybe I’ll have 12 in time.’ Then, I set a hard deadline and in the next two weeks I had maybe 75 tracks.”
Were you surprised by how willing all these artists were to contribute to this project?
“I was because a lot of them I’d only just met, [but] a lot of them I’d had long musical relationships with, so I don’t know. I was, to an extent, because people are really conscious of compilations now, everyone is asking for music for their compilation. I was surprised that people trusted me with exclusives but also, at the same time, I wasn’t because I knew through the relationships that I’d built through the music industry with artists over the years, that a lot of people knew that they could trust me. So it was reassuring more than anything when people I was talking to were saying that they’d give me music and then delivering on it.”
You’ve got some exciting artists that have contributed to the compilation, so was it difficult deciding on the final tracklist?
“The fact that it’s all types of genres and sounds meant that I didn’t really want to cut anything out. In general, I thought we could have as many tracks as we wanted until I sent it to a couple of guys and they said there was too much music. Then I cut 15 or 20 tracks but then I came up with the idea to split it into a Hip Hop side and an Electronic side just to really show there are two distinct sides. It’s all part of one package – there’s a part one and part two. It was challenging to cut stuff out.”
What other plans have you got for the Stay Cool brand?
“Once the compilation comes out, the plan is to start doing proper releases and that will be a mixture of singles and actual albums, EPs and projects. I’ve been in touch with one or two people from the compilation, I’ve still got more to reach out to about doing music but I’m going to put an open invitation out as well. People see [Stay Cool] as a platform now and I guess it’s become a label so I can’t really come away from that. The only way is up. I want to do more clothing, but that’s not really a focus, the big focus is hopefully going to be events.”
Stay Cool presents Altogether, Pt. I, available from May 18 at staycoolfam.bandcamp.com.