Subtempo Guest Mix 018
Ink Project are a Brighton/Bristol/Barcelona-based live electronic/soul collective run by multi-instrumentalist/producer Jez Lloyd. After starting the group in his hometown of London and enlisting the vocal talents of Melanie Dymond, he released Ink Project’s debut album ‘Inside The Sun’ via the Blind Colour imprint in December 2011, along with remixes from the likes of Gang Colours (Brownswood) and Memotone (Black Acre). The album attracted a lot of attention and featured heavily across the blogosphere as well as gaining radioplay from the likes of Gilles Peterson, Nemone, Don Letts, NME Radio, Red Bull Music Academy and The British Council’s Selector Show.
Surrounding the release of this mix we sat down with Blind Colour label's head honcho as well as Ink Project's main man, Jez Lloyd to dig deep into his incredible soul/dub infused band, how it is to run his label in 2019 and what keeps him inspired.
Hi. Jeremy, Jez, Ink Project. Blind Colour. Multi-project-man, multi-faceted producer. We are glad to count with your contribution to the Subtempo mix series.
No problem at all and thanking you multiple times! :)
I wanted to start by asking you about the mix. Is there any sort of theme to it?
Mmm maybe haha. I just go with the flow and try to weave the collection of tracks I’ve got to hand as best I can. This one is kinda cosmic-y. I’ve just got back from France where it was 33 degrees and it’s also really hot in the UK right now so I’m listening to a lot of reggae as well as obscure detroit techno and acid house, some of which is included in the mix. It starts down-tempo/soul, then moves into reggae/dub before embarking on a house, breaks and techno escapade - all of which tend to influence my production style in some way, shape or form.
I love all sorts of music and come from the John Peel and Electrifying Mojo school of thought - i.e. eclecticism so prefer putting together mixes that move through all kinds of genres, tempos, moods and fusions but generally with a lot of groove and soul. Sometimes I manage to convey a consistent theme throughout my mixes and sometimes they’re just random and all over the place but that’s one of the freedoms, constant fascinations, and challenges with DJying for me.
Where and how did you record it?
It’s a ‘warts and all’ vinyl mix recorded at home in sunny Brighton on the South Coast of England on my Yamaha 1210’s and a Pioneer DJM-500 mixer going into my laptop, complete with vinyl crackles in places :)Ink Project frontman Jez Lloyd, responsible for keys, drums and production on the band.
You and I connected through the mix that Seahawks put together for us back in June. They’ve been collaborators with your project, correct?
Yeah I loved that mix - very relaxing! I’ve known Jon Tye of Lo Recordings for a while and have always been a big fan of Seahawks although we haven’t written any music together.
They put something out on Blind Colour, which is your label. Tell me a little about it.
They remixed an Ink Project track for us called ‘Runaway Ritual’ featuring the amazing Fifi Rong and gave it a ghostly, ambient twist which we loved so we put it out as part of the release.
Do you run the label by yourself or with more people?
Blind Colour is a small, modern music company that I mostly run alone, although a lot of people have helped me out a lot along the way and there have been all kinds of collaborative projects going on under the one umbrella. It mainly functions as a label platform to release interesting fusions of song-based electronica, soul and alternative music, although we also create production music, do sound design for film and tv plus offer other management and marketing services as well. It’s been a real journey so far.
Did it originate as a platform for your own musical projects and evolve from there?
Pretty much. It was originally set-up to release Ink Project’s material and give us the freedom to put out whatever music we wanted, when we wanted and without the hassle and politics of signing with another label. When the digital revolution kicked in, I realised that with a bit of hard work, focus and the right attitude, I could set-up, run and service a modern music company myself so although it was a steep learning curve, I gave it a go. It soon ended up growing to include a whole roster of like-minded artists and writers that I’m really proud of and have really enjoyed working with.Coreysan - vocals, bass and theremin on Ink Project, who also has an excellent solo project under his given name.
How long has it been running?
Since 2011 but it’s flown by!
I’ve always kept the label side of the company quite niche, specialist and relatively undiscovered, bubbling under the surface. We’ve also mainly released digitally to keep costs low but we may look at a limited run of vinyl releases in the future which people are always asking me for.
You have a very interesting artist roster from what I read on your website. What would you say are 5 of the most important releases or moments that the label has had over the years?
Blind Colour releases music from my band Ink Project, Fifi Rong, Nate Connelly, Rounds, Ga_Nu, Gongkreeper, The Left Rib which features one of the members from Bonobo plus others. We’ve also released lots of remixes from well-known electronic acts like Throwing Snow, Red Snapper, Ruckspin of Submotion Orchestra, Evil Nine, Memotone, Gang Colours and worked with other writers on the production music and sound design side.
I’d say our most important releases so far have been Ink Project’s ‘Satellite On’, Nate Connelly’s second album ‘Di Skyver’, the first Rounds album ‘We’ve Been Here Before’ and probably Gongkreeper’s ‘Sonnets x Sketches’ which have all had some great feedback, reviews and radio play.Here’s a Spotify Playlist of the entire label catalogue since 2011. Loads there to wrap your ears around.
Tell me about Ink Project. I read you got some interest on your early material from Gilles Peterson, Nemone as well as other BBC radio hosts, it got remixed by some great artists including our frequent collaborator Memotone as well as Seahawks, and played at a number of international festivals, such as Sonar Festival in Barcelona. Who makes Ink Project?
Ink Project was started around 2010 as a live electronic music act with me on production and my friend Mel Dymond on vocals. At the time, I’d crossed over from playing guitar in metal bands to making electronic music and was heavily into the London underground clubbing scene with Mel which was thriving at the time. We were listening to and dancing to loads of drum and bass, electro, breaks, techno and underground house most weekends but decided to make some more song-based music in our spare time that we could perform live, as opposed to just releasing faceless 4/4 beats on vinyl. I’d also been really influenced by chill-out rooms at psychedelic trance and techno raves, after party ‘back to mine’ type sessions at people’s houses, bands like Lamb, Roni Size, Underworld and the whole 90’s trip hop and acid jazz scenes so coming from a background in live music, I wanted to continue with it in a different form and found all these new musical vibes and hybrids really interesting and inspiring. We also both liked some disco as well so wanted to just throw it all together in the studio and see what happened.Ink Project's second LP, "Satellite On" gathered international attention and BBC airplay by the influential Gilles Petersen, Nemone and more.
It was just a bit of fun at first but it developed really well and we made our first album around 2011 which I released on Blind Colour and got a lot of attention with bloggers and via radio all around the world, including Gilles Peterson, Don Letts, Nemone and got lots of regular airplay on the BBC and the US. It’s since evolved into more of a collective with guest musicians and vocalists appearing. I became inspired by the likes of Massive Attack, Bonobo, Gorillaz and the enjoyment we got from collaboration so wanted to progress it more in that direction. So it’s become more of a brand or platform than a band. I also liked the challenge of trying to maintain some kind of recognisable sound elements or a vibe in the production with all these different singers collaborating with me. It’s great because we can experiment with all the styles of music we love - from trip hop, down-tempo and world music to modern electronic soul, reggae/dub, dubstep, funk, disco, electro, breaks, house and techno but try and give each track the Ink Project stamp. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it’s been really creatively satisfying and a blessing to work with such talented people like Mel, Corey Wallace, Fifi Rong and many more behind the scenes.
Since 2012, we’ve also gigged all over Europe and played at some great festivals too. These days, the live set-up rotates a bit but it’s usually just me on electronic drums, keys and sound effects with either Corey on vocals and bass, or just Mel on vocals and drums. We’ve also had guitarists, sax players and drummers in the past but tend to find that it’s easiest to manage with a more electronic and minimal set-up. Less can often be more live and on record.
And you guys are based in different cities? Brighton, Bristol and Barcelona. The 3 b’s :) How does that work? Do you collaborate remotely over the internet? If so tell me there is a better tool than dropbox… Or do you meet up to record new material?Fifi Rong, one of the featured vocalists on Ink Project.
We like to keep it flexible and fluid and go with whatever works best at the time. Mel and I both met way back when, and used to jam a lot and have studio sessions together in South London. We gigged for a few years before she moved to Barcelona and I moved to Brighton and kept playing more shows, although it slowed down for a bit after that as the distance became an issue so I teamed up with Corey and we started rehearsing in this lovely old barn out in the West Country, weaving together sets that include Ink Project songs, his own Coreysan songs and some covers. We meet-up when we can to prepare for live gigs but Corey also plays bass with the legend that is Calypso Rose so tours a lot. Most writing with everyone is done remotely and we share files over SoundCloud and Dropbox and chat via Skype and Facebook when we can. It’s a nice mix.
We all come from different backgrounds but are all generally into similar music, experimenting in the studio, expressing ourselves live, sharing our art, keeping an open mind and having fun so it’s really great that the power of music as a universal force can bring about these collaborations. I feel very lucky.
What part/instruments do you play? Are you the main producer?
I tend to work on the vast majority of the instrumentation, arrangements and production but have little or no input into the vocals and lyrics which I leave to the singers to write in their own styles. We used to get mix and mastering engineer’s to finalise all of our releases but lately, I’ve been producing, arranging and mixing everything myself in my home studio. It’s more of a challenge but a logical progression in mastering your art and having more creative control. Music production is always a constant learning process that I’m totally fascinated by but ultimately, the strength of the songs together with the right vibe is what matters most to me, so my input is just as important as everyone else’s.
I’ve been really enjoying your album Satellite On, a fantastic mix of soul, electronica, even with elements of trip-hop mixed in there as well. Any plans to release new music in the future?
Thanks Rocco - that’s very kind of you to say. It took maybe 2-3 years to make and was hard work but we’re all very proud of that album and like you say, it explores lots of different styles which was satisfying to make and is great to play live.
We’re currently working on our third album which we hope will be finished by the end of 2019. I won’t say much about it yet, but it’s definitely our best yet and a similar approach.
Is the band still actively touring?
After ‘Satellite On’ came out, we gigged it for a year or so and did some fantastic shows including a mini-tour with Dreadzone but then Corey’s schedule with Calypso Rose got very busy and I became a father and got more into DJying, so we took a little break which felt like right thing to do at the time.
Then, a couple of years ago, I started feeling really creative again after doing some sound design work on the side and got more free time, so I re-built my home studio and began quietly chipping away at some new ideas and sending them around to everyone. Now we’ve got a new album which is shaping up really nicely. Hopefully, once it’s finished we can do some shows in 2020 but the priority right now is just focusing on making the music in the studio when we can without any strict time limit.
And besides all of this you tour as a DJ as well?
I’m a total music nerd, like to collect rare vinyl and DJ at home, putting mixtapes together as a break from producing but do get a lot of gigs in my home town of Brighton and around the South Coast, with occasional slots in other cities. I’d definitely like to keep doing that as I love discovering and presenting new music to people and weaving it all together in a party environment which is so much fun and really sociable - quite often the opposite of the studio creation process and it requires less planning than live shows.
What’s next on the horizon for Blind Colour or Ink Project?
I’m currently working in the pro audio industry for my day job and releasing some production music for film and tv when I can, but the goal this year is to finish the new Ink Project album, get some remixes done and then organise a run of shows and festivals next year. Watch this space.
Well, Jez, thank you so much for taking the time to do this mix and interview for us! It’s been a pleasure and look forward to digging further into the label’s roster, the little I heard preparing this interview left me wanting more.
- Thievery Corporation - 2001 Spliff Odyssey [4AD]
- Harmonic 33 - Exotica [Alphabet Zoo]
- TroubleMan - Without You (feat. Steve Spacek) [Far Out Recordings]
- Blue Gas - Shadows From Nowhere [Eyes]
- Paul St. Hilaire - Society [False Tuned]
- Grace Jones - Private Life [Island Records]
- Deadbeat - What the Heck Them Expect (BLKRTZ)
- Deadbeat - Peace And Love [BLKRTZ]
- Prince Mohammed - Marching Horns Dub [Legsman]
- Swayzak feat. Benjamin Zephaniah - Illegal (Terminalhead Remix) [Swayzak Recordings]
- 030 - Midnight In Europe [Volume]
- Red Dragon - Sock It To ‘Em [Alien Funk Movement]
- Unknown - Unknown [Unknown]
- Kenny Hawkes - Sleaze Dubbing [Paper Recordings]
- Pure Science - I Wanna Do Something [Wiggle]
- Unknown - Unknown [Unknown]
- Trevor Rockcliffe - Jack Your Body (Mr G Remix) [Mentor Records]
- Aril Brikha - Groove la Chord (Shuffle Mix) [Fragile Records]
- Grimes Adhesif - Fearless Fun [Curle Recordings]
- Jordan Zawideh - No One (Gay Marvine Edit) [Interdimensional Transmissions]
- Chop Suey Peepshow - Phong [Steel City Records]
- Unknown - Unknown (Unknown)
- Arnold Jarvis - Take Some Time Out [Fourth Floor Records]
- Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia - Dust [Volume]
- Afriqua - Sway [R&S Records]
Follow Ink Project
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Most tracks are available on our Guest Mix Playlist available on Spotify and Apple Music until we update it with the next guest. Follow the playlists to get fresh tunes curated by a different artist every month.