Self-Portrait: Neue Grafik

Neue Grafik tries to approach every track with a different outlook. It might be in the sound design, the vision or the chord progression, but it represents his passion and willingness to explore the vast realms of what production can offer him.

The Paris-born, South London-based producer and musician’s output is a melting pot of influences like jazz, hip hop, broken beat, grime and house, that blend together to create warm, laidback grooves rich with twinkling chords and intricate instrumentation. His compositions have been housed on a number of labels, most notably Rhythm Section, as well as 22a, CoOp Presents, Wolf Music and TRC (Total Refreshment Centre) – the home of his forthcoming EP on 25th March, the second part of Foulden Road.

It was through this community hub that he was introduced to a breeding ground of jazz musicians within London which became the springboard for Neue Grafik Ensemble to form: a band that originally featured the likes of Emma-Jean Thackray and Vels Trio’s Dougal Taylor and now features a wealth of rotating musicians.

Matching the past and the future, his Self-Portrait mix gathers five years of unreleased remixes and tracks, as well as forthcoming material from his TRC EP, that touch on the different flavours and styles he’s explored through the years. This sits alongside an interview about his pathway into production, sampling his own music, and how his musical desires change with the times.

Photo credit: Joe Hart.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

That’s a good one! I remember the day I discovered 100% Ginuwine by Ginuwine. Especially the song ‘What’s So Different?’. 

My best friend gave me a CDR with this album burned on it. Not long after, I saw the video of the song recorded on MCM Africa during travel in Cameroon. I didn’t know who Timbaland was and what the producer’s work was either. But this song was a pure slap on my face.

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

I self-taught myself music when twelve. But I’ve also learned piano jazz late. So my world and my musical journey have loads of different outlooks, genres, production skills, abilities… And I’m still learning! 

What led you into music production?

As I said, I was quickly into it. This side of the music fancies me from the start. With the abstraction and the fact that you can show emotions without lyrics, I wanted to make beats before knowing what a beat was.

When I was younger, plenty of my friends were rappers or singers, and the music production was naturally my place.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

Besides Timbaland, of course, A bunch! Burial, James Blake, FaltyDL, Kate Bush, Manu Dibango, Fela Kuti, Serge Gainsbourg, The Neptunes, Theo Parrish, Moodyman, Miles Davis, Teo Macero, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Bill Evans, Vangelis, Kaidi Tatham, Marvin Gaye, Animal Collective, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs… So many names and so many different eras.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

Not really, to be completely honest, ahahah! Maybe just cleaning the room before to make something serious!

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

It depends on the jam and my state of mind. Somedays, you just want to explore the sound without knowing where you are going. Somedays, you get an accurate idea, and you need to finish “a piece”. It could also happen when you start to play with a concept or a sound. 

Are you the type of artist to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

Same, it depends on the purpose of the track. I like sketches, especially when I need to explore a sound, a structure or chord progressions. But if I do a remix, or when I properly finish a track for a project, I need to go back on it and be sure that I got exactly the best version that I have in my mind.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

It’s a long process, and I don’t get just one answer to this question, unfortunately ahahah.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original

Since my last solo electronic EP on Rhythm Section (Innervision), my entire music is based on original music that I compose alone or with different bands/artists. I also sample the result to make something else. 

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Neue Grafik track?

The chords, and also the vision behind the track. The meaning, maybe the peel of jazz, the sound design. But I do my best to approach each track with a different outlook. So I also get periods and desires which change with time. I would never do a track like ‘Step To It’ (in featuring with Lord Apex) a few years ago, but today, it’s an obvious track to me.

This mix is comprised of 100% original Neue Grafik material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

It represents five years of unreleased remixes and tracks which stay on my computer. You can see that I’ve explored different flavours, genres and rhythms during all this years.

You’ve also got a few tracks off my next EP in it. The first track is really important for me. It’s called ‘For Adama’, and it’s a track I made for Adama Traoré, a young man who passed away, killed by the police in circumstances close to George Floyd in the US. It will be on my next EP Foulden Road Part II release on Total Refreshment Centre the 25th of March 2022.

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