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Unsung Heroes #4 – Grace

There is no denying that Grime’s popularity is at an all-time high. Recent years have seen the genre successfully exported around the world—a gulf apart from the raucous underground of Eskibeats and community centre clashes. As the genre has grown so too has its diversity, with an explosion of talented artists carving out their own turf in a cascade of subgenres and movements around the world. In many ways Grace embodies this new wave of Grime artists: reverent, forward-looking and eclectic, whilst opting not to settle on an pre-agreed definition of what the genre is supposed to sound like. His most recent release ‘Midnight Club’ showcases the artist’s alternative Grime, RnB and Drill sensibilities with Mssingno, Dark0 and Zomby amongst many other influences on full display.

I had the opportunity to speak with Grace following the release of his aforementioned EP to chat Grime, Covid and Yeovil Town, which can be found in full below.

Interview

Jordan: Ey up 3000, it is my distinct pleasure and privilege to interview a producer who has been making waves amongst those in the know: Grace, how are you doing sir?

Grace: I’m all good man, how are you!

Jordan: I’m very well! So, if you don’t mind me saying, you’re very busy in music for someone relatively young, which is always great to see. You’ve got your own label with ‘Self Care’ which showcases, as you’ve put it, some of your ‘floatier’ sounds, you’ve had releases on Bristol-based label and promotion ‘Pear Drops’ and, on top of all that, you’ve put out some of the freshest Grime, and more specifically Rhythm and Grime that I’ve ever heard. How do you stay so busy?

Grace: Always being involved in it, I suppose. I went to college in Bristol, so I skipped the whole ‘small town college’ thing and went headfirst into the music scene. From a very young age I’ve always been in the mindset of doing college work, producing for college work and putting out music. I’ve always been forced—well not forced but it’s always been in my head to get lots of work done. If I haven’t made any music in a while I know I need to make some, and I won’t just sit there and make one bit, I’ll work on a few ideas and so I’ll always have enough material to put out. It’s that constant cycle of feeling like I need to have something on the go.

Jordan: Right and I know that for a lot of artists, that’s something they struggle with—if they’re not feeling it then they find it very hard to put something out. Is it more that you’re always feeling it, or is it more that you’re able to motivate yourself beyond that?

Grace: I think it’s more being able to motivate myself. Sometimes that’s listening to some other music and thinking: ‘that sounds really cool, can I replicate that in my own way?’ And the track often just comes together within a few hours.

Jordan: In your mind, what is it that determines where you’re going to release a tune? Like I mentioned before you’ve got Pear Drops, you’ve released on Once Upon A Grime, you’ve got your own label: what makes you decide that one bit is going one way or another?

Grace: I think it’s how it all pieces together. So I started with all the refixes, the RnG [Rhythm and Grime stuff and all of that, and especially being in Bristol I already had a few friends established within different genres. It was a timeline—when I was in Bristol I was making RnG, so that would go out to the RnG labels, and any music that’s cropping up now that’s RnG is probably from around that time. Afterwards I started with all the wavey, grimey stuff I’m putting out now which has come out most recently, like my ‘Escape’ release [ESC_] and ‘Midnight Club’ which I put out a few days ago.

Jordan: Big release by the way, I’m a huge fan.

Grace: Good.

[Both laugh]

Grace: It comes out when I’m making it. So back then I was making RnG, that would be for those labels. Now I’m making the wavy Grime stuff, I’m trying to get in contact with those labels.

Jordan: So you mentioned Bristol, and preceding this interview we spoke about you being based in Exeter—

Grace: Yeah so I was based in Bristol for a few years for college, then I was in London for a year, which is where I made a bulk of the wavy, grimey stuff I mentioned. Now, because I’m from Yeovil, which, if people don’t know, is a town just south of Bristol—

Jordan: Do you support the football team?

Grace: Yeah, my granddad used to be one of the VPs of the football club so…

Jordan: Madness.

Grace: Yeah, they’re not doing as well now, since he left. So after London I got a job in Exeter through one of my mutual mates who works in a shop, so I’ve managed to be fortunate enough to get about.

Jordan: Hold tight the shop! So, as I touched upon with my last question, you’re an exponent of this elusive subgenre, ‘Rhythm and Grime’. I’ve personally loved acts that have either pioneered or come up out of that including ‘Mssingno’, ‘Dark0’ and yourself. Would you say you identify with this sound and if so, what has it meant for you up until now?

Grace: I call it, along with a load of others: ‘The Wavy Stuff’. Stuff like Mssingno, Dark0 and all of those guys. A lot of my stuff is the softer, wetter side of that: female vocals soaked in reverb, that kind of thing. So I think that’s how I characterise it and set it apart, like, ‘Wet Grime’.

Jordan: So in your view it’s more a textural thing?

Grace: Yeah like atmospheres, really layered pads and maybe a nice bass sound underneath that you’d typically hear in a Beat Boss style Grime tune.

Jordan: I noticed that you were involved with Reprezent Radio: is that something you’re still involved with, and, if so, when can we catch you?

Grace: So it’s on the third Thursday of every month, 9-11pm. We used to run a show where we’d have a producer on and, instead of getting them to do a guest mix, which everyone does, we got them to make a tune in 30 minutes. We’re not doing that anymore, as a result of lockdown and we’re pre-recording the show.

Jordan: We’re getting to the more personal questions now: have you got a standout record or influence that really got you into music?

Grace: I think a lot of the little, independent gigs that my dad used to take me to when I was young, which has always given me that head for music. The first people that put me on to the grimey stuff was a group of lads called ‘Too Much Collective’ in Bristol. Those were the first guys to put me onto it.

Jordan: Do you feel like your early music experiences with your dad might have come to affect the way you produce, or would you say it’s more to do with the later influences?

Grace: On the producer side of things it was just before I met those guys [Too Much Collective]. I knew about them already and I was like: ‘All this stuff is really, really cool—I wanna do it!’ So I wasn’t a DJ first, I was a producer and got into DJing later.

Jordan: I think ‘just doing it’ is often the hardest part, paradoxically. A lot of people struggle with that and it’s a community of overthinkers a lot of the time, myself included! Just to touch upon it: do you think you’re more of a producer than a DJ, more of a DJ than a producer, or would you say it’s kinda even?

Grace: I think it’s kinda even now. It used to be like: occasionally I might DJ, someone might ask me to come on their radio show or something. Then, when I moved to London, I got involved with Raheim and we got the Reprezent show together, so it’s only recently that I’ve started properly DJing and playing out, but I’d say with the rate I’m producing at now, it’s evened out, 50/50 DJ and producer.

Jordan: Is there a show or event you’ve played that stands out above the others?

Grace: I think the best one I played was a festival called ‘No Man’s Land’, which was actually my first time DJing out. I think someone through college had managed to sort that out and got me booked. I had no idea what to expect as I’d just turned 18, hadn’t really been out much, didn’t know what to expect from a club and I went to this festival on my own which was nearly a three hour drive. I just played a show and my first thought was: ‘Yeah, I definitely want to keep doing this.’ That definitely sparked something.

Jordan: What did you play up there? Did you get a good reception?

Grace: So I played a lot of the heavy Grime stuff, like a proper, typical, you’re going out to Keep Hush or something—that kinda stuff. I got a really good crowd response! I’d been on the other side a few times, which was an amazing experience as well.

Jordan: More of an overarching question: where do you see the scene at, especially now that it’s facing down Covid?

Grace: I don’t want to say it’s weaker, because it’s not, I think it’s stronger in different ways. You’ve seen because of lockdown, in Grime and bass music and a load of other genres that people are adapting to not being able to play shows. You’ve got things like livestreams, and because you’ve got everyone stuck at home, people who wouldn’t normally listen to this music, or people who wouldn’t normally sit down and watch a stream are starting to, because they’re not doing anything else.

[Jordan laughs]

Jordan: Yeah for sure!

Grace: So I think it’s been quite good in one way, because it’s given people a new perspective.

Jordan: Do you think the restrictions have prompted a bit of ingenuity in the community?

Grace: Yeah! People are finding new ways to get where they want, or to put something out, or just to get people to interact with them.

Jordan: For sure. When we’ve returned to something close to normality, what things would you like to see change about the way that the scene was?

Grace: That’s a tough question!

[Both laugh]

Jordan: Yeah it definitely is.

Grace: I’d like to see more regular shows down this way, because you don’t get them every weekend. I think I’d like to see, especially in Bristol, a bit more diversity in the line-ups in regards to artists. Some artists are booked all the time—and I’m not trying to bring anyone down—I’d just like to see some different names crop up when there’s a 140[bpm] event on. More up and coming talent, as they can often perform just as well as the big guys who are getting booked all the time.

Jordan: I totally agree man and this has always been a problem. Obviously this just comes from my experiences, but all of the people I regularly interact with in the scene have made it a real priority to support and build talent from the ground up. There’s often this top-down attitude in music where people are dished lottery tickets, and I really don’t want a scene full of gatekeepers. I just want to see a scene where if you’re good enough and passionate enough, that those people should be built up.

Grace: Yeah man I totally agree.

Jordan: Are there any other acts or groups you’d like to shine a light on?

Grace: So definitely Escape [ESC_], the label run by Dunman, DV-US and Vexxy. I had a release with them not too long ago and they’ve been putting out some wicked stuff from Pholo, Vexxy and a load of others. Those guys definitely need to blow up big time because they’re putting out outstanding music; my EP is on there, which is also outstanding. Ripples, run by Arthur, who’s one half of ‘XOX’—again, a fairly new record label which has been going for a few months. Two releases out, both very, very sick; Bristol-based too, so he should be seeing some more light.

Jordan: Shout out to Dunman, he’s always brought it!

Grace: He’s sick!

Jordan: Very sick. I’m interested to know now, and we’re going to go off-script again: of your releases, and I know which of your releases I like the most, which are you happiest with?

Grace: I think my ‘Date Night’ EP on Pear Drops—

Jordan: Yes!

Grace: That took a lot of time and I really sat down and thought: ‘This snare’s gonna go here…’ It was really carefully thought out because it was so choppy and I didn’t want anything to sound sloppy. That one and the music I put out the other day, ‘Midnight Club’, which is available on Bandcamp—another favourite one, which is different to the Rhythm and Grime stuff because it’s that wavy, atmospheric stuff I mentioned. I was working on it through the first lockdown and a couple of months prior as well. Those two are definitely my favourites.

Jordan: I’m glad you mentioned Date Night because it’s what introduced me to you! It came to me at the right time because, as we spoke about before, RnG was something I’d followed from afar—like you mentioned, acts like Mssingno, who’ve had such a huge influence on the scene’s music, were always there, but Date Night stood out to me as special. It’s what got the wheels turning towards this interview and EPs like that are why I even started this series: to spotlight stuff like that EP. As one of my final questions: have you got any words for anybody coming up in the scene right now?

Grace: Just stick at it! I’m not a massive artist, but if you’d have said a couple of years ago that I’d be doing this: that I’d have the Reprezent show, that I’d be playing out, I wouldn’t have believed you. People just need to stick at it—if you’re that bad and it doesn’t work out it’s a shame, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to. Just stick at what you’re doing and even if you don’t get a million quid, to get from one point to another and to look back on your progression is just a really nice thing.

Jordan: Thank you for really driving that home! I’m opening it to you, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Grace: Yeah, just so it’s there, my new EP ‘Midnight Club’ is out on my Bandcamp, my Self Care Bandcamp. Go and listen to it and you don’t have to pay for it, but if you do, that’s a meal deal at work.

Jordan: I can personally vouch for this man, he’s been a gent, he’s one of the most exciting producers right now, and it would be a shame to see this man go without his meal deals

[Both Laugh, Interview Ends]

 Grace Links
Instagram
Midnight Club EP Bandcamp
Soundcloud