Evil Ed Interview – Part One
UK Hip Hop’s legendary producer Evil Ed caught up with 25ThC for a two-part interview. Here he discusses his critically-acclaimed album “The Enthusiast” and a new mixtape showcasing his work to date:
Your album “The Enthusiast” is 10 years old this year. How did it come about?
George, the guy from the Janomi label, approached me in Brighton shortly after I had moved down this way and said he was interested in me making an album. I hadn’t even really thought about making an album back then. I’d had a couple of EP’s out and some 12” records and was more into doing that sort of thing. At the time I thought “wow, an album.” I find it hard enough getting it together to make three tracks for an EP – but he kind of persuaded me to do it. It became a total labour of love and took a long time to make. Maybe a couple of years from start to finish. Some of the beats were started in 2001/2002 and it dropped in November 2004.
What were you using to produce back then?
I was using exactly the same gear I’ve got right here now, give or take a few items. I have the Akai 950 sampler, and the Mackie CR1604VLZ mixing desk. I got the sampler back in 1998 and got the mixing desk a year or two later. It was kind of vintage gear even back then but I didn’t really see it that way. I don’t think the whole vintage gear thing had taken off by then. Now you have people who go out and specifically buy a 950 or an MPC. Its really just what I had and it happened to be old gear. If I could have afforded some new gear back then or someone had given me an MPC I probably would have taken it. I also use some outboard compression and a little bit of outboard reverb. It was all being recorded through the desk with the vocals and cuts recorded on the Roland VS840EX a digital 8 track recorder. I think Braintax used the next model up and did all the lowlife stuff on that.
How did you go about recording the many MCs and DJs on the record.
I would take the Roland and my mic stand all around the country to record people… in Manchester… Cardiff. I recorded Mr Thing in his bedroom in Kent doing his cuts and The Colony in Romford. It was like a journey really, travelling round the country recording all these people, sometimes going to studios, sometimes just bedrooms, recording in hallways, airing cupboards, whatever we could find to make a makeshift mic booth. I also made sure that I got loads of my favourite DJ’s to do the cuts as well even though I did some of the scratching. Back then I wasn’t the best DJ in the world at doing cuts. I’ve improved a lot since then. I got Mr Thing, Eddie Scratch who did loads of cuts for me on earlier records and DJ Skully who was on Kiss FM with MK at the time. DJ Woody is also on then and we went up to his house with Konny Kon to do the cuts on the Microdisiacs tune.
The only official video from the album is Nico Suave featuring Yungun aka ESSA. Tell us about the shoot.
George from Janomi wanted Nico Suave to be the lead single from the album and he was also trying to push Yungun at the time so he wanted that track to be out there. He was pushing it to Radio 1 and other radio stations as well and he wanted a video for some of the music channels that were showing UK hip hop videos at the time. He was just trying to do it properly… like a video and single… and that was the most commercial single on there. We went to a basement in London and he hired some dancers and a couple of actors, as they wanted it to be a proper thing rather than just a home video. Doc Brown was also in it, making a cameo appearance. I’m in the background. At the start I’m there wearing a fake tash behind the bar and I slide the drinks across to Yungun. I was going to be in it more but I’m not the best actor in the world, so we let Yungun do all the acting. It was my idea to just kind of stand in the back with the records. It went with the theme of the album as well with me in the background and the MC’s in the forefront. Its the only video I’ve ever done.
The artwork is bright red and very bold. How did that come about?
The artwork was done by a guy called Leigh Pearce from Brighton. He was one of the MCs from… I think it was Metaforce. Originally instead of the image of me on the front it had this kind of green monster. At the time there was another guy called Evil 9 and people had all these covers with weird aliens and monsters on. He was going for that sort of look but I was like, “no it doesn’t go with the theme”. You can’t have Richochet and Doc Brown with their London reality raps and a picture of an alien. It wouldn’t have suited it at all. I was really annoyed when I first saw it, so I suggested instead an image of me. They took some photos of me stood outside Leigh’s house and created the Evil Ed image which I now use as my logo. It’s me kind of turned away from the camera holding my record bags. Everyone who saw it after that said its exactly what I looked like when they saw me walking into a club to DJ. I also like the little details such as the sign saying Ed Zone. I was originally going to call the album The Ed Zone after the Jehst track on there but George from the label thought The Enthusiast – which was another title of mine – was better. I think the artwork helped sell it and a lot of people have said they liked it. When I saw the finished gatefold album artwork I was blown away.
To celebrate 10 years of the album, Donnie Propa has released a free mixtape mixed purely from vinyl showcasing classics, rarities and remixes all produced by yourself. How did this come about?
Big up to Dephect for putting it out on their soundcloud and website. I’ve been aware of Donnie Propa for a few years now. He did the Best Of Jehst “recorded delivery” mix, best of Supa T and all these other artists I’ve kind of been affiliated with over the years. Mainly MCs. He did one with Kappo as well. More recently, he did a DJ Premier takeover mix with loads of UK MC’s over DJ Premier beats. Originally I was talking to him about doing something like that with my beats… getting loads of UK guys on all my instrumentals, as there are three volumes of my Edstrumentals, so 60 beats to pick from. I thought it would be a bit of a mission. Maybe it’s something we will do down the line.
I asked him if he would do a Best Of mix to tie in with 10 years of The Enthusiast. Something nice to have out there and remind people of some of the tracks I’ve done. Also, a lot of people might not even realise I’ve produced some of the tracks on there because some of them were off other people’s projects and, unless they checked the production credits, they wouldn’t know it’s my beat. I haven’t got anything major, production wise, coming out at the moment as its all in the pipleine. So it’s good to have somthing like this out there to keep the name out there. I’m doing a bit more DJ’ing at the moment and I’m playing a lot of my own tracks like the Tournament EPs along with loads of classic UK hip hop from that time like Jehst and Supa T.
I thought Donnie Propa was the man to do it after hearing all of these other mixes. I met him in Brighton when his crew, Heavy Links, were playing a few months ago and he was a real nice guy. I thought “yeah he’s the man for the job”. At first, I wasn’t sure if he was going to use all the stuff thats only on CD or digital but he’s just gone for the vinyl and he’s actually put a lot of work and effort into making the tracks blend together and everything work. Its a proper DJ mix, not just some slapped together, five-minute job. So big up to Donnie. I’m really happy with it. Hopefully its something people will listen to for years to come. Maybe in another ten years we can go back to it. Whether there will be that many tracks to make a new mix or maybe a Part 2 I don’t know. It depends on how much I make in the future.
Watch out for Part 2 of the interview where Evil Ed discusses some of the tracks that have inspired him through the years. In the meantime you can pick up Edstrumentals Voulme 2 and Edstrumentals Volume 3 from bandcamp.
Evil Ed Interview by 25ThC