Interview: Cut La Vis makes beats
Cut La Vis, master of the Reggae/Hip Hop mash up, has just released his cracking debut album “One Step Forward” on the legendary Nice Up! Record label. Somethingyousaid.com’s 25ThC caught up with him for a chat about Brighton, Mash Up’s and working with UK Hip-Hop MC Mystro:
Congratulations on the release of your brilliant new album. How did you come to be signed by Nice Up Records and why did you choose them to release the album?
I sent a couple of half-finished instrumentals to Jon Shepdog who runs NICE UP! in the vague hope that he might consider releasing one as a single. That was my highest expectation. He asked to hear some more of my music, then he asked if I would be interested in releasing an album on the label. Of course I said I’d “have a think and let you know”, but inwardly I knew instantly I’d accept.
I’ve been following NICE UP! from when the label was first started, through to the present day. It always releases great looking and sounding music, and it’s that attention to detail that’s really important. The label represents the range of styles I’m passionate about and that makes up my sound – Soundsystem Culture and bass music, and bits of Hip-Hop, Drum and bass and electronic sounds. If I could have picked any label to work with at all, even before the album offer from Shepdog it would have been NICE UP! for sure.
Which artists originally inspired you to become a producer/DJ?
I was a pure Hip-Hop turntablist for many years before exploring soundsystem music, so I loved listening to really technical scratch guys like The Scratch Perverts and The Beat Junkies, but also party-rocking DJs like Funk Master Flex. Flex was good to listen to as a young DJ practising the technical side as his cuts and juggles were very simple so I could figure out from his mixes (no internet then, no Youtube!) how he was achieving those scratches and I’d spend hours immitating him (not the Bronx accent though of course). The Coldcut journeys by DJ mix from 1995 had a huge effect on me becuase of its genius of blending about 15 different genres and tempos ranging from 90 bpm to about 160 in just 70 minutes. My DJ sets now can range from similar tempos and I try to be clever and musical about blending different styles, so it’s definitely had an influence.
Producer-wise, I’d single out two particular people out of many who I’ve been inspired by – DJ Premier and Skitz. Premier is the master of combining just two elements – a genius sample and a neck-snapping beat, and turning them into something classic. I can’t play any instruments maybe apart from very basic bass guitar and keyboard, so knowing that I could nick things that sound funky from other songs and slap a breakbeat on it and make something new was a real inspiration when I started making beats on a 4-track cassette machine in 2000. Skitz’s “Countryman” album from around the same time in 2000 was a lesson in combining the Jamaican influence in British musical culture with hip hop beats, and using British MCs with that same mix of influences to ride the beats. That one was a game-changer for me.
You made your name initially as a mash-up producer particularly reggae/hip hop tracks. Why do you think those two genres meld so well together?
From a musical theory point of view maybe there’s something pleasing to the ear about the boom-bap beat and the off-beat guitar/organ/whatever “skank” that comes in bewteen. Add a simple but heavy bassline and you’re laughing. Lyrically and culturally the 2 genres share a lot. Arguably when Kool Herc came to The Bronx from the Carribean with his soundsystem already from reggae culture, and unwittingly started Hip-Hop by DJing in community centres, he was using soundsystem culture to start Hip-Hop culture
Your debut single off the album “Still Have the Love” is a summer soaked catchy anthem featuring young newcomer Maddy Carty. How did you come to meet and work with her?
I actually have Shepdog of NICE UP! to thank for that. I noticed one day he’d followed someone on Twitter called Maddy Carty – I hadn’t heard of her but out of curiosity I checked out her music, and was blown away by her sense of melody and lyric-writing. I thought that her style would suit a couple of tracks I was making so I got in touch with her and the rest is history. She did an awesome job on “Still Have The Love” and “Checkin’ Out”, I’ll be calling on her for more collaborations in the future for sure.
UK hip hop legend Mystro features heavily in your productions and your live shows. Why do the two of you work so well together?
Luckily I seem to make beats that Mys likes and is able to come up with great flow and lyrics for. I’ve never designed a track specifically for him, I just send him what I’m doing and so far he’s been happy to collaborate. On stage when we’re gigging around the country he’s such a natural performer, he gets the crowd’s attention and respect straight away and from that point they’ll trust what we’re doing up there – my DJ sets and Mys’s performance – and that’s something I don’t take for granted. Plus, we have a good laugh and enjoy ourselves either side of the gig, so it’s always an adventure!
When working with MC’s/singers for the album is it a collaborative process or do you provide the beats and they then record the vocals?
I always produce all of the music but from that point I’ll work differently with each artist depending on different factors. I find that if I make a track that screams out for a certain artist to do their usual thing on it, and who is very experienced as a recording artist then I’ll be happy sending it to them and trusting what they send back is great. However the other end of the spectrum would be a track that does not point obviously to one particular vocal style – I always feel I need to direct what I want from that artist a bit more, as there is a danger they might do something wildly different to what you were expecting. Even though as an artist I should be excited by that prospect, and often it can make great results, the control freak in me doesn’t see it like that so I like to work with that artist a bit more, without being too controlling and letting them be the creative force in the process.
What is your studio set up in terms of hardware/software for recording and DJing?
It’s very simple, I have a laptop running the now-defunct and prehistoric Sony Acid 7 plus a load of freeware VST synths, midi keyboard, novation bass station and turntables for sampling records and scratches. I’ve realised that what more limited it seems my set up is, the more creative i have to be to make music. If I had loads of outboard gear and zillions of plug-ins I wouldn’t know where to start. I use Serato SL3, midi triggers and a sampler for DJing. Again pretty simple but the more techy the set up, the more things there are to potentially go wrong!
You are based in Brighton, not far from my hometown of Eastbourne, which has always had a great music scene. Has the scene changed over the years and is it still as relevant today?
In the five years I’ve been here the scene has remained pretty strong, I’m always impressed by the range of genres you could hear in any given weekend. I still hear of Brighton-based producers and bands occasionally breaking into national and international success so the city must be doing something right! My favourite artists based here right now on the reggae side are Richie Phoe, The Resonators and Prince Fatty.
Which other artists are you currently listening to that we should check out?
I’ve had YesKing’s album “Re-Record Not Fade Away” on repeat, he’s a producer who’s criminally underated. In terms of vocalists Ras Demo has been killing it on lots of rythms recently. Oddisee is a U.S. rapper, his album “People hear what they see” is great, some of the most soulful beats you’ll hear. A new band to keep an eye out for is Regime out of Bristol, they combine Hip Hop, Rock and Reggae in a totally new way and are awsome live.
What do you have planned for 2016?
I’m working on more music which will come out somewhere somehow, plus looking forward to more gigs with Mystro around the UK and on the festival circuit.
You can get the album on Vinyl and Digital now from https://niceuprecords.bandcamp.com/album/one-step-forward.
Interview by 25ThC