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Premiere and Interview with Rhett Nicholl
Would you like to start by talking about your early life and growing up in London.
I grew up in London in the late 90’s – early 00’s. When kids were out on the street pre-social media, divisions were really clearly drawn between different tribes and postcodes, there was a lot of tension and street robbery was rife. Me and my friends navigated this riding the lines from North London up to West to skate. This, along with graffiti was my access point to pretty much every other subculture or interest I pursued.

I understand that your parents are of mixed heritage, how did this influence your upbringing?

My dad is from Northern Ireland and my mum is Italian-American by way of New York. Just on face value those are some pretty staunch dynamics in play, very rooted in family values. Both of them bullied their way into the music industry and later to  London to escape the paths dictated by those cultures and values. With all this there’s probably an inherited sense of alienation and outsiderism or what I call a portion of chips on each shoulder. Growing up when I did, I didn’t identify with Oasis or any of that stuff.

It wasn’t until I found Garage and rave music when I was 12 that I had something contemporary and British that I could relate to and be proud of. Essentially I gravitated towards street culture be it in music, graffiti, skateboarding and getting money all of which really nurtured my mentality and gave me the avenues to prove myself and define my personal and cultural identity as a kid.

When do you first remember getting into music and who has influenced you as a music artist?

Being around people like Debbie Harry and the Ramones as a kid established the Punk thing in me really early.  That strand of New York punk music was heavily influenced by Soul and the whole Tamla Motown and girl group wave that was always playing in my house.  I think all of my musical tastes can be traced along that lineage in one form or another.

My main influences as a vocalist and song writer are people like Robert Johnson, Terry Reid or Janis Joplin. That kind of raw, haunty style is a big thing for me and comes straight out of my parents record collection.  Sonically, as far as the production and all of that I guess I’m trying to draw the wider influence of blues, soul and all of their bastard children through a kind of contemporary lens, taking a lot of influence from people like El B, Burial and of course the whole sound system culture back to dancehall and dub.

Being so immersed in it, music was always a thing for me,  there wasn’t a definitive moment or realisation but then when I got to be a teenager I was  singing in local bands that would cover Black Sabbath and Pantera which was my first real entry point into making music.  Really though I don’t think I admitted it was what I wanted to do as much as I came to terms with the fact it was something I had to do in spite of it being ruled out as a career when I was a kid.
Talk to me about your creative process.
My process right now tends to start with production. I’ll knock up a skeleton idea in logic to get the initial vibe down and bring it to a real producer to flesh out and develop it into a full piece of music.  Lyrically my moments of inspiration come in poems, Im not really sitting with a guitar at this point and because I wont be writing to a melody or recognisable rhythm it tends to hit the page very loose. When it comes to putting vocals to the music i’ll try to isolate what range of the emotional spectrum I’m trying to tap into and string together parts of different poems and lyrics. It’s loosely kind of like applying the Burroughs cut-up technique to your own work as opposed to found text.
What artists are you listening to at the moment and why?
Im really detached from what’s going on in music right now. Partially because Im doing my thing but also because there’s almost nothing that I feel speaks to me and my people. There are definitely exceptions though. I love what Hak Baker is doing, particularly with his full band on the ‘Babylon’ mixtape, that’s real and unapologetic music. Also my pal from a past life Martin Hadley who I think is one of the best song writers out. I think honest music like that is hard to come by right now and I’m really thankful that they’re doing them and not trying to fall in line with whatever the done thing of the moment.Im also really into Fredwave, again because it reps who he is and doesn’t seem to compromise itself to be accepted, the geezer is mad talented and could easily short-cut to a more conventional and widely commercially viable route but it’s so much more beautiful to have that accessibility in amongst more progressive production.

If you didn’t have a presence in the music industry, where could you see yourself?

If I wasn’t doing music I don’t think I’d be too far from it in that I’d probably be a practicing visual artist or writer.  To be honest though, those things are all tied into the way I make music, I take a lot of influence from art and literature and will probably shift focus towards those things later in life.If it weren’t for having the opportunity to create for a living right now I’d be dead or in jail.The only ‘regular’ career I could see myself in is youth-work.Again I’m hoping I can parlay what I’m doing now into having some kind of impact through working with my friends at Community Souls and Art Against Knives.

What does the future hold?
My sing, Border Line is out today. Other than that I’m just in the studio a lot pulling together the pieces for the next EP working with a handful of great producers to make that happen. 
Interview by Rachel Abebrese.

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