Featured Stories I by I 10.09.15

Grime Pays: Veteran DJ Logan Sama explains his milestone FABRICLIVE mix

Logan Sama has always had a knack for bringing grime to the masses without diluting the sound’s appeal.

From his legendary Rinse and Kiss FM shows to recent collaborations with Boiler Room, Sama has spent much of his 15 year career providing a gateway to London’s emcee culture, whether through promotion, DJing or through curating his legendary War Reports. His latest project might be his most boundary-pushing yet however: a FABRICLIVE mix stitched together from original vocals and beats, recreating a live set “in the studio.”

It’s a daring an untested approach, and not too many people would use their one shot releasing as part of a legendary series to attempt a completely new format, but it’s a gamble that pays off. FABRICLIVE 83 is both satisfying for long-time fans and a serious document covering the scene at a time when enthusiasm is at an all time high.

Following a trip to Croatia’s Outlook Festival, we spoke to Sama about the process behind FABRICLIVE 83, and mixing grime for a new generation.

Logan Sama will be performing at this weekend’s Ceremony Festival at London’s Finsbury Park with Skepta, Todd Edwards and more. You can buy tickets here. He’ll also be launching the CD at Fabric with Wiley, Elijah, Terror Danjah, Finn, Jammz and more.

How was Outlook?

I always love Outlook festival, it’s the fourth year that I’ve been booked so I’m a bit of a veteran. I curate stuff myself now: we had KeepinitGrimy at the Clearing which was hugely successful – packed all the way to the back and sides for the entire duration from 9PM till whenever we locked off by. We had a sold out boat party as well.

As a grime DJ, how’s the live scene been treating you at the moment?

It’s been consistent. People like grime and they’ve always liked grime when they heard it and it was presented to them. In the 15 years I’ve been DJing I’ve never had a set where it’s been hard, even though people weren’t actively embracing it until recently. What I noticed this year is that it’s a whole new crowd: before, the crowds might not have been as big but people were more knowledgeable.

Now I’m playing for a lot of people who go mad for Skepta tracks, they go mad for ‘Forward Riddim’ or ‘Rhythm and Gash’, but past that their knowledge isn’t as expansive as crowds I’ve been playing to before. It’s up to us to educate them on the classics, the foundation records, some of the artists that they might not know about that are really great and tracks they haven’t heard yet. It’s a new challenge and I enjoy it.

You launched your own platform, KeepinitGrimy, last year. How’s that experience been?

It’s really hard! It’s a tremendous amount of work, a tremendous amount of learning. I’ve basically just been a DJ for 10 years and now I’m doing all of this other stuff as well. Keepinitgrimy the brand has been going on for a while but the website is quite new, only a few months old. We’re testing stuff out, particularly on the back end to see what we can do, so it’s up and down. We’ve got a bit of down time now and we’re looking to bring in people to take on some of the work load, but the possibilities are exciting.

Before, I just absorbed music and now I’m absorbing different ways to present music to people, functionality, digital marketing – I’m educating myself in ways people hear and access music. It’s like going to school but the classes are stuff you really want to do.

Let’s talk FABRICLIVE: How did the concept for the collage come together? As far as I know, that’s never been done before.

It’s a logical progression. Fabric wanted me to mix FABRICLIVE 83, which is obviously a great honor. I’m not a producer, for a start, so I wasn’t going to have any tracks on there, I run labels [Earth 616, Adamantium, CTA with Wiley] but they’re not currently active. So I thought about who I am and what I bring to the table: I’m more of a facilitator, but I didn’t want to do a compilation mix. I do that with MistaJam every fortnight so doing an upfront mix of vocals and instrumentals would be redundant. It wouldn’t excite my audience and it wouldn’t be something special for the Fabric audience.

I wanted to put together something that was really special, and I’m well known for my work with emcees – all my sets on YouTube, the stuff I’ve done previously – you type Logan Sama and you generally see emcees. I wanted to really emphasize that. That’s not something that had been done with Fabric before either, they’ve done grime stuff but I hadn’t heard emcee sets which is really the core of what grime is, what people associate with it the closest.

To me, the old pirate radio sets are grime in its rawest form. But I wanted to also deliver something that was aspiring to a higher quality because whilst a select audience really appreciates the rawness and unpolished style of a pirate radio set – the over-compressed microphones, the distorted music and everything’s all clipping and interference, that’s not right for a Fabric CD. I wanted to put something together that captured the raw energy of grime in that format but also stood up as a high end piece of audio.

One of the things that I liked about it, paradoxically, is that once you get into the CD you actually forget that it’s put together that way – it flows like a set.

If you listen to it as an engineer or a real hardcore grime fan who’s used to the sonics of a set, I’m sure you’ll hear it stitched together, but my aim is for you to just get carried along with it and enjoy it as a 72 minute piece. It’s hard cause it has never been done before. There have been premixed sets with emcees added after but I don’t think anyone ever built an hour long set this way, so I wanted to try it, you know?

The sound quality is ace but you get these little moments where you hear someone in the background. Was keeping it raw something you were conscious about?

For those little moments, those were happy accidents. A lot of the vocals were recorded in the emcees’ home studios without me there. Some of the Family Tree stuff for example – they’re a collective and they work together all the time and they’re gonna be hyping each other on in the background as they’re spitting. It’s nice that there are those occasional occurrences because it tricks your brain into thinking this is a live performance. I like it: people who love grime sets can get that side of it and people who don’t know that history can hear a set with the highest audio quality possible.

How did you pick the producer lineup? Obviously there’s names you’ve worked with forever but there’s also newer names like Jammz and Kahn & Neek.

I hit up all the producers whose music I’ve played over the years. Some of them haven’t been active – you don’t hear too many Wiley or JME beats, Terror Danjah took a few years off, DaVinchi hasn’t really been around. But I’m still in love with their music and they just had stuff that was good to go. The selection is basically a reflection of me – this is the music you’ll hear me play in a grime set. There’s a couple of other producers I play who didn’t make it on for whatever reason due to deadlines – that’s the same for emcees actually, but I’m really happy with how the lineup turned out.

“There’s a whole new generation of young artists who are rediscovering that pirate radio ethos.”
Logan Sama

How did the vinyl package come about? That’s a whole other side that showcases the producers apart from the emcees.

Basically when Fabric put out these projects, they like to throw the exclusive tracks on vinyl – they did it for the Mumdance one. Thing is, I turned up with 24 tracks that were all exclusive! But really, I liked the idea of putting them all on vinyl, cause when I was growing up, these multipacks and boxsets were so hand to me as a youngster DJ. They provided so much value in terms of tracks.

I’d buy Locked on Compilations, old Shy FX, Tru Playaz, Renegade Hardware, Todd Edwards ones – they were so useful for me since they had those labels’ and artists’ greatest hits. Having 24 grime instrumentals in a box could be a great gift for a young DJ. And it’s a great way to commemorate the history cause it’s the first full release of this sort they’ve ever done on vinyl as well. For me this release is all about milestones.

It really feels like a celebration, particularly in terms of hearing guys who haven’t produced in a long time making a comeback – Jammer stands out.

A lot of these guys I’ve been speaking to and encouraging to get back into production anyways. The timing was right because there’s such an interest in that earliest sound, the original sound. Artists from that generation hold so much influence on so much current production in terms of samples, so I wanted to hear the people who actually made these sounds again.

I’ve been nagging Jammer to make beats again for years and years now. He started again about 6 months to a year ago, sketching out ideas, and I think this was the first one he actually finished. A lot of these producers – you’re going to hear more stuff from them subsequently just because they’ve been kick started into making beats. DaVinchi, Jammer… I’m always harassing Wiley to make beats. Rapid’s dropping music again as well.

On the flip in terms of newer producers, Dullah Beatz’ ‘Final Stage’ is by far the longest track on there – did everyone just want to spit on that?

That’s just how long the file he sent me was, honestly. I just played the tracks as they were. Obviously if it was a normal set I’d play each beat for about a minute and the CD would be 25 minutes long but the CD has to be over an hour so I let them play out. I was fortunate that quite a few people liked that beat – but some people gave me a 16, other people gave me three 16s and then I put it together. People are on beats but they’ve never heard those beats before. It’s literally me pasting vocals where I felt they were appropriate. Most of it has been put together based on my ears. I’d think: “this guy sounds good on this beat, that guy on that beat.” It took a long time.

You get the sense when people are passing the mic as well – emcees might appear in one song and then come back 10 minutes later.

In a set you have moments where people’s ears prick up – I hope you get that feeling here.

You’ve also got a balance between vets like Hyper and Prez T and new names like Nov, Jammz, and AJ Tracey – what do you think of this new wave of emcees coming up through radio?

Well, pirate radio doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s all online. It doesn’t exist in the same sense that the record industry doesn’t exist. But there’s a whole new generation of young artists who are rediscovering that pirate radio ethos of hitting up all the different stations, getting heard, doing sets with different DJs, with different lineups of emcees. Those guys are getting a lot of attention and rightly so. They’re honing their craft as well.

You can’t put in 3-4 sets a week and not be able to spit live, which is a great thing. I’m seeing it this year with Jammz and Mez who’re both on the CD. I’ve seen them in front of a live crowd and they have a great energy and a great delivery cause they’re used to spitting on radio. Mez and Jammz went out with me to my event in Amsterdam called 3310, I took Jammz out to Outlook and he emceed next to Newham Generals, P-Money and Flow Dan and held it down. He has a delivery you can only learn from spitting on radio.

To wrap it up, what’s your favorite bar on the CD?

It might be Wiley’s just cause I managed to actually get him on the CD. It was a great bargaining tool as well, I could tell everyone else: “C’mon man! Wiley’s done it!”



Share Tweet