Currently on tour with the Gorillaz, Kano took a break to sit down with us and talk about the tour, his new single and being compared to JLS' JB.
Let’s start by talking about your SB.TV exclusive KA:47 video – we're absolutely loving it! Especially the line about JLS, do you really get compared to JB that much?
[Laughs] Is that his name? Yeah I have a bit, I can’t even lie. Yeah quite a bit. To the point that the next person..
You wanna run her over?!
Yeah! But it’s all cool, it’s all jokes.
Your new single 'Upside' is due for release this month, what was the inspiration behind the track?
Well the inspiration behind the track was, well, musically it was trying to make something that was very epic, but also keep people guessing. Like the way the song starts, you would never know that I was going to come in that punchy and that energetic, and then it breaks down again. So it was kind of those fast moments but there were cool moments just to really keep it moving, that was the idea for doing it. And lyrically, it was just..I’m still trying to work that bit out!
How long did it take you to come up with the track?
It all happened in one day. As tracks do, you develop them over weeks, sometimes even months, until you get to that end product so you think"this is okay now". The particular person I worked with on it, Craigy, he’s a guy that, like we will do a session, and I’ll say, "Yeah I’m happy with it" and he’ll be like "Okay, I’ll email I to you so when you get home it’s there", and then I’ll get home and it’s not there and I’ll think I’ve got problems, then in the morning I’ll get the email like "Yeah I just had an idea when you left so I just changed it and now it sounds like this." And it’s like oh my gosh! So that track was developed quite quickly.
What made you choose to feature Michelle Breeze?
The guy that produced it, Craigy, he has got a band called Why Why Peaches with Michelle so I’ve worked with them both together on a song before and when were talking about people to sing the hook, he wrote the hook, I was like let’s get Michelle, I love her voice, so we got her in and she just did it.
Your musical sound is very diverse as can be seen through some of your collaborations. Would you still consider yourself a Grime artist?
It’s something that I never really have, even from day one I never really said I was a Grime artist. I didn’t really feel that I was, I didn’t feel that I needed to say that. My music and my volume of work when that word came around didn’t only represent that. It definitely did represent that, it definitely did represent hip hop, dancehall, jungle, all those influences and it definitely represented the youth culture. But I just never was happy with just being called that. I don’t think artists ever are, they just want to be known as ‘I make music man’ without putting a title on it, but people have to. So I don’t really see myself that way. It doesn’t bother me though, if people say that, like it used to. I just didn’t like it, no one likes it because we didn’t make it up. We created a new music along with all the other people and producers that evolved the game and the scene and the music from Garage to what it now is. I don’t really put myself in a genre.
What has it been like touring with the Gorillaz?
That’s wicked! The last place I went with them was Syria, in the Middle East. Mad experience! And the particular flag that I’m on, White Flag, is with the Syrian national orchestra. So we actually went to where they were from and played it and it’s mad because in Syria they don’t even get Youtube, it’s blocked. They’re not even trying to let them open up to the rest of the world. It’s just one of those things, we didn’t know how many people were going to turn up. About 5000 people came; we expected 1500! Some out of curiosity, most never heard the songs. It was kind of just a mad experience, even just for me it was an experience, imagine for someone like Bobby Womack. That’s why I respect them so much for doing things like that. They could just play concerts to everyday people that have bought all their albums, that they know are going to sing every song. It’s doing that stuff that really excites and interests me.
What do you think of the current UK music scene?
It’s definitely becoming more commercial which is not necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing; I’ve always wanted the music to become more known and popular, but there’s good music and bad music. I don’t like all the music that’s out there now, even if it’s successful or not I’m not really feeling a lot of it, but then there’s a lot of good music which I feel is cool. But me, as long as the music is genuine and coming from a real place then it’s cool, I doesn’t even have to be the biggest fan of it. Like Passout I like that song, that was just a good song that grew and became commercial, that’s cool. Some other songs it’s like kids just think ‘I need to make a song that is going to be this and that’ and it’s not all that cool.
So what artists are you liking at the moment?
Well Tinie as I said, I like that song. I think he’s definitely doing his thing right now. Ghetto is someone that I really like, he just put out a mixtape, Calm before the Storm. Maxsta, another young MC. He made a song called East London is Back. He’s got a mixtape out called The Maxtape and that was one of the first things that I’d heard from a young person lately that I thought "woah". There’s definitely something in him, he’s got a lot of talent, he’s a great MC so he’s someone to look out for as well.
Your new album is called Method to the Maadness which is also out this month, tell me about that.
Well that is something I’ve been working on for a good couple of years now. I really made the album in the truest sense, I really thought about the body of work that I was putting together. Although I worked with a lot of great people and producers, from Daman to Hot Chip to Chase n Status, it was really important to me that it really made sense as an album. I didn’t want it to be single driven. I really wanted it to have substance in the tracks, really wanted it to the track to mean something to me, I really wanted to experiment and make the album very exciting. And I feel I’ve done that. It’s a different album; I never try and recreate what I’ve done or try and emulate past material or whatever’s out there at the time. I kind of just lock off and do me, and whatever’s inside of me and whatever comes out that’s what it is.
What was your inspiration behind the title?
I made a song called Maad and it really came from there. When I listen to a few of the songs, like a lot of the songs, I’ve got another one called Crazy and a lot of the sounds..I’ve got another one called Lady Killer with Ghetto and it’s got all these mad sounds! It’s just mad, and obviously there’s a method to it as there always has to be and that’s where the name came from.
This is your fourth studio album, how do you feel Kano as an artist has progressed since the release of your debut album 'Home Sweet Home'?
I think I’ve progressed 100%. When I was making that album I was very, very fresh. I didn’t really know how to make an album. I didn’t really know what I was doing on that album. It’s about progression with every album, learning from the last and just getting a little bit more educated and more experienced as a performer and as a recording artist, as a writer and a producer and co-producer. So, I feel I’ve definitely progressed. Grown up as well, naturally, when I was like 17 I was making a lot of those tracks, 25 now, 23 to 25 making this album so it’s a bit more grown as well.
There’s a track on the album called 'Get Wild' which features Aidonia and Wiley. How did that collaboration come about?
It’s mad because Aidonia was an artist that I liked anyway, but, I went to Jamaica with two other tracks. One called Jenga that I worked with Vybz Kartel on and the second one was a track called Crazy which is still on the album but initially I was going to get Busy Signal on it because he was an artist that I was feeling at the time. But Busy, Jamaicans being Jamaicans, wasn’t even in the country when I’d just flown over to see him. He was in Trinidad. He said he was doing a support act for Beyonce. Then I got a link for Aidonia. It was either Aidonia or Assassin, they were two people I wanted to work with as well. They managed to get Aidonia to come to the studio; I went to his studio the day before we left and it all came together there. I realised that I had this beat, because I didn’t think he was right for the other song, but I had this beat that Boys Noize produced and I didn’t know what to do with it. I knew I loved the beat so much so I brought it with me on the laptop, played it to him, we started vibing to that and it just happened in an hour or so. That track has definitely got the right energy.
You’ve collaborated with a whole host of artists, as you said Vybz Kartel, Aidonia and you’ve worked with Craig David. Who would you like to work with next?
Giggs I was about to do a song with but it didn’t happen, but I think I’m still going to try because I like him. My wishlist, Eminem, he’s one of my favourite rappers. I haven’t really listened to his new album in full but he’s definitely got the passion back and his standards are back how it should be, on different music and different beats, but when you just listen to him and his flows, yeah he’s definitely back.
You’ve been on the scene for quite a while now, what is the next step for you musically? Where do you want to go from here and where do you see yourself in another 5 years?
Woah! 5 year plan, I haven’t really got one of those, maybe I should have one of those. But I just like to really see how it goes musically. I never know what I’m going to do next. It just clicks at mad times, after this album’s out, after I tour it. I might even get inspired on the tour to do something. I’m not a guy that can sit down and think what I’m going to do I’ve definitely got to be out there and experience it before I get back in the studio.
What are the plans for the tour?
The tour’s going to be in September. Well we’ve got a show on the 1st of September in Bush Hall, that’s the launch show. First time I’ll be performing most of this new material live. That’s sold out. But I’ve got the rest of the dates on Kanosworld.com. I’ll also be doing the Gorillaz tour, and another tour of mine at the end of the year so a lot of touring going on.