Grandmixxer’s kinetic DJ’ing style has become a trademark over his time behind the decks. It’s fast, energetic, electric and presents grime in its purest form: unfiltered dance music. His production, something he’s been honing and perfecting for the last seven years, often carries the raw energy of his DJ sets. The pulsating bass of ‘SLSA‘ feels primed to affect the brain by design, while the dark melodies and intense samples of ‘Screaming‘ leave you wanting to shock out and crack a smile, all in one body movement.
It’s not all hype and radio weaponry, though. In 2020 and 2021, Grandmixxer has developed a different style of music, stretching out minimal sounds over a seven to ten-minute runtime. Grime music is many things at once, and you don’t need me to tell you that the genre has been responsible for some of the most alien-sounding music this country has produced, but something twigged inside me when I heard ‘Siberia‘ back in January 2020. It felt like grime done in an ambient context. More impactful than the stodgy electronic music we’re supposed to believe is high art and without the tacked-on concepts that often come with it.
“Hypersonic Symphony” is Grandmixxer’s latest project. Released at the end of April this year, it feels like the best representation of his ideas in the context of his longer back-catalogue of tracks. I wanted to find out where this idea came from and more about his artistic process. In this interview, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we spoke about “Hypersonic Symphony”, creative process, collaboration, the importance of his peers, self-improvement and much more.
Photo taken by: Callum Jack
What made you get into making beats?
I wanted to make beats when I was younger. So when I first started DJ’ing when I was about 16, I downloaded Fruity Loops, and I just didn’t get anywhere with it. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t have anyone around me, so I just put it to bed quickly. I didn’t struggle with it or practice. I just put it away. I was like: this isn’t for me.
It’s not until years later that I met Dullah [Beatz]. Dullah moved into my block; he was like a producer every day. He was talented. He could do other things, but his main thing was production. I sat down with him. I saw him make so many beats, I can’t tell you the exact day or what exactly it was, but I was like: fuck it, I’m gonna do it.
In 2014 I remember I got the triton. I got my KRK’s at the time, and that was the start, innit. FL Studio, KRK’s and my triton, and I just started producing from there. It seemed like a natural thing to do, at the time, because I was DJ’ing. I was around young producers, as well. So you see Novelist and them lot? Them lot were making beats, Nov’s making beats, some of these young guys around me are making beats, so am I not gonna make any beats?
At this time in my head, I had a sound in my mind, innit. The way that I was DJ’ing, it was a specific style of grime that I was playing compared to other people, which was unique. So I knew that through necessity there weren’t enough tunes that I [wanted to] play. Other producers weren’t making that kind of style, so I knew that I would have to start making it.
It makes sense what you are saying, though. You’re DJ’ing that style, so I can tell how you would’ve got to the point where you thought: right, let me expand what I’m doing on the decks to the beats, and make a sound I wanna hear.
It always used to be a thing for DJ’s to say to producers behind the scenes: oh, make this kind of style of music. I’m not a pressure person, so I would never pressure another producer to make anything, but I did want a certain kind of music. So it was either gonna come from me or from searching out there for it more and more. When I look back, it just had to happen. It wasn’t like a choice. It was just like: this has to happen.
A natural thing. You were talking about Dullah before. Was Dullah a source of encouragement and inspiration? Not sound wise as such, but in terms of you guys bouncing ideas off of eachother and you learning things from him.
Yeah, definitely. We were all in a team: Wig Power Foundation, which was me, Dullah, Travis [T] and [General] Courts. So we were all working together. I call [Dullah] a super-producer because he’s sick: he’s done more than people know. It was sick to have someone so knowledgeable about production around you, but also, at the same time, he didn’t lay down any ground rules or say: you must do this in this kind of way.
I’m creating in my own regard. It’s hard to say to me: do this or to do that. It was good to have – but I wouldn’t say it was… how can I describe it without sounding negative? Because it’s not a negative thing, it’s just a very real thing. You see like sometimes, you wanna share but you don’t wanna share everything.
So [Dullah] let me grow up myself as a producer, does that make sense?
Totally, yeah. He let you figure it out yourself.
Yeah. He helped me on a different kind of level. Not on a: you do this level. I could always call him and ask him advice. Any question I’d have about anything, he would know. We could discuss things.
I’m quite a technical person when it comes to things that I like. So when it comes to DJ’ing: I’m technical with the mixer, with the CDJs, I know lots of shit. I had to get into that as a producer. So it’s taken me to get into the jargon, into frequency, into so many different things that just doesn’t exist to a DJ. As a DJ you don’t really need to know about frequency or cutting this frequency. As a producer, you’ve got to know about that, you’ve got to know about VSTs and all of these things. So it was a help. But I had so many other people around me, other producers. I was kind of a big DJ by the time I started producing, so I had the ear of a lot of other people around me. Do you know what I’m trying to say? I could speak to a lot of people about production whenever I needed to, so that was good.
Yeah. I suppose by the time you’ve started [producing] you’re already established, you’re already working with Novelist. You’ve got that network of people to draw from.
I know you lived in Bournemouth for a while when you were younger, but how does South London as a place inspire you as an artist?
It made me vicious! [laughs] It’s made me vicious, I can’t lie. It’s made me more vicious than East London guys, than West London guys. It’s made me part of grime, but not part of grime. Does that make sense?
How do you mean?
Grime is East London, North London, West London centric. Like all of the major crews were in East, North. There were crews in South but it wasn’t the same. We had our own industry, or our own version, our own radio stations. I’ve come from that. I’ve come from the barrel of that. I’ve come from the mud. As much I know people, but I don’t really know people. I’m an outsider in grime, does that make sense?
Even though I’m from London I class myself as a grime outsider. And I think being from South London, that’s what it’s done.
It gave me more time to develop.
I was allowed to bubble and just come up without being frontline. It kept me underground longer, innit.
I guess when you can develop without major eyes on you, you can make mistakes and do everything. Once you come to where you are now, it seems fully formed, but you’ve got the years of pure graft behind you.
If I was in East London, I’m too good to not have been recruited by one of the major crews. I got recruited by the big crew in South London, eventually. I joined N Double A, which was the biggest crew you could join. But it would’ve been faster in East London.
Being from South London has made me militant. I try to use it effectively in what we do. When you see me with The Square or with whoever I’m working with, we just come to work. We do party, but we’re more work-based. We haven’t come for the girls in music or the free drink in music. We want the money in music. Because with the money you can get the girls and the free drinks, and whatever you want. I think there’s that as well. I’m not in the lore of grime. The lore, the history. I don’t care about none of that, innit. I care about creating the new lore of grime, the Grandmixxer story.
The outer space theme is a big part of your work. How does that inspire you?
I’ve always liked aviation. I’ve always liked planes. My mum used to take me to Farmborough Air Show when I was young. I used to live near the Imperial War Museum. I used to go in there and look at the planes, and I used to play early flight simulators. Space is just an extension of that. It’s the same thing, just the next level up, innit. I’ve always been fascinated by things that go up in the air.
It’s like me just adding something I like to what I’m doing. It’s one of my interests, so without getting to know me, you can get to know me. If you see my first artwork, the SLSA  artwork, it’s me with a rocket attached to my tower block. I’m trying to show that we’re starting here, but we’re not ending here. It’s a way of me showing elevation and ascendancy.
Exactly, yeah. I suppose you’re dropping those signposts to what you’re into, your lore and you can find more and more things on the record. I thought it was interesting you were saying about ascending. I was listening to the tunes last night and you can hear the space influence, [the tunes sound] big. [they can sound] big.
When I make music, I don’t try to make music. I don’t understand music. I can’t play any notes. I can’t tell you what note is what on a keyboard. I can’t tell you this is C; this is D, this is E. But I can play a keyboard to play my melodies. I don’t write my melodies in, I play them in, but just [from] touch and feel.
So I don’t make ‘type’ beats. I call it my musical truth, innit. So I sit down, I turn on my computer, I plug in whatever I’m plugging in, and I make whatever I make. You see, whatever I make at the time, that is what it is. I don’t sit down and say: today I’m gonna make this style, today I’m gonna do this. Unless somebodies gonna pay me, commission me to do something. Say if someone says: I’ve got a remix here for you to do. Then, yeah, I’m gonna do the remix.
Do it to the spec, yeah.
But apart from things like [a remix], I’m just totally open with what I make, innit. It could be anything. It could be SLSA  type beat or ‘Lambeth Yardies’, or man can go all the way to something like ‘Kennington 2 Berlin’. Or ‘Walking 2 Africa’, which is just like, weird shit. Not weird to me, but I can understand how someone listening to one of those songs would be like: what the fuck? What the fuck is my man thinking? And then I’ve got other tunes that you listen to and [you’d think] oh okay, I understand that.
I’ve got tunes that are just really emotional. Like ‘People Over Money‘. That whole series: ‘People Over Money 1’, the VIP, the number two and the new one ‘1 + 2 = 3‘. All of those [are] like emotional! To the highest level, like oh shit.
None of it’s forced. I just sit down, and if something sick comes out, it comes out. And if it doesn’t, just turn [the DAW] on again another day.
That brings me nicely onto the next thing. Tracks like ‘Siberia’, ‘Ancestral Beatdown’, ‘Southbank 2007’ and ‘Kennington 2 Berlin’ are all nearly ten minutes long. When you were making those tracks was that something you’ve experimented with and built up to having this ten minute piece?
Part of it is DJ’ing. Nearly everything’s been done, innit. Nearly everything under the sun has been done.
How I like to mix and what I like to do, the tunes are too short for me. I might hold a mix for four minutes and then decide I want to do the FX at this time in the mix. But I’ve been holding it for four minutes, I’ve been waiting [for the tune to carry on], and then I’m giving you the FX section and the chops section for the last two minutes. That’s seven minutes of music. The tune can’t be three minutes long, so me, Travis and Courts: we said, fuck it, we’re gonna be the first ones in grime to change the length of the tunes to fit our DJ’ing style.
This three minute, three and a half minute song? That’s a pop format. But we don’t make pop. I don’t make pop music, so why am I mixing tunes in a pop format? Fuck that shit, man. I want eight minutes; I want twelve minutes. So that’s where that’s come from.
Yeah. It’s interesting that you’re making the tunes and thinking about the context. It’s like a half and half thing. The format is sick. I think it was ‘Siberia’, it was the first [longer track] of yours that I heard, and I remember when you sent me ‘Ancestral Beatdown’ on [Endz Music] I was like woah, this guy is doing like nine minute tunes. That’s like ambient music, but grime.
It’s deliberate, but it’s for us, innit. It’s for us, and I’m just giving it to you like that because I could easily just chop them down and give you three-minute versions of the tunes. If I give you the last minute of ‘Kennington 2 Berlin’ where the drums kick in, that’s a sick tune. But I want you to be able to experience it the way that I’m experiencing it.
I always think with SLSA, Street Frequency and East Man‘s stuff, it’s uncompromising in its vision. Obviously, the music’s good. But because it’s those people’s vision – your vision, Travis’ vision, East Man’s vision – that’s why it’s sick. Because it’s people zeroing in on their process and making stuff that’s genuine. Do you know what I mean?
Yeah, and it’s good that you said East Man. Travis is my brother, innit. We don’t release music as Wig Power at this present moment, but when I say these are the guys I sit down with all the time and do music with and discuss with, his label is amazing because it is 100% his vision. It’s not my vision; it’s his vision. We had a label together, or they could just as easily release on SLSA or whatnot, but I’m encouraging Courts and Travis [to] do [their] own label. We will all come together like The Avengers and make that super project as Wig Power Foundation when the time’s right. But in the meantime, you need to do what you need to do, and I need to do what I need to do, and Dullah needs Earthspin – don’t forget Earthspin. These are all the visions of individuals that when we come together, we make sick music. Travis T, right now, he’s got some of the maddest music. He’s the man right now. In the team, he’s the man. And Courts, both of them. The sick thing about being around those guys is that we push each other organically. Just by hearing a Travis tune, you’ll be like, oh shit, the levels have gone up.
That’s the main thing for me, innit. Those guys that are around me, that everyone’s fulfilling what they wanna do in music. Mez is fulfilling his sound, Travis is fulfilling his sound, Courts is doing his ting, I’m doing my ting. And the rest of it, when we put it together, it’s just fucked. That’s what’s going on right now. So I’m well happy.
You were talking about Courts and Travis and how you gas eachother up. Is it just from hearing eachothers tunes or do you actively encourage eachother and share things?
We’re friends first. I met Travis and Courts through music, but we’ve become friends, like a family unit. All of us, and it’s been like that for years. It’s just so easy. I can’t describe how easy it is. I feel like I’m with the right people: my team is the correct team in every way. It’s important.
The fact that you’re friends first is going to fuel all of that creativity anyway. Me and my friends joke about it: imagine DJ’ing back to back on a set with your friends.
Yeah, and really your friends, though. Not just people you know, really your friends. I roll with loads of people, but I think Courts has been to every show unless he’s been booked on the same day. We’re a close-knit family, and it’s just good when you’re rolling with people that are on what you’re on and ready to make the same sacrifices. Like, we all go through the same shit. It’s one of the more positive things about everything, the way that we can build our friendship through [music]. [We can] be there for each other, be strong for each other and give advice. Anything that they need, we can get it from within the team, which is important.
Yeah. Because it’s one thing looking within, but when you can look within a group it just makes things so much stronger.
Yeah, and also, to get the honesty: “Ah Mixxer, this tune here needs more dynamics, bro. I think you need to go in again. Listen with these headphones.” I get [that] kind of advice. Travis will listen to my tune and be like: rah, Mixxer: you need to listen again but make sure you use these headphones. That kind of advice.
You see Hypersonic [Symphony]? I mixed and mastered it myself…
So it’s the first project where I’ve done it all myself, innit. But you have to understand how much of a step up that was for me to make. Because my other mastering engineers are amazing, like Boylan and Mike K. Mike K was the guy who did all the Tinchy Stryder stuff back in the day, and Boylan is just a G anyway. But I wanna get into it myself. We’re opening a studio, and we’re making a big investment, and we’re gonna have amazing equipment. There’s no point in us making a big investment, having amazing equipment in my studio if I’m not actually sitting down able to use it.
So I went on a college course at Morley College in London to learn mixing. That was a six-week evening course. That made a big difference to what you’re hearing now from me, dynamically. So you see a tune like ‘Kennington 2 Berlin?’ I made that tune two years ago, but I didn’t have the knowledge to give it to the world. I didn’t know how to EQ it, but going to college and advancing knowledge in [mixing] has allowed me to up my production level. Not writing songs, because writing songs is something I explained that I just do from my heart. But the other side: the EQ’ing, the mixing, the mastering, making [the song] sound fluid? That shit is really important, and some producers never get that. So I had to push myself with this project. And big up Alya [Al-Sultani], she helps run the label with me, she was pushing for me to do it myself. She was like: do it yourself, you can do it.
When I say that I spent weeks trying to make [Hypersonic Symphony] the best I can make it sound. Up until probably three days before uploading it to Bandcamp, I’m still tweaking it cause I’m [thinking] man can get more out. Man’s changing the speakers in the studio, man’s listening through [different speakers]. So for me to get that sounding how I wanted it to sound, and it’s my first [self-mastered record], I’m well chuffed.
I want our thing to be totally in house, innit. So when I give you my artistic product, it’s everything.
Yeah, completely yours.
Yeah, I mixed it. The artwork was from my mind. That’s important, innit. It allows our music to truly be underground and truly be different from what you’re hearing from other people.
So what was the mixing course like?
Once I understand the philosophy of something, or what it actually is, then you can make your own interpretation of what it is. My problem was: I didn’t have any understanding of what mixing was and what exactly frequency is, how it works. So I needed to know everything. Once I was shown what mixing was, on a channel by channel basis, after that I just built my own master chain. So the master chain I’m using for the EP is my own ting, I made that myself, and the mixing is just techniques that I’ve learnt because I understand what mixing is now.
When you’re listening to Walking 2 Africa, I don’t think I’ve got a tune with more bass than that. If you listen to the bass in that tune, it’s nice. I like the different tunes. Even Motherland Math, that tune’s just different. None of those tunes, I would say, are bangers. They’re sick tunes, but I wanted to put out a hypersonic symphony. If I wanted to put out eight bangers, like Free Gaza style tunes, SLSA [Version] type tunes that’s just gonna make you go mad, I could do that. But what do I call that? what am I displaying, just a shutdown? Nah, I’m trying to take people on a journey.
It’s challenging yourself and challenging your audience. Over the lockdown I was furloughed, I had loads of time, so I was listening to loads of Jazz from different eras. And I was like: this is challenging music. But the more time you spend with it, you’re rewarded. When you create something challenging, you’re gonna reward both yourself and your listeners. I think that’s good.
Yeah. Anyone that really listens to ‘Walking 2 Africa’ or ‘Kennington 2 Berlin’, if they really take that in, they’re gonna be like: rah, what the fuck am I listening to! The feeling I get from the music, I want you guys to get how I feel from the music. I feel like I can do that better than before now. I would say that this project is the start of me being a true producer. Before that, I’m a DJ/Producer, but now I’m a producer. If I go back and remake everything I’ve released, it’s gonna sound better than how it already sounded: because of what I know now. The fundamental mistakes that were in my music are not there no more, and that’s not in the writing of the music, I’m talking about EQ-wise, frequency wise, and translating the sound to your ears. I don’t have that problem no more, so I’m unleashed.
This is more of a general production question. Is there a sound or a keyboard that you can’t create without?
The triton. Korg Triton. I don’t know why those sounds. I just love them, just classic grime sounds: AMS, gliding squares. All of the fast synth sounds and the slow synth sounds, I just love it.
I’m starting to get more into the hardware, innit. Going forward, I’m gonna be making sounds on my JV180, less VSTs, more hardware and more sounds that you’ve never heard before. I wanna go more in that direction.
Like modular synths?
Not modular. Synths, but not modular. I just wanna be a hardware-based producer. I wanna do some projects that are all hardware. There are so many things that I wanna do [technically] now I understand how to produce. I can honestly say that most of my career as a producer, up to now, has been 100% heart. One of my friends, I showed him [my first beat], and he was like: your heart is so big, bruv, you’re like 100% heart. I understood what he meant. We’re out of that era now. Now, I’m sick. As a DJ, I know that I’m sick when it comes to doing my ting. I know what I’m gonna do, how I’m gonna do it and if I wanna do it or not. That’s a lot of power to have. Most DJ’s are just DJ’ing off their spirit and what they wanna do. I’ve been that guy, but now I can be like: I don’t even wanna chop, I just wanna blend. Or now I’m gonna give you the chop, now I’m gonna give you the FX. I’m in control of what I’m giving you guys. I feel like I’m getting into that place as a producer now. When you’re in control of what you’re doing, you’re better. But there’s a stage where you’re not in control. It’s just heart. I jumped in the ocean, now I can swim.
Confidence is a big thing. Like you’re saying with the mixing skills, now you’ve got that confidence you can move into that next phase of being in control. Having the mixture of the heart and the control is the perfect balance.
It takes time. Cause I do like improvements, and I wanna be in control of what I’m doing when I’m playing. One of the problems I used to have, that you guys just never knew, was that I [wasn’t] in control. I’m DJ’ing too mad. I’m going in, and it’s sick, but guess what? I’m not in control of that: the spirit is taking me over. I was in control of a lot, though. Doing shows with Nov helped in a major way. By the time me and Nov had licked down a couple shows, I knew. But the control I have now is different. I’m going to enjoy DJ’ing more than I’ve ever enjoyed it, which is important because that’s the only reason I DJ. I [didn’t DJ on radio] for years. I just didn’t care. I was working and just mixing in my house.
I’m doing this cause I like it, innit. So it’s important for me to enjoy what I’m doing, and now, I feel like having a break from it has made me fall back in love with it.
I always think that breaks and absorbing the world around you help you to come back with a new focus, or you just get that enthusiasm back for it.
Do you know what it was, yeah? There was some things that I just wasn’t happy about with my DJ’ing style that I didn’t have time to work on. I don’t know if I didn’t have time. I just wasn’t working on them. But during COVID, I worked on them. I don’t wanna say what it was cause no one would understand what it is, but it was something so simple that most DJ’s could do, but I was just poor at. But you would never hear that I was poor at it. You just didn’t hear me do it. But I worked on it throughout COVID, and now I’ve got it down. It [just] made me happy. Like, now you’re the complete DJ, now you can do whatever you wanna do.
The things that I really wanted to improve on, I couldn’t get no leeway on them. But during COVID, I eradicated them to the point where it’s like there’s only [a small percentage] until I’ve got them down, and that’s enough for me. A little improvement like that makes me feel way more confident in what I’m doing. I just wanna get back out there and give them the new Grandmixxer. Which is basically the old Grandmixxer but just an improved version: more relaxed, more in control, and just doing things how I wanna do them. Instead of always on edge and on some spiritual DJ’ing, I don’t wanna do that no more.
You won’t see many people DJ’ing like me because it’s fucking hard to do! It takes a lot of energy to do it for as long as I do it. When you hear the two-hour shows where I’m mixing like that, it’s a lot of energy. You’re not gonna hear no one else do that for two hours. You might hear some DJ’s do one or two mixes that were sick, but are they gonna do eighteen mixes that are sick? I’ve figured out how to preserve my energy and not die on the turntables. Nothing’s worth dying over. But certain times, I’ll come off the decks, and I’m like: rah, man’s about to die. Honestly.
Yeah because I can imagine with the chops… the co-ordination of doing the chops, when you’re [mixing], the co-ordination to do that, then mix out of the tune… I can see how that would be tiring.
Yeah! It’s effort, man.
And I do the emcee thing. You see me and Mez? When me and Mez are performing, one of the sickest things about it is that Mez is my friend. You see as I said about being friends with people? It’s important. I’m more than Mez’s DJ, and Mez is more than my artist. We’re actually friends. [It was] the same thing for when me and Nov worked together, and the same thing for when me and [Big] Narstie worked together. But I would say Mez is different because Mez has been around the longest, and Mez is like me. Nov is cool. But he’s different to me. So me and Nov: my ideas and how I look at the universe and how I operate was totally different to his ideas and how he looks at the universe and how he operates. But we were able to become friends enough that we built a rapport where we knew what to do for each other while we’re performing. You see me and Mez? We’re taking that to the next level.
I wouldn’t wanna call him my little brother because he’s his own man. Even though I met him at eighteen, he’d already been mad established in the game when I met him.
When you guys linked up I feel like Mez had been around for quite a while. Do you build tunes together in the studio?
Yeah. Mez will come check me [laughs]. He knows everything that I make, innit. He’ll know from when the last time he was [at the studio] what I’ve made, and then I’ll show him anything new. If he likes something, straight away, he’s gonna start spitting. “Yeah, I like this, loop this” and that might be the start of the tune, and within two hours, the tune’s done. Sometimes we just sit down, and we create from the off. ‘Babylon Can’t Roll’ we created from the off. We both just sat down and said: fuck this, man’s making a banger! Within ten minutes, it was done. There are other times where I’ll be sat in the room playing something, and he’ll be like, “rah, is this what’s going on?”
He’s got his own studio. The good thing about my team is, basically, we’ve all got the same equipment. [Mez] can just be here, I can send him something, and he can go back home and record. Or he can bring it back here, plug in his mic, and we can do what we need to do.
What you were saying about you and Mez having the same equipment, there’s a shared vision there.
This is the start now. My methodology to music, and my techniques to music, they work. What I mean by that is the artists I’ve worked with, the artists I’ve had influence over or who have wanted to listen to me [have] gone on to do the most amazing things. I’m not going to take credit for them because I’m not that type of person, but if you actually look at the tree of artists that [have] come through our doors, The Wig Power doors. You’ve got Big Narstie, you’ve got Novelist, you’ve got AJ Tracey, you’ve got YGG. I know that the techniques I have in terms of motivation, what I think the sound should be. Even if I’m not making it. Being able to pick the hard beats and be like okay, make it this sound. Me and my team understand these things. And we understand, guess what? The first ten years was helping everyone cause we didn’t know the powers. We’re learning our powers. But this second ten years that we’re hitting now? It’s us. We’re focusing on us. And I know through what we do that it’s going to be successful. When I mean successful, it’s going to do what it’s going to do.
You have a whole group of people in Brazil that are following man. Do you think man did one per cent to get the following in Brazil? Do you think man has done anything to cater for them? Man didn’t do anything to gain their attention.
It’s not like you said: hey Brazil, look at us!
It’s just the sound. They decided who their heroes were. It’s not no ideology. It’s the sound that my whole team is coming with. The clues that I have just let me know, the future’s bright, just keep it moving. There’s gonna be more countries that are influenced by what we do. These man are building their own ting outside of man, and that’s a beautiful thing. I know there’s gonna be more of that in the future.
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