Photo by: Cicely Grace
Adam R & Efflex are formidable producers, but together, they’re a sonic force. The two have a dubstep background, but for the last year or so, they have racked up instrumental releases and earned a few plaudits from top-level emcees on the way.
The duo came together to release “Purpose, Volume 1” earlier this March, and I was struck by how cohesive the project sounded from front to back. A record capturing the expression and varied deliveries of grime, I was eager to interview them and get some context on how everything came together. In this interview — which has been edited for clarity — Adam R & Efflex told me how they got into music, the story behind their friendship, the making of “Purpose, Volume 1”, and the importance of collaboration. It was an in-depth chat with more than a few laughs, and it’s clear that they’ve got chemistry in abundance.
Can you tell me how each of you got into music?
Adam: Going years back, a friend of mine downloading Fruity Loops. [I] just started messing about with music at his house; we used to link up and mess around with a program. Eventually, I decided to download it myself at my own house and then went missing for a few months! We used to take tunes back and forth.
I got into dubstep from early. I knew Skream. I knew Benga. That pushed me into wanting to make music a lot more. I did make dubstep for a while, but it never really worked out for me. If I’m honest, it weren’t ever really my passion. That’s the early days. I grew up in a family full of music lovers, my dad playing the guitar, my mum singing, my nan singing, my sister sings.
Efflex: I’ve always been passionate about music, but I think I got seriously into music in secondary school. And then I started hanging around with people who were doing pirate radio. I just started tagging along, to be honest, until I started mixing myself when I was about fourteen or fifteen. Then, I started radio. Then, I started getting shows on the pirate radio [stations] they were on. Then, I started doing some live shows when I was fifteen or sixteen. And then, when I left school, I went to college and studied music. Through school, I was learning instruments. I learnt drums for many years. And then I left school, studied music, music technology.
That’s it, really, I started producing. I feel like I started producing quite late in comparison to other producers. So, I started producing at seventeen. How I got to producing was because when I was playing a set, my mates around me were giving me their tunes to play. And I was like, shit, I need to start making my own tunes! Then I started making music. And yeah, that’s it, really. That’s how I got into music, just by hanging around people who are just going to radio and picked it up from there.
What kind of drumming were you doing? Was it just on your own, like lessons, or in bands?
Efflex: It was just on my own, to be honest. I had this guy who came into school once or twice a week, and he was teaching me for years, and we had an argument about something, and I never went back to him. [laughs]
Adam: You stole his drumsticks? [laughs]
Efflex: I think it was because I didn’t set his drum kit up with him or something stupid, and I was a kid. And then I was like, fuck this guy, I don’t wanna do drums anymore! [laughs]. And that was the end of that. But I had a drum kit in my house. I had some other instruments in my house at the time. I had a piano. I think being in that environment, I just picked things up, you know?
Yeah, I get that. I guess that’s for both of you, you both seem to have been in environments where music is happening. How did you guys meet? Because you seem like pretty good friends.
Efflex: To be honest, which is one thing which I feel like everyone is surprised about, is that me and Adam only started chatting and linked up probably just under a year ago. We probably only just started making music [together] coming up to a year, and because we’ve made so much music together, people always thought, wow, how have you done so much in a year?
But I feel like Adam touched on it, coming from a dubstep background. And myself, I got into music mostly from dubstep. Grime as well, but mostly dubstep. I feel like me and Adam were always around the same people. And Adam was saying that he felt that he didn’t get where he wanted to be in dubstep, but ten years ago, I was playing Adam’s tunes out in sets. We knew of each other but never connected.
Yeah, so you knew each other a little bit, then you finally met off chance or did you say let’s go to the studio…
Efflex: And now I’m his favourite producer! [laughs]
Adam: I’d taken a big break from music, hadn’t made anything for about two or three years. And then, I got some stuff back, got some new equipment, and I made a couple of drill tracks which I sent to Dubfreq. I think it was yours and Dubfreq’s label?
Efflex: It was Selenky. So, me and Dubfreq set up a record label which was only a small thing, and the plan was just to release mine, his and our close friend’s music on it. Me and Dubfreq put that to the side; we didn’t actually release anything. And yeah, that’s how we probably connected, because Dubfreq hit me up saying, oh, this is Adam’s EP; is it cool to release it on our label? I’m just like yeah, cool, that sounds sick. And then, I think that’s how we connected because I had your music…
Adam: Efflex heard the release and was like, oh my god, this guy’s next level. I need to link this guy! He got my number, he rang me, and he was like, I’m your biggest fan! [laughs]
Efflex: [laughs]… But yeah, in short, Adam released on a label I co-own with Dubfreq.
And then he rang you up like, you’re my favourite producer. That’s the headline. [laughs]
Adam: It did stem from there, though. I can’t remember exactly how, but from that, we got chatting, and I made a couple of grime bits, and we went from there. The first one we done, I think, was ‘Fortune’?
Efflex: Yeah, I think it might have been.
Adam: I think it was. I’d just made a Kano remix with Dubfreq, and then I think we made ‘Fortune’. And then, literally, from there, it was mad, we just went on a rampage of sending each other tunes, and we made the ‘Pressure’ LP within two weeks.
Efflex: It was mad… With your drill element and my grime element, I think we both realised straight away that how we work together just bangs. And I think that’s how we just smashed out ‘Pressure’ in a week.
Yeah, I know what you’re saying. So, from hearing each other’s music, you felt that something meshed?
Efflex: We just started making a couple of tunes together, and we just smashed out ten instrumentals in two weeks. Then, we were like, we’ve got this, let’s line it up for release, and it was called ‘Pressure’. In the meantime, when we’re just thinking about releasing it, we’ve started making more tunes, and we’ve got another ten tunes.
So, then, we were like, we’ll release this as ‘Pressure’ and [the other ten tunes] as ‘More Pressure’. I feel like ‘Purpose Vol.1’ has just come so naturally because there’s been emcees off the back of these tunes who’ve been hitting us up saying, oh, we’d love to jump on this tune, or we’d love to work with you. Before we knew it, we had a couple of projects bubbling, and then me and Adam said, let’s just do a vocal EP. Here comes ‘Purpose Vol.1’, it just came naturally, didn’t it?
Adam: Yeah, yeah.
That segues nicely because I noticed that the emcees that are on ‘Purpose’, you’ve worked with them before on tunes individually, you’ve done radio with them. So, you’re saying they were hitting you up rather than you hitting them up?
Efflex: Not everyone on that EP hit us up. It was gonna be an LP, not an EP, because we were just like, right, we’ve already got an LP from people who messaged us wanting to jump on these tunes. If we message a few people, we could double the numbers. It could be an LP. Out of the people on “Purpose”, probably just over half were gonna jump on our stuff. I don’t remember exactly how they all came about because I know [Adam] was speaking mostly with the emcees.
Adam: Yeah, which can be very difficult. It’s not easy to do those sorts of things and have to talk with the artists…It’s a delicate art, knowing how many times you can message someone like [have you done the tune]. [laughs]
Efflex: Yeah, and just on that, I think we are grateful for ‘Purpose, Vol.1’ falling into place so naturally. I feel like we haven’t had to [chase people] too much. Adam is obviously correct, there are a few people who we’ve wanted on, and then you’ve had to sort of chase. But overall, it’s been a fine experience for me, because I know you’ve had to deal with it! [laughs]
Adam: It’s all good, though. It’s all part of it. With “Purpose…” we didn’t really have to chase a lot of people. Maybe there was probably two out of the eight tracks. Two that we actually got in touch with, and the rest, people got in touch with us and wanted to get involved in our productions. So yeah, it worked well.
Cool. So, what do you guys like about the emcees you’ve got on the project? Whether it be flows, styles or lyrics?
Efflex: Listen, if you actually deep “Purpose…”, everyone’s different. To the point where me and Adam were going back and forth with each other, listening to each individual’s tunes and making sure they all sound well. All sound similar but different, so they fit and gel on one EP. Each individual emcee has their own style and technique. It definitely worked well.
Definitely. I think you’ve both managed to capture what makes grime so good because each emcee is really distinct. They’ve all got a distinct flow. ‘Wild’: Snoopa is singing on that one, and there’s a ton of energy on it overall. I think that’s one thing that you did really well with the project and what really stands out listening to it. I was listening to ‘Dinner Time’, that track is full of expression. It’s just really cool.
Efflex: Definitely, I think the EP’s really unique. With all these different flows, there’s a lot of people doing EPs, same artists, same emcees. Which are good, they still bang. But that’s why I particularly like “Purpose…”. I don’t get bored listening to it. I listen to it all the time. [laughs]
Adam: I was listening to it this morning! [laughs]. I think, Snoopa — if we’re talking about what we feel about the emcees – I think Snoopa is a very talented individual.
Adam: I think he’s really creative. The first tune I actually got to touch with his vocal was one of Efflex’s tunes. It’s not come out yet, has it?
Adam: He’s sent it to me to do the mixing and the mastering on the vocals, and it was just unreal. I was like, man, this tune’s crazy! And then, obviously [Snoopa] wanted to get on “Purpose…” with us. Even through little things – forget ‘Wild’ – other stuff that he sends me, clips, things that he’s working on of ours and Efflex’s, he’s a talented individual.
Joe Fire, as well. He’s been about for so long and probably hasn’t got his flowers. He’s just exceptional, the way he comes up with things, like the ‘Dinner Time’ hook. He wanted to jump on that track, and within two hours of him telling me he wanted to jump on the track, I was messaging Efflex on a voice note [saying] listen to this. [Joe Fire] is coming back like, ‘I come to the set, like, like, it’s dinner time!’. I’m like, what the hell is this? It was insane! He’s crazy with it.
Slickman, I’ve known him for years. He came to my house to do ‘Chrome’, he’s sitting there drinking Guinness and shit! He’s like an old man, but he’s not; he’s just like an old man. He’s sick with it. Tiny The Godfather: he’s got so many lyrics, but he’s good at being able to make songs rather than just spitting lyrics on a tune. He knows how to make a good hook. I could go on with all of them. There’s Doni Rampage: he writes untold amounts of songs.
I think one thing about “Purpose…” is that everything feels like a song and not just spitting bars. Not that spitting bars is bad, but there’s something that sets it apart, and it feels cohesive. What Efflex was saying about trying to make everyone’s style fit into one thing, I think you did that really well. What was your vision for the record? What did you guys want to bring with “Purpose…”?
Adam: I love working with other creatives. So, firstly, I love collaborating. I love collaborating with other producers, mainly with Efflex. We bounce off each other brilliantly. I feel that when you collaborate, it’s just so much more creative. Two minds, coming together to do things, and then when you bring an emcee into the equation, you’re collaborating again. So, it’s another creative process happening.
I feel that an emcee, or a singer, is like the missing part of an instrumental. Especially in grime. With dubstep and those types of [genres], they’re heavily driven by the bass, and the melodies, and everything that’s going on in those [instrumentals]. You have to find something, an instrument, that’s going to replace a vocal in dubstep, whereas in grime, you can leave something out. You don’t have to delve in too much; you can leave something out because it’s going to be perfect when you get a vocal on it. I feel like we do that a lot with our instrumentals.
So, my thoughts for “Purpose…” would be, look, we can make instrumentals, we know that. We know we can make music; we know we can put instrumentals out. But can we work with artists? Can we do everything that comes with working with artists and bring other creatives together to create something that we love, to create something brilliant? “Purpose…”, to me, is a brilliant bit of work and probably my most favourite thing I’ve ever done.
Cool. So, it’s about pushing yourselves?
Adam: Yeah, definitely. To better ourselves, to push ourselves out of a comfort zone to make it a comfort zone, and then see what else we can do, to even drive on from there. Which we’re always constantly talking of: what can we do now? What could be the next thing? Or, would we do this? We’ll make that. That’s a definite. What else can we do? Plus, at the same time, wanting to do our individual things as well.
Efflex: I feel for me, the amount of projects that I know me and Adam are going to be putting out, I felt more that “Purpose…” is a little stepping stone. It’s the start of what me and Adam will go on to do. I knew this project was gonna sound good.
I think you saying that is good to hear because this one sounds so fully formed, and everything is packaged right. I think in grime, more of that is good. More focused projects and more tangible tunes. For you guys to do “Purpose…”, and then say right, we’ve got more in the tank, we’re gonna build and build, is great to hear from a listener’s perspective. We were touching on tracks from the EP before, but do you each have a favourite?
Efflex: I think they’re all so good in their own unique way.
Adam: I find it quite difficult. I would say I play ‘Don’t Watch Me Like That’ quite a bit, I play ‘Wild’ quite a lot, ‘Dinner Time’, I play ‘Money Affi Mek’… I couldn’t even say. I love ‘Chrome’…
Efflex: The first tune that started “Purpose…” was track number one, ‘Don’t Watch Me Like That’. It came around from Instagram, actually. I think I put something on my story, and Ozzie B replied. I pinged him back saying, oh, here’s some music. When I send music out, I send my music out, but I always end up sending Adam’s as well, but our collaborations. So, I sent [Ozzie B] some tunes and then straight away, he voice noted me, saying that tune? I’m having that tune. I was like, yo! Ozzie B is gonna jump on one of my beats! Ozzie’s a legend, man. So, I think at the time we were both like, this will be big.
Doing a music video for ‘Don’t Watch Me Like That’, which is out now on Grime Originals. I feel like that’s a track that stands out because it was the first one that we knew we were gonna use for the project. I feel like everyone was excited to just get involved. With ‘Don’t Watch Me Like That’, there was a bit more of a history to getting it released. From meeting up, doing the music video, a WhatsApp chat with the four of us.
I understand what you’re saying. Because you’ve had the experience with the video, you’ve got the memories attached to it. It’s not necessarily because you think it’s the best song, it’s just that because you’ve got the memories attached to it, it makes it a bit more special.
Efflex: Yeah. Even after the music video, and meeting Ozzie B and Tintz, just getting to know them you understand the track a bit better.
What’s the process like when you guys make tunes together?
Efflex: What’s that, [Adam], you just add a hi-hat don’t you? [laughs]
Adam: I basically send the whole song and Efflex puts in a snare. [laughs]
Efflex: How me and Adam make tunes, I feel like we would make solo tunes, and they’re good enough to just export and say, that’s an Efflex tune. And your tunes, Ad, sometimes I’ll be like, I ain’t even gonna touch that, just have it as that and keep it as [Adam’s] tune. Some tunes we’ll totally flip, or there could be other tunes where we’ll double up the snare.
Adam: I think we work in all different ways. There’s been times where I’ve laid out a whole load of drums, and it’s got a bounce but there’s no bass, there’s no melody, then Efflex has put melodies in or a bass, and that’s it. Other times I might send some drums with an idea of a melody in, and Efflex might change up the drums, or keep the hi-hats, or he might take the hi-hats out, keep the kick and the snare. We do different things all the time.
Efflex: As well, collabing with you in comparison to collabing with anyone else, we don’t go back and forth. I feel that we both know the sound that we’re trying to push and the sound that we like. That’s why we work well together because we’re just both on the same page.
Adam: It’s the idea of someone loving what you love, and everybody’s mind is different, so everybody perceives and sees and thinks differently. I might make something and think, yeah, this is really good, but then I might get to a point of, oh, I don’t know where to go with this.
Sitting in the studio together with someone, it would be the exact same thing, it would be, I’ve got to this point, and the other person would step in and say, I’ve got an idea. It’s so good to have two minds working and see what they come up with. I just find that so great.
As we’ve just said a minute ago, I might send something that I think’s sick already; then Efflex sends me back something or sends me a voice note saying this is what I’ve got, and I’m like, oh my god! That’s it, tune done! That pure excitement, I think that for me, you can’t get that all the time working on your own. Working with someone else: it’s brilliant. Same with an emcee, they’ve written a song, you get the lyrics, and you’re either like, this is shit, or you’re like oh my god, this is insane!
What would you guys like people to take away from “Purpose, Vol.1”?
Efflex: To show what we can do.
Adam: I’d like to show people that we’re good producers. We are really good at what we do. I want people to see and understand that we can make good music. We’ve got a great project there. I wanna make good music for people to listen to and bump in their cars, bump in their house, bump at raves, DJs wanna play it. I wanna make people happy, make people smile.
Buy / Stream “Purpose, Volume 1”
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