Interview : Thad Baron

The role of an A&R is historically one of great stature and attaches itself with the awe of peers and musicians alike. Think, Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin, LA Reid and you think of amazing artists such as Michael Jackson, Jay Z and Mariah Carey. The catalyst to success can usually lie with an A&R and I was intrigued to find out what the role of an A&R really entails. Who better to speak to than Thad Boogie, a heavyweight in the British music.

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Thad, to you, What are the main responsibilities of an A&R? “The term A&R means artist and repertoire – so essentially you are the individual who would be responsible for making the body of work for the artist you have signed. The record labels role is to develop and promote talent to a mass audience for a monetary gain but also for that feel good factor, because music is an aphrodisiac.” He continues to explain, “I have been A&R at Universal Music, Def Jam Mobile, Edel Records, Primary Wave/Violator, so predominately what I would do is, under the umbrella of urban music, I would try and identify from a UK point, what I believe can sell on mass and therefore encourage my bosses to give me the money to sign the artists and arm them with the relevant ammunition they need in regards of production, remixes, features and TV appearances. My job is to brand their name into a scene.”

It seems the role of an A&R is a hard one to acquire, either you have the best ear for talent or acquire an internship working your way up but for Thad, I wanted to find out his journey in becoming an A&R. “I fell in love with music as a boy, my Caribbean father played the guitar and loved music. He would purchase popular vinyl records from Motown to Stevie Wonder when I was a kid. His love of music forced me to be a curious boy by putting a needle on his precious vinyl’s. I was fascinated by the technology and mechanics of it all. From an early age, I could identify with that Otis Reading for example can sing better than other people, or Aretha Franklin really is better than what I am seeing. From young, I could identify the talent of individuals which got me to start collecting music as a teenager.”

So Thad, What three things make a great A&R and why?

Love what you do! – I collect music, I can talk about country and western, pop music, rock music and I would say I am knowledgeable because I am passionate about music. I live breathe and eat black music. I would say if you are immersed in a scene, you are able to make things happen faster so you need to have a passion for the genre of music you lean towards

Humility – Don’t ever think that you know everything. There’s always something to be learned. Be open to suggestions because the wacky ideas from the person not from your world who tells you about a new producer or genre, don’t dismiss them as that crazy collaboration might be the thing that takes your artist to the next level.

Don’t take things for granted – If you have that link to help get your act to a higher platform even though the job might be designated to a certain PR person or plugger, then just do it. I might have a great relationship with a DJ so I would want to capitalise as I have the relationship with the DJ already. Capitalise as your relationships because you are as hot and famous as you make your acts.

It is one thing being an A&R, but it's another finding a gem that is able to sustain a career. Sounding good and being good are two totally different things so I wondered, what would an experienced A&R look for in an emerging artist before signing them to which Thad deciphered into two parts. “On the left hand side, talent. On the right hand side, the capacity and desire to want to be famous, and what that means is, to want to do the hard work. Near enough every week the official charts has a new number 1. I would say much of people who have success are the ones who put the hard work in. Get to your rehearsals on time, get to your songwriting sessions on time. Reply to the producers who sent you the beat. He continues “I have realised in this world, you can have that God given talent but unless you put in equal amount or even more of the hard work, by and large, you won’t reach your potential. There are individuals who aren’t as talented as others at rapping or singing or playing an instrument but they would practice their craft and become better guitarists or keyboard players and the bottom line is, hard work can pay off equally as much as God given talent.”

So what is the best and worst thing about being an A&R? “The worst thing about being an A&R is, the bosses who do not understand and see the clarity of your vision. Record companies who want immediacy of their financial outlay and sometimes the time necessary for your acts to come to fruition. The best thing about being an A&R is that you wake up each morning and you get to do the thing that you love every day. As someone who eats, lives and sleeps music, being an A&R at a major or independent record company is like the feeling of euphoria.”

That feeling of euphoria is definitely something to keep you going in such a long career but what would be the highlight of someone who has been plying their trade for over two decades? 

Getting a job working in the game. I have been fortunate, my first A&R role at Universal began in 1996. I have been fortunate to have worked during the UK Garage peak and worked with a lot of the artists in UK Hip Hop including Klashnekoff and Skinny Man.

Another highlight would be, many years ago, I met a young man called Mark Ronson in America, and we kept a good relationship and when he released an album, he allowed my producer Baby J to remix his track ‘Valerie’ which went to number 1 on MTV. 

Artists I have signed such as Kele Le Roc and Phoebe. One winning Mobo Awards and me having the right ears to go to Detroit many times to work with Hip Hop legend J Dilla who many producers revere and equate to as the God beat maker or music producer.

I think going to LA and working with a young producer from Chicago called Kanye West. I had an R&B artist who was signed to Universal and I asked my bosses to go to America and work with Kanye West. I would say the highlight is success. I would say the highlight is success.

Wow. What a career. It was clear to see that Thad had the experience, drive and ear for talent which made him so respected. but what one thing did he wish he knew about the music industry when he was younger? "I had no idea, prior to me coming into the music game that the country I live in, didn’t really embrace urban music. What I saw on a street level as a DJ, working in a record shop playing predominately black music to a night time audience of colour, I could never understand why. I realised that the lack of transmission information wise was that the upper echelons of the music industry were not fans of the music, they didn’t listen or engage with the music itself. Urban music was relevant because there were huge Urban acts in America that had broken records and the UK was told to also push that element over here.”

The truth was so telling. The urban industry is something Thad holds dear to his heart and its clear to see why, having such an impact as he did in its emerging years. Which brought me to the end of our conversation and left me wondering, what advice would Thad give to an aspiring A&R? Apply for internships at major and independent record companies. Usually, internships are unpaid but at the end of the day, you must be in it to win it! If you’re fortunate, they might pay you but if you really want to get a job in a corporate environment, you need to be noticed by the people inside that organisation. The only other solution is for you to make noise independently so that A&R’s at record companies recognise you and want to work with you and your artists.

Well there you have it, from one of the most experienced A&R’s in Music.

Make sure you follow Thad on TwitterFacebook and Instagram via @Thadboogie and check out  www.2rype.com

Interview : Phil Kemish

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What does your role entail on a day to day?

Every single day is different at Disrupt, which is one of the things I love about my role. For as long as I can remember, I’ve worked for myself so I get to set the rules. Each week is exciting, from team meetings to catch up eith clients, one day i’m talking to someone about putting on the Rated Awards in 2017 and the next day doing the accounts. When you’re an entrepreneur or growing a business, you have to be pretty hands on and, let’s just say, I wear many hats.

How did you land your current role?

I landed my current role through using experience that I’ve learnt over the last 15 years. I’ve always worked in entertainment and music and I was really interested in media and marketing and the way that technology has changed the way we all communicate. I wanted to create a job for me, that can I do all the things that I love doing and try to make a living out of it. I’ve always wanted to make my passion my pay cheque.

At the very beginning, I was hooking up talent deals with people that I knew with bands and receiving a little cheque but I never thought 5 years ago that I would be doing this now, but I knew if I kept doing something that I loved and earned a living out of it that would be what makes me happy.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

Like any entrepreneur, you have to ride the rollercoaster. It’s never going to be easy, it’s up and down and some days or months can be great and others bleak, but it’s just the fact that you have to keep on hustling and understanding that this is what you do it for.

Keeping yourself motivated is important, that comes down to who you surround yourself with. I surround myself with people who inspire and push me and keep challenging myself as it can be easy to just be complacent but there’s always a younger person that will be hustling harder than you so I think for me it’s about trying to keep one step ahead.

What are the three main skills needed to do your role?

Focus – It’s really important to be able to identify something that you love and keep the focus on it and to be able to ride those ups and downs.

Build your Network – Whoever is around you, whoever you meet, be nice and work hard because you never know when you will need to call in a favour so always maintain that network.

Belief – Belief in yourself will get you through the toughest times. I am very passionate about what I do and believe in it no matter if someone tells me it’s not going to happen or it won’t work. Most of the time I have to try until it works.

What is your career highlight so far?

Over the last few years, I’ve got myself to the point where I’ve been able to meet some of my idols and call people that I looked up to, mentors and friends. I think when I started in business, I wrote down a list of people I wanted to meet and having the chance to meet them and spend time with them and now call them acquaintances and friends is probably my highlight. Also, putting on The Rated Awards, I felt like it was something that defined a moment in youth culture that needed to happen. Those are two things I am really proud of.

What do you wish you knew about the industry before you secured your job?

I wish that I understood that it’s not going to be easy. I wish somebody explained to me the grind could take 15 years and it wasn’t just going to be overnight. When you pick something that you are going to do for the rest of your life, you need to make sure it’s something you really want to do as the only thing that will get you up in the morning is the fact that you love it.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone that wants to work in the creative industries?

I think the creative industries is a massive sector and people underestimate the amount of roles there are in the industry. I never went to University and wanted to be a musician and I didn’t know much about media and marketing but I did it naturally as part of being in a band. I did the marketing and managed a band. There are so many different paths and I think technology has opened up so many levels of jobs and opportunities for young people.

We are the generation that has grown up with video editing software on phones, snapchat and the older generations are out of touch with how the younger generation communicate and put content together. Going into the creative industries, you need to learn your craft and do your research. I’m always a massive believer in if an opportunity doesn’t knock then you can create your own door.

Interview : Grant Brydon

We caught up with Grant Brydon, Online Music editor at RWD Magazine and Hip-Hop Editor at Clash Magazine to find out what exactly his job involves and his journey into music.

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What does your role entail on a day to day?

I have three main roles that I commit most of my time to on a daily basis – Online Music Editor at RWD Mag, Hip-Hop Editor at Clash Magazine and Social Media Editor at 100 Percent – then I often pick up freelance projects and writing commissions along the way.

On a daily basis, I’ll spend a few hours updating the RWD Mag website with news posts, new music and long-form features, which usually involves picking up the phone to do an interview. In the past twelve months, we’ve had in-depth interviews with everyone from the stars of the future such as Jammz and Gallant to heavyweights like Giggs and Big Sean.

I’ll also work on new content for 100 Percent, which is a UMG-owned media brand that I’m helping to build around their Hip-Hop, Grime and R&B playlists. That entails everything from writing copy for short videos, curating playlists on SoundCloud and Apple Music to liaising with artists and their managers on how we can support their new releases.

Clash stuff tends to depend on where we’re at within the creation of an issue, if we’ve just dropped one then we’re normally catching up to talk about which acts we should be talking to for our next issue, or we might be setting up photoshoots, or if it’s deadline week then I’ll probably be hiding myself away in cafes and writing and editing features all week.

Then the most important thing is to find time to actually listen to music, which I usually do while I’m out walking from place to place, or if I’m getting a train somewhere. I live in Leeds and mostly work from home, so I don’t have a commute, I just have to carve out some time for that. I usually listen to the latest Beats 1 shows, Chillin Island on Know Wave radio and then get caught up on whatever albums and mixtapes have dropped that week. Without staying up on new music, I really can’t do any of my other work.

How did you land your current role?

I’ve rarely applied for any of the jobs I have in a traditional way. Since the beginning of my career, I’ve just worked hard and been as prolific as possible with what I believe to be high quality work – a lot of it having been unpaid for years, which I spent living back with my parents in Newcastle in order to make things work. From there I’ve found jobs mainly by being recommended by mutual friends, or sometimes just reaching out and introducing myself. I try to set up a day or two of meetings in London every couple of months just to touch base with people and keep up my relationships.

What is the best thing about your job?

When I’m caught up in a project and things get stressful it’s easy to forget, but ultimately getting to indulge and share my love of music is the best thing about my job. The stuff I’m doing is stuff that I’d find a way to do whether it was my job or not – so I’m lucky to be being paid for it. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been motivated, soothed, excited and encouraged by my favourite artists, so it’s nice to be able to give back in some small way.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

The most challenging aspect is the fact that I only have a certain amount of time with which to work and, because my job is tied so closely into my passion, I find it difficult to switch off.
I also think the fact that we live in such a fast food culture, where people demand so much so quickly can make things difficult. It would be nice if music had time to marinate and last like I remember it doing when I was a kid and all my CDs fit in one shoe box – but now when Friday comes and the new albums drop, it feels like whatever came out last week is decades old. There’s definitely a flip side to that though, we always have a tonne of new music to be excited about and inspired by, and I think music as a whole is more varied than ever – as long as you take the time to look beyond the surface.

What are the three main skills needed to do your job?

Passion, determination and curiosity. I think as long as you’re open to reflect and learn, you put in that work to learn your history, practice constantly and don’t get put off by the many hurdles that will undoubtedly be thrown at you along the way, then you’ll be successful. Everyone I know who hasn’t made it in whatever field they were pursuing did so because they got distracted by other paths or their ego got in the way of learning, so they gave up and changed direction. It’s never been because they weren’t good enough.

What is your career highlight so far?

There’s been a lot of highlights, I’ve interviewed most of my heroes and have had the chance to travel a little bit, which is always cool. But my highlight has to be the weekend I spent in North Carolina with J. Cole and his crew in North Carolina around the release of his 2014 Forest Hills Drive album. That insight into his relationship with the people around him – his team, his family and his friends – and his relationship with success, has actually had a profound affect on the way I’ve approached my own career since.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone that wants to work in the creative industries?

Always take some time out to self-evaluate on a monthly basis, and never compare yourself to others. As long as you’re making some progress towards your personal goals, then that’s all that is important. Everyone has their own path, but as long as you’re focussed on your own growth and you stay on track then you’ll make it.

Interview : CK Goldiing

In a world’s-first challenge, CK Goldiing, originally from Sheffield, arrived in London July 7 2015 with just £100, a bag of clothes and his camera. The presenter/photographer went on to provide 100 unsigned London musicians with stunning new press photos for their promotional efforts and Artists payed CK what they wanted.

Fast Forward to 2016 and CK has returned with a project called 'Vitae', a unique series of photographs that can be listened to, Inspired by a London-based singer-songwriter who broke down during coffee with CK. We caught up with CK to talk about his story, 100 Musicians, Vitae plus more!


You've done previous projects such as #100Musicians - what was that experience like and how did it help with Vitae?

On the most fundamental level, if not for #100Musicians, I would never have met Ivohe – she was musician #83. On a more profound level, however, #100Musicians gave me a thirst for discovering, exploring and sharing human stories. 

You seem to always think outside of the box, as a Creative, What inspires you today?

What a question, ooh. Okay, right now, I’m mildly obsessed with Gary Vaynerchuck - an American entrepreneur behind a multi-million dollar digital media & marketing empire. Somehow, he’s managed to take the traditionally dreary subject of business, and made it into the most compelling online series you could imagine. His film crew document his daily endeavours, as he engages with clients, delivers speeches and sits in a taxi. I’m not doing a great job at selling his brand here, but honestly, the guy is a charisma machine, and what I respect most about him, is he is unashamedly himself: wearing Nike trainers, jeans and swearing like a builder at every given opportunity. Imagine taking Steve Jobbs’ business acumen, then adding Al Pacino’s charisma. That’s Gary Vee.

I know this has nothing to do with photography, but in truth, very little about ‘photography’ inspires me day-to-day. Day-to-day, I’m most inspired by humans making the most of their given talents.

When shooting photographs, what techniques do you use? 

oh, this question, ha, Is ‘no technique’ a technique? I’ve gone on record many times saying the mechanics of photography bore me, it’s the human interaction that excites me. A photographer friend started telling me about her new lens recently, and as she beamed, I could feel myself drifting off, thinking about KFC - I simply don’t share her love of kit, sorry, just no! I don’t think I’ve ever taken a photograph with a camera in my life… I instinctively take photos with empathy. Singer-songwriter Izzy Thomas and I were recently hanging out (in KFC, actually) when she said, “CK, you don’t shoot people, you shoot people’s souls.” I hugged her a bit. 

Ultimately, if someone leaves a photoshoot with me feeling like they’ve been on a photoshoot, I’ve failed.

You are a presenter, as well as a photographer, how do you balance the workload of both?

The two are more complimentary than you’d think. My years in radio and now events/online TV has taught me how to create engaging content. When you’ve presented music festivals to several thousand people and made them all laugh, it teaches you stuff. Take #100Musicians for example, that colossal six-month adventure played out via daily videos on my facebook page, and thanks to my presenting DNA, I had a head start in knowing how to deliver content in a fluid, coherent, engaging manner. I don’t see a huge difference between presenting and photography – let’s face it, at the heart of both disciplines, is positively connecting with human beings.

What does CK Goldiing have planned for the future?

CK Goldiing? How formal. Okay, I’ll take your lead and say I intend to develop my brand to the point where ‘CK Goldiing’ is a word people associate with authentic, honest, inspiring human stories. I’ve written three formats since #100Musicians, and I’m now engaging with production companies. Early November, I’ll be in London for a month, as I’ve found a great videographer who is keen to work with me on a mini docu-series I’ve written. It’s nothing to do with photography, incidentally, but everything to do with inspiring humans. It amazes me how much value is placed on celebrity culture nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I love a Rihanna song, a TOWIE episode or a shallow gossip column as much as the next guy, but that vacuous garbage accounts for only 5% of the weekly content consumption. 

It’s now nine months since I completed #100Musicians, and still, people are so kind and generous in their memories of it, emailing me or telling me face-to-face what they loved about it. Anyone who knows me will know I don’t ever talk about #100Musicians unless someone asks me about it, so for people to still talk about it when they see me reassures me I’m on the right path.  

You can check out CK Goldiing's Creative Conversations, here.

 

Interview : Kosha Dillz


Kosha Dillz is a lyricist with a twist, having being named as one of the top 10 L.A rappers by LA weekly in 2015 and performing at shows including SXSW and currently touring in Poland, Kosha stopped off for an interview with MungzMedia.


Kosha, what inspired you at a young age to become a musician?

I think it was just wanting to fit in with my local friends. I saw the attention that someone was getting and that really wanted me to express myself. I also like the competitiveness. I also liked the trumpet and the feeling of playing in a band when I was younger than that.

Your Jewish faith is a feature in your music, Do you feel like there is stigma against Jewish rappers or rappers who show faith?

I think there is a stigma against Jews in general in the music business because of the "business side." Hip Hop is specifically an emotional side of people who don't have much and are pointing fingers (in a good way to express themselves.) when this transcends boundaries and messages to lots of people, people develop the stigma.

You grew up in the golden era of Rap, and have a background in battle rap, How has that affected your career as an artist?

I grew up competing and battling in general. I think it help me develop my own sound. Now adays, lots of the music sounds the same. People don't know the difference between who is who , since it all sounds the same. 

You come across as a artist who values his lyrics, Do you agree that hip hop has lost it's 'lyricism' factor? would you agree with this? If so, why do you feel that is?

Sure it has. It almost is more genius to sound dumb than it is to sound smart.  I just was emailing with someone who complained about one my lyrics in a song I completely freestyled. The guy I made the song with had 3 grammy nominations with Sia. You catching on yet?  There are methods to madness. That does not replace the need for intelligent lyrics. I recently created one of my best songs in Poland. Excited to show that to hip hop heads on my new album.

Are you familiar with any rappers or MCs from the UK? If so, do you see yourself ever collaborating with rappers from London? 

Yes I love hip hop from London. I believe there is so much talent from the New School to old school sounds.  I am a big fan of the deejays too. I currently jam Little Simz and even tried to book her for my SXSW showcase (didn't happen) and met her online in Texas and was really excited. I dig the obvious Roots Manuva and playing a festival with Matisyahu where he is also playing. I also listened to some Lady Lesshur recently and also know the singers of UK are amazing. I once had a gig in Manchester where Rita Ora was playing across the Street when her album dropped in 2012. My favorite act I met in US from UK/ Scotland was Young Fathers. "Get Up" is a top song of mine.  And of course, I am a big fan of Danny Seth. He has really balanced the wordplay of new and old school with cutting edge visuals and beats.

UK rap and Grime is still in its infancy in terms of recognition worldwide, what advice would you have for rappers over here in the UK? 

I think that you shouldn't be afraid to find your own projects with your own money. I think if you see an opportunity and you can travel to America or somewhere else, you should do it. I hope everyone can say it is OK to go for it. Money stops a lot of people from pursuing the journey I pursue journey and let the money get figured out later.

As your career continues to grow and you get even more fans, Where would you like to see Kosha Dillz in the next two years?

I would like to see myself with a billboard charting record and helping as many people as I can. I hope to expand far into Europe with writing and create experiences for everyone that are special. Ideally, I will be remembered as an artist who gave more than he got, and people will remember the way I made them feel. If I can have a hit song that does that in 2 years, I should also write about 200 more songs :) But yeah, I want to help as many people as I can.

If you had to pick three words to describe your musical style, what would they be and why?

Different, Authentic,  Cultural. 

Different in being that you haven't heard the sound before but it sounds familiar, but it is "different." - Authentic because you can tell it is real. - Cultural because you will most likely leave saying, I think "this guy is jewish or something." You hear languages and sounds that most people don't use.

Kosha Dillz has a new album coming July 15th.  Pre-order it here and help him on his quest to have a charting album. It features production from YUC Beats, Curtiss King, Ski Beatz, Jesse Shatkin, and Nate Greenberg. It features guest vocals from Matisyahu, Ida Hawk, Mickey Shiloh, Nina Dioz, Flex Mathews and Flynt Flossy of Turquoise Jeep. 

Download his last album Awkward in a good way via Itunes - Or Visit www.koshadillzworld.com to keep up to date with music and tours.