CONDUCTA TALKS BRINGING GARAGE INTO THE 21ST CENTURY, STORY BEHIND “LADBROKE GROVE” & NEW SINGLE “4-4-2”
2019 was the last time we had a summer, and the legendary “Ladbroke Grove” was its soundtrack. It was inescapable. The song was sure to make an appearance at every rave or house party we found ourselves at. The bubbly instrumental, pitched up Jorja Smith vocal sample, and AJ’s booming cadence, would prove to be the perfect ingredients for the best song of 2019. The identity of the mastermind who put this all together is revealed in the opening moments of song, as the name “Conducta” is heard right before the beat’s hypnotic prowess is fully realised.
To those of us who are long in the tooth, the instrumental felt like a long lost flame re-entering our life, as one of the most cherished eras in British music was about to take centre stage once more. Many of us who had grown up in the 90s, narrowly missed out on experiencing garage’s heyday at raves, or events; but Conducta’s arrival has signalled a second chance for us to pursue our love for the one that got away.
Conducta isn't just living off of nostalgia though, as a label head of Kiwi Rekords, as well as running his own discord NUKG World, he is determined to bring garage into the 21st century. With the release of his first single of the year “4-4-2” now upon us, we thought it would be the perfect time to chop it up with Conducta and find out more about the man behind the boards.
When did you first fall in love with music? When did you realise you had a deep passion for it?
“I couldn’t pinpoint it to a moment, but whenever I heard music that wasn't pop on the radio, or when my mum was taking me on trips, it stirred a curiosity in me. Whether it was trance, dance or hip hop, I always had that curiosity within me. I feel really my love for music was cemented during my LimeWire days. That curiosity extended to making music, I feel like the moment only clicked when I was like 14-15, I realised I was of half decent at it. Like with most things when you're a teenager you're just exploring and seeing what you're good at, like football or music you know? I was academic at school, I was decent at football, but I LOVED music. Music was my love, I knew that I loved it regardless of the genre, I had a deep passion and desire to want to go into the history of music. I'm glad it’s turned out the way it has, it’s a blessing to be able to live it.”
I know you studied History and Politics at SOAS. What was the original plan?
“There wasn't a plan at all! It's alright now cause my parents are kind of cool with it. But I felt like being from Bristol, as much as Bristol is like the city and the hub of like culture and stuff, I didn't wanna stay there for the rest of my life.
“London just seemed the place of opportunity, whenever I came to see my family and stuff, and we'd take the trips on like National Express or by car, my tune for going on the Westway was Kano “Nobody don’t dance no more”, but it was the Fraser T Smith remix. It was my London tune. I also loved Dubplate Drama, just felt like I needed to be in London, and it felt like you had to be there for music.
“So my parents plan was get a degree, and do a law conversion. I did love history and politics, but really me being able to do that course was just to appease my parents. My plan was get to London, network, try and finish my degree, but once I finish my degree just try and take music forward. But yeah soon as I landed in London, the first thing I spent my student loan on was decks.”
What was it about production specifically, that drew you in?
“Me and my cousins, we all used to make music. We had this cracked version of Fruity Loops, like FR6 or 7? There was bare people making music in Bristol at the time, but we just didn't think it was any good, we thought we could make better music. We were a bit cocky and a bit gassed, but yeah we fucked about on Fruity Loops for time. Again around those times, my big inspirations were A2, Dot Rotten and Beat Creatures; like the kinda grime we were trying to make was more the deeper side of grime. The RIP Young Dot tapes, that was our grounding in terms of us learning production. We were just trying to find our sound, just making mad grime beats, mad hip hop beats. I was an obsessive. I was like obsessed with music, I just wanted to get that to come through in my production.
“If I was 20 now, you've got so much stuff around you to learn. Everything we did back was trial and error, we just learnt on the fly. There were no Youtube tutorials, there wasn't that kind of access, it was just kind of like you do it you flop, you try something else and you just build your skill set like that. My advice to everyone would be just to learn, theres so much access to information which is out there now. You can learn to produce in like a month, if you just sat down and watched a tutorial like every other day or something.”
Do you think the internet has made people more predisposed to being unappreciative?
“Theres obviously negatives and positives. I think appreciating things has become a lot harder for people. The internet has saturated things, but it has also allowed people to dig deeper to find what exactly they like.
“At the end of the day, it's really good to be able to grow, evolve and open your mind to new things and broadening your horizons is never ever a bad thing. Because theres more access, people probably feel more entitled, its microwave culture, everything is a lot quicker, things move faster. That's a negative.
“It’s taken me eight years to get where I am now, you'll be doing graveyard sets 4 to 5am or 9 to 10am learning how to DJ and stuff, like proper learning the art of how to do stuff. Whereas now you can make a couple of tunes, blow and then you're doing headline shows, within a year or six months. You can get on a lot quicker, the route to it is a lot quicker. Your career might not last as long, but theres a more direct and a quicker route, and I think you can see it sometimes, people fail to appreciate the journey. I think a lot of producers fail to appreciate that. Again, whenever I'm mentoring or giving advice, thats always what I say. Like this hasn't happened because of “Ladbroke Grove”, this happened because of the stuff five years before "Ladbroke Grove”, and I think people fail to appreciate the history of people's journey to a particular point.”
Speaking of history, What do you think happened to UKG? Why did it fall out of favour?
“I wouldn't say that I'm the most well versed, its been documented before. But just other stuff happening, you know the rise of grime, and everything else around it, garage almost became a dirty word. Something I noticed when I first came to London, I never saw garage on flyers. Only in like the last three or four years, I've been seeing garage or grime put on flyers. Before that it was like house, or it would say urban, that was the thing.
“I think in terms of garage and what happened to it, I feel there were gap periods after maybe 2007, just basically the tens. That period where, I think it wasn't as active and it went underground. Not to shit on anyone from that era, but I feel that there wasn't a bridge between what had happened before. From like 2012/2013 I saw Royal T, DJ Q and Flava D making garage, but I hadn't seen the bridge being built between them and like for example Matt Jam Lamont and like all of those kind of names. I just feel that there was no lineage. For example, if you look at grime, you can trace the lineage of MCs passing the torch. I remember Skepta and Novelist, there was that sort of easily traceable lineage between the old gen and the new gen. With garage, i just felt like there was a gap, there was almost a vacuum.”
What are Kiwi Rekords doing differently from the previous generation? To ensure that UKG doesn’t fall out of favour again?
“It's about building an ecosystem. So for example now, say for the next 18 months you're gonna see one in four artists make a garage tune or make a tune with a two step pattern, and then people will probably get bored or annoyed. This is what happens. For me, theres no reason why a scene cant swing, the pendulum cant swing in and out, and it can benefit both. It’s the same with grime, like the genesis of that was like “German Whip”, when stuff like that happened it allows grime to be in another space where its like mainstream and exposed, but its also a chance to shine a light on those people in the underground. For me, I’ve always tried to shine a spotlight or give a platform with my platform to people who I really rate who are pushing the sound forward.
“I feel like again, in two years time, if people stop making garage or garage becomes a dirty word, it will be different because we'll still be having our shows, we'll still be doing stuff, we'll be doing our thing; there's still gonna be that ecosystem for everyone living within it. It wont be for those on the outside to go and take advantage of it, and fuck off and maybe make another garage tune every two or three years when someone big wants a hit.”
Did The idea for the NUKG World Discord come out of being in lockdown?
"I felt like when i first started making garage, there wasn't really a community or a scene. I remember making tunes, or DJing and then that was it. I couldn't really go and talk to all these other producers. I felt like at the time when i was coming up, Royal T, DJ Q might have been playing my tunes, but I wasn't like friends with them, I was just sending them tunes kind of thing.
“With the Discord, I tried to pool together that the energy from all those old forums like PureGrime, GetDarker and stuff like that but I wanted to make it about New UK garage. Obviously I respect the foundations of were garage has come from, but the battle I'm facing is that I'm fighting nostalgia constantly, and I didn't want the Discord to be focused on old school garage. How do you fight it meaning so much to people, but then them being stuck in the past and thinking that this is the only thing that's great about it? How do you make people realise, 'Ah cool, thats what was going on then, but this is whats going on now'.
“For me, the Discord just came out of me wanting to create a sense of community, and not just being a stop gap for shows, but like allowing people to just connect and I feel like especially now, within the last year or so, you've seen how important community is. And I feel people who care about community, or keeping people together, have done stuff actively to show that they care. It's more needed than ever, so I feel like yeah, that was the whole thing with the Discord. I remember being like 12 or 13, listening to Logan on Kiss, and then going on Grimepedia to get rips of the tunes that you heard on the show. With the Discord, the quality is like 96KBPS or 128KBPS, so it was like listening to radio, hearing all these tunes in different sets and stuff it was sick. It was sick to be able to give the younger generation the same feeling we had listening to radio back in the day.”
Did people suddenly start hitting you up for a garage tune after “Ladbroke Grove”?
“Yeah 100%. When I was in my deal at the time, the person who was looking after me at the label said maybe you should make like Afrobeats or something cause theres not really a place for garage on the charts at the moment. I got told that in 2018, so it speaks for itself really! I've not held grudges or made it personal, I just try and do my own thing, and let the achievements and accomplishments speak for themselves.
“Certain things have happened in terms of people questioning my motives, like what I wanna do it for, and again like I'm not in it for myself, I just want the community to thrive. One thing i noticed was that I was getting booked for all these festivals and stuff, but I wasn't really getting booked around the nu garage crowd, I was getting booked on like mulit line ups, and this isn't sustainable unless theres a scene. There needs to be a scene, it cant be just me, and it’s not just me making garage or DJing garage. The purpose of Kiwi is to provide an outlet, not just for people to dip in and out of, but to create an ecosystem where people can thrive and win via garage.”
What is the story behind “Ladbroke Grove”. How did it come about?
“With “Ladbroke Grove”, me and AJ had been in the studio a few times just trying to work on stuff. I had like 5 or 6 beats for AJ, and he liked all of them, but sometimes some things hit, sometimes things don't. And I remember one night he text me at like 2am, he just said come to the studio, and I had this idea for a beat and initially and he liked it, but we just needed to change a few things around. It took a few sessions of perfecting and getting it right, and obviously getting the Jorja vocal on it. But yeah, it was just a testament to timing, cause again we'd been in the studio a few times, but nothing really clicked or connected. It's very easy to get disheartened if you feel like something is not happening, but again it's just timing. I didn’t even know the tune was gonna be on his album till like a week before or something.
“I never ever thought it would snowball the way it did. I always tell this story, but I said if this gets into the top 40 I'll get a tattoo, which I still haven't got! I think maybe debuted at 57 or so? then it kinda stayed in the top 100 for a while, and then it was that weird period in England where it gets hot really randomly for like maybe two or three weeks, and then it was like festivals where it started getting played out and then the rest is just history in terms of it snowballing. Every week I was checking the charts and it kept going up and up, think the highest it got to was like three. I was like fuck thats crazy!”
Who would you like to produce for that you haven't worked with yet?
“There’s a lot of artists that I know would sound crazy on garage. Like Unknown T. I know Unknown T on garage would sound crazy, I think M1llionz would be sick on garage, theres a few where I think yeah this could definitely knock. I think that a lot of rappers have little adlibs or flows that I think would be perfectly suited for garage where they're not barring down the whole tune, and its catchy enough for it to be accessible to that audience, then I make something melodic enough so its also accessible to like garage audiences.
“Even Kano, because of that “Nobody Dont dance no more” tune, that song will always hold a place in my heart, but yeah Kano on garage would be ridiculous. I really like FKA Twigs as well, I'd love to get her on a garage tune as well. The list goes on really, even doing the “Ain’t It Different” remix, listening to Headie on garage I can just see it. Its just getting whats in my head onto Fruity, sometimes I'll have a eureka moment and it just goes instantly, but sometimes it takes a while.”
You’ve said before that DJing is your favourite out of the trio of DJ/Artist and producer. What is it about DJing that makes it top of the pile?
“I think it’s because of my love of history. In the same way that I love educating myself, I also like educating other people, and being a teacher. I feel like within an hour set, you can guide people through history and take them on a journey by DJing. I just find it so so fun, the whole process of like getting my record box ready, and going through tunes and thinking 'cool I'm gonna do this transition here', knowing the tunes inside out, knowing the whole skeleton of a set and like what you're gonna do, I like the meticulous side of that. I like getting to a night, and being like 'cool I see you lot, I'm gonna take you through this journey, I know you wanna hear this, I know you wanna hear that, but theres some stuff in-between which I'm gonna make you hear and you're gonna love it.”
Were you ever worried about the decision to produce garage? Did you ever think how I'm gonna make a living out of this?
“I think it was really naive of me not be worried actually. I understand why my parents were questioning me about why I was leaving uni to be a garage producer and a DJ. It doesn't make any sense! But yeah, I look back to the shows I was playing in like 2012-13 trying get my name out there, I wasn't playing massive shows. I wasn't even playing like garage nation shows, you know like the route to get into that world. I was just playing random shows! I was just doing my thing.
“What I do within my sets is I wouldn't play garage for like an hour and a half two hours, I would always treat my sets like a house party, I always felt as if people wouldn't wanna hear the same thing for like two hours or so. I'd play stuff that has a similar tinge to garage, it would be like house, or certain grime tunes, or certain hip hop tunes and again I’d try and fit that into my set so it gives people that context.
“For me biggest inspirations for that were Heartless Crew and Fonti. Because if you listen back to all their tape packs and stuff, the selections were key. That was something as a DJ I wanted to learn, technical stuff of course, but for me it's always about selection. I feel like with selections you cant teach someone to have good taste, it's within you, you either have it or you don't kind of thing.”
Was it always your intention to release tunes as Conducta? Like as an artist?
“I don't think it was. It’s been nice to naturally evolve to that, rather than kind of being pushed into doing it in a way that I didn't really feel suited to. I feel like before when i was making songs, I don't think i was ready to be Conducta the artist, I was just making songs and finding my feet. I feel as if now I have way more of a grounding, way more of an understanding of things and my sound and what I wanna do, I'm happier to be an artist and a producer now.
“Again I have so many ideas, not just for Kiwi the label, but for myself and just to take things forward in terms of creating a legacy, a legacy which is longstanding and will withstand pop stars making garage. I feel as if what I'm building with Kiwi is something that will stand the test of time and hopefully build and contribute to a scene. We're trying not to make the same mistakes that people made before, and have different attitudes when we're approaching stuff, so again we've got the best of before, but with everything thats good about the 21st century.”
Do you have a fave song that you’ve made so far? As Conducta?
“I think my fave song so far, is my remix of “Did you See” by J Hus. I feel that was one of those moments where I felt like yeah I've got one! With that tune and my Goldlink remix, I knew that garage would change my life in a sense. Cause “Ladbroke Grove” was like a tune that made everything go mad, but these two tunes when I made them, I was like 'shit I'm really onto something'.
“I'll say those two are my favourites, but I really enjoyed “Steezing”. “Steezing” for me is like a win because like again at the time the label didn't wanna take the tune, didn't really rate it that much, we put it out ourselves, got to B list on 1Xtra and only spent like £300 on the video. We didn't plug it or anything, it was just a sick sick tune. We went to Winter Wonderland to film it and it was so fun!”
Tell us a bit about “4-4-2”? What else do you have in store for us for the rest of the year?
“For me, with this single I get to showcase my love for football, and like the history of football, but also what football means to me now. The tune is basically about Keeya avoiding commitment, you know bare girls etc. But how we're playing that out is you know in the American league, in the MLS like 20 or so years ago, how they'd take penalties was different. So instead of like penalties from the 12 yard line, they'd like run from the half way line and like dribble towards the goal and then try and score.
“So with the video what we're doing is, Keeya is going to be taking penalties against me, but then when he's running towards the goal, one of his exs or some girl is gonna come and try and tackle him and stuff. But when he scores he is gonna do the Mbappe celebration or do the Balotelli "Why always me".
“But yeah I'm proper gassed for the single, because I get to showcase my love for football, work with another sick MC, and just give garage a new context. I think the instrumental is one of the best I've ever made as well, I'm fully gassed for it. I'm excited to be vomiting my football brain into a single, I've managed to get my whole personality, not even just the music, but everything I love into a track so I'm proper gassed for it.
“Plans for the rest of the year, just working on more singles, working on more music. I think I wanna do another Kiwi Kuts. I’m not sure if live is gonna come back this year but who knows. But yeah just working on more music, maybe a project towards the end of the year, like an actual Conducta project, it would nice to have a mix between my club music, and working on my artistry as well. We'll just see how the year goes really! With Live music having stopped over the last year, it's been kinda nice to work on music while perfecting DJing and getting better.”