Photography by trgrdas.
Interview: SKinniez’s Journey is ‘The Blacc Experience’
How the nomadic Capetonian beatmaker SKinniez's journey led him to his upcoming album 'The Blacc Experience', his first on wax.
SKinneiz's upcoming album, The Blacc Experience, which is to be released by Roastin' Records on vinyl, is the result of the beatmaker's reflection on his own journey as well as the people of colour's collective experiences. "A lot of it is centred around struggle," says SKinniez. "My own personal experience of being a struggling artist in a country that doesn't appreciate the sound has made me rethink my existence as a creative person, especially during a two-year pandemic. But a lot of it is understanding what people of colour had to endure on a daily basis."
SKinniez decided to tackle this issue because he feels that there is a greater disconnect between people despite our interconnectedness. "We're in heavy echo chambers when it comes to information. Even though we're all connected, I don't think we are. Your interests might not be my interests based on your news sources, geography or zoned internet that you're in. Because some countries can't open things on the internet that other countries can."
Childhood and Early Beginnings: Cape Town
SKinniez' childhood was filled with the sounds of jazz, thanks in no small part to the influence of his father, the legendary jazz pianist Hotep Idris Galeta. "My fondest memories were going on vacation with my family in the minibus we had and listening to all types of music like reggae and R&B but mostly jazz," recalls the nomadic Capetonian.
Growing up in a household with such an appreciation for music, his early ventures into rap as a rebellious teen weren't well received. "I'd burn CDs and play them in the car when no one was around and left one in the car by mistake. My dad found it and he said I can't be listening to that type of music and he broke the CD," SKinnez says.
His discovery of a broader music sphere began when he started deejaying around the age of 16, something he began as a reaction to the skills of other deejays. "I thought other people were whack and I could do a better job, so I got into it in high school."
Photography by trgrdas
His early sets featured house music he found on the internet and from friends, and hip-hop from artists like Soulja Boy and T-Pain. Eventually, he started incorporating his own music into his sets. "I got tired of playing other people's music," he says.
Venturing into production: Joburg
Finding early inspiration from the music and artists he discovered through SoundCloud, blogs and YouTube around 2013, his first ventures into production came about while living in Joburg around 2014. He was surrounded by the likes of Daev Martian and other producers who encouraged him to start making music. "Somebody installed Ableton on my PC and I had a pad controller so I just experimented," he recalls.
SKinniez's first release, 2017's (LUV MIX), is the result of this early experimentation, the first of many releases for this prolific producer. "I was learning from being a deejay, just blending things together. I've figured things out for myself. It's been trial and error," he says of his early years as a producer.
SKinniez' approach to his releases, be it his tapes, EPs, or albums, is always a conceptual one, with a narrative driving the release. "I take every project and dissect it in a story format and have some visual representation on a board so I can draw inspiration from it," SKinniez says of his process. From his debut EP focused on the self and aimed at getting him back into the flow of creation and experimentation to his second, HappyBirthday Hotep, dedicated to his late father, the narratives SKinniez explores are deeply personal.
Although SKinniez had a slew of releases by 2018, it was only with the release of his debut album Inhale/Exhale, that he really began to take music more seriously. Inhale/Exhale was released as two separate EPs representing sides A and B of an album.
The Blacc Experience: New York
As a producer, SKinniez's love for sampling goes back to wanting to find out the original samples of his favourite hip-hop tracks, resulting in the discovery of old soul music, 1970s' disco, or even Russian rock. Moving to New York in 2019 also opened the producer up to vinyl culture and through collecting records that weren't on platforms such as YouTube, he began opening himself up to other avenues of sound. "I've found a new respect for digging for ideas, little sounds, or chops," he notes. "I'm resampling myself and learning to avoid certain things that people can pick up and say this is from this song…" As such, his process has changed from his early days to become more refined and honest. "A lot of the new music that's coming out is fewer samples and more me playing."
Over the years, SKinniez has collaborated with a range of artists that include sptmbr yngstr., Tsukudu, Fernando, Macnomonic, THEO, DJQ, and SEJ_ among others. "I love working with other people, I think my best projects come when I collab with others," says SKinniez, adding that producing for other artists is something that he also values. "I've done a few productions for Maglera Doe Boy."
The album bubbled into existence during SKinniez' time in New York while ideating another project which didn't see the light of day but resulted in him meeting a number of different artists that would end up featuring on the album. "I was working on a project called Drums in Isolation and ended up meeting a few drummers, one that ended up on the album. I also met a deejay from Japan that ended up scratching on the album." What cemented the idea of the album was returning to South Africa on the repatriation flights at the beginning of the pandemic.
SKinniez is waiting to see how things play out before deciding on how to promote the album whose release is slated for the 23rd of October. However, he is hoping for release parties in Cape Town and Johannesburg. In the meantime, fans can listen to his latest release [TAPE 4], a collaboration with SEJ_, released on June 16th in commemoration of South Africa's Youth Day. Highlighting the continuous struggle of black people, in this case that of the youth of 1976, [TAPE 4] is thematically a prelude to his album, The BLACC Experience.
Having passed the landmark of releasing an album on vinyl, SKinniez is looking forward to trying new things in studio such as collaborating with more vocalists or recording a jazz album, while his deejay side also remains active. "I'm still releasing edits and remixes as a deejay, we're on volume 4 of that series now." Live performance and scoring features are also on SKinniez' bucket list. For now though, the album is his focus.
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