Roots Manuva - Digging The Roots
3D’s Carlisle Rogers fields some questions to Roots Manuva, aka Rodney Smith, and discovers that even with his sixth album Slime & Reason in the bag, the creative path to fruition is still as big a mystery as ever.
Roots Manuva’s new album, Slime & Reason, proves that Rodney Smith is still willing to be experimental when he’s writing, willing to let fate have its way with his music, and willing to skate a thin line between success and underground credibility.
Recorded all over England, according to Rodney, the record was finally born in Waterloo, where it was primarily mixed.
“I think there is always an underlying effort to try something different with every record,” he says from London, in a strange accent that belies the musicality of the songs I just listened to on the new album. “It’s in line with the accidental approach that I have during the creative process. It’s the attitude I have, if something happens and a sample is put in the wrong place, I’ll leave it like that. If vocals are placed in the wrong place and it happens to sound good, I’ll just leave it there. I have respect for the accidents. My career has been a series of beautiful accidents. My management team wouldn’t say that, but for me it has. I never sat down as a 15 year-old and expected to have international tours or even international interviews.”
Frankly, neither did your reporter, but I did try to lock down Rodney on how exactly he extracted what you can buy now in the store from his muse. “The initial impetus, or when I thought I was being organised, I hired a month in a residential studio in the North of England. It was a six bedroom mansion with a spa in the bathroom. That’s where I started the first series of templates, but I really didn’t get that much down at all. I just mucked about and had friends and kids come up and mucked about for four weeks. It never took shape until I came back down and approached everything on a nine-to-five basis. The Gods came down and nudged me in the right way, because even after twenty years I haven’t got a clue about how anybody makes an album.
“There was no set in stone ethos or proper concept. When I write music I have a string of titles or themes that I want to convey and it just happens. I like to book studio time and see what happens. Generally speaking, weird things do happen and it’s the weird, unexpected things that I like to run with. I’m definitely not one of those writers who have everything prepared and knows exactly what they are going to do before they get to the studio. I’m more of a bumbling idiot who goes into the studio with half-ideas and then one sticks to the wall and we run with it. Sometimes I just do it at home with the baby on the knee and the lady shouting ‘turn the noise down.’”
Rodney said that listening to his early work, he is always surprised at how good it sounds, considering his deeper ignorance then; at how valid it still is. “I listen to it everyday and there are some really colourful ideas. I may have listened to it too much. We’ve already done three videos and some shows and I’m too much in it. I’d much rather do the old stuff than the new stuff. But there were a couple of months ago during which I was listening to it and mastering the new record and I was pretty blown away and pretty scared of the vainness of how much I liked the sounds and the record and the attempt to push the hip hop envelope. It’s a good collage of contrasting sounds and lyrical tapestry. Lord knows what it all means.”
WHO: Roots Manuva
WHAT: Slime & Reason through Big Dada/Inertia
WHEN: Out now