Lo Tek Hi-Fi interview: Lo-Fi Bumps
Author: Jeremy King
Monday, 19 December 2005
Wayne 'Lo Tek' Bennett, the brains behind British hip hop outfit Lo Tek Hifi, is an extremely sharp and eloquent guy. He's also a big fan of talking. It seems like every question I ask about their current album 'Mixed Blessings' turns into a mini-thesis (albeit an extremely interesting one) about music or the current state of the music industry. It makes for an extremely interesting conversation but also made it very difficult to pick out the eyes of the interview. With Wayne there would be no tales of drinking red wine or snorting lines of MDMA while making the album. Rather simply brilliant anecdotes about reggae artists I have never, ever heard of or the history of jazz musicians. To put it rather simply, this is a guy who eats old hip hop 45's for breakfast every morning and then washes himself in the shower with a few dub singles.
This love of all things music is also clearly reflected in his music as well. 'Mixed Blessings' is a heady mix of hip hop, dancehall, reggae and other assorted music genres. It blends the production and MC talents of Wayne with the lyrical skills of rappers Wayne Paul and Aurelius. To date, these guys had sadly only released a mini-album in 2003, but thankfully they managed to find some time in the studio this year to produce their debut album 'Mixed Blessings'.
Despite the obvious influences of many other genres, at the end of the day Lo Tek Hifi are primarily a hip hop act. But this is not the sort of hip hop you'll hear on Nova. It's dirty, bass heavy hip hop married to a whole host of other sounds which is distinctly British. It's a sound that belongs to the likes of Roots Manuva (who unsurprisingly guests on the album) and to a world far, far away from the sunny shores of Melbourne. And when he is asked to pinpoint exactly what it is that separates London hip hop from that of either east or west coast rap, Wayne has no problems at all in identifying the differentiating factor. "It's the weather," he tells me. "Especially when compared with West Coast hip hop. It's just so grey and miserable in London, man. So I think people prefer to listen to hip hop which is bit more serious, a bit harder. R&B just doesn't sound right here. I was recently in Miami and I started listening to some R&B and I was really enjoying it because there were beaches and the sun was shining… And then I went to listen to it when I got back to London and it just sounded awful. Do you know what I mean- So I think it's mainly the weather that helps produce some kind of different sound for British hip hop."
Different is certainly a word which could be frequently attributed to the Lo Tek Hifi sound as well as their frontman. Prior to developing the group, Wayne had primarily written songs for Roots Manuva and had been a staple in the London hip hop scene for more than 10 years. His contribution to hip hop had mainly been from behind the scenes where making albums "looked easy". The creation of the debut album, and the subsequent touring, has meant that he has had to step into the spotlight a little bit as well as rethink his previously held convictions on what exactly an album is comprised of. "I think there are people who make music for other people, and people who make music for themselves." He states. "And I kind of wanted to be an entertainer that makes music for other people. Which is not to say that I'm not going to make what I like and I'm not going to try and be creative and artistic with it. But I think sometimes being too artistic is self-indulgent because it's all well and good to sit in a room and go 'right I'm creating this masterpiece'. But what happens if you're in a world that doesn't want masterpieces- Do you know what I mean- I see these things being credited as masterpieces and I listen to them and they don't sound like albums. They don't sound like they were constructed like I th Tags