Masro is a rising young producer in the UK Grime scene whose original compositions, hard work and dedication have seen his profile rise throughout 2012. His tracks have received air time on some of the UK's biggest Urban and Grime music shows and this has lead to a number of high-profile collaborations.
Passionate about the UK scene and eager to push new artists, Masro has also set up his own record label, Money Notes Records, where he has acquired the services of Climaks Beats, an up-and-coming producer from Coventry, and is constantly on the lookout for more fresh talent to add to the MNR roster.
Masro's enthusiasm for his trade is infectious and his tracks are fuelled with underground energy. We were therefore extremely pleased when the man behind the beats agreed to take some time out to talk to us about how it all began, his working methods and where he hopes to be heading...
Once again, thankyou very much for taking the time out to talk to us from what we know is an extremely busy schedule. But let's get down to the questions!
Let's start at the beginning – how long have you been producing Grime and how did you first get into it?
I started producing when I was about 15, so about 11 years now, but I would say I started to take it seriously from the age of 19.
Were you into any other type of music before you settled on Grime?
Ye of course!! I have a Jamaican background so I grew up on Reggae, Revival and Ragga (which is now called Bashment). Also, from the age of about 12-13 I got into the whole Hip Hop & R'n'B thing. UK Garage was also a big influence on me growing up.
As we've already touched upon, your tracks seem to have a fantastic energy to them but how would you describe your style?
I would describe it as very club orientated. I really aim for the clubs on my productions! I also do the whole emotional feel but my style is very energetic so it suits the clubs.
As with a lot of Grime tracks, a number of your songs include words over the top from collaborations with lyricists. Do you ever write your own lyrics or are you purely the man behind the beats?
I have done quite a bit in the past but production is where my heart is to be honest.
Do you produce any other type of music?
Indeed! Anything bass orientated so whether it be Grime, House, Electro, Hip Hop, Trap, R'n'B, the list goes on. I would say Pop but 'Pop' is just popular music so anything can fall into that category.
What are your thoughts on the state of the Grime scene at the moment?
Where do I start? I think the scene has come a long way in the last decade from how it was when it started. I think their needs to be more positive MCs (not saying there's not quite a few out there already) but in order for Grime to be labeled as a mainstream genre there needs to be more diversity in this area. Other than that I think the scene's healthy. Producers are releasing consistently, artists are becoming more creative & business minded and it's great to see. Oh ye, one more thing is that I think the scene needs more independent labels rather than everyone relying on the ones that are already established, which is why I started my own called 'Money Notes Records' - look out for us!
Would you say that producing and ideas come easy to you? Browsing through your Soundcloud and Youtube accounts, it seems like you've only started uploading your tracks within the last year. Did it take a long time before you were happy enough to unleash your tracks to the world?
I wouldn't say it comes hard or easy; I just like things to happen naturally. I've never really been someone that does something half-heartedly so I don't like rushing. I also wouldn't say I've only been uploading within the last year because I've been doing it for years on end. I just didn't get recognised and rightfully so as I was not ready but now I feel like I am.
Talk us through how you usually work when laying down a track. Do you usually go into the studio with a vibe in mind or do you go into the studio and play around with sounds/samples until inspiration hits? Or does it vary? How long does it usually take you to put a track together?
I tend to go into the studio with a rough idea of what I want to put down. It might not be a whole track i.e. just the beat, bass or melody, but as long as one of them's down I can vibe off it. More often than not I start with the melody though & build around that. I just think that if you force something, 9 times out of 10 it's going to sound forced & rushed so I've learnt to be patient, especially when mixing down because you can compose a very good track but spoil it with the mix down as I've experienced in the past.
It's mad but one track can take me an hour to complete and another can take a whole week. There's not really a common duration for completing one of my songs, it varies from track to track.
Have you had any guidance along the way (i.e. have other producers/friends/family shared tips and tricks and knowledge with you)?
Nope! Everything I've learned on the way I've learned from trial & error basically. I can tell you this……. locking yourself away from the world & practicing day in day out will certainly only result in you becoming better and better. I also watch a lot of online tutorials on YouTube & various other online sites. This helped me clean up my mix downs.
Your tracks have a fantastic underground feel to them. This may be opening a can of worms here, but if you got a phone call tomorrow from Simon Cowell asking if you would produce a cheesey commercial beat for this years' X Factor winner, what would you say? Is it important to you to stay 'underground'? What do you think of underground Grime artists that change their style to gain more commercial appeal?
*Laughs out loud* You would have to be silly in order to turn that down in my opinion! I would definitely do it simply because it would put me in a different position as in open doors to so many other things like expanding your fan base and money obviously! Getting your music out there to a wider audience, which you could then invest back into the music you have a passion for is what I would use the opportunity for. I think that whilst making the track commercially obvious, I would also give it a grimy feel and inject a sound that I'm known for (that would happen naturally anyway I think).
I hear it time and time again, artists saying "I'm not doing no Pop music" but what is 'Pop'…….?? Popular music as I stated before! We need to come out of this small minded way of thinking. I definitely want to excel; I'm not saying I would turn my back on the genre but I will do other genres 100%. I never grew up solely on Grime. I am so much more than one genre.
As for artists changing their styles, it's up to the individual what they do. Sometimes an artist is well known within one genre but becomes national or even international when they experiment with others. Look at Tinchy Stryder, Wiley,Wretch 32 & Skepta (who all still put out Grime material) for instance and good luck to them all. Not that they need it *laughs*! I think that as long as the artist does not forget where they came from it's fine.
Talk us through your studio set-up. Do you have any favourite pieces of equipment? If so, what makes them your 'favourite(s)'?
My home setup consists of a MacBook running Windows 7 through Parallels for when I use FL Studio 10 (Image-Line need to make this available for OS X like next year!!!), Native Instruments Maschine Mikro, Avid MBox Mini (new generation), M-Audio Axiom 25 (new generation), a pair of the M-Audio BX5 D2s (new generation) (which I bought from you guys, plug plug *laughs*), a pair of M-Audio Q40 Studio Reference Headphones & Auralex Mopads for my monitors to sit on. Simple & effective is the key nowadays. Oh ye and when I'm on the go I put down ideas on my iPhone & iPad using FL Studio Mobile HD and iMaschine. These are genius apps!
Is there any equipment that you've got your eye on for the future?
From someone that is finding success with self-made tracks, so you have any cheeky little production tips for our readers?
Stick at it because at first it does get a bit annoying not getting tracks to sound how you want them to but I promise after a while you will hear and notice the difference. Also if you know someone that knows more than you about music production, be around them at any given moment! Just because I taught myself does not mean that this is the best way to go about it. I just didn't have anyone that would have made a good mentor around me.
Also play your music around strangers as strangers will give you honest feedback. Or play your music around your friends but don't let them know you produced it. And lastly, it's not what you use but how you use it.
Are there any producers that you draw particular inspiration from?
Ye, producers that have inspired me are Timbaland, Swizz Beatz and Dr. Dre for my Hip Hop & R 'n' B influence, Stone Love for my Ragga/Bashment influence and Wiley, Dexplicit, Sticky & Zed Bias for my Dance influences.
What other artists are you listening to at the moment?
I'm going to keep this answer strictly UK. Right now I'm feeling an artist called C4 from Birmingham because he is pushing Grime in a positive & fun manor, which makes him stand out (YouTube him). I'm also listening to a lot of Skepta of Boy Better Know, Manga from twice chart topping Roll Deep Crew (who I've worked with and am currently working with - plug plug *laughs*), JME (again of Boy Better Know), Wiley (this is just becoming so biased but I have to be honest *laughs loud*). I'm also listening to a lot of Emeli Sandé. I think she's a great role model for young girls growing up today and her album is amazing. Oh yeh, and Ed Sheeran! His album is also out of this world!
Which albums couldn't you live without?
You've been working with a fair share of big-name artists recently. How did these collaborations come about?
Most of them were from the artist reaching out to me. This is from getting support from the likes of Kiss 100's DJ Logan Sama, BBC 1Xtra's DJ Cameo & Rinse FM/Boy Better Know's DJ Maximum & loads more so thanks to everyone supporting my music. If you work hard and you're professional others will eventually take notice. It's just patience. All this did not happen over night for me.
If anything was possible, what artists/producers (living or dead) would you like to work alongside and why?
I would love to work alongside Dr. Dre because his ear for music is just crazy! The way he finds artists and just makes them into stars is mad and I think I could learn so much more from just being around him. I would also love to work alongside Timbaland because I want to do what he's doing in terms of working with singers - this is something that I want to branch out into in 2013.
And on the subject of next year, I would like to work with Skepta & Wiley (this year I was lucky enough to get him on something I co-produced ('Step 16') with a producer also from East London called Spooky. Shout out Spooky!). I also want to work with Dizzee Rascal at some point in the future as I think we would work well together because of our diversity.
If I could work with any artist who has passed away it would have to be Michael Jackson, simply because he's the greatest; Bob Marley because I love his music and I feel that him over something uptempo would have worked well and last but not least, Nate Dogg because his voice was amazing! He was true raw talent and he laid the best hooks on songs.
You've started your own record label 'Money Notes Records'. Why did you decide to take this step and how have you found that it has benefitted you? Is running your record label something that you enjoy or something that you felt you had to do to push your act to the next level?
Ye, the reason I started the label was basically so that I don't have to rely on others to release my music (not saying I wouldn't sign my music to major or independent labels, because for the right deal I would) and to give other producers who are not getting support or are not around the right individuals a chance to be around people who want the same thing in life: to be successful in music production.
If you weren't producing music, what do you think you would be doing?
Doing something to do with music. Something like working in a youth club teaching the youth how to DJ.
So, what have you got planned for the future?
Loads of releases in the pipeline, singles, EPs etc. I'll also be doing some guest mixes and interviews on radio…. I can't say too much but 2013 should be a very interesting year for both me and the label.
In terms of your career, where would you like to be in 5 years time?
I want the label and me to be fully established, whether it be under a major or not. Just to be able to push my music to the masses rather than just the underground and have some talented artists signed to the label because that's what my aim is: not to just have Money Notes Records as a production team but a label worthy of signing big artists also.
Do you have any tips for anyone wanting to get their name and tracks noticed in the Grime scene?
Upload your tracks to Soundcloud & YouTube and share them. The internet is such a powerful tool. Also do your research on which DJs showcase new talent and send it to them first, then work your way up. It worked for me and it will for you if you put the time in.
Where can our readers keep up to date with your act and latest songs?
You can check me out here!!
Oh ye, and you can keep up to date with all my news on Twitter (@Masro - https://twitter.com/Masro).
Unfortunately we've almost run out of time but it has been a real pleasure speaking to you. Before you go do you have any final words for our readers?
Ye, remember a talent needs to be worked on, so graft and ask for feedback whether it's good or bad as it will help you grow. Also for all your music production needs shop at Absolute Music and ask for Joe; I do!!
Thanks once again Masro!
If you're a fan of UK Grime, we predict that 'Masro' is a name that you'll be hearing a lot more of in 2013.
If you like what you've read and heard so far, then check out Masro's releases on iTunes (see the links below). Plus, don't forget to follow him on Twitter to keep up to date with all his latest news!
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