Artist —

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Biography —

“Imagine you’re a carpenter, right – you understand wood, you make beautiful picture frames and rocking horses from scratch. Not just that but your dad was a carpenter before you. Then imagine someone offers you a job, you get there and they say they just want you to assemble Ikea flat-pack furniture all day. How would you feel about that?”

Swindle speaks from the heart on this, because he is a true craftsman who does things his own way, and it’s in his blood. From his very earliest memories the sounds he remembers around the house were blues, funk and jazz, either from vinyl albums playing or his dad playing guitar – “he would play all day, it’s all he would do,” laughs Swindle, “when he wasn’t arguing with my mum or working.” His dad’s band played classic covers, and would play at his school fetes and similar events, and as soon as he could pick up a guitar he was learning songs like George Benson ‘Broadway’. But growing up around south London, other music was naturally seeping in too: pirate radio was ubiquitous at his primary school in the mid-90s, the sound was jungle. “‘Original Nuttah’, M-Beat ‘Incredible’, those…

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“Imagine you’re a carpenter, right – you understand wood, you make beautiful picture frames and rocking horses from scratch. Not just that but your dad was a carpenter before you. Then imagine someone offers you a job, you get there and they say they just want you to assemble Ikea flat-pack furniture all day. How would you feel about that?”

Swindle speaks from the heart on this, because he is a true craftsman who does things his own way, and it’s in his blood. From his very earliest memories the sounds he remembers around the house were blues, funk and jazz, either from vinyl albums playing or his dad playing guitar – “he would play all day, it’s all he would do,” laughs Swindle, “when he wasn’t arguing with my mum or working.” His dad’s band played classic covers, and would play at his school fetes and similar events, and as soon as he could pick up a guitar he was learning songs like George Benson ‘Broadway’. But growing up around south London, other music was naturally seeping in too: pirate radio was ubiquitous at his primary school in the mid-90s, the sound was jungle. “‘Original Nuttah’, M-Beat ‘Incredible’, those ‘Junglist Massive’ CD compilations…”

Then the two worlds collided: just as he was reaching the end of primary school his older brother – who was deep into the jungle scene already – got a sequencer, and he realised he could start making beats of his own. “That was it,” he says, “that was IT. When that dropped me and him used to fight to use it, we had to do it in shifts in the end because that was everything.” From here, the pattern was set. “The minute I could get touch something that made noise, that was it, it would consume me. I’d put down my Sega Megadrive and do nothing but work out this new kit. I used to draw all the time, I used to draw every single day when I was a kid, people used to say “oh you’re going to be a draw-er, you’re going to be an artist” but the minute I could make a noise with a keyboard, that was it, I don’t think I ever seriously picked up a pen again.”

All through school, through the era of jungle and UK garage, he honed his craft. His friends would have decks in their garage and every day after school would be dedicated to mixing and MCing, recording mixtapes (“it’d be one side drum’n'bass, one side garage, belt drive Numark decks, spitting lyrics down the headphones because we never had mics!”), or just making beats. He clocked onto the vocal, soulful side of garage immediately, listening to TJ Cases and Jameson – but at this time never made the connections to his dad’s collection: “when you’re 11, 12, you’re just IN it, you don’t analyse because you’re too busy living it.” And in any case he was just as caught up in the high-tech jump-up side of drum’n'bass – Full Cycle, Dope Dragon, V Records, the rugged steppers that took over as the original jungle explosion subsided.

His reputation grew around the local area, he produced tracks for friends’ mixtapes, he started learning the hustle of (literally) street level music. “For one of my best friends’ mixtapes,” he remembers, “I did about 90% of the beats, and I’d constantly be selling them, to the point where me and another friend got banned from Westminster borough for selling CDs outside the Trocadero – they said we were on camera, they’d take our CDs and our money, we’d get nicked and all that…” Ironically his relentless pursuit of music left him without the qualifications to study music technology at college, so he got onto a media course just for access to the college studio, but by this point his local celebrity made him realise that he didn’t need any official validation – that he could pursue his music on his own terms.

This was the era of grime. “It was just after ‘Pow!’ came out; the summer before that we’d gone to Carnival and followed a float, heard ‘Pow!’ for the first time and saw the whole place going mad, so this was the era of grime. Everyone was standing around in alleys or on the back of their bus with their phones playing Plastician ‘Cha’ and spitting lyrics.” So naturally Swindle turned to that sound, but tried always to make it more musical, to bring in the influence from Californian g-funk and his own background in soul. Hooking up with renowned female MC No Lay was a breakthrough – “we made the tune ‘Swagger’ and that same night went through 1Xtra to be interviewed by Cameo, and that was the first time I’d been on radio – I’d not been on pirate, community radio, nothing.” Terror Danjah heard this and got in touch and links opened up to the East London power base of grime. “It was hilarious,” he remembers, “I realised all these guys lived on the same road or near enough, and I’d trekked all the way practically from Surrey with a bag of CDs, sweating, and I realised I was disconnected from that scene – but you know what, it was just an excuse to push harder.”

From doing a mixtape with No Lay connections got made, first in the grime scene with collaborations with MCs like Ghetts, Essentials and Big Narstie, then Swindle started going into the studio with bigger names. He produced Chipmunk and Professor Green just as they started to break through, he had a single with Mutya Buena and Ashley Walters which was his first taste of radio playlist, and he started to connect with the briefly flowering UK funky scene too, but somewhere amongst all this his own vision seemed to be getting lost. “I was working a 9-5,” he says, “getting older, didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, couldn’t work out what I wanted from my music, frustrated that all these artists were getting deals and I wasn’t – and it was then I met Elijah, who was starting up Butterz. He said ‘you should do a grime thing’, I said ‘yeah but I can’t be bothered dealing with all these MCs’, he said ‘well don’t then! Just do what you want, just keep it to the bass.’ And that’s when I did ‘Air Miles’”

That track was eventually released on Planet Mu, and became his calling card. “From then on it was so much easier to say to people what I did,” he explains, “and to DJ and to just have an identity musically.” Coming as it did close to the foundation of the Butterz label, and Planet Mu’s release of Terror Danjah’s ‘Gremlinz’ instrumental compilation, it was a statement of intent for the new wave of instrumental grime, too. It said that this music could exist, and had appeal, in its own right, and it had Swindle fired up. “At this point,” he says, “I used to wake up every morning going ‘what can I do, what can I achieve?’ If I didn’t do something musically productive in a day I’d beat myself up, going to work would really really depress me to the point where I was getting sacked from jobs monthly. I’d been kicked out of school, I didn’t finish college, I had no qualifications, so it was like ‘I’m either going to do a shit job all my life, or I’m going to make this work’, I didn’t want to know about anything else.”

And it worked. His Butterz releases spread his popularity to new audiences, and he became a vital part of the Butterz organisation. He hooked up with dubstep legend Silkie after friends said he should check out his music, and he found a kindred spirit and collaborator. Silkie introduced him to Digital Mystikz’s Mala who gave him two major breaks. The first was signing him to his Deep Medi label, where he had the creative freedom to explore his sound over a couple of EPs then create his ‘Long Live the Jazz’ album – the album that has become his calling card – free precisely as he wanted without the pressure of A&Rs trying to force him to fit into either commercial methods or particular underground trends.

The second break was asking Swindle to join the live band for his ‘Mala in Cuba’ touring show. which showed him a whole new side of the music industry. “Playing festivals globally,” says Swindle, “has opened my eyes to what’s possible. Compared to clubs, it’s completely different, it’s professional, the production values are big, you connect with audiences in a different way, it’s just something else altogether.” In fact playing live in this way, with a truly independent artist, gave him more sense of scope and possibility than all his contacts with major labels to date.

And it’s there that we come back to his opening quote. Again and again, both in the early grime days and since his skills as a solo artist have been appreciated, Swindle has been called into the offices of the major labels, offered money and development deals, then asked to produce generic “urban” dance pop. “I honestly don’t understand it,” he frowns. “They know what I do, they know what I can do, but they say, ‘look, just do a four-chord pop song, just do it this way, put chords that sound like that record that’s been a hit already,’ and I’m like ‘why? Why would you want me to do that?’.

“It’s not even like it works – I’ve seen other producers from grime and other scenes go through the process, they might have one big record, then nothing. They’re done, lost in the system. So if they want me to produce for some big singer, it’s got to be because they want my sound, or there’s just no point.” And this is not ego speaking, either: simply Swindle knows what all his work over the years is worth. This is an artist who could be a British Timbaland, a British Pharrell, someone who could bring underground innovation right to the heart of the mainstream – so would YOU like him to do that, or would you prefer he capitulated and just made Ikea flat-pack beats?

 

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Dates —

12th December 2014
dubshack, Tallinn (Estonia)

31st December 2014
LEONCAVALLO, Milan (Italy)

16th January 2015
Fabric, London (UK)

14th February 2015
Cellar Bar, Oxford (UK)


News —

Hear Swindle’s new single – Walter’s Call —

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Listen to the new Swindle track forthcoming on Deep medi / Brownswwod via this FACT link here.

Source: FACT 9th September 2014

Swindle Video: Pledge Allegiance —

Check this out! – Swindle – “Pledge Allegiance” The Video! Watch it here.

Source: Noisey 12th July 2013

Swindle LP Long Live The Jazz is out now —

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The superb album from Swindle ‘Long Live The Jazz’ is out now on Deep Medi Musik.

Hats off to him for smashing it!

Click THIS LINK to check it out

Source: iTunes 24th June 2013

Debut LP from – SWINDLE —

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DEEP MEDi are proud to Announce his debut LP -

Swindle – Long Live The Jazz – 16.06.2013

YouTube link

Source: YouTube 24th April 2013

Swindle vs Joker | Live at Butterz Is Three —

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Check out Swindle go back-to-back with Joker at Butterz 3rd birthday hosted by JME here

Source: RBMA Radio 27th February 2013
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