Blue Lab Beats Talk Influences, Production Process & Unexpected Lift Meetings

The last two years have seen Blue Lab Beats soar to the forefront of London’s jazz scene. Made up of duo NK-OK and Mr DM, their ‘Freedom’ EP from earlier this year climbed up the charts and into our hearts.

Their latest release is the first glimpse we’ve had of their upcoming album ‘Xover’ and it’s fair to say we’re pretty excited about this one. Not least because the duo’s previous releases have always delivered diversity in sound and today’s double AA singles are no exception.

‘Pineapple’ combines two of London’s most sought-after jazz artists in Nerija and Moses Boyd. The tropical, rolling beat lays the basis for Nerija’s loose horns and Mr DM’s instrumentation to take you away to a land of white beaches and Caribbean sunsets.

‘Dome’, on the other hand, plays testament to Blue Lab Beats’ urban heritage. Laying down the tight bars of Otha Soul and Daniel Taylor over NK-OK’s boom-bap beats makes for a dark, head-nodding gem.

To mark the latest release, we caught up with the guys to talk musical influences, production process and unexpected lift meetings.

SS: We’re really excited about the upcoming album and loving the latest releases. Can you tell us a bit more about the production of your latest delivery?

NK-OK: The background to Pineapple is that it’s an interpolation (new word I learnt from Kwame!) of ‘Yembele’ by Samba Mapangala. I took parts of ‘Yembele’and recorded Mr DM playing guitar, organ and bass, Nerija playing horns, Moses Boyd on drums and then I changed it up a whole lot!

SS: We’re big fans of your ‘Freedom’ EP from earlier this year, as well as of course ‘Blues Skies’ from 2016. How would you say your sound has developed over that period?

NK-OK: So it sounds strange at first, but it’s all about learning about yourself and just realising you can go into any genre and still have the same sound. Your sound will always be there, that is the uniqueness behind it.

Mr DM: It’s developed by adding more features from various artists, rappers and singers and also by using synths in our instrumentations. We take parts from different genres and add them to our music.

SS: You’ve both talked a lot about the vibrancy of London’s collaborative jazz scene. Are you still just as excited about it as you once were?

NK-OK: It’s definitely great to see it grow, especially as we know most of the artists. Nubya, Moses Boyd, Yusef, we could go on and on.

SS: To that end, you’ve worked with some of our favourite artists in the scene including the likes of Ruby Francis, The Age of L.U.N.A, Daniel Casimir and Sheldon Agwu. Do you think it’s this melting pot of influences that makes your sound stand out?

NK-OK: Definitely! Because you see them spread a good message through their music and seeing that also has an influence on your music.

Mr DM: Yes, because to me that’s what I think Blue Lab Beats is all about. Our influences enhance our sound.

SS: You’ve already played some exciting places, from festivals like Love Supreme and Womad to London’s established venues like Ronnie Scott’s and Jazz Café. Across this range, do you have any particular favourites you can’t wait to play again? And are there any other venues at the top of your yet-to-play list?

NK-OK: Yes, I would love to play Love Supreme again! Especially WOMAD, 100%! And let’s not forget Glastonbury too. Another London Venue that is popular in the Jazz Scene is Mau Mau bar, I’d love to play there.

Mr DM: 606 club is definitely top of my yet-to-play list. As well as 02 indigo and Coachella! SXSW Festival would also be real cool to play as well.

SS: You’ve mentioned the range of musical influences you both grew up on. Which particular threads have continued to run most strongly through your music to this day?

NK-OK: Hip-hop records from Public Enemy to Pete Rock, A Tribe Called Quest and especially Slum Village have continuously to run strongly through our music.

Mr DM: Also, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock and George Duke have personally influenced me and it really does show through our music.

SS: We’re big fans of all the tracks from the latest EP but the one that we can’t stop listening to is ‘Keep Moving’. Can you tell us a little more about the production process alongside Nubya?

NK-OK: This stemmed from the drum beat idea I made. Terry jumped on the bass and David came up with the chords on piano. I chopped up the best loop from that. I sent this to Nubya and the rest history…

SS: There’s one question we couldn’t not ask – what does the colour blue mean to you both?

Mr DM: Blue is my favourite colour!

NK-OK: For me blue represents chilled vibes, every colour has its own vibe but for me blue it is!

SS: And last but by no means least, if you were in a fully functioning lift going up just one floor with another artist, who would it be and what would you say?

NK-OK: Kiefer, I wouldn’t have anything prepared to say though. It’s one of those in the moment things but I wouldn’t shy away from telling him how great his music is.

Mr DM: Jacob Collier, one thing I would ask him would be ‘did you enjoy high school?’ The conversation would just carry on from there because we went to the same school!

SS: Thanks so much for speaking with us! We hope our readers enjoy this as much as we did!

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