Playing Glasto’ with Goldie might be one of his greatest moments, but Illaman‘s new EP Give Us A Smile is about to take him even higher. Before it dropped on Dabbla‘s label Potent Funk, we caught up with the versatile vocalist to talk nip tats, depression and dumplings.
“I’m learning to put [my anxiety] into song.”
Soundchecks are all about checking out new sounds behind the scenes. In these exclusive chats with bands, producers, rappers, singers and musicians, those upcoming artists that deserve the spotlight get a chance to shine.
What’s something not many people know about you?
“I’ve got a happy and sad smiley face tattooed on each nipple.”
What inspired your dope new track ‘Times Of Change’ with DRS?
“Life man. The news. The radio. The people around me. I guess all the subconscious thoughts and information that’s gone into my brain and thought train. I have become a lot more aware of my depressed moments, my anxiety and I’m learning to put that into song or word. Which is great. A bit of that. I’m good friends with DRS so we send each other stuff we’re working on over WhatsApp often. I sent him the verses when I first recorded them, and within about two hours he sent me a version back with his chorus, and was like ‘This just came to me, so I recorded it. Bless if you’re not feeling it though G.’ Well, I was feeling it [laughs] it inspired me to put the EP out to be honest.”
We love Goldie here at Reverb Music, what was it like hosting for him?
“Probably one of the biggest moments in my life. I used to sit and listen to his sets on cassette and stuff. A legend. Our first encounter was in Iceland at Secret Solstice. Pavan from Foreign Beggars was hosting for him and I was out there for a show with Problem Child. The first day we get down to site and I hear DnB banging out from a corner of the festival, so I was like ‘I’m going that way’ and as we got closer, I heard Pav’s voice like ‘YO, ILLAMAN, COME ERE BLAD.’ So I went backstage and Pav made me get up and host a bit with him. It went off. I later kept bumping into G at festivals and stuff and we swapped numbers. He then called me a few times for a chat, which I couldn’t fucking believe and one time I just said ‘Bro, I wanna do some shows with you.’ And there and then he emailed his agent and said ‘I want Illa on my sets.’ I did Glastonbury with him man, still can’t believe that shit. Yeah, it was a very incredible time. It’ll happen again I’m sure.”
What’s your opinion on the UK hip-hop scene right now?
“It’s great, it’s generating some incredible music and sounds. I wish it had more mainstream support but it’s moving in the right direction I think. I’m happy for everyone who is getting their due. It’s deserved.”
Having been in Tomb Crew, Problem Child and PENGSHUi, how does your creative process differ for solo projects?
“It doesn’t to be honest. The process with PENGSHUi is a little different but I just enjoy myself. I’ve always been told by everyone in those groups to be myself, so that’s what I do.”
If you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
- Radiohead – In Rainbows
- Method Man – Tical
- Etta James – At last
Give Us A Smile is packed with introspective lyrics, how did the writing affect your mental state?
“Getting thoughts and feelings out on a song is the best. When I wrote a lot of these tunes, I was depressed and having a tough time in my own head. Probably partying a bit too much which does me no good when I’m down either. But when I hear them now, I hear light. I can hear growth and a moment. It’s like learning a lesson about yourself. Norm Oddity provides me with the perfect backdrop, his beats are like scenes from a film. He is a genius in my ears. He sends me beats and I go, my brain goes straight into gear. I want to go live with him in the middle of nowhere, in a cottage with a fire, a field behind it and copious bags of grade, and write for one month straight… it will happen.”
“My brain goes straight into gear.”
Who would be your dream features for tracks?
- Thom Yorke
- Busta Ryhmes
What’s next for Illaman?
“Another EP with Norm Oddity. And another. And maybe another. An album. I’m also frontman of a punk/grime band called PENGSHUi. We will be touring with the Foreign Beggars in May, playing loads of festivals this summer and have about six million songs ready to drop. I’ll also be trying to smile more, treat myself better and eat more dumplings.”
Listen to Give Us A Smile now
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe