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Interview: Konshens

Interview: Konshens

Interview: Konshens

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"There is nothing fictional about my songs. I don't make up a story to get a forward"

Sampler

On Tuesday Konshens, having released albums in Europe and Japan (as part of the fraternal duo Sojah), dropped his first official worldwide album on his own Subkonshens label distributed by VP Records. Collecting his big singles over the last few years plus some special remixes, the intriguingly titled 'Mental Maintenance' offers a fascinating insight into the singer-deejay who was raised in both military and ghetto garrisons (Up Park camp, Sherlock Crescent). Like fellow man-of-the-moment I-Octane, Konshens is a versatile artist who sings, raps or deejays on all kinds of rhythms; he is equally versed in the world of art and of business; and he's highly media trained. He was tight-lipped about the new record which has not been sent out as a full promo but he had some insights to share - including a frank appraisal of his own and other artists football skills!

Konshens

The title of your album is interesting. I know you say "music keeps me sane" on your MySpace - is there a connection?

Yes, there it is. Music is like a psychiatrist, basically. It keeps me focused in every aspect - when you're upset music calms me down, when you're too calm music gets me upset. You have a song for when you get good news, a song for bad news, a song for every situation. So music is the thing that keeps us grounded and the mood of the album is a song for every situation.

Music is like a psychiatrist

You decided to release Mental Maintenance on your own label. You were going to drop your first album with Austrian label IrieVibrations at one point - what happened?

It was best for me at this time from a production standpoint because of all the different producers working on this album. In terms of the mixture of producers the best thing was to release it on my label.

I think it would be better for me and IrieVibrations to do an album totally together. Definitely. My bredda them musically so I will definitely do work with them.

The new album has hip hop influenced songs but also some roots songs with live instruments like Homewrecker and Leave Your Side. You sing in a bluesy Dennis Brown style like Michael Rose used to. You're also a fan of Beres - could you have been a pure singer?

I don't think so because in regards to music I am very adventurous and very moody at the same time. So to the extent of my moodiness and the way I have my mood swings singing alone could not accommodate all of these moods. Sometimes I get really aggressive, sometimes I get extremely calm so as I said I have a song for each mood swing. Konshens - Mental MaintenanceTo be a straight singer or a straight deejay wouldn't work out for me - I have to try some different things.

This album collects lots of your big tunes in one place but you also have some remixes to give certain tunes a new flavour.

I don't want to give away too much about the album but there is one particular remix on there of a song that is a very good song and didn't get the real justice in the people's minds. So the remix definitely will do some good for the song and for the album was well. It features Sizzla Kalonji, Tarrus Riley, Dario and Tarrus Riley's younger brother named Wrath Riley. The whole vibe of the album is good - you have the fresh nowadays music as well as the roots reggae vibe too.

That remix is Rasta Imposter - a song with a message that made big waves back in 2008. You've said you won't use Rasta to further your career. What are your spiritual beliefs?

I believe there is a God. There is a creator. I won't say I am Christian, I won't say I am a Rastaman. I wouldn't say I am a religious person but I am a very spiritual person. I am very spiritual - I connect with God and I know there is a greater being. But to tell you say it's Selassie or Jesus Christ, I am not equipped to tell you that right now. I don't know.

I am a very spiritual person. I connect with God and I know there is a greater being

It makes sense that Tarrus would feature on the album since you featured on his last album on Good Girl Gone Bad.

Just one of my bredda dem musically. At first it was like - this is an artist I really look up to. His second album Parables was like a daily bread. But at the same time Tarrus Riley was a huge fan of Konshens same way so there was a mutual respect from the first day we linked up. Then the song we did together was like a live show and being in the studio with Tarrus is like being in a class because his level of vocal delivery and control is second to none. It's like you are at school but at the same time you have fun. Big up Tarrus Riley - him ah me don.

Another tune that gets a remix is the Realest song. How did you come up with that song?

That's my favourite song ever. And the idea behind it, well, you know how the Jamaican thing goes - we say bad mind is at the root of Jamaican people. Everybody says a man there badmind we and friends them badmind we but I say that nobody really highlights the fact that the same badmind way we cuss when at school and try to downplay, for me it's evident in all of we and it lives in all of we. So we just need to say alright and address the issue, not run from it. I'm saying "Yow, me badmind too". Instead of pointing a finger, point it at yourself for a change! (laughs) Before that nobody really said it that way before "Yeah, it's me that's probably badminded so I need to get rid of it or prevent it" and I think that's what made it connect with people so much.

You have said in the past you don't do plastic songs - they are all reality.

It's just being real. From the Realest Song I try to be the realest artist. There is nothing fictional about my songs - it's either something I've gone through or something somebody close to me went through. There's always a topic where there's evidence of the things I sing about. I don't make up a story to get forward.

As well as changing ourselves you've talked about the need for changes in the business - have your warnings been listened to?

Yeah, I think so. Even now you can see a slight change in the type of production that people are doing in Jamaica. You'll find people are going back to the reggae vibe a little bit but it still needs some work. We still need to put reggae back on the map - from Jamaica. As opposed to importing reggae music into Jamaica. We still need to stress the importance of the live show. To show the youth that come up now the live show and the music with a message is the way to go. It goes on.

The live show and the music with a message is the way to go

As someone who has toured and recorded in Europe and Japan which do you think is a bigger supporter of reggae Japan or Europe?

I think the Japanese are more reggae fanatics. They're just really obsessed with music on the whole -  not just reggae music. The Japanese are just obsessive fans. When they love something they really love it. The Europeans have a different kind of love. They appreciate good music. You will find more Rastafarian people in Europe because they live and connect to the actual lyrics of the song - the whole meditation - and live their life according to the things the song says. The Europeans go into the music more deep but the Japanese just love the music man.

You collaborated with the French-speaking artist Tiwony on his album Cite Soleil for the track Never Give Up. How did that come to be?

Some friends of mine named D and H they make some bad remixes and productions like the song Gal Dem A Talk on the remake of Trailer Reloaded - that was Subkonshens and D&H production. They do a whole heap of remixes and I think they do a whole heap of work with Tiwony as well. They just said that Tiwony was a bad artist and they rate me as a bad artist too so artists just link up and music speaks for itself.

Tiwony named his album after the ghetto of Haiti. Do musicians from ghettoes in different parts of the world have common ground?

Yeah definitely. Because when you are in the streets players have to know the code and real always recognizes real. Growing up in the ghetto affects how you look at life and when you have somebody you can relate to right away, even from a different country. It's makes the music easier man. 

In the streets players have to know the code and real always recognizes real

European fans will have heard of Up Park Camp, where you spent your formative years, from the John Holt song - what is the reality?

Yeah man. My life has been like this: growing up in Up Park Camp, my father was a soldier, so for most of my childhood years were in Up Park Camp. Then we moved to Sherlock Crescent in Duhaney Park at a time when Sherlock and Brook Valley were in a real war. So I got a firsthand view of being in the safest place in Jamaica to being in one of the most dangerous places in Jamaica right away. So these things affect the way you like at life and your views.

You have a clothing line and an iPhone app and a song featured on a video game. You seem to have a very forward approach to promotion what other plans do you have to promote yourself?

I've grown from an artist who loves to sing into a business. The name Konshens is now a business and it's just different ways of maximizing profit and being in touch with fans at the same time. Music and fashion go hand in hand - I don't know too much about fashion but I know what girls like to wear and I know what I like to see girls wearing so that's how the whole mood for the clothing line came about. For now it's a female clothing line. In terms of other things, it will be anything to do with reggae and dancehall. In Jamaican culture you can take the name Konshens and put him anywhere, so there's really no telling.  

I've grown from an artist who loves to sing into a business

In 2009 you had your Macbook stolen and lost some recordings. Did you ever get them back? Are they songs that could have been on your album now?

No never. Definitely because most of them were freestyle demos from straight off the top of my head so now that's gone for good. I got back the computer but everything was wiped. Those songs have gone and they are history.

You played  in the One Love Bob Marley Celeb football match yesterday [Wednesday 22nd Feb] - how did it go?

(laughs) You're informed! The first game I think we drew - it was artists and celebrities vs. some other people like masters and promoters. The first game we drew and the second we gave a goal away from Wickerman, one of our own team! We fell to the hands of an own goal! (laughs)

(laughing) How do you rate other artists football skills compared to your own?

Chris Martin is a big baller, Ding Dong, Fyah King and... that's about it! My skills are limited to the studio and the stage!

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