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Interview: Million Stylez

Interview: Million Stylez

Interview: Million Stylez

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"When you do the music, you enter a different universe... just record and fly away!"


In the run up to the release of Necessary Mayhem's 'Trilogy' Series United Reggae spoke to a featured artist who has been recording for the label from almost day one - Sweden's Million Stylez. Raised by immigrant parents in the Stockholm suburb of Sollentuna, the hip hop loving Kenshin Iryo was gradually seduced by the more melodic vibes of reggae and dancehall, travelling to Jamaica to win a coveted fourth place in Red Stripe and Irie FM's Big Break talent contest in 2005. Since then he has released two albums, 'From A Far' and 'Everyday', with a third in the works. Thanks to Siobhan Jones and Curtis Lynch of Necessary Mayhem for making this interview possible...

Million Stylez

Your mother is French and your father is Japanese. How many languages were spoken at home when you were young?

When I was really young I only knew Japanese and French. I was born in Sweden but I spent a lot of time in Japan and France, so I got to learn French and Japanese fluently. I came back to kindergarten and the teachers told my parents to start speaking Swedish alone, because my Swedish was really bad. That's why my French is not good at all and my Japanese is now only a couple of words. My Swedish is really good though! (laughs) And English, I learned from TV and music, MTV and DJ Kat Show, Sky Channel - I actually learned English like that!

Through your parents both Catholicism and Buddhism were spiritual influences. Did this give you any impetus to follow your own path in life?

My dad, he's a Buddhist and he was the one who planted the spiritual seed in my life. My mum, she's a Catholic and most Catholic people I don't think they're so spiritual, it's more ritual. No offence to anyone. My dad taught me a lot about spiritual things and energies, good and bad energy, from a young age. At that young age it's kind of rare, especially in Sweden which is not so spiritual. Parents don't really teach their kids about spirituality and God. My parents didn't really talk about God either because Buddhism is not a God belief, it's more like inner harmony.

We live two different kind of lives, one earthly life and one spiritual life

When you're performing on a sound system is there a flow of energy between the performer and the audience?

Very much so. The sound system has speaker boxes which enhance that vibe and that energy that you put out on the stage, and it's the visual part as well when people see you jumping and sweating and singing your lungs out. You need to connect with the people because you're not connecting physically. A lot of artists can connect to your soul, can touch your soul, so that's a spiritual thing. Some people just catch your attention, the way they look, the way they sound or they've got a different kind of style, they've got a rough voice, or some crazy lyrics, or whatever. A good example is Jah Cure or Chezidek because when you hear the voice and the message and they just grab your soul. It's just a big difference between different artists, what kind of energy they put out there. If you've got positive lyrics with an uplifting rhythm in the background then there's a big chance that no fights will break out that evening. If it's really rough music with violent lyrics, also a bad sound or whatever (laughs), then I think the energy that gets put out there it transforms and converts and turns into something negative or positive.

What are your views on lyrics? Is there anything that's off-limits for you as a topic?

Yeah, definitely. I mean I can talk about whatever I like but there's just certain stuff, because I've got a bunch of kids listening to my music as well, so I need to watch my mouth, you know? Not only that, I don't want to put out any too slack lyrics for even elders to hear or people my age to hear. That's energy again. Whatever you put out there you convert that energy to whatever you want to convert it to, so I try to keep my lyrics to as positive as possible.

What about in a sound clash situation? Even though it's a combative situation are you going to try to do it in a positive way?

That's like a double standard from my side, you know? It's a musical war. It's entertainment! (laughs) That's the only time I'll go violent, you know? That's where people get shot in their face - musically! I never got this question, you're asking me a bunch of original questions, that's good! I've been thinking about that a lot, "Oh my God, maybe I should stop doing this? Just stick to conscious lyrics all the time, positive lyrics.” Then if somebody links me, one of my brethren, and says "Yo, I want a sound killing thing! There's a clash coming up and I want a custom dub. We're clashing this sound and you have to say this and that" and sometimes you send lyrics and there's a bunch of violent lyrics. It's a musical war so I'm just trying to contribute to what they want because that's also part of my job. Gentleman for instance has stopped voicing dubplates, and I don't know, maybe that's the reason why he stopped. Of course, he's doing kind of well! I still need that dubplate money though (laughs). We live two different kind of lives, one earthly life and one spiritual life. It's that earthly thing!

I've been thinking "Just stick to conscious lyrics all the time." Then somebody links me and says "Yo, I want a sound killing thing!"

Sweden is a big player on the European reggae scene yet people outside think of it as quite a cold country where visiting artists get arrested for suspicion of ganja. How true is that stereotype and if true is there a connection?

That's how it is, more or less (laughs). Unfortunately, that's kind of how it is round here. But we've got a bunch of wicked producers and artists and we're keeping the reggae scene alive. I really feel sorry for artists that come here because the police over here they're really strict when it comes to weed. And they really try to stop reggae music, also because of the anti-battyman, the homophobic lyrics, everyone gets judged from that so they just harass any kind of dancehall artist who comes here. It's a shame because you shouldn't judge everyone just because of one person's actions. It's a cold country with a cold vibe in general compared to other countries in Europe. So I'll be spending a lot of time in the studio because when you do the music it doesn't matter where you are, you're in a different world, you just enter a different universe. The rhythm is there, the mic is there, just record and fly away!

Necessary Mayhem - TrilogyYou're the first artist on the first track of the first release of the new Necessary Mayhem trilogy. Tell me a bit about how you and Curtis linked up.

I think it was through MSN. Curtis, out of nowhere, he started to write to me. I didn't know who he was but he got my link someway somehow.  He told me he had some rhythms for me and he started sending me some rhythms. I think that the first track I ever recorded for him was the one Champion Sound with Mr Williamz and the whole crew and YT, then it was Dub Plate. The first two tracks that we did were combinations, not solo tracks. That's how we got started.

On the new mix of Champion Sound you share with five other emcees. On the Future Cuts album, you're on As Mi Forward with three other emcees. Is it a different science just doing a few bars on a multiple rhythm like that? Are you under more pressure because there's less to be done in a shorter time?

No, it's actually less pressure. Whenever I get a track with a chorus or some verses with some other artists I just try to add what's needed to the track. He told me it was a sound killing thing, Champion Sound, so I got into that vibe for the track and just recorded my part, which was 12 bars. It can really be explosive and I just try to stand out from the tune so that people remember my verse. You should always try to stand out, I think.

Sweden is a cold country with a cold vibe in general compared to other countries in Europe

Tell me a bit about your writing process. Do you ever use paper? Do you ever write anything down or is it just a flow?

I used to write but I stopped writing maybe two years ago. Now I try to record two to four bars at a time and just freestyle, improvise. It feels much better because every time you read a paper you can hear it sometimes that you don't actually mean what you're saying, you're actually reading something. If you're singing or rapping or whatever you do I think that it's better that you either know the song, the lyrics, first or that you just sing from your heart. You can actually hear it. There's a bunch of reggae artists that record that way. Sometimes the lyrics are too simple for some but they sing it with a lot of soul, anything that comes out of their mouth is sung with soul and spirit.

You've been working with Curtis Lynch since the pretty much the start of Necessary Mayhem - have you actually met him?

Million StylezThe only way we've been working so far is that he sends me a rhythm or a couple of rhythms, I pick out the rhythm that I like and record myself in my studio, I engineer myself. So what I can tell you is that I met him once and he's really cool, I like his vibe. The one thing that differs with his rhythms from other producers is that he's got this more analogue sound. What he's really known for is the relicks of these rhythms, even the original rhythms they've just got a different sound, a different kind of fusion. He's from a different school if you compare him to other producers like that. They go more digital. Definitely he’s more analogue and he puts his heart and soul into it, a good vibe in every rhythm. He likes this old school style. The thing is I appreciate old school music as well as I listen to a lot of dub, foundation and stuff, some real roots music with an analogue mix. Just love that sound, that warm, round sound.

What other things have you got coming up with other producers that we should look out for?

I'm working with Special Delivery at the moment. We're going to release an EP with me, it's called Songs About You. It's actually four lovers songs. The first track is Me and You on the Sugar rhythm, that I released a couple of years ago but we're still going to use it for the EP. Then there are three new songs. I've got one song called Feeling for You, there we've got You again - every title has got something with You. Feeling for You is on the Longtime rhythm. The next song is called Missing You, Special Delivery as well, TNT Productions. The next one is more crossover, on a hip hop, R&B kind of beat. That's going to be more of a surprise when people hear it because it's a different kind of style. So I'm working on that right now and I'm actually working on two different albums right now, one dancehall one and one one-drop one. I need to decide if I'm releasing a double album or the roots one first, I don't really know yet.

I'm actually working on two different albums right now, one dancehall one and one one-drop one

Will there be a Million Stylez Necessary Mayhem album?

Probably at some point. I try to keep my promises, so I don't really like to say yet. Everyone I work with we need to keep a good vibe and Curtis is really respectful. We've just been talking on the phone, we call each other every now and then, we link each other with Twitter, we send emails back and forth and we met once. I'd love to go to London and just go to his studio and just stay there for a week and record a bunch of songs. Once again it's just a matter of time because my schedule's fully booked!

Necessary Mayhem: Trilogy was released on March 13th.

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Read comments (2)

Posted by Christiane Nicely on 03.19.2012
Very interesting, Angus! I like your stylez! ... ;-)

Posted by jardson on 03.22.2012
Gostei muito entrevista muito boa... só falta Million Stylez fazer um visitinha no brasil com certeza estarei lá vlw.

Comments actually desactivated due to too much spams

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