Perspectives with MADVILLA

    It’s been a busy few months for Adriane Jackson, AKA MADVILLA. Not only has he released chart-topping EPs under No Art, Locus and hedZup, he’s also signed with NGE Booking and was recently announced as a Locus resident. I spent a day with him capturing some street shots around London. Afterwards we sat down with some beers to discuss music, the industry and his recent meteoric rise…

    From the moment you first meet Adriane you get a sense of his super-focused drive. It’s a trait you see exhibited across everything he does, from his highly polished tracks to every single one of his social media posts. He never half-asses anything and our shoot was no different.

    During the lockdown, Adriane focused on keeping both his body and mind healthy, adopting a daily routine that begins with breakfast.

    Porridge is my go to. It’s not the tastiest, but it’s the best breakfast you can have because it fills you up you’re good for the day. I mix in protein powder and flax seeds, chia seeds, cinnamon and honey I make it nice.

    Adriane spent his childhood growing up in the sunny city of San Bernardino, California, before migrating to live with his dad in Braintree. California to Essex sounds like quite the culture shock, so I asked Adriane for his thoughts on the two places and whether they share any similarities.

    Obviously the two cultures are completely different so you can’t really compare how they live out in Cali to life in Braintree, but they are both full of young people living recklessly so it didn’t take long for me to get comfortable here. I do feel like I miss my California life sometimes but I enjoy my new life here so much that I don’t feel like I need to go back to the states to live. I still have a lot of love for where I came from, but I became an adult in England and my life is now set up by the various things that have happened here over the last 10 years. Hopefully one day I’ll be in a position to have a base in both countries and be able to travel back and forth.

    Adriane is currently in the fortunate position of being able to work full-time as a producer, engineer and DJ, but he hasn’t always been blessed with being able to focus purely on his passion. He grins sheepishly as he recalls one of his former jobs:

    So I’ve worked at Sports Direct, Tesco and Asda. ASDA was my last “normal” job during my first year of uni in Leeds (2016). I got fired within a couple of months. Basically one of my housemates at uni had a gig supporting Chase & Status, and I didn’t wanna miss that. I went and I got hammered. Came home and slept through my alarm that morning; they were trying to ring me for ages. I woke up and I was like, ‘fuckkkk’. I then sprinted to work and ended up getting taken out the back for a chat. As it was my second absence within my probation period it meant they had grounds to terminate my contract which they did. They could have overridden it but they knew my heart wasn’t in Asda. They knew I was doing music and wasn’t really trying to work there, so they let me go.

    The last two years have been pretty crazy for all of us. Whether we attempted to learn how to bake sourdough or religiously organised our wardrobes, we all experienced lockdown in different ways. Adriane managed to get his head down and really work on his sound.

    I feel like there’s two sides to it. Lockdown has been the best  thing for me, in the sense that I’ve been able to get locked in the studio and work on my music and the visual aspect of my persona with no distractions. At the same time, all the negativity, not being able to hang out with friends and socialise that stuff has been draining. I didn’t even realise until recently, but it really affected my motivation and inspiration. Going out with friends, hanging out with people it supplements your creativity.  Nonetheless, lockdown really helped me sharpen my tools, experiment and get the music sounding how I really intended it to. Stuff that I can listen to in a few years time and still feel happy about.

    With the rise of ‘social media DJs’, many aspiring artists are turning their attention to online platforms in the hopes of becoming the next viral sensation. What does Adriane think about the current state of the scene and its relationship with social media?

    A big concern for me at the moment is people scraping the bottom of the barrel for social media engagement just doing any ol thing for ‘likes’. I feel like we should all stop worrying about the metrics and really just get in tune with our own identities. We constantly rely on these platforms for validation and gratification and that creates a disconnect between ourselves and the real world. I’ve had my fair share of barrel scraping moments, but I feel like I now get the most validation and gratification by just being myself.

    You can really see this ethos in action by taking a look through Adriane’s Instagram feed. Every post has real effort and meaning behind it. One that caught my eye was his recent post celebrating ten years residence in the UK, which I asked him to elaborate.

    It’s a big chunk of my life. It feels like at this point I have taken in so much of UK culture. The whole last year I knew the ten-year mark was coming up and, when it came, I looked back and thought about everything I’ve done from the day I moved here until now. I just felt like there was no way I could have foreseen what was to come. When I moved here I felt like it was kind of like doomsday. I felt like my life was going to be boring. I didn’t know what was going on here musically. I felt lost and dejected. But after all this time, it’s actually done the opposite. It’s been the best thing. I’m so happy and content being here amongst it all. I know this is genuinely what I have wanted my whole life.

    The scene is bursting with talent from all across the world right now. I wanted to find out which artists Adriane is really digging at the moment.

    Off the top of my head, and in no order, there’s a producer from Doncaster called Mehlor who I’ve become really cool with over the last couple years. I really respect his music cause his beats are just on a scientific level of production. When he sends me stuff I already know I’m gonna enjoy it. Anil Aras from Utrecht is another homie who I really respect. He always comes through with the raw and authentic beats. Garret David in Chicago is mad clever. Been a big fan of his various aliases over the last 12 years. There’s so many more people I really respect but that’s just off the top of the dome.

    If you’ve seen any of the videos of Adriane jamming out in his hi-tech studio space, you’ll know how incredibly proficient he is in Ableton and with his hardware. I invited him to share just one tip to budding producers.

    Adriane ponders my question silently for a few seconds before leaping into an answer that I can tell comes straight from the heart.

    No rules. Don’t go into a track thinking, ‘I’ve got to do this, this and this.’ When you make music don’t go in with a checklist. No limitations. Do whatever you want. Experiment. Try things that are a bit more long-winded. Don’t always take the easy route. Try doing something the hard way to get to the end point. There are things that I do in the studio where I could have taken the easy route, but sometimes I like to challenge myself. In doing that, you might make a mistake, but that might actually sound like a ‘good’ mistake. One which takes you down other rabbit holes.

     

    Aspiring producers are absolutely spoilt for choices with regards to music production courses at the moment, with Josh Baker, Kepler and Gene on Earth (among many others) each launching their own learning platforms. In light of this, Adriane shares his experience of making videos for Syntho Hub.

    I’ve made three or four videos for Syntho now. It’s funny because every night out I’ve been on, even outside of London, at least two people coming to me telling me they’ve watched my videos on Syntho. Josh Baker has done really well with building up a platform that up-and-coming producers find really valuable.

    One of MADVILLA’s tracks that had done particularly well in the last year was Based, which came out on his own imprint, Hot Wings. I was keen to investigate the source of these familiar-sounding vocals.

    So, there’s a rapper called Lil B. When I was in America, I basically worshipped him. As silly as his music was, I was obsessed. I lived the ‘Based Life’. My name on Facebook was Adriane ‘Based’  Jackson. That’s how involved I was. He was a ‘meme rapper’. Every now and again, I go back and listen to his music. I still miss that period of my life. When I made Based, I had just downloaded a mixtape that he put out ages ago and I was flicking through it. He had some recordings of him just speaking and there was some stuff he was saying that I thought would sound really cool on a track. I put it in and it just worked. It felt like I was paying homage to the old me, the old era of music and ‘swag’.

    Could a collaboration be on the cards?

    I would fucking love that. I have thought about that for years. I  actually have him as a friend on Facebook!

    The workaholic also runs his own label, Hot Wings, which currently boasts five well-received releases, with more on the way.

    Hot Wings is my outlet for going a bit against the grain. A lot of stuff I put out on my label has raw, vulgar lyrics; it’s not the sort of stuff you hear in house music as much these days as you did in the golden era. 

    My girlfriend does all the illustrations for the label. She’s really good  at what she does. At the moment I’m not ready to release other people’s music. I want to get it ready as a platform before I venture into that. I feel like the label has some development to come, in terms of its online presence and having the capital available to fund consistent releases properly. I don’t want to take a track off someone and half-heartedly release it. The people I release will be people I’m close to, I want to give them 100%. I want to invest in them.

    Next month will see the next release: three tracks plus a potential  bonus track on Bandcamp.  

    MADVILLA tracks usually feature clean pumping drums and a bouncing groove throughout, with inspiration clearly taken from the garage and Chicago house scenes. I wonder if he’s ever attempted to craft any alternative genres.

    Yeah man, all the time. Some of it will come out and some of it won’t.   I’m sitting on a few garage tracks. There’s one collab with an  unexpected artist, which I think will be a big surprise. I’m thinking of putting it out on Hot Wings. The guy is a legend, most people know who he is, his popularity is from garage and bassline music.

    I’ve also got some breakbeat stuff – but I’m not sure if I’ll release it. I make a lot of trap, hip hop and RnB stuff as well.

    I can tell from the way Adriane speaks about his home city of San Bernardino that the place holds a positive, nostalgic-rich home in his heart. I wanted to explore the effect his California upbringing has on his sound.

    The music that was going on around me in San Bernardino when I was in my teens influenced me to start producing music. There are parts of California culture and lifestyle that still influence my sound now. Sampling Lil B for example – how many UK house producers are gonna sample Lil B? 

    Sometimes, despite our passion for our particular craft, we can experience dips in our motivation, but Adriane has been able to ride these out through his other creative channels.

    I skateboard and that has been so helpful for me during the pandemic. Even during the freezing winter I was skating. Before I started doing music, skating was the number-one thing I was pursuing. It’s a creative outlet that is totally different to music, but you are still feeding that creative side of your brain. If I’m feeling stuck for inspiration with my music, a good skate session will really motivate me because I’m focused on trying to achieve something creative outside of music; that fuel carries over into the studio. 

    I also enjoy listening to music that is really far away from the genre I produce. I listen to a lot of jazz, hip hop, rnb and other various styles that I find interesting. Listening to these different musical styles helps me get out of the box. 

    I’m inspired by a lot of non-house stuff. Jazz musician Kamaal Williams for one. His music is so out of this world. He’s Chinese and English, and he’s got this swag about him that’s just so cool. He’s a sick jazz musician but with the swag of a rapper. He inspires me to be unique.

    A producer I like is Sam Gellaitry, he does a bit of everything. His music is like nothing I’ve ever heard before. I can’t think of any  producer that has the skills he does.

    Another is this guy from Italy called Broke One. He makes what is predominately house and techno music, but he can go from light, fluffy stuff to heavy underground. Over the last nine years he’s been a massive influence on me. His music really resonates with me. 

    Adriane’s ‘Ghetto Deep’ sample pack, released on Loopmasters back in 2018, has done incredibly well, with his sounds popping up in unexpected places.

    Yeah this pack did very well. I’ve heard many tracks made using this pack. Some actually went on to be very successful. That was very  motivating for me!

    I’ve actually got a new sample pack that’s just dropped, this time on Sample Market. This one is a part of their original series. I’ve used all my hardware, digital, analogue. This sample pack is definitely me. I wanted to make a pack of unique sounds that you don’t find in just any pack. I want people to find it really useful and be inspired by it in a way that might help them think about their production differently. I wanted all the sounds to be unique and have a distinct flavour. If someone listens to this pack, they’re gonna instantly know it’s MADVILLA. You’re gonna get a good taste of my sound in its current state.

    Despite his recent successes, it hasn’t all been plain sailing typified by one night during his recent bout of gigs around the country.

    I was in Nottingham one night and then Portsmouth the next, finishing up in London on the Sunday, which was Halloween. I always park down this side road off Brick Lane when I play 93 and did the same this time. Went in, played my set and then went back to the car to get something. I noticed I had a parking fine, so I moved the car to a car park down the road. Went back to the car around 10pm to find the window smashed. My bag with my laptop, and harddrive with all my shit on it and some sentimental stuff, were all gone. Luckily I still had my old laptop, which had most of my stuff on it anyway. but there was some stuff that I couldn’t get back. So my advice to DJs is to back up regularly and don’t leave your shit in your car! Have cloud backups. Have physical backups.  

    I was first introduced to Adriane’s music through one of the godfathers of the scene: DJ Caspa. And it turns out that the two share a particularly special bond.

    Caspa has been there from a very early point of my UK career. I met him online in 2013 and he supported my music even though it wasn’t that great. He’s always believed in me, always given me guidance. He’s someone who is not afraid to tell me straight up what he thinks of my tracks. If he thinks I need to change a sound, he’ll tell me. He’ll encourage me to think outside the box, to do something a bit different. He’ll tell me if he thinks the music I’m making is a bit samey. He’s always kept it real with me. Always been a good friend. We have phone calls like every other week at least. He’s someone whom I respect musically because of his vast knowledge on the matter and the fact the impact he’s had on the scene is so huge. I feel like people don’t realise how much impact he’s had on the scene over the years. He’s an OG. He’s someone who has been there since the very beginning. He knows everyone. He knows all the sounds. He’s someone whose musical opinion I fully take to heart.

    It looks like the two friends will be playing on the same lineup later this year, which will bring their relationship full circle.

    It’s been a busy two years with regards to Black activism around the world – something that Adriane has a notable perspective on as a Black Californian now living in the UK. I ask him about his views on racism and institutional racism within the underground scene.

    I was very blind to it to be honest. I came from somewhere where racism is a very  big problem. When I came here it seemed like everything was so sweet, I didn’t  think it really existed here. But over the  years I started gradually noticing it more  and more. They are very good at disguising it in the UK. It’s very ‘in your face’ in America. Black people will have problems getting into certain clubs at times. And, certainly in mainstream pop music, you have labels that favour white artists over Black ones. It’s gotten a lil better in recent times, but I think there is still a lot of work to do. I do feel like the underground scene is way better, in terms of inclusivity, over pop music though. I feel that in our particular scene, it’s very hard to be that sort of hateful person. If you’re gonna go out to these kinds of events you’re gonna be mixing with people from all different backgrounds and cultures, so it wouldn’t be the right place for you. So you don’t really see it. I’ve been to a lot of parties and it’s usually just love man. 

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    Photos by Nick Beard
    Edited by Cameron Harvey-Piper