Although CORES isn’t a familiar name in music, he is the executive producer behind all of Professor Greens albums to date, and has worked alongside artists such as Paloma Faith, Bashy and Adam Deacon. He’s just returned to the mic as an artist, with his latest track ‘Depend On Me’ putting a spin on ‘Be Your Girl’ by Teedra Moses. We spoke to CORES about his days producing and return to the spotlight.
Being older and wiser and understanding myself better, I’m now able to dig a lot deeper and be a lot more honest without feeling I have to hide behind a facade like I did in my teens.
First up, tell us bit about yourself - what first got you into music?
I guess the short answer is music gave me my identity. To elaborate… when I was a kid, like many do, I always felt a bit different to everyone else. I was one of the only mixed race kids in my school and that made me struggle with my identity. My way of coping with the world was to completely bury myself in hip hop music. It was an escape from the constant struggle of trying to fit in to a culture I didn’t feel part of, or fully understand because I wasn’t really educated in my roots by my parents. I could be whoever I wanted to be in that space and the American idea of the ‘black’ identity suited me better than the British one - it was more inclusive. It didn’t seem to matter what mix or what skin tone you were, if you were black you were black. That, I guess, gave me a bit of a crutch.
But, growing up in a culture clash, of course had it’s positives - my house was always full of lots of different, random types of music. Everything from Bob Marley and Michael Jackson to Simon and Garfunkle eand Pink Floyd! That melting pot heavily influences my music to this day.
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from when you were establishing your production style?
Dr. Dre was my hero when I was young. There was a feeling to his music that really resonated with me. His very musical approach to aggressive beats, detailed sonics and obsessive attention to detail were things that I could really relate to, even though I didn’t understand or even think about why back then. Watching The Defiant Ones documentary about his life gave me a bit of a clue - he’s a perfectionist. If it isn’t the best it can possibly be, it isn’t going anywhere. There’s no compromise. And he doesn’t seem to think or care about anything else. That’s basically me. And from the artist side, the heart-on-sleeve, deeply introspective bars of 2pac were like a mirror to me.
What makes your approach to production unique?
I naturally think about the bigger picture. It’s never just about making a beat or technical shit. With me it’s very consciously about emotion and what we’re collectively trying to put across. I’m always going to push artists to really explore the feelings behind songs and if we’re in the studio it ain’t about getting a ‘perfect’ take, it’s about perfectly capturing that emotion; warts and all. Even if it means talking about it for 5 hours and recording for like 20 minutes. I’m gonna suggest melodies, lyrics, delivery… anything I think can help better articulate what the artist is trying to say.
You’ve worked with artists such as Paloma Faith, Bashy and Adam Deacon. Who has made the biggest lasting impression on you and why?
There are so many, but if I had to pick one it’d probably be Emeli Sandé. When she gets in the booth it’s just magic. No two takes are the same. There’s no direction to give - she’s just so naturally in tune with whatever she’s saying it gives you the chills. You’ve just got to capture it for what it is. Prophet shit. JP Cooper is similar. The real deal.
Are there any artists you haven’t worked with, but would like to?
There are so many people I love, but I never actively aim for it. I find if you do cool things, it attracts cool situations naturally. You bump in to people and there’s a vibe and you may or may not end up working with each other. It has to be real - so even if I love your shit, it doesn’t mean we’re gonna click musically or personally, which for me are basically the same thing.
You’ve recently returned to the mic as an artist in your own right. Why have you returned?
When I was younger I always considered myself an artist. Even though I made beats and engineered and stuff, I never thought of myself as either of those things outright - they were just tools I had in my arsenal to help me articulate myself better. But I wasn’t confident enough to pursue it properly, so when Professor Green blew up and I became known as a producer, I decided to put the mic down and focus on that.
After many years of production and writing for other people I guess had a lot to say. I didn’t think ‘fuck it I’m gonna start spitting again’; the songs just started coming in really strange, weird and wonderful ways and before I knew it I pretty much had a body of work.
Has your approach to solo material changed?
Since the last time I was on the mic? Absolutely. As an artist, your music follows you around one or two steps behind you everywhere you go for your whole life. It’s intrinsically linked to where you’re at in life and how you feel about yourself and the world at the time you capture it. When I was younger I was doing it because it was fun and probably because deep down I wanted to be rich and famous. I had the skills, but wasn’t very self-aware, so whenever I tackled more complex subjects it was always very surface layer.
Being older and wiser and understanding myself better, I’m now able to dig a lot deeper and be a lot more honest without feeling I have to hide behind a facade like I did in my teens. Thankfully the skills still seem to be sharp, so that helps get it across.
You new track is ‘Depend On Me’ which puts a spin on Teedra Moses’s ‘Be Your Girl’. How did the tune come about?
A few years ago there were a lot of changes going on in my life. I’d decided to move on from the Professor Green situation and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself. I’d also just come out of a long-term relationship, so there was a lot of confusion. I ended up in a series of bite-sized relationships with lots of different women that lasted maybe a couple of months a time. I liked the idea of being in a relationship, but my head was so full of so many different things that I literally didn’t have the capacity for it. So nothing lasted very long, which was new for me having always been in proper relationships.
One of the muses of that time had sent me the Teedra Moses song like ‘Yo Remember This?’ I was like “Oh shit, yeah! I love this tune!”. It inadvertently signified that period for me and ironically pretty much summed up how I guess some of them felt… ‘Just Wanna Be Your Girl’. I remember thinking at the time ‘I have to flip this sample’, but it wasn’t ‘til I got in a row with one of them a few years later about my non-commitalness that I caught it out the sky!
How does ‘Depend On Me’ reflect your style now?
It’s a cultural mish-mash… It’s a bit British, a bit Bajan, a bit hip hop, a bit soca… it’s as confused as I am, so it sums me up perfectly! It’s also a brutally honest look at some of my shortcomings, which I guess represents where I’m at in life now.
What are your hopes for ‘Depend On Me’?
If you mean success-wise, honestly, I’m just grateful I got to the point where I had the confidence to release my own music. Of course I’d love for it to reach people, but I try not to have any expectations when releasing songs and just give them the best shot I can with the resources I have. Musically, I guess it’s an apology/admission of guilt to the people I strung along whilst I was figuring all this shit out. So hopefully some people will relate.
What else have you got in store for 2018?
The plan at the moment is to just keep dropping tunes. I’m sitting on a tonne of records and I have an album pretty much ready to go, but at the moment I’m just feeling it out. Once it builds a bit I’ll have a firmer plan, but for now I’m just enjoying having some music out there! And I’m still producing a bunch of things for other people. I just finished executive producing Murkage Dave’s new album which we’ve been working on for a while now, so that’s a cool thing on the horizon.
Can we see you live at all?
All in good time ;)
Finally, if you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, when would it be and what would you say?
You’re fine exactly the way you are. You don’t have to try so hard to fit in to the world around you - embrace your differences and don’t be ashamed to show them to the world, even if they don’t get it.
Listen to ‘Depend on Me’ on Apple Music below. For CORES news go to itunes.apple.com.