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Gang life ain’t easy – Interview with Hempolics

Our first written interview on reggae-party.de since ever. Introducing Grippa from London based band HEMPOLICS, who are just entering their first tour through Germany, of course with a tourstop in Münster.

Reggae-Party.de

Hey Grippa, nice to have you here. My first question: What is your role in the band?

Grippa

Hey man. Well to me it’s a gang. And I’m the gang leader. But yes, I record, mix & produce the music. The HEMPOLICS is my baby. Drive the whole ting. Dream!

Some songs I’ve written lyrics. But most the time the singers do most of that.

Reggae-Party.de

Cool. So you are producing the sound at the studio and after that the band converts it to the stage, right?

Grippa

Yes. For now. Very recently I’ve been writing with them all in rehersal. Maybe doing a little demo in studio and then singer writes it in rehersal. But that’s only recently. We have two albums sitting waiting ready.

Reggae-Party.de

Waiting for what? For the big deal?

Grippa

No just help big or small. Getting the snowball bigger. Had a shit deal with bbe… Just got ourselves out.

Reggae-Party.de

I understand, waiting for the right plattform.

Grippa

Yes. Get the team. Business tings. I’m artist, through and through. Not to good with business. Love being in my studio mixing writing creating. Hate the bull shit once you have finished making. That’s a whole of thing. I need to keep at arms length so it doesn’t dilute my shit.

Reggae-Party.de

Driven by the art, not the money. Sounds really good.

Grippa

Yes. Money comes and money goes…

Reggae-Party.de

We have to go back short to the beginning. I just want to know the process. You produce the sound as an demo, then the band converts its for the stage and the recordings?

Grippa

No. The two I’ve finished have been my instrumentals I made in studio. Got the singers to come and voice it. It’s only recent I’ve been getting the whole band into the writing. I start with the drums and bass and work me way up.

Reggae-Party.de

I understand. And the members of the band are fixed?

Grippa

We have other singers who come and are featured on our album. Always friends in the gang. We have Paolo Nutini and Maxi Jazz. And two rappers I know from the states.

Reggae-Party.de

The original Paolo Nutini?

Grippa

Yes!

Reggae-Party.de

Haha, how did that happen?

Grippa

He sings one full song and a chorus in another. I’m a sound engineer as a professional. So I’ve been around many studios with many big artists. I was faithless cheeky records engineer. For many years. Every day mixing. Over 100 hours a week. And I was a studio assistant. So I came from making tea, long long hours. But much experience…

Reggae-Party.de

So this is the meaning of your gang name „Hempolics“, hu? Workaholic meets a lot of hemp.

Grippa

Yes. Well I’ve had a job where I can smoke all day and night. So I’m a Hempolic.

But the Hempolics album has not been done quickly. I’m about the hard and long way. It took me years off messing around in my spare time from working to find the sound I was looking for. I mixed it all to tape. 8 track, 15ips.

Reggae-Party.de

For what reason? To get the original sound?

Grippa

The bass. One song I wanted to try and put to tape to speed up a bit. To try. But after I heard the bottom end.

Reggae-Party.de

I mean for what reason the 8 track?

Grippa

Cos I mix from two small bc2 desks which I have the drums on one bus. Bass other. Keys, guitars, other and vocals last. So I have 4 stereo stems from my desk 44 inputs with the use of all my analog effects and outboard. I mix the 4 stems to 8 tracks tape – perfect. My exact mix in 4 separate parts.

Reggae-Party.de

And no digital devices included?

Grippa

Then as it’s going to tape I put it back into 4 stereo tracks in logic at 96 kHz. Then I might tweak and over dub that. Then convert down for CD, etc. But yes, got my studio locked down now – love it.

Reggae-Party.de

But isn’t it hard sometimes for the band to play or to interprete your productions to get the same sound?

Grippa

Yes. It’s took a few years gigging for them to start getting it. But it’s hard and everyone has own ideas… musicans do what they do. But it’s cool!

Reggae-Party.de

So thats the reason why you have recently tried to involve them earlier?

Grippa

We are getting there. Yes! Get them in the writing, so they have PRs (performance rights) and are involved more. Keeps vibes good. I’m not greedy.

Even they ain’t done a lot of playing on first album I’m splitting it all with them. For you maybe. Cos you know It’s all about gigging. Live – to earn money in this horrible game. So the harder we work. It benefits the whole gang/band. We all work for the same thing.

Reggae-Party.de

So you are the moderate, generous gang leader 😉

Grippa

It’s my baby so I got a bit more of the cut. But I’ve put all the time and money so far and drive. But Nubiya, the girl singer, is the business – what a star. And Dandelion… but Nubiya is special.

Reggae-Party.de

Yes! And what’s the background of the other members? Are they all full time in this already?

Grippa

They are full time.

Drummer craig is a legend. Loves reggae, old shit.

Lorenzo is bass player. He’s a live engineer and has his own studio. Top lad.

Nubiya is in a band called Nubiyan Twist – Afro beat. 12 piece.

Dandelion is in the drop also and so is Leon the guitarist.

Nick Mannasaa recorded it and I’m mixing and producing their album right now.

Reggae-Party.de

Are you involved in the livesets, too?

Grippa

The hemps live set? Yes I do FX on drums and vocals live on stage, also trigger samples and play key skanks. And MD it. And drive. And organise. Rehersal people. I make the video shoots and edit. And think of it.

Reggae-Party.de

You are the operator 😉

Grippa

Yes man. With the gang backing me.

Reggae-Party.de

Regarding the lyrics, regarding the track „Life aint easy“, what was your motivation for these lyrics?

Grippa

Dandelion wrote the verse and I had that chorus idea. „Life ain’t easy“ is as sharp as a knife. „To much struggling“. Just how tuff it is for most of us.

Singing from a third person. Feeling like life ain’t easy: one step forward, two steps backward.

Hey I’ve done a sick sick new tune with Max Romeo on it. I’ve been mixing for DJ Vadim all his production for last 3 years.

Reggae-Party.de

But it is not driven by a special situation like the experience with bbe?

Grippa

Yes. It’s all learning. Still am everyday. When you got nothing you got nothing to lose.

That’s why I’ve made the two albums. While I’m hungry. When the mighty dollar is not in the mix. You make the best music when you got nothing to lose. When your back is against the wall and you are broke. How many artists make a great first album?

And then they struggle thinking about what people are going to think. It can effect the art. I’ve seen it. Your thinking of what other people might think – you get me.

We will release the original „Love to sing“ track in February I hope. Then the album in April.

But „Love to sing“ is going to be next. Me and Dandelion went to Gambia in Africa, payed our own flights and I had one lense and we shot a video. In Africa, just us two. Really came out nice. The best yet.

Reggae-Party.de

Oh nice!

Grippa

People just helped. You go to airport in Gambia with no money, nothing. They will look after you. Do that in the UK – you’re fucked. They have no money or opportunities but have so much we are missing in the western world. We are spoilt.

But anyhow. I can chat. I’m from the north east of England, not the south.

Reggae-Party.de

Whats the difference?

Grippa

The south people are more closed and have had more money through generations. The north people will talk to you at bus stop or anywhere. South they think you want something if you talk to a random.

Reggae-Party.de

Let’s talk about your future releases. Kiss, Cuddle & Torture – there must be something about contrasts in the album, right?

Grippa

Yes. I’m going to release three albums. One red, one gold, one green. Volume 1, 2 & 3. Kiss, Cuddle & Torture. Yes, to me that’s life: Kisses cuddles and torture.

Maybe a fourth album: black. Dubs of the others. Not sure yet. We have done a mixtape of the first album with my mate Scratch Perverts. The whole album mixed into 22 mins.

Reggae-Party.de

Is there a way to explain what we can expect from the album? Because I only know this 3-4 tracks from you guys.

Grippa

That it’s quality. That every song on there is it’s own thing. Like we could release them all as singles in away. It’s cross over. All songs are different but have the same sound.

You can listen to it and hear things you ain’t heard before, even though you have heard it a few times. I have put a lot of detail in the sounds.

Reggae-Party.de

But it’s all still influenced by roots reggae, right?

Grippa

Yes. Jamaica. It’s the island. I’m very influenced by that island. But don’t want to do boring Jah Rastafari. Natty Dread. I‘ want to push the sound of reggae and make something different. Old but new. I don’t know, just do what I do. King Tubby is my… just the best. But studio one Sir Coxson. And Perry… Oh I can go on. Niney. I also love Bull Walkies. It ain’t dated. Lloyds Barnes – great producer. Love Joys, love them sounds. African brothers Hugh Mundel, Abbasinians. The amount of music that that island has made. Imagine every day waking up and having them musicians in the studio.

Lucky. It’s a pity the musicians and singers got ripped off. I Kong, „The way it is“ – great tune.

Junior Delgado. Man, there is so many back then. Not now – it’s been battered by American influence… Jamaica.

Reggae-Party.de

„EDM“…

Grippa

Oh my god. Fuckin idiots. Macdonald music. Plastic and made in 2 minutes. Not all, but most. Manufactured to death. You know like Paolo Nutini, he has done a track with us that he would never do in „his world“. HEMPOLICS is about getting them to do what they would never do. Out the box. I never want my music to be in a box. Well as best as u can…

Reggae-Party.de

So you react allergic if they try to put you and your music „in a box“?

Grippa

Sometimes you just can’t help being in the box. I don’t read the newspaper or watch the news. Hate it. I don’t care what people say. You can’t. No just lightly. Like being different.

Reggae-Party.de

Can I ask for your age?

Grippa

Yes, 40. A very young 40 gemini. Veggie all my life. No meat mouth. Morgue mouth. My son Blue is 20.

Reggae-Party.de

So you were a very young father, right?

Grippa

Yep. Had to keep it together. We are best friends.

Reggae-Party.de

Are you sharing your music with your son?

Grippa

Yes. He takes the photos for the band. He also was on BBC Radio 1 when he was 14. Rapping on Rob da Bank show. But he’s into film photography now. He just came back from Japan. Lucky bastard. Taking photos all payed. My son loves the hemps….

Reggae-Party.de

Great opportunity for a 20 years aged guy.

Grippa

He is best mates with Nubiya. She’s only 23. Dan is 31 – 32. You know we have Dandelion’s brother on stage with us. He’s more on the second album. But has the first track on the first album.

Reggae-Party.de

As a singer, too?

Grippa

He plays guitar and does backing vocals and then did early in the morning the first track of the album. He also sings a cover of „Fu Man Chu“. Desmond Decker. He smashes it. You guys are going to hear brand new stuff we ain’t done before. We have got a 21 track set now. Shit of first, second and third album. And you know I still got tunes, big tunes we ain’t brought to table yet. It’s harder now than once. We are all living, trying to survive in London. All working to pay rent. And trying to do this. This time is difficult for all members of the band. But yes, the set has gone from 11 songs to 21. We just boosted. So it will be first time to play in Germany. We loved Germany when we went there before. We are excited to go back. I’ve got a good feeling.

Reggae-Party.de

So is that your first international tour?

Grippa

We did one before with Faithless. Just as we started the group.

Reggae-Party.de

Crazy!

Grippa

They came to our 5th gig. I got them down and they were blown away. They got us in the last tour they did around Europe. I had no manager, no nothing. Hired a sleeper bus thing. And drove. We followed them. Belgium. And Maxi did his song with us. Every night.

They took Harry, Dandelion’s brother off me and took him in tour for two years. Which fucked the hemps up. He earned a killing. Doing backing vocals with them. But fuck it, we weren’t ready as a band then anyway.

Didn’t have Nubiya who is key. Got the right band now. It took a while to find each other.

But this is the band. And we are very strong as friends, which makes the unit gang better and the music will get even better. I wanted it to be like that. Having drummers doing their own thing, all the time needs to be cool. We all get on. No odd balls which we got.

Reggae-Party.de

So all the best conditions for breaking through next year.

Grippa

Yep. Then we’ll bring the second album year after. Got some serious investment into the project. You need money to make money…

Reggae-Party.de

And what is your current label situation?

Grippa

Shark Free Records – independent. Brand new, Alex and Chris – two guys with experience.

Looking forward to getting this first album out It’s been driving me mad Sitting waiting for the right help. Then I can move on. Release the beast. It’s felt like limbo.

I think they are going to be good. We have got a radio plugger over here now And now press. They have done better than bbe did. Bbe were terrible. They are better with there completions Albums.

Reggae-Party.de

So Grippa. Thanks for your time, very interesting conversation!

Grippa

Yes man. Cool. Nice to meet you. See you soon I hope.

Reggae-Party.de

Nice to meet you too!

Grippa

We will have a fat one…

Reggae-Party.de

of course, looking forward!


 

2015, budenjunge,

Home Foren Gang life ain’t easy – Interview with Hempolics

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