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Interview with Joe Corfield

Joe Corfield is a local producer who I’ve had my eye on for a while, from him working with Beat Circle, Eatgood, and appearing wherever there was good hip-hop in the city. Before doing this interview I genuinely thought that he had been producing way longer, judging by the quality and consistency of his production.

He’s been working hard recently, getting deeper into crate digging for obscure breaks, and is now working with High Focus, one of the UK’s most respected hip-hop labels. 

I wanted to interview Joe to shed some light on what it takes in today’s massively flooded genre called ‘beats’ and get a snapshot of where he is now and where he’s going…

Joe, how long have you been producing?
I've been producing for 3 years now, I started in college. Although before that I was always into making music of other forms.
I understand you use a BOSS SP303, is that right?
I sample everything on the SP404sx; I make the majority of my beats on my computer but sometimes on the drum machine.
From listening to your productions it's evident that you're a crate digger, but don’t go for obvious material.  What older artists inspire you in that sense, either to listen to or sample?
69 – 82 is the period I’ve noticed everything I like seems to be from, I’ll pick up anything when I’m digging but the instruments used around this era I really love. Dudes like Lonnie Liston Smith, Chick Corea, Roy Ayers; Fender Rhodes stuff. Jazz fusion, bossa nova and Brazilian fusion bands like Azymuth.

Now I can see why I think some of your production is very Madlib influenced - Madlib LOVES Azymuth! Have you heard his album Madlib interpreta Azymuth?  (This album is VERY hard to find as it was a project just for himself! If you find a download link GET IT. It’s an amazing Wonky Jazzy trip to Brazil!)

Well the guy does so much! It’s hard not to be influenced by at least a couple things he puts out. His work rate alone is an inspiration.

Listening to those unreleased gems you sent me, sometimes you go completely against the grain of Jazz and have a much harder sound. You have a very impressive diversity whilst retaining that classic hip-hop sound. Can you elaborate on maybe why that is?

Yeah I’ve always been into music, my dad was a big influence because he taught me guitar from a young age, and I learnt a lot from his record collection at first when I found out about sampling, that’s where I first looked. He has various soul, disco and rock records, and a few dope British ska things. 

I guess from this I just learned that music shouldn’t be confined to genres; good music is good music. I had always bought records here and there growing up but as soon as I got into hip-hop this definitely became something I did A LOT. 

And referring to me moving away from jazz sounds sometimes in music – yeah I would agree, but jazz itself was about pushing the boundaries; I always think about that when I’m digging or making tunes. When I’m buying records I can find music from any country or any era, and you have the technology on a computer nowadays to do anything you want, so why stick to one sound? 

I enjoy experimenting, although sometimes you’ll spend a whole day and all your money digging and all you get is shit. But it’s all education.

Okay so let’s bring it into a modern focus, what current producers influence you?  Is there anyone within UK hip-hop that you rate?

Anyone that shows good diversity is what I like. A lot of my friends and people around me make music or are involved in some art, everyone in my group The Oddysee are a constant influence, we are constantly making stuff. Everyone involved in the Birmingham scene, just being around these dudes is an influence to put in work, so shouts to everyone at Listening Sessions
Talking actual production techniques, I have to mention J Dilla, Havoc, and Madlib.
I don’t know if I like much US rap at the moment, nothing that directly affects the way I produce right now; which might be a surprise to hear.
I’m really into the Juke/Footwork scene though, DJ Spinn/Rashad (RIP) 

But mostly I’m more influenced by the people around me and what they do, and day to day things like walking home from work or making an omelette. 

Some of my favourite UK (hip-hop) producers right now are 2late and Drae. Also, whoever produces all the mouse outfit stuff is dope. The Mouse Outfit are a Hip Hop production team and 9 piece live band based in Manchester. If I’m honest though, I find it hard to name many modern names that really influence how I make beats.

What’s going on right now?

The Oddysee project is happening. We have no dates set yet, but a lot of songs ready to take to the studio, so we are going to be releasing a Single or EP once we’ve all decided what we want to do with the tracks. This project has been my main focus for a couple years now so I’m looking forward to people hearing it. 
Other things happening include work with various groups and MC’s. I will be producing a bit of Concept of Thoughts new album, which is in the works. My dude Revilo (Coma Beat / Yalla / Mr Hungs) from Brum is working on an EP with a handful of my beats. 
I’m also toying with ideas for a producer album where I produce a full length project featuring some of my favourite artists; I’ve spoke to a lot of people about this and people are down, but it’s not a main focus of mine at the moment. 
An instrumental album is also something I’m working on, slowly.

I met Dirty Dike at Boombap 2013, I won the beat battle that year and met a lot of people thanks to that, shouts to Kosyne (head of Eat Good) for telling me I should do it, I wouldn’t have otherwise. The first beat I played actually ended up being the first single on the Dike album. I also met Leaf Dog. He was really into what I was making, we did a track together and spoke about working on an EP, this is yet to formulate but I still aim to make it happen.

That little push can make all the difference! The amount of amazing producers I know, who just stay in, and keep themselves to themselves is crazy. You produce hip-hop, so need rappers to make more people aware of your skill. Now we’ve covered past influences and what you are doing now, can people catch you live anywhere? Also the collab with Revilo - will we are seeing any Juke or Footwork influence there?
Yeah for sure, I never thought people would actually want to hear anything I made before then. So it’s a good feeling. 
Definitely, the response to the Dirty Dike stuff has been pretty nuts, I’m grateful he decided to put me on this project. And I aim to keep the work rate going to build from this platform I’ve been given. 
I’ll be performing with the Oddysee later this year in and around Birmingham. Not sure how much I can give away but we’ll be at the next Yalla event which I’m really excited about.

We’ll also be performing at the Rainbow sometime supporting brum locals OG Horse – no date on this yet though.
Next up and very soon is RUN PST part two (Joe will also be playing some exclusive Deviant beats here!)
And we’ll be at the next Listening Sessions/Rupture vs. Skutta (Round 2!) at PST Birmingham on December 5th.
Not particularly with the Revilo stuff, it’s more wonky boombap / beats stuff. Although there is a definite more upbeat influence on the new Oddysee stuff, I know Frank (Sigmund Frued) makes a lot of dope footwork.

From your new unreleased batch of beats I’ve noticed that your drums are very strong.  They have that classic east coast Pete Rock, Large Professor sound. Do you use any plug-ins to achieve that?  Or do you dig just as hard for drums as for loops and sounds?

All my drums are from vinyl or random files I have on my computer, not sure how a lot of them got there. I took a lot of drum files from college when I was there, so there is years’ worth of recordings knocking about in my computer! But apart from that I just use the standard Reason compression and EQ, some occasional reverb, nothing incredibly technical. I think that solid drums can make an average beat sound dope, so they are always a main focus of mine.

You use the SP404sx, would you ever consider going to a completely software based set up? One of the drawbacks I have being MPC based myself (I am moving to Ableton and Push - slowly but surely!) is that your workflow literally doubles. Or do you think you would lose an aspect of your sound?

I have no reason to change my set up at the moment, I love the sampling side of what I do and I don’t believe I’ll ever remove that from my process of making music. I don’t have a great understanding of software at the moment either so I doubt I'll be going completely software based any time soon, if ever.

I am not alone in loving that aspect of your sound, so that’s music to my ears! Would you ever consider adding any more hardware to your set up?

I’ve always wanted to buy a shit load of synths and just play with them 'til I understand how they work. I can programme synths on my computer but it’s just not the same. So whenever I have enough space for such things I'll definitely start looking into it. And I’m sure it would probably change the music I made, I’d also love to buy acoustic instruments like a Fender Rhodes. Basically start a one man fusion group … ha!

That would be amazing. Well you’re very good at combining sounds and loops already, that’s half the battle with composition! In time though eh? Now as I’m writing this you are clocking up a fair amount of views with this Dirty Dyke video (around 55,000 views at the time of writing!) How does it make you feel, getting this level of recognition, fairly early on in your production career?

It’s good, I can’t complain about it at all. The amount of views is pretty nuts and all the people asking to collab is nice as well. Although I feel that the process of releasing music takes so long that the tunes that are out right now aren’t really a representation of what I’m making now. 
I made the Dirty Dike tracks fairly early on when I started making beats, like mid 2013; but then again its cool knowing that people are feeling them even though they are old news to me.

Yeah that happens a lot with beats like Raekwon using a Necro beat from 1997 on Only Built for Cuban Linx 2! What first bit of UK hip-hop really got your attention or caught your ears?

A few things, like I had heard of Jehst a while ago and thought Return of the Drifter was a classic, and I’ve loved a lot of what Roots Manuva has been doing for ages now, used to bump Witness (1 hope) daily when I was skating. 

But if I’m honest I never knew that much about ‘modern’ UKHH until some friends showed me Four Owls and that, I liked Leaf Dogs beats on their 1st album. From there, me and a couple mates went to the 1st Boombap festival and it was cool to see all the artists were just standard dudes making good music; and at this point I had just started making beats. 

I had soon met the Oddysee guys soon after that, Suf (O’malley) has a deep knowledge of all things hip hop and he showed me a lot of old school UK shit I’ve never heard of. 

So I guess the process of discovering a whole scene just as I was starting to make beats really got me inspired, especially as the scene was really starting to grow.

Ok yeah my first real thing was the Low Life releases back in the late 90’s and Blak Twangs ‘Rotton’ and obviously Roots Manuva’s ‘Witness’ too. It really helps having slightly older heads around, my one was Rich Crowson who now runs Crate Escape he tipped me onto A LOT of old school UK tracks and great 90s US stuff that went just under the radar. 
Ok now onto the future I’m aware that you’re thinking of moving from Birmingham to Bristol? Personal reasons aside what are the musical reasons? I know a lot of D&B heads have made that move as there is more appreciation for what they do - do you feel the same for hip-hop is true?

I just feel Bristol as a place is a lot more open to creativity, places like London are mad competitive, I’d just like to be in a place where good music can be appreciated for what it is. Everyone I’ve met there already has been real into what I do and what the Oddysee do, and some of my favourite UK hip hop producers are living there.

I’m not sure if hip hop is appreciated any more in Bristol than it is in Birmingham but there are definitely more creative outlets to delve in to in Bristol, which is nice to be surrounded by. 

I suppose I just want to expand, I know a lot of people that are making Brum/Bristol links and really reaping the benefits, it’s just about time I did the same. Plus a lot of record stores in Brum have closed down now so I need to be somewhere where there are more records!

OK now to wrap up, sample based hip-hop beats are never going to stop. As a younger producer out there, what helped you to find stuff to sample other than are there any blogs that you can recommend (don't feel obliged to give out any secret sources!)? 

Yeah it sucks there aren’t many digging spots in Brum anymore, but The Diskery has definitely supplied me with nearly all the best stuff I’ve made, Liam and Jim are real nice guys as well; I hope they continue with the shop for more years to come.

When it comes to sample sources, I’m not gonna lie! I learned by just going out and digging all day, spending all my money on a shit load of stuff then doing the exact same the next month. When it’s YOUR money going on it, you soon learn what’s good and what isn’t! You don’t want to be wasting your money on a record that has the same names on it, as a bag of shit record you bought a few weeks ago. You learn about labels, names and instruments. Occasionally you’ll find something that looks terrible but is actually fire, but this rarely happens by clicking around on a blog. 
I’ll turn to the internet, when I’m short on cash, but I just always have that feeling that if it’s on the internet, someone already has it, and someone has already sampled it! A lot of kids, these days, turn to the internet to dig. 
I like to find records that aren’t on any YouTube channel or blog.

That’s the thing though isn’t it, if someone has whacked it out there for everyone online it becomes 'everyone's' source material then! OK Joe this has been a great look at where you're at and where you're going. Thank you for taking the time to do this and before we finish are there any shouts you’d like to give?

Shouts to all the Brum family! You know who you are!!