Production duo Jazz Spastiks has carved out an incredible catalog of music over the last few years, dropping instrumental and emcee-led projects that have gained critical acclaim. They are about to drop two new projects with indy icon Godfather Don; one a collection of remixes of previous Godfather Don tracks, the other a couple of new singles. You can hear an exclusive premiere of one of the new joints, Straight From The Gutter, below. Then keep scrolling for an interview with one half of the duo, Murray.
Talk to me about the new projects with Godfather Don. He’s something of an enigma, almost DOOM-level elusive. How did working with him come about?
Ha ha, yeah! We never even considered the possibility of working with Godfather Don. We are huge fans of him as an emcee and also as a producer. His work has been a big influence on our own. As you say he’s been pretty quiet in recent years and he doesn’t really have a presence on the internet so we had no way to contact him. It was Diggers With Gratitude (Record label and online forum for vinyl collecting hip-hop enthusiasts) who put the project together. They had previously worked with Don and had also released some of our stuff on vinyl. They suggested that we should remix some of Don’s classic material and of course, we jumped at the chance.
You even managed to get him to record a couple of new joints. What was the recording process like, and did he take much convincing to get in the booth?
After we completed the remixes the idea of creating some brand new tracks was discussed. We sent over a couple of our best beats and Don said he was going to take it old school with his vocals. It wasn’t long before we got the songs back and we were blown away by his rhymes.
One thing that’s impressed me about your releases is the commitment to making a quality physical product, with good artwork, and the Scratch and Sniff book. A vinyl resurgence is great, but the end product is often a let down. How do you feel about the quality of a lot of vinyl coming out right now?
Thanks! I mean personally, I’ve never had a problem with bad quality vinyl, but my advice would be to stick to record labels that you trust.
You have a huge amount of music available on Bandcamp. With how easy it is to get music online, is it tempting to try and put all your music out there, or do you strictly only release the best material?
Yeah, we have a lot on Bandcamp, we’ve been making music for years so it’s slowly built up. We only release our very best stuff though and we have a ton of beats that are unreleased.
I really loved the Midnight Method album with MelloSoulBlack. Their style works really well with your production, as do the PenPals on your projects with them. How do you choose who you want to work with?
Thanks. Well, it’s always different, with MelloSoulBlack they got in touch with us as they were fans of our beats. We checked out their stuff and loved their rhymes so we started working together. As for PenPals, we made a post on Facebook asking our followers what the best new hip-hop they were listening to was. Someone posted PenPals and after checking them out and loving their album we got in touch with them. They said they liked our work as well and so we began work on the album.
Hate to use it because it’s a played-out term, but your music has a definite ‘throwback’ quality to it, a sense of fun that captures the original essence of hip-hop. How would you describe your sound?
Yeah, I mean we’re not fans of the term either. To us, we just make hip-hop the way it’s meant to be made. Modern mainstream hip-hop is just pop music. We’re not going to start doing that just because it’s fashionable.
As a production duo, what’s your process like in terms of who does what?
It’s different for each song, sometimes one of us will find a sample and the other will build on that or it could be the other way round. Mikey (the other half of the Jazz Spastiks) has a background as a dj so he does a lot of the scratching for the hooks in our songs. I have a background in sound engineering and production so I have more input on that side of things. Having said that we are both fully involved in all aspects of the process.
There’s a question I always like to ask producers. Do you make albums intended for emcees to spit over the same way as you make instrumental-only albums? Or do you make an instrumental album as a standalone work? Or are your beats interchangeable, and not yet known if they will get vocals on top when you make them?
Well, at the start, the beats could be anything but once they start to take shape we’ll get an idea of what they could be used for. We might think this will be good as an interlude or this one will be good for a particular emcee or project.
Taking this question further, you guys often release an instrumental version of albums that had vocals. Its a time-honored tradition in hip-hop of course, but I’m curious as to why you guys see the value in it?
Well, our audience is kind of split. We have a lot of rap fans but we also have a lot of listeners who prefer instrumental hip-hop without any vocals so we try to cater for both.
Your recent work has all been released as the Jazz Spastiks, but you’ve also put out records as the Slipmat Brothers. Is there a difference between the two?
Slipmat Brothers was just another alias we used but we realized that it caused confusion and made it harder to reach our existing audience so we’ve decided to stick with Jazz Spastiks.
Once the Godfather Don projects are out, what can we expect next from you guys?
We’ve remixed the PenPals album Made For The Underground, it has all new beats and some guest verses from some really great emcees. It will be dropping on double vinyl which also includes the instrumental versions. Look out for more information on that very soon.