Slakah the Beatchild talks timeless music and The Art of Fresh

He goes by the name of Byram Joseph aka Slakah the Beatchild and he’s a “performance producer” from Canada whose interests include “making timeless music.” He is influenced by the late great J.Dilla, often likened to such veterans as Raphael Saadiq, Pete Rock and Dwele and has worked with the best of the best of Canada’s popular artists from Drake to Justin Nozuka to Glenn Lewis to Melanie Durrant.

But what is a “performance producer” anyway? A term in which the artist, producer and multi-instrumentalist believes he invented is representative of the likes of the Pharrells and the will.i.ams and according to the Beatchild, “they are first and foremost producers in my opinion but they are also performers as well and they really excel in producing and I think I excel in producing and making beats and what not but I perform my craft as well.”

Slakah the Beatchild burst unto the scene in 2008 with the release of his critically acclaimed debut album – Soul Movement Vol. 1. The lengthy LP at twenty tracks proved to be anything but lengthy or any of its derivatives and continues to stand out as a rather timeless work of art with collaborations and features from the likes of Drake, Ayah and Shad amongst others adding to the beauty and uniqueness of Soul Movement Vol. 1. The album now nearing its third year anniversary is a laudable addition to any record collection and undeniably worth a few listening experiences at least.

It took Slakah over two years to follow-up his debut body of work [“I don’t wanna rush it, I wanna make sure it’s something really special,” he says]. As a result of the long wait between Soul Movement Vol.1 and the yet to be released Soul Movement Vol. 2, Slakah the Beatchild put out an EP for his fans that had/have been waiting for the second volume of Soul Movement, with the release of the 7-track digital-only Something Forever EP on October 2010 – the EP would subsequently be re-released with four additional new songs as a special edition album because people actually like the EP (“surprisingly” adds Slakah) and wanted more. They demanded more songs and a physical copy hence Slakah the Beatchild’s sophomore album was born.

We recently caught up with Slakah the Beatchild on his European tour which saw him perform all across the Netherlands, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom as well as hit the studio with longtime friend and collaborator Swedish singer/songwriter Tingsek while in Sweden and start work on a collaborative 7” instrumental EP with French producer Hazel while in France. We talk about everything from to his early days as a studio engineer to his Hip Hop group The Art of Fresh to the burgeoning music scene in Canada to his hugely anticipated forthcoming project – The Slakadeliqs.

SoulCulture: Songwriter, Emcee, Singer, Producer & Multi-instrumentalist, how did you get to be all these things?

Slakah the Beatchild: I think they’re all closely related so it’s hard not to be one without the other at times and they all have different aspects of them which I enjoy. For example, I love making beats and I love creating something that could speak words without even putting any lyrics on it. I have instrumentals that don’t even have words and to me, I think that’s amazing if you can create something like that – to me, that is real fun. At the same time, I love getting onstage and expressing myself vocally. The thrill of performing is something else and is completely different from making beats in the studio – you know that whole live aspect and getting the band together and really making sure the sound comes through how you want it. It’s like producing but a different aspect of it because there are no second takes; you have to deliver on the first take.

SoulCulture: As an artist, what is your sound and what is your style like?

Slakah the Beatchild: To me, I’d have to say it’s like a mosaic. A lot of people might not have heard all my sounds but they eventually will if they choose to follow my music. I’m putting a project called The Slakadeliqs and that is a definite different side of my sound than a lot of people are used to and what it boils down to is – my influences. A lot of people know me for my Dilla influences and my Raphael Saadiq influences but I have a lot more influences than that and I just needed the right time and the right environment to let these other influences to manifest in my music and in The Slakadeliqs, you will see that for sure. Different influences manifest themselves in my music.

SoulCulture: What/who are these influences and why and how do they influence you to make music?

Slakah the Beatchild: First and foremost, J. Dilla. I think the way he heard things is different than anyone ever. The way he re-arranged samples, I think was genius and the way he chose his drums was so unique and so fresh. No one is comparable to J. Dilla. He’s so musical; he’s not just a Hip Hop producer or a Hip Hop cat – that guy (J. Dilla) is a musical genius and a huge influence.

Another influence is an artist by the name of Tingsek who’s an artist from Sweden and actually a good friend of mine. He has amazing music out there, a great writer and a great person… But you know, with The Slakadeliqs project for example, there are a lot of influences such as Sting, Neil Young, B52, The Zombies, The Beatles and Lenny Kravitz so those other influences are definitely there as well.

SoulCulture: Since we’re talking about it now, could you tell us about the forthcoming album from The Slakadeliqs – The Other Side of Tomorrow and I know you’ve mentioned the influences but if you could put this album into words, what’s the sound, what’s the feel, what’s the whole vibe of it?

Slakah the Beatchild: That’s really hard to describe in words, that’s why I made the album. I’ll play it for you after and give you a little preview of the album. When I ask people who have listened to the album to try and classify it as a genre, no one up to this point has been able to do that. It’s a lot of live instruments, I can say that much. There are (some) songs that a string-quartet is playing; horn sections; flutes; a lot of conscious lyrics and songs; really fun – some songs are really fun, some songs are really deep. It features artists such as Ayah, Tingsek, Ibrahim, Justin Nozuka – so they helped me out on some songs with collaborations and I hope to have the first single out in two months and then we can start rolling with that project.

SoulCulture: You have worked with quite a lot of the more popular acts from Canada. What is the scene like over there in Canada?

Slakah the Beatchild: It’s like a ticking time bomb because there’s a lot of talent and I feel that at any second, this Canadian scene is gonna blow up because it’s such a unique sound and a lot of talent and these cats are hungry. It’s just about that right opportunity. The world is starting to hear our voice and see that just north of the US border, there are a lot of cats doing amazing music and I think that with technology and artists such as Kardinal Offishall, Melanie Fiona, Drake – these artists have helped pave a way to open the doors for the sounds that come through from Canada.

SoulCulture: Who are the artists from Canada that aren’t well known that we should look out for?

Slakah the Beatchild: There’s Art of Fresh (my crew), Ayah, Zaki Ibrahim, Tanika Charles. I’ll give you that much. Those names alone are enough to keep your mind blown.

SoulCulture: And seeing as you mentioned it, let’s talk about The Art of Fresh. How did that group and that sound come about?

Slakah the Beatchild: Well D.O. is a good friend of mine. He was like my mentor when I first came into the music industry. He actually won (held) the Guinness book of world records for longest freestyle so he’s an emcee’s emcee. He wanted beats so we were working together in the studio crafting an interesting sound but we noticed that whenever we collaborated, we’d have this really unique sound so we decided to make a group and push that sound. Whenever we work together, we’d have the “Art of Fresh” sound. There are two “Art of Fresh” sounds really – there’s that Native Tongue/Tribe Called Quest vibe and then there’s that more Electro-Soul, Outkast meets Black Eyed Peas vibe.

SoulCulture: For those folks that will go out now and buy the latest Art of Fresh record – When the Night Comes In – what can or should they expect to hear from the record?

Slakah the Beatchild: They can expect to hear a lot of energy. Really musical – I think it is pretty musical for an Electro-Soul or “House-Hop” (record). It’s gonna feel good, it’s really positive and it’s different because a lot of music sounds the same these days and it’s nice to hear something that is fresh, hence why we call ourselves The Art of Fresh. So if they like unique and for anyone who wants to hear a unique approach to music, The Art of Fresh is the way to go. If you like that general everyday crap, then just turn on the radio.

SoulCulture: I know you must get asked this quite a lot of times but…

Slakah the Beatchild: How did I get my name?

SoulCulture: YES

Slakah the Beatchild: Alright alright. Slakah – there’s kinda a cocky story behind it. I call myself “Slakah” because I’m not even trying yet, wait until I start trying, it’ll be over. Beatchild – my mum gave me that name when I was a young’in, just an infant. She put me on the washing machine when she did laundry and on the rinse cycle, it’d make this steady noise and I’d bounce to it, I thought it was music and she laughed and she loved it. It amazed her that I actually had rhythm. They rhythm of the washing machine, I was moving to that rhythm and she called me “beatchild.”

SoulCulture: OK now let’s go back to your move from your home-town Sarnia to the big T.O – Toronto. Can you tell us about what made you make that move and what was the moment in which you decided music is what you would be doing?

Slakah the Beatchild: It was such a strong… Sometimes in life, you really gotta trust your heart. There came a point in my life where I was going to school for architecture and I wasn’t feeling it. I tried, I tried and I knew that I was cheating myself because I knew what I wanted to do but I wasn’t doing it so I found a way to do it. I came up with a scheme in my mind and I said I was going to intern at a studio and gain experience. It was just the motivation and the love to do it. I think every artist has that drive to just do what you love. So I packed my bags and moved to the big city and just started grinding and grinding, my goal was so clear in mind. I applied at this one studio – the first studio I applied to actually – and they loved me. I was scrubbing toilets, getting coffee; I worked my way up and gained some experience. That really catapulted things for me in the music industry, especially as a sound engineer because I engineer music too.

SoulCulture: Were there times or a time where you just thought “You know what, I quit this”?

Slakah the Beatchild: Yeah! Yeah there have been a few times totally. You gotta live and you gotta support yourself. Nobody wants to be completely broke. There were stressful times I’ve said I’m not done with music but I’m gonna get a regular job and like whatever, music is just whatever now but music (art) is one of those things that are in you and will never leave you even if you try to get away from it. It’s like a part of you; it’s like the colour of your eyes. If your eyes are brown, you can’t change it. Once you’re an artist, you can never change it. You can pretend to but it’ll never leave so why not embrace it.

SoulCulture: To go from that to being a Juno Award winner, how does that make you feel?

Slakah the Beatchild: You know what? I consider it as just a small stepping stone and accomplishment. I look at the bigger picture sometimes. When you put those small things together, then that feels like an accomplishment. Being able to travel the world and go to different countries and have friends there that I met through music and have fans there? That’s what makes me really feel proud and happy about the decision I’ve made to make music for a living. All the accolades and stuff, I don’t really care about. They’re nice, recognition of course is nice but it’s not number one on my list of what’s important.

Slakah The Beatchild online: WordPress / Facebook / Twitter / MySpace / Bandcamp

Privacy Preference Center