“Amy Winehouse? Man, I was obsessed with her,” offers Ady Suleiman as we touch on an obvious influence within his own music. “I mean, to the extent I even got protective over her, like she was my mate, or something. Of course, now I realize everyone else is like that about her too. I have no real claim to Amy Winehouse. I never met her, but… as a songwriter, she was the person I always tried to replicate. And vocally. So I’m glad she’s there in my music, yeah.”
Grantham-born, Nottingham-developed singer-songwriter Ady Suleiman – the first name is pronounced ‘Addy’ to rhyme with ‘daddy’, by the way – may previously have provoked a blip on your cultural radar for being Syco’s first serious attempt at building a proper musician from scratch and without the aid of some Saturday night TV talent contest, but it’s his debut album, created, recorded and just issued independently that’s going to cement the interest of Echoes folk.
The Edition Hotel in central London is an unlikely setting for a rendezvous with reggae artists. True, the doorman has dreadlocks, which he’s tied back so they rest on the back of his smart grey suit, yet it’s still a surprise when he waves me through and I’m led to an upstairs room where Sting and Shaggy hold court.
The two friends have an album to promote and they’re in relaxed mood after a trip to a nearby record store. Both have grown accustomed to international fame and wear it well, meaning there’s no pretence. They rib each other good heartedly during our interview, but then their alliance isn’t the result of record company mechanisations, or because neither of them had anything better to do. Sting’s musical The Last Ship has just opened in his native North East, and there’s rarely a month goes by without a new Shaggy track being released. As told in Echoes last month, it was Sting’s manager Martin Kierszenbaum who introduced them…
A little over a year ago former Brand New Heavies core member Jan Kincaid introduced us to his new musical project with vocalist and songwriter Dawn Joseph – entertainingly christened MF Robots – and promised a debut album that would mark a fresh start for the pair. It may have taken just a few months longer than his estimate to hit the streets, but when on May 4 Music For Robots does finally arrive [via Membran Music], you’ll find that, true to his word, it’s a lively, energetic blast of an album, one which bears the unmistakable sound of creative cobwebs being blown away and stiffened artistic muscles flexed anew.
Lifting his eyes from last month’s Soul Sides preview [which basically said the same thing], Jan is happy to acknowledge the thought. It’s exactly how it felt for them too.
“It was like going up into the loft and finding a load of boxes full of stuff you thought you needed, and actually making the decision to chuck most of it out… ”
Amp Live isn’t someone you imagine sitting still for too long. So it’s not much of a surprise that when he picks up the phone, he’s in the middle of a lunchbreak from a teaching gig at the Los Angeles Film School.
“I’m actually not in class right now, but they come back in 20 minutes,” says the California-based producer. “I talk to students about Ableton, about being a music artist, how to get a manager, how to do a show, that kind of stuff. It keeps me fresh, talking with younger artists.”
He’s the right person to give aspiring artists survival tips. Though still best known to most rap fans as one half of Zion I, his solo career started from underground hip-hop but has wandered increasingly left. His Rainydayz remix album of Radiohead’s In Rainbows got him noticed outside rap circles when the band gave it their approval, but these days you’re likely to see his name attached to everything from gonzo trap to spacey alt-R&B and anything in between.
“I just love music,” he says, simply.