London singer and producer Miink garnered attention in the aftermath of his self-released debut, Small Clan (2018), a soulful mixtape which demonstrated high levels of both artistic vision and technical ability. R&B, in its very loosest sense, the ethereal swoon of Miink’s falsetto, plummets into sub bass or is interrupted by panned percussion, throughout a striking, multi-genre frenzy. In conversation with Miink, we discuss his west London roots, self-directed videos, studio setup and how he’s slowly learning to love live music.
West London’s known for carnival and its rich musical history - what was it like growing up there? My grandma lived in a townhouse in Hammersmith which was was a bit of a hub for the neighbourhood. I have a big family, and there would always be neighbours and friends. There was a soundsystem set up in the basement to throw parties and my uncles had a studio at the top of the house, so it was constantly a very musical place.
Is there any particular music that evokes strong memory of that period? All I would ever hear is bass through the walls. I was too young and they would push me away, so I’d never get close enough to hear the actual music. That’s my main memory.
But my grandma also had cable, (and we didn’t have cable at my house) so I could watch MTV there. Again I was too young to understand it, but the things that have lived on my memory are the music videos that really scared me, like Aphex Twin, that was pretty fucking scary.
And now you make your own music videos right? While I took notice of things on TV, a lot of those music videos had $100,000 plus budgets. It was the internet that led me to start filmmaking. I grew up on skate videos, it was all just more DIY, you can do it, you can do it, it doesn’t have to be out of reach.
You could make your own things, you’d be able to express yourself, your culture and your people, and find other people who are into the same things.
“Everything starts in a home studio. I think the home studio is sometimes looked upon as a lo-fi thing, but it’s not, it’s the complete opposite. Some things might be recorded badly, but if it’s got feeling then it’s never wrong.“
So when did you start getting into the recording studio? After not being allowed in the studio at my grandma’s house, I got taken under my uncle’s wing. I grew up with him in Ladbroke Grove, and he had a studio in Shepherd’s Bush, so I was a lot younger than all my friends doing that sort of thing.
Where do you work now? Everything starts in a home studio. I think the home studio is sometimes looked upon as a lo-fi thing, but it’s not, it’s the complete opposite. Some things might be recorded badly, but if it’s got feeling then it’s never wrong.
I think that technology’s advanced to such a point that we have difficulty recording things badly, we have difficulty making things which aren’t pristine recordings. It’s not going to a tape that’s been used a bunch of times and it’s falling apart, and it’s not going through a load of analogue gear with dust on the circuitry, so now the problem is trying to get that life into it.
What’s your approach to live music like? I think I’ve only just started to understand it. I didn’t get it, I always felt like, when we have the record, which is the perfect version of it, why do I need to see it live? I didn’t understand why everyone was so into it.
I’ve realised that you go to the record for perfection, but you go to a live show for a moment, and you want to feel like it’s real. It might not be perfect pitch-wise or note-for-note, but it’s a moment you can cherish and hold on to.
I’ve started focusing on how I can make those moments for people, that they’ll remember and they’ll want to tell everyone about and they’ll want to relive over and over again but can’t, because it’s a fleeting thing, and you can never really record it, you can never really capture it.
“I’ve realised that you go to the record for perfection, but you go to a live show for a moment, and you want to feel like it’s real. It might not be perfect pitchwise or note-for-note but it’s a moment you can cherish and hold on to.“
And it let’s people demonstrate their reaction your music - what’s that been like? Yeah, the thing that’s really mattered is when people reach out and tell me that my music really meant something to them. It’s all well and good, people reaching out going: “Yo, your song’s cool”, everyone loves to be cool, but that never really did it for me. So when people started saying things like; “I was having a really bad day until i found your music, it’s changed my mood, you’ve done something to me.” When I realised it could have that emotional effect on people, that’s when it started meaning more.
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James Lavelle, London-based musician and label owner on Miink