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15 questions for... Blay Vision: "I played Sonic the Hedgehog to listen to the music rather than enjoy the game"

Blay
(Image credit: Press)

Blay Vision is a Tottenham-based rapper and producer becoming widely known for both MC-ing and his dark, melodic grime productions.

He has now worked with many influential artists on that scene including Jme (with whom he collaborated on the two-million streaming track Gone Mad, as well as producing the Grime MC album) plus Dapz On The Map, Skepta and P Money.

And as for his rather unique outlook on production? Well that all started with Sonic, and might well end up with tattoos of his favourite synth plugins. That’s dedication to the cause for you…

1. How did you get into music?

“I’m just a guy from North London who played Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive to listen to the music rather than enjoy the game, and it kind of just spiralled out of control from there.”

2. When and how would you say you became successful, or at least able to make a living from music?

“Because my goals are always changing I feel like I’m still working towards that goal, through many, many trials and errors. I learnt that one income is never enough so at the moment I have three jobs: my nine to five, production and MCing, and they all play their own little part in helping me towards achieving the bigger goal.”

3. What is your overall philosophy or approach when it comes to music?

“I love being in a studio and creating music. That’s where my passion is at. Practice is the main thing when it comes to my approach because I can never tell if today is the day I make a banger; I just know the more I make music, the higher the probability I’m going to make something that I think bangs.

"Also, music to me is like therapy - when an artist makes his last track, his whole discography is like an audio diary. Pain is just a part of my journey that I want to share with the world.”

4. When and how did you discover the route to computer music-making and how has it changed the way you work?

"I found it in secondary school. An external youth worker came into the school with a Mac and little recording setup and asked if anyone was interested in making music. Me and two friends turned up, made a track and that was it - I was hooked.” 

5. Tell us about your studio gear?

“My setup is quite basic. I mainly use my MacBook to make music (with Logic Pro X and FL Studio). I use a Focusrite 4i4 audio interface plus I’ve got a pair of Yamaha HS8s, an Aston Spirit Mic and a ton of samples that I’ve collected since 2006. I’m a hoarder and I never delete anything.”

6. What are your top five favourite plugins of all time?

Spectronics Omnisphere: "I love weird sounds and this plugin is the daddy of weird sounds. I love when people hear my music and are caught off guard, in the sense where this sound shouldn’t work, but it is working. This plugin helps me achieve that.”

reFX Nexus: “This is what I call my foundation plugin. Strings, pianos, harps and all the sounds you would want to start your beat in? This plugin has it. I have a soft spot for it because I’ve used it for so long.”

Native Instruments Massive: “AKA the Synth Lord, my favourite plugin of all time. I might even get it tattooed one day just because some of my biggest tracks to date were made using this app. This is another plugin with weird sounds you can tweak”

Tone2 Gladiator: “Even though I haven’t used this plugin for a while it’s worth a mention because it’s another synth daddy. It has some clean lead synths and a few beautiful West-coast-sounding synths that really hit the mark.”

Antares Auto-Tune: “Everyone has their opinions on this plugin but I love it. T-Pain really made me appreciate this plugin, and when used in the ways he showed the world, I can only describe it as ‘amazing’!”

7. How does a Blay Vision track typically start out?

“I always start with a melody; that’s the heart and soul of every track. If I can't sing along or hum or get some kind of wave on a melody I’m 99% sure I won’t like it.”

8. You obviously put a lot of emphasis on beats and vocals…

“Because I was an artist first before I became a producer, while I’m making a beat I always have some kind of hook in mind or vocal melody while making it. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that every beat I make initially was made for me. I don’t think I could make a beat that I wouldn’t vocal - it’s kind of like a gift and curse.”

9. Do you have any specific production tricks?

“I’m always trying to get better and keep it fresh. I feel like, without knowing it, my melodies are what make people like my music. At first, people used to say ‘I can tell you produced that’. And I used to think, ‘is that a diss or a compliment?’. But as time went on and people would explain why they liked a beat I made, I noticed they always picked up on my vibe which is nine times out of 10 because of the melody.”

10. Have you been involved in collaborations for this project?

“Manga Saint Hilare is my only feature of this project. He’s just a super-sick MC and an inspiration to all other MCs because he puts his head down, works hard and keeps it moving. I really want to make a full project with him soon.”

11. What is on your wishlist in terms of studio gear?

“Gear wise, at the moment I’m really in my ‘plugin-hunter’ mode. I just got a SubPac recently which has got me walking around feeling like a human boombox, which I love. So I think I’m soon going to empty my bank on some Native Instruments products or whoever has the sounds I need.”

12. What advice do you have for playing out live?

“Playing live taught me it’s always good to practise first. Being a grime MC first, going on stage and MCing was natural, but as my sound evolved and became a bit more melodic, I learned the hard way that you can’t go from a grime smash to something mellow, like my track Gone Mad because it just won’t work vocally. Practising will help you work out the best kind of setlist.”

13. And from working in the studio?

“Practice makes perfect. I know everyone says this but it’s actually true. It’s actually impossible to get worse by practising more. I look at it like this: being a producer is like being a soldier holding a gun. The more you practise and make beats, the more ‘bullets’ you would have. Now when you go to war, are you gonna be a producer with a handgun or a machine gun? (Also I don’t condone war, that was a metaphor; sometimes I speak in riddles!)”

14. Any advice from being in ‘the industry’ you can pass on?

“The music industry is an emotional battlefield. The ups can feel amazing and the lows can be heartbreaking. All I can say is how I deal with it, and that’s to just not be in it. I make music because I love it; releasing a song for me is like planting a tree. When you plant a tree it will grow branches, no one knows where it’ll grow. When I make music, something good always happens. Like this interview! It was fun to do but I didn’t know it was going to happen. I try not to dwell on things that cause people stress and just enjoy the journey and every branch that appears.”

15. What projects have you got planned for the future?

“Mad amounts of music. I want to flex musically to the world. In 2021, if your album doesn’t have a Blay Vision Production on it, it’s not an album! [laughs]”

Blay Vision’s latest EP entitled PAIN is out now and is the first of two EPs.

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