Amplify Dot... In the dotlight
Interview: Amplify Dot
Published on August 14th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
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It’s not often we get to speak to two people within the space of a week to have collaborated with Busta Rhymes, so we were chuffed as buttons to follow our interview with Talib Kweli by speaking to emerging south London rapper Amplify Dot.
Having already snared our attention with her abundant character on the single “Kurt Cobain”, Amplify Dot recently unleashed the Busta-featuring “I’m Good” to leave Rocksucker in no uncertain terms that this was someone we had to find out more about.
We kept dialing different permutations of numbers into our phone until eventually we chanced upon hers, a delightful victory rewarded by a delightful chinwag about her forthcoming debut album and various other matters…
How’s your summer been in terms of festivals? Any particular highlights?
I’ve done quite a few festivals, it’s been amazing. It’s been my first time doing festivals so to do so many has been amazing. Glastonbury was crazy, just because it’s Glastonbury – it’s an amazing experience – but what I really loved this year was Ibiza Rocks. That was incredible.
Did you get enough time at the festivals to have a wander round and catch other acts playing?
Yeah, I got to see Plan B at Global Gathering. He absolutely killed it. At Ibiza Rocks and Majorca Rocks I was supporting Rizzle Kicks so it was good to watch their set and hang out with them afterwards as well.
It’s been an amazing summer; I’ve done Lovebox, Wireless…I’ve done quite a few. I’ve been busy!
How close to completion is the album now? Do you know yet when it might come out?
It’s really near the end, but I don’t want to put a date on it yet. No deadline was put on me, which was really nice. I’ve been making it for over a year now, we’re starting to wrap it up and it’s feeling really good.
I’m a real perfectionist so I’m going to listen to it maybe a hundred more times before I give it the seal of approval! But it’s nearly there.
What was the decision-making process behind separating tracks into the album and your Spare Parts mixtape? Was it more a consideration of quality or what fitted together the best?
Spare Parts was a mixtape of songs that didn’t make the first cut. I’m always in the studio so I’ve got so many songs to choose from, and rather than have two hundred songs at the end of it I tried to whittle it down into an album.
Every few months, I listen to what I’ve made and I pick my favourites, the ones to keep. Spare Parts was some songs that didn’t make that first cut but that I really enjoyed making.
Like I said, I’m a bit of a perfectionist so the criteria for what makes the album is very, very harsh. I’m my biggest critic so as soon as there’s something I don’t like about the song, it automatically gets axed from the list. It’s a harsh process.
Are there any tracks from Spare Parts that you’ve since come to regret not holding back for the album?
Yeah (laughs). There’s a song called “Mars” that I really liked but I wasn’t sure about it, wasn’t sure if musically it was ‘me’. I like to experiment a lot in the studio and on this one I thought that maybe I’d experimented a little bit too much.
So I thought, “Let’s just put it out on Spare Parts and see what the reaction is to it.” People absolutely loved it and it is by far their favourite song on the mixtape, so I thought, “Oh no, maybe I should have held onto that one!”
Who else has been involved in the making of the album?
I’ve worked with some amazing guys, from Chris Loco to Frenchie Smith. I’ve worked with Zane Lowe, who a lot of people don’t realise is an incredible producer as well as an incredible DJ.
I’ve also worked with a guy called Krunchie, who’s kind of the long-term producer of mine. It’s nice that as you progress you can take people with you who you worked with long before you had any record deal. That means a lot to me.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times already, but how did you manage to rope in Busta Rhymes?
Actually, I made the song originally about Busta Rhymes! I was listening back to it and I just thought, “This sounds like a song where Busta Rhymes is coming on.” I could hear him on it before I’d even contacted him.
I mentioned it to management and the label, and I think everybody thought it was a bit far-fetched and that I was living beyond my wildest dreams. But they said, “You know what, we’ll send him the song, worst case scenario is we never hear back from him, you’ve got nothing to lose really.”
We sent him the song and two days later I was on the phone to Busta Rhymes! He was telling me how much he liked the song, which for me was just surreal, that not only did he like the song but that he got back to me so quickly to speak to me directly about how much he liked it. It was really nice.
I was due to do a tour at that time, but it was like, “Look, we can do the tour, or we can get the song done with Busta Rhymes.” Tours come and go, I don’t think I would have missed that opportunity to work with Busta.
Seem like a nice bloke?
He’s a great guy! (Laughs)
Did Missy Elliott keep in contact with you after your appearance in her show? (NB: See video below for an explanation from Amplify Dot herself)
That’s going back twelve years, before the days of MySpace, Twitter and Facebook! If that happened now then maybe, but at that time it was just kind of…it was an amazing opportunity that I always look back on.
But that was before the whole social networking era. I would have pestered her if it was now!
What would you say your big break was?
I don’t think I’ve had one specific big break. I think I’ve been knocking on the door for a while with various things, putting out mixtapes independently, putting together my own music videos, jumping on any stage.
So I don’t think it was any one moment that was pivotal. I think if you make enough noise as an underground artist then it gets to a point where people have no choice but to listen, and I think that’s what it was for me: years and years of relentless noisemaking!
The cherry on top was when I put out an independent EP called Short Back & Sides last year. I did the artwork myself, put it on iTunes myself, got everything together myself and it did really well, got top ten on iTunes’s hip-hop chart.
The guy who is now my A&R representative at EMI noticed it, listened to it, did his research and said, “You know what, we’ve got to get you in here making some music.” I signed my deal pretty quickly after that, so I think that the hard work was my big break.
One of the things I like about you is that you don’t seem to be afraid of offending people! Have you had much in the way of backlash?
Oh yeah! (Laughs) A prime example would be “Kurt Cobain”: I think a lot of people listened to that and took it at face value, thought that I was actually advocating living fast and dying young, saying, “Go on, do it!”
The song was social observation and I was sort of playing devil’s advocate with the whole concept of how this fast life can pull the rug from underneath you. A lot of people listen to music and take it at face value, but I think enough people understood the deeper message there for it to work.
But yeah, flippin’ hell! I had some serious Nirvana superfans hating me for that song. You can’t please everyone.
Finally, which have been your favourite albums from 2013?
I love J. Cole’s album. (Deliberates) You know what, J. Cole’s album might be my album of the year so far. I love Magna Carta but I think J. Cole might just have bettered it for me.
Amplify Dot, thank you.
“I’m Good”, featuring Busta Rhymes, is out now on Virgin Records Ltd.