Earlier this year, Vienna born but Brighton based artist-producer salute made some smooth waves on the blogosphere with his track “One More Chance”: a silky slice of piano heavy production which also boasted the vocal prowess of maverick rapper D.R.A.M.. That track, and six other well considered new releases including his latest single “Storm” – which balances honey-coated heart with disruptive rattles and spiky synths – make up Salute’s debut “mini album”, My Heart. Appealing to both electronic-heads and those after something a little more accessible, the record is somewhere between dance-inducing groove and alt-pop made with real soul.
With My Heart out next month, we invited salute to take us through the record blow by blow, and also got the chance to talk performing at The Great Escape, calling out racism, and why it’s always better to be the boffin behind the scenes than the limelight stealer.
It’s been nearly a year since we last spoke to you! What have you been up to since then, and how have things developed musically for you? You’ve got a few releases under your belt now and the mini album is out on August 19th…
I’ve been super busy writing new music and working on the live show. I’ve been trying to push myself more, do stuff musically that I would not even have considered years ago – it’s been a challenge but it really is paying off. The past couple of releases have taught me a lot of myself, the mini album is a testament of that.
Could you tell us a little bit about My Heart? What’s the inspiration behind it or is there a unifying thread? And do you have a favourite track?
My Heart is me showcasing my biggest influences, trying to tell a story – the first half of the EP mirrors the music I grew up listening to – R&B, gospel, that sort of thing. It then gradually becomes more electronic, more gritty. I wanted to make a bunch of songs that sounded completely different to each other but still made sense together, I reckon My Heart does that relatively well. My favourite is the song I made with KAMAU, ‘Forever’. It took me a while to get it sounding right, I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and KAMAU absolutely tore it apart. Such a ridiculously talented man.
You told us before that growing up in Vienna – as opposed to the UK or the US – has strongly impacted your sound. Could you tell us a little bit more about why you feel growing up in Austria was so important to your progression as an artist?
Growing up in Vienna meant there wasn’t a certain style of electronic music in my immediate surroundings that would have had a big impact on my production. It allowed me to look to other places for inspiration and not try to emulate the sound of my city – purely because Vienna doesn’t exactly have a definable sound. Being Viennese forced me to search for my own identity and broaden my horizons.
Brighton’s a city of musicians and artists! Where did you study and how has the town in general shaped, inspired or affected your musical journey? Will you stay in Brighton?
I studied at the University of Sussex doing a creative music technologies course. I met some great people there and the proximity to London allowed me to explore UK club culture in depth, which in turn had a strong effect on how I now make my music. Brighton is extremely vibrant and colourful, and even just meeting people like Mura Masa at university motivated me to keep on going. I just recently moved to Manchester actually, I live there with my good friend Fono who also lived in Brighton.
You played with a full live band for the first time at The Great Escape this year. What was that like?
It was an amazing experience. I was nervous as hell, thinking about all the things that could go wrong – of course, it was all good. Making the transition to playing with a live band was a challenging, but extremely fulfilling step. As much as I love DJing, I feel like live performances can take ones artistry to the next level as well as making shows a lot more personal and intimate.
You were stabbed in a racially provoked attack at 14 and now you’re very vocal when it comes to standing up against bigots. In preparation for this interview, we stumbled across a Facebook debate where you shut one guy down so eloquently- it was absolutely fantastic! Are you determined to use your public platform to draw attention to issues like racism?
Racism is one of many huge problems that needs to be tackled from all angles. People who don’t speak out against it are inadvertently supporting it – I refuse to be part of that. Anyone with a public platform – especially those benefiting from any oppressed cultures – should be vocal when it comes to it. The very fact that this needs to be said is quite sad; a lot of musicians just feel too cool to even voice an opinion on it. I am past caring about how it makes me look, I am tired of having to justify being loudmouthed about something that affects me and millions of other people this much.
You’ve said elsewhere that you’d like to be culturally relevant. Is fame or celebrity status something you aspire to? Can you see yourself in the mainstream?
It is my goal to change something – being famous or a celebrity isn’t part of that in my opinion. I would rather be someone who does things behind the scenes and gets important stuff done. I’m not the type to be in the limelight and take credit for anything, that would make me feel uncomfortable. I can’t really see myself ever being in the mainstream, but if it ever did happen, I would want to tread lightly and very quietly.
Producers often end up operating in the background. Did you always hope to be a fully-fledged solo artist, as opposed to just working on beats for other people?
Yes, that was always the goal. Nowadays, the terms producer and artist are very interchangeable – everyone wants to be a solo artist nowadays. I hate having limitations, I want to be able to do everything and anything. Kind of like Pharrell, but way, way, way less cool than him.
We love your tune with ABRA, and the new one with D.R.A.M! Do you prefer to work with ‘real life’ vocalists (as opposed to using samples)? And if you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be? We notice there are four featuring tracks (out of 7) on My Heart…
Thank you so much. Yes! Absolutely. Songwriting is becoming an increasingly important aspect of my music, I want there to be way more of a personal touch in my songs than everything I’ve put out to date. Working with vocalists is definitely a way to approach that. I would kill (ok, maybe not kill, but strongly maim) to work with Patrice Rushen. I have the upmost respect for her, she is one of my idols. A black woman who managed to be not just a successful singer – but a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist AND producer in the 70s and 80s? I know, it’s crazy.
Let’s talk future plans…2016 has been such a big year for you so far! What’s next?
I’ll be touring Europe this autumn, and I’ll be hiding away for a while to start working on what will be my debut album. I’ve got a huge vision for it, so most of my energy will be focused on that.
I love gospel music – it felt right to start My Heart with a soulful, piano tinged church (you guessed it, hence the title) sounding piece. It also made sense to try and make the drop as big as possible. A church’s excursion to a club.
One More Chance:
This was originally meant to be a piano interlude with no drums, but when D.R.A.M. worked his magic on it, I knew I had to turn it into a full song. I never usually make house music, but I had a lot of fun making slightly dancier music for once.
KAMAU is a genius. He has an amazing voice and his delivery on Forever is spectacular. I took inspiration from Camo & Krooked’s Zeitgeist album for the instrumental – essentially, it is a minimal drum & bass song with a heavy soul influence. Fun production fact: I drew in most of the MIDI notes for the first three tracks, seeing as my piano playing skills aren’t exactly stellar. It took me weeks, but I got there in the end.
One for the clubs – I made War Cry in a couple of hours after a heavy night out, then refined it over the course of a few weeks. The sample right before the drop is me saying “woo!” very enthusiastically. It leads into the EP’s only interlude, called ‘The Fox & Amber’, which recounts a hellishly weird dream I once had about a baby fox and a walking tree called Amber.
Yours & Mine:
Yami & I had never spoken or met up prior to writing Yours & Mine – we got together and wrote this song in a matter of hours. It was such a good experience. I picked up a bass guitar, recorded a very simple riff and started singing a vocal melody on top of that. Yami extended the melody and we both wrote the lyrics – that one session taught me a lot about songwriting.
Weigh It Up:
Krrum is amazingly talented, I love everything he’s put out to date. So proud to be his labelmate – his future is very, very bright. He completely turned the song around – the instrumental is very old, I made the initial version about 2 years ago. It’s quite happy and peaceful, made a nice change from writing relatively hard hitting dance tracks.
Being the nerd I am, I wanted to make a song with a kick drum so big it didn’t need a baseline to go with it. That is essentially how Storm was born. Lame, I know, but that’s just how my brain functions. Cleo from The Six took it to another level, she’s the same wonderful woman who sang on Diamond (Gold Rush). I am particularly happy with this song because of how well it works live, it really seems to resonate with people when we perform it.
My Heart is released 19th August on 37 Adventures