The UK Garage producer and DJ gets candid on his journey so far and how the scene has changed over the years.
A lot of things have had a resurgence these past few years: belt-sized mini skirts, baguette bags, and of course, velour juicy tracksuits. These trends are all synonymous with the iconic Y2K era, and they’re all quickly becoming a staple in today’s culture. But if there is one pivotal movement from that era that is slowly creeping back on the scene, it’s UK garage. “Flowers”, “Sweet Like Chocolate”, “Heartbroken”, all soundtracked our nights out underneath the mists of sweaty underground clubs where never-ending champagne and neon glow sticks documented the scene.
The emergence of UK garage shaped British culture and changed the mainstream sound that we know today, paving the way for new genres. While the popularity may have died down over the years with the likes of drill and grime making their debut, the passion and love for the genre stayed the same and that is why the genre is slowly breaking back onto the charts with the help of Bristol-hailed producer and DJ Conducta. Spearheading the new wave of UKG, the artist with the help of his collective Kiwi are injecting a new spin on the classic genre, without falling into the trap of reworking ageless samples.
“I don’t even want to compare it to the old days, because I feel like it’s a different time and I would never replicate that. But I feel like what is happening now is sustainable.”
Bringing UKG back to the masses, the producer born Collins Nemi has been showcasing his skill for combining the classic and contemporary over the years, from his ear-worming dance-ready track “Vitamin C” to his latest single with burgeoning singer Rachel Chinouriri “Right Together”, the producer has thrown himself into the genre. But it was his 2019 single with AJ Tracey “Ladbroke Grove” that made our summer.
The inescapable booming single instantly strove up the dance floors – from the sandy beaches of Ibiza to roaring underground clubs, it was fair to say it was compulsory in any DJ set. The mixture of both Jorja Smith’s melodic vocals and AJ’s cadence across the copacetic production would prove to be the perfect combination and soared Conducta’s name to the forefront of the new wave. Dropping his new single with friend and former collaborator Coco today, the artist maintains his effervescent energy through the thumping bass line, before quietly erupting into a sweet ecstasy.
With his intimate livestream-turned-UK tour underway and a project brimming in the works, we caught up with the producer virtually, talking all things UKG, the importance of the resurgence, and why it is important to maintain a balance.
Check out the interview below…
How’s your day been?
Yeah not too bad, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been so tired from the other day. The tour really took it out of me. I’ve just been working on music today, getting stuff ready for Leeds, Liverpool Manchester – so I’ve kind of been like resting! I went for a run, I’ve tried to get myself ready like physically and mentally prepare for the next few days.
How’s your past year been with lockdown and everything?
Yeah, it’s been kind of been flat for everyone. I think the best thing for me was being able to reset and really take stock of things. I think everyone kind of realised the way we was consuming stuff definitely wasn’t working and it wasn’t compatible. For me, it was about readjusting and readapting and making things accessible to the people. I was meant to have a tour last year, so I had to sit and think like how can I create something which incorporates lives but still engages the community. Loads of people did have live streams and stuff, but I wanted to put my personality into it. With Conducta’s Crib being in my living room, it was informal and I wanted to make it more intimate and connect with people.
Doing the live streams and Conducta’s Cribs, did you feel a pressure to stay creative?
You know what, I wanted to do it. I knew I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know it would be two live streams a week! I always have ideas in my brain to do this or do that, so this experience came naturally to me – I have to stay productive! You know, we might not have had live shows, but I still wanted to bring that fun and excitement. It felt nice to be able to create a space online and then see it manifested into a real tour – that has been crazy! To have a good 100 or 150 people at the very end at 4 am is crazy to me! It actually made me realise how much of an impact those live streams had. We also set up a landline for anyone who has requests, birthday shoutouts etc. and I had this one from this woman in Liverpool, who honestly reduced me to tears, saying how she discovered me from pirate radio during the lockdown and how she and her friend bonded over my music. It’s just mad nice seeing the little things like that, you kind of forget when you’re in the hustle and bustle of things.
How was the first show of the cribs, that kicked off this week right?
It was an intense two hours setting up. I wanted it to be really cosy and intimate, so we added like balloons and ribbons to create that New York loft party vibe from the 80s. I had like a reading lamp next to the decks, incense, a smoke machine – the little things really matter to me. I don’t think I’ve really taken it all in, I probably will when the tour is over. But it was something really special to experience again.
When you first started out, you know back then to how you are now, how would you describe your growth?
Mentally or musically?
Let’s start with music first.
I came to London from Bristol being like ‘Cool, London has the world of opportunity and I’m here gonna make my mark’. (Laughs) I’ve definitely grown up from then and matured, just in terms of understanding things. Music can become stagnate and you can kinda stay in the same place and not really understand things. Even though I’m 27 now, I’m by no means a veteran, but I feel very cultured and experienced on how things work and how things go. Staying true to yourself and not deviating from who you are is so important. I’ve definitely honed in on my style when it comes to music, I was for sure rough around the edges when I first started, I recognise my growth and progression when I listen back to my old music. One thing for sure, is that I’m trying to become more of a tastemaker and leave something for the future generations. I remember when I had no one to help or guide me, so that is why I’m trying to build a community where we can all give budding producers advice and opportunities.
You’ve had some key pivotal moments in your career so far, especially the AJ song. Looking back on that time, how would you describe that moment?
I felt like the best thing about that moment with Tracey was just that it happened really organically. It wasn’t like we were trying to be cool, it just happened. It’s funny because at the time that song was like my 17-year-old sister’s “Flowers” – that was her So Solid Crew moment. That song was a lot of young people’s entry point to UKG and I’m really proud of that time.
Did you feel a pressure after that to kind of like maintain or keep delivering, or was it kind of like you know I’m gonna just keep doing me?
I’ve learned from previous experience never to chase hits, just do things that are organic. That’s why I love my new single with CoCo, it kinda marks a new musical era for me and going back to making fun music. Prior to that, I was kinda stuck in a hole with this deal and the communication wasn’t working out – we just weren’t seeing eye to eye musically. How I see it, it’s like, if it happens it happens, if not, don’t beat yourself up about it. That’s why now I’m just having fun with it.
As you said, you can get stuck in holes and things. I think a lot of artists in the scene feel like and it can really affect your mental heath, how have you navigated situations like this?
I mean, I had like a moment during the first years where I was really in the depths of it, I was basically suicidal. It was a mixture of things, from pressure to like the burdens of music and life. The thing is, once you hit that low point, the only way out is for you to go to the top. My advice to people would be to just concentrate on you and think about bettering yourself. This world can be so focused on the comparison, and that is the real thief of joy. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a cycle of bullshit and trying to make ourselves look good, but it’s all a facade.
The future of it is looking really good as well, like you said, there are a lot more new producers and leaders coming onto the scene that are that aren’t afraid to like be a certain way. But looking back on the golden eras, what would you say is the big difference?
I feel like you have a lot more sounds now, and the spectrum is a lot wider. People in the scene are using a lot more cleaner sounds now and using different elements, like Todd Edwards and Sammy Virij – they’re just going crazy with it! I feel like before the pandemic, we would have seen a real surge in underground music, and that’s why it’s kinda happening now. I would say the main difference is would the diversity and sound. 10 years ago, there wasn’t really much difference within the UKG genre, but now there is so much range, people are combining so many different elements into the genre, not just re-using old samples.
It’s true! If you go to day parties or raves now, you hear them having their own half an hour set, whereas before you would have to go to a whole different rave!
It’s not just “Flowers” anymore, you can go to a club now and hear five or six garage tunes throughout the set. You know, you can go from Goldlink to Jorja to Sammy – it’s so different now.
But back to you! You’ve just released a song with Rachel and another new one today, is this apart of a wider project?
For me, it’s about getting locked down in the studio and making songs. I’ve set up my home studio and I’ve been making loads of different stuff. It feels nice for people to see my breadth of music and what I can actually make. I worked with Coco before I did “Ladbroke Grove” and it’s been really special to be able to get back with him and make music, the process feels natural. The timings of it are perfect as well with the live shows and everything. Sonically, my sound has a lot more energy and the process has a lot more meaning to it. It’s definitely been a journey these past 18 months. I’m really happy with the last two songs I’ve put out and I’m looking forward to to sharing more with everyone.
And it’s kind of a new chapter for you like what excites you the most?
Freedom. I mean in the terms of musical freedom.