One of the biggest musical revelations of 2012 has been UK electro/hip-hop pioneer Labrinth. "Earthquake" made a slow but steady rise into the national top 10 with its bone-crunching beats and irresistible chorus and his debut album "Electronic Earth" is an absolute knock-out punch. There are soulful tunes (his duet with Emeli Sandé is gorgeous), sprawling electronic anthems and cameos from urban superstars like Tinie Tempah and Busta Rhymes. The 23-year-old's star is definitely on the rise and I was excited to have a brief phone chat with him while he knocked back a few drinks in what sounded like a rather busy nightclub! Here's what he had to say:
I should probably start by congratulating you on the success of “Earthquake” in Australia. It’s just jumped into the top 10. How does it feel to be so popular on the other side of the world?
Yeah man, I’m really happy about that.
Did you expect the song to work so well internationally?
Not at all. You know, we just make records and hope for the best. It’s lovely to see people responding and enjoying what we enjoyed in four corners – you know what I mean?
“Earthquake” has such a fresh sound. It’s a collision of so many electronic sub-genres. How did you come up it?
You know what - I just lead with what I love, man. It’s like if you go into someone’s bedroom and see all the posters on their wall. You see what makes them who they are and for me that’s what those sounds are – the posters up on my wall. It’s an example of what I go through and what I see. Hopefully people enjoy that and it seems like it’s been the case so far. I’m good, man. I’m happy.
Your next single “Last Time” is also tearing up the charts in the UK...
Yeah, man! Mid-weeks number three. I’m honestly fucking... I’m like, what’s going on? God’s got a plan for me.
This is going to be your third top 3 single in a row. How do you explain the success? You’ve really tapped into something.
You know what? I’ve been in the industry for a bit now and I think if I tried to explain it, I’d be an idiot. All I’m doing is doing me and trying to be me as much as possible and it’s really good right now that people are really receptive and hopefully that keeps going.
You’ve worked a lot with Tinie Tempah. How did you guys join forces?
Do you know what? I hate that guy, man! I really do, man. He’s such an arsehole. It took him so long to get on that record... nah I’m being silly! I met Tinie a while ago and we made “Pass Out” in 2007. The relationship has grown and we really work well together so I thought it was only right that we got on another record together and made it happen.
Who brought you together?
He heard a record I produced and really enjoyed it, so he came to me and asked to work with me. My publisher set us up and the first song we made was “Pass Out”.
One second, bro. Where’s the ice? Oh there’s an ice machine. Sorry, my friend.
No worries. Are you having a drink?
Yeah, I just had to find myself a nice little Remy and juice.
That sounds good!
It is that time of night, so why not? Time for a little bit of juice.
Go for it! On your album “Electronic Earth” you also work with some other cool people. I particularly love Emeli Sandé. What was it like to work with her?
It was a pleasure, man. She’s one of the best singers in the UK for me. I didn’t want to get a famous singer – a boring, famous singer – that’s doing great in the charts. I just wanted someone that’s amazing. And it’s really cool to see that we chose someone who was gonna do great things and now she is doing great things. I’m happy but personally for me it was just about talent and now seeing her talent take her to places that people wouldn’t dream of going. I’m so happy for her.
You also got Busta Rhymes on the bonus track. How did that happen?
He just called us up and asked if he could work on the record. I was fucking lost when he said that. I used to listen to his shit when I was young and my brothers used to be bangin’ out his records when I was younger, so that was insane for me. It was a pleasure to work with him.
What’s going to be your next international single?
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the record. I don’t think all the UK singles are gonna be released internationally. We’ll see what happens. “Earthquake” has been doing well, so hopefully people will get a taste and then buy the album.
What were your influences on “Electronic Earth”? I read somewhere that your influences were “Adele meets Justice”. Can you explain that a bit?
For me, I wanted to be electronic but I wanted to have a little bit of soul in there and I hope that’s come across on the album. For me it was about being electronic and organic all at the same time. I just wanted to be musically free and for me electronic and organic is expressed in all types of music. It’s the only way I could be 360 in the whole matter and that’s what I wanted to be.
So who are you listening to at the moment?
I was listening to some Jimmy [Hendrix] the other day. He was a fucking G, man. I love him. Also Sam Cooke and some Danger Mouse. All different types man. I listen to everything. There’s a jazz band called Weather Report that I really love and Yellow Jacket, I listen to them as well.
And when are you coming to Australia?
Very soon! I’ve just been talking to my management. Tour agents are setting it up. So hopefully I’ll be there soon and we can all have an earthquake together [laughs].
That would be awesome. Thanks for the chat.
It would a pleasure to talk to you, bro. Take care.
Labrinth's awesome new album "Electronic Earth" is in stores now. Check out his current smash hit "Earthquake" below.