Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

Welcome to B&S



Labrinth: Ready for the launch

Labrinth Labrinth

Having initially attained his breakthrough success in 2010 as producer of rapper Tinie Tempahâs chart-topping, BRIT Award-winning "Pass Out," North London-based singer/songwriter/producer/musician Labrinth this month undisputedly comes of age as an artist in his own right via the release of his hugely-anticipated debut album "Electronic Earth" - pioneered by its bass-driven, autotune-fuelled uptempo new single "Last Time."

Indeed, having been entirely written and produced by Labrinth himself at his studio in Londonâs Wood Green, "Electronic Earth" makes for a highly experimental, genre-defying debut set. Whose kaleidoscopic sonics range from the guitar-driven, rock-tinged "Treatment" and the jungle rhythms and synths of the joyous "Climb On Board;" to a faithfully-replayed, personalised take on the Charles Wright 1970 street-funk anthem "Express Yourself" and the rousingly haunting balladry of the Emeli Sande-featuring "Beneath Your Beautiful."

Born Timothy McKenzie in Hackney, East London in 1989, Labrinth - alongside his nine talented elder siblings - grew up at home surrounded almost exclusively by the sounds of American gospel music. Becoming entirely self-taught after studying music at his local church, meanwhile, it was at the age of 13 that a naturally-gifted young Timothy would first begin making beats in his brotherâs home studio before eventually going on to master bass, drums and keyboards.

Meanwhile, after spending four years studying music theory alongside practising and honing his craft in his managerâs studio, it was at 19 years old that the multi-talented Labrinth achieved his first taste of notoriety - following his experimental, rock-edged production work on South London rapper Master Shortieâs critically-acclaimed, independently-released debut LP "ADHD."

However, it was upon hooking-up with another South London rhymesmith - the then-unknown, aforementioned Tinie Tempah - that Labrinth would in 2010 finally hit the big-time. As his trailblazing production on Tinieâs first two singles - the groundbreaking BRIT and Ivor Novello Award-winning "Pass Out" and its cheeky follow-up "Frisky" - hit Numbers One and Two respectively on the UK mainstream listings. Success which ultimately attracted the attention of globally-famed music and television mogul Simon Cowell, who later the same year signed him as an artist to his high-profile, Sony-affiliated Syco Music - making him the first act in six years to not join the label via a TV talent-show platform.

Since which time - in addition to producing pivotal debut singles from new Sony-signed UK R&B vocalists Loick Essien and Bluey Robinson, plus seasoned urban songstress Ms Dynamiteâs chart comeback 'Neva Soft' - the ever-trailblazing Lab (as heâs known to his friends!) has become a prominent hitmaker in his own right via the Top Three success of both his first two solo singles, 2010âs enduringly melodic "Let The Sun Shine" and 2011âs Tinie Tempah-featuring, explosively electronic "Earthquake."

⦠All of which pretty much brings us up-to-date, as the charismatic 22-year-old musical juggernaut that is Labrinth meets up with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis at a photo-shoot in Bethnal Greenâs quaintly-atmospheric Oxford House for an in-depth introductory chat.

PETE: Letâs start on obvious ground - the thinking behind titling your new, debut album "Electronic Earth."

LABRINTH: âBasically âElectronic Earthâ represents musically where Iâm headed to as an artist. In that I wanna be able to make both acoustic and electronic music side-by-side, and not have to worry about whether they sound RIGHT next to each other. You know, on one side you have artists like Adele whoâs very much on an acoustic vibe, and then on the other you have like maybe Justice, who are a kind of electro-house band. And to me, what Iâm about as a musician is joining those two worlds TOGETHER⦠So yeah, in that way âElectronic Earthâ does truly represent me as both an artist AND a producer. Because I feel like this album is a definite step towards where I wanna BE! Itâs like the first step towards me making some insane, crazy stuff in the FUTURE!â

PETE: In your own eyes, what do you feel youâre bringing to the table thatâs different as an artist?

LABRINTH: âIn terms of being an urban artist, I think itâs the fact that I do bring actual musical SONGS - at a time when most of the other stuff out there is very much club-driven and BEAT-driven. Also I think I bring different approaches to harmonies, as well as a whole new energy in terms of ECLECTICNESS - in the sense that none of the songs on this album are the SAME. You know, I definitely didnât wanna be a one-dimensional artist that you can just put into one box. Because to me weâre all masters of certain energies, and we all create different COLOURS.â

PETE: And as a producer?

LABRINTH: âAs far as being a producer goes, I think itâs that I produce in terms of LAYERS. You know, one thing I always really enjoyed about Qunicy Jonesâ production technique was that there were so many layers to every SONG. Like one week youâd hear a new trumpet-line, then the next week youâd hear be hearing a new guitar-line⦠To where even TODAY when you play those records you STILL hear new things on them. And, while Iâm not saying my songs are anywhere NEAR that level, at the same time a lot of people do say they hear new things on my records each time they play them, and that that gives them more CHARACTER. Just like when you get to know a PERSON layer-by-layer you start to understand them loads more.â

PETE: For such an eclectic musician, some may find it surprising that at home you grew up almost exclusively listening to gospel musicâ¦

LABRINTH: âYeah, but what a lot of people donât realise is that gospel in itself incorporates so many different STYLES. Like blues, jazz and a lot of those genres all started from gospel originally. So when you see and hear first-hand the way gospel actually is, it kind of inspires you subconsciously to go TOWARDS those different directions. You know, I donât SEE categories, I donât SEE styles - l see them all gelled TOGETHER. And it was gospel that definitely helped me to DO that⦠Plus seeing my brother and loads of other musicians worshipping God while playing instruments when I was younger I think also helped me understand ENERGY, and how to really AFFECT people musically. Because of course in a church what youâre seeing is musicians actually affecting people alongside worshipping - which to me is music at the very height of its POWER... So yeah, as a producer I feel I did learn a lot from the church in terms of how to affect people through my songs.â

PETE: Obviously your big breakthrough as a producer was with Tinie Tempahâs BRIT and Ivor Novello Award-winning 2010 Number One "Pass Out." What was the story behind you creating that groundbreaking track?

LABRINTH: âAt the time me and my manger were trying to come up with something that still had the grime energy but was a little more experienced MUSICALLY. And while of course âPass Outâ doesnât sound INTELLECTUALLY musical, when you actually listen to the different layers in it you do start to understand that thereâs reggae in there, thereâs drum-&-bass, thereâs kind of trance mixed over hip hop - all of which is not the NORM! You know, I was basically wanting to produce a kind of English urban music that wouldnât be perceived as boring or second-hand AMERICAN music - which at the time was all that we WERE! And I felt like âPass Outâ was a first step towards me being wholeheartedly English but at the same time still being able to be commercially viable... And then when I hooked up with Tinie, it turned out he was the ideal artist to for me to work WITH! You know, he spoke to me in the studio beforehand and was like âI wanna be DIFFERENT! I wanna be an artist that kind of develops beyond what urban is thought to BE, where we just stay in the clubs and we donât become STARS in this countryâ... So yeah, from the start there was a really good chemistry between us, plus I also just think the stars were aligned. Because for me Tinie was definitely the right guy at the right TIME! He understood what I was doing, and he sat on it PERFECTLY.â

PETE: So how did you then become a recording artist yourself and make the unlikely step of signing with Simon Cowellâs Sony-affiliated Syco label?

LABRINTH: âWell, 'Pass Out' had come out, 'Frisky' had come out - and the phone was just going CRAZY! You know, everybody was going âWhatâs going on with Lab? Weâve heard his stuff - whyâs he not an ARTIST?â... And so they all started offering me deals⦠And then at the last minute - just when I was about to sign with Universal - Simon COWELL called! You know, a couple of his artists - Leona Lewis, Alexandra (Burke) - were wanting me to produce them. So he heard my music and was like âYou SEEM like an artist, you DRESS like an artist - why ARENâT you one?â... So I told him I was about to be signed - and from that he pretty much jumped in and signed me FIRST!... And I guess the reason I decided to go with Syco was because I knew they were a special machine that could make really big things happen while still allowing me to produce my own music without having any involvement in my CREATIVITY! I basically felt like theyâd be able to give me the kinda leverage I wanted for me to get where I needed to GO.â

PETE: So finally, can you fill me in on your new imprint Odd Child,

Labrinthâs debut UK tour runs from February 23 to March 8. Tickets available from and

The single âLast Timeâ is released March12, followed by the album âElectronic Earthâ on March 19, both through Sycho music.


From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

Join the B&S Mailing List

Blues and Soul on Twitter