FEATURE: The Last Skeptik on healing, thriving and unapologetically succeeding in music

Corin Douieb, artistically known as The Last Skeptik, is a world-acclaimed producer and rapper hailing from Finsbury Park, North London. He’s played on the world’s biggest stages and made people jump on his music all around the globe. He is also the kind of artist that books his own tours off the cuff whenever he wants to and makes music because he simply couldn’t live without it. 

Through his music but also his personality, The Last Skeptik comes like a double shot of cynicism, hope, enthusiasm, sarcasm and positive vibes, all mixed in one. You can get anything you want from his music – ambition to keep going or motivation to run someone down, whichever one works for you really. 

The thing about Corin is that he is extremely transparent in his music, he doesn’t put up a front for the public to see. Corin and The Last Skeptik are the same person, only Corin laughs a lot. His honest and unapologetic character has stayed with him throughout this journey and keeps feeding into his music, which had him playing for hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and also landed him collaborations with brands such as Fenty, Mercedes and Puma. 

Recently, he has released two singles, “friend and enemy” and “today i’m gonna change my life”, along with two addictive and perfectly executed videos. His vision on life is deeply rooted in his music, and today he is going to share some of it with us, along with some incredible tips for upcoming artists. 

1. What have you been up to? How do you entertain yourself these days? 

At the moment it’s been kind of a mix between a whole bunch of different things. So I’m rolling out the new album at the moment. Last Friday I released the second single from the forthcoming album. So I’ve been finishing that record in its entirety and making a whole plan. I’ve been doing lots of music for adverts and stuff. I’ve been working with Fenty, Rihanna a little bit, I’ve been doing stuff for her Instagram, which has been super cool, and yeah! It’s been good! It’s been busy enough to keep things going in the madness of the past year. So I’ve never been bored because I’ve always had something to do which is super good.

2. What can you tell us about your latest singles, “friend and enemy” and “today I’m gonna change my life”? 

I wanted to make a record that had absolutely no mention of the past year in explicit terms of corona or pandemic or any of that. I didn’t want to mention it or talk about it, but obviously everything I’m writing is inspired by the past year in some way. 

So the first single, “today i’m gonna change my life”, was really about the anxiety and battle that I had personally anyway, with or without a pandemic, and really trying to get up every morning, even more so than usual, and be like “Today is the fucking day that you’re gonna do something.” You need to inspire yourself every day. It was more like a pep talk to myself because at the end of the day all of my music is that, and the reason I make it is for therapy, like it’s literally therapy to myself. And then when people hit me up and say that it helps them too, that is an incredible thing! 

And “friend and enemy”, you know, within all this time we’ve had so much time to think and I’d spend a lot of time really coming to terms with my identity or where I’m from and my family history being such a mix of various different backgrounds: Ukrainian, Tunisian, Irish, and English. So it’s kind of very self-reflective in this time of working out kinda who I am and mix in a whole bunch of self-destruction along the way. So yeah, the two singles are very much related, it’s the same as the whole album, to be honest. 

3. After everything you just said I feel like I want to ask you five questions at the same time, but let’s start with the album. 

Yeah, so the album is done but it’s not gonna be out for a very long time. I’m just gonna slowly release a single a month until probably October or November and then I’m gonna release the album. I’m gonna take my time with it. 

4. Is there anything you can tell us about it? At least a little bit! 

Yeah, so it’s entirely produced by me and entirely rapped by me with no guests. The whole thing is quite dark, but I wanna say it’s hopeful! My last record was entirely inspired by a breakup, so it was quite dark, but it had this narrative running through it that it was all inspired by this whole journey of sadness and I had so much freedom with this one not feeling heartbreak so I could just write about anything! So, because of that, I had the opportunity and space to be self-reflective on my life and, you know, the ups and the downs and everything. And that means that there’s a lot of darkness in it, but also there’s a lot of sarcasm and silliness and I think that I’m quite excited for that side of my personality to be on record. 

5. So tell me then, who are you? And what’s the story behind these therapy sessions that you’ve been having with yourself through music?

To be honest, I don’t have an answer to that question. I don’t really know! (laughs) And I think that’s part of the thing that I’m discovering through writing music – myself, trying to find out who I am and whether I actually need to know! Whether any of us need to know. But the fun is the journey and the battles with ourselves every day, trying to find a meaning or trying to find this answer and make ourselves the best version of ourselves, right? I don’t know how to do that and I don’t think I ever will! I was 36 on the weekend and I’m no wiser than when I was 20 and I don’t think I’ll particularly be any wiser when I’ll be 50. So I think I’m just a very sarcastic, anxious but hopeful human that’s trying to navigate their way through the intricacies of this shit show that is the Earth! (laughs) 

6. I got you! Can you tell me who Corin was 30 years ago? 

I had super long hair and I definitely miss having hair that long. I look at pictures of myself when I was six and think “Fuck, man! Why did I get all the good hair then and now I’m bald?” (laughs) I think as a kid I was super happy. I grew up in London, in Finsbury Park, which back then was a completely different place than it is now. It was super rough, there was always shootings, there was always mad drugs everywhere. Even being a kid that young I was very aware of this tension within the area and in London at the time. In the 80s and 90s, London was an absolute mess, much more so than it is now. 

I think I was lucky enough to have a great family of supportive parents, supportive brother, that constantly inspired my creativity and pushed me to kind of experiment with my voice – not my literal voice but just literally whatever I kind of wanted to put my hands to, so I’m very grateful for that. I think being in London played a huge part in my upbringing without a doubt. 

7. Do you think your early life played any role in who you are today as a musician? 

Yes! DEFINITELY. I think it definitely inspired my paranoia and my lack of trust in humanity. Anyone that’s a Londoner or grew up in London just doesn’t trust anyone. If you end up going to the countryside and everyone’s happy just walking through the fields and shit and as a Londoner it’s just like “Ah, shit. I can’t relax. It could be someone out here trying to get me.” Every Londoner is just constantly paranoid all the time. 

But in a positive, non-jokey way, I think it informs the inspiration of all the cultures that I grew up around. Because my family come from all these incredible places around the world and in my area there was so much inspiration from everywhere. There were Kurdish and Turkish and Jamaican and Somali and we had this incredible immigrant community coming in and out of London because it’s such a transitional place, especially Finsbury Park. I grew up inspired by so many different things. Not just people but cuisines and languages and everything like that and I think that without a doubt that’s inspired every part of my music. Even in the early days of sampling, I’d hear music played by people from wherever their family was from and I’d be inspired by it. So yeah, I definitely think it’s a big part of it. 

8. Were you a musical kid?

Yeah, I mean I could never really play an instrument as such but I always, always loved music. I got into hip hop when I was about nine or 10 and my brother was always listening to rap and then I was surrounded by it in school. I got introduced to Tupac probably around nine years old and because of that I started rapping and making beats when I was about 10 or 11, and I was just always around it. 

I have a vivid memory of making my first beat in the music room at school. It was the legendary rapper Sway, who was a couple years above me in school and I remember it vividly, making that beat and I just knew I loved it. I was like “This is so complicated, I don’t understand it, but I love it!” (laughs) And from there I kinda just, apart from him showing me a couple of things, I just always taught myself how to do it and I think that’s played a big part in why I’m still so solitary in my creativity today. 

9. Do you think you can pinpoint the moment that your life turned around and deep down you knew that it was gonna be music for you? 

I think I knew because I had some trouble at school, I had to leave school, so I had a lot of time on my own in my house when I was younger, around 14 or something like that. My parents got me a really really cheap keyboard and I started making beats on the computer and I think that year I was just very solitary and I knew that this would be the only way I could survive. I gained this attachment to it where it was like a need. I had to make music, I didn’t give a shit whether anyone would listen to it or not. If I wasn’t making it I was basically gonna die. I just wanted to get it out of my head and it became a necessity, especially after I got better at it. So it was definitely in my teenage years that it got very very necessary. 

10. Right, so when did your dream actually become reality? 

I think maybe in 2007 when my first album, “Broken Window”, came out and I started getting press and like my face was in magazines and I was super young – I had just started uni, I was 21. I was like “Oh my God, I’m in a magazine! Girls are gonna love me now!” (laughs) It was really cool and I did my first gigin London and it was so much fun and I was so nervous. I think when that happened I thought “This is great, this could be something!” But then, of course, with music it’s never a straight line. 

I remember I played Sziget Festival in Budapest in 2009 and there were like 70.000 people and I was part of an all-stars band of various different artists. I felt like I was on top of the world. And then two days later I come back and I’m playing a gig and there’s five people in the room. So there’s no straight line with being an independent musician and you have to really get used to this constant yoyo from the day you start this shit. This experience is not unique to me, people still do these huge shows and then still do shows in an empty room.. You can see how that might affect people mentally, especially their ego, you know, their ego is being crushed. But there’s positives to it tho. If there’s five people in the room and they know the lyrics to your song and they love what you’re doing, then the room is filled with love, then who cares?

11. Was there a show that had a big impact on you one way or another? 

I think Glastonbury probably. Just because I’d been working towards it and it was something I wanted my entire life and just getting on that stage meant more to me than any other festival I’ve ever played. It felt like a validation that I wanted, like “Ah, I’ve done this!” 

12. As someone who’s travelled so much through their music and played in so many places around the world, what would you say to someone that dreams of going on an international tour one day? 

Just do it! If you can’t get shows, first work on your music, get the song that you love out and get it to people. When I toured India, I wanted to tour India badly. I don’t have a live agent, I’ve never had a live agent. I booked my plane ticket thinking “I’m gonna have a month in India, just go!” because I love travelling. And then I hit up promoters like “I’m gonna be in India!” and then a tour happened. So it all happened around me wanting to go somewhere, you know, and because I’m a one-man-band so I do it a slightly different way than everyone else. But I hope that the small ways that I do things can inspire other people to know that you can be a one-man band and just figure it out yourself. And I think the most important thing is building yourself and your own life experiences and enjoying them more than anything else, more than the music, more than getting likes on Instagram and stuff like that. Doing it for you and building a creative legacy for integrity over everything else. 

13. What’s the best advice someone’s ever given you career-wise or just in relation to music? 

My boy Doc gave me some really good advice the other day where he just said “Just look people in the eye and tell them your truth”, and that’s the best thing you can do. I think that kinda resonated with me. I hope I’ll try and live by that every day, where I’m just telling people my truth. 

14. What would an accomplished artist like you advise an underground artist with big dreams? 

Just keep going. Honestly, that’s the only thing I can tell you. Keep going and keep living your truth. Try not to make music that you think people want to hear and just make music that you want to hear and then you’ve already won. You lose a part of your creativity and 

happiness if you’re constantly battling to succeed. I know that’s what people want ultimately, to make money out of it, but it’s a losing battle to try and do that because then you’re always looking at the views and comparing yourself to other artists. I don’t get the same press coverage anymore that other artists get and I look at it all the time and get really upset, but at the same time I get way more streams than those people getting big press, so it’s always a roundabout. I’m sure they look at me and see I get more streams and they get anxious too. So I think you have to be.. Part of you just has to be ok with where you’re at and then knowing that you’re living your legacy of integrity and joy and gratefulness and truth really.

That way you can never lose. The cheat code is to be happy with yourself no matter what happens. That’s the cheat code because otherwise you can end up doing a gig for 100 people, 100 people love your shit, and not being happy, not thinking that’s big enough. And then doing a show for 1000 people thinking it’s not big enough. And then you’re continuously thinking that because the issue isn’t the number of people that like it, it’s your interpretation of yourself, of what you think validates you. And I think that is something that as an artist, as a creative, you have to come to terms with. And I’m trying to come to terms with that and that’s why I write songs about it. I’m really trying to work out how to be ok mentally with the conflicting parts of our industry. 

15. To wrap up, can you please describe your past, present and future in one word each? 

Past would be discovery, present would be like journey, and future I’m hoping is contentment.

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