DOLENZ is the latest producer to join the wickedly talented roster of MC’s and instrumentalists that comprise Potent Funk Records. Founded by legendary UK Hip-Hop MC Dabbla & Producer Sumgii, Potent Funk prides itself in finding artists that echo the labels ethos of wild creativity and a ‘no fucks given’ attitude to creating. DOLENZ is no exception as he makes his debut on the label with his experimental and groundbreaking album ‘Electric Fences’.
We sat down to chat with Dolenz about the album, working with Jehst & what its like to be a part of the Potent Funk family.
2&6 INTERVIEWS DOLENZ: POTENT FUNK, WORKING WITH JEHST & ELECTRIC FENCES.
Electric Fence has just dropped and is your debut release on Potent Funk. What’s it like to now officially be on the potent funk roster and how does it feel to have just dropped your first project with them?
To be honest, I feel pretty blessed right now, it’s always nice to work with supportive labels and Dabbla and Sumgii have really been on point. Also I guess I’ve always skirted around the perimeter of the UK hip hop scene, so feels great to have a release featuring MCs from that, but also keep it kinda weird – we didn’t want traditional hip hop EP and I think we got the balance right.
I would love to know more about the album cover design for Electric Fence, who designed it and what is the story behind it?
The EP is inspired by these afternoons where we used to bunk off school and go get high around ’95-96’ era. During these sessions you’d end up watching Yo! MTV Raps, Beavis and Butthead, Ren & Stimpy, Doogie Howzer and Countdown used to be the jam. So the EP samples and has snippets of all that – it’s also why the Nas break fits in on the track ‘Nasty’ with Black Josh.
I wanted to have that ‘90s kind of feel. I sent the EP and concept to collage artist Frida Pain who kinda remixed it into the visual form hence the images of Carol Vorderman, Doogie and Nas on there. Super happy with how it all turned out, my mate said the EP mixes humour and menace all wrapped up in a b-boy kinda slap tape which is exactly what I was after. Even though my music is often dark and very serious, there’s usually a sense of humour, or another emotion behind it which I’m trying to communicate without shouting.
You recently got the chance to work with Jehst on your track Golden Spike, what was this experience like and is it surreal to hear big time artists like Jehst spitting over beats that you have created or has this become normal now?
It will never be normal as more than anything I’m a fan and still in awe of these guys. We still haven’t met, I’ll probably be a speechless fan boy – I’ve been listening to Jehst since his first records, I’m his biggest fan. It was kinda surreal at the time – I had his email through a friend and I think I just sent him the beat and he was into it, there was some back and forth and next thing I know he’d rapped on it. Same thing with Guilty Simpson, I just tapped him up through the email on his twitter handle and he dug the beat. The biggest accolade for me is when people I look upto like these guys are into my music, I’ve never done this shit for money and like many artists am riddled with self-doubt so it means a lot when you get the stamp of approval.
Is there a particular genre or perhaps country music scene that you love to explore for unique samples and beats?
Tbh I don’t really sample that much anymore. The tracks ‘Blak Helicopters’ and ‘Nasty’ on the EP are built around a sample and break respectively, but on all the other beats I wrote the music on my synths. I enjoy going in the studio and making sounds, or pushing myself to write melodies as it’s a form of therapy for me.
I never really spend time looking for samples like I did back in the day as the process doesn’t interest me so much nowadays, but I still collect records – more for listening to not sampling as such. Saying that I am drawn to Indian, Middle and Far Eastern sounds.
I’ve always been obsessed with Japanese scales, and how they lend a certain character to a track. I’m also into that weird Gregorian chanting kinda vibe. Recently I have been tried to incorporate samples into my new music to broaden the sonic palette and have actually made some happier music that samples Gilberto Gil.
I know you spent almost a decade living in the middle east, how did this experience influence your musical tastes and style? What do you miss the most about living there?
I am drawn to Middle Eastern samples if I come across them. The only thing I miss would be my friends. It was a unique time for me as I connected with a community of artists out there from the UAE, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan – my crew were Sudanese and Sri Lankan – and I miss that.
There’s a lot of ignorance in the West as to what’s really happening. The general mood in the UK is one of being down-trodden, and as much as I appreciate how f_cked things are in this country and the government seem to be targeting a specific demographic, the truth is we are still extremely well off in comparison to 90% of the world.
I really miss getting to go do gigs at Arab hip hop events in places like Jordan, or djing at excessively boozy parties in Lebanon or Bahrain. Meeting new people all the time, sharing stories and collaborating was great.
Is there a vocalist or fellow producer on the potent funk roster that you are yet to work with but really want too? Will you start to create beats with particular MC’s in mind?
Hmmm. Illaman I’d be keen, also Dream McLean and more with Dabbla. Don’t think he’s on the roster but definitely Kashmere.
Lastly if you could work on an EP with any vocalist and any producer from history who would you choose?
I mean I have to say MF DOOM right? Lots of other producers like David Axelrod, Dabrye, Dimlite or El-P would be interesting, Arthur Russell, Sa-Ra or Hawthorne Headhunters also!