Rising UK producer Grades is next up in the Spotlight series. Following big tracks "Freedom" and "Owe It To Yourself" he built up a dedicated following in the UK before going on to remix Lana Del Rey's "West Coast" which got to No.3 on Hypem.
He expertly melds garage-tinged house with two-step and R 'n B, he's currently gearing up to release new single "Crocodile Tears" which is out on One More Tune on November 17th. Before he takes to The 103 in support of Mia Dora and Jasper James on 11th October, we caught up with Grades and asked him to do us an exclusive Spotlight mix.
First of all thanks for doing an exclusive mix for us, what did you go for in the mix? Is this a representation of what you play out now or more what you listen to at home?
It’s a mixture of some of my favourite new ones, some tunes that have been going down really well in my sets and some of my recent originals and remixes. There’s a bit of a progression from house into garage as it goes on. Most of all, I tried to make it listenable. There’s a lot of feel good tracks and full vocal mixes, which are much needed now the weather is turning.
For those who may be new to your music, how would you describe your sound?
I try not to define it too much, but I’d loosely say “Electronic, soulful house and garage”. I like to experiment with different sounds and tempos though, and not get too hung up on genres.
How did you first get in to music, when did you know you wanted to be a DJ?
I got into DJing before production. I remember desperately wanting to learn scratching and turntablism when I was about 12, after obsessing over DMC videos of Atrak who was only a bit older than me then. I got a pair of belt drives and a mixer with the stiffest crossfader in the world, but I didn’t know any different so I just got on with it. When I finally got to try out some Technics and a proper scratch mixer I was like “Oh, this explains a lot”.
What have you got coming up on the horizon?
Really excited about some of the gigs I have coming up, they’re really varied and hopefully will let me showcase the different sides of what I do, from the Bondax and Eton Messy tours to Hospitality in Leeds and Cirque Du Soul in Newcastle. There’s a few remixes to look out for, but I’m mostly looking forward to putting out my original material. After "Crocodile Tears" I have a few things planned that you might not expect and some cool collaborations in the pipeline.
What can the Ministry of Sound crowd expect from your set on Saturday 11th October?
I don’t really pre-plan my mixes and try not to ever play the same set twice. For me it’s all about the vibe on the night and the crowd. I’m hoping to go quite deep and dark though, with some of my highlights from the summer and a few new gems. Might throw in some old school garage too!
What do you think of the state of dance music at the minute?
It feels like it’s in a really good place, the standard is so high from so many different producers at the moment that everyone is pushing each other to make better music. It’s really progressive and the sounds and sub-genres are evolving super fast, which is great for the scene and to keep the inspiration flowing.
You’re sound is very garage-influenced, using the pop-culture rules that everything comes back into fashion within 15-20 years, do you think we’re on the cusp of a garage revival?
I think it’s kind of already happening, and only going to grow. There’s definitely a fusion between house and garage that’s really exciting and the natural movement is probably going to be away from 4x4 and into more 2 step rhythms. What made garage so special the first time around was that everything was new and underground and completely organic from the street level. But now with the internet, Soundcloud, Youtube etc. hopefully it can be pushed forward even more, internationally too. I’d love to see a new genre develop from this generation’s interpretation of all these old school sounds.
Who are the most exciting underground artists that our readers might not have heard of but who you think will be big names to come?
On the deep/tech side of things I’m really into Cristoph, who I think will be blowing up soon if he hasn’t already. Some other guys to watch, in my opinion, are Linden Jay, Karma Kid, Pomo. I’m also really into the whole Soulection movement, anything on HW&W, the latest Filet Mignon mixtape and this song by C Justice called “So Good” which fuses house and trap in a really cool way.
Who are your biggest influences?
I actually have some vinyl covers up on my wall at home of some of my favourite albums. It’s by no means extensive but includes Kanye West (College Dropout), Gorillaz, Stevie Wonder, Prince and MJ.
How do you prepare for a gig?
I’m always on the hunt for new tracks to play so I’ll make sure I’m up to date with any promos that have been sent through to me. Before the actual set though I like to just chill, maybe have a few drinks and get into the mood. If I’m enjoying myself then everyone on the floor can feed off that energy. Also, an important one is to check who I’m on the bill with in advance. That way, I can try to avoid playing their stuff.
Who are your dream collaborators, past or present?
At the moment I’m really into people like Kwabs, Blood Orange and Jessie Ware. From a production perspective I’d love to get into a room with Jai Paul and pick his brains.
Tell us something we don’t know about Grades?
I learned the other day that hundreds of years ago, my ancestors used to be pretty big in Scotland and lived in a castle and stuff…or something like that. Sadly, none of it was passed down to me though!
Sonny Fodera & Cervendos - "Let's Go"
Kant & MK - "Ey Yo"
Shadow Child & Doorly - "Piano Weapon"
Gorgon City - "6AM" ft. Tish Hyman
Herve feat. Knytro - "Money Where Your Mouth Is"
Hot Natured - "Benediction" (GRADES Remix)
Francesco Yates - "Call" (Ferdinand Weber Remix)
Hot Since 82 - "Everybody Everybody" (Original Mix)
Sunshine - "The Only One" (Nicky Night Time Remix)
GRADES - "Freedom"
Tensnake - "Pressure" (feat. Thabo) [Special Request Remix]
Ferreck Dawn & Redondo - "Love Too Deep" (Matt Jam Lamont Club Mix)
Delinquent ft. JC - "Playin' Around"
Zed Bias - "Neighbourhood"
GRADES - "Crocodile Tears" [Extended Mix]
Phaze One - "Nicole's Groove"