Name: SK Simeon
Occupation: Vocalist, songwriter
Current Release: SK Simeon teams up with Deep Fried Dub for their new mini album/EP We Will Make It, out via Dubmission.
Recommendations: I think everyone should have a second to listen to Lucky Dube. My favourite songs are “Back to my Roots” and “Remember Me”
If you enjoyed this interview with SK Simeon and would like to stay up to date on his activities, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Souncloud.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing music in 2011 after a long battle of hating to write because nothing came into my head yet. I wanted to have a song but had no idea how to construct one and put together something meaningful. This was very frustrating!
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
It was very frustrating for me to decide which voice I should use and stick to for all my main verses and choruses. I wanted to get into dancehall music and with dancehall music, you have to have a dominant voice. I felt I had a voice you could use in the background but not for main verses. I still went on to record my songs, but they didn’t sound like the voice I had in my head. My goal was to combine the styles of Super Cat, Ninja man, Shabba Ranks and Don Carlos in one.
In order to learn how they breathe and do their twist on lyrics, I quit my day job just to listen to every song by these artists, and follow carefully how they went from one line to another, making it sound effortless. I put myself in a self-educated school to learn something that will help me gain confidence and sound dominant on stage, creating a voice that is demanding and grabs the listener’s attention in the very second they hear the intro.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Sense of identity comes in when I mix my language and the experiences I have had in life and write them into songs.
Also I add in humour because I love stand-up comedy so I try to add this into my music depending on the topic
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Trying to fit lines together so bad but they just can’t nor do they rhyme together. However you stick to it and give it another chance, or take a break and come back to it again until you find the groove
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
The instrumentals that are used in my music have either keys intended to move the waist area or sometimes I go for keys that soothe the heart and soul. These are my main go to areas.
Because I am a vocalist, I use the soft voice in parts which I need to calm down the listener, and dominant voice in a club song.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I started using garageband to record my drafts but a friend of mine sent me Ableton live and at first I thought it was annoying simple, it looked like a space ship control panel. But once I learnt how to use the program to record my vocals, I have never looked back.
Right now I am also learning how to chop my vocals before I send them to my mixing engineer. It’s so much fun using Ableton to make music.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I always have a fascination with producers and when I meet a producer who knows how to make the sound that I love, I immediately want to work and create something with them, because with the minds together, we can create something cool
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I used to have so much time before I had kids to sit down and write a song, go away and come back to it, but now I don’t have that freedom. So when I feel a topic is coming to my head, thank God for the new technology of smart phones, I just grab my phone and voice record the phrase that I have. Sometimes I get a whole 4 bars inside my head, it’s like a vision.
Once I record that, I either go on YouTube and try to find some instrumental that has the keys and mood for what I am trying to achieve or go into my folder of riddims that have been sent by my producer friends like King Toppa, Naram, Deep Fried Dub and Pro Eli beats.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
My breakthrough song was “Dapper than Dope”, which was a club song with an ego-boosting type of vibe. I followed it up with “Round of Applause” and this time added in some message about moral conduct. I also made another hit called “Matooke”, which was an instant hit because in my country Uganda, everybody knows what matooke (green bananas) means as it’s something they all consume in everyday life.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
This one is constantly in my head - I could hear a word or read a word, hear a phrase, feel something or have a vision. I am always open to whatever my head gives and if I like the idea, I record it on my phone. Sometimes I have mind blocks for weeks simply because of stress. Some people can deal with stress and think fairly well, and it’s something I am learning to deal with and also be creative with.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Most of the music that I listened to while I was young was either healing or danceable, and that has influenced me a lot to try and make music that has healing messages or relativity and dancing while you at it :)
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Don’t think of it so much. I guess I would never talk bad about the artists that influenced me and always have sensible topics where they teach to love, be kind or throw your anger in dancing form
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Whatever is hurting humans I try to make a topic. But not always as sometimes I just sing a distractive song which would make someone dance and happy and forget their worries. Often when you feel happy, you can tackle the problem better or have a clearer vision
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
The instruments being in music alone have a lot of power that can move souls from different cultures to connect in way they don’t understand - that’s the power of music.