Elektrik Interview - SumoChief



London, UK 

 This month we're going to share with you a conversation we had with a 4-piece instrumental group from south east London.

Two years ago they released their debut EP SumoBeats on Lunatick Records. 

On October 19th, they’ll be coming out with a follow up EP called SumoTreats, and it’s packed Jazzy Hip Hop grooves. Plus it features the likes of OthaSoul, productions from Ben Hayes, Ragofoot and Cecil B Demented.


Erica: What is the purpose of music? Have a quick think. 

Joe: I know,  I know, I know (almost sung in different tones) I think the purpose of music is to just connect people. 

Erica: Simple. 

Joe: Yeah. People all over the world. 

Erica: Jack

Jack: Its a form of communication, that we don't have through words. It's a different, more deeper communication. 

Oscar: I find it difficult to say one purpose, because you can use it to put across a political motive or to connect to something in a spiritual way. Or to communicate with other people as well. 

Erica: So it has several purposes. 

Oscar: Yeahh, I think so, yeah. 

Erica: I think so too. 

Oscar: It's something that has been a part of human existence since really really early on, so I don't know if people made it with a purpose or whether it's just evolved with us. 


Erica: So SumoTreats. Were you guys eating a lot when you were recording that? Loads of delicious foods. 

Joe: Always always...

Erica: Haha

Joe: ...always eating sweets, people that know me, know that I like sweets. 

Erica: Maybe next time I need to bring some Haribo's or something. 

Joe: Don't worry about it. [Pulls out several bags of pocket sized Haribos from his trouser pocket.]

Everyone laughs.

Erica: You've got a pocket full of Haribos. 


Erica: So why SumoTreats? It's a kinda EP thing, in between your last project and what's to come in the future. But why SumoTreats?

Oscar: The previous one was called SumoBeats, so it connects with that. It sounds the same. But also its a little taste of what we've been doing over the last couple of years. 

Erica: When did you guys release SumoBeats? It doesn't feel that long ago.

Oscar: 2014

Erica: Oh wow, really?!

Joe: Yeah, November 2014. 

Erica: And you have brought back people that you worked with in the first one. 

Joe: Yeah, we brought back Cecil B Demented, we worked with him from MVC crew. Apart from that I think everyone else we worked with is new. Apart from Ben Hayes who we've been working with to master the album. And he mixed the OthaSoul track. So yeah. 

Erica: See I thought, OthaSoul for some reason, featured before. 

Sumochief: Nah

Oscar: We've known them guys for a while though. We got to know them a little bit after we released the first one. 

Erica: Where did you guys record it? 

Joe: All over the place. 

Erica: In south? 

Joe: Yeah some of it, is in my room, some of it was done in Ollies little drum studio that he has in his house. And then we all went to some studio. I can't remember the name of the studio. The one in Edgware Road? 

Oscar: Yeah 'The Unit'. 

Joe: A friend of Ollie's had some time in a studio so we went down there. We had an interesting morning recording with Will and Ragofoot, he came down. And Maxwell Owin has been helping us with the EP.

Yeah, we got a lot of stuff done that day. And we've just been using the stems from that session to make some of the EP,  you know. 


Erica: You guys are kind of different to a lot of other hip hop bands/groups. In the sense that you guys record everything live. It's all live instruments then it's mixed down. Would you say this album has more produced bits in. Preprogrammed beats. 

Joe: It's a mixture of both really. The last track on the album is a straight live take. Pretty much all the effects on the album where done live in the studio with Ragofoot and Maxwell Owin. They were just on SPD, just doing their thing. Creating a sound drop for us to record to. 

Music in general has become so under the control of social media and stuff, and thats not really what it’s about.

Erica: Was that like an improv thing or did someone sketch it out? 

Joe: Jack I think you wrote that bass line even. 

Oscar: Nah I think it was me. 

Jack: I think it was Oscar. 

Sumochief: yeah yeah 

Joe: Big up Oscar Laurence. 

All laughed. 

Joe: We thought up some shit in the studio and we just did whatever. 

Oscar: Yeah it was pretty loose. Because we play so much together, and especially with the nature of hip hop, a lot of it is loops, so it's quite easy to come up with certain ideas. That day we recorded loads and loads of ideas and then we picked the best ones that we wanted.

But we didn't really go in with a definite idea of what we wanted to do. We just figured it out when we got there. A lot of the stuff on the EP was written, it was written over time as well. So there would be an idea for a baseline, a core sequence or something, then that would get put into a rough beat, then someone might record on it , and then Joe would kinda work some other stuff around it. 

Erica: Are we hearing more of your production in there Joe? 

Joe: Yeah, yeah. So apart from ChilliFlake Honey Sap (produced by Ben), pretty much the rest of the EP, I mixed and produced. But we've had input from so many different people. It's been really great. We've been travelling about for the last five months, getting sounds from people. 

Erica: Travelling about? What do you mean by that? 

Joe: Just travelling about London.  

Everyone giggles.

Joe: There's just so many people. You don't even need to travel far, like just south. 

Erica: Yeah

Joe: You can just travel about south London and hang out with seven incredible producers in a day. And you can be like, "ah you're doing that, let me just... 

Erica: ...just go home and try that." 

Joe: Laugh 


Erica: How have your nights been effecting this EP that you guys have come up with? 

Joe: In a big way 

Erica: In a big way?

Oscar: Do you think? 

Joe: Well yeah, Joel Bailey that's how we met him. 

Oscar: A lot of the acts that are involved...well definitely at least a couple of them, feature on the EP. Joel had been coming down to our night for a while. So we were just like "wow, who is this guy?". He has this incredible, incredible voice. Every time people go wild for him, because he's amazing. So we decided yeah, we want to get him in the album. And then Thisis DA featured during a set on one of the shows, a couple months back as well. So yeah it has effected it.

Erica: As a band how are you using Space Rhyme? Are you using it as a little practice kinda thing? 

Joe: Ooh nah, I'd never say practice because we practice for Space Rhyme as well. It's a thing of we don't really play our own original music there so much.  It's once a month, and free before 9, so we save the actual SumoChief stuff for SumoChief shows.

It's more like who ever comes on the night, will influence what then gets created on the night. So if you’ve got some guy who just wants to sing some Don Blackman funk, then we’re going to play funk. But if you’ve got some sort of logic in the building, or some narly rappers then we’ll get on some Hip Hop vibes, you know. But we tend to just improvise, thats the best way. 

Erica: I don’t even know the story of you guys forming. Was it at a Steez or something? 

Joe: No no, before then. Steez was where we clocked that we’d be a band that played out and did gigs and wrote our own music. Because before Steez, we were really just doing a Dilla tribute.

I know it’s all the rage at the moment, but when we first got to uni, a few jazz students were chatting about Dilla on the low, because it wasn’t really the cool thing to be doing at school. So we were just in Ollie’s bedroom just trying to learn these beats, that we just thought were amazing. We just used to play them, really. And then a few people started writing songs, and then we did Steez. I remember the Honor Oak Pub, was it the Honor Oak pub? 

Oscar: Yeah yeah

Erica: Yeah the first Steez. 

Joe: The first Steez we did and we met, Cecil, and Slam. 

Oscar: I think King Krule was playing at that night as well. 

Erica: Yeah I think so.

Oscar: Yeah before he blew up. 

Joe: ...before the pub would just pack out. Big up Luke Newman every time, every time. 

Erica: Tell me a little about the J Dilla's influence because he is a big influence to Sumochief and the way SumoChief sound. At the time when I heard you guys there weren’t that many people doing that sort of thing in London. 

Joe: We started to find our own sound through that. I feel like gradually the more gigs we do, the less we try to sound like a Dilla…

Erica: Dilla tribute band... 

Joe: ...or even just Dilla. We just let that influence us. In the same way that we are influenced by Madlib and bands like Butcher Brown. 


Erica: Is that a sitar? 

Oscar: Yeah it’s a sitar. 

Erica: Are you guys getting other influences from anything else, globally at the moment? 

Oscar: I’m massively into a lot of west African music at the moment. I play in an afrobeat band as well. I’ve been to Senegal and Gambia this year as well to try and learn stuff about music from the source.

Erica: What was that experience like?

Oscar: It’s just amazing how there are so many musicians who are incredible, and it’s just so easy to meet up and just play. Where as if you were in London in that situation, everyone would just be a bit stush, and would be like “Ah I don’t know, I’m so amazing, how do I know whether you are good enough to play with me.

Erica: Wheres as for them, a jam is just about exploring, exploring different sounds. 

Oscar: Yeah I suppose so, yeah. 

Erica: Did you get a chance to tap into the more underground stuff that's going on in Senegal? 

Oscar: Erm to be honest I weren’t in Senegal for that long. I did see a few gigs. But in Gambia I went to a couple really really cool gigs. They were really really amazing. But I wasn’t there long enough to really. 

Erica How long were you there for? 

Oscar: Only for a few weeks. 

What else? I suppose Latin American music, probably kinda influences us a bit as well. Errm, Caribbean music as well. We're all into reggae and dub. Those kind of dub effects, definitely come through in the music. Delays and kind of reverb hits and all of that. 


Erica: How are you guys using social media? Are you using it a lot? 

Oscar: Yeah. Joe is King of Social Media. 

Joe: Something I've clocked this year is that it doesn’t actually matter. In terms of when you actually put music out, to quite a large extent it doesn’t. The content of the music is what matters. So you can do all the social media shit, and you can tag everyone on Facebook if you want, but if none of them like it then there is no point in doing that. 

Erica: Are you finding it difficult to use social media to get your music out there as a band because it is such a loud place at the moment? There are so many people that are really really good, really great producers, really great musicians. [Sees Joe shaking his head.] No? 

Joe: I think it’s still word of mouth, thats the thing. Even though you see all this stuff happening on Facebook. And yeah, if you’ve got 15,000 followers on your twitter then yeah if you post something its more likely to get seen, then if you’ve got 20 followers. In general if people like something they will talk about it with their friends and then there friends will maybe post it on social media or whatever, the music gets talked about.

As long as you are putting out things you’re proud of, and that you think are good, you shouldn’t need to tag everyone in the world. 

Oscar: It’s like with the Space Rhyme, a lot of people are coming through the door now. But I think half of those people who are coming aren't seeing it on social media, it has just become a thing that people know about. People will go, "oh are going down to that?", and then it’s like "yeah". Theres always a big crowd. 

I like the idea of not be reliant on numbers on a Facebook page to try and organise a night and musical happenings.

Music in general has become so under the control of social media and stuff, and thats not really what it’s about. And I feel it’s made everyone a bit more shallow about it. When they view music they kind of need someone else's gratification. But how do you know that that person on social media has better knowledge about music than you or whatever. Everyone should make their own decision about things, and not worry about these kind of numbers and stuff. 

Joe: I just took a photo for the Instagram, and the irony didn’t even occur to me until I took it. 

Everyone laughs. 

Erica: At least you guys have someone that cares about social media. If I was in a band, I don't know if I would want to bother doing my own social media. 

Jack: That was kinda me though innit? 

Joe: Jacks had a solo thing for years, and he still hasn’t told anyone about it. 

Everyone laughs again.

Jack: I still don’t have Instagram or Twitter. 

Erica: Why not? I assume you don’t have a little Nokia or something. 

Jack: Nah nah nah nah 

Erica: You’ve got a...[trying to see what's in his hand].

Jack: A big smartphone. 

Oscar: He just uses it to play games on. 

Everyone laughs. 

Erica: So why don’t you…

Jack: I don’t know

Erica: I don’t think it’s necessarily great to hop onto social media because everyone else is doing it, but why aren't you on it? 

Jack: I do it more now, partly because Joe convinced me that it’s a good thing. 

I don’t like to throw my stuff into peoples face.

Also, with Twitter, I’d probably say some really stupid stuff. 

Erica and Joe: It works. 

Oscar: Don’t get me wrong, it’s necessary thing to get your stuff out to people. It’s a good thing because you don’t have to be reliant on big corporations like record labels. Back in the day a lot of these bands playing in the 50s/60s, the ones that started to get really popular; they got messed about by loads of promotors, labels and media people as well, who painted the image of them. They didn’t have any control over it. It’s happened to loads of people in the past. It still happens today but it gives you a lot more power to do that yourself I suppose.