PAY AS U GO KARTEL
Interview by Rick Thorne. Photo by Brian Bartholomew
From Murder Dog Vol 9 #2 (2002)
How did you get into doing this music?
Maxwell D: From when we was young. We used to be into another music before this, everybody might be aware of it, drum n' bass. We used to do a lot of drum n' bass in our bedrooms and on a pirate radio station that Geeneus and Slimzee own. It's a garage station now but it used to be a drum n' bass station, Rinse 100.3 FM.
Geeneus: We started that when we were young, we couldn't get on the radio station so we made our own station. We was all together, we been together for years, loads of us.
How far is this going back?
Geeneus: Seven, eight years now. So we was just doin' that, not like following anyone, just doin' the music ourselves. We was the same on jungle as we are in garage, sayin' whatever we want.
What different elements can be heard in your music?
Maxwell D: It's influenced by ragga, hip-hop, R n' B, drum n' bass, everything. It's all that music, all into one. But it gets called garage 'coz it's garage tempo.
Geeneus: All of us are different, that's what makes us so strong. 'Coz there's like nine of us and all of us have come up differently we've all got different musical influences, y'get what I'm sayin'. Target might've listened to R n' B when he was younger, Maxwell listened to ragga, I listen to Heart FM still 'coz that's what my mum and that listen to y'get what I'm sayin'. It's somethin' totally different to everyone else.
It's like someone needs to come up with a new name for it, like 'street garage' or something.
Maxwell D: It is street garage, that's what we really should be calling it, but no one wants to come out and say 'right, I'm namin' it today, it's gangsta garage' y'get me?!
What part of London are you from?
Geeneus: East, all of us.
Maxwell D: Between Leyton, Hackney and Bow.
Is there a distinctive sound from East London?
Geeneus: No, no. It's not areas, it's generations I think. You got the older generation and the younger generation. The younger generation, our music's different. We're all under the same umbrella but we're more raw. Garage is soft, nice drums. We just fling it all out there. So it's not the different areas, it's the different generations.
DJ Target: Sometimes you can tell by the emcees 'coz of the slang they use. It's like having east coast emcees and west coast emcees in America, you can tell by the things they're sayin'.
Are there many crews coming up outside of London?
Maxwell D: It's definitely a London thing but people are clockin' on slowly. They're clockin' on to us ghetto people from the streets can actually make somethin' happen to our lives. As an example So Solid, Heartless Crew, Pay As U Go crew, they're seeing these crews come up and gettin' to the status of like videos, puttin' us on the same platform as R. Kelly and stuff like that. It's makin' our ghetto status get bigger. Kids that are buyin' into our music, the kids that are not into drugs, the kids that are not into violence. They're the people that's buyin' our music so it's obviously appealing to a wider audience. It's a blatent London thing and it varies as he said, younger, older, and people outside London are slowly clockin' on to what's goin' on.
Geeneus: In certain areas we got locked off, like Manchester, we're the biggest thing up there. Cardiff we're massive. Out of London we're just as big now really but that's underground. The commercial scene is just starting to realise.
DJ Target: Our commercial careers have started now 'coz 'Champagne Dance' is just covering the commercial side. We done the underground as far as we could do it, we literally can't get any bigger in the underground.
Talk through the stages of putting together a track.
DJ Target: We'll just be in the studio for a little while, just get our vibes. I'll produce a beat or it might be Wiley producin', might even be Maxwell producin'. Get the beat goin', once the beat's basically laid all the emcees will probably be in the studio just vibin', gettin' lyrics down. Then they'll go in the booth, get their lyrics down.
What sort of tempo are we talking?
DJ Target: Mainly 130.
Geeneus: To make our music, what we want is to fit in with the speed that we play out at 'coz we deejay as well, we make 'em at 135. But when there's nothing to do and we're bored we make a tune at any tempo and so long as they can spit on it that's all that counts. It don't matter what speed it is, so long as he can say 'yeah, I can spit on that'. Even if it's not garage music when we're playin' out, if he can spit on it, we'll play it.
Maxwell D: That's the contrast in the music. But through the lyrics it's a totally separate thing. A lot of people in the garage industry have come up with emcees as hosts, like just to keep the crowd live, but the way our generation has come in we're not just about gettin' a crowd hype. We're talkin' to the crowd as in what we're about, whether he sells drugs, whether he shoots people, basically tellin' the truth. They're comin' to a rave to let their hair down and enjoy themselves, like some people are like 'we don't really wanna be hearin' about guns, we see that on the news', but it's not about that. Us emcees nowadays, we're more artists, we hear stuff like Jay-Z and all that talkin' about it in tracks. We talk about it in clubs 'coz that's the only way to break through. Now it's got into an artist way of things, we spit that stuff on the tracks, that's what's happenin' on the streets. A lot of things happen in our lives and we're just reflectin' that in our music. A lot of people are followin' us, a lot of emcees chat rubbish, like they're not even really telling the truth. They're not real gangstas so you can't really tell the difference between the real people and the fake people. In America they're always arguing sayin' 'this person, he's not real 'coz he ain't no gangsta'. That's what goes on in this garage scene, that's why they're tryna fight against the violence in our garage scene at the moment. What we're sayin' is we are real.
Once the tracks are done, how does the network you have for garage here help break them?
Geeneus: Right now we got a tune signed to Sony. So we just make tunes, someone approaches someone with a tune, sees if they like it.
DJ Target: 'Coz our name’s so big on the underground all the major labels are lookin' for us.
Geeneus: We can make a tune and it will sell as much as it can on the underground scene, we've done that, we've conquered that.
What sort of numbers are we talking in terms of sales?
Maxwell D: England is a very small country and not everyone in the country listens to garage so basically on an underground level it won't be no more than 10,000 units.
Geeneus: Our tune that's about now, it ain't even a big tune on the underground, we made it the other way around. Make it first and then blow it up y'get me? Sometimes other tunes, 'Know We', got made then got worked on the underground to a stage of goin' up. This one we made it, got it signed, then started pushin' it. Just to show that we could do it. That tune at this stage, sold 5000 copies in four weeks which is good for the underground.
What's your deal with Sony?
Maxwell D: Two single deal.
Do you have an album in the works?
Geeneus: It's all negotiating at the minute.
When a major comes to you with a deal what do you look for?
Geeneus: We want them to push us, we want them to understand what we're doin'. It's like we just been signed for a tune, 'Champagne Dance', they've only just turned round and realised that it's not garage.
Maxwell D: But they're never gonna understand. What we want 'em to do is basically push us as a proper act.
DJ Target: And let us control what we're doin'. They only go by what the streets are sayin'. You could give them like ten tunes, you could purposefully make nine shit ones and they probably wouldn't be able to notice the one good one. So all they say to the people who go on the street is 'who's big?'
Geeneus: Like someone who ain't even heard you before, they say 'yeah Pay As U Go, you's are ruff'. But they've never listened to us. They're just sayin' it because that's what everyone's sayin' now.
Maxwell D: These people who signed us can come out with a cheque book, say 'I want this, I want that 'coz it's hot', but they don't understand what they're signin'. You can't just sign something and not understand it.
Do you trust the majors?
Geeneus: No. We don't trust no one outside of our camp.
Are you worried that with labels now throwing big money at garage acts that the music might play out?
Maxwell D: You know what, I've got faith in this music. The reason I've got faith in it is because a lot of people are tryna fight against it and they only fight against something that they don't want the outside world to hear. It's like they were fightin' gangsta rap.
DJ Target: It's exactly the same as NWA and Public Enemy.
Geeneus: We're gettin' banned from a lot of places as well right now but the more they ban it the more people want us 'coz it's just makin' us bigger. We're deejays and emcees, and like half of London we've been banned from playin' because we supposidly cause trouble, I don't know how. This is like the police, they're sayin' we cause trouble. That's rubbish.
DJ Target: The violent element, they're sayin' that's to do with the crews like.
Maxwell D: And referring back to our lyrics sayin' 'they talk about violence'.
Is it true that you can't put the Pay As U Go name on flyers, you have to put your individual names on?
DJ Target: In some cases. There's certain places where that has been done.
Maxwell D: It's not a major thing right now, it's just started. It ain't no big scale of banning us. The reason it's happening is before Christmas there was a shooting, a little violence in the dance, but the way they do it over here, they think 'ah, it's the crews', they just blamed it on the crews all of a sudden. Why are they blaming it on the crews? Because they say the crews come into the dance, hype it up, everyone gets hype, and they wanna fight. But it's not our fault.
Geeneus: That's our love, to make the crowd go mad. We want them to go mad, but not bad. We're givin' them their money's worth. Y'get me, we're goin' in and makin' 'em get up.
DJ Target: We've gone into raves, the rave's just standing there. One emcee's gone 'alright, are you ready for Pay As U Go?' The rave just transforms absolutely.
Maxwell D: The reason why they're sayin' it's negative energy is because of the lyrics that we are actually saying.
Geeneus: But that's entertainment.
Maxwell D: And they can't understand that. You put in a movie, mans shootin' each other, are you gonna go out and shoot someone?