- Words Notion Staff
A!MS speaks with Notion about his musical “judgement era”, new album ‘Offshore’, looking up to Bob Marley, and making sacrifices for his craft.
Beginning his career as a DJ, being part of the musical landscape-changing Ayia Napa scene, A!MS (real name Anthony Melas) has had an career spanning almost a decade.
As well as being a highly-regarded producer and DJ, the English-Cypriot multi-hyphenate is also the founder and CEO of 3fifty7 Music, a record label through which A!MS releases his own music, as well as boasting artists such as Afro B and Cool & Dre. He claims having “the best set of ears on the planet” for scouting new talent, comparing himself to tastemakers Rick Rubin and Pharrell.
Arriving with his first full length body of work, debut album ‘Offshore’, A!MS is quietly confident about his offering. “I feel like we’ve done a great job with this album to give people that variety of cultures and sound, without it looking or feeling forced”, he said. Is this the beginning of a new era for the multi-disciplinarian? “When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, he did not care how long it would take, he just wanted to create a timeless piece of art”, A!MS comments, self-assuredly. “I’ve definitely sacrificed my existence for my craft”.
Now, he says, it’s judgement day. “Everything you’ve seen up to this point…is irrelevant, because it all contributed to me putting out my first full body of work”, he explains. “Now people can have an opinion. I consider having an album an opportunity for people to open the door and see your soul and your existence and who you are and what you stand for and represent”.
It seems like his hard work has paid off, as ‘Offshore’ flew into the number 1 spot on the iTunes pre-orders chart, amassing more than 10 million streams before it was even released.
We dove into a reflective, open conversation with A!MS to hear about resisting trends, how his versatility shaped ‘OFFSHORE’, working with Julian Marley, and much more.
‘Offshore’ is your most honest work to date. Was creating it a difficult process for you or did it feel cathartic?
I didn’t feel that I had to get things off my chest, I still think that I carry a lot of baggage emotionally. I think it was an initial first attempt, let’s just put it that way. On “Hail”, I definitely touched on my most vulnerable side, as A!MS. When you just forget about what’s trending, or what’s current, and you just release – it felt like everything is irrelevant. It’s as if I’m unaffected by what’s happening around me, what’s trending, what everyone is expecting to hear, what everyone wants, what’s happening at the moment. Everyone’s jumping on trends. This is the era we’re living in, which is not the wrong thing. If there’s a trend I like, I actually do it as well. So I’m not hating on trends but I do feel that with this album, I wanted to remain unaffected by all of that, and just try and put my best into my work, really.
The album carries quite a few contrasting sounds and styles. Was this a conscious decision or did this come naturally as you created?
It’s natural, because I come from a DJing background. As a DJ, you always want to try and capture the audience at a venue on a night. When I set out to put the album out I said, so if I’m welcoming people to my event, and they’re stepping into the venue, what are they actually going to listen to? How am I going to keep them interested? And if I keep playing them the same old tempo constantly, they’ll get bored, you’ve got to have a peak hour, you’ve got to drop the vibe a little bit so people can go get a drink, then you could then you’ve got to build it back up. So in terms of how I developed the sound, I felt like my DJing skills definitely helped. I’m also versatile, I produce, I write, I perform, I rap and I sing. I know a lot of people like saying that, but I’m good at what I do. I can score with it with my feet, with my chest, with a header, so it wasn’t that difficult to be versatile. I don’t think anything I did was considered difficult. I think as long as you like what you do and you feel that you’re connecting with your sound, it shouldn’t be that hard. There was a lot of hard work going into it but I don’t class hard work as being difficult, I class it as being hard work.
Do you have a favourite track off the album? One that may hold a particularly special significance to you?
I have to be biased and say the song for my daughter was always going to be my favourite record on the album because it’s for the most precious thing I have on this planet. It’s an easy one in terms of my favourite song. From a musical point of view, it depends what I feel like. The thing with the album is that when we wake up every day, we’re not in twerk mode for 24 hours. And we’re not in emotional mode for 24 hours, and we’re not happy for 24 hours, we’re not sad for 24 hours. So the idea behind the album was that there’s something there for my audience that relates to [the songs] based on what they’re feeling. I have a song for every type of emotion that you can carry throughout a day, or throughout a week or throughout a month or a year and so on. But at the same time, I do feel my favourite song will end up being what everyone else is feeling as well. Because when you make music, even though you initially do it for yourself, you’re very keen and interested to see what everyone else is thinking about the album.
Who were some of your key influences for the record?
People that have been following me know I’m fond of the whole Bob Marley legacy. And I don’t just mean just Bob Marley as an artist, but also the actual evolution of what he did – the fact that his kids carried on the torch. I’ve always been paying homage to Bob Marley with “Three Little Birds” because it’s such a feel good record. When I perform live, I always make sure that there’s a Bob Marley record. Especially throughout the pandemic, I felt the best thing to do was to send some of the messages that his music was sending. I don’t make reggae music but I did work with Julian Marley on the album and that was a special moment for me personally. I look up to Bob for the fact that he comes from an island. I’m from South London but my motherland is Cyprus, where I’m currently residing. The fact that he put his island on the musical map and Jamaica is so relevant to music nowadays feels so good, because I haven’t reached that point yet but that the sound I set up in Ayia Napa years ago helped to Wiley have is number one single with “Heatwave” and people like Gracious K have a big hit UK garage record. Ayia Napa helped UK culture grow and I’m responsible for that even though I’ve never said publicly it was me that did that. People now want to come to Ayia Napa to perform as a landmark in their career. And at the same time, the fact that people are getting to find out about Ayia Napa and Cyprus through my music.
You’ve got some cool features on the record too – Julian Marley, Projexx and AV Allure. How did these collabs come about? What drew you to work with these artists in particular?
We bumped into each other when I performed my first ever show as a solo artist back in 2007, and since then, we kept it cool and I felt like when the time would be right, I would tell him let’s do something. It’s just been something very relaxed and natural. And then with the other artists, AV Allure is someone that I bumped into during a writing session for my single “Diablo” that’s on the album. He was in the writing camp when I was writing that song. When I left the studio that night, I remember thinking, he deserves to be more frontline than just behind the scenes. He’s under my 3fifty7 branch as well. That’s why he’s so prominent on some of the singles. We’re hoping to drop his EP sometime in March or April. I always boast I have the best set of ears on the planet. I say to people that my ears are just as good as Rick Rubin and Dr. Dre and Pharrell. I’m really excited with this album – not just for what it means for me but what it means for all the artists involved. [Other features] Projexx and Beam are currently nominated for Grammys in their own right. Overall, I feel the sound is very exotic – that’s the word I want when [people] listen to my album. It might have that South London street edge that I carry with me but at the same time it’s very exotic. I wanted to prove a point and I feel that I’m not just a trendsetter for the audience and the public, I sometimes set trends people within the industry. It’s just the nature of what I do as a producer and a sound man. Some people would say it’s got a DJ Khaled desk type of essence to it, the way we put records together. But that is a talent and that is something that I’m nurturing and working on to improve and better myself. I do feel like we’ve done a great job with this album to give people that variety of cultures and sound, without it looking or feeling forced.
Do you feel that this is the beginning of a new era for you as an artist?
It’s the start of my era. Because I’ve been around for a minute, people try to make music by paying attention to time and I don’t pay attention to time. I think time is irrelevant. I don’t want to boast again but when Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, he did not care how long it would take, he just wanted to create a timeless piece of art. So I don’t think it’s a new era, I think it’s the beginning. Everything you’ve seen up to this point, whether you loved it or hated it, or judged it, is irrelevant, because it all contributed to me putting out my first full body of work. Now, I think it’s the judgement era. Now people can have an opinion, because I consider having an album an opportunity for people to open the door and take a look and see your soul and your existence and who you are and what you stand for and represent. This is the beginning of the era in terms of what we’re doing. It’s a good opportunity for people to now have a clearer picture of my sound as well, and that’s why I say it’s irrelevant what happened before because it all contributed to this album now finally being in existence.
What goals do you still have on your bucket list? And which goals have you ticked off recently?
I never actually created a bucket list – not because I don’t think it’s a good idea. I’m actually surprised I don’t have one. I’ve been in the hustle and bustle from such a young age that I never had the time to worry about creating one. I have a daily bucket list every day of chores that I want to achieve and create, like, make sure you got Instagram shout outs from influential platforms. Make sure the fans have got all the right links. I think I’ve definitely sacrificed my existence for my craft. As long as my family, my daughter, is healthy, and well, and I can get to spend time with them, I can always recreate or reshape what I want to achieve. I started as a DJ, so the fact that I’m already here, I probably achieved three or four or five of my bucket lists, and now I’ve created new ones. It’s a never ending journey. I will probably be like this for as long as I’m alive. It’s nice to have a bucket list but it’s also nice to have a never ending bucket list. There’s so much that we can achieve in this world. You can be the richest person on the planet and there’s still things you won’t have time to live in your life. And you can be the poorest person on the planet, and you might achieve things that rich people might not even get the opportunity to look at, or even consider valuable. Balance is the greatest thing that we’ve all got to admire and not take for granted.