DJ and producer Blinkie talks about his journey, risks paying off and future horizons. Plus, hear his exclusive Notion x BULLDOG Gin mix.
Blinkie has always been obsessed with music. Since he was a kid, music was the only lesson that could focus his mind and consume him completely. From spending school lunchtimes making beats on his teacher’s computer to waking up after melodic dreams to make the sounds he sleepily conjured into reality, his drive and inspiration have been constant.
Having produced an album for Manchester rap star Bugzy Malone and created remixes for the likes of Lana Del Rey, Craig David and KSI, Mabel, Little Mix and more, Blinkie may have racked up tens of millions of streams and received acclaim across the airwaves but he claims he’s not even at the “peak of his career” yet.
We caught up with the dance music DJ, producer, and now record label owner to hear about his invaluable pieces of advice for budding artists, the importance of patience, biggest inspirations and more. Plus, hear the exclusive mix he created for Notion and BULLDOG Gin.
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How did your journey as a producer and DJ begin?
It actually started with dancing as a kid. [I was] in love with Michael Jackson as a kid. I wanted to be like him [laughs]. I started dancing and then MCing in school. Then I had a crew, a bunch of us who used to MC together. After that, I started making beats for my friends because we couldn’t find instrumentals. I stopped MCing and became a manager and producer for the group.
In school, I wasn’t a disruptive kid but I was kind of loud at times. Apart from, English, Maths, Science and Art, Music was the only thing that could shut me up. I literally made the whole class be quiet. Everyone started following me, started doing what I was doing. Sometimes I’d just get left at lunchtime, the teacher would let me on the computer just to make beats because she saw that I was so interested. From there, it was just like a spiral. I just got deeper and deeper into it. Plus, growing up, music was like a babysitter. When my mum wasn’t about, I was just left on the computer, me and my brother. It was like a best friend really. It was the only thing that if I needed to just release, or if I was bored, or if I just had an idea, I would go to a computer. In my own little world kind of thing.
Can you talk us through your creative process when creating new music?
It’s different every single time. So sometimes I go to sleep, have a dream about a beat or song, wake up, make it. I’ve done that a lot. And then sometimes – it’s weird, I feel music and see it so I can hear and see the whole beat and make it. Sometimes it’s just sound, sometimes it’s the whole song, or the idea of the song, or it might be a vision and I have to match the emotion to the vision. It makes sense to me [laughs]. And then sometimes it’s sitting down having a conversation and the conversation sparks the song. Sometimes boredom, just press a button, something comes. And then sometimes there’s a brief. My favourite is when I am relaxing watching TV, then a scene [inspires me]. Most of the time, it’s when expressing happy, sad, bored, confused emotions.
Due to the current worldwide pandemic, performing live / touring has taken a backseat, how has the ‘new norm’ of releasing music impacted you as an artist?
Apart from touring and gigs, there has been a silver lining for me when it comes to actually creating music. I’ve been able to be in the studio more – it doesn’t really affect me because I can work remotely. I’ve been releasing more music as well and getting in with artists, songwriters. On the production side of things, last year was my most successful year. It’s crazy because I’ve got a Top 20 with Bugzy Malone. I have a Top 40 with Bugzy Malone as well. I got to executive produce his whole album & producing a lot of tracks on it after posting a beat on my Instagram.So for me, I guess it’s been alright [laughs]. I’m kind of getting used to this new way of working. Now that we’re able to be around each other, it kind of feels weird to be in the studio with people [laughs]. One thing I’ve been good at is adapting, so it affected me just like it affected everyone else but you adapt and you move with the times.
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What’s the best environment for making music?
The most comfortable environment is home. Since I started music, I’ve always made music from home. All the songs I’ve put out have been made from the comfort of my home. My first single was made in my small bedroom. Then all my other songs have just been in my house – with my mum next door making noise [laughs], my brother and friends walking in and out. My house has, since I was a kid, been open to friends and family, music people, whatever, my mum has been good like that, and supportive. Apart from that, as long as I’ve got my laptop, headphones, a keyboard, I can make music right now. I think that comes from growing up and just having to work with what I have. I’m really good at adapting, init [laughs]. I’m really good at working with what I’ve got. As long as I’ve got my stuff there, nothing matters. I can just shut down in my own world and work.
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists to pursue their ambitions in music?
As a producer, the best thing for me was to study and make as much music as you can. Never delete anything. A lot of the songs you hear now are like eight years old, they’ve been on my hard drive for a long time. So study, make as much music as you can. Try to make everything you can. Listen to every type of genre. You find inspiration anywhere. The weirder, the better. And always make what you like. That’s the first thing – you have to like it. Because the worst thing is making something for someone else that you don’t really feel and it becomes your biggest song and you have to travel the world performing that song everywhere. There’ll be a moment where you’re just depressed and you don’t want to do this anymore. You first, everyone else after. Trust me. There’ll be a lot of people like you that feel what you do. You’re not the only one that likes what you like. They’ll find you.
What would you say are the most important things that you’ve learned about yourself as a producer / DJ / artist?
I’ve learned patience actually. Music will do that to you [laughs]. The creative process and the releasing process, the industry, the people will teach you a lot of patience. I think patience is probably the most important out of everything. I’m able to adapt.
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Which artists and producers have inspired you?
Some of the main people I would say are Quincy Jones, obviously Michael Jackson; Rick Rubin. He’s a big inspiration for me. Just him, everything. How he does things is probably closest to how I like to work. He’s at the top of my bucket list for people to meet. The first time I actually saw him speak and break down how he works with people, if you asked anyone who has ever worked with me, he’s very similar. Moving forward, I don’t think I’m ever going to get a studio, I’m just going to buy a house and turn that into studios so people can come and just stay there.
Kanye West, one of the best samplers ever, I think. I really love Mark Kinchen. When I properly got into house, he was one of my go-to people. And then it’s just a lot of hip-hop. I grew up listening to a lot of hardcore hip-hop. So like, J.A.Y. The Kid and people like Nas, then grime. JME, Skepta, they’re different. They’re just themselves. They’ve always been themselves. I like that they’re brothers; my brother’s my manager. And then Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Kano, Ghetts, the whole of Nasty Crew really.
Have you ever taken any risks, and have they paid off? And how BOLD are you willing to go?
I’m used to taking risks but I wouldn’t really call them risks, it’s more like I follow my intuition. Everything I do, I follow my gut. My gut has never steered me the wrong way. I have a very strong intuition. Everything I do, even making music, I feel it out. There’s no formula, I just feel it out. Whatever feels good.
I think my whole career I’ve been taking risks. The first risk was dropping out of uni in the second year. It’s not that I didn’t want to go – I wanted to go to uni for music and my mum being my mum, African parent, was like ‘no, what’s music? You’re good at IT, do IT’. In second year, there was a lesson where we got told that with IT, with technology in general, a lot of people are going to be replaced by robots and stuff and technology’s going to change so you’re always going to have to keep learning. And I was like, ‘I was hoping this stops here’ [laughs]. I’d go to my lessons in the day then at night I’d go to music events to network. And the more I started going to music events, I started meeting artists. I was like, ‘what if I invest more time in this? I can get further to my dream. I’m not going to go into IT’. So in the end, I just dropped out. Didn’t tell my mum [laughs] and then she kind of found out three months later. But it’s been the biggest pay-off of my life because now I have a career. The past three years have probably looked after my whole family from this. My brother’s got a job where he doesn’t have to listen to anyone. We’ve now created our own company. We’ve got two artists. I’m doing something where I feel like I’m cheating. Sometimes I look at my brother and I’m like, ‘how are we getting paid to do this? Like this is fun, it doesn’t feel like work’. I feel like we’re programmed to think work is meant to be difficult but it doesn’t have to be, you can actually do something you love and live from it. And the way you do that is by mastering [a skill]. Once you master it, and you create, you become a person of value in your field.
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What’s your attitude towards life?
One of the most valuable things for all of us is patience. Patience with others, patience with yourself. Even patience with your career. If you’ve got something you love, don’t be afraid of being crap at the start, just have patience. If you really love it, if it’s something that’s within you, trust me, you’ll get good. Everyone that’s a professional was crap at the start. Self-awareness is the biggest thing, it will make the world a better place.
What’s next for Blinkie?
Music. A lot of music. I’m very, very excited for next year. I’ve got a good five years to a decade of music. I’ve got hard drives full of music and I haven’t been able to release as much as I’d like to. I’ve released three remixes and three original tracks and the [Bugzy Malone] album that I produced. So expect something like that next year. It’s going to be a good year, I know it’s gonna be. I’ve got a lot of music to put out and hopefully next year I can and then me and my brother [can keep] building our label. It was just me and him at the start and now it’s actually becoming a thing. We’ve got staff, we’ve got two artists that we’re really excited about, a DJ/ dance artist, and a rapper/artist that we’re excited about.