Beatmaker’s Corner: Faze Miyake

Words: Yemi Abiade
Photography: Hyperfrank

How many times do you turn on a beat and get taken on an adventure, with every synth, hi-hat and break serving as a chapter throughout the story of sound? This doesn’t ring truer than on a beat by Faze Miyake. East London’s in-demand producer is a product of the ends that raised him, and he has come a long way since his 2011 hit, “Take Off”, hit the streets. A worthy introduction, it opened the scene up to his innate ability to fuse grime, Southern hip-hop and UK garage to craft cinematic soundscapes befitting any and every mood—be it an anthem for the turn-up, or seeking solace on the night bus. Faze’s sound palette, much like that of his city of birth, is forever changing and informed by what’s new and fresh. However, he still retains elements of a time when he grew up and the first grime generation were establishing themselves, shelling pirate radio sets and circulating exclusive dubs. Faze exhibits that same DIY attitude (his ingenious USB-only releases are still staples of the culture) as a nod to the heritage he grew up in. His talent doesn’t stop at beatmaking though, and a recent transition into rapping has broken new ground for the young artist—particularly on his new EP, Evo, where he lays down bars across the 5-track project. Producing, as a result, is just one facet in the arsenal of a man reaching his stride.


Do you believe you have a particular style of production?

It changes all the time. Right now, I’m trying to keep the greeze element I feel I’ve had in my music but it’s definitely become more mature. My aim is to make hard music but, at the same time, make it sound nice. Soft on the ears, but still thumping. My music is just London; whatever sounds London is on. I’m influenced by everything around me and I’m from London, so that’s what I’m representing and that’s what I try to put into my work.

How did growing up in London inform your style?

I grew up around people who listened to jungle but the first genre I fell in love with was UKG, back in primary school. In year 7 or 8, that’s when grime was around and we lived that! Skilliam from Butterz went to my school and he was DJing on pirate radio. Being a product of that environment is more the case, I think. I always liked US rap from Down South—Three Six Mafia, Lil Jon, all that crunk stuff. I was never really into, like, Jay-Z or Nas, so I always gravitated to stuff that sounds like what we do here. Trap sounds like grime but with more basic drum patterns, I guess. I was aspiring to be one of the olders who listened to garage and when grime came, we would go to under-18s raves; More Fire Crew’s “Oi” was popping, “I Luv U”, “Pulse X”, and we would make our own ringtones. All of that was around me, so it’s not like I was hunting for it—I was from it. I loved the dubplate culture that came from it—have you got this tune? Have you got that tune?—but that shit doesn’t exist anymore because everyone’s on Spotify. The under-18s raves were crazy and we would go mad for tracks like “Pow!”, which eventually got banned because of stuff like happy-slaps and [raves like] Young Man Standing. Grime, back then, was really a street genre. There was no fucking industry around it—grime was from the roads and people were making tunes that would get passed around by Bluetooth and MSN. It wasn’t controlled by a man in a suit.

But even when you do stuff like putting music onto USBs, is that you paying homage to that past feeling of exclusivity?

Yeah, I always keep that element in my work in the sense of it being fun. Even for my consumers, it’s fun for them; they’ll even come up to me now and ask when the next USB is coming out—but I don’t want to overdo it. Subconsciously, I guess it’s more fun for me to do rather than just putting music up on iTunes. The USBs, for me, were like doing a vinyl, and I’m all about being progressive.

Was producing always the end goal for you?

I don’t think my life has changed since I was 16—everything I’m doing now, I was doing then: MCing, DJing, making beats. I just love music and started doing it as a joke and now it’s my career. A friend gave me Fruity Loops when I left school. I learned how to use it then forgot how to use it, and it wasn’t until two or three years later that I met someone in college who showed me how to make beats properly. I thought Fruity Loops was amazing, man. I used to DJ and MC at my youth club, then I started recording with people I met in college and started writing bars. I used to get kicked out of music classes for being a pest [laughs]. I never really cared for the classical side of music... Maybe in the future, I’ll learn how to play guitar or piano.

Do you remember your first ever riddim?

Them times, on Fruity Loops, you had something called a pattern. Imagine having a page in a book, you write on it and then turn the page. On Fruity Loops, you kind of have the same thing—pattern 1, pattern 2—and I remember I was trying my best to make this whole beat onto just one pattern because I didn’t know you had other patterns. So I was going hard thinking this is the whole beat, but it wasn’t going anywhere—it was just the same loop over and over! It took me two years to learn how to find a new pattern. Most top producers in the world still use Fruity Loops, and I still use it every now and then, but I switched to Logic when I got a Mac and now I switch between that, Ableton and Fruity Loops when I feel like it. Fruity Loops takes me back to those times of being young and enjoying music and having loads of ideas, whereas Logic is more pro now. Ableton is a good mix of the two.

So, when you’re in the studio, what does your creative process look like?

I don’t think—I just do! Everyone’s asking for tips about how to get better but, really, you’ve just got to be as free as possible. The more you think about things, the more it limits your creativity and ideas. I like to go in with no thought at all, and whatever’s happening on the screen is a natural reflex and the knowledge and experience I’ve built up over the years.

You’ve said you plan to go to Manchester for a month and pump out beats. Is that something you usually do?

I took a backseat from DJing to focus on being a straight-up producer, and even when I went on my Asia tour with Sir Spyro in March, we went studio and I guess I was doing that a lot in different countries. The Manchester thing might be similar in the sense of being on the move and changing my surroundings; new vibes, new energy and taking in what’s around me. I was making a beat in Istanbul’s airport after the bomb went off there last year and it was weird—like, what if a bomb goes off? [Laughs]

When would you say your name started bubbling in the scene?

When “Take Off” came out. I didn’t know it would be that tune, but it brought everything to me—like DJs, artists, journalists—rather than me having to network. Even after that, stuff like the USBs, my album, jumping on the mic now, made new people take notice.

Now that your career has, pardon the pun, ‘taken off’, how have you found the journey so far?

I’m still learning, and I don’t think anyone should stop learning—in any aspect of life. If you’re not always learning, then you’ll get bored and I got to that point where I felt I wasn’t getting any better or worse; being good at what I do, but staying in the same place. My people might have liked it, but it wasn’t making me as satisfied as I am now. Even now, I’ve never had producer’s block once this year, because I haven’t felt uninspired at any point. Being inspired is my main thing, and staying true. There’s times where I’ve had to do things for money or to get to a certain stage—and it might not have been things I really wanted to do—but I’ve told myself that anything I have a gut feeling about it being wrong, I just won’t do. I only do things that make me happy and, I guess, that’s why I’m on fire right now [laughs].

So, what was your decision to start rapping informed by?

I think it’s the current climate we’re in with music. I was always gonna do this but there was a time where I just really wanted to be a DJ for the past couple years and I went for it—touring the world and playing music for people. Now that I’ve kind of taken a step back from DJing and been in the studio, I was just like, “Why not?” I even want to start singing and shit. I wanna do it all and take my artistry to the next level. It’s about challenging myself as an artist; I don’t like to be stagnant or get complacent. Now, I’m in the process of putting together a live show and I couldn’t tell you how the fuck I’m gonna do it—I’ve never done it before—but that’s exciting for me to take on. I only get excited by it. I set goals for myself at the start of my career and everything I said I was going to do, I’ve done. I’ve now set myself new goals and rapping is part of that.

Talk me through the latest project, Evo, because this is your first proper release as a lyricist.

I want everyone to take this one in because it’s my official introduction to the world as a vocalist. I worked with a singer called Qendresa on “Transition” only eight weeks ago and I liked a section she said about transition, as I feel I’m at that point in my life and career. Then you have the Belly Squad one, “Hercules”, which is the club banger. The third is a skit where I was fucked out of my face and having the time of my life [laughs]. I want people to have fun like I did listening to that one, and the final two tunes are instrumentals. Every time I do a release, I want people to have that variety. Some of my fans don’t like vocal music—they prefer instrumentals. But if it was up to me and I wasn’t trying to keep everyone happy, then I probably wouldn’t make any more instrumental music. Maybe some experimental stuff, but not grime or rap beats just to put out. I’m at the point where I want to make songs. I’ll always do [instrumentals] but I don’t just want to release them. Back in the day when I would buy singles, they would have the main tune, the remix, the instrumental and the a cappella—I’m trying to keep that structure in my releases. I’m not gonna lie: I’m in album mode now. I won’t say when it’s coming out, but just expect something crazy!

You’ve worked with everyone from AJ Tracey to Little Simz. Have you ever felt pressure to match their lyrical performances with your beats?

I only really like to work with rappers in sessions. I don’t really like sending out music. So, I’ll work with them and either play a bunch of beats I’ve already made or make something with them from scratch. They might start vocalling it as I’m making the beat; I want them to have the chance to catch the vibe and the music comes out of it. Music is losing that aspect and people end up making the same old shit, rather than bringing new ideas to the table. Me and Belly Squad recorded “Hercules” in two different sessions and I think that same energy goes out to people who listen to it. It’s a bit hippyish but that’s how I like to do it—some real mystic shit [laughs]. It’s fun and keeps me going, plus I’ve made some of the best music of my career this year and it’s because of that. The close circuit of people I call my friends know that and they’re happy to come studio with me.

Being a producer, what are some of the best beats you’ve heard that aren’t yours?

There’s a tech-house tune by Deniz Kurtel that’s really ‘80s in sound, called “Best Of (Freestyle Version)”, and from start to finish, I wish I had fucking made it! It’s got everything I like in one tune. There’s a lot of Three Six Mafia and Lex Luger tunes as well. When I went out to Miami in 2010, Rick Ross tunes like “MC Hammer” and “Blowin’ Money Fast” were getting reloads and shit and, sonically, they sound like grime—the tempos and vibe of them. So I tried to add a bit of that to UK rap, which already has grime elements in it. When I came back from Miami, the first tune I made was “Take Off” and Lex was a big inspiration at that point in my career. I don’t think enough people say his name and for how trap music is now, and how commercialised the sound is, he’s the guy that got it there. Everyone was using his sound-packs, but I wasn’t trying to sound like him. Shout out Lex Luger, though, because he fucking deserves it. He’s probably given a lot of people careers.

You say your production style is influenced by what’s around you. With that said, how do you see your style developing over time?

It’s getting a lot crazier. These days, when I’m in the studio, I feel like I’ve lost my marbles [laughs]. I’ll be making a tune and, in the middle, I’ll just be laughing because it’s sick but also a bit weird. I think I’m experimenting a lot more, but I’m just trying to push boundaries. I’m not trying to go too left and become a complete weirdo but I’m trying to keep things interesting. My style is changing as much as I keep learning, doing video shoots, travelling, getting on this guy or that guy’s album and becoming more buzzing. Whatever’s around me, or whatever phase I’m going through in life, will always inform my style.

Posted on November 14, 2017