With a new issue of Lookleft set to hit shelves across Ireland very soon it is about time I shared an interview I did with Sertone in the current issue. Lookleft is available in every Easons north/south & other selected retailers.
Gareth McAlinden aka Sertone received widespread praise for the release of his excellent debut EP The View From Above EP on Belfast hip-hop label MeltedMusic in February. He is riginally from Portadown but now based in Liverpool (via Bedford), where he moved to attend university four years ago. Barry Healy caught up with the 22 year old instrumental hip-hop and electronica producer who took time out to answer some questions for LookLeft.
LL: Is there much more opportunities for you and your music in Liverpool than Ireland?
Sertone: “It’s funny because one of the main reasons I decided on England was I thought there would be more music opportunities. At that time the UK seemed to have a much bigger and healthier hip hop scene. The first year in Liverpool I kind of just sat back and watched how the city worked, trying to figure out who was who etc. Now I’m playing regularly and running a night in Liverpool trying to promote ‘beat music’. The Irish electronic scene is amazing right now with acts like Solar Bears, Sunken Foal, Moths, Frankie Bingo, and the whole grime/step scene in Dublin being pushed by Colz, Major Grave and Shatterfreak.”
LL: How long have you been making music? How did you get started?
Sertone: “I started DJing at 11, messing around with pause tapes and video game music making applications until around the age of 15 or so when I got a copy of cubase and it has grown from there. I always tried to make ‘weirder’ more experimental beats for rappers to distinguish myself, only a handful of MCs ever took notice. I kind of gave up on making music to be heard by anyone else and concentrated on making stuff purely for me. Since then things have really started to move forward.”
LL: Your music has a rather unique sound, how did you get into hip-hop and electronic music?
Sertone: “Thank you, I’m glad to have been able to etch out a unique sound. Hip Hop was my first love, like anything I develop a passion for I’m enthused to know everything I possibly can. I spent ten years listening to every type of hip hop I could find. This led to me to all the music that went into creating hip hop and whatever it’s spawned. Groups like Portishead and Massive Attack pointed me to search for more electronic music.”
LL: Many people mightn’t associate Portadown with this sound, is there a healthy electronic/hip-hop ‘scene’ in the North?
Sertone: “Yeah moving between Portadown, Liverpool and Bedford the last four years meant it’s been hard to put where I am into the music. On ‘Past, Present, Future’ I used a sample which had vocals about Belfast in it to show people where I’m from. Also, I found the sample just as I started working on the EP for Melted Music who are based in Belfast, so it felt like fate! Probably the most notable electronic act from the North is Boxcutter and there are some great local heads like Defcon. Two notable MCs are Belfast’s Sketch Nine and long time collaborator and peer Jee4ce who’s a rapper, producer, video director and all round creative genius.”
LL: You released your debut EP The View From Above in February, how was the response?
Sertone: “The response was really overwhelming to be honest! I didn’t expect anywhere near the level of exposure or positivity it received. I expected it to be listened to by friends and some of their friends, when it started to get covered by MTV, BBC, AU and Hotpress it picked up pace quickly. There’s been a few surreal moments the past few months; hearing the whole CD being played in a random bar, Boy George tweeting me to say he enjoyed it and my mum phoning to say she had heard ‘Past, Present, Future’ on BBC Radio when she was driving home.”
LL: You have been compared to artists like RJD2, J Dilla & Flying Lotus you must be pretty chuffed?
Sertone: “To me that’s the greatest compliment. When I saw those kinds of names being mentioned in the same articles as mine I was blown away. Obviously they were all big influences when I started making music. I hope my music doesn’t come across as an imitation of those artists and in some small way that I’ve been able to put my twist on it.”
LL: And the rest of 2011?
Sertone: “I just released Versions, a collection of 15 remixes which is available for free at sertone.bandcamp.com. I’m touring the UK and Ireland this summer and perhaps starting on a follow up to The View From Above EP. Just more music really!”