With a big summer ahead of him, Example is one of the hottest properties in music right now.
So what better time than to catch up with the rapper and chat about his summer of festivals, album plans and what it was like working with Wretch 32.
Are you all set for the summer?
It’s a little mad at the moment. I’ve got so many festivals lined up that it’s just about trying to get ready for that and get the set right. My bands been rehearsing for the last couple of months. When you want to have a massive impact at festivals you need to ensure that everything is spot on. Our set is really interesting as we’ve got live drums and then a lot of stuff triggered from the track. The guy who plays the drums for me used to work for Lily Allen and Mike Skinner, so he’s a pretty big dog when it comes to live stuff. Then we’ve got a guitarist and keyboard player who switch between.
I’m guessing the live shows mean a lot to you?
Yeah without a doubt it’s my favourite part of the job I put so much thought and effort into it. Working out the set list and trying to incorporate remixes into it as well. I always think that when you go and see your favourite band and they do fifteen songs and all they do is play the songs. While some bands try and make the show more interesting by doing covers but I’m never ever going to do covers in my set so I tend to change the song into a drum and base remix or a dubstep remix.
Have you found each tour or live show a progression?
My first ever gig was in 2004 and then I supported Plan B, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Just Jack, The Streets, Lily Allen, Tinchy Stryder, Calvin Harris. I’ve done around 650 gigs, its mental the amount of gigs I’ve done. That’s why people come to the show these days and go away so happy. When I perform I know I’m a good performer, people may think that I’m not a great rapper or singer but I know I’m a good performer. I’ve watched other people perform and I know for a fact that me and my band are better than them.
You come to our show and people bounce form start to finish and clap and sing throughout the whole set. A lot of my contemporaries and peer groups have a lot of great songs but you go and see them live and they don’t cut it. That’s what I pride myself on, that my fans enjoy my live shows so much, you only get that really now with Pendulum, Prodigy and Chase And Status. If all you’ve heard of me is ‘Watch The Sun Come Up’ and ‘Won’t Go Quietly’ then you may just write me off as some pop rapper then you come see the live show and you realise it’s f*cking heavy.
Whether or not I have chart success or sell x amount of albums I’ll know that I have done myself and my fans proud. Essentially I will always want a sold-out tour and be billed high at a festival as I always want to surprise people. Gigwise has taste they voted us the best act at V festival last year next to Kings Of Leon and Kasabian and that really makes me happy and grateful. I may not be able to sell as many album as them but I can do them live.
How did you find the album’s success last year?
Yeah it was nuts man. My first album sold 10,000 copies back in 2007 and now I think we’ve sold around 700,000 copies of ‘Won’t Go Quietly’. Five years ago that would have been a disaster but nowadays that’s pretty successful. Any artist that sells over a 100,000 is called a success. You’ve got to remember that five years ago twenty acts would sell a million records now there are two acts or three acts selling a million records a year. Plan B, Florence & The Machine the U2’s and the Coldplay’s maybe the X Factor winner but other than that no one is shifting records anymore, which is why over a year ago I decided a wanted to be one of the best live acts in the country and recruit the amazing band that I have got.
Did your work with Mike Skinner on The Beats label influence your music and mindset these days?
I think it’s weird if you hear my first album and compare it to my new stuff. There are some similarities in the sense that there’s the odd cheeky line or a punchy line that has some dry humour. The interesting thing about that album was that I learnt a lot, I learnt about what I should and shouldn’t do, what an album should sound like, what I should sing about and rap about. The first album is all made by one producer Ruchic, who I went to uni and them my second album was made by ten producers and this new album has been made by nine producers. You can kind of see the transition and how confident I have got as a songwriter myself as I used to be afraid of singing. On my first album I only sang on one chorus out of fourteen tracks, with fifteen featured vocalist. On my new album now ‘Playing In The Shadows’ there’s no vocal guests at all. There’s old school hip hop heads who think my first album was amazing and now I’ve sold out and I shouldn’t be doing dance music but for me it’s been like a natural progression.
What made you want to try out a more dance influenced sound for your last album?
Everyone experiments. There are always going to be rappers who are known for hip hop but might experiment with a rap over a grime beat and if that works for them then that might be the only song they ever do. But for some people they might then go this is my sound. To be honest there’s no one else singing and rapping to music in the UK and I don’t think you can really compare ‘Kickstart’ to Tinchy Stryder’s ‘Number One’. There both dance songs but what we both do is very different. I now insist on singing and rapping on all my own stuff.
When did the work for the new album start?
Around six months ago. My first album took three years to write, my second took me a year and this new one has taken me six months. I know what I want to do now, I know what fits me. I can feel a beat now, whereas a year ago I probably would have written over a beat I wasn’t sure about but now I don’t write anything if I’m not sure about it.
This album has been good being in the studio with people, with just guitars and just written from scratch.
Example - 'Kickstats'
Has the album got a slight heavier sound?
It’s really dark. There’s about four dubstep tunes, there’s about three or four that sample drums and beats as I didn’t want to do an out and out dubstep album. It’s not a dubstep album, it’s more influenced by that scene if anything. I don’t want to be seen as jumping on the bang wagon as I’m not really from that scene. This album is very rave sounding and dark. I’ve worked with Nero, Chase & Status and Funk Agenda on this album as well as some massive House names. The whole album, I think, has the beat producers in the world on it for what I do. For a dance album to have Faithless, Laidback Luke, Nero all on one album is amazing for me.
You recently worked with Wretch 32 and Giggs. Do you fancy doing any more collaborations like that?
Yeah I enjoyed it all. Tinchy asked me to appear on some stuff with him which was nice as I’m not from a Grime or Hip Hop scene. I want to work with more underground artists in the future. I don’t really want to work with anybody huge, well if Swedish House Mafia asked me to do a tune obviously I’d do it. Or if Kasabian came to me, as I love Serge I think he’s an amazing songwriter then I may be swayed. People I’ve got lined up are D double E and Dot Rotten. I’m more interested in Grime and Hip Hop artists that I’m a fan of and I’m in the position now where I can be a fan boy and call people up and say do you want to do a tune and hopefully they will want to do it.
Plans for the summer?
It’s going to be a hectic one. We’ve got 25 festivals and then we head over to Australia for a tour over there. A rave summer is under way. I really just want to change people’s opinions of me. My music is poppy and catchy but essentially I’ve always wanted to be a serious dance rave act and I think the fact that there’s rapping in there doesn’t really matter, it worked for Faithless. I like singing my own hooks, in the Hip Hop world Drake does that and he’s amazing. I now just want to be this cross of Faithless, Prodigy, Dizzee Rascal and Clavin Harris all rolled into one. It’s going to be hard for people to put me in a box. The only person I have to better is myself. Nobody said I could write anything better than ‘Kickstart’ but from the reception we got a Radio One Big Weekend to the new album it looks like the album is going to be better.