Will Lavin

15:58 25th January 2006

In a galaxy far, far away… one man, one moustache and one hell of a varied taste in music resides. The man in question goes by the name of Akira The Don, not because he’s a member of the Italian mafia but because he’s one of the most inventive members of the hip-hop community. The norm isn’t even a part of his vocabulary; in fact his terminology contains a lot more than a few easily repeated words. Born in 1980, this ex-journalist believes his year of birth plays a big part in what he does these days. With so many artists choosing the 80’s as the decade to express their musical anguish, where does a young, impressionable and talented young man start? We caught up with Interscope’s diversely popular ‘Rap Morrissey’ and had him sit through the Gigwise inquisition.    

Gigwise: Before we get started, tell us exactly what particular category you would put your music in to?
Akira: "I’m not a great believer in categories, although they do make your life easier when writing about music, and when you’re arranging it in a shop. But in regards to actually doing it, categories are the last thing anyone should be thinking about. My music is just communication via noise. If I had to say it was any category I’d say hip-hop, just because you can talk about anything over any kind of music."     

G: With that said, who would you name as some of your major musical influences?
A: "I would say that Ice Cube was very important. I would then say Billy Bragg, The Smiths, the Wu-Tang, and Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine."

G: The punk band Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine?
A: "They were hip-hop really. I mean it was essentially spoken word, you know? They had a beatbox. They had a little samply thing and two guys basically. So the guy who played the guitar and did the samples was the DJ and Jim Bob, who played the guitar as well, was essentially the MC." 

G: OK, what about your grooming influences? Who gave you the idea for the Salvador Dali-esque moustache?
A: "I think the answer is in the question to a certain extent. When I was little, and I couldn’t grow a beard, I was just very jealous of men who had beards. So the type of moustache I would draw as a kid I now have. I got to the point when I could do one so I figured I would have a go, and it worked out. So I’m very happy with myself."

G: You’re actually getting a lot of shine at the moment. What do you credit that to, the music or the tash?
A: (Laughing) "I think it’s a combination of everything. British people love a good story, and I suppose there’s a story connected. You know? “Wow, home grown boy does stuff in America. Oh my god!” I mean the stuff I had previously released had been pretty DIY because I did it all in my bedroom, and this (“Clones”) was the first thing that I did in my bedroom, dropped it in to a studio and made it f**king really loud. To be honest I gotta give a lot of credit to Bashy as well because his verse on “Clones” is amazing. I’ve got my whole rambling shouty thing going on, but his whole verse is just this entirely audible and understandable poetry without being cheesy or anything."

G: You’re actually now signed to the label that birthed the infamous Death Row Records, and is now home to two of the world’s biggest rap acts, 50 Cent and Eminem. How in the hell did you manage to swing that one?
A: Jimmy Iovine is one of these dudes who can spot a way of making cash off of something a bit sort of contemporary. Warner dropped Death Row and he took that on knowing that it was valuable and good, and could also make him a lot of money. How I actually wangled it was by sussing out how people work over here. The Strokes came over here and it was like, “Wow they’re from New York. That’s amazing.” They sounded a bit like our Indie stuff so we’re gonna love them. And then they go back to America and everyone’s like “Wow! Everyone said you were amazing.” So I figured that I’d do the opposite, which is what I did and it ended up working out a lot better than I thought it would.  

G: Care to elaborate?
A: The actual physical thing was my mate’s girlfriend, who’s a hairdresser, was playing one of my demos while cutting some dude’s, who claimed he was from Warner Brothers but wasn’t, hair. He went shouting his mouth off and the thing I know I’m being flown out to meet Jimmy Iovine. 

G: The album’s due out soon. What can people expect to hear?
A: (I think) it’s amazing actually. I’m really pleased it came out amazing. With regards to what people should expect: some ill beats, some ill strings, some ill samples, and lots of me opening my uninformed potty mouth about stuff that I consider worth talking about. Lots of people will really love it, and a whole bunch of other people will f**king hate it.

G: If you had to sell it in one sentence what would you say?
A: Umm… defining moment in UK beats and rhymes history.

G: Your new single is called 'Clones'. Would you say that you’re a clone of anybody in particular or that somebody is a clone of you?
A: We’re all clones. That’s the point! That’s how it’s set up. I could run around thinking I’m a mad individual who is doing his own thing and shit, but at the end of the day I’m a result of everything that was pumped in to my head throughout the time I’ve been alive, and there was a whole lot of shit pumped. And the end result of that is even if I can bop around and have a funny moustache, and listen to Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine and Wu-Tang Clan doesn’t mean on the grand scheme of things that I’m any less cloned than someone who lives in Bethnal Green and listens to the Arctic Monkeys.

G: Finally, what would you say is your main goal when it comes to this business most call music?
A: I’m not gonna achieve world peace or global harmony but I can set in motion an idea that any prick, from anywhere can make a fucking noise and say what they think about something. I wanna make noise and I want other people to make noise. I want everybody to make noises and say exactly what they think and do exactly what they want to, and that’s about it.