Artist Interviews

Q&A: Riz MC

By | Published on Tuesday 15 June 2010

Riz MC

Riz MC, aka Riz Ahmed, released his debut single, ‘The Post 9/11 Blues’, in 2006, causing much controversy across the media, but also winning him a loyal following. Riz is also an acclaimed actor, and recently starred in Chris Morris’ ‘Four Lions’. His debut album ‘MICroscope’ is out in September, coupled with a groundbreaking high concept live show, set to tour at the end of the year (though you can catch it at Fabric in London on 17 Jun), an interactive live experience in which the audience become part of the show, with the music played through a themed storyline, complete with actors and musicians. With his new single ‘Hundred & Thousands’ out his week, we caught up with Riz to find out more.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
When I was young I would steal my older brother’s mix cassettes and start memorising the lyrics. Then I was writing my own and performing them at raves that I’d put on (Hit&Run is still going strong in Manchester!), and on the odd pirate radio slot, and at MC battles like JumpOff and Battlescars. I started recording in 2006 when I wanted to write material beyond crowd hyping and punchlines.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
It was recorded over two years, but the consistent vibe, both musically and lyrically, is, I guess, about being comfortable with not fitting in. It’s about trying to be authentic and dealing with the social politics of that. The songs are about fake handshakes, social stereotypes, Facebook personas, the cult of cuntish cool, the autopilot rut of getting smashed at the weekend and trendy ghetto living. It’s about negotiating these things to try and connect with something sincere and real in yourself and others. And failing! Musically, there’s a mix of styles on there but they are all out of the box and don’t fit neatly – I think it sounds fresh because of that.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
I usually have a few things in mind I wanna write about, things I’ve noticed or knots I need to untie for myself by writing about them. I let it sit for ages then it’ll click one day and I’ll finally write it. It’s never just a matter of being sent a beat and writing to it. I like working closely with producers. With Lazersonic we worked hard on finding a distinctive sound for our stuff. Usually I’d have a song written and we make a track around that. With Redinho he had these amazing sketches already done and I wrote to them, we worked on the arrangements a lot. I like collaborating a lot with people; it focuses my head, I can be quite hyperactive.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
4hero, Björk, Prodigy, Mos Def, Massive Attack, Roots Manuva, DJ EZ, Andy C, Gil Scott-Heron and Talib Kweli, to name a few.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
Hopefully it speaks for itself. I guess on one level it’s more dancefloor but on another level it has lyrical substance, so if they didn’t like it in one setting I’d say try it in another.

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?

I want to push boundaries with the sound of the ‘MICroscope’ album and with the way I’m touring it. Hopefully people will respond to that. The live show is an interactive immersive experience and no one out there is really doing anything like it. I’ve been shooting films for it, directing video designers to actors and dancers – I think it’ll be really exciting for people. I think it’s up to independent artists to push things forward and I wanna keep doing that with my sound, my ideas, and with the range people I reach.