When it comes to interviewing artists, sometimes you just take to people instantly. We already knew that we liked Labrinth’s music very much but it only needs him to express his delight at selling out a show in Bournemouth to prove that he has the personality to match. And then some, as it turns out, with our conversation touching on all aspects of his career, thoughts on the music industry and what drives him on. “I’ve never been that much into making money”, he says, “which may sound strange for someone who’s successful. I don’t make records just to buy a new house or put spinning rims on my car. I’m constantly trying to impress myself and go to a new level, so people go ‘what the fuck is that?’. That’s what keeps me creatively satisfied.”
You’ve started your own label Odd Child, what do you hope for from that?
I personally want to make artists that still have their integrity by the time they’ve gone through my label. The music industry is guilty of taking someone with amazing potential and destroying them because their first instinct is to make money. They want them to appeal instantly but giving an artist the opportunity to develop is important. You have to let them grow, that’s what happened in my career. It was a year between ‘Let The Sun Shine’ and ‘Earthquake’ and that’s unheard of today. If you don’t put a record out for a year you get dropped but because I had that time it made for better music in the end. ‘Earthquake’ was one of the biggest tracks off my album.
Did you have to battle to get that time for yourself?
Luckily, because Syco (Simon Cowell’s label) believed in what I was doing and because I was fresh in this industry they gave me the chance to do what I needed to do. It was scary for me because I was new, I knew how to make music but I didn’t know the industry. Every other person was asking for new music, calling me a one hit wonder but it gave me the time to go out and perform. It enabled me to become the face of my music and made me a better artist all round. If musicians keep getting thrown on stage with no concept of who they are then we won’t have anyone who sticks around.
Do you see any new developments in the acts that you’ve signed?
Social media is taking over. I was speaking to some of the artists on my label and they were excited by artists such as Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Jamie XX – acts that wouldn’t necessarily carry commercial weight or get played on the radio every other minute. In terms of social media or YouTube, however, they’re the Dons. Everyone’s talking about them. It’s a different industry and that’s quite scary. This is the time when people can be themselves without worrying about selling records. Being a signed artist it’s dangerous to say that and I wouldn’t say that record labels are dead, they have the contacts, but there’s no middle man anymore. You don’t even need the radio now to find your music. The game’s wide open now.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the Weeknd next, won’t it?
I’ve seen a lot of artists make albums after becoming a YouTube sensation and sometimes it spoils it because they’re trying to become a mass selling act. Worldwide records have to fit the masses but they don’t always fit the audience that they’ve already developed. When the pressure starts to build they lose the panache that they had initially. That’s what I don’t like about the industry, it makes new artists lose what they had in the first place.
Labrinth plays Dublin Academy tonight and the Cork Savoy (Heineken Live Project show) on Thursday.