Surrounded by a solid wall of muscle and shackled by a diamond encrusted pendant that would render lesser men horizontal, Kanye West was in Las Vegas to host a night at Heineken’s Thirst Studio Global Sessions - where he rat-a-tatted through a set of classics tunes and forthcoming ‘Graduation’ titbits to a crowd just north of splenetic. Managing to bag a few minutes with the reigning hip-hop don in his hotel room shortly before taking to the stage, we pushed aside the jetlag, ingested some liquor and got verbal on his ass…
The new album ‘Graduation’ has collaboration with Chris Martin of Coldplay. How did this come about?
Well I did a show at Abbey Road last year and Coldplay just happened to be there at the same time recording in a studio – so I just think it was meant to be. Sometimes God just brings collaborations together and delivers music to the world. I just serve as a vessel. Chris is the one who actually came up with the concept. I already had a beat for ‘Heard Them Say’, but Chris was like, “No this track’s beat needs to be more like a homecoming or something”. So we’re going to release ‘Homecoming’ as a single around October time, it’s not the first one now but it’ll round the year off for us.
So do you listen to much British music then?
Yeah, of course.
I’m gonna have to make sure these are British bands! I could name certain people that maybe aren’t British but sound British… Does it count if they’re just European?
We’ll let you off.
OK – well I really like Keane, Kaiser Chiefs… I want to say Modest Mouse, but I know they’re from America.
They do have Johnny Marr of The Smiths as a member now…
Cool – so Modest Mouse then. Their album (‘We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank’) is one of my favourite records. Sonically, it is the best album this year. There are a lot more British people I just can’t think of at the moment. I’m gonna be mad at myself later! I mostly listen to rock music now – far more than rap.
You grew up in Chicago, which was the birthplace of house. Has this ever influenced your music?
Well yeah, there’s a track on the new record which has a real house feel. It’s got a four to the floor beat on one half of the track and my kind of drums on the rest. I just mixed it up.
What do you consider the greatest lyrics ever written?
God just brings collaborations together and delivers music to the world. I just serve as a vessel.
The first thing that pops into my mind, like the average person, is a Beatles song - but actually it’s probably something like Whitney Houston’s ‘Greatest Love Of All’; “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside”. They are great lyrics! Also, do you ever watch Sarah Silverman? Well she had this ‘Poop Song’ that goes: “I was walking to the mall and I had to take a poop, it was brown and it had raisins and we flushed it for those reasons. We pooped at the mall today!” And then you hit the harmony… So it’s between that and the first one I said.
What advice would you give to young people looking to get into music?
Try to be realistic and don’t be delusional. You have to remain confident and if that means building a force field around yourself to deal with all the people who are going to tell you that you can’t do it – then use it. Basically use the things you struggle with as the inspiration for your lyrics and people will connect with that. Simple.
Heineken Thirst Studio Global Sessions, Las Vegas
Words by Adam Park
If Las Vegas were a book it would be a thesaurus. And if Las Vegas were a thesaurus it would be a massive fuck-off thing covered in gaudy trinkets, wanton debauchery and a fizzing aftertaste of neon loneliness…
A city where everything comes with a complimentary side of adjectives, Las Vegas revels in its own implausibility; sacrificing taste and decorum in favour of bottled atmospherics and an endless parade of leathery musicians gamely wringing every cent from their twenty month residencies in glorified fruit machines. Yes Céline, we’re looking at you.
It therefore must have come as something of a shock to the sinful citadel when Heineken chose it as the location for their Thirst Studio Global Sessions final – out went the cloying ballads and lounge covers, in came a cutting edge selection of the world’s freshest emerging talent. Presided over by Paul Oakenfold (whom Clash had a baffling game of ‘guess my age’ with later in the evening after a skin full of rum…), the winners were Romania’s HYPERLINK "http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=57761260" Livio and Roby featuring George G with ‘Pearl’ – a caustic minimal sliver of techno that recalls Mika Vainio getting lairy after a couple of pints.
Hosted in the opulent Tao Nightclub, Heineken kept the party raging all weekend with gallons of booze, exclusive performances by the likes of Kanye West and Gym Class Heroes, plus a series of showcases for all the finalists that saw the assembled crowds’ spazzing out under the relentless Nevada sun. We obliged accordingly by going an unsightly shade of puce…
Getting chatty with the winners at Vegas based Palm Studios where they were whisked for an after-hours session alongside house honchos Gabriel & Dresden, Livio and Roby were gratifyingly shocked at their winning status, grinning, “We’re really not used to being popular… You should try it some time”. Cheeky sods.
Kind of like X-Factor but without the twats, Heineken’s Thirst Global Sessions consummately proved that talent searches needn’t be an exercise wherein individuality is eroded so as to achieve a lowest common denominator and can instead throw up angular new music that retains its colour even under the bleaching desert sun. Oh, and it all still sounds good sans the beer, rum and Vitamin D overdose. Refreshed!