Hackney musician Rarelyalways sits at the centre of a vast web of influences.
Rooted in the possibilities of jazz yet aware of the expanse of music offered by electronic production, his take has resulted in some startlingly personal music.
New EP 'Baby Buffalo' is out now on Innovative Leisure, and it's the sound of a young composer bringing his unique sensibilities into focus.
Clash sought out the rising force for this in-depth conversation with Mercury nominee Moses Boyd, with the pair exchanging notes on their solitary journeys.
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R - What’s happening, Moses? Hope all is well.
M - I’m good, man! The world is on fire at the moment but we gotta do what we can, you know.
R - Who are you listening to right now?
M - I’ve been listening to a lot of older music like Lonnie Liston Smith and a lot of instrumental music really. I went record shopping the other day and just picked up a whole load of things – some artists I knew and some I didn’t. Artists like Horace Tapscott, some Charles McPherson; I just try to find things I don’t know about really. I’m not always good with the newer stuff, if you get me.
I think I’m just naturally better at digging and finding stuff that’s already happened. There’s lots of cool new stuff and I love what’s happening, but unless it pops up on my feed or whatever I’m just not as quick to see it. Actually, tell a lie, Denai Moore’s album 'Modern Dread' is incredible and probably one of my most listened to albums in this period. Cleo Sol’s 'Rose In The Dark' album is also incredible.
R - When did you figure out that music was what you wanted to do?
M – Quite young, I’d say. Maybe at around 17 or 18 it was like those first gigs where you make a bit of bread and you’re like, ‘yo, I can keep this going,’ you know. You’re paying me just to play drums? Okay, cool! But I’ve always had a love for music, production and writing. When I started out, I was a drummer, but I was always writing, making beats and producing. Then as you sort of see over the years the producer element comes out a bit more, the songwriting thing, the radio thing… I knew at 17 that I’d always be drumming, but I also knew there’d be more, you know.
R – I remember you used to do one man shows. What do you prefer? Going solo or having musicians around you?
M – I like both. I was lucky enough to have finished a tour with my band just before lockdown kicked off and after that I was like, ‘I’ve just spent 20 days on tour with musicians, let me go and do something else’ you know. That’s just how I am; it’s not to say that I value one more than the other, it’s more to with where I’m at creatively. I like it all really and it just depends on which day of the week you catch me in!
R – Do you have a default team of musicians for recording/performing tracks with or do you try and seek out musicians for specific parts?
M – I think this is also kind of both, really. People will generally see the same sort of people around me not because I’m shutting anyone out, but for instance people like Artie (Zaitz) on guitar, there’s nothing he can’t do on guitar, you know what I mean. In the studio that’s such as good thing to have, so he’s like my first call. But, if he can’t do it, there are other people I can shout out. Ultimately, nowadays, I’m trying to do what’s right for the song. Whether it’s people like Artie or another musician who might just have something about them, I go for what’s right with the song, you know. It generally mixes between both though.
R – Long story short, Moses, but you’re one of my biggest inspirations. You’re one of these guys that’s shown me that musically, you can do whatever you want, you know.
M – I respect that so much, man. Music should always be a continuum. As much as you say I inspire you, when I go and listen to your stuff and it inspires me too, you know what I’m saying? You have to look both ways. I love people like Robert Glasper and those above me, but equally there’s stuff on the ground that I’m really inspired by and it keeps me intrigued.
R – I’d love to ask you about the London jazz scene but I don’t know if it’s even worth it because it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to be anything specific, you’re just doing what you want, you know!
M – Definitely. I’m never one to run from the jazz label though. I owe so much to that music but it’s not everything, you know. I get why people say it but I’m just making music and I don’t try to define it.
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R – What I kind of learned from jazz was that if I can sing it, I can play it, you know. As long as you can hear it and feel it, it’s possible.
M – Yeah, man. If you go even further than that, if you can think it, it’s real. Without getting too metaphysical, thoughts are things, you know what I mean? We live in a world of thought; you’re in a house because somebody thought to design it. We’re talking on the phone because somebody thought to develop telecommunications. You’re wearing clothes because… everything is a thought!
R – Have you been trying to keep positive during the Covid situation? What’s been keeping you going?
M – It’s such an odd time. I miss playing, but equally I’m very thankful that I’m healthy and that my family are healthy. I just have worries for people. There’s an economy of people that the government haven’t even tried to support. I think of all the musicians, the techs, the sound engineers, the lighting engineers… it’s a tough time. But definitely music and people have kept me going during this time.
What has been nice actually is just having time. Before Covid, my life was hectic and all over the place but now it’s nice to have the time to go and chat to my friend in the park and chill or go for that walk or phone that family member you know. I’m not sitting mourning about how much money I was meant to make this year – money is a material thing; it comes and goes. I get up every morning, do some exercise with my bredrins, go make some music, I might go check my mum… there’s a lot of other wealth to be happy about.
R – Before we wrap up, congratulations on the Mercury Prize nomination. It’s incredible to see how far you’re come and I genuinely think that it’s still all about the music for you.
M – Thanks, man. I’m very happy and grateful that I’m alive and can see the fruits of my labour in somebody else, you know. Not just for me as well, but to see what so many of my friends have done musically as well, they’re all changing the narrative and the culture and it’s having a real effect on people.
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Rarelyalways new EP 'Baby Buffalo' is out now. Moses Boyd's new album 'Grey Matter' is out now.
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