Times New Dutchman #6: Nine8 Collective (Pt. 1)

An interview with Nige
Fri 14 Jun '19

Nige cuts an unassuming figure as he makes his way to the bar. He is the first member of Nine8 to have made it to Rotterdam, where the London based collective are due to play their first international show, yet the producer/MC is in a relaxed mood as we sit down to enjoy our beers. He exudes a quiet confidence, a quality that I later learn many of his Nine8 peers share. Indeed, the group of musicians have achieved a lot since their formation in 2016, with their unique blend of Lo-Fi Rap catching increasingly wider attention. “We’ve already done stuff with Tate Modern, British Fashion Council, Boiler Room. We’ve done documentaries, we’ve done clothing lines.” And yet, until recently, there have no been no collective releases.

Each member is a solo artist in their own right, pooling their talents together to achieve more than they could individually. All 9 of them collaborate musically within the collective, and visually too, creating cover art and videos for each other’s work. Success has come completely on their own terms. “It’s DIY for a reason,” Nige explains, “none of us have dads or mums in the industry or anything like that.” Formed by singer/rapper  Lava La Rue in early 2016, the collective has steadily grown in number. Many of the members knew each other previously, and joined in a myriad of ways including meeting at shows, and going to school together; The common thread being the informality of the initiation.

Throughout the meeting I am bombarded with words such as “DIY” and “organic,” but that seems unavoidable with Nine8. Even the name ‘Nige’ came about naturally, after a seemingly innocuous encounter with a school dinner lady, during which she mistakenly referred to the Londoner as ‘Nigel’. “It caught on so quick that I didn’t even have to pretend to be Nigel for her, I had to pretend to be Nigel for everyone.” This willingness to roll with the punches has seen Nine8 go far, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down, with Lava La Rue and fellow member Biig Piig set to play Glastonbury later this year, albeit as solo acts. Nine8 are doing things differently, and it is paying dividends.

“The richness of creativity you get just from hanging around these people is really exceptional.”

How did you end up joining Nine8?

Nige: I met Lava La Rue on the set of a YouTube channel called Loud House. She was there to do a freestyle, as was my friend who joined off the back of a show. I knew her for a long time, I’d say about a year or so before I joined, and it was very organic. That’s the story behind all the members really. Nine8 is like a monster that slowly, naturally assimilates you into it. I was working on something with Lava and I came into a meeting they were having with someone and it kind of just made sense at that point, I was working so closely with them.

Nine8 collective sounds very soulful, with a strong R’n’B influence. Is there a pressure to sound a certain way within the group?

Nige: I don’t think I feel pressured to do it, necessarily. The thing about the collective is we’re not a group or band, so it’s nice that we all have our own traits. We do all fall under the banner of Nine8, and it can be quite elusive at times to try and explain what the theme is. But we’re all solo artists and I have no doubt that anyone in the collective holds their own on stage by themselves in their own projects.

Some members of the collective are becoming very successful, does this change the dynamic within the group?

Nige: It’s changed like mad. It’s proper crazy to see people doing so well! Most of us have still got day jobs, but it’s funny; Mac Wetha’s got a studio now, Lava La Rue and Biig Piig are doing brilliant things, but everyone is doing big things. If someone’s got a job, that’s a big thing. It’s always lovely when people are doing successful things. I don’t really see anyone in the collective not pulling their weight or not doing something that I admire. So it boosts your morale and… the admiration you have for each individual, but in terms of day to day, we all still think in the same way we used to.

What would happen if someone did stop pulling their weight?

Nige: Sometimes it’s just not your week, or not your month. You don’t come to the sessions, you don’t come to the rehearsals and that’s just life really. But we are friends as well. These are people I’ll just meet up with for a drink and we’ll have catch ups and shit. It’s just a patience thing, and we do equal splits with each other. If you’re not pulling your weight that’s fine, it’s a collective, it can ebb and flow. Obviously the best products get made when everyone is on that same wavelength, but it’s no bother if people want to take some time and relax.

What have you learnt from the other members of the collective?

Nige: There’s a lot of resilience in the collective, and there’s a lot of elbow grease. Having a work ethic. It’s the first project I’ve been involved in where I’ve seen the fruits from the labour, and it’s just crazy to see shit manifest. It’s a very encouraging feeling. The other members have taught me it’s about being resilient, being optimistic and being supportive as well. Like I was saying about when people drift off, we’re always a phone call away.

How does being in the collective affect you when you are working as a solo artist?

Nige: It can be a gift and a curse. You can wrap yourself up so much in the collective’s stuff that your own projects sometimes take a bit longer to come to fruition. But then on the other hand, the richness of creativity you get just from hanging around these people is really exceptional. That really does boost a lot and you get different perspectives on things.

What’s next for you as a solo act?

Nige: There’s a project I’m looking to finish up in the next month or two. It’s going to be quite a lengthy project, between seven and eight tracks. I liked what I did on ‘P.O.W.R,’ and I thought, “I’m on to something there.” I remember showing that track to a Russian label actually with a similar kind of setup and they were like, “oh, it’s good. Can you lose the vocal though?” And I was like, “you know what, I’m actually trying to do something here because this is a bit different.” People don’t rap on Lo-Fi House music. It’s mainly an eastern European thing as well. You’ve got things from Australia and shit but it’s not really a UK rap sort of thing. I like doing that and I thought, “let me do that a bit more,” the House-y, kind of Garage-y stuff.

What is the end goal for you as a solo artist, and in terms of the collective? Is there one?

Nige: There is and there isn’t in a way. Sometimes I think there are two ways to do things. You either set yourself a goal and a target and when you reach it you set another one, or you just go in like a fucking bull in a china shop and just do the most, without any real goal in sight. I think I do the latter. Goal-wise, we just want to do more stuff as a collective, branch out into different entities. Make it more of an immersive experience for the audience. So looking into stuff like augmented reality, more merchandise, different ways we can connect to people and make them experience it more. For me personally, I want to do the same thing but more so with music. I want to get into scoring music, and shit that’s a bit more out there. Scoring films would be sick, working with other entities, like people who work in film or TV, producers, directors, seeing different people’s visions, and seeing what I could do with what I can do, in terms of sound.

It’s become relatively easy to make music alone, with only a laptop or a computer for example. Is this ability good or bad for creativity? Or neither?

Nige: Collaboration for me personally, has been so key. People have mentored me in music. I used to make music with a guy called Shredder from my school, and he taught me a lot about how to make music, how to produce and stuff like that. To have someone like that in your life, and to collaborate with other people, just boosts your sound by tenfold, particularly as a producer working with vocalists. You’re in too much of a comfort zone when you’re producing by yourself. You can’t really pick up things. I definitely value my time when producing, but I know that even when I’m sitting down and producing by myself, I wouldn’t have sat down and made that if it wasn’t for all those times when I was collaborating with people. That’s character building for your sound.

Part 2 of this article is available here.

Times New Dutchman is written by PR Intern Eddie Smith, with new instalments published at irregular intervals over the coming months.

Times New Dutchman is written by PR Intern Eddie Smith, with new instalments published at irregular intervals over the coming months.