Artist Spotlight: Assemblist
‘Vociferous Sly’ is the brainchild of interdisciplinary artist Assemblist, another of the young omni-creative talents to emerge from the outer reaches of South London. Whether winning Chester P’s five word freestyle competition, or receiving support from the likes of eleven-time Grammy Awards winner Pharrell; this is a multifaceted musician who embodies the DIY punk aesthetic – composing, writing, recording and producing all his own music and visuals.
Currently working on his debut mixtape ‘The Trials and Tribulations of Vociferous Sly’, Assemblist and his alter-ego are destined to turn heads with freeform artistic licence and their innovative approach to storytelling and sound. We chopped it up with Assemblist to find out the story behind this multi-faceted talent.
You're a bit of an enigma in the music game but have actually been rapping for some time now. Can you tell us about how you got into music and specifically Hip Hop?
Hmm…well, I didn’t come from a musical family. I guess I had exposure to a lot of music growing up where I did, but still…I didn’t grow up with musicians around. I guess I kinda have to credit the music department at my schooI? Had a few lessons on a naff old drum kit (before my teacher seemingly disappeared one day and then they stopped…haha) but that was the hook. I begged my parents for a kit and got a rusty old ting, and then I practiced on that!
Otherwise: being in a band from a young age/ teaching myself other instruments/going out/raving/learning to DJ/appreciating bass music/getting my own laptop and software etc. Nothing too special.
But with hip-hop, that was inescapable. It was the sound of the streets and a big part of the culture I grew up around. Everyone was listening to their favourite rappers; everyone wanted to show each other their bars. I started rapping when I was 17…and only really picked it up seriously again now I’m making music myself.
Tell us about some of the first records you bought that changed your life.
Demon Days by Gorillaz. I remember getting it on CD and listening to it in its entirety, studying the lyrics and the artwork religiously…it was such a journey of sound and moods…and is still such an unbelievably complete album. Oh and although not records I bought, my dad would always play The Jam or UK Garage Classics in the car…that’s stuck with me since I was young. Spirit of the UK chart history I guess!
Where you come from seems to be an important party of your artistry. What does Croydon mean to you?
Haha daaaamn, I don’t have enough words for it. It’s funny, as I’ve grown up in and around different parts of it and the wider area, and it’s changed so much. But it’s also stayed the same. I will say this: Croydon is home to the entire world. From West Africa, to Eastern Europe to South Asia, you name it; there is a community in Croydon. And that’s beautiful.
Although I can’t lie it does get WILD here sometimes…like mad stuff can pop off, which can be hilarious or tragic…to the point it’s actually kinda normal and no-one bats an eyelid. But yeah as a place, it is so much more than the stereotypes perpetuated by classist/racist snobs and bigots, most of whom have never even been here….so to anyone still hating, FUCK y’all. Cronx vs the world ;)
So you write, arrange, produce and perform all your tracks! Big up for that! What's a typical Assemblist music session like?
It all depends on what kind of session I’m in…as I guess a typical day for me could involve likely teaching lessons (I’m a drum tutor), or producing in studio, or just writing lyrics etc. But generally speaking, I don’t have too much time – now that I’m starting to release music on top of other projects.
I’m always writing bars on the fly, while I commute etc….in terms of production, I’ll compose and arrange guitar/keys parts at home and when I’ve finished writing a track, I’ll take it to my boy’s home studio down the road and we’ll work on converting it into a fully-fledged track. Mixing and mastering can be hard work, I can’t lie…I think especially with lo-fi. Firstly, your head is always in the mix in a certain way when you have written a track all by yourself…and on certain devices too. But lo-fi complicates things just as it’s very rich in certain frequencies and lacks others (such as mid-range bass), so when it comes to equalising and compressing vocals to sit nicely on top of such beats, it can be a challenge.
But ultimately, a music session with me can take many, many forms. That’s kinda my thing. I like trying to do it all! ;)
You've just dropped your latest visual for 'Sunshine' which is a banger and a totally different vibe from the previous single 'Illumine' which was a bit darker. Is this a representation of your two alter egos?
Safe. And no, not at all – both are definitely Vociferous Sly, I guess Illumine represents the more chilled out, jazzy aspects of myself and explores the general state of hip-hop… whilst Sunshine is celebrating more of the playful, fun side of where I’m from. Ultimately, I’m still experimenting so much at the moment…and trying to learn what I excel at best and what I enjoy doing the most.
You have an upcoming EP coming out entitled 'The Trials and Tribulations of Vociferous Sly'. What can we expect going into the project?
So, this mixtape is a deeply personal one. I guess it’s vaguely a concept piece…in terms of representing Vociferous Sly, and my journey to becoming that character. But ultimately, I think it’s just a project I want to make for myself, more than for an audience. It’s been one big experiment too, but also definitely represents my journey through life in all these different ways…it’s an emotional odyssey, I can say that.
It’s still a work in progress, but I’m super proud of what is being created so far. Especially as I’m remixing/rearranging all these other amazing lo-fi producers and composing additional instrumentation of top of it all; we have saxophone, flute, scratches…you name it. It’s going to be a HUGE sound. And truly a different level of artistry from me, til now, I’ve just been playing around rapping.
This is where I’m going to really begin showing myself as a musician. And I’m really excited about that.
For the moment you have gone solo on your records. Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the near future?
Yes. But collaboration is also a long process which takes resources and time. I think I’m valuing more experimenting by myself at the moment and taking my artistry to a stage where more musicians are actively looking involved, before I go chasing people up. I know I can get there…but I have to work a bit harder first. I mean, I don’t want to name names, but there are people in mind.
Finally, what song or project are you bumping the most right now?
Tough. Honestly, I don’t even have so much time to listen to music outside of travelling/while I study or work. And even then sometimes I just want silence!
But if I have to answer, it depends on my mood….if I want to spin some tunes on the system, would definitely be a lot of liquid drum n bass; Electrosoul System etc. If I’m wanting peace and tranquillity, I just float through the live lo-fi playlists on Youtube or listen to ambient, Harold Budd and the like.