Fresh out of dissertation mode and end of uni celebrations, SALUTE caught up with Connor Daniel and Rob Jones aka. UHURU.
Here is the Southampton Duo on getting ready for life after their successes at uni, building on their nomination for ‘Best Electronic Act’ at the Unsigned Music Awards (UMA’s) in 2016, and reflections on the future beats scene.
- SALUTE – So how did you meet and get together as a band? How long have you been together?
Connor: We met at college back in Southampton. Back then I was producing EDM…
Rob: I switched to music and met Connor at Taunton’s College…
- SALUTE – Where did you grow up?
Connor: We are both from Southampton.
- SALUTE – What was it like in Southampton?
Connor: It’s a nice city. We like going back there and it will be nice to go back there and get a few gigs as well. We’ve been so busy in Guildford and London.
- SALUTE – What kind of music did you grow up on? Was there much of a local scene?
Connor: There wasn’t a lot in Southampton for what I wanted to see. There’s a strong band culture there to be fair. There are some great venues, like The Joiners, which is legendary. Electronic music wise, besides DJs in clubs you’re not finding much there.
Rob: There’s a new club in Southampton called Switch that is bringing in big names week in week out. But bands that are similar to us it was pretty sparse.
Connor: Now we live in the Guildford bubble, there’s such a strong scene in Guildford. You can’t really have a music uni with production and performance courses. You could go out three times a week to gigs or to a club night.
Rob: Every night of the week in fact.
Connor: It’s been great to be a part of it. We’ve been gigging most weeks. Everyone supports each other, there might be some healthy competition, but nothing bitchy. We’ll support each other on lineups and go to each other’s gigs.
- SALUTE – So there wasn’t much chance to collaborate in Southampton?
Connor: There’s a good live music scene but finding bands to play with when you’re an electronic duo in a city that doesn’t have a lot of electronic live bands. In Guildford, it’s all condensed into about 800 music students, so it’s a lot easier. We want to go back with our friends and family.
- SALUTE – Did you find a lot of stuff through the internet?
Connor: Growing up for me it was Michael Jackson and Earth Wind and Fire, because of my parents really. And then when the whole Soundcloud producer thing started it made me interested to production. It opened my mind to the possibilities of electronic music.
Rob: You could go and seek out what you wanted.
- SALUTE – What has uni in Guildford been like for you?
Connor: We were at ACM in Guildford. We’ve literally just finished in the last couple of days. I was doing Electronic Music Production
Rob: I was doing Contemporary Music Production. I liked it a lot honestly, they helped us a lot at uni and helped us get our stuff together.
Connor: It was only a two-year course so it was super condensed and we were always really busy. Trying to balance work, uni, and music is difficult.
- SALUTE – How did you get started making music?
Connor: Funnily enough I was like 13. My eldest brother got me a copy of FL Studio because he thought I would be good at it – then I became obsessed. The first tunes I was making was during the dubstep era. Listening to them now is hilarious. Then went on to more electronic stuff and with Soundcloud I started listening to more trap based electronic stuff which kinda merged into pop with singer-songwriter stuff emerging through the top lines on my beats. It’s all forming together now.
Rob: Indie was my thing, my dad got me into that. When I met Connor at college my eyes were opened to electronic and pop. Then going through Soundcloud I got to hear new sounds that you wouldn’t hear on the radio.
- SALUTE – When did you write your first song as a band? Did you guys write much music before UHURU?
Rob: I didn’t start writing songs until much later. I played guitar in bands.
Connor: Yeah, we had an old drum and bass tune, that was kind of like a Rudimental breaks type tune. Then I added the secret sauce.
- SALUTE – What gear do you use for production?
Connor: I use Logic now. It’s a lot in the box for me. I like to play stuff in rather than dotting it in on a piano roll. I’m a firm believer that a more organic root in electronic music is the way forward. Don’t quantise everything. I will normally produce an instrumental first and then put a top line on afterward. Plugins wise, it’s a lot of reissues of old synths. Like the Dave Smith and Roland Juno. We’ve converted a conservatory into our studio, but our uni has got a nice recording setup.
Rob: Especially for vocals…
- SALUTE – What gear do you use for the live show?
Connor: We have a pretty heavy production for just two of us. We try and play as much as we can.
Rob: You’ve got to perform the instruments as well, so we get quite nervous (laughs) if we don’t practice.
Connor: It’s all based around Ableton, we run two laptops live. Everything is tracked through there. We trigger and and sample it, and then we’ve got additional keys for synths and sample pads for samples and drums. Every song is different so it can be quite hard actually. We have to sit in front of the track for like a day and divey up what we can do live. My Ableton project is soooooo big. I run all of the VSTs live so it’s deep data, with 3 different patches on songs for each VSTs. The CPU once got to 180% on Ableton! Record breaking!
- SALUTE – Talk about Freedom and the break down of your name UHURU?
Connor: UHURU is a Swahili word that means Freedom. I was actually born and raised in Kenya in East Africa, I moved to England when I was 6. When we were deciding on a band name we were experimenting with a lot of different genres and UHURU just seemed to work.
- SALUTE – From your genre-crossing sound it sounds like there’s a lot of influence from the Future beats movement, is that a movement you identify with?
Connor: About six months ago I was literally like head down into the future beats stuff. People like Sam Gellaitry, Mura Masa, Mr. Carmack. We kind of transformed because we started to incorporate more synth stuff into more structured songs. I’m writing songs rather than electronic pieces now.
Rob: It’s crazy how today you can have a 3-minute song that has three different drops in three different styles.
Connor: The Future Beats sound is a lot of fun but now we are drawing everything together and being like this is the sound of ‘UHURU’ and that we want to have well-written songs.
- There’s so much of that genre crossing across the board at the moment right? The Future Beats sound is an example but what do you think this new moment in sound?
Connor: Pop is really exciting at the moment, production wise. It’s more daring than it was before. Even like big super producers are smashing charts with different sounds. Like David Guetta and Justin Bieber, with those two guys on it you’d be like wtf? But the tune’s an absolute banger.
- SALUTE – What do you think about the new wave of young producers and musician’s in the UK at the moment – people like Oshi, Blue Lab Beats, and Ruby Francis?
Connor: It’s the rise of the bedroom producer.
Rob: The internet did so much for DJs and producers who are just able to listen to anything now, picking anything that they like, even if it’s come from someone’s bedroom. It’s great!
- SALUTE – So yo, who does your awesome artwork?
Rob: That’s my little sister. The first one she ever did, we had a track that was going on Introducing, we got the email out of the blue and we decided that we needed to have proper artwork done in a day. So I gave it to my little sister and we’ve been going back to her ever since. She’s really great.
Connor: We drew inspiration from African tribes and she would just come back a couple of days later and absolutely smashed it. Shout out Beca!!
- SALUTE – How is it for you being an independent musician and balancing working on your music with making money and studying?
Connor: You’ve just got to graft. Honestly, the amount of free gigs that we have done to get the name out there.
Rob: You have to set aside time for yourself to do it. You really do just have to carve out time to do what you want to do.
Connor: And practice a lot!!
- SALUTE – How did you find out about SALUTE? What do you think about the SALUTE initiative?
Connor: To be honest, I think my mum signed us up!
- SALUTE – Oh yeah?!
Connor: Yeah, I have an absolute ‘mumager’!
- SALUTE: Haha. Yes. SALUTE to mum!
Connor: She signed us up and we got the email back. The way you are going about it, it’s positive to have healthy competition without wanting to judge people in a really negative way, it just seems like people wanting to celebrate good music. And it’s big you know!