Roxy Arms dropped four awesome tracks into the SALUTE Music Makers competition this year, such as the vibesy, garage-infused, spoken word gem ‘Greasy Spoon’.
After a run of stellar solo releases and successful collaborations in the past, Roxy is now in with a chance to go all the way to the SALUTE Finals with his nomination into the Top 100. We sat down recently to talk musical culture, London’s dance music scenes, and industry success.
- SALUTE: Where did you grow up Roxy? What kind of musical influences did you have growing up?
I grew up in North London. I was heavily into Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Omar. I was into bands like The Police, Prefab Sprout, Go West, Light of the World. I was exposed to very varied music from my parents and stuff that I liked myself. Growing up I didn’t listen to the lyrics as much as the music itself. I was quickly on my keyboard trying to replicate sounds from the radio. I had a Yamaha keyboard that allowed me to make multi-track versions of radio songs.
My music teacher, Richard Arnold, at Highgate Wood secondary school, had an Atari ST. He was so encouraging to us to do electronic music rather than classical. Back then the technology wasn’t readily available and I was really grateful for having access to that. It was totally different by the time I graduated from my Commercial Music degree at Westminster University back in 2000.
- SALUTE: What kind of music did you grow up on? Was there much of a local scene or did you find a lot of stuff through the internet?
Once I was old enough to go clubbing I got into the Garage scene. The tempo, the rhythms, and the soulful melodies were really interesting to me. It wasn’t mainstream or anything then so you had to listen to pirate radio and go out to the clubs and check it out for yourself. Later, the Funky House and Broken Beat scene was something I contributed to. Co-Op at Plastic People was such an impressive setup. The sound system was excellent, the door was cheap, and there were people just there for the music with no bad attitude. It was really inspiring and that’s what prompted me to write ‘Hey Girl’ with Elroy ‘Spoonface’ Powell under the name, Ear Dis. Nowadays, pirate downloading and the idea of free music makes things difficult for artists and songwriters. You can spend months working on a project, release it, and then you know that people who have access to it are going to rip it and you end up getting nothing for it. Or it gets lost in all of the other music that is out there.
- SALUTE: Do you remember when did you write your first song?
My first song, with lyrics and a bridge, came when I was at City & Islington College doing a BTEC in Popular Music. I loved it and enjoyed all of the practical sides to it as well as the academic rigour. The course was really interesting because people of all ages were studying and making music together.
- SALUTE: What gear do you use for recording and production?
I’ve got a home studio setup. I started with an analog Mackie 32 desk. I’ve still got loads of analog stuff that has a lot of sentimental value. My general setup is Logic Pro, Yamaha NS10s and Mackie HR824 monitors with my Mac Pro with loads of virtual synths and plug-ins. I’ve been using Focusrite VRM for mixing on ATH-M50 headphones as well.
- SALUTE: How’s it been since your latest music came out? You’ve released two albums on your own label right?
The first album, “Welcome To Floorboogie” was co-written, produced and performed as Ear Dis with Elroy ‘Spoonface’ Powell. The second album was released several years ago. It was called “Arms House” and it was written and produced by me. I was motivated to release it to document my work from the Funky House era. It represented what I could do as a producer, songwriter, remixer and vocalist at the time.
I, along with many people, don’t just like a single genre of songs so I enjoy writing music that has different feelings and different vibes. I released a song about Arsenal football player Theo Walcott, called “Sign Da Ting”. It got 250,000 YouTube views in the first week and was featured by a range of media including Sky Sports in the UK, and radio & television companies around the world.
Over the years, I have had many commissions. I wrote a song called ‘Wash Your Mouth Out’ that addressed racism in football. I was commissioned by the UN to write a song for a campaign that they were doing. I have had these experiences of writing music to commission but my real enthusiasm is to write original material for other artists to perform. Being a musician is very hard work. It requires a lot of traveling, which I have done, I’ve done quite a few tours. I really want recognition now as a songwriter/producer for other artists.
- SALUTE: Why do you still release your music on CDs?
Because I want people to see who did what on the work that I put out. I also wanted to present my work in the way I intended it. Downloading has taken this away from artists. When I listen to other people’s work, I love having the opportunity to flick through the inlay from the CD and see that this track was produced by someone, or mixed by someone. Also CD is much better audio quality than MP3!
- SALUTE: With all of the different avenues in music that you operate in how do you know what gig to take and how do you balance work and life?
It really depends on your personal circumstances. I would say that by diversifying what you do you can carve a career instead of just relying on one thing. There are thousands of fantastic drummers out there that I am competing against. If that is your only source of income from music then it can be really difficult. Function bands can be a real bread and butter source of consistent income. A lot of the work is in London so it minimises travel. Writing music to commission opens up another avenue of work. Singing backing vocals has also been, for me, a useful way to get paid work. I’ve done a couple of West End musicals where singing was a required skill on top of playing an instrument.
The opportunities come up and you have to be prepared enough and motivated enough to do it.
- SALUTE: How did you find out about SALUTE?
I found out about it from both of my parents who heard Feargal Sharkey promoting Salute on BBC Radio 4 one day. What he said about supporting songwriters and producers sounded like a great idea. There’s nothing really that is directed towards helping independent songwriters and producers. I see Salute as a wonderful opportunity for me to gain more recognition as a songwriter/producer.