In Depth
Royal T Discusses The Concept Of Grime Nostalgia

There’s quite a fine (though probably not an immediately obvious) line between collaboration and competition. Both can exist as their own drivers of creativity but for Mark Taylor, a man known to clubnight posters around the world as Royal T, there’s often no line at all.

Both of these competitive elements are arguably some of the main forces responsible for the rapid crescendos and sudden implosions that have driven and hampered the wider grime scene in the past. Much like for terrestrial sitcoms, the serial format more often than not delivers a peak at the second installment (with Jammer’s Lord Of The Mics franchise being the most obvious and current grime themed example) before it gets disregarded for the very fact that it is following a format. Whether that format was actually of its own creation or not does not seemingly matter, plus the raw, street level energy and in the moment aesthetic that typifies so much of grime’s appeal isn’t much of a self-sustaining entity.

As fans, Royal T and the wider, ever adaptive Butterz clan seem to understand this and as a result they’re able to respond to it better than most: “Obviously I listen [to grime], and I love to listen – it would be criminally ignorant of me to not know what’s going on and what people are listening to at the moment,” Taylor offers as we broach the discussion of grime nostalgia. “But at the same time that shit could change. And with every new genre and trend, this mythical window of being ‘hot’ is getting ever smaller and smaller.”

All this relative instability feeds into Royal T’s whole outlook in the sense that he’d rather his music be recognised purely as a product of him rather than material that is representative of a genre or a movement. Despite the allure of short-term gains, he says that playing up to expectations and allowing yourself to be pigeonholed is like becoming “a parody of yourself”. Coming from an artist who’s been pretty open about feeling somewhat ostracised from the scene he’s been contributing to for the last seven years, this might feel like a particularly tough stance to take. But it’s one which is reflective of that aforementioned competitive drive; it’s just that he seems to be in competition with himself as much as he is with the rest of the scene.

“I think sometimes it’s even more of a risk to cater to people now.”

Yet, as can so often be the case, this development in his relative isolation is also what has allowed Taylor to just get his head down and focus on cultivating a sound that is ostensibly his and his alone. Like any producer worth his salt he values his ability to judge the curve and stay ahead of it.

“I feel like I can go in other directions and bring sounds from different places that people might like,” he tells me candidly, touching on actively using sounds that people within the scene haven’t touched before. “I get so much more enjoyment from that than I would by just getting a couple wheel ups for a big tune and for that to just be it. For one song...”

All of this became much more pertinent with the arrival of the Shotta EP, Taylor’s first solo release for Butterz since 2011. It’s an EP that served to indicate a return to his roots, both figuratively and sonically. The title track’s caterwauling flurry of textbook grime tropes (gunshots, sirens, staccato strings) and the Eski-esque square waves and sinogrime riffery of his ‘Glacier (Angel Mix)’ might seem like they’re plumbed into the current trend for backwards looking, nostalgic productions but the tracks themselves, he tells me, were written more than two years ago.

“I just think I wanted to take everything I’ve learnt and put it into one tune,” he says of the aggy EP stand out, ‘Shotta’. “It’s still a club tune, but it’s also paying homage too… to the classic stuff. The nostalgia thing is great,” he muses before asking “but where’s the new tunes? Where’s the new ‘POW! (Forward)’?”

Balancing this nostalgic sheen with his own and Butterz’s otherwise progressive sensibilities has to remain par for the course though. For the simple reason that while what’s been in the past can serve an educational, developmental and guiding purpose, it can only take so much plundering. Since even the most novice of unseasoned ears can only stand for so many slightly different rearrangements of the same Eski clicks and snares or ‘Pulse X’ bass refits, Royal T’s one of those producers who’s actively embarking on a stylistic departure. He talks proudly of his tune ‘Limbo’ - a track that he glowingly states is unlike anything he or anyone else has ever done before.

Plus, moving forward with his music also means moving further away from what he calls a dead-end “shitty retail job” and thankfully Taylor’s hunger and drive show no sign of dampening. And nor has the excitement at playing to a crowd worn off, he can barely contain his grin through a wry chuckle as he discusses the bootlegs and specials he’s prepared specifically for his upcoming set at FABRICLIVE on 19th June. Obviously it goes without saying that staying grounded has to be part of it, but it’s still rewarding and refreshing to hear a recognised musician talking about fans as “we” rather than “they”.

Words: @Hedmuk

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