Interview: Blue Lab Beats

Interview: Blue Lab Beats

Fast-rising London duo Blue Lab Beats has been on our radar for quite some time now, and the pairing consisting of producer NK-OK and multi-instrumentalist Mr DM goes from strength to strength.

Their debut album ‘Xover’ emerged as an underground favourite topping the UK jazz chart and reaching the Top 10 on equivalent charts in a further 26 countries. Recently they received a  nomination for The Digital Award at the Jazz FM Awards.

Now the duo follows ‘Xover’ by sharing their new single ‘Hi There’. It’s the first taste of the ‘Vibe Central’ EP which follows next month via AllPoints / Blue Adventure.

You can stream the tranquil grooves of ‘Hi There’ below.

We caught up with the duo for a little chat about music, Guru, their new EP and more. Read our interview below and get to know them better. They are definitely a duo worth keeping an eye on.


Q. Hey guys! Thank you for chatting with us. First off, how did you both get into music and how did you come together?

We met at a youth club in North West London age 13 and 18; we were taking production and music classes thereafter that we both attended Tomorrows Warrior’s free Jazz classes at The Royal Festival Hall. Mr DM was four years old and stumbled across a second-hand keyboard while shopping with his parents, they bought it for him, and he began lessons at age 5, he then learned drums, guitar, bass, vibraphone and trumpet! Then I started producing music at age 12 – my Uncle showed me eJay Hip Hop5 music production software.

Q. How has being from London influenced your sound?

The raw energy that we live in effects us, seeing inspiring people like Nubya Garcia, Ashley Henry, Joe Arman Jones, Project Karnak, Vells Trio etc – to see them doing their thing with such passion is great to be around. London has a massive music history with different influences than America or Europe, reggae, for instance, has influenced a lot of the London scene throughout history. NK-OK grew up listening to grime and hip-hop as well as the Jazz, funk and soul that I listened to and that whole mixture comes out in our music.

Q. How would you describe your sound to someone new to you?

In recent months we have started calling ourselves a Jazztronica duo, to us it shows a more open/freestyle type of music where you can do whatever you want, incorporate you influences but have your own style too. We have Jazz elements, also Hip-Hop, funk and soul.

Q. Xover included some exciting collaborations with the likes of Kojey Radical, Moses Boyd, and Nubya Garcia to name a few. Your new EP Vibe Central has Theo Croker and Jodie Abacus guesting how did these collaborations come about?

NK-OK has known Jodie Abacus for years and has always loved his music so to be old enough to record with him was amazing! It was great to see how his brain works when writing lyrics! We supported Theo Croker a while back at Rich Mix, over a year later he was gigging again in London and reached out and asked if we could do some sessions. It was such an honour to work with such talented musicians. They are both really positive funny humans too!

Q. So, tell us more about Vibe Central? How would you say Blue Lab Beats have evolved in terms of songwriting, beat-making, instrumentation since Xover?

We have got better! We have experimented with instrumentation a lot and taken what we have experienced from live shows and put it on tracks quite a bit… We go with the initial song idea more now rather than keep changing and working on tracks so it feels more immediate and natural. NK-OK worked on intros and outro’s a lot. Nearly all of it was recorded in the Blue Lab Mark II, The Shed!

Q. How was the Jazzmatazz gig and what’s your fave Guru track?

It went down really well, the love in the room for Guru’s music and ours was amazing. For both of us ‘No Time To Play’ is our favourite.

Q. You’ve previously supported the likes of Thundercat, Roy Ayers and Mulatu Astatke. If you could perform with one artist (dead or alive), who would that be and why?

NK-OK: I’d love to perform with Kendrick Lamar because he is an absolute legend
Mr DM: Don Blackman because he was a legend as well.

Q. Who are your favourite producers and artists we should be checking out right now?

Kiefer, Knowledge, Project Karnak, Butcher Brown, Devin Morrison, Doobie Powell.

Q. Tell us about what Blue Lab Beats have planned for the rest of the year?

We have just supported Kiefer, one of our heroes which is already a massive highlight for us! Vibe Central will be out soon which is really exciting. We’re looking forward to gigs and Festivals including YUCA in Cologne, Best Kept Secret Festival in Holland, Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Naked Festival in London, We Out Here Festival in Cambridgeshire and El Barrio Festival in Frankfurt. When we are not gigging, we will be in the Blue Lab recording on our own and with other artists!

Any last words?

Thank you for having us!

Props to Mr DM and NK-OK.

CF Smith

Permeating your ears with good music.

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