Glass interviews singer, songwriter and producer Labrinth

The beat goes on – after shooting to fame 10 years ago, singer, songwriter and producer Labrinth continues to make musical waves, most recently with a hit soundtrack and sophomore studio album


HAVING exploded onto the UK music scene in 2010, Labrinth made a name for himself by making music with a handful of upcoming artists, unknowingly kick-starting an entire sound that redefined British pop music. His hits, Pass Out and Earthquake, topped the charts and provided a sound that was unlike anything else. He’s since continued to work alongside other artists, which include collaborations such as The Lion King with Beyoncé and more recently LSD with Sia and Diplo.

Today, he’s a global star with a successful solo career, Grammy nominations and supergroup partnerships under his belt, but this doesn’t stop him from wanting more. His latest achievements showcase his talents as a writer, producer and singer for the innovative soundtrack of HBO’s TV show, Euphoria, which has gone on to be a cult hit. Glass sat down with him in London over a cup of tea to discuss the details of the whirlwind decade he’s had while learning more about his newest solo album, Imagination and the Misfit Kid.


Labrinth. Photography ELLIOTT MORGAN

You said you’ve had a lot of obstacles thrown at you during the process of making your record. What were they?
Changing between A&R, labels and management. I loved my original management but we fell out. You know, it’s just normal artist stuff. It’s a cliché but I learned a lot of things through it. It took some time to realise what I actually wanted to say and sometimes we’re all making beautiful accidents. We start as kids in this business, then we grow up. When you start you just want to please people, but then you think “did I actually want to do that?” As I grew creatively, I realised I wanted more.


As a global star, the business side of making music and selling records can take the edge off creativity. How do you ensure you stay true to making original music?
I stopped caring. I stopped being afraid. The biggest thing that alters the edge of creativity is the fear of failure and the fear of not being that guy who gets a pat on the back for selling the next five million records. It’s scary because it is a business, but business and music don’t always speak the same language. When music is business it becomes about selling to a demographic and connecting with people.

When I first started, I didn’t even know about a demographic. I just made some tunes that were a collage of what I had heard as a kid. Then it blew up and my job was to maintain that success. People start turning your creativity into a Rubik’s Cube but it’s really as simple as throwing some stuff at a wall.


Labrinth. Photograph: Elliott Morgan

You made your musical debut in 2010 with hits like Pass Out and Earthquake. Presumably your music was aimed at a UK audience – did you think it would ever go global?

I wasn’t intentionally making music for people in the UK when I started. I was inspired by what was around at the time, like dubstep and grime but also American hip hop and R&B. I used to think “how the fuck do Americans come over here and make music that makes people bop their heads” and then we make tunes and people are, like, “turn that uncomfortable grime song off”. I thought to myself, how do I make music that gets people bumping around in the club while it is still our music. Even with Pass Out, I wanted to make music that felt like an American banger but also had an English vibe to it. I wanted it to say, “I’m fucking English” and here’s some dubstep and here’s a bit of everything.


Thinking of Labrinth a decade ago, you were making music with huge British artists like Tinie Tempah. Now you’re working with global artists like Sia, Beyoncé and Diplo. What are your reflections on this?

You know, I actually had the chance to work with those kind of people at that time but I was semi-arrogant. No, actually not arrogant but I had such English pride and a heavy UK all-day vibe. I just had this spirit of feeling like we’re all in this together. It’s weird to think that was 10 years ago. I don’t know where the time went. It’s wild.


Labrinth. Photograph: Elliott Morgan

There’s a 50-second interlude on your album titled I’m Blessed and the song Miracle features an organ. It’s safe to say that the album has religious connotations. Would you call yourself religious?

I believe in a higher force. I grew up Christian and my grand-dad is a reverend. I grew up around a lot of gospel, so I was using that kind of language as a reference for different experiences.


You recently became a dad. How has having a child influenced your artistry?

It’s made me hungrier as a creative person and as a businessman. It lights up the provider in me. It’s made me align my dreams and respect time because it doesn’t just belong to me anymore.


Labrinth. Photograph: Elliott Morgan

You have said you get inspiration from film soundtracks such as the Oompa Loompa song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What is your all-time favourite film soundtrack?
Once Upon a Time in America is good. Interstellar was great. Hans Zimmer has done some of my favourite ones, and then there’s Danny Eflman on Edward Scissorhands. Blade Runner is sick. Vangelis made me want to buy synthesisers.


Electronic Earth was loud and fast as an album. As time has gone by, you seem to have embraced more soulfulness, as in Jealous. Was this a natural progression of your music or was it a conscious decision?
I remember when I released Jealous, people were, like, “what the fuck, you were the guy who did Earthquake?” For me, I feel like I can be as many artists as I want to be. I might start making from Bollywood music. I really enjoy exploring different music.


Labrinth. Photograph: Elliott Morgan

Euphoria has gone on to be an instant cult classic. When you took on the project, did you understand how big it was going to be?
I had no idea. No one told me it was for HBO. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and I had to write 10 songs in a week, which was mad.  But It’s a great show and I’m really proud of it. Zendaya was amazing as well.


The theme of Glass Man’s next issue is “Fresh”. What are your thoughts on the new decade?
Where’s my hovering car? I was reading something about how the world is in a massive transition, so I feel, like, beautiful because you see zeros and ones happening before your eyes and if you stand too close, you’ll miss it. So, I’m just sitting back and watching it happen.

By Katrina Mirpuri

First published in Glass Man Winter 2019 issue entitled Fresh

Styling Assistant NICOLE GRAY


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