When we first heard London-based production duo Blue Lab Beats’ track “Keep Moving” it immediately caught our ear. The seamless combination of Jazz and Hip-Hop was perfectly crafted by the group comprising of NK-OK and Mr. DM. The pair met at a performing arts college in North London and instantly clicked with their mutual appreciation of admiration of Jazz, Hip-Hop and Neo-Soul.

Jazz and Hip-Hop have always been closely aligned but Blue Lab Beats carving out their on fresh, unique sound combining the two genres. This quote (that started the Blue Lab Beats Documentary) by Jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams is a perfect representation of the Blue Lab Beats sound and where they intend to go, “Many musicians and myself have objected to the use of the single word ‘jazz’, to cover so many diversified approaches. Nevertheless, it seems the time of jazz has survived it all, as far as being identified with anything played with a beat or a soulful feel.”

We recently caught up with NK-OK and Mr. DM of Blue Lab Beats to talk about their influences, creative process, and new EP. Check out our interview below.

Sonic Selects (SS): How did Blue Lab Beats come together? How did you guys meet?

NK-OK: Me and Mr. DM met at Wac Arts (Performing Arts and Media college in North London). I was playing my music in the lunchroom to some of my friends and Mr. DM walked past and said, “I’m rehearsing just down there, so come through if you want!” I went to the rehearsal room and saw him play. Straight after that, I got in the studio with him.

SS: Who are your musical influences?

NK-OK: A Tribe Called Quest, Big L, Public Enemy, Pete Rock and Ahmad Jamal

Mr. DM: Roy Ayers, Herbie Hancock, Grant Green, Buddy Hankerson, and Harvey Mason

SS: What impact have your influences had on the way you make music?

NK-OK: When I met Public Enemy, they gave me some great advice on how I should start my music career, it really truly helped.

Mr. DM: I met an amazing musician called Roy Ayers, who is an amazing vibraphone player. I had the chance to play with him in the studio last year.

SS: What do you each bring to a track?

Mr. DM: When we make a track together, NK brings his hip hop influences and I use my jazz influences and we bring that all together.

NK-OK:  I guess on my side, I concentrate on the rhythmical arrangements and getting the best sounds on the track. Whereas Mr. DM is much more concentrated on the melodies and how many arrangements are on the track.

SS: Digging deeper into your process, what is your process when you are working with a songwriter (See “Sam Cooke & Marvin Gaye” or “Freedom”)? 

NK-OK: Generally, we like the writer to do their thing so it sounds a lot more like them. That’s the reason why we got them on the track – to bring their flavor and energy to it!

SS: How has your sound evolved from the Blue Skies EP to your new EP Freedom?

NK-OK:  I think on this EP we just use a lot more effects on the Rhodes or even just the synthesizers. It’s just a lot more “free” arrangement-wise.

SS: How important is it to experiment with new sounds?

NK-OK: I think it is extremely important because it’s just another way to make you learn and grow. If you don’t experiment whilst making music you stick in one box which kinda sucks really.

Mr. DM: I find it very important because if you don’t experiment then you are limiting yourself to one thing. That won’t help you grow.

SS: What’s next for Blue Lab Beats in 2017?

NK-OK: Well at the moment, we’re just working on our album and there are a lot more live shows to still to be confirmed.

Mr. DM: We have been using more lyricists and different instruments such as synthesizers to expand our canvas.

SS: For someone listening to Blue Lab Beats for the first time, what can they expect to hear?

NK-OK:  Colour and warmth especially from the chords and a lot of funky sh** from the drumbeats!

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