Interview: Teknico

The Liverpool/Leeds MC Teknico and member of Tha Office collective chats about his recent solo LP Once Uphonour Time

Posted on Mar 31st, 2016 in Features and Interviews, Teknico / By Sam Bennett
Interview: Teknico Leeds MC Teknico is part of the increasingly popular West Yorkshire hip-hop scene; as a member of Tha Office he's developed a stellar live reputation, and released his debut solo LP Once Uphonour Time late last year. Bearded caught up with him at the crew's studio to talk about his start in music, what took so long for him to drop his solo project and the draws of battle rap.

'I started off as a DJ' says Teknico. 'I got decks when I was about nine. My big sister was into jungle, and I got into it when I was about seven. She knew a couple of DJs, I saw it and fell in love with it. I got into hip-hop when I was..', Nico pauses to think. 'I always liked it, but I got into it properly when I heard Method Man 'Release Yo Delf'; that track fucked up the game. I started rapping when I was about fourteen or so'.

Over the years he's been active the scene in and around Leeds has grown, shifted and expanded, with a variety of acts releasing quality music and beginning to make an impact in paces further afield. 'When I was getting into the rapping aspect of it myself, the main things were more grime, that's what I was seeing. There was some hip-hop; there was Invisible Circle, Yorkshire Terriors, Stay Focused, there was a lot going on. It was mainly grime though, and even bassline kind of things. Now it's swinging more hip-hop, it's definitely balanced out. People are starting to collaborate with each other and that pushes the scene forward'. I wonder if he thinks the quality has improved as well. 'Definitely, but obviously because there's a lot more (out there), there's more to pick from. You're going to get some better quality stuff and some lower quality stuff, but it's stuff innit; everybody's doing their thing'.

Tha Office has some of the most talented West Yorkshire MC's amongst its roster; D. Bizzy, Alamak, J Bravo, DJ Prolific, Pertrelli, Dialect, I.V, Optiks and Teknico make up the core line-up. I ask how the crew first formed, and how long the clique has been active for. 'Wow' says Tek. 'Tha Office first started forming around 2009. Alamak; everybody knew him and we all linked up because he had the studio, he had the beats, he had that heat, and we all knew him from different paths. We'd each go round to his, do a tune or whatever. At different times there'd be different people there and we'd link up, have a freestyle, have a cypher, and more people started coming through. Obviously a lot of us knew each other from other places already, and then we'd see each other there and relationships had already formed'.

Tha Office dropped a project with Defenders of Style back in 2014, and I ask how that collaboration came about. 'Alamak and Jack Danz were talking about making a beat together, they wanted to get something going off. Danz came to the studio, and if I'm not mistaken they made a couple of beats the first time they linked up. The second time, I think that was when 'Blues Brothers' got recorded, with me, Lego, Jack Danz and J Bravo, and that was the first track we recorded from the tape. Then it was Child's Play, which had us four and Optiks on it. We did a couple more tunes, and then it was like fuck it, let's do a tape'.

I wonder what other releases are on the horizon for the Leeds collective. 'There are a couple of personal things that I'm working on that are on the back burner. There's Alamak's album, The A'La Carte Menu, that's due soon. Bravo's working on something, Optiks has got The Dark Cloud project ready to drop whenever he feels it's time. I think he's going to let the streets ponder on that one for a bit longer,. There's Tha Office tape; there's actually two different Office CD's that we're working on right now. I've also got a mixtape that I'm working on, and then obviously we've got the studio here, so recording other people too, and putting back into the community'.

Teknico's debut solo effort Once Uphonour Time featured production from Alamak (who produced every track but Wonky Logic's contribution 'Hip-Hop') and features from a selection of his fellow Office representatives. 'I've been working on numerous different albums throughout the years and I've never been happy with them' says 'Nico about creating the project. 'This one, when we got into this space it helped a lot, it's the right environment. We knuckled down, and said 'Right, that's it. No more tracks. Nothing else is getting re-recorded, we use these tracks here and put it out, get my solo foot in the door, and then onwards and upwards'. I ask how he first met Alamak, and what made him want to start working with him. 'I met him through a mutual friend. He was telling me for time 'You need to meet my boy, he's got some sick beats'. One time I was round at his house and Alamak was there. We started talking, and the next time I saw him he gave me a CD, and that was why I wanted to work with him. Even back then, and this was like 2006, the beats were fire. It's been a consistent level of heat since then'.

One of the standout tracks on Once Uphonour Time is Rockabye Baby, which features an impeccable, memorable Tetris-sampling beat, and Teknico details the recording process of that tune. 'I think when I got there Alamak said to me 'You've got to hear this shit'. I heard it and wrote it in record time. It got written and recorded in the same session after a bottle of brandy, some smokes and shit. I've had to rerecord that a few times, maybe once, I dunno, but it was messy (laughs)'. The album has a variety of sounds and content; Freaky Friday exhibits a dope storytelling ability, and the range of production styles is also impressive. 'I like doing different things, it's exercise. You can't stay focused on one thing or it gets stagnant. It helps you as an artist if you write out of your comfort zone, write to a different kind of beat, and it'll bring something different out hopefully'. Or at least you've tried, I say. 'Oh yeah definitely. Nine times out of ten if you try and you put the effort in you'll reap the rewards from it'.

'I was working on the album from like 2012 up until early 2015' continues Teknico about creating the LP. 'The Wonky Logic track ('Hip-Hop') was the last one to get recorded; we sat down and mapped it out. You can't just bang tracks together and hope for the best, there's got to be a flow to it, a journey. Hopefully I achieved that. I've not recorded anything fresh for a while. We've got the Expandables stuff actually, do you know about that?'. I didn't. 'That's another thing that came out last year. It's me, Bravo, Seedie.B and Tee from Stand Tall. It's the same sort of thing as The Office/DS thing, we were round at Tee's house, I think the first tune, he made the beat, we wrote it and recorded it, did another one. It's Expandables, a piss take of the Expendables'. Is it out? I ask. 'It is but it isn't (laughs). It's a weird one, we've had the launch party, people have got the CD, but it's not out. If you haven't got it you can't get it. I think we're adding to it though; it was a six track EP, we're going to add another four, five tracks. We have different aliases, I'm Nicholas Beige, J Bravo is Bruce Leeds, Tee is Dolph London and Seedy B is Arnold Scousekidda (laughs)'.

I wonder if there's room for more Expandables to join the roster. 'Maybe so, maybe so' replies Teknico, smiling. I suggest a villain. 'Yeah, we've had talks. We've got a couple of videos planned, one video we've shot most of it, we just need to get a few more shots done, but that'll be out soon. Trapped In Fo-Shung City With Soo Yung is the name of the track'. I'm really intrigued to hear this; I have to check whether they're writing from the perspective of some kind of rap/action hero. 'Nico quickly puts me in check; 'No, no, no, no, no. We're just barring, a lot of the times we're not rapping about anything. It's nice to let go sometimes; I put a lot of time and effort into the album, so it's good to have a bit of fun'.

With Teknico working as part of a crew, as a solo artist and taking part in collaborative projects with other musicians and MCs, I ask which environment he prefers. 'I like writing with The Office because it brings out better pen game; you can't slack because if you do, you're gonna look stupid next to these guys. I know I have to come correct on every verse I put down on an Office track just as everybody else does, and that's why it's fire. It's that friendly competition like 'Yo, did you hear that? Fucking hell I've got to write hard'. It brings out the best in all of us. You might hear a beat, or hear a verse, and good stuff happens, and it's always been like that'.

With a number of appearances on various battle rap leagues around the country, it's clear that this aspect of hip-hop is also something 'Nico is passionate about. 'I don't like the writing' says the Leeds MC. 'Well I do, I like the writing because it's a different type of writing, it's exercise. It's a whole different take on writing bars and you need to think a lot more about what you're writing and how you're gonna put stuff together. Then you've got to go about memorizing and preparing. I love the actual doing it, being up there and the performance side of it.

The first time I ever rapped was on stage in front of people at the Carnival Talent Show when I was about thirteen, and I was rapping Method Man's lyrics; me, Bravo and D.O.E, that was the first time I met Bravo, and we won the thing, and I loved it. That was when I started rapping, fuck the decks. It's different from performing tracks; it goes at your pace, if you want to speed up you speed up and everyone has to follow you, and if you want to slow down then they have to stop and wait. You don't have to follow a beat, and you can hear what's being said a lot easier, and that's why you have to think about every little bit and people break it down so much, so you've got to be on point with it as much as you can. Also you've got to remember to have fun with it, and don't take it too seriously. It's a battle, it's not a life defining event. You win, you lose, you go home and go to the same fucking bed. It's just a battle and some people take it way too seriously, and it shows'.

Having seen 'Nico live at his recent album launch party, as well as supporting Method Man and Redman in Leeds back in 2014, Teknico expands on why he loves the performing aspect of the rap game. 'I love interacting with the crowd, and letting go and getting immersed in it. When you're recording, it's pressure. It can get tedious, and sometimes you just can't get that verse down, sometimes you have to do it over and over and over again. That's why I've never put anything out, because I want things to be right, and if it's not right it's not coming out. I do Alamak's head in, we're recording, he's mixed the tune he sends it to me and i'm like 'Nah man I need to re-record' (laughs). When you perform, you only get one shot at it, fucking have fun, enjoy yourself, hope the crowd enjoy themselves, give them a good show'.

I ask Teknico if there's anything else he wants to let people know. 'Yeah; keep your ear to the ground for the new Speak To The Streets project, there are big things to come'. So, with the LP still available for download here (, and much more to come from Teknico in the near future, he's one of a host of names making a real impact, pushing the West Yorkshire scene to growing heights.

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