Nitin Sawhney

Last time Designer Magazine met Nitin Sawhney he was taking part in a discussion with MJ Cole about UK Garage and the rise of the Urban music scene in Britain. Although Nitin's sixth album "Human"  takes beats from the "sound of London" and sees collaborations with Matt Hayles from Aqualung and Kevin Mark Trail from the Streets it's still very much a Nitin Sawhney album. Whereas previous albums have focused on issue led politics, "Human" sees Nitin looking through his life an as journey and transferring them into beautiful emotionally flowing songs.

Q: On previous albums I feel you've perhaps looked at issues as a whole whereas on "Human" you've tried to look at issues in the context of how they've affected you as an individual. Would you say this is a fair assumption?
A: Yeah, I suppose it is an autobiographical album. It's a reaction about what's going on at the moment really and I just kind of felt I needed to refocus after all the bullsh*t manipulation you keep hearing from politicians right now and all these people who try and make you focus on nationality. It's what John Pilger talks about - Weapons of Mass Distraction - trying to distract you from the fact that a lot of people think it's ok to go round murdering people for no reason really. So I kind of felt I wanted to make an album that was about getting back to being a person full stop.

Q: Getting back to reasserting your personality and background?
A: Yeah, that was really where it was coming from.

Q: Was it harder writing a more autobiographical album - presenting a set of lyrics that are more this is what has happened to me rather than these are my ideas about a subject?
A: This album is more like a journey through time and going through different emotions. It's much more personal and a bit more intimate than the previous album. It's very much more song based...I think previous albums have been more about looking at the whole world and trying to find a sense of balance in everything else. But I think this album is much more about trying to find a sense of balance in myself especially what's going on.

Q: You've always started with a very clear concept for each album. Would you agree?
A: Yeah, I have something that I want to say. It's quite funny because there's this whole stigmatized notion of a concept album, but I believe in music just expressing what you feel and what you have to say and that's really where it starts.

Q: When you're writing your music do you think of the listener in mind or is it purely self indulgent?
A: I try to make it so it's not too self indulgent because it could end up very narcissistic if I was trying to make an album that was just about myself and I didn't collaborate with anybody else. It is an autobiographical album, but there's a lot of collaboration on it and a lot of people's experiences incorporated in the expression. With other people I was trying to find common emotions in terms of how I look back at my life and how they looked at theirs. It just felt like it was an natural evolution when I was collaborating with people.

Q: Even though there is a great deal of collaborations on "Human", it doesn't overshadow the fact that it's still a Nitin Sawhney album rather than the Unkle styled hook ups of late. How did you meet up with the various vocalists you came to work with?
A: I'd just tell them about the album when they came to my house because I actually recorded it at my house as well. I'd talk to them about the album, what the album was saying and talk to people about how they might fit in with their voices or their musicality. It was trying to be open, but at the same time I had quite a clear idea of what I wanted. With "Falling" for example I had Coldplay's Chris Martin in mind and he was up for it, but he had to go to America at the time I was recording and after looking around I thought Matt Hayles (Aqualung) voice was amazing.

On this album Matt Hayle's is the only person who is signed apart from me. I'm not into the whole commercial scene and it's much more interesting for me to check out new people.

Q: You're a person who has broken many boundaries in terms of the audience you attract. I recently saw you on the Late Review talking about Radiohead's "Hail To The Thief". It must have been the first time a band or musician had been featured on the program in the last few years. Why did you think music is considered such a low art form in critics circles?
A: I think Radiohead is exception because it's very artistic and creative and very real. You can look at their artwork as being quite exceptional in that way. What is considered art is quite a big question but at the end of the day each person has got their own expression and criteria for how they look at artistic expression. I'm just into the idea that each persons expression is valid as long as they are true to it and they're being honest with what they.

There's a lot of personalities right now in music, music is about expression and everybody has got their own way of doing things. I don't think necessary that the people who shout the loudest of the most expressive. If you listen to someone like Matt Hayles or people who have got quieter voices they're about a million times more expressive than people banging around the guitar saying f**k all with a lot of shouting. I'm not really impressed by people who have got to shout and scream and get aggressive just to get heard, that's an American thing.

Nitin Sawhney plays selected Festivals and gigs throughout July
"Human" is out 14th July on V2 Records
For more info

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