In The Middle with Kojaque

Soundcheck’s just finished up and North Dublin rapper Kevin Smith aka Kojaque is hanging with his producer and DJ, Kean Kavanaugh, and album partner, Luka Palm, who also happen some of his best lifelong mates. We make our way to the somewhat claustrophobic green room for the interview with Kojaque remarking on how it feels like more of a men’s changing room. I ask you kindly to read Kojaque’s responses in the thickest North Dublin accent you can imagine:

Last night of the tour, how’s it been so far?

Really good, relatively stress-free. Lukey’s (Luka Palm) lost his voice though, he’s got like a vocal node so for our show in London we had to change the set around a bit so he’s doing less there.

He’s does have that raspy voice.

Yeah, and he really goes fucking ham live.

I’ve got a list of your achievements here; you’re a co-founder of the label Soft Boy Records, you’ve got 2 albums and a mixtape out and you just came off tour with Slowthai on his Eurovision tour – actually, quick question, what’s your opinion on Slowthai spitting in that girls mouth, are you gonna do the same tonight?

[Laughs] I saw that. I probably wouldn’t. Well I don’t know. If someone asks me very nicely.

If someone comes with a nicely made sign, then?

Yeah, see he’s not spitting in people’s mouths in the street, you know what I mean like this is very much consensual mouth-spitting. I mean, I don’t know, some people are offended by it which is a bit ludicrous.

So back to my actual question, you’ve got all these albums out and you’ve done this all independently. If you were to do it all again or were talking to someone else who was thinking about starting out independently, what would be a piece of advice that you’d give them.

Just work. Like that’s all that’s gonna get shit finished. You know you can spend a lot of time looking at other people’s Instagrams or even like watching YouTube videos of peoples interviews of artists that you like and I think, I don’t know, you can spend a lot of time just doing that shit and it’s just procrastinating and it puts you further away from steps that will actually like get you to achievements or goals you have. Like sit down and do the work. I feel like a fucking schoolteacher.

Any time I’ve seen success it’s come from you know, a fucking week’s solid work and that can set you up for the next 6 months if you do it right. And don’t sit on your achievements too much either keep looking forward.

That’s actually the topic of one of my next questions. You said that your next album’s gonna do “straight lo-fi honky tonk”, but what’s actually next for Soft Boy Records?

Shit, you’ve got my twitter.

Yeah, I’ve gone through your twitter.

[Laughs] Fuck. I’m fucked now. Ah man, I’m in album mode at the minute it’s sounding great but it’s a similar thing, I’m independent so the producers I’m using, I’ve produced the brunt of it myself and then I’m bringing it to my friends who are more talented than me in different ways and they’ll bring their own spin to it so it’s a small team which is good because creative control is kind of in your hands but at the same time it’s still a lot of work.

I heard for Eviction Notice you just had a mic in your closet surrounded by clothes. In terms of the music, is it still all made in bedrooms and closets or have you moved onto proper studios these days?

Nope, just improved my bedroom setup.

Do you think that’s had an influence on the sound of the tracks?

I’ll tell you what, in terms of after you do the recording things have changed a bit so like I’m getting it mixed by this guy called Danny who’s fucking unreal. You can actually give dogshit to him and he’ll make it sound amazing. But it’s still, like, a big duvet with a mic underneath in my bedroom. So yeah that process I still enjoy but maybe it won’t be the same forever you gotta switch stuff up but I enjoy it and I feel like when the results come back from it, it’s like sick, that’s dope so that’s good.

For your latest project Green Diesel, you had a lot of like high-energy songs like ‘SPIT DAT OUT’, ‘Airbnb’ and ‘Date Night’. I’m wondering, what makes you get up in the morning and say I’m gonna make a track like those compared to when you get up and make a track like ‘Eviction Notice’ or ‘Bubby’s Cream’?

I think Green Diesel was more of a collaborative project than Deli Daydreams. Deli Daydreams was quite like an insular experience. Like I would’ve recorded the piano all by myself and then done the bass and the drums and stuff for ‘Eviction Notice’ and then I would’ve just brought in Kean and recorded it whereas stuff like ‘Date Night’ that was me, Luka and Kean all in a room, I found this sample, Kean had these drums and we put them together and did it that way and finished it out. ‘Airbnb’ same thing, me, Kean and Luka in a room, Kean starts making this mad beat, Lukey’s like “How funny would it be if the hook was like ‘Airbnb, that’s where I be’” and I was like that’s dumb. Then he finished it out and I was like, I actually like that so then I did my little verse and we went back and forth on that. ‘SPIT DAT OUT’ was a tune that I had from a producer called Matt Finnegan and I finished it out and then a lot of it came in the last month of making it. We went down the country in Ireland to like a holiday home and just recorded and wrote. We did that for like a month on and off. That’s where all those weird promos videos of us just in the country came from. Us like literally in the process of recording that shit.

I’ve got one last question. This ones about Dublin. You’re always highly active about the Dublin housing crisis and about these millionaires who’re buying out the city but don’t live there who you refer to as “smarmy fuckers in the grey suits”. My question is, is there any hope left for young creatives in the city of Dublin, is it getting better or worse?

I don’t think it’s going to improve until either one of two things happens and that’s riots or a recession. It’s just when you look at the progression of politics, legislation and planning it just seems like we knew about this before like we knew about the first crash and the housing bubble that economists reported years and years before the first recession which wasn’t listened to. Economists now they’re talking about the ‘Hotel Bubble’ that’s happening in Dublin. It’s crazy, there was like 78 hotels approved for 2018. They approved the tallest building in the whole of Dublin and it’s going to be a mega-hotel and that’s just on the river, just on the quays.

If you’ve been to Dublin like that whole strip of especially around Tara Street overlooking Abbey Street, that whole area has just been decimated by new developments. It’s crazy. They approve for shit that will just give the highest yielding profit, lowest maintenance with the most amount of people you can just bring in and take out. It’s not a 10-year, 15-year plan it’s not even a 5-year plan in my opinion. It’s shit but there are good people and I will plug Give Us The NightRobbie KittSunil Sharpe and Take Back the City they’re all independent organisations made up of different people around Dublin who are working in order to enact legislation for stuff like a ‘Night Mayor’ which would mean that our nightlife and the clubs that are being closed down can be preserved. Different legislation for curfews at nightclubs and shit that has cultural value but that doesn’t make that much money.

All photos by Tom Weatherilt.