We met up with Josephine in her favourite Tea Rooms where we chatted briefly about creating a Hip-Hop Opera where stars of the Hip-Hop world would play classic characters, we agreed that there MUST be parts available for Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Dr Dre but failed to come up with any solid ideas, instead, we asked her a bunch of questions about her band, here's how it went....
Please introduce the band and your music in one sentence....
We are a 10 piece Hip-Hopera band from London which consists of classical strings, operatic vocals, heavy beats, and energetic rap.
Josephine, what made you start a band like The Artizans?
The original idea came to me whilst I was studying at University of Westminster. I have been classically trained in voice since I was 11 but I decided to study a commercial/ contemporary music course so I could learn how to compose and become a more versatile vocalist. However, whilst I was there I found I didn't fit into any particular pop genre. So, that's when it hit me, I could use my classical training and collaborate with the pop/rock musicians I was currently studying with, that's where I found guitarist Gregory Madge. The concept only grew stronger in my mind as I noticed how DJ's and Hip-hop artists were using famous classical works as samples or synth strings in their tracks, but never the classical voice! Although, I do not see myself as a classical crossover artist such as Katherine Jenkins, but what we like to call a Hip-Hopera troupe.
How did you find each and every member of the band?
That would be down to me. I recruited every member and auditioned a lot! I already knew some of the members personally.
Debut EP ‘Dies Irae’ is out in June, what can your fans expect from this?
Through the EP we tackle extremely relatable, and surprisingly diverse, subjects from the cultural pressures on today’s youth all the way to isolation inplain sight. Each and every song is carefully crafted to create an incomparable experience set to the backing of ethereal strings and driving rhythms. The accompanying music video tells the story of three different teenagers forced to follow an unchosen lifestyle by an older generation juxtaposed with images of us performing against the backdrop of a gothic church.
Where is Dies Irae being recorded? Who is the producer and why did you choose the studio?
We compose, produce, mix and master everything ourselves.
‘Hip-Hopera’ is the genre you have been given, can you explain how it works?
Well it’s the fusion of operatic vocals and rap. For years people have been becoming more and more varied in their tastes, so I decided to create something which is neither classical nor commercial, but a blend of both. For me, I aim to bring classical music to a younger audience, but interestingly what we have noticed happening at the same time is the classical element in our music has attracted an older scene too that in turn now love and enjoy the rap element. I even styled and choreographed our classical string players to dress and dance like hip-hop artists on stage.
What is the best advice you ever received and who was it from?
From my mum actually who told me you should always choose to do something through happiness rather than financial gain.
What does music mean to you?
Wow, well without sounding cheesy it’s not just a career choice, it’s a passion for any musician, it can depict every emotion, it can carry, help and relieve you when needed even if you’re just a listener. So it’s everything.
Biggest musical influence?
We get asked this a lot, and our answer is the reason behind why we chose our name.
The word 'Artizan' means someone who has a specific technique and skill in their craft and that's what all of my musicians have. We all have different tastes and all enjoy listening to different genres of music every day. However, we wouldn't say our concept is influenced by any particular artist or band. We combine our individual skills and our musical upbringings and merge our ideas together.
But if I have to pick a band, I would have to say Muse especially their incredibly epic album ‘The Resistance’ with their own beautiful three part Symphony ‘Exogenesis’.
It maybe for children but I like it - The Hobbit
Favourite venue to play?
That's a tough one. We've had so many great experiences. For me, I would say performing on the Mainstage's at Brownstock and Galtres Festival supporting such huge acts as Maximo Park, The Stranglers, Tom Odell, Professor Green and The Fratellis.
We’ve also headlined in the past six months at O2 Islington, Ronnie Scotts, Bush Hall and Jazz Cafe.
Which classic tune do you wish you have recorded and why?
There are so many! Well my favourite classical piece to listen to is Elgar’s Nimrod, it builds so epically and beautifully throughout, but I don’t think I could see it being an Artizan piece.
‘Lacrymosa’ is an impressive tune which was offered as a free download, how has social media aided your music? And what is the story behind the song?
Thank you, ‘Lacrymosa’ is a fast-paced, dark and thoughtful track tackling the issues of modern day isolation. It samples Mozart’s ‘Lacrimosa’ from ‘Requiem’ juxtaposed with heavy beats, dub bass and energetic rap.
Social Media is great to share tunes, pictures, videos etc quickly and immediately. We all have our own facebook profiles and twitter accounts aswell as the band’s pages and find we share daily.
Tell me a fascinating fact about you or one of your band members
Well I wouldn’t say it’s fascinating, but rather odd. After soundcheck my Artizans tend to go and buy some dinner before we perform, whereas I munch on dry Cheerios and have sips of water because I don’t like to sing with a full stomach unlike most singers. Very 'Rock n Roll’ of me.
First gig you ever went to?
Well I grew up listening to Hendrix and Michael Jackson at a very young age but my first inspirational gig was seeing Muse at Wembley.
There are many good bands and musicians out there, who would you ask the readers of musicmuso to look out for?
You're right there are so many! It really depends on what you enjoy listening to but when I saw The Mingus Band at Ronnie Scotts last year they blew me away every single musician in the large ensemble was very talented but they knew when to pull back for another one's solo which is true musicianship in my eyes.
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character, who would it be?
Oh I'm not good at answering these types of questions- so I will say a female superhero gangster who dresses like in a tracksuit with chains and trainers but break dances whilst singing in her operatic voice.
What are your plans for 2014?
Well, on Monday 2nd June we are releasing our EP ‘Dies Irae’ with a new music video, which was so much fun shooting. This time of year is always so exciting as we have already been asked to perform at a lot of great festivals this summer, so we can't wait for the season to start.
We just want to keep expanding our fan base, we’re lucky that there seems to be interest from all ages in our music. We would like to broaden people’s musical horizons and demonstrate how music can be so different and yet so familiar. So, we just want to continue progressing and promoting our signature Hip-Hopera sound and for JATA to be part of music’s future.
I ordered another round of Green Teas and we explored whether 'Gangsta Rap' would actually work in a modern day adaptation of a classic opera, Josephine had eaten her Biscotti (small biscuit) and was about to take a trip to the counter to order another, we thought we'd ask her some quick fire questions prior to her doing so....
Coffee or Tea? Tea
Coke or Pepsi? I don’t like either- but my bass player loves Coke so we will go with that.
Drum machine or the real deal? The Real Deal of course!
Mac or PC? For me personally- Mac
Fry up or Sunday roast? Fry up
Lemmy (Motorhead) or Ozzy (Black Sabbath)? Lemmy- because I'm a veggie
CD or Vinyl? CD but that’s just because I don’t have a vinyl player. But if I had one then I would love a vinyl of our EP ‘Dies Irae’
Car or Motorbike? Car- we have an Artizans large family car
Acoustic or electric? Electric
Shower or Bath? Shower as I'm a busy person
Tattoos or Piercings? Although I don't have a tattoo, depending on what it is and if the person has only one or two then they can look great.
Robert de Niro or Al Pacino? Al Pacino
God or Google? Google
You've read this far, I'm sure you're a busy person but PLEASE, do stay for another minute or two to check out Josephine and the Artizans' social media pages, they're all listed below for you, all you have to do is hit the link and it'll take you there, genius....
3rd May- Clapham Common Bandstand
24th May- Lechlade Festival
25th May- How the Light Gets in Festival
7th June- Alresford Festival
22nd June- Headlander Festival
26th July- Barefoot Festival
27th July- Forever Sun Festival
10th August- Boomtown Fair Festival
Musicmuso would like to thank Josephine for sparing her time to run through our interview, we look forward to receiving news on new releases, live dates and anything else that could be and would be deemed newsworthy.
Interview by Mark Wincott