Droppin’ Knowledge: Behind The Boards With Birmingham’s Grimy Sound Architect Hobgoblin



And we back…

From the gritty depths of the UK’s second city, Birmingham, arose an anti-villain who plumbs the muck for hardscrabble sounds, many of which are now instantly recognizable with the underground cognoscenti. This sound architect’s name is Hobgoblin, and today he joins Behind The Boards.

Teacher by day, music anti-villain by night, Hobgoblin incorporates disparate sounds into his music, including sinister synths and a Middle Eastern vibe, that add an eerie effect to his production work. The music booms and baps and has become a favorite with many of the most acclaimed players in hip hop’s underground.

Hobgoblin has worked with such leading lights of the hardcore underground as Jamil Honesty, M.A.V. members of the collective DA Cloth, Hus Kingpin, Cousin Feo, Lord Juco and Supreme Cerebral. The Anti-Villain has upcoming projects with a slew of notable MCs, some too hot to name, but some we can reveal here: Nino Graye, Josiah the Gift, General Backpain and Smoovth. Hob also has a project in the works with Danish rapper Trepac.

Hobgoblin is also readying his debut album, The Awakening, in the not distant future. More information will be available on Hobgoblin’s Bandcamp page, (the link is below), or watch for the opening of his on-line store to cop the vinyl (link below).

Vinyl mock-up of The Awakening

Hobgoblin spoke to Droppin’ Knowledge from somewhere deep inside his subterranean lair. This interview was lightly edited for publication.

BSM: What inspired you to create music? What inspires you every day?

Hobgoblin: I’m inspired to create. I get pissed off if I can’t get to my computer at least once a day to either find/chop samples or make beats. I’m also inspired by this underground hip hop scene. Shouts to the 7 (Farma, NCL-TM, Bohemia Lynch, Pad Scientist, Flu & Timepiece), Futurewave, Giallo Point and Prxspect to name a few… Listening to these guys’ music keeps me inspired and always wanting to ‘compete’ and stay sharp.

BSM: If someone asked you to describe the Hobgoblin sound in one sentence, what would you say?

HG: Gully and versatile…. I say that because I really feel like I can turn my hand to a variety of sounds. I can do soulful boom bap, grimy street shit, drumless, I can do shit over 70 bpm. It’s always got to have that ‘gulliness’ to it, though.

BSM: How did you get your artist moniker?

HG: I got my moniker for a couple of reasons. Firstly, early on, ALL my beats were grimy and dark… the word ‘Hobgoblin’ just seemed to fit my style. Plus the idea of a villain being masked/unknown and having an alter ego also appealed to me. I’m actually a secondary school teacher by day and my family and colleagues, outside of a very close circle, don’t know I even make music! That hidden alter ego scenario definitely resonates with me on that level. (Editor’s note: My peeps, you heard it here first.)

BSM: Where is your favorite place to create music?

HG: In my “studio” … which is a nook in the corner of our extension where my wife also keeps her gym stuff. The room is 90% gym/general dumping ground and then there’s this small table with a PC, midi keyboard and speakers. 

BSM: Are you a vinyl crate digger?

HG: I don’t have the room for the records unfortunately! I used to be a DJ so the loft is already full of hip hop records and my wife won’t let me keep any in the extension, so nah, not really. I visit the odd record fair and drop the records at my brother in law’s, but I’m a family man with a busy job, so like Farmz, I’m mainly digging online.

BSM: What is your preferred music production software/program? Do you use live instrumentation?

HG: I use Audacity and Fruityloops – and have since my mate gave me a cracked version of FL in 2003. I don’t play any instruments but I am starting to experiment more with synths and playing my own chords and melodies. Before COVID, I’d registered to have music lessons at the local uni and I’d love to learn to play the keyboard properly.

BSM: Is your music sample based? Where do you dig for samples?

HG: Yeah, mostly sampled, but I’m doing the odd beat here and there with no samples. I use Spotify mostly to dig, but also Splice, and the odd producer bundle from Drumbroker.

BSM: What is your favorite piece of audio gear or instrument and why?

HG: My [KRK Systems] Rokit speakers were the best buy I ever made. Using those has, along with a software effect called Izotope Alloy, completely changed my music for the better.

BSM: What is the one non-musical item you must have with you in the lab when you are working?

HG: A nice cup of tea and the portable heater as the room gets really cold in winter and there’s no radiator in there!

BSM: What album or track are you most proud of, or is most significant to you, and why?

HG: The track I’m most proud of is “Marine” with Jamil Honesty, Supreme Cerebral and Squeegie-o… that was the first track that got radio play in the US and really got my name out there. In terms of albums, I’m most proud of the Martyr Musik series with Jamil Honesty, the Angelz and Demonz series with M.A.V. and the Balloon D’or project with Feo and Juco. All three projects were really well received by the community.  I feel very blessed to have been a part of all of those projects.

BSM: Favorite artist or artist whom you admire in any medium?

HG: The RZA in his prime was unstoppable. The beats, the rhymes… 

BSM: Favorite place in Birmingham to get a ….? Why?

HG: With COVID, I haven’t been out in so long! I’ve always loved going out for a few pints in Moseley. (Editor’s note: Suburb of Birmingham.) Its a real mix of different people from all walks of life and there’s loads of interesting, friendly bars and pubs to get a drink or some good food.

BSM: You have produced music for a lot of great rap artists. Do you approach each production job in the same way, or do you try to make beats that you think would be a “good fit” for the artist you’re working with? In other words, do you approach a project with Jamil Honesty differently than a project/collaboration with Hus Kingpin or M.A.V.? Or do the artists come to you for the Hobgoblin sound? How do you approach a project where you’re collaborating with another artist?

HG: Artists who buy beats definitely come for the “Hob”sound, that often means some dirty, grimy slowish boom bap shit. Having worked with Jamil and M.A.V for so long, I definitely cherry pick beats I think those guys will like. From time to time both Jamil and M.A.V. will ask me for a particular style. Both will sometimes send me links to songs or samples they’d like me to use. That only works if I’m really feeling the sample though. If I’m not, I’ll try and give it a go anyway out of respect for those guys, but everytime I’ve not felt the sample, the beat hasn’t been good and I’ve not even sent it on. If I’m working on a project with an artist for the first time I’ll just send a random mix of different styles, bpms etc. Once they’ve picked a couple I can get a sense of what they’re after and stash beats I think they’d like as I make them. That’s how I work 90% of the time. I just make a load of beats and either assign them as I go, or get a folder of say 20, and then assign them one at a time to a collection of artist folders I’m either working with already, or intend to work with. I always throw one or two beats I think they probably won’t pick… those beats end up being picked more often than not though!

BSM: Favorite Birmingham artist in any genre who you think deserves more attention?

HG: Man, I’m an insular motherfucker. I’m not too aware of many Birmingham hip hop artists. The ones I have hit up have never wanted to work on a collaborative basis for some reason… so fuck em.

BSM: Can you take one track from any of your albums/productions/collabos, and break down how you created it? Walk us through a track. and how you created it.

HG: The first solo track Jamil Honesty and I did called “Aint Nothin” taught me a lot about what a producer shouldn’t do. I sent him a batch, and he sent back an acapella and rough mix for the track. I went a bit crazy with adding extra drum rolls, vox samples, breakdowns, compression and limiting and completely overdid the whole track to the point all life was squashed out of it. I remember sending it back to Jamil and he was like “what the fuck did you do?!” Since then, I’ve really just kept shit much simpler, and left more room for the mc to spit. Jamil definately helped me to become a better producer with his brute honesty (no pun intended).

BSM: Dream artist to collaborate with?

HG: This changes by the day! I’d love to do a track with M.O.P. (Mash Out Posse). Any member of the Wu Tang would be dope…  

BSM: Shout-outs? New projects? New collabos? Tips for surviving 2021?

HG: Shouts to everyone who I’ve ever worked with musically! I have a great many new projects in the works… Angelz & Demonz 3 with Mav should drop in December, and Jamil Honesty and I are working on Martyr Musik 3 (2 just dropped on Copenhagen Crates). I’ve literally just sent off the masters for my debut producer project Awakening earlier today – which should drop on my own label in January. I have a project with Symph from Da Cloth almost done,  a producer project with Farma and 5 other producers based on the 7 Deadly Sins thats not far off being finished. Various EPs and albums exclusivly produced by me with Nino Graye, Substance810, a Danish rapper called Trepac, Spoda, Josiah the Gift, General Backpain and Smoovth. I also have various collaborative joints on a variety of artist projects, some of which are pretty well known guys, but I don’t want to curse it by saying who they are just yet! I’ll definately drop at least one more beat tape before the year end and am hoping to start releasing some clothing merch soon too.

And we outta here, peace, peace, peace…

Purchase Martyr Music 2 on vinyl.

Connect with Hobgoblin on Bandcamp.

Purchase The Awakening when it drops:

http://deathfacerecords.bigcartel.com

Hobgoblin logo designed by the mighty NCL-TM: https://uncletim.bandcamp.com Salute!
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