Droppin’ Knowledge: Behind The Boards With UK Sound Artist George Fields

For today’s installment of Behind The Boards, Backseat Mafia is joined by Dorset sound artist, George Fields. Fields, who also runs the record label Under The Sun Records, has released three albums under his name, including the excellent Tomorrow’s Sun, which he dropped in July. Tomorrow’s Sun is a hard-hitting, boom bap record that features Fields’ magic touch underneath a group of talented spitters, including Rasheed Chappell, Last Jazz Club and veterans Phat Kat and Edo G.

Fields has released two instrumental albums, From The Sticks, (2012) and Beyond Realm, (2016), both on Under The Sun Records. In 2015, he dropped the collaborative project, Glad To Meet You, which featured Arizona emcee and producer Glad2Mecha.

The George Fields Sound consists of a helping of Ali Shaheed Muhammad, a dash of DJ Vadim, a pinch of Ishmael Butler, a teaspoon of English Channel air, and Fields’ deft touch, imagination and magic. To paraphrase a great philosopher, his music is guaranteed to snap your sacroiliac, in the meadows of Dorset or amid the canyons of Broadway. Under The Sun releases can fetch a hefty price on Discogs, so pay attention to the label’s drops if you don’t want to miss out. Fields’ newest instrumental album, The World Of A Tiny Insect, will be released later this year. Tomorrow’s Sun 2 is also in the works.

Sit back, relax, and grab yourself a cup of tea. Gearheads, pay attention.

Photo of George Fields courtesy of George Fields. This interview has been lightly edited for publication.

Backseat Mafia:What inspires you to create music? What inspires you every day?

George Fields: I think where I live is a big inspiration to me. I live in the countryside of Dorset, England. It’s very rural, full of small villages, farms and fields. Lots of narrow country lanes, rabbits, deer, pheasants just chilling about. Have you seen Lord Of The Rings? It’s like the shire. 

BSM: If someone asked you to describe the George Fields sound, how would you describe it in one sentence?

GF: In space but underwater.

BSM: Where is your usual or favorite place to work/create? Studio? Home studio? Specific room in the place where you live?

GF: Just my bedroom, have everything I need there. Feel quite intimidated in big studios, I don’t like the pressure. I prefer to work on my own, in my room. I’ll then take my stuff to Harry Warren. He’s an unbelievably good mixing engineer, who lives five minutes down the road from me. I’ve been working with Harry for almost ten years. I’m incredibly fortunate as he’s the main reason why my stuff sounds good haha. 

BSM: Are you a crate digger? Where is your favorite place to dig? Favorite shop? What was your greatest find when crate digging? Is there a record store you’re particularly fond of? Is digging a lost art?

GF: Certainly am, been collecting records for many years. I’m a big fan of British library, weird electronics and just obscure private press oddities. I’m cheap, so I like going to markets and charity shops the most. I’ve had some good finds over the years, the stand out is still finding a classical album I purchased for 50p, which I sold on eBay for £2,000. It paid for the pressing of “Beyond Realm.” Had a few others up there, sold a Led Zeppelin album for £1,000. AIso have the complete Bruton Music library series, which took me many years to complete. Have quite a few interesting stories just about picking them up! A record shop I really love and need to visit again is “Rarekind Records” in Brighton, it specializes in Hip Hop. https://rarekindrecords.co.uk I had a field day when I went years back as Hip Hop vinyl is really hard to find in the countryside! “Is digging a lost art?”… Hmmm, no, not yet. 

BSM: What is your preferred music production software? What are the other tools of your work?

GF: Funny you say this as I’ve literally just switched to [Apple] Logic Pro X. I’ve been using Logic 9 the past 10 years which has been great! It’s all I’ve ever known. But I’ve updated my computer and audio interface, so it was time to do the same for the software. Only time will tell if it was for better or for worse. 

BSM: What is your favorite piece of audio equipment/gear/instrument? Why?

GF: Hmmm, there’s a few I think. No.1 has to be the E-mu SP 1200. It’s a classic. It gives samples an instant vibe, a vibe which is very hard to emulate on software. I really love my Ensoniq EPS, too. That again sounds beautiful, you can get some really gritty / lo-fi bit, crushed sounds outta it, and this sampler is cheap! It’s very overlooked. So if you want to get that vintage hip hop sound on a budget, look into that sampler.

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

GF: Hmmm, gotta be a cuppa tea. I’m English after all. Maybe some nice biscuits, too, haha.. damn that was 2 things.

BSM: Dream/fantasy artist to work with?

GF: I would love to work with MF Grimm. For me, he’s one of the best to ever do it. Check out his graphic novel titled Sentences, if you haven’t. It details his life; it’s nothing short of amazing. I have an EP worth of beats ready for him. Gotta make it happen. 

BSM: Favorite artist or artist who you admire, in any medium?

GF: I’m a huge fan of Daniel Johnston, love his music and art! If you haven’t seen his documentary, called “The Devil And Daniel Johnston,” I highly recommend. Another amazing life story. I’ve recommended it to so many people over the years.

BSM: Favorite music to listen to when relaxing or chilling or driving, other than your own?

GF: Haha, imagine being vain enough to be like “Yeah, just my own.” There’s so much stuff I love! Something quite unsuspecting is I’m big into my Detroit techno, Drexciya, AUX 88, Juan Atkins, Mad Mike. adore the Detroit sound, it really resonates with me. 

BSM: Your newest project is Tomorrow’s Sun. You collaborate with six other artists on that record. How did those collaborations come about?

GF: There’s no glamorous story, sadly. Just messaging emcees and sending beats over. Very modern way of working. With the “Over” track I put the beat on my instagram story with a comment “Who should rap on this?” and Veks messaged saying me! So thats how that one happened. I’ve known Eze Jackson since I was 14, back when Myspace was a thing. I’d spend hours and hours searching for rappers to work with. He was someone I used to hassle to rap on my awful production, haha. Fourteen years later, I finally got him on a project!

BSM: The rappers on Tomorrow’s Sun are a stylistically diverse group. Did you make the beats first and then offer them to those artists? Did you allow the artists to chose the beat they wanted to spit over? How did putting together the record work?

GF: I make the beat first and usually I’ll have someone or a couple of rappers in my head whilst doing so. Once the beat has been mixed with Harry, I’ll send it over to the emcee in mind. I never send a folder of beats; they get one. There were a couple of times where the rapper has been like, “nah, not feeling,” but most times it’s an instant click. 

BSM: Take one track from Tomorrow’s Sun and break it down. Walk us through how you put the instrumental track together.

GF: I don’t wanna bore you all trying to describe in detail what I did on tracks, haha. Was thinking to myself the other day it’d be quite cool to do some videos breaking down some of my production, but I’m pretty camera shy though, so dunno how that’d work out.  

BSM: Mike B is credited for the scratching on the album. Who is he? Is scratching a lost art? Hip hop seems to have mostly moved away from scratching.

GF: Mike is one half of the duo “The Last Jazz Club,” with Veks aka Ben Nice. Not only a sick scratch DJ but great producer! Check their music out. “Is scratching a lost art?” Nooo, it’s alive and well. 

BSM: What song or record are you most proud of and why?

GF: A song I’m really proud of from the new album is “Tabernacle.” It was just a beat that came together so well, had an instant feeling about it. It only took Harry a few hours to get a really solid mix down, too. There [are] no samples either, which is cool, as it’s hard to get an authentic sound without sampling vinyl. When Ill Conscious sent me his vocals back and I listened to it for the first time, it was like.. damn, chills.  Record-wise I’d say “From The Sticks” as it was my debut album, I made it when I was 19 and the whole process from producing the beats to mixing / mastering / the design / pressing / selling was brand new and exciting! There was no expectation. I had no idea how it’d do. A lot of people told me not to be disappointed if it didn’t sell. So when it sold out within a few days it was just insane. Blew my mind. Had all these strangers around the world ordering my music! What the hell.

BSM: You put out limited vinyl releases of your albums. Did you know that a copy of Tomorrow’s Sun (splattered vinyl) is selling on Discogs for over a thousand dollars? (Editor’s note: Not any more!) Do artists have any obligation or role in preventing the flipping of their records?

GF: They do call me the English Westside Gunn. Okay, no one calls me that. Haha, yeah, I wouldn’t pay too much attention to those crazy prices, no one’s spending that kinda money. The price will even out over time. It is cool that people value my music though, I feel honoured. (Editor’s note: The price did come down. A little!)

BSM: Upcoming projects? Collaborations? Shout-outs?

GF: Brand new 16 track instrumental album titled The World Of A Tiny Insect is coming later in the year! Tomorrow’s Sun 2 is in the works. Big love to everyone supporting me, means the world. And thank you for reaching out for the interview. Peace! 

George Fields on Bandcamp: https://georgefields.bandcamp.com

Under The Sun Records: https://www.utsrecords.com

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