We are fotunate at Decoded to have had the opportunity to spend some time chatting to the man who is Markee Ledge! Having played an active part in the underground music scene for over 20 years, Markee is the creator of one of the UK’s most successful live electronic music acts, Kosheen and a multi-award winner, he’s gravitating towards new sounds and is at the brink of the release of his debut solo album ‘Elevate’ on the 4th December.
3 years creating the 17-track album, Markee has evolved into the sounds and tastes of today’s underground bass scene and there are stunning vocals from guest vocalists Susie Ledge, Alys Be and Jodie Elms alongside a more deep, dubby and cutting edge instrumental sound that defines his work perfectly. Prior to the release of ‘Elevate’, Markhee will perform a live showcase at the Notting Hill Arts Club, London, on November 10th. We’re intrigued to see and hear what he has in store!
I couldn’t wait to hear more from Mr Ledge about the music in his own words (alongside some other nosey questions I just had to ask!). Here goes…
Hi Markee… First up, thanks for spending time with us, it’s an absolute pleasure to chat to you! What have you been up to since Kosheen took a break from recording in 2011?
Thanks! Ok, well I thought I should get a singer to work with to help vocalise my ideas, I was introduced to Jodie and she was cool, we vibed into some really deep territories, releasing tracks on Uprise Audio and Zonal Recordings, we also did a track with J:Kenzo another great producer and DJ Youngsta on Rinse FM was very supportive. I just started working from there, I also had quite a few songs I’d written with Susie Ledge and started producing them with Seven from Uprise Audio, then I met Leon Switch when he played in Prague and I’d heard some Alys Be tracks that Leon had done, immediately really liked Alys’ vibe and asked her if she would like to work on some new music. So, it’s been a very organic growth, I wasn’t really sure how to bring my music out and had so many different alias it was confusing me, so when Youngsta phoned me up that he loved this track ‘Underground Railroad’ which he’s signed to Tempa Records, I thought I’m just going to call this Markee Ledge now and I’ve realised that all my music is really Markee Ledge , Kosheen, Substance, Vision Z or whatever alias I used, It’s the Markee vibe!
You’re from Glasgow originally (a fantastic underground music scene!). As a fellow Scot I’d love to know what got you into the music scene back at the start of your journey and how it made you what you are now?
Glasgow had great music scene when I started going clubbing. I would go to the Sub club and listen to the Slam guys, so early house and acid, good days. Especially around 1990, when Glasgow was the city of Culture. I left Glasgow in 1991 and moved to Bristol for a job originally, but got made redundant a couple of years later and since then it’s been music music music!
How did you learn to make music and where was your first gig?
I don’t think I ever learned, it just comes out of me! I need to be disciplined to get it down and produced now, the first instrument I learned to play was the guitar, but I mainly write on piano now.
I remember Kosheen’s first gig was down at the Lousiana in Bristol in front of about 5 people. It’s a well known very small pub by the dockside popular for small gigs, even from that gig I knew we had something… The 5 of them were bopping about and also the dog on a string!
As the creator of one the most successful electronic music bands who stormed the scene from 1999, with a superbly strong sound and ending up with 5 groundbreaking albums, how would you differ your solo productions and projects from Kosheen material in your own words?
Well, It’s been hard for me to differentiate actually, I think the main difference would be different collaborators. The method I use and the process is pretty much identical. I think musically, I continued writing my tracks which are very musical, but beatsy, I like some beefy energy with the sound and beats, but also like the musical movement and melodies. Sometimes it’s hard to get the balance right ,but it works well with the vocalists; they have something to work with. It can be quite frustrating sometimes, so I’ve started writing more instrumental stuff recently. It’s been hard to let go of Kosheen cos it’s my baby, but also liberating.
Congrats on your awesome new album ‘Elevate’ – what an incredible debut! How’s everything going for you?
Thanks, it’s been going really well, I just want to get it out there as soon as possible! I can’t wait for people to hear some of the tracks on there like ’Talk Is Cheap’, ‘Escape’, and ‘Purity’. I’m really feeling the vibes and I hope they do too! It took a while to pick all the tracks to use and I had a lot left over so next year should see quite a few releases.
So, you’ve been creating this album over the past 3 years, I’d love to hear more about the process, can you tell me about it?
With vocal stuff it’s a 3 stage process. 1. Write the original music track, 2. Work with the vocalist and record the song parts. 3. Go into the track and maybe remix it, do another stage of production to take it to the next level. Hopefully after that you’ve got a good track!
There’s 17 tracks on ‘Elevate’, each with their own personality and style… Is there one track that means the most to you?
Yeah they are all important for me, but I suppose ’Saturn’ stands out for me, just raw emotion.
You’ve kept some of the Kosheen vibes, did Darren Decoder and Sian Evans have some input or is this completely your own touch?
Well it is very close to the Kosheen vibe because it’s me writing the music so its kinda inevitable, but yeah Darren also is my musical brother and helped me produce some of the tracks and also contributed tracks so definitely some of the same magic going on.
Personally I love the vocals by Susie Ledge, how did you create the vocals you’ve used and what led you to the three vocalists on the album, you’ve worked with them before right?
I worked with Susie a few years ago yes, and I knew she has a great voice and work ethic as well as a stack of amazing songs, so it was natural for us. I enlisted Jodie who’s been a great help, and she’s a great singer and writer also, and then I heard Alys on Rinse FM and immediately contacted her, it all flowed naturally. Alys said she loved Kosheen so we had a connection straight away, we’ve got a really strong team now and so excited about getting the album and band out there to play next year.
And the guest producers, do you have a history with them before ‘Elevate’?
Well all linked up after 2012 really. Me and Darren go back to like 1997, we worked together closely for a long time, it was quite nice to reach out to some producers that I was feeling and luckily they were very receptive and positive, great vibes in the scene.
Production-wise, when making a track, do you work from your own template or start from scratch?
Normally start from scratch because every track can start from a different idea, might be a riff, or a drum beat or a vocal. I sometimes think I don’t make it easy on myself, I’m trying to get more a method rolling, got so many ideas I can’t get them all finished! Not enough hours in the day!
At what point do you know you have finished a track?
Well I’ve got a bit of a checklist now haha! it’s easy to keep going, but I’m also quite lazy sometimes, so I try to hit targets with each session.
What was the biggest challenge in the production of ‘Elevate’ for you? Or the biggest joy if you’d rather?
It was all enjoyable, I think doing ‘Talk is Cheap’ was a highlight, like when you’re surprised with the outcome! Both me and Alys were surprised, a real instant vibe!
You’re based in London and Bristol now right? How do you feel the underground bass scene has evolved in the past decade?
I think a lot of things have changed, but a lot of things stayed the same, music has become more varied and experimental and also more fragmented, definitely lots of new artists around now as well.
I noticed you’re a fan of the label Swamp 81 – it’s one of my faves! Please tell me, what labels, producers and records are you really feeling at the minute?
Swamp81, Tempa, pretty much anything on Rinse FM, Youngsta, J:Kenzo, Hodge, Paleman, Dense and Pika.
Lastly… What 3 tips would you give to any producer, established or developing?
Well It’s funny, I feel like I need help as well! I would say, keep going, keep focused and enjoy what you’re doing , that’s the important thing.
Thanks Markee ever so much for spending time with us at Decoded to delve into your world as it is right now. It’s been a pleasure. We wish you all the success in the world with ‘Elevate’ and can’t wait to see it fly out there. See you at the showcase!!!
Thanks a lot! Looking forward to it!