RL Grime could be the hottest producer in the world right now. Having built a reputation as one of the heaviest DJs in the trap scene, the producer, real name Henry Steinway, has been able to carve out his own signature sound, in doing so, catapulting him to headliner status around the globe. This success was largely due to the success of his 2014 debut album VOID, which featured singles such as Core, Scylla and Kingpin. And while he has released a sleuth of tunes since the debut, Steinway has experienced a number of well documented delays on the release of his sophomore record, NOVA.
Four years in the making, NOVA showcases a significant development in RL Grime’s production style. The record picks up from where he left off, delivering a combination of Steinway’s signature trap sound, coupled with thumping 808s. While there is plenty in it for the old heads, NOVA also offers plenty for neutral fans, with a number of the tracks showcasing his depth of production and skill.
Ahead of today’s release, Stoney Roads were lucky enough to chat to RL Grime over the phone, to talk all about NOVA, his career and his love of touring Australia.
Stoney Roads: How are you feeling ahead of the release of your second album, NOVA?
RL Grime: I’m feeling amazing, it was a very long period of time where I didn’t really announce anything, and no one really knew what was going on and I was sitting on a lot of music and that feeling sucked. It was a while. Now that the release date it out and the artwork is out and we’re almost about to release it I’m feeling very relieved and happy and just excited to get it out in the world.
SR: That’s awesome man. There’s been a lot of well-documented delays – you released Stay For It last year and everyone thought it was coming and it has really been back and forth since even before then. What were some of the reasons for the delays?
RL: I think I definitely jumped the gun obviously on the first announcement… I don’t even know when I first said something about the album but I have had a lot of demos that I was excited about and thought it would be just a quick process. I was growing up as well and I sort of grew up alongside this album so it took a while for me to get it out. There’s also a lot of features on it and people have their own release schedules and there are things behind the scenes that go on that can delay the process and all of that accumulated into it taking a bit longer than I had originally thought but yeah, it’s all cleared up now and done and ready to go.
SR: You say you have grown up with this album – listening to it it feels a lot more cohesive a project that VOID, do you think this has helped in you with the songwriting process?
RL: I think VOID was pretty cohesive as well, but I feel like I was more involved in a lot of the stuff on this new album. I was collaborating with song writers and people that play guitar and other producers and stuff. I was much more open to collaborating with people and working on actual songs rather than, you know, me in my room alone working on just a bunch of instrumental stuff which is what VOID sort of was. And yeah I feel like I’ve grown up a lot even as a musician – being able to go in a room and make a song with someone is something that was totally foreign to me a few years ago.
SR: Where does NOVA come from?
RL: The definition on NOVA is that it’s a small star that very quickly bursts into just pure light and it’s all you can see. I’m a very visual person when I’m writing music, so I like to have a visual or a moment that I can see in my head and then sort of write music along with that. And so that idea of NOVA is like a tiny star bursting into 100 times its size in space was just sort of this beautiful, majestic, visual that I kind of wanted to put music to. So a lot of the inspiration came from that. I think Void was very centred in darkness and sort of had an underwater feel to it to me whereas NOVA feels like it still has elements of the old music, but it’s much brighter and it feels like something that would soar in the sky.
SR: Golden State was the last track on VOID, is that a link between the two albums in any way?
RL: I think it definitely was. I remember that was one of the last songs I made for VOID and I just felt something very personal to that one – that’s also why I named it Golden State, that’s where I’m from, Los Angeles, California. It felt like something that was sort of foreshadowing what was going to come next so yeah totally there’s a link there.
SR: When you announced the release of the album on Twitter, you said it was important to you that fans hear and see the record the way that you envisage it. Do you think the way you have envisaged NOVA has changed the start of the process?
RL: No, not really. I think with the artwork it really took a while to nail down what I wanted to get across and obviously with the music on the other side of it, I was working on music also throughout this whole time. So I’ve been adding songs and taking songs off also. I mean, from what I thought it would be, two or three years ago (when there was first talk of a sophomore record) obviously the album has changed a shitload but I think the core ideas are still in there.
SR: You’ve been playing a lot of the songs from the album live now – what have you found the crowd response to these new tracks like?
RL: Ugh so good! I mean it’s always very nerve-racking playing something that you know I’ve never played before and that is kind of different too, to some of the other stuff that I’ve made. And it’s just been amazing and super gratifying and it just makes me more excited to put the music out.
SR: Do you have a favourite track off NOVA?
RL: Ohhh it changes a lot because I’ve been listening to all of them so much, but I think the first track on the album is one that I’m really proud of and one that die-hard fans are going to really fuck with. It’s called Feel Free and it sort of embodies that idea of starting from something really small and just expanding into something really huge and I’m just super excited for people to hear that one, but I mean all of them! I’m super proud of all of them… I also really like the last track on the album which is almost like an emo-ballad which I’m excited to see people’s reaction to!
SR: Your hip hop production is second to none and there’s a lot of hip-hop collaborations on this new album… Who was the best rapper you worked with?
RL: Jeremih is awesome, he works with Shlohmo a bunch so he has sort of worked around the Wedidit crew a lot. And Tory Lanez also, he’s just a monster. I’ve known him for a while we did a mix-tape on wedidit with him ages ago, like three or four years back. So both of them I mean it was just a very organic relationship. Also Chief Keef, I mean that was like a dream come true I’m just a huge Chief Keef fan so that was cool to just get in the studio with him. I mean Ty Dollar $ign also he’s also a beast. I’ve known him for a while. He grew up in LA actually, and he came out to one of my shows in like 2015 or something, like three years ago. So we met there and we’ve been talking since and that was very just organic like “yo I would love for you to get on this record for my album” and you know started talking and we made it happen for that. But you know everyone I worked with was amazing and really helped contribute with what I was trying to do with the album.
SR: You mentioned that mixtape you did with Tory Lanez you a while back, have you ever considered doing side hip-hop project in a similar vein to that?
RL: I have yeah! I mean I’m sitting on just a bunch of rap beats that have never really reached the light of day and I think it would be cool to in the future do some kind of project or collaboration or something. I mean I’m trying to do a little more production on the side as well other people and yeah I’m just excited to be working on music and I’m not confined to just one thing so it’s cool to be able to wake up and just make whatever I want.
SR: How do you manage to keep your music defined as the original the genre ‘trap’ when it has changed so much since you started way back when. Where do you go for inspiration?
RL: I think the thing with my music, I know a lot of people were just like “oh it’s trap, he makes trap” but I always kept it in the back of my head that I can really just do whatever I want that I feel fits in this sort of world that I’ve been creating. Like I said earlier I get a lot of inspiration from visual stuff, I love movie scores, I love any sort of overly cinematic soundtracks or anything like that. I love to tie visuals to music, so if I have an idea like NOVA or something, then it’s easier for me to start creating in that way.
SR: The visuals play such a major part in your live show, how much of that do you curate?
RL: Yeah, so I work with a bunch of talented people but we are all sort of on the same page about what I like and what I don’t like so I have a really amazing team around me that help me get the vision across.
SR: During your last outing in Australia you experimented with live drums, if performing a full live set the next goal for you, or will you continue with this hybrid DJ set?
RL: It will probably continue to be the sort of hybrid thing just because right now I don’t think it would be possible for me to do anything bigger with it… There is a lot of guitar on the new album, and besides from playing some of that guitar live and doing some stuff on the drum pads I don’t know how much further I can go. I think I’ll keep it how it is for the moment because I like this new setup a lot. It’s really comfortable for me and I love being able to step away from the DJ setup for a second and do something a bit different and just be able to hit something you know (laughs).
SR: You just announced another Australian tour, what is it about this place that keeps making you come back!
RL: (Laughs) Yeah I know it’s like my home away from home! I mean I’ve been going there since, fuck, like 2012… Back in my Clockwork days and yeah I don’t I mean I think it’s sort of similar to America, taste wise definitely. Everyone is always very receptive to the newest rap and are very up on current cool music and trends… Also there’s a lot of amazing producers out of there that I’ve worked with so it kind of ties together in that sense as well, like What So Not and Flume, for example have helped a lot in the growth of a following down there and yeah man I just love it there I’m going to keep coming back as much as I can.
RL Grime’s sophomore album NOVA is out now! You can stream it below and check him out on tour in November (dates below) with some special headline sets including a huge show at Newcastle’s This That festival. Keep your eyes peeled for some side show announcements over the coming weeks!
Fri 2 Nov – Red Hill Auditorium, PERTH
Sat 3 Nov – This That Festival, NEWCASTLE
Mon 5 Nov – Festival Hall, MELBOURNE
Weds 7 Nov – Logan Campbell Centre, AUCKLAND
Fri 9 Nov – Hordern Pavilion, SYDNEY
Sat 10 Nov – Brisbane Showgrounds, BRISBANE
Sat 17 Nov – Spilt Milk Festival, CANBERRA