Get to Know: Nathaneal

Meet my friend Nathaneal who is a producer and a DJ. He was the first friend I made in uni and one of the most interesting guys I know. There was actually no way I could do this segment without including him so I hope you guys enjoy his story.

So today we’re gonna get to know a bit more about you as a person and what you do

Sick

Okay, so first question, how and when did you get into music?

So, I’ll start with when. I’ve always kinda like been a musician before I knew what I wanted to do musically. I played recorder for a long time, started playing clarinet, started playing sax, started dabbling in keys. So, I was always playing instruments. Back when I was like 8/9, we had like one computer, you know them computers with the big behind and make bare noise and that. This was when internet was new, and you had like the dialup connection and that. My brother, Gideon, somehow, somewhere got a copy of FL studio (a programme on the computer), it was the demo not even the official version. On the demo you can’t actually save your sessions, so every time you press x what you do like closes cos it’s meant to be like a free trial. Yeah so, he downloaded that, and I remember one time he was downstairs and screamed like ‘Nat, Joe come downstairs there’s this new programme you can make beats on it.’ We all ran downstairs and none of us understood any of it, it was just bare confusing, bare like technical and that. He didn’t even know how to use it he was just excited. Gideon wasn’t really into it and Joseph definitely wasn’t into it but I like loved it for some reason I just like stuck to it. From that day I had to go to sleep cos my dad wouldn’t let me stay up, but I couldn’t even sleep cos I was just thinking about FL. The next morning, I ran downstairs and jumped on the computer, stayed there for hours. I didn’t understand a thing, I was just pressing buttons and seeing what happens.

So, I got into FL studio around 8/9 and then I started remaking which I think is like a lost art, I don’t think people do that now. But back in the day there was this culture of like say you hear a song on MTV base, or you hear it on Channel U, you’ll go on FL and try to re-do it and put it on YouTube. I used to see remakes on YouTube and think yeah, I wanna do that. My music was horrible like I couldn’t use FL let alone make a whole remake. But I would hear a song like a Getts song or a Skepta song and I would just try and go on FL and remake it and put it on YouTube. They’re probably still there to be honest. Yeah, I did that for a while. Then I started puting out my own stuff but without realising it. I guess with me I don’t really come from a traditional producer background. You see how a lot of producers either come from like a musical family or they played in church per se or something like that, I didn’t really do that. My thing was always that I liked music from that perspective of classical. I liked doing music in school, I liked learning the theory so I would always try and implement that in FL. So, if I was trying to make a trap beat, I would think ohmydays let me put that melody in cos I learned it from school, or I learned it in clarinet or something. You know when you do like grades and stuff, I would have the melody from like my clarinet and think like oh let me put that in. So, I would do that and without realising it I was making songs. But this was before I even knew what producing was. I didn’t understand what producing was, what beats were what mixing was, I didn’t understand anything like that; I just knew FL studio.

So yeah, I got it at like 8/9 started making beats every day and yeah fam. That’s like the very very beginning.

Mad, so from when you were young you’ve been basically doing music  

Yeah

That’s mad. So, when did that moment click in your mind when you thought this is what I want to do, this is what I want my career and my life to be like?

Hmm, I think that happened around like secondary school, cos in primary school it was more recreational, I guess. But secondary school I began to learn what producers are, so every time I heard a song I would think somebody produced that, like somebody made that beat. And I just thought that’s cold, like I wanna do that. Looking into producers, Pharrell, Timbaland, Ryan Leslie and like watching their videos. Ryan Leslie is my favourite producer, everybody that knows me knows that. He’s notorious for these YouTube videos that he does, so he’ll be in the studio and he’ll have like keys there, drums there, guitar there, base and violin and he’s just the guy that is everywhere making tunes and he used to film them. I used to watch them and think ohmydays I wanna do that, like when I was 12/11. I kinda got into the culture of touching instruments as well in music. I was probably attracted to the wrong things at that age, Ryan Leslie is a flashy kinda guy so seeing his money and his cars and stuff and thinking like rah I can do this, you can be a producer and be as rich as a rapper. So, I think it was probably that.

But if I’m being honest it probably wasn’t a this is what I want my life career to be because even though I’ve known that I wanted to do music that hasn’t always shown in my behaviour. Cos I’ve always done school with the premise that rah I need to do my GCSEs and do them really well so I can do my A-levels and then do really well so I can go to uni. I don’t really have the background of I’ve decided I’m gonna do music for my life so I’m gonna go to a music school.

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Okay, so how did the people around you react to you getting into music and being good at it, do you feel like they were supportive?

Yeah, definitely. I attribute so much of my journey to the people around me cos I’m naturally around other great musicians. Not necessarily producers but like keys players, drummers, guitarists, bassists. In my secondary school there was a musical community, we had a music studio that was built when we joined so there were loads of Macs (as in MacBook). The Macs were not new Macs they were the 2005 ones, you know the white one with the *nods* yeah yeah. But we thought they were incredible cos the other alternative was you know the crap dell laptops. We thought like we had the best computers and we had the keyboards and the drums and everything. So there were those that did GCSE music or played in the bands or sang in the choirs, everyone kinda did everything. So that creative hub made me comfortable with being around loads of musicians that were busking or doing shows, or I don’t know what they were doing but everybody was kinda doing musical things; we were known as like the music guys in school. So, it was quite normal to want to do music and wanna be good at it and pursue it in my community cos that was what everybody else was doing.

Also, just having a support system that are critical of you is mad important as a creative. You’re gonna be bad when you start innit, it’s just the fact of nature. But having people that acknowledge that but then like acknowledge your progression as well is mad important. And I think me being refined in that way I attribute to getting good quite early. I’d play my brother every beat, every single one. My brother raps as well so he used to rap on the beat. Obviously, my beats weren’t good enough to rap to at the time, but he would rap on them or just give me feedback. Having that kind of culture of ‘you’re getting better’ ‘I hear this person on this’ ‘oh that’s wavy did you make that’; being around that kind of energy helps you appreciate those people and simultaneously get better.

Niceee, so how would describe your sound and how would you say it’s developed from when you started?

Okay, you see with this question yeah, I find it quite difficult to answer naturally because of what kind of producer I am. When I was younger every single producer around me had that, like the sound. Timbaland’s got the drums, Pharrell’s got the chords, 9th wonder has got the samples, Scott Storch has got like the piano stuff. Like every single super producer at the time had their sound. I never really had that. I had like sounds, like many sounds. I was able to do the hip-hop stuff and give them to the local rappers, then I was able to get in the studio with a singer and do RnB stuff or Dancehall stuff and do some EDM stuff. Cos I consumed so much music as a child that probably wasn’t directly the kind of music that I ended up making; what I mean by that is like listening to Gunna hip life and then when that’s finished listening to Pachelbel’s Cannon for GCSE but like really listening to it like having it on my iTunes and that, and then listening to some Martin Garrix’s electro-house kinda stuff, and then listening to grime. I didn’t just consume one kind of music so that’s why like I feel like my sound is extremely diverse. I think I’m quite adaptable, which is how I would describe my sound, in the sense that if I’m given a sample or I just have an idea I know the direction that is possible. Like say it’s a certain chord progression I know that if I wanna make it a dancehall thing do that with it, if I wanna make it an afro thing do that with, if I wanna make it a hip-hop thing do that with it. I feel like I developed that skill from early.

But I acknowledge myself as quite a chords-based producer. I think it’s important as a producer to know what your strengths are. Because I’m trained in chord theory my music sounds very musical, less drum based than say a Timbaland. I’m attracted more to like harmony and stuff and that shows in the music I listen to.

I’d say quite adaptable and diverse, I feel like I transcend loads of genres that I shouldn’t really be able to, like I haven’t come across a pop producer that does drill and does both of them well. But also, very musical and chord-based.

That’s cool. So, how’s your experience in the industry been so far and do you think your adaptability has helped you?

Definitely. The music industry is incredible, it’s a maze, especially to navigate as an independent producer or beat maker. Getting from ‘I just make beats in my room and I want artists to rap on them’ to ‘I’m now a stakeholder of the music industry and I want to make records’, like the jump from beat maker to record producer is crazy and I feel like I’m in that transitional period now or have been in that transitional period for a while.

I’d say adaptability is one of the key things in the music industry; less so to do with sound and artistically but more so just like where your acumen is, being able to separate yourself from the art and understand how to market yourself as well. Learning how to network with people and how to do business basically and how to use a studio and take a session. That kind of adaptability I think contributes to the success of a producer because you now have a lot to offer loads of different people who are stakeholders in the industry. If I just make beats and I’m really good at making beats that’s great, but that only really applies to those that need hot beats. But not every artist works that way, some actually need to be in the studio and need to work on vibes etc. So, I feel like the more you diversify yourself, the more you’ll have to offer to everyone basically. And I feel like I learned that so yeah, my adaptability really helps.

It also helps that I’m able to work with more people and I think that contributes a lot to confidence as well. Being in the studio with someone is not easy confidence wise, especially if you’ve never met the person. That’s bound to be intimidating for anyone unless you’re quite confident in your ability to adapt. If you don’t develop that adaptability before your session, then it might affect your confidence in the session.

That’s cool. So, your stage name, do I call it a stage name?

Yeah, I guess yeah

Okay, so your stage name is S7ven, where did that come from?  

I like this question still. So, my birthday is July 7th, so that’s like 7/7. I feel like that’s quite cool cos it’s kinda rare. Additionally, obviously I’m a philosophy student so I’m quite abstract in thinking. The number 7 represents things I’m quite attracted to like completion, perfection, the world was created in 7 days. So, like 7 just represents purity and I like to think that all this applies to me in some fashion.

I also really liked the logo I designed for it.

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Yeah, your logo is sick

Thank you, fam, honestly. I haven’t mentioned but I do graphic design. When I was making music, when I was like 10/11, the thing was SoundCloud, myspace and that. So, you had to have your beats up on there. But you know when you upload something on SoundCloud if you don’t have a cover art it’s just your profile picture. My profile picture was some joke ting so like I didn’t want my SoundCloud to look mad unprofessional. Even when I was young, I still cared about professionalism even though I knew nothing about it. I thought aight cool I need to get graphics done and I didn’t have the money, so I didn’t have the option to pay people to do graphics, I didn’t even know what graphics were if I’m being honest. I had no exposure to that at that stage but I though aight cool find out on YouTube how to design. Got photoshop and started designing those and kept doing that to the point where I was doing every around me’s graphics. I was doing everyone’s websites, flyers to their shows. When I changed my name to S7ven, cos I wasn’t S7ven at the beginning, I was something else, but we’ll let that one die, when I changed my name, I thought how do I convey that visually. I thought that’s almost impossible because the number 7 is already a symbol, so how do I convey that in a way that when people see it, they think of me rather than just a number. I brainstormed loads of ideas but eventually came up with the amalgamation of the Roman numeral, VII, but then like the 7 inside the V. When I did that logo, it confirmed to me that nah you have to call yourself S7ven now, because that is cold. *inset logo*

So aside from doing music, I hear you go to uni. And you study Politics, Philosophy and Law.

Yeah that’s right.

Which is mad to do all three. What made you decide to study that?

So, I’ve always kinda been an academic person. I’ve always kinda flourished in school. I got to A-levels and studied humanity subjects more so than like science-y stuff. So, I did Music, Maths, Politics and Economics, but the subjects I liked the most were Politics and Economics. Reason being, it sounds kinda trivial, but I felt like it was teaching me the things that adults just know, and young people just never know. I would be in the living room and my dad would be talking about taxes and government and derivates and bills and I don’t know that language at all. And I’m never gonna learn it cos in school I’m learning Pythagoras theorem and that. So, when am I actually gonna get an opportunity to learn how the world around me actually works rather than it just being some adult stuff? So, when I was doing those subjects at A-level it kinda spoke to me. I was attracted to Law because I liked the idea of a system and how things worked in this country. I thought it would be quite beneficial for music as well and learning how like contracts work and learning how to pattern my business properly if I ever get there. I wanted to do philosophy as well cos it works with the way my brain works.

This course is unique cos it’s not done in any other place.

Yeah, I think it’s just at Kings.

So, I didn’t actually apply to any other places for that course, I applied to PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) cos I thought of all the courses in uni that would be the most interesting to me. But I liked Law and I knew I wasn’t trying to do just Law because too much of the LLB is far away from my interest. So, I thought do PPE and if anything, do Law after. But I found this course now at Kings and thought rah like I can do them all, yeah, I’m down.

Cool, so how has your degree been beneficial to your career so far and do you think it will continue to benefit you in the future?

I think PPL is quite an unconventional thing cos you wouldn’t expect somebody going down the creative arts to have interest in these things, but I feel like it helps develop a holistic understanding of everything in society like every industry. Financial industry, music industry, creative industry etc. When I approach the business stuff in music, things like publishing and PR, all that knowledge kinda comes from my degree. Not necessarily the substantive content but more like the skills, the way that I think about it helps in music a lot. Cos like even when you go and study a creative art in an educational institution there’s kind of an incompatibility there anyway because the nature of something like music or fine art or graphic design is not meant to be taught in a classroom per se. So, I feel like when you’re doing that, you’re learning skills that help you in that industry rather than actual content.

So, off the back of that did studying music ever occur to you and why did you decide not to do that?

Studying music did occur to me, university was the first time I hadn’t studied music in my educational career. I didn’t want to do it at university level. Obviously, there’s a big financial cost in university as a whole and a lot of the music schools I was looking at weren’t in London and I didn’t want to leave London cos I felt like these are the years I needed to network, so if I moved out things would be more difficult for me, I think. Also, I have friends that have done music courses in loads of different disciplines, some are studying at conservatoires like the Royal Academy of Music and some are at British Institute of Modern Music which is like one of the best contemporary music schools. Some of my friends have said the same things in the sense that it didn’t help them creatively but what it gave them was the network; it gave them resources, but it didn’t help in the actual craft. And I feel like what I needed now was just to hone in and develop my craft. And I didn’t want to go to uni and be taught something that I already developed myself. That’s not me saying that like I’ve mastered and conquered music production, and no one can tell me nothing, nah I definitely don’t feel that way. But I wanted to be taught at the level I was, but I understand that the syllabus doesn’t work like that, they start from the beginning. And with the kind of person I am, when I’m given a mad difficult task that’s when I flourish. But if I’m give stuff that’s kind of elementary for me that’s worse for me because I don’t engage with it and I start to perform badly. And I also think that being far away from creativity helped me stay hungry.

That’s interesting. So, I was on Snap on Sunday and I saw your rehearsal for your EP. Could you talk us through the process from getting the idea to finally finishing the project?

The EP is crazy for me cos it’s the first time that I am playing live instruments, it’s the first time that I’m using live music like an entire band and composing rather than just producing. It’s cool because there’s two EPs basically; there’s the studio version which is gonna be all the songs, it’s gonna be very jazzy, hip-hop etc. But when you listen to the EP it’s gonna be clear that all the songs can be played live.

Fast forward getting into the studio with the band and actually hearing the music going from what was on my laptop to live is a surreal experience I actually can’t describe it. As a producer, whatever I put down is what is gonna be played exactly, so it’s easy for me to create what I have in my head. But when you’ve got a band, you’re dealing with people. Like your piano player is not just a piano it’s a person, his or her style of piano is gonna be unique. At the beginning I just gave them the part and told them to play it, but it doesn’t work like that, if you don’t give them enough room to interpret then it just won’t sound right cos you’re neglecting the fact that they’re musicians. I’m learning so much from just the rehearsal process as a whole. I play every instrument that’s in my band, but you have to resist the tendency to jump on and show them how to play it cos that’s not how it works, I have to let them jel together. So, you really have to appreciate their talents and their playing styles.

But it’s crazy hearing that. I haven’t seen any examples of it in the scene. It sounded like a really crazy, abstract idea when I proposed it to Gideon, who’s managing me at the moment. People don’t know what is great until you give it to them. I wanna take this music thing to another level and I wanna keep challenging myself; cos I wanna conquer so many things in music, and cos I wanna do so much with music I have a lot of ideas. The crazy, outlandish things that sound mad they don’t have to be mad. If I know all of these musicians and I am willing to arrange the tings, why not? Obviously with time, you figure it out. I’m learning what I can do. I’m listening to other people like the composers for example and the way they change songs from a studio ting to a live ting is hard. So, I’m taking techniques from that and incorporating it into my own stuff but also figuring out my arrangement style. I feel like I like big sound, you’ll hear it. When I say big sound, I don’t mean like thick, like not loads of instruments, but everything creates a grand sound rather than loads of hits and cuts and things that throw you off. I’m like that as a producer but not as an arranger.

This is definitely not gonna be the last time I’m working on live arrangements, it’s amazing. I feel like how I felt when I started producing. Like I can’t wait to just record it, I can’t wait to perform it and I can’t wait for people to hear it. I can’t wait for people to hear how sick the band are as musicians and look into them. But even if you can’t make it to the show, having a live EP means you’ll always have a piece of that experience.

Wow okay that’s amazing. So, besides the fact that all the tracks will have a live version, what else would you say is a theme that runs through this EP?

So, there is a story line to it. I was mad inspired by To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar, which is my favourite album. The reason why I think its genius is you can listen to it as a surface level thing and you can enjoy it, but when you actually break down the chronology of the project and what he’s saying and how it relates to Good Kid for example it’s incredible. There’s this podcast on Spotify called Dissect, and its this guy that breaks down albums. I listened to it for TPAB a long time before working on the EP and it made me realise how you can make intricacies in a project simple. I have a lot to say but I also acknowledge that I’m a producer, not a rapper or a poet, so I can’t use words to tell my story, but I can orchestrate that in the music, and I can almost score an invisible film. I feel like that’s what the EP does.

The overarching message of the EP is gratitude. Being appreciative for the situation that you’re in cos your life is the only one that you can possibly live. Once you start to validate yourself on external things, especially things that are thought of as good such as success and money, it becomes a vice because you start to live for that, you start to lose your identity and start to feel void without it. I felt like I was doing that with music, cos I’ve been it for so long and I didn’t want to feel like it was worth it once I got his or once I reached here. I wanted it to just be worth it regardless. Even if 5 people listen to the project and I sell no tickets, and nothing happens then its calm cos I’ve really really enjoyed making this project and I wanna spread that in the project. I want people to understand that you’ll have what you want eventually but don’t let that be the thing you live for. Things you should live for are things within your reach that add value to you like your family, your education, your willpower rather than this external societal goal that you think will bring you happiness. Because more time when you get it, you’re gonna want something else. It’s good to want more but your want shouldn’t be unlimited, and your gratitude shouldn’t be limited, it should be the other way around. Gideon always says that success is a collection of your efforts being realised into something, he always says success is correlated with consistency. So, in the project I really wanted to say that, we worked on songs that illustrate that. And if you listen to it with the production behind it and just the way that the project comes together, you might have to be a little bit of an album nerd to clock it, but when you do, you’ll get what I’m saying. Even down to what the songs are called.

We’ve got a film coming soon, like a documentary kind of film, and that illustrates that a lot better probably than the project does. So, yeah

Well, I wish you the best of luck with your EP and I look forward to listening to it. Thank you for your time

Thank you for having me

Feel free to follow him on social media and engage with his music

Instagram: s7venldn

Twitter: s7venldn

Soundcloud: s7ven

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