In Depth: Reklews // Hock Tu Down
The rise of Liverpudlian producer Reklews was pivotal for Blah Records, as he went on to manage a majority of the labels output over the past decade. Preferring to work in shadows behind the scenes as opposed to standing in spotlights, there was perhaps more likelihood of drawing blood from a stone than obtaining this world-first exclusive. Up until now, Reklews had never spoken for an interview, despite emerging in the mid-2000’s. However the wait is now over, as Reklews agreed to speak in depth about one intrinsic part of his extensive producing career; Hock Tu Down. From being inducted into Blah Records through to the founding of Hock Tu Down, from Prozium Peddlin all the way to Hock Tu 3. Reklews reveals the thought processes and intentions of each creation process behind Hock Tu’s releases, as well as what he has in store for the future.
Born and raised in Liverpool, growing up in the early 2000’s it was a rarity for Reklews to find regular live shows, record shops or music channels actively supporting UK hip-hop artists. However, he was able to pick up on a few UK rappers from early. “Skinnyman, Foreign Beggars, Rodney P, Jehst,” replied Reklews, listing the UK artists he listened to as a youngen. “Being honest right, my first introduction to any UK emcees was the Sidewinder Tape, with Dizzee and Wiley. Me mate got me to download it for him in college on Kazaa when it came out. Randomly his cousin put me onto Three 6 Mafia around the same time, then it was Skinnyman. And I remember Kashmere had a tune, Shaolin Iron Claw produced by Jazz T and Doctor Zygote. Before that it was strictly American, mainly West Coast. When I was younger, it was mostly Death Row shit. Cypress Hill, The Fugees, Mobb Deep, Luniz.”
Through his late teenage years, Reklews’ passion for hip-hop led him to practice and perfect the methods of producing. During this time Liverpool was dire for homegrown hip-hop, but Reklews found solace in live shows where his friend used to DJ across various bars. Whilst attending a Skinnyman performance, Reklews came to meet TL aka Tony Broke, who became a stepping stone for Reklews’ musical progression thereafter.“Think was about two or three years before I showed anyone anything,” said Reklews, answering how long he had been producing before he started releasing. “Me mate Chris who actually got me into hip-hop used to DJ in bars in Liverpool and introduced me to Tony Broke. He was the first emcee I met in music, I learned to record and produce working with him. I'd seen Tony on stage hosting and performing for years, even before I was making beats. Tony is like, the face of scouse hip-hop. When I started working with him he became proper influential, I learned a lot from recording and producing with him. Children Of The Damned I think were only just starting to make shit as a crew when I first met Tony and Big Karl. Some lyrics Tony wrote in my studio ended up on Tourettes Camp. Big Karl - that's Karlos The Jackal on the early Children Of The Damned shit. He’s sound, he’s doing his own thing.”
Bolstered by Tony’s influence, Reklews started producing for artists outside of Merseyside, which saw his reputation as a producer surge. Having produced for the likes of Sonnyjim and Fliptrix, Reklews became introduced to another rising artist at the time - Blah Records founder Lee Scott. “I knew about Lee before I met him,” Reklews responded, remembering how he became affiliated with Lee. “I'd seen him and Salar onstage when they were like 17, smashing shows as the Antiheroes and that. Tony introduced us in a bar in Liverpool, then a few weeks later he brought Lee round to mine and we made a track. Was in me bedroom studio in me Ma’s, ‘Throw Ya Severed Hands Up’ it was called. We made a track called ‘Spin The Barrel’ with Tony and Karlos the same day. It was about a year later when I moved in over the road from Lee that we started chilling and working on music regularly. I remember a few people were asking, 'could you get Lee on a tune with me?' and shit.” [Laughs]
By this time, Lee was already involved in multiple other collectives through Blah; Antiheroes, Children Of The Damned and Mcabre Brothers. Reklews eventually played a part in each of these side-projects, which is how Blah’s fanbase initially became acquainted with Reklews’ smokey instrumentals. “Probably the first Mcabre Brothers which I recorded, mixed and produced two tracks on,” recalled Reklews, thinking back to the first full length Blah project he featured heavily on. “Or the Children Of The Damned 7" Just Drink, both released before Hock Tu Down: Prozium Peddlin. I don't think I was ever really trying anything other than just making shit I like. Never really followed what's going on in that way. I was smoking a lot of weed at that time as well, I think that's the reason why a lot of that stuff has that smokey, weird sound. Because I was just proper blitzed making it.” [Laughs]
From his first meeting with Lee Scott, Reklews naturally became more involved behind the scenes with Blah. “I would of been working on all sorts by that point,” claimed Reklews, reflecting on 2009-10. “I’d have a lot of input into all the projects back then. I funded most of the early releases, Put On The Glasses at the end of 2008 was the first one I managed the release of, I’d be doing all the other shit too like making and running the website and social shit and doing a lot of the online graphics and generally running the label, dispatching orders etc. I was making tracks here and there for other artists too.”
“Blah was originally set up by Lee Scott, Milkavelli and Molotov in 2006,” Reklews continued, revealing how he learnt to operate Blah Records. “Molotov ended up moving back to Switzerland. As I started gradually taking over bits, he taught me through emails day after day how to run everything, how to do everything. He transferred everything over to me. By that time, me and Lee were the most active behind the scenes so it was just a natural thing.”
Over the following months, Lee and Reklews started collaborating more frequently, leading to the creation of their most momentous single called Anti-Sobriety. This was the first track created by Hock Tu Down, the name Reklews and Lee Scott gave their newfound collaboration. It was also the first single made for their debut Hock Tu Down album, Prozium Peddlin. Released in 2009, this wasn’t the first full length project Reklews was responsible for overseeing personally, however it did help to solidify his status as a capable producer for more than single releases. “We were just trying to make the album we wanted to hear,” said Reklews, recalling the creation process of Prozium Peddlin. “I’m not the purist type, if it sounds sick I’m fuckin’ with it. I got a free copy of Cubase when I was about 19 and just stuck with it. Prozium Peddlin was mainly sampled, I used live bass which I played badly on most of the beats, the breaks were nearly all from vinyl and the sounds were from movie soundtracks and experimental ambient shit, mostly random MP3’s and YouTube rips to be honest. I mastered it on a Yamaha AW1600. At the time, me and Lee would talk for hours about what we liked, didn’t like in an album and music in general, then I think we just naturally incorporated that into what we made.”
Following the release of Prozium Peddlin, Hock Tu Down wasted no time in recording their follow-up project, Something Strange. Dropping just a year later in 2010, the project came together remarkably quick. This if anything demonstrated a productive chemistry between Lee and Reklews. “From what I remember, a couple of the tracks were being worked on before Prozium Peddlin was released,” explained Reklews, when asked if all singles from Something Strange were original to the project, or if any were adaptations on previously unreleased tracks. “The Bastards Back and Boo Yah I think. The Bastards Back was the first beat I co-produced with anyone. Lee was fucking about a bit in my studio, he was finding samples and getting me to put it together. I've only really co-produced beats with Lee and Sly Moon, we made a few Antiheroes beats as well off Flows For The Contemporary Urban Gentleman. The name Reklews is because I prefer to do everything - produce, record, mix, master - myself. Not because I’m a boring bastard who never goes anywhere.” [Laughs]
Few Blah fans would have predicted the eight year hiatus that followed, before Hock Tu Down were ready to drop their next full length release, Hock Tu 3. However despite the wait, the anticipation only intensified when news first leaked that a third Hock Tu Down album was finally on its way to fruition. “Think it was 2016,” said Reklews, relieving the resurrection of Hock Tu Down with Hock Tu 3. “I wasn’t being that productive at the time. Had a chat on phone with Lee and he said send some beats, think we already had one or two sitting around anyway, the bulk was made proper quick. Then we added bits to it over the next year or so while working on other stuff. We were probably always going to get round to doing another one, it was just a case of when. We spent most of the time since the last project building Blah, that was more my priority than making music for a long time. I eventually had to take a step back from running it, it was taking a lot out of me and was the reason why there hasn’t been as much music from me for the last three years until now, I wanted to get the label to a point where I thought whoever came in to take over could concentrate on expanding and refining it. Salar has been doing a great job since he came in to take over from me in 2016, so I've been able to get back to making music.”
Hock Tu 3 was finally unleashed unto the world October 22nd, 2018. Was there any significance behind the release date? “Not particularly,” answered Reklews, “These days you're sort of forced to put everything out on a Friday. Regardless of what day you want to release it, the digital's are going to come out on a Friday. It was just one of them.”
“I reckon making the track with Jehst,” said Reklews, revealing a highlight from creating Hock Tu 3. “We were all in my studio in Liverpool for that one. I always buzzed off Jehst’s production too and I probably still know all the lyrics to his first two albums. I think it was pretty much the first time I'd met Jehst, I'd seen him at shows and things and said safe before. But it was the first time I'd properly chilled with him. In a way, it's not something... I mean, there's loads of emcee's who I'd like to do tracks with. But I'm not the type who will overly pester people, sending emails and shit like that. I much prefer doing things organically where shit just happens. Another highlight was when Lee shouted me and said Nickelus F and Quelle Chris were on being on it.”
“Lucky to exist.” laughed Reklews, when asked if he could summarise Hock Tu 3 in a sentence. “Genuinely, the hard drive it was on in the studio failed, head crash. But shit happens, luckily I had the masters on Dropbox, so…”
Reklews, thank you for your time. What have you got in store for 2019?
“Rekstrumentals Vol.5 just come out on Blah and I’ve got another Rap Type Beats coming soon. I’ve got a load of new music with Bang On!, an album with Bill Shakes, my own album featuring the Blah Cult and guests. Got a few more things in store as well.”