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Emily caught up with Cassell The Beatmaker – Producer, Songwriter, Drummer, Ivor Novello Award winner – whose name and reputation goes before him, creating hits and working with top industry professionals.  He chats about his exciting Artist Development Scheme “In The Making” re-launching in association and supported by PPL and the Ivors’ Academy.


Cassell and his team offer expert music industry support and guidance on all elements of a music artists career – encouraging, building self-esteem and self-belief, developing an artists career and helping them to reach success – sharing knowledge to assist the young person in building their brand and treating their music as a business.


Cassell knows his stuff – starting his career with a London based hiphop/ jazz fusion band named ‘Quite Sane’. After winning Capital Radio’s ‘Young London Band of the Year’ as a teenager, he went on to become the resident drumer for an event named ‘The Apricot Jam’, where he worked with internationally renowned hip hop artists.


Whilst touring the world intensively with the international French based superstar Keziah Jones, Cassell decided to focus his work on UK home grown talent and began an international tour with Mike Skinner (The Streets).  Not long after, he was asked to be the first resident drummer for ‘I Luv Live’ where he met two independent artists, Ben Drew (Plan B), and Akala. Running in parallel with both artists, he went on to record on both of their first albums:  Ben’s being ‘Who Needs Action When You Got Words’ and Akala’s ‘It’s Not A Rumour‘ both released in 2006. This led to a jam packed touring schedule covering the UK, Europe and the US.

Over this coming year we’re going to touch base with Cassell, his team and the In The Making Artists – more features / videos / interviews coming in the new year!

BTW If you’re out and about, can’t play audio or reading’s more you’re thing than videos, check our conversation transcription below

transcription of video


Emily 0:00
Hi Cass fantastic to catch up with you today. So great to see you again.


Cass 0:05
How you doing Emily?


Emily 0:06
Doing really well doing, really well. I’m actually really excited to hear about your In The Making mentoring program for up and coming artists. It’s been launched, can we just kick off by sharing with our audience about your career, like your musical reputation basically goes before you working with seven greats in the music industry. And kind of, you know, what have been your outstanding career moments so far?


Cass 0:30
Well, I started in a band called Quite Sane, when I was at school, we did most of the clubs in London, neither jazz have the orange was around at that time, there was loads of them, the Vox, Dingwalls, there’s just loads, all of them were done at a young age, and we won the Capital Radio Band of the year as well. We went to Barcelona to do our first kind of European tour kind of thing. And that’s where I started. And then I’m, I went on to tour and of a guy called Kaziah Jones. And I told him for over six years, and it was really good, it was really good experience because I went straight into touring with a headline act. So he was a headline, and there was only three musicians meaning the bass player, me and Kaziah himself, so it’s weird, it’s like you just been thrown into the midst of it. Even though I’ve been doing a lot of I’ve had experience, obviously touring the London scene, it’s different when you go on a stage and it’s like 40,000 people watching it different. So I kind of was I mean, it wasn’t hard for me, because the music I was playing was really complicated. You know, it was jazz fusion. And even if it was in 4/4, you wouldn’t know it was in 4/4 it was that kind of thing. And Kaziah Jones was more groove orientated. And it was a mixture of funk, funk, and AfroBeat and rock. I mean, the thing, the hardest thing that was hard, or wasn’t hard, but the thing had to concentrate more on was actually playing with groove. That was the main thing of because I assumed it’s just, you just got to have the groove, it’s got to sound funky. So I had to learn how to play less basically play less and play in the pocket, which was really good. And that’s how I prefer to play now. And from that I started doing this thing because I came back because I was always away in Europe or in the States or whatever. And I wanted to do stuff here I had nothing in London. So a friend of mine called J Richardson asked me to do this and called I Love Live, which was in based in a small club called Sugar Sugar. And I did that. And that’s where I met and performed with all the people on the scene, the Grime Scene. At the time I met everybody because it was just drums and then whoever came up on the stage, so it’s just me and somebody else. And then I just play, I would let them do what they’re going to do and just join in. Or they would say I’ll play this type of beat. And I’ll play that type of beat. And then they would just rap or sing or whatever they wanted to do every. And now I met everybody. And through that I met Akala one week, and then I met Plan B the next week. And then after a month of doing that, I couldn’t do that anymore, because I was touring with them then guys and recording on her albums. So I kind of started with Plan B right from the beginning of his almost right from the beginning of his career. We did a lot of shows where it was just me him on guitar and him on vocals. And we did a few shows in Europe again. Then we did a few shows here. And then the band expanded. And then we started right in what he started writing his first album how needs actions when you’ve got words. So I played drums on that and did a few things on bits and pieces on that. And then the next album was actually we actually did Ill Manors before we did the Defamation Strichland Banks, which was funny because defamation was didn’t release first. So we did that. And then that was a hit obviously went to number one and stuff. And then I got my Ivors award from that. And then at the same time, I started playing for The Streets. So I was doing Plan B and The Streets at the same time, which was like a really exciting part of my career because I was just doing to headline acts, and sometimes I was doing them on the same day. So I did Glastonbury, and I was on I think it was on the main stage of Llan B, then I went to the main tent with The Streets. So


Emily 4:25
and high in demand is the bottom line.


Cass 4:29
You could say that! I mean, yeah, there was a lot of gigs that doubled up and then so it was I was really busy. Around that time I had the idea for this ITM thing because while I was on tour, lots of just up and coming artists and musicians were like, how can we work with you? How can we get the studio with you? How can we do this? And I was just like, if I’m going to do it, I have to make it make business sense because obviously it would take a lot of time for me to do it properly. So that’s when I’m done and not because I wanted to do it but I just wasn’t sure how to do it but I sat down and I wrote a business plan out. I got funded by the Arts Council and I did my first year of ITM in the making – a few months ago, I got a call from the Ivors, they kind of asked me what I was doing. So I told them about the ITM. And he was like, oh, that sounds like something we would like to be a part of. So we talked about it for a while. And then they said, We would like to partner with you for your next run. And then they spoke to PPL and then so then I’ve got PPL to partner as well. Well, PPL funded me for the next three years – Four artists, so I can 4 artisits a year for now until I get more funding, which I want to do and get more artists doing it as well.


Emily 5:37
Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s amazing. That’s amazing. And the process of these young people being like guided is, is really fantastic. I mean, kind of like, you know, you’re talking about your career earlier on and sort of breaking out initially into the jazz fusion scene. And then in the Grime Scene, as well, was that a process of being mentored as well, in that situation, when you’re up and coming, or initially like for you to get into those situations for you to get


Cass 6:08
That’s the problem! I didn’t have anybody to mentor me at that time. This is why I wanted to do the ITM because it was really hard. I was quite fortunate because I was in a band, which were quite popular at the time. But even then, it was just hard. Knowing where to go, what to do, how to get in. I mean, a lot of things. I, some of it was luck, because I was in the right circle at the time. So then I met the right people to like, because with Quite Sane, and we’re going to Kaziah Jones, our lawyer was the lawyer for Kaziah Jones so – and he managed him as well actually so that’s how I got that gig. And then with Pla B I mean, I met J Richardson, she works for Island now. But she was she’s the one that found Lady Dynamite. So I knew her actually, because she had a girl group, she was in a girl group. And I was going to produce for them. And so I met her years ago. And then all of us fast forward. But yeah, she’s got this position. And then she asked me to do this Live thing. And I said, Yeah, because I just I didn’t, I wanted to do something different. And I wanted to like I said, I wanted to be in London doing things. I didn’t know anybody in London, because I was always out of the country. And I wanted to be in the country a bit more. Because it’s just when you’re touring a lot, and it’s always away from home, it gets it gets a bit taxing so and then I was thinking, Well, what if that ends? What am I going to do? I will have nobody, so I kind of stopped in the middle, and then find something else? Well, they found it found me. So I was grateful.


Emily 7:42
Yeah, totally. And then a lot of people kind of like refer to like portfolio careers in the land of music, where you sort of like you’re doing one specific, you know, maybe sort of a specific band or specific performing, but also opening up your opportunities and sort of broadening who you’re working with how you’re working with different people, kind of how do you feel about those? That kind of thing?


Cass 8:07
I mean, when we was in Quite Sane our manager never let us work with anybody else. So Courtney Pine asked us to work with him. I said, No, I was just crazy. I don’t know why I did that. guy called Steve Williamson and asked me to work with him. I said no. But then I did end up working with Steve a little bit later. But then it wasn’t my it kind of wasn’t my decision because we was managed by a manager. So he was and it kind of worked for us in a way because people couldn’t get get to us we were these young musicians and everybody wanted to take some implement us into their bands. And a manager was like no you’se lot keep together as a unit. And I think it worked for us in a way so it wasn’t all bad. But then we ended up and the first person we did. And that worked and it was a jazz musician from the States called Greg Osby. And, and it was more because it was more of a hip hop thing at that time. Because when I was younger, I also did this thing called Apricot jam, which was basically a hip hop event, a live Hip Hop event. And then people would come we had different sections to this event, we had a bring your beat event where someone will come out of the audience and come on stage and beatbox their beat. And then we make up this whole music for them. And then they would rap over it. There was a no beat section where we would learn like beats from different genres of music and play them and then rappers again, would come up. And then you had the featured artist. So I met a lot of it was funny, like it’s through these, like, I did apricot jam before I did I Love Life, but then kind of events where they events where I met loads of people and I suppose you know, that was how I got to work with different people. Because there were so many different people coming through. So I became a name people knew who I was. So I suppose doing them kind of it wasn’t a jam session, but even jam sessions. If you do them you meet a lot of people, you never know who’s going to be there. So that’s how I kind of was able to branch out and do all these different things.


Emily 9:56
Yeah, yeah, totally. And you know, Is it right to say that supporting the music community is extremely important to you? So kind of looking at the history behind in the making, that grew out of you experiencing the music scene and thinking, how can I give people the support, and the sort of broader knowledge that I would have liked to have had as well when I was starting out?


Cass 10:24
To be honest. Yes, and, but what I was terrified of, of having to be put in that position, because I wasn’t used to it. So what helped me big time of that is I, a friend of mine was doing workshops, musical workshops in schools. So I went and did a load, because like, I was terrified of having to stand up in front of kids and explain things, it was the most terrifying thing for me. But that really developed my communication skills, it really got me out of my comfort zone. So I did that. And I did lots of music, workshops in like loads of schools around the UK. And then we went ended up going to Hong Kong. And then I used to fly there every year, actually. But yeah, that really just being in that position where you’d have to stand up in front of a class of 30 or more kids and explain things, you know, not just about drums, but just about music production, all kinds of things to do with music. And then they would ask you a lot of questions about now what is it like to be on tour, they just ask you about things to do for your career. And I saw how beneficial it was for them like just to like, because a lot of them wanted to do what I was doing. And so they could ask all the questions, and they would get inspired by the feedback, I would give them and stuff. And then so I really got into the whole thing of like just helping other younger people. And then it really became a passion of mine, because I was like, I didn’t have anything like this. When I was younger, there was no one really to direct me. And, you know, I’m at a certain, a certain place in my career, I need to start giving back. So like I said, I just sat down and wrote out a business plan on how I could do it. It was a long struggle, but it was, it was it was really worth it.


Emily 12:12
And I think like you know, sometimes in life, there’s things that you struggle for that are more important, because you kind of have that focus. Now, that determination. So the people in the making, I mean, this is a year long course, it’s a massive deal. And it’s, you know, it’s full on support in really developing their work, kind of what kind of things will we come to expect to hear like over the course and stuff? And what kind of things can we expect


Cass 12:39
the course is about getting four talented, underprivileged artists, and then finding out what kind of music they want to do. I work with them on two tracks producing two tracks Songwriting with them as well, I bring in some songwriters. And we work with them like that. I bring some live musicians, and they get to work with them on two tracks, mixing master that both of the tracks, but then it doesn’t stop there. Because I think that making the music is the easiest part, What’s hard is actually getting the music out or doing gigs with the music that you’ve got, I’ve got a brand and marketing team that they go and have master classes with. PRS have agreed to do the master class, Spotify have agreed to do a master class of them, we set up some live events for them to perform the music that they’ve been working on with me, a lot of these kids are quite their socials are quite on point, we kind of go through all that and aligning all their socials and their websites together and things like that, and just giving them advice. When they’re working with the songwriters, a lot of the songwriters that they’re working with, they can mentor them, basically. So they’re getting mentored throughout the whole thing, even when they come into the studio, and I’m doing stuff on the computer, and I’ll be telling them the techniques I’m using and, you know, so I want them to go away for full understanding. Because even though you might not want to be a producer, it’s always good to know what they do. You know, I mean, so like, for example, if you’re recording vocals, and the producer turn around, turns around and says, Alright, can you track that vocal, they know what that means, you know, or double track vocals, they know what their terms are, you know, they get used to the whole terminology of everything in, in the studio. So yeah, and, and even. And if when I go to work with new people, they can say, oh, I want to track that very cool. And they know them things, you know, some of them some of these kids don’t know about any of that stuff. And these are all things that hopefully they’ll learn from from doing this with me. And we’re just gonna have fun, have fun, and they’ll come out to products


Emily 14:38
and a massively sort of round experience of the different areas and the different kind of roles that you mix with when you know because when if you’re a vocalist, if you’re a composer, you don’t just mix vocalist, composers and mix of the band you make sure the producers mix with the engineers you mix with so many people and kind of like understanding that whole process how everything fits together. Give them the sort of professional knowledge. Yeah.


Cass 15:03
And also the confidence to speak up, you know, not to sit in the studio and think, oh, I don’t know what I’m doing some but not say anything. No, you do know what you’re doing. You know, you just have to know how to explain it to whoever you’re working with, if you’re working with the engineer how to explain what you want to do. And it’ll be in a real life situation of doing all that stuff. And I did it the first time, by the end of it, that these kids knew exactly what they wanted and how to ask for it, you know, and they took it onto a, onto a big level, because they got their tracks, and some of them did videos, and release their tracks. And they actually do something with the stuff that they pay in


Emily 15:39
process on the job is is always a way: a textbook is one thing, but sitting next door to somebody goes, this is it, this is how it goes. This is how you get the sound. And this is how you identify your sound. Or you just say you can create the sound that’s in your mind. That is it’s a faster learning sort of richer learning curve is going forward, we’ll jump back in and we’ll we’ll check out what’s going on with in the making really looking forward to hearing and going forward like with your stuff, like is there with your writing will be making stuff is there kind of like can you give us a heads up about anything, maybe next year, any sort of thoughts, plans or ideas


Cass 16:18
to be honest, I because of the lockdown touring has gone mad. So I play in the band of The Streets. So, like from December, we’re in rehearsals, and then we’ve got a whole month for touring from January to February already. So between in the making in the streets, that’s gonna take up all my time. I’m sure I’m gonna I mean, I’ve had I’ve got people coming in asking me to do projects already, but I’m just trying to schedule everything and see if I can fit it all in. But yeah, I think next year and the year after; It’s gonna be crazy. So I’m just, I don’t know, I know, I’m definitely going to be touring. And I’m definitely going to be doing the ITM thing because that is something I’m so passionate about.


Emily 17:01
For all of us in the world of music. It’s amazing to see things reopen up back now and for there to be bookings and, and touring back in place and stuff for 2022 it’s kind of been a bit of a bit of a bleak time where things have just been on pause for a while, isn’t it so but now


Cass 17:18
Very bleak. Like there was basically Oh, all of this year, I would have been doing a lot of touring and it all got canceled. And then I had to sit and rethink and even remodel my business and what I was going to do which was good because I had more time to think about it as well in a way so it wasn’t good financially but it was good for being creative and finding new paths.


Emily 17:44
So great to speak with you Cas – will definitely dive back in and catch up on that stuff and yeah all the best to the guide. Oh haven’t said who they are you know announced their names


Cass 17:58
We’ve got Cara Crosby-Irons, Loz, Alfie Neale and Aaliyah Jasz – all pretty different. I’m really excited. Yeah.


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