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Cassell The Beatmaker 

Then // Now // Where To

 

Ivor Novello award winning producer, songwriter and drummer, Cassell The Beatmaker started his career with a London based hiphop/ jazz fusion band named ‘Quite Sane’. With the help of the Prince’s Trust, Cassell set up his own production studio which enabled him to produce for many artists he met through his live work: TY, Estelle, Skinny Man, Floetry, Sway, Bashy, Kalshnekoff, Rodney P, Black Twang, Roots Manuva.

As a drummer, Cassell has toured the world extensively with the international superstars, Keziah Jones and Mike Skinner (The Streets). Additionally, Cassell was the first resident drummer for the ‘I Luv Live’ events company where he met two independent artists, Ben Drew (Plan B) and Akala. Cassell worked with both artists and was recorded on both of their debut albums, Ben’s ‘Who Needs Action When You Got Words’ and Akala’s ‘It’s Not A Rumour’ both released in 2006. Since then, Cassell has worked with the likes of Duffy, Ms Dynamite, MNEK, Mahalia, Natasha Bedingfield, Wretch 32, Beverly Knight, Kele-le-Roc, Pino Paladino and many more critically acclaimed artists.

Now a member of the songwriting committee at the Ivors Academy, Cassell spends most of his time in his newly built studio named Phatkyat studios, Cassell has recently launched his new artist development scheme titled ‘In The Making’ to share his knowledge, skills and wide industry network to offer the best possible services to young, talented artists who require access, support and guidance for their career in music and personal brand & business development.

 

THEN

What inspired you to start learning the drums?

At the age of 8 years old I got my first experience of a drum kit close up. It belonged to a family member. I remember looking at it in total amazement. After having a little play around on it I was hooked. From then the experience stuck with me and I knew it was something I wanted to do.

What was your first introduction into the world of professional music?

I had been playing in a band called Quite Sane from the age of 16. By the time I was 17 we were playing in all the popular UK venues like The Jazz Cafe, The Orange etc. We progressed to play in a few venues in Barcelona then went on to enter a battle of the bands competition on Capital Radio which we won and were given the title band of the year. When I reached the age of 22 I started my first major tour around Europe with headlining artist Keziah Jones.

The Prince’s Trust supported you to set up your own production studio. How did you know this is what you wanted to do? When did you first get into producing and co-writing?

My journey began whilst in my first serious band Quite Sane playing drums, my friend (the band writer) had various bits of studio equipment which I was eager to learn how to use. I wanted to get more involved in the production and writing of music. I would often borrow drum machines, keyboards to create my own music. At that time I was the resident drummer at a monthly live event called ‘the Apricot Jam’ So I wanted to get my own equipment to enable me to work with some of the up and coming artists I was performing with. I was introduced to a musician who had applied to the Prince’s Trust to set up his own business. He helped me fill in an application form to apply to the trust and put together a business plan to build and run a small studio.

How important to you was the support you had early on in your career?

The support I received from friends, family, youth clubs and the Prince’s Trust early in my career was vital. It helped me understand how I could transcend my passion and love for music into a position where I could earn a living as a professional musician.

Supporting the music community is obviously extremely important to you, tell us about ‘In The Making’

In The Making began as a name for a collective of rappers and singers I worked with in the studio. I later thought the name was fitting for a business model to support young underprivileged emerging artists. Whilst on tour, fans and fellow musicians would ask how I sustain a living in music, if I could work on music projects and share my knowledge and experience. There is so much young talent out there that needs help to start their own careers. It reminds me of myself when I started out. With no money, it was only a dream.

Without the support and encouragement of others it would have been very difficult to succeed. So I put my idea on paper and put together a team of professionals to help me come up with a structure model to create ‘In The Making.’ With me at the forefront taking on the role of mentor and teacher offering a holistic insight and inclusion into my world of Music, Music Production and Songwriting with a team that offers their time and expertise in Accounting, Legal, Marketing and PR.

 

NOW

We have all been hugely affected in some way by the disruption this year, but the capacity to create and evolve within chaos is in a creator’s very being.. How has your working life changed since Covid?

Covid hit me hard as a live performing musician. All of my touring work was either cancelled or moved to a much later date. On the other hand I was all of a sudden presented with lots of time. Time that I could use to reinvent my business and come up with new ideas to adapt to the changes. Working remotely has taken precedence, finding the best methods to adapt and keep evolving in this way is challenging. I devoted more time to working on music ideas and projects in the studio. Even having the time to practise drums and learn new techniques and functions using my studio software has been a bonus.

If you have done remote sessions, how have you found them in comparison to working in person?

Taking the social contact out of something so intimate and mind motivating and keeping it relevant has its pros and cons. Working remotely can open the doors to collaborating with artists/musicians globally. You can both actively record ideas on a project simultaneously or at your own time frame. However when working remotely in real time it helps if both parties have fast internet or the whole procedure can be a little tedious and slow down the spontaneous creativity that you miss when being in the same room. I personally still prefer mainly working in the same space as the artist/musician as it is more interactive and enjoyable. Allowing more of a fluid and natural approach to building a strong relationship which helps the process of producing music to their taste and style. Following the guidelines to social distancing and good sanitation of equipment has still allowed me to work in the studio with artists under limited conditions. These times are expanding the way people work and with it the possibilities .

You have recently joined the Ivors Academy Songwriter’s committee amidst lockdown, how have you found your time there so far?

I have won an Ivors award and now I have the chance to share my knowledge and be in the company of many like minded professionals and truly brilliant people. We all want to make music conditions better for the creators of music as well as offering support, advice and opportunities. It is a very diverse organisation catering to the diverse needs and changes happening within the music industry. I feel so honoured to be a part of the song writing committee. Such a great experience. Being a member has also given me more opportunities to take part on panels via various apps like Zoom to interact, mentor and share advice with students from various colleges and universities. The opportunity to work with The Ivor Academy and Trust in partnering In The Making (ITM) program as a joint force in 2021 is at the forefront of my New Year plans and something I am very much looking forward to.

 

WHERE TO

How do you feel about the future of the music industry in 2021, 2022?

I’m hoping that live music will come back, but Covid will no doubt bring some massive changes and rules to how this is going to happen. Social distancing/ the success of a safe working vaccine will be the driver here. It will be a shame if people don’t get to enjoy the whole live music experience as it was. The feeling, the memory’s, the meeting of new people, being present at a live show is something everyone should experience. From a musicians perspective I feel it’s so important to travel, experience different cultures to expand the knowledge of music by performing in festivals and venues worldwide. All these aspects build great musicians and artists. I do feel positive that we will find a way to adapt, upgrade and in some cases add better methods to enhance live music. The live video streaming of performances is definitely interesting, especially for up and coming music creators and unsigned bands. For studio based music creators the increasing popularity for working remotely will allow them to expand their reach to create new musical ventures and opportunities.

What do you think needs to be done/ what needs to change in order to support artists in the current climate?

I think better deals on ownership and splits with labels need to be addressed. Also the ratio of profits to the artist on streaming services need to be addressed as they really are not in favor of the creators of the music. The streams to profit balance is unbalanced. More help and support for musicians. Countries like France have implemented this and if the UK also did this it would be a great help.

Do you think creators will gain more interest in production now that live music is paused?

Yes I do. For me most of my time has been in the studio. It’s given me more time to produce and experiment and helps me detach myself from the depressing times we’re currently in. Also I feel every musician has a producer/writing quality in them which now if it was taken up by live touring can now be directed to pursuing and strengthening those skills.

Have recent experiences influenced your perspective of what you would like to do next within your career in music?

Even though a musician’s world can be very unpredictable at times. I definitely have been researching and practising ways I can function as a creative using the online methods. I enjoy working and helping new artists develop and reach their goals to build a body of work that represents their style of music. So I’m continuing to build and find support to enhance ITM (In The Making ) to share my skills, knowledge and network to emerging artists. At this time young people need more support than ever to accomplish careers in music.

 


 

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