UK grime collective Virus Syndicate recently dropped their latest album The Swarm. Packed with 19 tracks, the effort features collaborations with hip-hop/crossover producers and DJs including DJ Muggs of Cyprus Hill, Skism, Savant, and Buku. The Swarm mixes elements of trap, dubstep grime, and electro for their most ambitious and raucous work to date. Keeping the street kid spirit but looking toward the future of hip-hop, The Virus Syndicate is ready to take their brand of UK hip-hop stateside.
Music Times chatted with the group about their journey into music, UK vs. US hip-hop production, the themes that inspire them, working with outside artists and more. See what they had to say:
Music Times: For those unfamiliar with your music, when and how did The Virus Syndicate form?
Virus Syndicate: Virus Syndicate was born about 10 years ago in south Manchester. We were all actively doing our own thing in music, and it just made sense for us all to come together as one unit as we all had a similar approach and ambition.
MT: Were you guys initially drawn to hip-hop as emcees or producers?
VS: Yeah, we were all drawn to hip-hop as emcees. We grew up in society where hip-hop was the culture that we all resonated with. We all felt a need to express ourselves, and had musical ability, so becoming emcees was very natural for all of us.
MT: Your group name evokes the idea of a disease spreading rapidly, and your mixtape being named SWARM also plays on that idea of being overrun and uncontained. What's going on with that imagery?
VS: Our colors are black and yellow for various reasons. They represent hazardous and infectious material which is exactly what we try and create in the studio. Black and yellow are also the colors of Manchester, the city where we are from
MT: Can you talk a little bit about where you fit in the UK hip-hop scene and how the scene has evolved?
VS: Our sound is different to a lot of UK hip-hop artists. I would say our sound is generally a bit darker and more left field than most. The hip-hop and grime scene is massive in the UK. It's older now with a lot of new artists coming in that grew up in a house where their parents would have been UK hip-hop or grime fans. The sound has definitely matured now.
MT: What do you think of hip-hop production trends/beats in the UK vs. in US? How are they similar/different?
VS: I would say that UK hip-hop use to have more electronic influences in it than US, but with the recent explosion of EDM in the States, I'm hearing much more electronic influences in productions.
MT: What are some themes you tend to explore in your music? Any social issues you're trying to bring attention to or other overall statements you're trying to make?
VS: We are influenced by our surroundings, by people we know, and by the lives we have lived. Our music is a reflection of this.
MT: You recently posted on Facebook about having producers send you tunes. Do you often collaborate with fans or people outside the group?
VS: We will collaborate with anyone who makes sick music that we like. Obviously working with the bigger profile producers/artists is great, but there are some hidden gems out there. If we find them, we will work with them, or sign them to our record label.
MT: How does that crowd-sourcing process work?
VS: We have met a lot of producers we have worked with online, DJ Muggs being a prime example of that. What usually happens is the producer will send us over a few beats, and we will lace some vocal ideas over the ones feel suit us the best, and then go back and forth with the producer until we get something sick.
MT: Who are some artists that are influencing the group right now? Who are some of your all-time biggest influences?
VS: All time biggest influences would have to be each other. We have learned so much from each other over the years that realistically we are all each other's biggest influence in some way or another.
MT: Can you describe your sound in a live setting? What are your shows like?
VS: Our live shows are insane! We lose our minds up there and try to take the crowd with us. Think mosh pits, stage dives, a rider full of liquor being poured into the crowd (laughs), big dirty beats, and rapid fire complex rhymes. That's a Virus Syndicate live show.
MT: What's next for you guys?
VS: We are dropping The Battle Royal EP with Dope DOD in March and two videos that we made for it.
MT: Anything else people should know about you guys that I haven't touched on?
VS: We set up a 360 Music and Visual Media company two years ago called EY3 Media based in Manchester City Centre. Check it out www.ey3media.com!