Ill Truth & Bluejay | Bristol Dawn Interview

A trio busy making the rounds within drum and bass and consistently stepping up their game; Ill Truth & Bluejay are a force to be reckoned with. 

Recently dropping their first collaboration in the form of an 8-minute long nostalgic nod to times passed – ‘Bristol Dawn’ is the epitome of why these three artists work equally as well as individuals or as a trifecta of vibe providers. I sat down with them just before the release and spoke all things past, present & future – here’s what they had to say.

So, tell us about ‘Bristol Dawn’…

Mitch: So it’s out on the 27th August on Soul Trader, which is pretty cool so big up Lance!

Jay: Yeah big up Lance. We’ve worked with him closely for a little while, he’s a real nice guy who’s been around the block with various artists so it’s just cool to be on board with a label that’s taken very seriously.

Haden: He’s really easy to work with, I think that’s the main thing – it was just really simple. He asked us if we had a tune and we were like yeah, we do actually. It kind of pushed us to finish it…

Mitch: Except the thing with this tune is that it didn’t really need it, it was completely organic I thought. There was no kind of thought process behind it. We were just sat there one night with a fresh canvas and Haden was like ‘what are you thinking?’ – and that’s when I played Tokyo Dawn, one of my favourite Doc Scott tunes from the 90’s. I played it to Haden and said we should do something along these lines, like really atmospheric, not so much minimal but kind of…

Jay: Stripped back….the music and the vocal is the focus of it – and that’s the simple thing with this tune. It’s basically a break and a bassline. Those parts are there to serve a purpose but it’s about the vocals. You don’t often get to work with artists during the creation of a project. Usually, you’ll make a tune, and then someone sings/spits over it. It’s nice to sit down from scratch and develop it together.

Haden: Regardless of how well Bristol Dawn does as a tune, its a really personal collaboration. It was nice working on stuff with really good mates who, from start to finish, had 100% input. It was just a really fluid collab were Mitch kinda came up with the concept and we rolled with it.

Mitch: And I did. I would say ‘can we change that bit, or add this here?’ until we were all happy with it. This will be the fourth tune I’ve featured on with these two and usually, they’ll send me a beat and we’ll go back and forth and I’ve made so many tunes over the years like that, most of which won’t see the light of day. I think it works so much better if you’re sat in the room with the producers. And I’ve got to big up these two cos it wasn’t just me writing it, I had the initial lyric idea but Haden and Jay then got involved and developed it from there…

Haden: Which was nice because Mitch got involved in the production and we were kind of writing the lyrics too, to make them a bit more ambiguous or interpretive.

(A brief break in which Jay and I smash down some noodles and the group starts talking about vegetables that are actually a fruit)

Jay: So anything with seeds in is a fruit?!

Mitch: Did you know Tomatoes are a fruit?

Haden: My balls are a fruit…(queue laughter)

Haden: (laughing) That’s the name of the album. We’re gonna do an Ill Truth and Bluejay album called ‘My Balls Are A Fruit’

Mitch: The most ironic thing is that I actually work in a fruit and veg market….(everyone cracking up again)

Ok, OK, enough about balls…Back to the interview….

Mitch, lyrically your content is very positive and uplifting. What’s the story behind your writing process?

Mitch: I like to try and create audiovisuals. Whether you interpret that as philosophical or metaphorical – I like to paint an image in your head as to what I’m talking about.

Haden: ‘create an image in your head like a vivid sketch’…

Mitch: ‘Creating audiovisuals, use your eyes not your mind it all becomes visible’…Lyrics can get overlooked sometimes and this is where I’m trying to split it. People like Fokuz, DRS and Visionobi are really good at providing that imagery. More recently I’ve been using more wordplay, parallel rhyming – things I’ve not touched on before, it’s another outlet for my creativity.

Do you rehearse for your sets or do you prefer to improvise?

Mitch: I’ve actually got to quote MC Fokus on this one. I read something he said in an interview that I agree with which is this. If you start incorporating what’s going on around you and adapt to your surroundings, I think you engage the crowd a lot more. Having the confidence and skill to do that comes with time and experience. When you’ve been making words rhyme for such a long time…

(everyone laughs)

Mitch: It makes it easier to freestyle and incorporate your surroundings into your set.

Jay: And I think its the sign of a good MC, being able to adapt to their surroundings. Versatility is key in that game.

Mitch: I don’t like the differentiation between ‘I’m a host, I’m an MC/spoken word/poet’, whatever. If your good at what you do in terms of somebody that’s got a mic in your hand, you should be able to do all of it.

Mitch: People sometimes say to me they would like to hear more from me, but that’s not me. That’s how I am on a set – stripped back and about the music – and I’m not gonna change that. It’s subjective to the listener and it all depends on the crowd and the night you’re playing at. Sometimes I don’t feel the need to spit 16s or 32s over a track, it just isn’t warranted.

I personally like your flow, it’s quite like SP:MC – you let the track breathe…

Mitch: Thanks, and I take that as a compliment but at the same time I do my own thing. People automatically compare you to similar MCs in the game, and there are so many people hosting and toasting, doing their own thing. It’s a discipline. I have people say to me ‘yes mate, you’re doing the SP:MC or the Fokus thing’ and I’m like nah, I’m doing the Bluejay thing. It’s good to take inspiration from people, but I do what I do.

Haden: It’s harder to not say anything than say too much, less is more and anyone who knows Mitch, knows how chilled he is. It’s an accurate representation of his character and it’s more real.

Tell us about the history of Ill Truth & Bluejay…

Jay: So I met Mitch before I’d even met Haden, years ago. We met through random nights and would just see each other out and about.

Haden: Was he your first MC? He was the first MC to play on my sets..

Jay: Yeah I think he was mine as well!

Haden: It was really weird, we both knew Mitch and we moved to Bristol, and my mate Sammy was like oh I wanna get this MC on board, Bluejay…

Jay: And it was like a ‘return of the Jedi moment’…

Haden: Yeah like, ‘oh shit we’ve known Mitch for ages yeah, do it!’

Mitch: I used to come up to Bristol with a bag full of CDs with my email and link to my SoundCloud which I think had one, shitty mix on there. I’d stand and hand them out at raves and out of about 200 CDs, I’d always at least half of them on the floor at the end of the night. But one guy got back to me and it all evolved from there. It’s all about determination.

Jay: Yeah for sure, and while we’re here, here’s some advice for the newcomers coming through; play the room 2, room 3 bookings – take the shit sets until you’re worth something -don’t fucking argue. If you get shot down, don’t worry about it. Put the work in, even if you play to no-one you’re still playing out and making progress.

Do you think the reason the tune came together so effortlessly was that you were all in the same room together, rather than just bouncing ideas back and forth online etc?

Mitch: Yes, definitely. And I’d like to think that the track is like a representation of how fluidly us three roll out together live.

Jay: There’s a reason why this tune is nearly eight minutes long – it’s kind of a little nod to how tunes used to be, and it’s also cool for Mitch cos there’s lots of space for everything. From start to finish it’s just a proper listening tune. I mean don’t get me wrong it can be played in a club but it’s got the length and entirety of a piece of listenable music.

Haden: It’s the same reasoning we had behind the structure of the track. Most tunes have a similar structure but we decided to do be like fuck it, let’s just make like a two minute intro, there’s no rush.

Jay: For me, it’s very ‘Total Science’ – I think of a lot of old Total Science tunes where they used to do that – that kind of classic flavour with a little vocal.

Mitch: Well, it definitely passed the car test…. (all laughing)

Jay: Yeah it’s always nice to play stuff out, a little big up to your guys night at Faraway, it’s sick because you do your last hour of open decks and it’s a cool place to play new mixes and see how things sound.

So is the end goal to become an exclusive trio?

Jay: I mean DLR and gusto are a thing, Marky and GQ, Calibre DRS – it’ll be Ill Truth and Bluejay…

Mitch: But it’s also not like Haden and Jay need an MC – they carry themselves anyway and do their own thing just as much as I do mine. I’m an artist in my own right, and so are they.

Jay: Yeah, Mitch is very much an artist in his own right, and that will continue.

Mitch: thank you!

Haden: We’re just really good mates as well, that’s the main thing.

Jay: And you need that when you’re on the road and stuff, you spend long hours travelling and things like that, you need someone that you can have a good conversation with so its key you all get on.

Mitch: Yeah….Cranes and shit (all start laughing)…Weather its abroad or playing just down the road, We’ll have a couple of beers, take the piss out of a few people (laughs) and then go and play the set. Nine times out of ten I think it goes pretty fucking well, and people can see that.

Jay: If you’re mates, and you know each other’s tunes and you know each other’s lyrics, you can drop in and out – its a real core part of a DJ and MC’s relationship. You quite often see DJs play with MCs and they don’t acknowledge them at all. It’s different if you’re working with an MC; it makes it more of a performance for me.

Mitch: It’s like musical mechanics; one cog turns the other..and I’m pretty sure if we weren’t all doing this, we’d still be mates.

Jay & Haden: Yeah for sure! We’re mates first, colleagues second.

© Khali Ackford

Bristol seems to be a constant theme, what is it about the City that keeps providing inspiration?

Haden: In regards to the tune specifically, Mitch and I had different concepts of what the lyrics were about.

Mitch: My concept for the tune was how much of an inspirational place Bristol is and I think it goes without saying, if you live here then you know. I think you can ask any artist or anyone in general, you get that vibe. You haven’t got the hustle and bustle of other metropolitan cities…

Jay: All three of us are from west country villages and seaside towns. There was nothing for us where we’re from so to come here, and be welcomed into such a special place, it’s a real honour and a blessing that has developed us as artists. It’s like the mecca of creativity in the UK…

Haden: If you were to look at our influences and the music we were making when we didn’t live here, it’s completely different.

So would you say Bristol has helped shape your sound?

Everyone: Yes.

Jay: It’s insane how much you can be swayed and inspired by your surroundings…

Mitch: And that’s what I wanted to get across in the tune. Let’s be honest, only the top dogs make a living out of dnb. When I originally wrote the lyrics, the whole ethos was about how we’ve all got to get up and go to work and do the 9-5 thing. Like I say ‘sick of drivetime we live for nightlife’ – so it was like I can’t wait til the week is finished and I can go do my thing.

Haden: The lyrics existed already, but we reworked them and when we did, my take on them in comparison to Mitch’s was kind of bittersweet. The whole Bristol Dawn thing for me was like, yeah we’re playing out every weekend but at the same time, looking forward to the sun coming up because it sometimes feels like all we see the nighttime.

Mitch: That’s the beauty of writing and listening to music. Even though we all listen to the same sound and that’s what ultimately brings us all together; we’ve all got our different interpretations of what that track or what that lyric might mean to you. It’s all about the individual’s interpretation.

You’ve been doing this ten years now Mitch, how have you managed to stick at it what’s the plan for the future?

Mitch: I’ve been in my comfort zone for a while I think. I mean, I’ve been doing it for ten years now which in general isn’t that long, but I’ve seen influxes of people come, do their thing and leave, which isn’t a bad thing because Bristol is stronger than ever!

I’m not trying to say respect where it’s due, but I’ve been doing it for a minute now and I’m not going anywhere. I’m ten years deep and here’s to the next ten.

What have you got in the pipeline then? 

Haden: So we’ve got a release with Flexout in November and a track on a various artist album that we can’t announce yet…

Jay: Then we have a release coming on Sofa Sound in Feb, various remixes and singles on Lockdown, Ill Truth presents Vol 2 & a remix EP, another tune with Mitch….

So not too much then…. What about shows?

Mitch: Were doing Alternate’s Halloween party, so that’s Ill Truth b2b our good mate Sam Binary – watch out for him and big up Rob and all the crew at Alternate.

Haden: We’ve got another gig that we can’t announce yet…(all laugh and act shady as hell)

Mitch: I’m potentially looking at going to Europe in December, and cooking up some WIPs at the moment that I can’t really talk much more about, BUT, it’s probably some of my best body of work so I’m looking forward to that!

Haden: You can catch us supporting Dimension on his tour show in Bournemouth, which we’re excited about! Then we have our first B2B with SATL for the Sine Series, Portsmouth for Lifestyle, Frome for the Deep Space guys….Oh, and I’m playing at my Mum’s birthday party soon too!

Mitch: Yeah, I’m also making a special guest appearance at my nephews 2nd birthday, which is probably my biggest set to date so big up Arlo!

Mitch, would you ever do any other genres?

All: No (laughing)

Mitch: Nah. I know what I want to do with my lyricism. I got into this because I love drum and bass music, I’m not interested in making hip-hop or dubstep, or whatever else – it’s not what I do.

Jay: Yeah I agree, I think you’re the Drum & Bass man…

Mitch: (laughing) yeah, thanks. Basically, I want to finish with this; if you want the maximum amount of vibes, don’t overlook the MC. I’m here, I’ve been here, and I’m not going anywhere.

Thanks for taking the time guys, t’was a pleasure. You can check out ‘Bristol Dawn’ and more from the Ill Truth & Bluejay crew here