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The Soundtrack To A Life: Kwabs On The Widescreen Songs Of 'Love + War'

Thursday, 03 December 2015 Written by Milly McMahon

Creating a soulful atmosphere, deeply charged with emotional energy, Kwabs’ music tells of hard earned life lessons and epiphanies. Weaving together memories of loves lost and new passions, Kwabena Sarkodee Adjepong creates multi-dimensional audiovisual art.

His poetic songs have been accompanied by cinematic shorts before and after the release of his debut, ‘Love + War’, and Kwabs invites carefully selected photographers, artists and directors to collaborate and reimagine his honest lyrical verses with impressive flair.

Polished in style and instinctive with a melody, he came to reconcile a sense of self and happiness in his own skin through the creation of his wonderfully revealing lyrics. Describing the process of creating that first complete body of work as one of his life-affirming moments, what is apparent from talking with him is the security his journey through music has afforded him.

Kwabs’ heart flows from speaker to ear, with the capacity to leave the listener awestruck. Just Google Don’t Leave at Radio 1’s Live Lounge for proof. He describes songwriting as his priority, with the rest of the composition then coming into focus as the track establishes itself lyrically.

This is a project driven by the desire to be true to one’s self and honest to one’s feelings. He’s a strong and aspirational man. And a talent.

Who worked on the artwork for your tour?

The original image was taken by a photographer I know and the idea of turning that image of myself into a silhouette came from my manager. The artwork was then adapted to a black on yellow image. With the creative side of the music’s visual representation I work with the label to work out what treatments and ideas are going to be the best. What I don’t know is who to turn to to direct the best video or artwork, but what I do know is what I like and I trust my team to find the best people to bring the best ideas to the table and then we discuss between us what feels the best. That's when the relationship between me and them feels the best, when we are working together to make something that is better than what each of us could have done on our own.

That must be rewarding. Seeing your own sound interpreted into their own visual language and a concept. The final scene in the video for Perfect Ruin is such a nice shot.

That's the whole point. The music is there to inspire you, if it ultimately inspires people and they get it that right it is so rewarding. As time goes on I know more and more about what I want out of a treatment. That provides me with ideas for initial concepts. The better you can design a concept for your own art the better ideas that everyone else around you can understand to make something work.

Since creating the videos, has the conception of the music changed as you visualise how it can then be interpreted on a different level?

I think it all requires the same amount of focus. Art is art is art really. Before you know it your headspace is extending into other aspects. When you write songs you have images in your head. Music already conjures that up for me. That could be a location or a sense of barrenness or broadness. Some songs that feel like that exist in a tight space while others feel like they are part of a greater expansive psychological space. I feel like it comes around to thinking about a video, those things that you didn’t realise were meant to be relevant at the beginning become very relevant. They are not so much passing thoughts as important parts of the process.

Cheating On Me is a powerful track. How did you and Jimmy Napes collaborate to create such a shared and in depth track?

We wrote that one together. There are two ballad tracks on the album, one of which is Perfect Ruin, which I wrote on my own. The other one is Cheating on Me, which I collaborated fully with Jimmy. Both of those tracks are so personal, but when you are working with someone else on something like that the sentiment can be enhanced and a new meaning can emerge. That can be such a fruitful thing to do. I feel like the concept arrived part way through the process pretty early on, but we didn’t spend a huge amount of time talking about the past and I tend not to. I just spill through the process of writing and that’s how people learn about me.

There is a cinematic drama to the music and the sound. Have you any plans to work on any film soundtracks in the future? Have they influenced your sound in the past?

Perfect Ruin was supposed to be a widescreen song, it was supposed to have a large scale sound and the video fits that same feeling. I think that’s always been in the back of my head when I was writing the album, to have a sense of expansiveness and breadth and a feeling that promoted a world we could dive into. That’s what cinematic means: to have a sound that you can dive into. You are the only person to ever ask me that and I have never really thought about it, but you’re right. I haven’t watched a whole lot of films in my life, but I think that movie soundtracks are so special because clearly someone has gone to such great efforts to make a certain film feel a certain way.

I feel very strongly that that’s an important aspect. Ultimately you are creating a soundtrack to someone’s life. You want someone to hear the song and remember that they had a particular association with something in their life. When we were working on the production for Perfect Ruin we listened a lot to American Beauty, so if that goes anywhere near explaining my headspace that’s a good example.

Walk was used in FIFA 15. The gaming industry’s effect on music is now significant. Do you think the success of the track was linked to its affiliation with the game?

I don’t know, some songs have a snowball effect. Things just picked up quickly. FIFA was great because it exposed the song to a demographic that it had previously not reached. The impact of the video with the song at that moment made it blow up, people were clearly ready for it. It was funny. It was so unexpected. It is weird and overwhelming. To think loads of people who I don’t know, know me on some level. I feel like they almost give me too much credit! I could be awful, I don’t think I am awful but it’s a weird concept. I think it’s about timing and sentiment. Walk was something people got so instantly. One thing I do think about all the songs I pour out is that they will last one way or another.

What happened in your first meeting with Fetty Wap for the Walk collaboration?

I've not met him. Isn’t that funny? The way that track came out is that my people played his people my music and he liked it. That was a while ago. Basically, when it came to putting energy back into the Walk thing, which had gone so well, it was about laying around with the idea of Fetty doing something with it. He sent me the verse on a Word document and I said: ‘Cool, sounds good to me.’ I look forward to meeting him. It’s amazing he could create something like that without the two of us even being in a room together.





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