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[Music/Sustainability] An interview with: LOUIS VI

Introducing London based musician & climate activist: Louis VI.

Follow him on Instagram to keep up to date with his work at: @itslouisvi

Kentish Town (London) hiphop duo OthaSoul (Louis VI and Dozer Carter) continued to mark their return with the tripped out audio-visual project ‘Unwind’, the second single taken from their highly anticipated Return of the Soul EP which was released 21st August 2020.

A nod to the healing power of magic mushrooms, this captivating cartoon video for ‘Unwind’ traverses nature, space, and personal growth; the work of London illustrator and animator Olly Frostie, who's animated videos for Bishop Nehru & MF Doom and Tut, as well as being part of the creative outfit Kota Dosa and featuring on tracks with Octavian among his accolades, he captures the third eye vision of OthaSoul in this new trippy tale from the London rappers.

Check out OthaSoul's new music video for 'Unwind' below ~

Blending soulful, electronic-infused hip-hop and raw candid storytelling with finesse, ‘Unwind’ is a reflection on society’s disdain for the world, exploring the healing power of nature and self-care through the kaleidoscopic lens of psychedelics. Where lo-fi beats meet poignant lyrics:

“feel most alive when we’re in the sunshine, no coincidence nature is medication to our situation as city dwellers”, This latest offering is all about taking a step back and realising what matters, tapping into a collective consciousness and regaining love for ourselves and the planet.

Speaking on ‘Unwind’, OthaSoul say:

"Right now, it feels like the world is telling us to Unwind. During these tough times everyone has had to slow down just enough to see what’s really important in life. It’s not the stresses of your job, or chasing money, or consuming & buying stuff. What’s important is your health, your friends & family and being in nature. Just being outside might have been the single most tangible thing about this. When nothing else was left that’s what people turned to for happiness, being in nature, going for a walk in the park, hearing birds singing again in the morning, clear skies & air without traffic and planes, that’s what made people feel better. The video animated by Olly Frostie brought to life the spiritualism behind it all and helped take us on a psychedelic trip to a mentally healthier dimension. Our planet has sent us a lesson, a message. We’ve been winding ourselves up so much with things that, turns out, ain’t that important. So much so that we humans are destroying ourselves & the planet for these pointless things. Nature, meditation, social life, mental health, these are new currencies. We’ve begun to realise how twisted up and confused we really are. We need to unwind.”

Following their critically acclaimed 2015 debut The Remedy (that featured the likes of Tom Misch, Poppy Ajudha, Jelani Blackman) and a four year hiatus, Return of the Soul is a bold and defiant return for the duo. Spanning 8-tracks and traversing a range of current world topics with raw and candid storytelling through their Kentish Town-tinted lenses of London, the EP speaks volumes on talent and progression as a duo.

Born on the same day, Louis VI and Dozer Carter were both raised in Kentish Town but never crossed paths despite living within half a mile of each other. Forming OthaSoul in 2013, they found their sonic home in London’s hiphop community and quickly released their debut EP Real Talks.

Shortly following, the duo’s debut album The Remedy which was championed by the likes of The Line of Best Fit, Clash, BBC Radio and 1Xtra, BBC Radio 6 and more propelled them into the limelight and led to an impressive touring schedule supporting some the UK and USA’s most prominent hip-hop acts including Loyle Carner, Talib Kweli and Slum Village.

Blending socially conscious lyrics with incredibly soulful productions, OthaSoul effortlessly epitomises London’s diverse music scene. Following time focusing on solo projects since 2016, 2020 marks the beginning of a whole new chapter for the duo so stay tuned for more music and news soon.

We go deep with LOUIS VI in the interview below ~

How do you see music intersecting with your activism work? 

It's funny because I don't think I'd ever describe myself as an activist, but I see real music or real art for that matter being a reflection or narrative of the times. Right now Climate Change is the biggest threat we're facing & is the biggest threat we as a global species has ever faced. Everything comes into it, social inequality, colonialism, racism, gender inequality, male violence, politics you name it, it is either a massive contributor to or a direct symptom of the way we are treating the planet. I've always been obsessed with science and how things work, particularly things that are alive, aka nature and how incredibly complex the organism are on this planet; however I never felt like I could express that side of me properly in my music until very recently. I think now it's taken me all these years to realise you've got to be your authentic self in whatever you do. For me if that means also doing wildlife or climate change documentaries & getting young POC of colour like me, (particularly those that have grown up away from nature in deep urban metropolises, that could be forgiven for not thinking Climate Change is a a conversation that we as POC need to be not just part of but leading), to care about what we're doing to the planet, and combining my skills as a musician with that, then that's what I'm meant to do. 

Nature was made in response to how 'The island of Dominica was hit by a massive hurricane a few years back, the largest it had ever seen & it was due to climate change…' Do you have any further thoughts about climate change since you've made this song?

So since making that song I wrote & presented a short documentary aimed at getting young POC in the UK to understand where we live is negatively affecting where we're from. Our voices as the diaspora in the Western world are hugely important to protecting these places. I used this song as the music for the documentary and it worked perfectly. It's about getting people to wake up, so the song really was just the beginning of the change in me about making this music more than just music but something that can directly cause a change, or so I hope haha. You see every year we proudly rep our flags at Carnival in a big way, but we also gotta be the one's leading the change in protecting them from places like the UK, US & China who historically have allowed companies & themselves to destroy the natural resources of our countries. I've been thinking so much about climate change, recently it's become a lot more philosophical, especially after coronavirus. More and more I feel we need a conscious evolution on this planet to have some real change happen. Like take a tree, an infinitely complex organism that provides food, shelter, a habitat, shade, converts light in to energy and spews out oxygen for us to breathe, stabilises soil so that nearby streams don't have run off so there's more aquatic life. It's part of a bigger organism we call a forest and if it's cut or burnt a bit, it will self heal. However we humans come along and try to apply this tree into our model off capitalism and profit. This tree's value isn't those things I just described, but it's value is as wood as material, to build or make paper. So we cut it down, and make something that was self-healing and complex, simple and fragile. Yes we could build a really complex house out of the wood, but if you chop at that house, it won't self heal. It only serves a few basic functions, as a home for humans rather than many organisms (don't worry I ain't forgetting mice, cockroaches etc). Even more so these days we turn that wood into something if simpler and more fragile, money. And even more so into bits on a computer rather than money that can be stored in a virtual bank. This is the problem, incentivising the destruction of the natural world. We need to incentivise humans, while we're still in this capitalist structure, to do things that protect the planet, not break it down. Evolution is a movement towards complexity, we're breaking the planet down into simpler and simpler more fragile pieces. It's got to stop before we're ejected.

How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music? Tell us about Misfit Mafia ?

Haha damn bruv, that's a hard question. The truth is, when people really listen to my music, they hear shit that I myself never even knew was there. That's the beauty in it. One of my favourite things is when a fan comes up to me or sends me a dm and tells me what a song made them feel, and it will be totally different or even deeper to what I meant. Music is special like that, it's a magnifying glass to emotions in yourself sometimes. I think above all I want people to feel not alone, like they're the only ones that have gone through stuff. I've gone through so many terrible points in my life, and the first thing you always think is why me, and how am I gonna get through this? But the fact of life is shit does happen. It's life, fairness doesn't exist in nature. It's not a concept that lives outside human brains. I want to provide people with some of the tools that maybe helped me, and allow themselves to heal.

SUGAR LIKE SALT my last album was all about that, there's sweet moments and salty moments in life, just like sugar and salt it's hard to tell which is which till they suddenly happen e.g. right on your tongue. BUT that super painful salty moment that happens actually in the long term, might get you to change your life for the better, it might be the wake up call you needed to reassess some shit. Ask anyone that's lived a little and they'll tell you, some of the best things that happen to them were the worst. So zoom back out, and you were right all along, sugar is like salt. There's no such thing as sweet and salty moments in the long run, they are just experiences for you to learn from. I wanna give people some comfort from that pain, I've been depressed, I've been broke, I've been high and I've been low af so you're not alone, ultimately people forget lyrics and the name of the song, or the melody, but what I want people to do is simply feel. Misfit Mafia is born of that, we're all misfits in that we're all unique, let's celebrate we have that in common. We are a Misfit Mafia, because when you start being your authentic self you're like no one else, this is a tribe, a space for people to be their fullest selves. Misfit Mafia is the movement for that.

Does producing your own music enrich the experience for you? What is your process? e.g Light an incense, meditate? Any advice for musicians out there?

Definitely. It definitely makes it long sometimes and can get majorly frustrated, trust me. But I love it because I feel like I can get the fullest expression of myself sometimes by doing it all. However recently I've fallen back in love with collaborating, so this next project that's coming is a lot more collaborative even if I did produce the skeleton of the track, I want others to come in a be the matter. My process changes a lot tbh, it depends what I'm doing. I'll usually have a strong coffee, I always write better if I've meditated and exercised in the morning. My mind is more focused. Then I head to the studio in Tottenham and get the lighting right, the light is everything. Or if I'm just writing I'll go anywhere, go for a drive and play the music is my favourite personally or go for a walk with the track in my ears, even on my bike, I just have to keep stopping to write. I need lots of natural light, no incense sometimes a likkle rum sometimes a likkle hash. But the best moments have really been from a simple fact of me moving somewhere. Something about moving gets me writing.

Tell us about your life growing up? What has led you to this path?

I grew up in a rough area in North West London, Queens Crescent if you know it? Famous for Blue Sea fish and chips and one of the oldest markets in London, like proper rough around the edges. The sort of place where they still sell weird plastic whistles you fill with water next to saucepans probably stolen of the back of a truck, next to some of the best caribbean food you'll get in London. Shouts to Mama Jerk! For all the bad things it brought from growing up in the 'hood', it had a 1000 good too. So much culture, music blaring on the street from the council estate opposite. Huge house parties, everyone went to school together at some point. It was alive. That massively influenced my music nearly as much as my Mum, who raised me pretty much alone when her and my Dad who's French & Dominican (from Dominica) split up when I was a toddler. My mum would play hip hop, funk, reggae, blues, Jazz everything, she's got a ridiculously good taste in music so she taught my ear. But at the same time I was obsessed with nature & science, this started with David Attenborough Documentaries and went on with my step dad taking me camping for the first time and showing me nature in the UK. Then the craziness of science hit me hard, I loved chemistry and got obsessed with space and quantum physics and life on other planets etc. All really cool shit if you think about it, and that was partly thanks to my Grandpa Claudio who was a geologist & astronomer so would show us how the planets worked when we were all little. My Mum was also a Journalist and was so amazing in understanding how important it was to our mentality to show me and my sister the world, even if we had very little money. She managed to get us to places we could've never afforded to go, like visiting Dominica for the first time, by writing up travel reviews on hotels or for travel companies. It was genius and way before these instagram travellers now. Through that I was lucky enough to get that big dose of perspective on you only get from stepping outside the world you exist in. You know, like I thought my area was poor, but then I saw real poverty in Sri Lanka or Dominica. The maddest one she did which still is maybe the highlight of my life was getting to see the birthplace of the theory of evolution, the Galapagos. Usually you need to be loaded to get there but she did her thing and got us on a little boat. It changed my life, a place in the world where humans have basically never been so animals have no fear of humans, there were seals, next to penguins, next to turtles, next to sharks, next to marine Iguana's and giant tortoises, and none of them ran away, in fact you just had to stand there or be in the water and they were swim up to you. It was like crack for an inner city kid that was in love with nature!  Since then it's always been a battle between science & nature vs. music for my attention. But I feel like I'm finally bringing the two together, I feel like I'm someone that traversed both worlds, as a young mixed race boy growing up in ends in London but also a human that loves the natural world and wants to protect planet that we live on. It's time I think that we all bring that into ourselves. Especially people of colour, we're people of nature and that was torn away from us, we need to take that back.

Check out his wavey recent lockdown Boiler Room live stream set below:

Unwind - Directed & Animated by Olly Frostie



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