HE’S one of the nicest men in pop but he is also undoubtedly one of its most unique talents.
Super-producer for the likes of Tinie Tempah and now established solo star in his own right, Labrinth spoke to reporter JAMES BRINDLE ahead of a major UK tour starting this month.
TIM McKenzie, better known as Labrinth, really came to the nation’s attention through his collaborations with Tinie Tempah when the rapper burst on to the scene in 2010.
He produced and co-wrote Tinie’s debut number smash Pass Out and follow-up Frisky, which demonstrated his skills in the studio.
But there was always much more to the 23-year-old Londoner than being a nameless face in a studio and that is what attracted music’s most powerful man.
Simon Cowell signed Labrinth to his Syco label as his first non-talent show signing in six years and his first solo single, Let The Sun Shine, reached number three in the charts in September 2010.
It all went a bit quiet for a while as he worked on his album Electronic Earth, which was released in April, and with a couple of huge singles in Earthquake and Express Yourself it has been a breakthrough year for him.
“It’s been a really amazing year,” he told the Mail. “I just keep working. I’m all selfmade — everything has been created by myself so to see that my music has come from my bedroom to where it is now is great.
“I worked with so many artists and did so many sessions and I learned a lot and after doing that I needed to learn a lot as an artist.
“I did the groundwork to really show people that I could deliver. I remember a fan came up to me the other day and said ‘I saw you as a producer, but not many producers I know go on stage and perform their own music and are able to hold it together, so it was nice that people recognise that.”
People are recognising that perhaps only US producing star Timbaland has successfully made the transition from behind the mixing desk to front of stage with as much aplomb.
The Mail asked Labrinth which of his two musical vocations was the most rewarding.
“I find both rewarding,” he said. “Anything I’m involved in I want to be successful.
“If I work with another artist I want their record to explode so I do the best I can to make it happen.”
Labrinth’s latest single, Treatment, marked quite a departure for the singer, offering his fans a much darker side to his music.
He admitted it had been divisive with some fans, but told the Mail he felt it was important not to be one-dimensional.
He said: “I wanted to do that — it’s like going through a market and one day they are selling lemons and the next day they’re selling you pears, and you’re like ‘what’s going on?’
“I didn’t want to be a one-dimensional artist and I don’t believe in onedimensional music. Every record is different and that is what I love.
“It kind of represents our generation as kids listening to music listen to so many styles — they will listen to Skrillex one minute, then they will listen to Kings Of Leon and then the next minute Adele.
“They are very different types of music and that is what music is about for me personally, and with this record I thought ‘let’s show another side of me’.
“It has surprised some of the fans and some get upset and say ‘make another Earthquake’, but I don’t think they’re my real fans.
“If they just want Earthquake that’s not what I’m really in to.”
This year has also seen Labrinth make his first real foray in to live performing on the back of his debut album.
Over the festival season he emerged as a real live favourite said he had really begun to get into the swing of performing to big crowds.
He said: “When I started I was really scared and almost sorry for being on stage, but now I just lap it up and get right in there.
“When we did V Festival the crowds were mad. I’ve been working on the music for so long so to release the album and see people singing the words and mad cheering is amazing.
“Some of the tracks that are not really known surprise me in terms of crowd reaction.
“There was a song on my first record, Climb On Board, and TLP is another record that really gets them going alongside the ones that are known like Express Yourself, Last Time and Earthquake, which totally goes off.”
Labrinth heads out on a 10-date UK tour this month, including a performance in Birmingham.
He said he was looking forward to getting back on the road, even though the lifestyle has not always been for him.
“The tour is going to be fun,” he said.
“The set as we’ve gone along has grown so much and there are so many tricks and little things that we’ve been building up over the years to make the performance even more amazing. I can’t wait.
“I’m a hermit usually — I like staying inside the studio, but you’ve got to get out there and do your thing.
“I’ve learned to love it more than I did when I first started as I was like ‘please someone get me home, I want to sleep on a comfy bed!’ “The good thing, though, is that you do make new friends and meet new people.”
Labrinth performs at the Birmingham O2 Academy on Monday, October 22, and more details and tickets are available at www.o2academybirmingham.co.uk