N’FA JONES INTERVIEW

London-born but brought up in suburban Western Australia, N’fa Jones was first known to Australia as a nationally-ranked champion hurdler. However, music has always been on his mind. So from the year 2000 to 2006, N’fa spent most of his time selling albums, writing, recording, and touring all major Australian/NZ festivals with his ground breaking outfit, 1200 Techniques.

After dropping his critically acclaimed solo album ‘Cause An Effect’ – which featured the Black Eyed Peas, DBridge, Roots Manuva and Dobie – N’fa left this sunny island called Oz to tour the world. Travelling and writing across the US, UK, & Scandinavia, Canada, Korea he created a huge backlog of material and formed his idea for No Fixed Abode – a new musical movement with a range of sounds, melodies, heavy bass-lines and a UK based outfit.

Now he’s back and he brought us a gift from abroad. Signed to Draphts’ new label, The Ayems, he’s turning his backlog material into something tangible for the public to hear. Currently working on an untitled album soon to be released, N’fa is jumping back into the music scene. Not missing a beat, he’s touring across the country to give us taste of what soon is to come.

I like your name, does it mean anything?
N’fa is my born name.. It means “My Father”.. My father named me this because when he first saw me, he says he saw his fathers spirit in my eyes. I never met my Grandpa as he passed away a little while before I was born.

You were a nationally ranked Australian 110m hurdler. Now you’re a world known and respected MC/singer/songwriter/producer; was it a gradual transition from one to the other?
Nah.. Music and Sports had always worked hand in hand.. The two kept my busy as a kid, and out of trouble. I stopped running due to a pretty big ankle injury in a game of pick up ball on the council flats in Fitzroy.. So, I missed the whole season, and spent the whole time touring and pushing the first 1200 Techniques album, with my foot in a cast. We won the first ARIA by an Oz Hip Hop group in Australia that year.. I guess things went as they needed to.

Do you still run hurdles now?
Haha, Nooooooo! Tho, I do miss it at times.

Among other things, you’ve toured the hell out of this world; US, Canada, Scandinavia, Korea, is there any place, creatively (or pleasurably) that stood out?
Every place was amazing because I never could have hoped for such amazing outcomes from my travels.. Its amazing the people you meet through writing music.. I’ve seen some incredible studios (professional and make-shift), had incredible times and got to connect with cities on a far deeper level than just travelling though.. I think my Scandinavian trips might stand out the most tho.. My times in Stockholm and Copenhagen creatively, personally, and spiritually, were all kinds of awesome.

With those travels you wrote a massive backlog of music, did you find that certain places changed the tone of your music?
Definitely. Every place changed the tone of the music. Its kind of inevitable.

Where? And how?
I’d be writing with different beat makers/producers.. I’d be feeling their vibe, the vibe of the city.. I would always remain me, but another part of me I hadn’t really met yet, might become more prominent depending on the city and the music we were writing.. Plus I was on a personal journey trying to get to where I am now.

You were gone for a hot minute and in a time of homesickness you wrote London Still (written with Smiddy & The Dutch; Prod RUNFORYOURLIFE). Was it something specific that brought it on?
Well, I heard London Still by The Waifs in a cafe in London.. That song had never really connected with me that much, not until I heard it in London and realised the feeling so much.. Smiddy (Sensible J Smith) & Dutch had just sent the beat over from Oz, and it all just came together really quickly and naturally.. Its a definite fav.

You’re part of MC/DJ collective called AOS Collective based in Singapore. How would you describe the AOS Collective?
AOS is a fun crew of party rocking DJ’s from Singapore, LA, Taiwan, a bad ass beatboxer, and me on the mic.. We mostly gig through Singapore and parts of Asia. The scene & culture there is very different. Its really about bringing a party and touring people out in the best way.. The AOS crew are really good peeps and I really enjoy my time with them.

How did you get involved with something like that?
Well.. I had a mate named Drem who DJ’s In Singapore.. When I would fly though to London, I’d often pass through Singapore.. He suggested I stop off on the way and MC, so we did that a few times and built a rapport with the peeps there. Over time it grew into AOS and is still going strong.

How does it if at all working with MCs from around the world and different backgrounds influence the way you write music?
Its more seeing the way they flex and carry themselves when writing, recording, or live, and figuring out how they might see me. When you can see yourself from the outside, and allow yourself to be you, you grow quickly.

You’re also part of an Australian collective. Tell us about RUNFORYOURLIFE.
RUNFORYOURLIFE. Is a Melbourne based collective of DJ’s, MC’s, Producers,Musicians, Singers, Photographers, Artists really. We all just hang, get along, help each other creatively when need be. The RUNFORYOURLIFE VOL 1 LP has so many vocalists and varying sounds on it.. I feel Its pretty unique for Australia. Good kids!

I find that a fair bit of early musical influences are from your environment and the stuff that often parents and other family members are listening to. What kind of musical influences did you have?
I had whatever my mother had from out record collection in London, and whatever my older brother had. There was stuff like Quincy Jones, Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Count Basie, Billy Holiday, Grover Washington Jnr, Michael Jackson. Then my brother was into Musical Youth, Jimmy Hendrix, Public Enemy, KRS 1… yeah I guess it was mostly soul, roots reggae, hip hop.. Pretty much what I make now.

You have a young family now; do you find yourself influencing your child with certain types of music?
Nah, but my boy’s not even 2 years old, but he does love a fat beat.. He started dancing to the rhythm of a reversing truck’s safety beep the other day!

My first tape was Naughty by Nature which I got to listen to once because after my mom heard it, it was O.P.P. G.O.N.E. Do you remember your first hip hop tape/record/CD?
As a kid, the one tape remember really having a massive life changing impression on me was the Leaders Of The New School (L.O.N.S.) second album “T.I.M.E. (The Inner Minds Eye)”.. WOW!

Your ‘March On’ video is D-O-P-E. I’ve watched the behind the scenes and, wow, such dedicated and talented crew! Kudos to the team you worked with because they did an amazing job.
Cheers

How long did it take you to film the video?
The preparation and editing/grading took weeks in itself.. The actual filming that I was there for (I didn’t need to be there for the chalk board animation in verse 2) took about 10 days, 10 hours a day frame by frame, moving an inch at a time, getting in and out of shot so we could paint the characters behind me, or move post-it-notes or whatever.. Yeah it was full on.

Seeing the end result would you or could you ever do something like that again?
I don’t think so.. Not saying I wouldn’t, but it would have to be new ideas rather than repeating ones, If something came up that would really suit stop motion photography in it again, or tedious hours of filming, I would consider it if I felt it worth the effort.

You were good friends and grew up with Heath Ledger and he directed some of your first videos. How did he come to directing those videos?
Heath was always supportive of my music.. He would often come to the 1200’s shows and came to my gigs in London.. Heath particularly loved the “Cause An Effect” album and wanted to help in any way. He called me with the video ideas and said “Let’s shoot”.. So we did.. The ‘Cause an Effect’ video was both eerily terrifying and brilliant.

Is there anything creatively that Heath inspired you with that you find yourself taking on board today?
Yeah.. It took a while to take on what he saw.. I was in a pretty messy state of mind for years, but finally got it together.. Heath’s thing was, believing whole heartedly, and working whole heartedly.

You’ve worked with and collaborated with Black Eyed Peas, DBridge, Roots Manuva, Dobie, 360, Drapht, M-Phazes, Nick Thayer among others is there anyone else you’re keen to work with?
Not really.. I mean Jack White, or something really left field would be cool.. But I’m very happy working with Sensible J Smith, Dutch, Billy Hoyle, Ta-ku, M-Phazes, and crew to name a few.. My local peeps really.. There is so much good music and production coming up in Oz right now. I’m more interested in building a sound in Oz that might one day get received abroad.

“Live On” is a teaser track for your upcoming album you’ve described the track as “A reflective self realisation piece which resulted as a sensitive and true song” What else can we expect from your new album?
I’m not sure how to talk about the album (still yet to be titled) with out sounding too self involved. It is pretty varied though, with a broad spectrum of sounds, heavy swung beats, and topics.

I’ve just pressed shuffle on your iPod, what are the next 5 songs I hear?
Probably just some Sensible J Smith beats in the works, or my boy Billy Hoyles Mind “Travelling’ Instrumental LP.. Its dope, my son loves it.

What’s your definition of Grindin?
Everyday GRINDIN to do something you believe in. Working against the norm to find/carve your on path and flow with it.

Interview by Janine Cushnie

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