To continue the theme of NEW!!(!) this new year, I bring you rising musician Mwen Rukandema. Mwen has been a feature on the Leeds music scene, playing drums in several bands and most prominently with drum and bass band Hayashi. She had a great three year run with them, playing at Leeds Festival and supporting Pendulum. After a recent move to London, she has continued to see success, drumming in the band Polaroid 85 as well as producing, writing and singing her own music. Her single, Bones has been getting airplay on BBC Radio and it looks like there’s more success on the London horizon.

The Wonder- yay! this is happening!

Mwen- Indeed it is!

TW- so Mwen, have you always wanted to be a super producer/writer/singer/drummer since you were a little girl?

M- Erm, I suppose in a way I have but never knew it `til I started doing each of those things. I didn’t even know I could sing `til I was about 15 and took singing lesson and my singing teach let me sing loads of jazz stuff

TW- (i’m trying really hard to get ‘all that jazz’ into my next question)

M- Hahaha

TW- here I go…out of all that jazz, who’s lyrics did you enjoy singing the most?

M- That’s difficult one really…cause some of my favourite jazz standards I love cause of the individual artists that I’ve heard sing them. Although amongst my favourite standards are ‘Black Coffee‘ and ‘I loves you porgy’ (which is actually from Porgy and Bess’).

TW- any modern jazz you’re a fan of then?

M- Hmmmm, not really…unless you can count artists like Cinematic Orchestra and Portico Quartet in the category…?

TW- ah, I love Portico Quartet! they played at my uni once but tickets sold out before I could get one!

M- I came across them when they used to do session on this random music channel on sky – think it was called Musflash or something.  Then two minutes later they were massive! Apparently the toured around Europe just doing busking gigs…I thought that was awesome when I heard that.  Not sure if it’s true or not…

TW- yeah, i heard that too, it’s a great story even if it’s not true. so, what’s your writing process, do you listen to your fave songs first to get inspired or is that the worst idea ever?

M- That’s not the worst idea I don’t think – a lot of people write that way.  I do sometimes get inspired when I’m listening to something I think is great.  But generally I just get this feeling like I need to do something creative and since my ‘studio’ is at home I just start writing.  Sometimes I have a riff rolling round in my head – sometimes I play that on our piano, record it on my phone then when I’m next contemplating writing something I start with that.  The part that really gets things going is the beat for though. Not surprising since I’m a drummer.  I generally start jamming out a beat in ableton using my midi controller and once the beat is locked down the whole thing just takes on a life of its own…

TW- I guess that is the great thing about being a producer as well, you don’t have to rely on other people to get started with what you want to do. how was it playing in a band at uni?

M- I played in lots of bands at uni.  Then I joined a live drum & bass band that got kind of serious as 1 of 3 lead singers.  They were/are called Hayashi.  The band did quite well on the Leeds scene (where I went to uni) and  I suppose in a way that band made me take music more seriously.  When I look back at it I was really in Leeds for the music and uni was just this thing I did on the side! Don’t tell my parents that though

TW- haha ok. what did you study at uni?

M- I first did an BA in Philosophy & Sociology then I stayed on and did  Master’s in Advertising and Marketing.

TW- oh wow, clever clogs! does any of that feed into your music?

M- I used to think it didn’t but now I think it really does.  The BA positioned me to think in a certain way about the world which must leak into the way I tell stories with my lyrics and probably helped form my approach to making music.  And the MA helps out with the boring stuff like thinking about what I’m trying to achieve outside of just being creative.  I think a lot of musicians don’t really think about some of the stuff they should do – that stuff that sits outside of writing and performing music – which I can’t really ignore because of that degree

TW- You can pass on that last answer to your parents, those degrees did help!

M- good point

TW- Is there a message or philosophy you try to put across in your music?

M- I’m certainly influenced by a certain kind of philosophy although I hesitate to share it…I suppose in general I hope to make music that prompts people to think about their perceptions of accepted norms. Or maybe just take a moment to think about life beyond the banality of our daily routines.

Sounds a bit grandiose though really! At the end of the day I can only really make music that hints at things – and that’s things as I see them. Besides, people read what they want into music/art anyway. Probably doesn’t help that I’m not really a fan of crudely presenting ideas…

TW- so what’s the lyric you’re most proud of writing?

M- Hmmm, what a question…I’m quite proud of a lot of them! Sounds ridiculous when I say that though.  Been writing vocals for a up and coming producer from up north and I came up with quite a few lyrics I quite liked like: ‘if this is our fairy tale, let’s leave our mark, become the keepers of a new jewel, not just bodies in the dark’.  It’s so easy to resort to cheese when writing songs about love/relationships and I think managed to not fall into that trap so i was quite proud of myself

TW- that’s a really good one. I had a convo with someone about a similar thing. when you’re happy it’s easy to start writing about rainbows and the sun, etc. but pathetic fallacy is not always cool!

M- Yeah, it’s a terrible thing but happiness impinges my ability to write what I think are good songs.  Causes quite a problem in my life!

TW- that’s a complicated one for sure…which do you prefer playing in a band or doing your own solo work?

M- It’s a difficult one that really.  I think I need to do them both to feel fulfilled. I love the freedom of writing all my own solo stuff but when you’re in a band (and if you fit well) I think there’s a kind of magic you generate that you’ll never get from being the sole creator of a track.  In the best bands I’ve been in it’s like your minds meld and you almost telepathically create together. Bands are like being in a relationship – some times familial sometimes otherwise…

TW- when you ‘went solo’ as they say and moved to London, was that in search of fulfilment?

M- Erm, I suppose in a way it was.  I wanted to keep playing with the bands that I was in but I believed if we wanted to progress we needed to get on the London scene.  Events transpired, I moved to London kind of looking for a band but started writing stuff in the meantime than the solo stuff just kind of became more and more central.  When I got support form radio DJs and stuff it spurred me on to carry on and now it looks like I’m going to have to run with it!

TW- congrats on getting radio airplay! Where were you when your song came on?

M- When Mary Anne Hobbs played ‘Bones’ I think I was actually playing a gig at a warehouse party in Leeds.  Probably in the midst of a mountain of technical issues if I remember correctly.  When Rob da Bank played the track I was soundly asleep!

TW- so how did you find out?

M- hhaha.I got a couple of messages from friends actually. If they hadn’t been in the right place at the right time I may never have know! I don’t really listent to the radio often enough.

TW- gosh, they should have an app for this!

M- Good point. I’m on it. #Money making scheme no. 111167

TW- think it’s mine, actually! haha

M- We’ll see about that

TW- alright you can have that one

M- It was a test. and since you’re so charitable you can have it back

TW- hahaa…thanks. As a new artist, what do you think about the music of 2011 being called the ‘new boring’? Is it journalists being ungrateful or has music been unadventurous recently?

M- In my opinion any journalist that can call current music ‘the new boring’ is just listening to the wrong music. Sure there are what I would call ‘boring’ bands/artists out there but at the exact same time there are artists making and releasing music that is absolutely awesome – I hear it everyday.

I find it a bit ridiculous for a journalist to say something like that whilst with the power to shine some light on music that’s not boring in the slightest.

I would argue that that journalist is just a lazy b*stard and he/she should stop allowing themselves to be spoon fed their musical tastes if what they’re getting upsets them so much!

TW- I try with this blog to focus on the good and the exciting that is out there, but there is a reason I haven’t watched music channels in a while. Have you got any plans for the future, or more precisely 2012? The world is going to end this year y’know!

M- yeah, since the world is going to end I guess we better try make this year a good one! My plans? Erm, I guess I better aim for world domination – go big or go home and all that

TW- haha!

M- Really though, I want to get 2 EPs released this year and hopefully a couple of collabs.  Keep playing with the band doing bigger and better things. look out for the first one – my forthcoming EP titled ‘Moves’. The EP from which ‘Bones’ comes from actually.  It’s due to drop soon – probably early spring – it’ll be available for digital download.  Physical releases are soo 1999. Haha.  I’ll be releasing a video for ‘Bones’ too done by a very talented film-maker friend.

Support good music! Here is Mwen’s Facebook page, here’s her on Soundcloud and get yourself an EP on Polaroid 85’s website.

(Thank you Angela for the awesome photo)