INTERVIEW: Ultra Nate ‘Grime, Silk & Thunder’ (2007) – Part 2
RS: On the street singing live, dancing, DJing. How important do you think the Winter Music Conference is for you as an artist?
Ultra Nate: I’ve always thought it was very important. It’s grown experientially over the last few years and there’s so many parties going on that its impossible to do everything you want to do. It’s become very commercialized and there are a lot of people there who are not actually industry people who are all up in the parties and all up in the mix. You can look at all those downsides of it, but I feel it’s always a good thing because a lot of people in the dance music industry come from all over the place and merge on this one little plot of land and just network, get in the mix, be out and about talking to and seeing people. That makes a connection that makes a very big difference down the line with what’s happening with your records. I always believe that out of sight is out of mind and I don’t feel like you have to be up in peoples faces to the point of being sickening but people definitely need to feel your energy and your presence, and I think that makes a really, really, really big difference.
RS: About you DJing, a lot of people don’t realize that you have a whole Sugar Crew in Baltimore. How did you DJ career kick off?
Ultra Nate: Actually, Sugar really kind of launched that whole situation. I had started DJing about six months before I started Sugar and that was really experimental. I had some records and my home girl DJ partner Lisa Moody had some records, and we didn’t feel like going to a club that night so we wanted to hear some music and just kind of chill with some friends. We just called all our friends up, told them to come over to my little sister’s house because she was the only one who had turntables in our crew at that moment, and we brought all our vinyl and we just started. It was an absolute disaster on everybody’s ears that first night, but it was enough to catch the buzz. Then we really got tenacious about it and really got the skill for mixing and it just kind of grew from there. The next thing I did was start the Sugar Party and that gave me the platform to DJ and to really hone my skills and grow much, much quicker than I guess a lot of people thought could happen. That’s mostly because I grew up in the club scene hearing DJs all the time, I knew what feel I want to bring to my set.
RS: Do you think being a DJ affected the music you made for this album?
Ultra Nate: I don’t think so that specifically. It’s really two different disciplines. Although they’re both grounded in the music situation, it’s two very, very different things.
RS: My favorite song on the album is “Slow Grime.” When I heard Grime in the album tile I thought of the whole UK grimy two-step thing and with Slow Grime you totally delivered on that. What was in your head when you were writing and making that track?
Ultra Nate: “Slow Grime” for me was more of a trippy kind of vibe. With the track, I had a little reggae kind of skank thing going on to it and I just wanted to come up with something that was a little ethereal almost moody kind of sexy vibe but still with a bit of edge to it.
I kind of go off into these little tangents sometimes and let whatever’s going to come out come out no matter how crazy it sounds to me. Slow Grime is one of the songs on the album that I was most nervous about whether people would get, because it’s so left of center. It’s not your typical screaming black diva, house-y, churchy, four to floor kind of track. I wondered if people were going to get this and be receptive. I just do what I do and let the chips fall where they may.
RS: Well that’s because you’re not your typical church wailing diva, you’re so much more than that.
Ultra Nate: Thank you.
RS: You also collaborate with other vocalists on this album, Chris Willis and Dajae. How did they get to be part of the team?
Ultra Nate: Chris is managed by my manager Bill Coleman as well. He’s an extremely talented vocalist and has great up there kind of feel to his vocal style and I really wanted that element on the particular song that he’s performing on – he really brought those background parts to life. When I heard the song I was like this song is really going, and Chris brought this really great element to it. The texture of his voice brought this really great soulful and pop kind of tinge that I wanted for those particular songs.
Now Dajae, that’s my home girl and we’ve been home girls forever. I love the resonance and power of her voice. When it came time to start writing for this album, I really wanted to specifically write something for Dajae and I to do together because I always loved and respected her as an artist.
RS: I want to ask you about working with Stonebridge on “Freak On,” that really was for his album and ended up being part of your album too, how did that work out?
Ultra Nate: I’d say it worked out great for both of us because the song gets to see the light of day on both sides of the water, I don’t think it was released by Hed Kandi over here through any US labels, so it gets a chance to get another lifespan over here. That was part of the original deal when he asked me to do the song and I asked if I would be able to use this song for my album as well. Stonebridge is an awesome producer, so I definitely wanted to have something by him on the record. We had worked together previously on a couple of different projects, including a top ten record for Mardi Gras in Australia, so this probably the second or third project that we’ve actually done together.
RS: It says on your album ‘mixed by Stonebridge,’ what exactly did he do on the full album?
Ultra Nate: After each individual producer finishes the production of each song, they have to do a mix down of it which is where you tweak all the elements of the song. I wanted that to be done by one person specifically because there are so many various producers on the record that I wanted there to be some continuity and a common thread in the overall feel or the sonic value of the record. It’s easier if you have one person interpret that for the whole record as opposed to everybody’s different interpretations of it.
RS: A few more things, are you active on MySpace or your website?
Ultra Nate: I am, very much so.
RS: How much response do you get from your fans and how often are you able to write to them, that kind of stuff?
Ultra Nate: I get a lot of eMails from fans and obviously I can’t answer every one back, but I do make a concerted effort to get a few people back here and there. People really appreciate when you reach out and are quite surprised more often than not that you actually answer them. I think it’s an important link to people that are actually feeling your music and that are trying to be one on one with you and what’s going on with your music and things like that, which I think is really important to do.
RS: What would you like to say to all your fans out there?
Ultra Nate: Well, I would definitely like to thank everybody that has been part of Ultra Nate’s experience as an artist. Whether they came in from the beginning during “It’s Over Now” and “Scandal” from or whether they just found out about me in the mid 90s through the success of “Free” and “If You Could Read My Mind,” it’s all wonderful and I hope that they continue to enjoy the music that I put out. They really make my career happen and make it work. When I get to go out and perform live and people are there and they tell me how much they appreciate my music and I see when I’m performing all the energy that’s there – that’s what makes all of the drama behind the scenes worthwhile. I really feel the gratification happen when I create these works, using ideas and elements that come out of my mind and now become physical, tangible pieces of property that people make their own. To me that’s a really precious and awesome gift to have that kind of opportunity to do. A lot of people work their whole life and never get a chance to do anything that they enjoy or that they feel gratified about, I am truly blessed because of all of the wonderful fans.
Interview originally posted – May 21st, 2007