The Mancunion

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Interview: Virus Syndicate

The Mancunian Grime collective talk Dubstep evolution, Industrial influences and an imminent return to the La Hacienda days.

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Virus Syndicate are a Grime collective from Manchester, centered around DJ Mark One and the MCs Goldfinger, JSD and Nika D. Known for their fusion of Dubstep with Grime, I caught up with the Mancunian MC’s to chat about the Industrial evolution, their creative process and how Manchester’s Grime scene has evolved over the years.

A substantial amount of time has passed since the collective’s last full album release, ‘The Work Related Illness’ in 2005 and immediately collective member Nika D. is keen to express how their sound has developed. “I suppose our sound would be described as Electronic Hip-hop as every song is built upon Hip-hop in one form or another.”

However, with so many members of the collective, developing a signature sound can be difficult. “The creative process of our first album was similar to that of our new release ‘The Swarm’. Lots of fats edits came into play in writing our new material as you have to be willing take a lot of different opinions on board. You have to be ahead of the game with what’s relevant sound wise and so on this new album we’ve incorporated Dupstep infused tracks with material that is quite minimal and hard”. New album ‘The Swarm’ also takes on a different guise than that of their previous releases. “This is our third album so we wanted to sum up where we are musically and reflect the life that we’re leading. Lots of tracks are high energy, comical, or highly abrasive and that’s a reflection of the lifestyle we’ve been leading whilst on tour.”

In fact, ‘The Swarm’ revolves around a unique concept of the ‘worker bee’ inspired by Manchester’s industrial past. “As the Virus Syndicate colours are black and yellow, we wanted to create an album that brought back to life Manchester in the industrial era. The Swarm is all about embodying what Manchester is about musically as well as what Virus Syndicate is about as a collective. We wanted to bring about the whole worker bee vibe and create a worker identity throughout the album”.

The idea behind the music video of leading track ‘Sick Wid It’ featuring upcoming vocalist N’Dege reflects this concept. “We tried a load of singers on the chorus but as soon as we gave the track to N’Dege, she smashed it within one hour. In the video for ‘Sick Wid It’ she plays the role of Queen Bee.” Other videos for the album soon to be released are similar in this respect. Nika D. explains “the videos all tie together. When you see the next video from the album, the one shot for ‘Sick Wid It’ will make more sense”.

What was most intriguing however about talking to Virus Syndicate was the way in which they described the evolution of the Grime scene in the North West. “It’s changed massively” they explain. “When we first started making music, what we were doing was seen as a left-field abstract version of Grime as 8 bar Grime was the norm. Then the Dubstep era came in and suddenly our style was accepted.”

In this way, Nika D. assures me that a boom in Mancunian talent is soon to come. “We haven’t had a resurgence of Mancunian artists since the La Hacienda days until now. It’s only recently that a lot of Manchester artists have started doing their own thing and creating an individual sound and style. Through Grime and Dubstep there have been a lot of good producers, but a lot of copycats have also emerged. I think Manchester’s only now back in a position where it can create its own sound again”.

ForVirus Syndicate themselves however, the future looks bright. “We’re touring pretty much all the way until September. During that time we’ll also be recording another EP so look out for collaborations with Dutch Hip-hop group Dope D.O.D and DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill. It’s going to be exciting.”