Ahead of our event at The Antwerp Arms on Thursday 26 July we had a chat with one our performers, Kayes Mensah. Reserve your free ticket on Eventbrite and see an array of musical talent from in and around Tottenham.
When did you first get into music?
Probably in secondary school, maybe around year 7 or 8. A lot of my fellow peers used to have their own one or two lyrics that sort of spoke to each other [when] we were in the playground at school. I was [listening to a lot of] UK music, particularly grime at the time… I thought these were guys that are stars on television that were doing all these videos, there’s all this fancy stuff going on, but when I saw people that I went to school with spraying a few 16 bars it made me feel ‘OK maybe… I’m going to try my hand.’ I wasn’t good for a long time but then I got OK… I started producing, writing and engineering at around age 17.
What’s your relationship to Tottenham?
I’ve lived here my whole life. It’s the only area I’ve ever really known. My family has lived in the area for 26 years now. A lot of my earliest memories are in the area… Even when I went off to uni I always came back here… It feels like I’ve got this very well established connection with the area that probably isn’t going to go anywhere for the rest of my life… I think Tottenham is the one place that I’ll always have time for. When you reached out I thought I’m doing that, I will 100% do that. I have to. This is my town I have to.
What do you most enjoy about making music?
I’ll be honest and say I don’t enjoy the lead up to making music, the process, because sometimes it can be a bit tedious and repetitive ’cause you’re listening over, you’re writing and performing the same thing over and over again so you get it right and sometimes it gets frustrating. In a way, the older I’ve got it’s become more like a chore, but there’s something about the satisfaction of when you’ve completed a song and you listen back and it’s perfect and everything you want it to be. There’s no other feeling like it for me and that’s what keeps me coming back over and over again.
How do you get into the mindset before a gig?
I try to not do anything 24 hours before the performance. I try to keep my mind as clear as possible… I need to do all that I can to keep my nerves calm and keep myself as relaxed as possible… I do all the preparation but the day before the show I wont do anything. I will be like ‘I’ve done all I can. I know my lyrics now.’ When I go on the stage it should all be natural to me.
Can you talk a bit more about your work as a producer?
When I first decided to make my own beat, it wasn’t because I wanted to – it was complete trash – I only did it because I wanted exclusive beats but I couldn’t get any… I’ve always been like that, I don’t really feel the need to get someone’s go ahead. If I feel that I can do something myself I’ll just give it a go… When I was going by Marsta Menzz I only really tried to establish myself as a grime MC but in my spare time I would always practise on FL Studio.
It was only during the later stages of my time as Marsta Menzz when I became more comfortable with what I was making, getting feedback from a few friends, a few people who had been listening to my beats, and said ‘oh, that’s actually a good beat you should do something on that’ so I did. Going into what I’m doing now as Kayes Mensah I’ve decided that I should do a lot of the work myself.
Can you tell us a bit about your last track – Outburst?
Outburst is a remix of a song by Manga from Road Deep, and Louie B. A good friend of mine is a cameraman called SK and he shot the video for the original Outburst with Manga. Manga told him, ‘I’m going to put the instrumental out and maybe you know someone who wants to do their own version.’ SK came to me and was saying ‘Menzz do a version, do a version.’ I was like, ‘I’m not sure I don’t really have anything to talk about’ and he said ‘if you do it I’ll shoot you a video.’
I was writing the lyrics and I thought ‘I don’t really want to just spit on the beat that’s been put out, I want to make it unique.’ That’s when I decided to remix the beat. I re-sampled it, did my own bass and drums and wrote whatever was on my mind.
What’s the new track you’ve got coming out? (DT exclusive)
It’s off my EP, Somewhere Else Entirely, to signify my transition from Marsta Menzz to Kayes Mensah. The track is called Heron Tower. It’s not about the tower itself, at the end of the hook it uses it as a reference. (He raps:) ‘When the clocks ticks and it strikes eleventh hour, you can find me wining dining up in Heron Tower.’ The song is about how I am as a person and me just trying to explain to people why I’m so laid back. Some people say I’m too relaxed when dealing with important issues because I don’t like to get too stressed out.
The song takes a really laid back approach. More than my usual… Referencing things like people think I’m lazy, I’m a laid back individual… As a person when you speak to me I’m very relaxed. Some people think I’m going to fall asleep sometimes, but I’m not. I don’t want people to think that. The hook basically means, eleventh hour, the deadline and we’ve left it to the last minute… even when the work isn’t done you’re going to find me relaxing having a nice little dinner. That’s how I am. That’s the way you think I am anyway.
What are your plans for your career over the next couple of years?
I’m not really looking to shake the world up completely, I’d be happy to have a little cult following that will always support whatever I do… To just make music for the art itself and for the love of it and people be willing to support each time and have something new. It’s not necessarily about having commercial success – if that happens it’s fine but it’s not my aim by any means.
What are you most looking forward to about the DT event?
Do you know what? The locals. I’ve always thought there should be some sort of event that brings out the local talent in Tottenham because I think there is so much in Tottenham not just in music but in different creative disciplines and fields. It would be nice if there was an event to bring everyone together… with a few of the other locals who aren’t necessarily aware of the talent that exists in the area. It’s an opportunity to open everyone’s eyes and most importantly keep the name of Tottenham ringing out.