Dance music trio Black Saint sat down with TheBerlinClub. to discuss what it takes to get noticed & be successful in the music scene. Through patience & dedication, the producers have set themselves up for a big future.
6 minute read
Interview: Sam & Ellie // Words: Ollie
“Sincerity never goes out of fashion”
A recording studio in London’s west end is the venue for an interview with the up & coming dance music trio Black Saint. It only took Justin, Jermaine & DJ a couple of singles to hit an impressive 15 million streams on Spotify & the producers were clear that being genuine with their message has been the secret behind their achievements thus far.
“If you’re not giving anything of yourself & being true, you are not going to create a lasting connection no matter what your story is” continues Justin.
Starting in Music. //
The producers’ different music backgrounds have helped facilitate the transition in to their current sound. House, Garage, RnB, Hip-Hop & Dancehall all find their way in to Black Saint’s melting pot of soulful beats.
“I kind of fell in to music in a sense….my sister was the one who used to get up at Christmas & sing. I never really thought about it as a career” says Justin. Standing in for someone at a charity concert in Glasgow singing Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’, the 14-year-old was signed up straight after the show & immersed in the “behind the scenes” world of production.
“I got much more interested in the logic behind music, production, that side of things. I bought some equipment, stuck at it, moved to London, got involved in the garage scene & that was that!”
Jermaine recalls meeting Justin; “At the time I was working in Whitechapel. The group I was in had fallen apart but a friend of ours had a studio with an agency upstairs. As I just wanted to know how the industry worked I used to hang about working there for free trying to understand what was going on. One time, my friend who I used to be in the group with was with me & he heard some music being played outside. It turned out to be Justin, we got him in & we just vibed, ended up playing music downstairs in the studio…and we never left, from that day we have been together!”
Jermaine’s love for music was born out of listening to tapes stolen from his father. “I was listening to Public Enemy & NWA on the way to school, stuff I shouldn’t have been listening to at that age!” he says jokingly.
The third member of the group DJ was introduced to the pairing initially as the son of a good friend. He recollects on his introduction to music; “My father had decks, so I was always around music. I listened to thousands of records with all different kinds of sounds, from Queen to Hip Hop. Having an appreciation for such variety allowed me to be part of this project”.
Timing & Getting Noticed. //
Black Saint have been gathering momentum since their 2016 debut release “Could You Love Me?” but after a decade of individually & collectively being in & out of the music scene, inevitably there have been difficulties along the way.
Jermaine explains, “The biggest struggle was having music, but not knowing how to get it out”.
Justin expands, “It was quite disheartening because we knew we had good tracks, but we just couldn’t get the airtime. It felt like people weren’t quite ready for what we were trying to do. It was frustrating when we were seeing similar things coming out from more established artists – at that time you needed a big music label to get you out there so music was very much dictated by what the corporations thought would sell”.
Not having major backing in a time where music streaming sites were only just starting up was a major challenge & resulted in intermittent attempts at getting heard.
“A few times music took a back seat because you’ve got bills to pay…but you always come back to it because you have that passion – if you’re not making it, you’re listening to it” Jermaine reflects.
With platforms like Soundcloud & YouTube now being utilised to display talent, it is still not all plain sailing for emerging artists. Justin describes a time when a well-known rapper & record producer used an instrumental of his without consent: “We’ve been ripped off before. Other artists have taken our beats & we have never seen a penny from it”. Despite setbacks such as this, Justin is pragmatic in his outlook: “Even if someone rips you off, it might be annoying but they’re not taking the source”.
DJ adds buoyantly, “You can even see it as encouragement & maybe even a compliment, it makes you want to create something even better!”
Patience & Success. //
Having patience may have been one of the key challenges but it has also undoubtedly been one of the key components of Black Saint’s success.
Justin explains one of his savoured moments is the, sometimes prolonged, process of creating new music: “I graft away until I get that moment where I am like this is it, my steps are up on my Fitbit because I am up off my seat dancing! That is the moment you live for, the moment where you get butterflies in your stomach, where you go oh this is a banger”.
However, creating tunes is just one of Black Saint’s pillars of success. Justin, Jermaine & DJ are very aware of the role music plays in shaping listeners’ perspectives on the world around them.
“Music is such a powerful medium, I can’t tell you what colour music is, how much it weighs but it exists & it moves people. When you have that gift, you must channel it responsibly because you can affect someone both ways. Your integrity is based on where you move people. We’re blessed to be able to use music for good”.
Jermaine articulates, “We want to make people think, that’s what great artists like Marvin Gaye, 2Pac & John Lennon did. By doing that we’re changing people’s lives. The great thing is we’re so varied in our style that everyone can enjoy our sets”.
“There are always different messages depending on the topic of the track. It’s never just one message but whatever it is, we want it to be sincere” adds DJ.
“There is a deep satisfaction that a song, an idea you had in your head, people know & sing back during live performances. It’s really magical & is the true power of music, but all success starts with having a very good product. You have something that stands out & is good quality. Everything else follows on from that. Our focus is making good quality music. If it’s good, it will grow and if it’s not it won’t. It’s really that simple” says Justin.
The Future. //
Integrity appears crucial in whatever the future holds for the group. Making music for music’s sake does not appear on the radar with an eye on the long-term sustainability of their project. “If you’re trying to catch a wave, chances are you are already behind. We could just use our craft & go that’s working right now, let’s just write about that but we want to be true & authentic to who we are and that might mean it takes longer to get to where we’re going, but those people who buy in will be more invested because they truly connect with that vision” says Justin.
“Whatever we do, we don’t want to be put in a box based on the first song someone hears. We’re not going to be told to stay in our lane. We will continue to do what we feel is right because if we feel it is right, we are probably not alone” adds Jermaine.
Justin is also resolute & reflective of the groups future direction: “Whatever we vibe to is what our music is going to be. It’s a good time for music right now, it has never been easier to cross genres – it’s not what we’re trying to do, it’s just naturally what we are. With the playlist culture where people add something from everything, now is the time for a group like us”.
However, Black Saint are a collective very aware of the role hard work & pragmatism will play in their future triumphs.
Justin states, “As much as we all like music…it’s the music business. You have got to have a bit of talent for both. It can’t be all music or business, it’s a constant balance”.
“At the end of the day, success is determined 90% by drive & 10% by talent. It’s those who have belief & push it who make it. There are plenty of others who have talent but no drive, won’t hand a track out or ask for help. You have got to have both” says Jermaine.
Justin concludes with advice to the new generation of creatives: “Don’t let fear cripple you. Missed opportunities are mostly rooted in fear. It’s easier said than done but in whatever you are doing, you have got to take that leap of faith. In the past, we did things by committee & sometimes nothing got done. I would say having courage in your convictions and not second guessing yourself is the key to success”.
We finish the interview with Justin revealing his chance meeting in LA with one of his idols, Timbaland, after the renowned producer heard one of his tracks through a mutual contact. Jetlagged & trembling, Justin describes the tale of his once in a lifetime performance in front of the icon.
Perhaps this was a fitting analogy. Black Saint are musicians no longer afraid of grasping opportunities wherever they are presented & their drive to seize upon them is trumped only by their humbleness & sincerity when doing so.
Black Saint’s new EP 'Everybody Wants You' is out now.
Follow Black Saint at instagram.com/weareblacksaint