OFF THE RECORD – Interview with Tinchy Stryder

Nakedness, “nads” and a bad case of the sniffles – our Editor hangs out with Tinchy Stryder after his set at Freshers’ Week
By Annie Parker 

I’VE NEVER BEEN that sure of Tinchy Stryder. I’m not a fan of songs that have extremely repetitive lyrics, or videos where women are nothing more than boobs and bum . Before Freshers’ Week, those two things pretty much summed him up for me. Still, I was prepared to change my mind.

When I walked into Vertigo (Level 8 of The Union) around half an hour before Tinchy was due to come on stage it was already packed. The support act, That Drummer That DJ, was doing a good job of megamixing everything fast from the Top 40 with some classics. Artists like Katie B and Emeli Sandé were being played through speakers with a bass ‘oomph’ so powerful I could feel the make-up sliding off my face. The room smelled like cider and sweat.

I stood at the front, against the massive sound system, waiting to be impressed. The boy (man? What’s the appropriate term for Freshers’?) next to me was already flailing his arms wildly – I was preparing myself for a black eye when Tinchy came on.

When he finally appeared, the crowd descended into a frenzy. Girls were screaming, boys were screaming, everyone was dancing. He played ‘Take Me Back’, ‘Never Leave You’ and ‘Not Alone’ straight away, a brave choice to play your ‘crowd pleasers’ first (a la Beyoncé at Glasto) – however he managed to keep the momentum going. After a few songs he took a break from performing to split the crowd into two and do the obligatory “which side is louder? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”. At this point he also declared coyly that he was too hot. “Perhaps I should take my top off?! Who wants my sweaty towel?”. Not me, thanks.

His next single with Calvin Harris, ‘Off The Record’, was when I stopped nodding along for politeness’ sake and started paying attention. The way he performed had a fierceness to it that I hadn’t seen during the rest of the set. Team that with a ‘Calvin Harris-special’ (synthesised hook that takes 30 seconds to get stuck in your head) and I have no doubt that it will overshadow his previous work.

The final song was, not surprisingly, ‘Number One’ – one that I actually knew the lyrics to in advance. The crowd happily filled in for a missing Dappy, and 40 minutes after the set started he waved and left the stage.

When I went into his dressing room, I couldn’t have been more surprised. I found him curled up on top of a table, still topless. “I’m dying…I’ve got such a bad cold”
“You couldn’t tell, your set was really good”, I said, and he looked pleased if somewhat in need of a Lemsip.

He shook my hand much more politely than I’d been expecting and asked my name. “Nadia, that’s a beautiful name.” “Oh, I’m sure you say that to all the journalists…” I beamed. What a nice guy, I was sold!

He put his tshirt back on – “I’d better be professional” – and we started the interview.

I’d been doing my research and he’s done a lot of collaborating. How hard is it to collaborate with someone and compromise on your creativity in order to produce something you’re both satisfied with?

“I feel like if I want to work with someone it’s for a reason. I’m working with them because there’s something I like in them. We meet in the studio and they bring something and I bring something. We meet half way and a record comes out.”

Tinchy – born as Kwasi Danquah – moved to the UK in 1995 from Ghana. “Did I? You know more than me…um, I was 8, whenever that was?” “1995” “Oh right”. Does his Ghanaian childhood have an influence on his music?
“I guess I wouldn’t say so. Most of my life has been in England and most of the things that I’ve been though have happened in England, I consider myself British. That’s what influences me, not much important stuff happens to you when you’re that young.”

Tinchy should be no stranger to Freshers’ Weeks – he got an honours degree in Digital arts, Moving image and Animation from University of East London. Did his time at uni influence him in any way?
After pausing for a moment he says, “one thing I learned at uni was to be able to get on with a lot of different people from different backgrounds. To be able to socialise more with people from different walks of life.” He smiles as though he hasn’t really thought about it before and is pleased with his revelation.

Next question – if you could play any instrument what would it be?
“Guitar. I hear the girls like that?” He looks round the room at myself and the other women with me for approval.
“Drums are good!” someone comments. “Anyone in a band, really” I add. “I’ll learn everything then.”

Back to collaborations. He worked with Professor Green on Game Over, coordinating themselves over Blackberry Messenger. Is technology and social media giving artists the chance to work together more quickly?
“It gives you the chance to work with each other without having to go through managers and record labels. Some people don’t like it because it means much easier access to them, but I like it.” He shows me his iPhone – his Twitter app has 458 notifications, he checked it just before he went on stage 40 minutes ago.

Final question. If he could duet with anyone, who would it be?
“Adele.” It seems to be the ‘go-to’ answer for artists just now, who wouldn’t want to share some of her starlight? Having said that, after hearing his new single I think it could work. The way he performed before the interview had the same jaded passion as ‘Rolling In The Deep’.

“It would be hard though because if I heard her sing I’d just get goosebumps and not be able to do anything.”

The interview ends and as we pose for photos he suddenly comes out with “I’m going to call you Nads.” I shrug, despite the horrible genital-related-bullying flashbacks from school, I don’t think I mind. I left his dressing room with a different impression to the one I went in with. I still won’t be listening to the songs he played at the start of the night, I’ll be listening out for more flames of vocal brilliance. And hopefully that duet with Adele.

 Off the Record is out on the 6th of November

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