MY last interview until next week...
is with Juvenal Maze, who has been discussing his tracks, In a Place/She Just Wanna, and how they came to mind. I ask what music inspires and whether his Congolese roots have impacted his sounds/music – he reveals some rising artists to watch out for.
I was curious to know if there are gigs coming up and how Juvenal chills away from music; what he has planned for the rest of the year and which albums are most important to him – Juvenal Maze picks a cool song to end things with.
Hi, Juvenal. How are you? How has your week been?
My week has been sweet, thank you. Been trying to keep myself productive and inspired.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Juvenal Maze and I'm a singer-songwriter-producer based in Ilford, London.
In a Place/She Just Wanna is your new release. Is there a story behind it all?
Yes, actually, the story behind this involves me and one girl I was cool with at one point in time. The friendship started off well; it was a bit of a weird one but things were cool. I wasn't looking to be exclusive with anyone at the time. We were in contact and that agreement was understood on both sides so it wasn't going anywhere. Well, that was the initial idea until her feelings for me started to grow the more we were in contact. From there, things became complicated but, despite the complications, we were actually still cool.
We didn't mingle from there and things came back to a friendship basis with no intimacy. So, at first, how I wrote She Just Wanna reflected our bond at the time we were cool. Sometime down the line things went left as I guess I felt betrayed (in a way) and some other complications had come up - so with that I rewrote the song from that stance.
With In a Place, it was more about my feelings and state of mind; looking at myself from a place where I'm now successful (and everything) and question myself about where I came from because, in this industry, a lot of people tend to forget to remind themselves and get lost. It then goes on to touch on when I went through depression at sixteen and my coping mechanism, escaping this reality and entering another one. Playing video games was my vice until one day I woke up and realized - wow, is this life?
It was a moment of clairvoyance for me. Following on is my experience of being afraid to fall in love, being in love and being in denial (of the feeling of love) because it's a new overwhelming feeling that has a hold on me - one that I'm afraid to accept. With these experiences, I find myself struggling to diagnose myself so I just refer to the term ‘in a place’ whenever I'm experiencing something that can't quite be explained or understood.
I believe there is an E.P. later this year. What can we expect from it?
Yes, there is. Well, it's literally a rollercoaster of thoughts and expressions from experiences I've had or seen and just a leap into different perspectives besides my own. I guess it shows a part of me thus far.
How did you get into music? When were the seeds sown?
From the age of fourteen.
I was in the playground at school and a group of my classmates were there playing music and just spitting bars…but what intrigued me was how the looney tunes anthem could become a Grime riddim. That pretty much sparked my curiosity and I wanted to figure out how to create my own; from starting out with Grime than experimenting with different sounds. It's become my way of life.
You have Congolese heritage. How important is that to your music?
I find it pretty important, to be honest. I don't feel as though it's really brought forward like that among our mainstream genres of today like R&B, Hip-Hop and so on. Where I appreciate it, I try to sprinkle it in. That identity and being able to just showcase that - yeah - you can add a lil sauce here and there. That's what I'm here for. Like, don't get me wrong, some people do it a bit but I ain't the type to play it safe. Besides, that's just to show that we are here too and, hopefully, I can inspire other Congolese artists to come out of their shells and show the world what we are about.
I'm just doing it my way.
Which artists inspired you growing up? Did you have quite eclectic tastes?
There weren't any in particular as I was more focused on actual sounds and instrumentals but I'd say Drake, Kendrick Lamar; J. Cole, Ludacris, Pharrell; T-Pain, Boyz 2 Men; SWV and pretty much every R&B hit under the sun. I listened to a lot of Reggae and Dancehall too so that was thrown into the mix. Linkin Park, Coldplay and, of course, being Congolese: the fro eat was always there.
Do you have a standout memory from your time in music so far?
This whole journey is still a standout memory as it is, but I would say when I first wrote and released my first track, Kitoko. That was the start of a very expressive year and has definitely played a major part and reason as to why I write today.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Drake - Take Care; Kendrick Lamar - Section 80 and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. With Drake, I came across him from that album, where music had already started being the voice of my expression. That album really allowed me to tap into that. With the production, I remember always incorporating pads and strings a lot and I believe it's because of that. I'm more of a vibe guy so different instruments and sounds give of different feels to me and that's what I really pay attention to when producing.
Now, with Kendrick ; I discovered him in my late teens. A lot of what he was talking about in his music and how he was expressing himself really made me pay attention to what he was saying. His music has definitely been a heavy influence in terms of my drive and passion when it comes to my part and my purpose but, yeah, I just really appreciate the honesty in his music and how it provokes introspection.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
That's a really difficult one because I'm not the type to really follow artists. I really just chill in my own lane and just enjoy whatever is out there but, if it came to it, I'm ready to support a musician that is honest, passionate and is serving a purpose with their art besides the entertainment. Like, what's your soul saying? What impact are you looking to have on someone or the world as a whole? Someone who is working to make a difference for a better future. That's who I'm down for.
What are your other plans regarding gigs/touring?
Definitely looking to perform a lot more. I got a performance at Splash Festival (Germany's biggest Hip-Hop festival) this year that I'm excited about as well as couple others. Just trying to take it all in and connect with people.
Is the stage somewhere you feel at your most alive?
The stage, at the moment, is something that really challenges me. I'm not the type to be in the spotlight and express myself. Being vulnerable at the same time. So, yeah, that's with that but where I feel most alive is when I'm just out there creating music. The process of creating music is where I feel alive, hands down.
Is there any advice you’d give to upcoming artists?
Study inwards as well as out; be real with yourself and stay true to yourself. Understand yourself; always work on bettering yourself as a person; find your peace and keep challenging your comfort zones. Live life and experience things; go for a walk or something and just remind yourself that you are you before your art and you define you.
IN THIS IMAGE: K The Infinite
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
IN THIS PHOTO: Lylo Gold
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
My unwinding is making music (laughs)! But, I watch anime. I just live life and enjoy each day as it comes, really.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Thank you very much for having me. Hmm, if you could play RAYE, Maleek Berry - Confidence (Preditah Remix)
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