Think of UK garage, grime and dance music. What images spring to mind? Grey concrete, white skies and high rises. Fila F13 kicks and finger-wave hairstyles. London buses, sweaty basements, smoky bedrooms, pirate radio. What probably doesn’t spring to mind is the Austrian capital, Vienna – a city better known for its majestic architecture and apple-filled pastries than its pitch-shifted vocal samples and 4/4 beats.
This is where salute comes in. The 22-year-old producer – real name Felix Nyajo – was born and raised in Vienna. He lives in Manchester now, after a short stint in Brighton, but spent the majority of his life in Austria. His first taste of that UK sound didn’t come from some kid blasting “Flowers” under the desk when the teacher left the classroom, or a WKD-fuelled night out at now-defunct club Visions. Instead, it came from Fifa Street 2, which had “Kickback” by Lethal Bizzle among it’s soundtrack. “I was about 11. I’d never heard anything like it,” salute tells me. “I couldn’t really understand the accent at that point. I was just like… this is nuts.”
He’s speaking to me over the phone from his parents’ place in Vienna, having travelled over there to play a show last night. It was a big deal for him, he explains, because all his friends and fans from home came to watch. They ended up partying until morning, and today he’s hanging, but after our convo he’s going to get some food and sit in the sunshine. It’s the first moment of leisure he’s had in a long time, so he plans on squeezing it dry.
But anyway, back to the music. Today he releases “All About U”, premiering above. It’s a bittersweet dance track, comprised of neat, chopped up electronics and euphoric, pitched up vocal samples. “Now it’s all about you / you, you, you” the words loop over and over, hovering over a sweeping synth. The track appears on his new EP Condition II, also out today. It’s the second in a trilogy of three (Condition I came out a year ago, Condition III is coming this summer). Other than that, you might recognise him from My Heart, a maximalist, R&B-flecked mini-album he put out two years back.
But how did he get from that kid playing Fifa Street 2 in Vienna, to one of the UK’s most emotive producers? We all like easily digestible information, don't we, so here’s a starter-pack to salute.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THAT FRUITY LOOPS SOUND
“After looking up 'Kickback' on YouTube, I got into Dizzee Rascal and Wiley and became obsessed. It totally changed my view on music and what it could be. I was really curious about how this stuff was made, so I got an illegal copy of Fruity Loops software and started making music when I was about 13. I stuck with Fruity Loops until I was 19. Later on, I got more into James Blake, SBTRKT, Rustie, Hudmo, stuff like that. And I've always been a big fan of UK Garage.”
HE LOVES THE UK, BUT HE’S HAPPY HE DIDN'T GROW UP HERE
“[Vienna] is such a different place to the UK. It’s very clean cut, tame and posh, with very little diversity. Being a black person… there was a lot I had to deal with growing up, that I don’t really have to deal with as much in the UK. I also felt isolated from the music I wanted to be part of. I listened to a lot of classical music, and orchestras, which had a big influence on me. So when I moved to the UK, I was able to flesh out what made my music sound like me. I’m glad I didn’t spend my teenage years in the UK though, I think my music would sound very different if I had.”
THE VOCAL FOR “ALL ABOUT U” WAS RECORDED FIVE YEARS AGO
“It's an old vocal. I had a beat that I made for it, but it didn't really work. But I found the a cappella last year and re-listened and thought it was so powerful. It's not over-the-top. It says what it needs to say. It loops over and over. Something about the repetitiveness and how softly it's sung really stuck with me and made me want to turn it into an emotional club banger basically.”
THE 'CONDITION' EP TRILOGY IS ABOUT MOURNING
“A year and a half ago, my grandparents died. I never knew them that well because they lived in Nigeria. But their death had a huge impact on my family, and I felt this intense wave of mourning. I didn't know how to deal with those emotions. So I locked myself in my room and made about 15 songs. I felt like, at the end, I'd unwittingly gone through a couple of stages. So the first EP is memories, the second is just pain and feeing shitty, and the third is hope. None of the tracks really sound like they convey those feelings, but for me, when I'm sad, the music I make tends to sound quite happy. It's a way of processing.”
HE'S TRILINGUAL AND DREAM-BILINGUAL
“I speak German and English, and my parents speak Hausa, which is a Nigerian language, which I understand fully and can kind of speak too. If there's something I associate with being in Vienna, or being around my Austrian friends, I dream in German. But if I'm in England, I'll usually dream in English. It kind of just happens. I don't really notice it.”
WHEN HE'S NOT MAKING BEATS, HE'S CYCLING THROUGH THE WILDERNESS
“I love to go cycling. I try to do as much cycling as I can in the week. It's somewhere in between leisure and sport. I make a playlist of all the new music I want to listen to, then cycle for an hour and a half. At the moment, there's so much on my playlist; old funk and soul from the 70s, Patrice Rushen, The Blackbirds and Japanese jazz-fusion from the 80s.”
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