Javeon discusses “Control” and the challenges of multi-genre artistry

You’d be forgiven for thinking Javeon was raised on house music. After getting a start with garage joints and songs with fellow Bristolian Julio Bashmore, the budding night club emcee and singer soon found himself rising to the forefront of house’s new generation of vocalists. Following a string of successful releases with some of the genre’s best producers, Javeon – pronounced like “raven” but with a J – found himself feeling dissatisfied with his then-current position.

At the source of it all was a strong desire to find himself further musically, resulting in a new level of experimentation that has seen the “Father Father” singer take his sound into an alternative R&B direction while remaining as wide-ranging as ever.

“Control,” his newly-released single, pinpoints his tumultuous journey perfectly. It’s ambient, dark and influenced by enough genres to make simply calling it “electronic” an all too easy cop-out. Zack the Lad’s blend of gloomy basslines, two-step patterns and garage form an alt-R&B anthem that would be difficult for any vocalist to conquer, but here Javeon flexes his growth, both musically and sonically, making the title quite apt in a number of ways.

Prior to the single’s release Javeon and I discussed his origins, “Control,” the challenges of being a multi-genre artist, his five-part visual movie for his songs, and more. Read on below.

How did you get into music?
My cousin got me into music. He used to live at my nan’s house. I’m seven years younger than him and when I was eight he was really into sound systems, and he would put carnival speakers in there. This was the mid-to-late 90’s, which was what I consider to be the era that produced the best of hip-hop and R&B, and engineered the start of garage music. He really encouraged me to perform, write and dance, even though that’s not what I’m about. That’s where it started from. I found my love for it in other forms and just experimented from then on, and found where I am now. I’m still experimenting.

Your music has a varied and experimental style to it. Apart from what you and your cousin were playing, what kind of music were you growing up around in the house?
It was reggae that was playing around the house, all on vinyl. Also, older R&B from the early 90’s and late 80’s. It was very similar to what I was into, so even though I never really took reggae on as an influence I still love listening to it. R&B has definitely been the number one fixture in my life since I was very young.

You have a lot of genres under your belt, including house, garage and R&B. Do you have a favorite?
That’s tough, because I started as a singer. When I was 13 I joined a garage/grime crew, as loads of people around my age probably did at that point. I started emceeing and found a love of new music that was coming from the United Kingdom. Craig David coming up and bringing underground UK music to the mainstream was amazing to me. He sung and emceed, and that’s exactly what I was trying to do, but he was levels ahead of me.

He had experience at that point.
Yeah, from that point in time it was just about experimenting, and as I got better as an emcee I would host at nightclubs for DJs. I did my first nightclub when I was around 15, but didn’t do that many around that age. From 18 onwards I experimented with rock bands, singing, emceeing and hip-hop but then went back to more underground sounds. Dubstep was rocking by the time I was in full swing of being a host. Around that time I met a guy named L-Vis 1990, became his host, and sang on his first release from his imprint Night Slugs.

He was managed by the person who became my manager and I got signed and stopped hosting and just thought to myself, ‘I’m firstly a singer, this is what I enjoy more’ and started going on that path a little bit.

Have there been any challenges in being so varied in sound compared to most artists in the industry?
A couple of years ago my sessions became predominantly house. I started out doing R&B, underground stuff, but when we got music that was working for me it just happened to be house music. I didn’t grow up listening to house. I just sang on a tune that I liked and there was enough R&B in it for me to be happy. The label was happy as well, but then I got to a point where I thought about there being other male singers in my lane that I was being compared to and was coming up with that I felt were a little bit ahead of me.

I had to be real with myself and ask, ‘why do I feel like I’m more at the bottom of the pile here?’ I realized it was because they were doing what they love. I was too, but it wasn’t coming across. [If] you hear me on a house tune, you don’t know that I’ve come from underground garage and that’s what I’m most comfortable with.

After all of that I had to sit down and say, ‘this needs to be authentic. It needs to be Javeon and nothing else.’

That would explain why as your music has progressed you’re now gearing towards more of an alt-R&B sound, which is more quintessentially you.

You’re dropping your new single “Control” with Zack the Lad soon, out through Trapdoor Records. What was the process of putting that song together?
Me and Zack the Lad did it at his studio in Milton Keynes earlier this year. It was cold! I just remember that. I just wanted to get a little deeper on a tune. The thing with this is I want it to be R&B and pop, and when I say pop I mean open, I want everybody to be able to ‘get it.’

Yeah, exactly that. We got in the studio, he had a couple of chords, and we went from there. I just thought I’d write about a time that was quite transitional, and something that was quite new in terms of feeling like I’ve always got a sense of control and know how to handle things. This was the first time I didn’t really know what to do. It was quite a deep time for me. If you listen to the lyrics they may seem a little bit over-exaggerated, but if you imagine your feelings as a person, being trapped inside something those are the lyrics I’d expect to hear – if feelings had a voice.

Yeah, when you’re caged in on that level it’s not enough to be simply passionate it has to be raw emotion, so naturally it may sound over-exaggerated, because it’s real.
Exactly. It’s real, it comes across a little bit emo but that’s how I felt at the time. I’m really happy with it because I was able to fully get across how I was feeling without fully moaning.

Earlier this year you dropped the Show Me Something EP. What was the purpose behind releasing it and where does the title come from?
It was the first thing I put together since my old stuff that was more housey. This was a statement. I wanted some harder tunes and some softer tunes, to really say ‘this. is. me.’ I don’t care what you think because I love this. I self released it. I didn’t put it out through any labels just because I needed to get it out of my system.

I went through various different names. I had a day where my girlfriend and I sat down and went through loads of different words trying to put them together to get a title for this EP. I didn’t want to be lazy and just pick the title of the first tune, but then I thought, ‘You know what? This title embodies what I want to show people. Show me something!’

Yeah, it’s like what are you?
I’m showing you something, so show me something that I can be impressed by, because I’m going to do whatever I want to do. Not in a stubborn way; I’ll always welcome feedback but there’s a point and a thin line where you’ve gotta know when to take the criticism on – whether it’s positive or negative.

As long as it’s constructive.
Yeah as long as it’s constructive. That’s great. Even then I might not agree with you because I know myself a lot more now. *laughs*

That‘s the beautiful thing about developing your relationship with your music and not allowing people to control it and box it in. Where are you taking your music now? What’s the plan after “Control”?
After “Control” I wanna put out two things that I’m really happy with that represent where I’ve come from and where I’m going. I want to put together something that is a little more raw.

I wanted to self-release [Show Me Something], put out [Control] through a cool, independent and upcoming label like Trapdoor and after that I wanna progress. I don’t wanna miss out potential blocks of people that I want to be hitting. It’s gonna be just a touch more commercially accessible but it’ll still contain hard-hitting drums, bass patterns and the R&B song writing that I’ve come from.

You’ve collaborated with a lot of people. Which collaborative experience has been your favorite?
Julio Bashmore, that was probably the first time I made something that I was really happy with. [It was] the first song I ever put out on my own, because I’d always been just a featured artist before “Love Without A Heart” with Julio. We did that in Bristol in his mum’s yard. It was cool! I’ve enjoyed all my collaborations, but that one in particular because it was the start of everything.

Two years ago you dropped a five-part movie, with separate part using a song of yours. What was the concept behind the project?

Yeah, we didn’t release all of them.

That’s my next question. *laughs*
Haha, alright. The idea behind [the movie] was to create visual content that went hand in hand with the artwork, because the artwork never had my face. It was always pictures of crying girls, which people would always ask me about. They represented the sentiment of the songs – either a goodbye in a relationship, or you’re messing up, or I’m messing up. That’s what the tears were about.

I wanted the video to be like a film. I didn’t want to be in it on purpose because I just wanted it to be about the art. I’m just not like that as a person – it doesn’t have to be me, me, me. Let the director shine. Let him tell my story.

We all spoke about what we wanted, and after “Lovesong” we were like let’s just keep it rolling. Let’s link all these stories together – make it gritty, make it British. We knew we were gonna more more, but the idea [to do five] was floating about, it wasn’t really set in stone. After “Lovesong” we decided to make it a story and put together a script about this poor girl that got married and was having a really bad time.

What happened to the last two parts?
I’ve still got them. I’ve recut new music to them, and I’m just reworking them with the director to get them out. We want the right platform for it. They’re coming, I can’t tell you when, but they’re coming.

Is there anything else you wanna tell the people?
Just that “Control” is coming on the 11th of November, and there’s a lot more to come.

“Control” is out now via Trapdoor Records. Keep in touch with Javeon via his Facebook, twitter and Instagram.