Coming from Newcastle, UK, the young producer Nick Cooke aka Cuttooth has recently released his second LP and the first on 4lux Recordings. Featuring vocals from Hitomi (King Midas Sound/Ninja Tune), Sarah Linhares (Onra/All City Records) and Bridie Jackson (Glastonbury Emerging Talent 2013 Winner), the self-titled LP was dubbed by 4lux as dubbed ‘An excellent selection of carefully crafted downtempo hip-hop, soul, and avant-garde-esque ambiance.’ But Nick really prefers people just to make up their own minds. We spoke to him about space and movement, wanting to work with Jozi’s Okmalumkoolkat, and not going down the same road he’s been down before.


Your music has been labelled as ‘trip-hop’ – what exactly does this term mean to you? Is it important for you to catgorize your music?
To be honest, I don’t really like the term trip-hop, it feels a little outdated because for me it brings to mind all the old DJ Shadow, Portishead, Tricky, Massive Attack stuff (which I absolutely love!) from the mid to late ’90s. The fact is though that people need to be able to categorize things, so I’m not going to be all pretentious and say that I’m really pissed off that people are calling it that because I don’t really feel strongly enough about that term to give a damn what people want to call it. I’ve had people call some of the tracks EDM which is baffling to me because there’s really nothing above about 90 BPM on there.

If I had to categorise it I’d probably call it ‘hip-hop-orientated, post-dubstep downbeat vocal electronica’ but that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Sarah Linhares brings a distinct sound to ‘Breathe Deeply’ – what was it like working with her on the track?
Really straightforward actually. I just sent her a couple of beats to work with, she picked it out, wrote the vocal whilst she was on holiday somewhere tropical (I forget where), recorded the vocals and sent them to me when she got back. Then I just got her to send me a couple more layers of overdubs, mixed it down and that was that. Sorry it’s not more of an interesting story but in a way I’m happy that it wasn’t; when tracks fall together like that it makes everyone’s lives so much easier, it’s the best way to work.

Cuttooth album flows really well, what order did you compose the songs and how did you decide on what order they would be in?
The very first stuff that was written for it were the beats for ‘Old Tape Machine‘ and ‘Don’t Look Back’. The version of ‘Peace‘ that you hear on the record was actually originally recorded to the beat for ‘Old Tape Machine’, around the same time as ‘Don’t Look Back’ in summer 2012. Those tracks got shelved though because Bridie and I couldn’t really decide what we wanted to do with them. I then got in touch with Hitomi later that year and happened to have the instrumental for ‘Old Tape Machine’ on my SoundCloud and she really wanted to record a vocal on it.


Since the track with Bridie wasn’t doing anything I was like: ‘sure’ so that ended up getting done, along with ‘Illusion Symptom‘ and another track that never went past the early demo stage. By that point I realised that I still had this amazing vocal from Bridie’s version of that track and wrote a few new beats for it, remix style. One of which appears on the album as ‘Peace’ and another which is currently available as a free download from my Soundcloud. By that point it was a case of adding in some instrumental stuff and the track with Sarah, writing the intro and outro and that was it. In terms of track listing, again, it was something that just fell together really easily. I didn’t need to put a lot of thought into it because once I’d decided on which tracks to include it just felt obvious that it should go in that order.

Comparing this album to your other works, what elements specifically have you been consistent with and which parts of your music have evolved?
If you compare this to my debut album – Elements (2011) – I think you can hear some real evolution musically. That first record was almost done as an exercise to prove to myself that I could write a complete record and some of the cuts on there I still really like. Basically though, each track to me just feels like a rip-off of another producer, whether that be TEEBS, FlyLo, Slugabed or whoever. So for this second album I was really, really conscious of not going down that road again and I wanted it to be very much my own record.

I deliberately avoided listening to any other artists that were making similar music because I didn’t want to be influenced by them consciously or subconsciously.

Ultimately, I also think this is a more mature record musically; I spent a lot of time working out ways to do my melodies and also working on spacing stuff out in the stereo field without filling up the mix too much. It’s really about space and movement more than anything and I think that was my main focus when writing it.

The inspiration and the love… Some words on that please?
I find it really difficult to talk about inspiration because I’ve been making music for so long now that it’s such a huge part of my life it’s like, how do you explain to someone who you are? I really love basically anything on Ninja Tune, Hyperdub, Brainfeeder and all of those types of labels so I guess on a basic level you could say that in part it just comes from being a bit of a saddo fanboy, and wanting to do my own take on what’s coming out of London and LA right now.

Who are you listening to on your iPod right now?
Like I said before, I try to avoid listening to anything that’s too similar to my own music. I don’t go out to gigs very much or spend much leisure time listening to music because I find that it tires my brain out as I’m constantly analysing it. I really bands and artists like The Flaming Lips, Grandaddy, Springsteen, and also hardcore punk such as Minor Threat and Hüsker Dü because I can listen to that type of music and not feel the need to compare it to what I’m doing myself. The week though it’s been The Zombies. With the summer coming up, I’m digging that ’60s psychedelic vibe, it’s really intoxicating…

Who would be your next dream collaboration?
I really love Anna Wise from Sonnymoon. Her voice and her lyrics just blow me away. I know she’d sound amazing on one of my tracks. I’d also really like to work with Bajka, who does a lot of stuff with Bonobo. I nearly got a track together with her for this album because she really liked the beats that I sent her, but it never quite happened so I’m hoping to work with her on the next record. If I could pick anyone in the world to work with though it would probably be Björk. Her voice is absolutely out of this world and the way she’s constantly evolved and explored new concepts musically and across different media has kept her right on the cutting-edge throughout her career. I think I’d probably be a bit intimidated going into the studio with her though.

Are we going to be seeing tour dates released anytime soon?
I don’t currently play live, so no, not for the foreseeable future. For one thing I just don’t have the time to spend forever converting all of my tracks into Ableton format, and for another I think it’d be difficult to find the right singer in a small town like Newcastle. Then you’ve got to consider rehearsals, warm-up gigs and all that. To be honest I’d rather just stay in the studio and work on my sounds. That’s not to say I wouldn’t do it if there was a real demand but for now I’m just happy being a bit of a recluse!

“Cuttooth”, album artwork: Lizzie Oswell

Is there a story behind deciding to do a self-titled album?
The concept behind the record was that it was going to sound like an old cassette tape that you’d found at the back of a drawer or in a box in the attic or something and listening to it evoked all the memories of the last time you heard it. Up until a really late stage the album was going to be called Old Tape Machine but once I got the first draft of the artwork back it just didn’t look right, so I just decided to bin it and call it Cuttooth.

Any South African artists you would consider collaborating with?

Yeah, I really like what Okmalumkoolkat’s done with LV (read our interview with Okmalumkoolkat here), and the other stuff I’ve heard of his has been great too.

I also really dig Yo-Landi Vi$$er’s style, she’s really cool and sexy and her vocals are great. Thing is though, I’ve been steadily moving away from hip-hop orientated stuff so I’m more into working with singers than rappers right now and I must admit to being a bit ignorant to the downbeat soul scene over there. I’m very much open to suggestions though!

Cuttooth Links

4lux Recordings

album artwork: Lizzie Oswell, images: c/o Nick Cooke