While there have been singles and side projects in the intervening years, the world has not been treated to Manchester’s Mecca: 83’s, Life Sketches series for half a decade now. Fortunately, that’s about to change with the impending Sept. 18 release of the third installation, the appropriately named, Life Sketches Vol. 3. On this go ’round, Mecca, AKA Evan Jones, enlists the assistance of such stalwarts as Grap Luva, BusCrates 16-Bit Ensemble, Von Pea, Kazumi Kandea, and other local talent to further flesh out his laid back sound. We recently caught up with the man himself to get his thoughts on the album, the importance of raising one’s kids on a steady jazz diet, and how good anime never gets old.
Passion of the Weiss is further pleased to bring to you the exclusive premiere for the album’s first video, “The Cusp.” The black and white exploration of a snowy, late night NYC provides a damn near perfect backdrop for Mecca: 83’s after hours vibes.—Chris Daly
For those poor, misguided souls unfamiliar with you, how would you describe the Mecca:83 sound? How has it progressed over the years?
Mecca:83:At the risk of sounding cliched, I’m gonna go with “soulful.” Music has always been more about the vibe than the technicality for me. I’m more interested in things that move me than impress me with the production value. I try to stay true to that ethic with my own output. I don’t think the sound has changed too drastically since my first Mecca:83 release. Maybe a little more polished and organic, but the ethos remains the same!
So it’s been five years since the last installment of Life Sketches. What’s happened during the interim? What made now the right time to release Volume Three?
Mecca:83:Yeah it’s been AGES. Since I released Volumes 1&2, I’ve gone through a huge period of change. I’ve got married, had two kids, changed professions, moved house…the list goes on. At the same time, I was also exploring group projects like Alexis Davis and Redefinition as well as running the Expansions Collective label. Life Sketches was always intended to be a trilogy, but it kinda got lost in the mix for a while.
When we hit the five year anniversary of Vols. 1&2, it made me realize how many people still really enjoyed those records. I thought folks had forgotten about them, but seeing people support the anniversary 7″ release made me realize that I should get off my ass and finish the trilogy.
How is this album different/better/faster/stronger than the previous installments?
Mecca:83:I think it’s an evolution of the original theme. It’s still about setting a good vibe, focusing on creating something positive. And as always, collaborating with people I respect. Volume 3 feels a little more refined maybe. I’ve learnt a lot more about arrangement in the last couple of years, which hopefully comes across on this release.
Is it just me, or are you using more live instrumentation and less sampling on this one?
Mecca:83:Yeah, definitely. I kinda sowed the seed for that with Volume 2, but I wasn’t 100% comfortable with it back then. I’d say this release is more 50/50 in terms of live instrumentation vs. samples. There are still plenty of chops on there for the true scholars, but I made a conscious decision to make things a little more organic this time around.
How did you go about selecting the rappers you have here? You’ve certainly got quite a few spitting verses on Vol. 3.
Mecca:83:For me, picking guests is always about working with people who I really respect. I know a lot of people tend to work with whoever is hyped or has a rep that will guarantee you a certain amount of coverage, but my approach has always been to work with people who I admire.
I think Grap Luva is one of the most slept on emcees and producers of all time. I’ve been a fan since the first INI single. The same goes for Von Pea: Tanya Morgan have been consistently on my rotation for the longest time. They’re probably my favorite rap group of the last decade, so having Von on there is a blessing.
Between your solo projects and joint efforts, you seem to be in constant go mode. What else is cracking with you these days?
Mecca:83:Just constantly learning. Trying to raise my kids on a steady diet of ’60s jazz and ’90s hip-hop. Keeping it moving!
What’s up next on the “to do,” future project list?
Mecca:83:I think I’m going to go back to beat tapes in 2018. It’s been about five years since I sent out any beats to emcees. I definitely need to rectify that and start amassing some production credits. Aside from that, I’m toying with a few project ideas…still early days, but the working title for the next project is Nights Alone.
Who would you recommend that the average fan probably hasn’t heard yet? Similarly, who are you listening to these days?
Mecca:83:Jon Rogers is criminally slept on. You can catch him producing and rapping on some of the recent Moka Only records, and he’s also got a bunch of great stuff available on Bandcamp. Hopefully people will start paying attention to how great he is soon. From a production standpoint, I’m really into WhoAreI and Thelonious Martin at the moment. I always appreciate people who are creative with their sample chops. Dibia$e is another one who has always inspired me in that way.
Tangentially related, any good books, movies, shows, etc., we should check out? Perhaps something that informs or inspires the music you make?
Mecca:83:I’ve just finished reading The Last Holiday by Gil Scott Heron, which is awesome. I’ve read a lot of musicians’ memoirs which can be really dry and uninspiring, but Gil’s book is excellent. In terms of movies, i’m on a retro trip at the moment. Just watched Akira for about the 100th time and still enjoyed every second of it!
Anything I haven’t asked or that you’d like to promote other than the stellar Life Sketches Vol. 3 that started this conversation in the first place?
Mecca:83:Just the new record right now. September 18th is the date. It’s my birthday, too, so support a Virgo when it hits!