Virus Syndicate Chats about Their New Album Symptomatic and Manchester Roots
With the release of their newest album Symptomatic, Manchester based grime outfit Virus Syndicate has taken 2016 by storm. After over a decade navigating the ebbs and flows of the music industry, Virus Syndicate has transcended their grime roots to influence the world of electronic music on a much broader level. Virus Syndicate’s unmistakable blue collar authenticity and provocative lyrics that take aim at poignant social issues, have established this hard-nosed Manchester squad as one of the most well known voices in the UK hip hop landscape. Sensible Reason recently sat down to chat with Virus Syndicate about their latest album, musical inspirations, and dream collaborations.
Sensible Reson: What first inspired you to create hip hop and grime? What drew you to those genres?
Virus Syndicate: As kids, we grew up listening to hip hop and jungle music. It was very much part of our society and where we lived this was all you would hear being blasted from peoples houses and cars, so it was always inevitable that if we were ever going to make music it would be something that fitted within this. Before music became a career it was just a vent. I had a lot of difficulties at home growing up and ended up getting in a lot of trouble with police etc. Music was a way of letting go of all my frustrations and escaping.
SR: What was the hip hop scene like in Manchester 10 years ago when you were coming up?
VS: In many ways the same as it is now just a bit smaller. Still mad competitive, still pretty brutal, but definitely a lot less opportunities. Every opportunity that we have ever had in music in the beginning we made it. There was no handouts or help along the way. Nowadays, there is more of a support network for new artists and it is also something we are building with our record label, Midication, and artist development depart at EY3 Media.
SR: Who are some artist that had a profound affect on your music, and why?
VS: Definitely Nas and Eminem for me. I was obsessed with the way that they would manipulate words to rhyme, their flow, rhyming patterns and beats had me hooked. Also, big shout to MC Trigger from Manchester he was a huge influence on Virus and the scene in Manchester.
SR: How would you say your sound stands apart from other UK hip hop artists?
VS: Our sound is really energetic but also quite conscious. I think we are the only ones who mix up that big energy with deeper meaning lyrics and stories that has always kind of been our angle.
SR: What was the inspiration behind your latest album Symptomatic?
VS: To sum it up we would say the phrase “pictures of reality” has been the inspiration behind the whole thing. Those words were thrown around the studio constantly while we were making the album and is exactly what we wanted the album to do. Create pictures of reality in the listeners mind. We wanted to make an album that not only makes you wanna go sick but also makes you think. We drew on a lot of life experiences as well as current events as inspiration too.
SR: You certainly have some extremely thought provoking lyrics. Here in the US I would say lyrical content has definitely slipped in mainstream hip hop. How important is it for you to get your larger message across through your lyrics?
VS: I would say it is the most important part of our music. The lyrical content is the backbone of everything Virus Syndicate. We would never compromise our lyrical content or subject matter in songs even to the detriment of the campaign. The 2nd single from Symptomatic, Psychopath, was recently banned in France due to its content, but it still did not sway us from pursuing it as a single. We are passionate about the message we put out in our music if we were to compromise this we wouldn’t be Virus Syndicate.
SR: In your opinion how has the grime and hip hop scene evolved over time in the UK?
VS: It’s grown from being a relatively small scene in a few of the UK major cities to a nationwide lifestyle and culture that kids nowadays are born into. Grime and hip hop is very much a way of life to huge proportion of people in the UK.
SR: Who are some current American artists that you appreciate? Not just in terms of hip hop, but on a broader spectrum as well.
VS: Hip hop wise I’m really feeling Danny Brown and Hopsin, but also always been a big fan of Flosstradamus, Skrillex, Switch, Diplo, The internet, it’s an endless list really.
SR: I noticed on your Facebook page you often reply in the comments section and make sure to give lots of love back to your supporters. How important is it for you to have a strong connection with your fans?
VS: We always do our best to reply to every message and tweet where possible. It’s those people who are giving us the chance to do this as a career, and so it’s only right we take the time out to show love back. We aren’t interested in being aloof with our fans like some artists. They show us love we show it back simple.
SR: What is it like seeing your music being featured in HBO’s The Leftovers and other major films like John Travolta’s Criminal Activities?
VS: It’s amazing, man. We obviously grew up on John Travolta films so having the chance to have the song featured on his latest film was a real honour.
SR: When you’re not making music or playing shows, what are some other interest that occupy time and keep you focused?
VS: We own a record label and media company as well, so we always have to keep tabs on that making sure all the releases and projects are going according to plan. We have an amazing team who work for us, so we have little to worry about in that respect. Also, love going to the gym and just chillin’ out with friends catching jokes. Oh, and Youtube searching alien conspiracy theories haha.
SR: If you could have one collaboration with any artist throughout time, who would it be and why?
VS: I wanna make a Grime banger that switches into dubstep half way through with Mozart and Skrillex on the buttons!!!! haha