Virus Syndicate are the kings of British grime and no other hip-hop act is fierce enough to take away that crown, for they’re undoubtedly the most fierce and brilliant Hip-Hop act out of Manchester UK within the last ten years and they’re holding onto the grimy hip-hop crown forever! Within Virus Syndicate are DJ Mark One and the emcees Goldfinger, JSD and Nika D. These guys will continue to push hip-hop into fresh new territory and shake the political establishment to its very core and keep shedding light on the corruption within the government. Their latest album “Symptomatic” just dropped and is bound to instantly take over the headphones of hip-hop fans nationwide!
*Disclaimer – Views in this feature are those of those speaking not of those of Vandala Magazine. We believe in the Freedom of Speech.
Why the name Virus Syndicate?
JSD: Because it’s cool. (Laughs)
NIKA D: The name Virus Syndicate, because we joined a crew called Virus. We didn’t want to be called a crew so we choose syndicate.
JSD: At the time in the UK there were a lot of crews, so you had heartless crew, so it was a lot people calling themselves crew and was kind of like a dumb thing. We wanted to be a little bit different on that level and we thought that syndicate better represented what we were doing, because often our musicians stepped in and out with Virus. There’s core members, but then there’s also people who kind of step in and, maybe, play some instruments, do a verse or whatever, so syndicate felt right. Virus, because we always knew what we had was going to spread, we always felt like what we’re doing was going to spread and it was more than just a UK thing or a Manchester thing, like it was global, so we felt the name Virus was quite fitting for that you know.
So how would you describe “British Grime” for a first time listener?
NIKA D: Hard!
JSD: And energetic! And these days I would describe it as lyrical.
Is there a deeper meaning behind the album title “Sympomatic”?
NIKA D: Yeah. There is a deeper meaning Ok. So, basically the album is essentially a social commentary. And we’re talking about various things from adultery to mental illness, to politics.
JSD: It’s like a whole range of issues that affect society today and what we’re really trying to point out, what we’re trying to really draw on is what are the symptomatic causes of problems in society.
NIKA D: Yeah, basically we felt like the subjects in the album were symptomatic of our society that we live in. So, some of the subjects are a little bit crazy and so, you know, we wanted to push the boundaries and explore things from a story point of perspective. So there’s a song there called “Watch Your Back”, which is kind of about, it’s almost about; do you remember the guy who flew the plane into the Alps? Recently, about a year ago, this guy, who was supposedly depressed, I don’t know if he was, but basically he flew, he was a pilot and he flew his plane with about two hundred passengers into the mountains for no reason. So we kind of did a song about him. It’s about that, but also quite deep, man. And it’s quite twisted and when we talk about it it’s hard to explain, it’s about a serial killer essentially. It’s about a child who gets found by the social services and his parents were all kinds of mad shit and it’s about, kind of, his journey and how he grows up. So, I mean taking it back to the album title and stuff, we thought a lot about the subjects we talk about are symptomatic of the society we live in. They’re symptoms of this society and this kind of setup, which we are all in at the minute. So the album itself isn’t about a serial killer, that’s just about one tune is.
Could we get into more of what kind of content fans can expect within this album?
JSD: Yeah, so basically, dropping a lot of visuals for this. We just dropped the “Gimme the Mic” video.
Can we break down the track “Gimme the Mic”? From the main goal behind the track and what inspired it and any behind the scene details when you recorded the video?
NIKA D: Yeah, man. So basically we had some issues with our video previously, “Psychopath” and we had a few issues on, like, what kind of, sort of political issues with that song. So we really wanted to do something next. That was kind of like fun, kind of like, a bit of two fingers up at the system. This whole track, this album is like taking the piss out of society, but in a lighthearted, fun and energetic kind of way. Yeah not like we’re laughing at you, we’re laughing with you, but we wanted to have fun lyrically and we wanted to be able to kind of have a little bit of fun and be a bit free, but like Nik says, man, we wanted to follow psychopath up with something that was a bit more fun, lighthearted, but also retains the same message, if you listen to the chorus, it’s f*ck the system in all that. It’s the same message as “Psychopath”, exactly the same message as “Psychopath”, but told in a completely different way. And we really wanted to like, give a nod to the old hip-hop videos, which we liked, the old hip-hop which was really comedic and not taking yourself to seriously, man. Just about word play, punch lines, the energy of the beat, like, we actually made that song quite a long time ago so we had it put down, but that was really the thing that one, man.
JSD: In terms of like, content for the album, like we come back to our storytelling roots when we put out our first album “Work Related Illness” it was very much a social commentary. It was very much about stories, about things we seen or done ourselves or, basically just telling stories, man. So we come back to that quite a lot, you know, like Nik said. We touch on a lot of subject, we touch on domestic violence, we touch on adultery, we touch on mental health and we touch on a lot of things, regret as well and guilt. So, yeah. You’ve got to listen to it.
NIKA D: It’s not a big self harm session, you know. There’s light and dark in there, you know. We really wanted to explore, push the boundaries a little bit, man. It’s not a self-indulgent album, is what I say. It’s very much like, it’s, if self-harm was funny. But It’s not self-harm or any of that.
How did you guys fight back against censorship when Psychopath was banned and why did they choose to ban it in the first place?
NIKA D: Well, I think the reason why they didn’t want it over there was of what happened on November the 13th, with the Paris attacks. Which is at the time our PR agent was pitching the video out. And we didn’t know that was purely coincidence. We made that song. It was ready to go. And to be honest, we always knew that psychopath was a little bit darker and then mainstream media outlets these days, they’re a little bit more reluctant to take the risk on shit like that, especially with the current climate, you know, globally. So, we knew that it was a bit of a risk, but we were willing to do it anyway. We felt it was really creative and the director Casey Lock, we sat down together and we planned this amazing idea and we knew it was pretty dark so we knew there was a chance that, you know, mainstream media will not let it pass, but then with what happened with the Paris bombings it became super relevant. And we thought it was, kind of, more relevant than ever after that. They should be playing it, they should be supporting it. But that’s cool, man. We completely understand the stand point of the French authorities and we got nothing but love for the people in France and our condolences and thoughts went out to them at that time, like, we didn’t take it personally and such. And we didn’t fight the censorship, man. We just said, “it is what it is. Move on. It’s cool”. You know, I mean, we’ve got a bag of tunes anyways. We’ve got a bag of videos, bag of tunes.
And you know, what kind of message did you set out to deliver to the sheep of society, who ignore the real world issues and disasters that occur around the world within the video for Psychopath?
NIKA D: Well the message really trying to deliver in that is that people in society these days. Ok, so our society, we feel, is being controlled by the people, who are only out for their own self-indulgent need and gains. Now if you actually listen to the song, we kind of take on the persona of what we believe to be the mindset of someone who is a psychopathic narcissist, essentially. And we believe it’s that kind of mentality that you are finding at the top of the pyramid of the people who are really pulling, pushing the strings and pushing the buttons out here in society. And if you look at the real situation going on in Syria, that are going on in the Middle East, in South America, all over the world. If you look at who’s really been benefiting from all of that! The rough end of the stick and it’s the same people every single time throughout the last thousand years.
JSD: And I think that the main message, without, you know, coming across to hippy. F*ck it. We’re big hippies. The message here is love not hate, man. Don’t listen to the propaganda, don’t get sucked into the propaganda and don’t let this divide and conquer you, you know. We are all humans, we all bleed red, you know, like, so, you know, I suspect you know there’s a current climate in the world, you know. I can only speak for the UK where we live and it’s certainly a climate here where, you know. There is kind of a little divide, there’s people who believe in what the idiot channels are saying, you know. You have UK news reporting on a crime and if that man were from an ethnic minority, in particular Asian or Muslim, the headline in the newspaper would read terrorist. Where as when a English man, you know, we have very famous people, white British people like Rob Harris and Jimmy Savile, very, very famous people in the UK, who were pedophiles and it came out after their death, well apart from Rob Harris, he got caught while he was alive.
And it came out that these guys who’ve been involved in this huge pedophile ring, having sex with kids and all kinds of f*cked up shit. Now when the media tells that story they don’t say Christian man, yeah. They don’t say Christian man been caught doing A, B and C. For us its very clear what’s happening, with the propaganda and our message to the people is like, don’t get f*cking fooled by that shit, man. We are all human, we all bleed like this. There’s crazy bastards in every race, every religion and every country, yeah, but there is this climate where everyone thinks that if you look a certain way, you read a certain book and call it your religion, you are just a terrorist straight up, you know. So that’s our message, man. Peace and love and unity.
*VIDEO ADULT CONTENT
Yeah. It’s like that in the States, the same thing with the California attacks.
JSD: For real! Which was tragic, man. It’s a tragedy, but you can’t tarnish a whole f*cking nation. You know, what’s actually funny is that the (unnamed newspaper), don’t know if I should talk about this or not, we might get in trouble. We could talk off the record. Never mind that one.
It’s up to you guys. I’m ok with getting into the controversial. It’s fine with me.
NIKA D: Ok, I’ll tell you anyway. So, basically, we won’t tell you the name, but a majormajor media outlet was going to do a feature on the psychopath video and how it had been censored. Then they went and censored it, themselves, after the California attacks. They were going to do a piece about how America is all about freedom of speech …We’re all for freedom, freedom of speech, look at these silly French censoring stuff, but then they were like, oh shit, we better censor this, you know what I mean? However like just like with the thing in France, it’s not like we don’t get why they might be a bit worried to put that shit out. They don’t want to, you know, they don’t want to make people be in uproar, but at the same time it’s still filtering content, man. And it still not representing the views of everybody, you know? So, it happens everywhere, so that’s our message, man. Don’t be fooled.
Does freedom of speech actually exist?
NIKA D: You know what, it’s a good question, man
JSD: I don’t think so, man.
NIKA D: I think it does, man. Because you’ve got stuff like youtube and Google putting the brakes on censorship and do think there is something called freedom of speech, like you can get away with saying what you want, you just can’t get the media support on saying what you want. But as person, you can go out in the streets and say anything and nothing would happen to you. Back in the day if you said something like, f*cking, she’s not a witch and everyone said she was a witch and then you were getting burned at the stake with her.
JSD: I don’t know, man. I think I would slightly disagree a little bit. I think we’re fooled into believing that we’ve got freedom of speech, but until, like, you got a platform which gets your speech to billions of viewers and I don’t and your platform won’t tell your billions of viewers my views, then really, I’m getting blocked, man. I’m getting cock-blocked.
NIKA D: But you still got the right to say what you want, so there is that. But I think, as far as the media goes…
JSD: It’s like you can say as much you want, Whereas Donald Trump can say what he wants to CNN.
NIKA D: I think the bigger the wallet, the bigger the message, you know what I mean?
Where exactly was Symptomatic primarily recorded at and any more details you’d like to share about the album?
NIKA D: It was all recorded at EY3 Media, which is the company that we own.
JSD: I think, that, going back to what I was saying earlier, about this one going back to our storytelling roots of our first album. The other similarity with this album is we also created the first album from a production point as well, so both of these albums have been produced in-house. Whereas some of the other albums which we released, we drafting in various producers. And that was right for those projects, but, what this has done is kind of give us real, a million percent creative control. So, where we want a beat to cut out or when a sound effect of someone laughing or wanting it to echo in this is bit or literally like we spend f*cking un-countless amounts of hours to stupid o’clock in the morning just going over it and to trying to really make it moving. There’s a song on their called “Shadows”, which is a really good example of that. And is not, we haven’t used any samples in the song, although it may appear that we have, kind of, we put effects on the vocal. We’re kind of playing characters almost in these songs. In producing it, we’ve not just produced it, but we’ve also recorded the vocals, mix the vocals and arrange the songs, so like, we had total creative control of the whole thing. I think, you can really hear that in the record, man. It flows, man.
I’m glad you guys were able to have your own freedom of creativity, because, you know, major labels, they like to tell you what to do and I’m glad you guys were able to go beyond that limited creativity.
JSD: Yeah, man. For real, man. We won’t be stepping back anytime soon either, man. This is where it’s at for us. We really, really enjoyed creating this album. We really believe it’s a really good piece of work, man. We’re very proud of it and that sort of matter like, you know. If we love it, then that sort of matters, man
Are there any plans for you and Dope D.O.D. to do a full-length album?
NIKA D: think defiantly, man. We’ll defiantly do something again with them. Matter of fact we’ll probably speak to them in the next few weeks.
JSD: There is a song on the album, which features Dope D.O.D. If you like Dope D.O.D and if you like Virus Syndicate that one is a f*cking stomper. So it’s that one to look forward to and, you know, the guys are like family now, with boys, and we’re big fans of their work. It’s definitely in the pipelines to do some more stuff together. But as you can imagine like, you know, they’re kind of busy doing their thing. We’re busy doing our thing. You know, I think, like when we put record out, a lot of people went crazy over it and not only that, like, the way we worked that album (Battle Royal), the way, the process of it all was f*cking, really cool, like, we bounced ideas back and forth on the internet. And anything they sent over we were like, “oh shit!” And anything we sent them, they were like, “oh shit!” Like, everything just flowed, you know what I mean, so it was fun all the way through, so I’m sure we’ll do something soon, mate.
What’s the future of Virus Syndicate? What can fans look forward to?
NIKA D: So, obviously, we’ve got this album coming out now and, I think, straight after that, we’re going to put out a bunch of singles and stuff, towards some major projects, and probably do another album. And tours, that’s probably it, really. Tours, singles, then get another album out. Just keep growing, keep building, just trying to push the boundaries and do more creative, cool shit.
JSD: Like with this album, it’s kind of, it’s one of the first one where we brought in, like, we brought singers, guitarists, pianists, you know, it’s really subtle, you can’t really, it’s not, it’s still what it is, but, I think, we’re really exploring the boundaries of that. And we’ve done, kind of, we turned it into symptomatic live as well, we’ve done a series of live videos, with a live band and me on the MPC drum machine and, so we’re really exploring the live elements a little bit more and really excited to just keep working on more music, making albums, We really have the thirst for that. Also, another thing which is quite different about this album is the visual side of things, like the music videos we own a company which is called EY3 Media, which we mentioned earlier, and we do all our visuals in-house, we do all our artwork in-house, photo shoots in-house, vocals in-house. We want to continue that progress in-house like trying to create films, what you listen to, so that, being able to put visuals to that is really exciting, pictures of reality. As well as that we got our artist on Midciation Records and we find it really exciting, He’s called Dino, who’s first song is being released today, which is fucking crazy, man. It’s so sick, so like there’s also other things happening, we’ve also got some other acts, which we signed recently. So, there are other exciting things happening around here. Really creative, exciting thing and again, you know, with having the resources to be able to putting the visuals to that as well and, so that’s loads of really exciting shit going on, man. So, watch your space, man.