It’s a brave musician who dares to challenge the tautly defined, closely guarded territories of genre. Time was, you stayed in your lane. If you rapped, you were a rapper. If you played guitar, you joined a band. The end.
Luckily, times, and expectations, have changed. There exists among us stubborn creatives who refuse to be constricted by genre or type. Take Jovel Walker AKA Random Impulse, for instance. A fan of both Jay-Z and Jack White, the onetime Grime MC, who has engineered for everyone from Wiley to Tinie Tempah, wanted to reflect influences from all of his musical worlds. He wanted to be indie and hip hop. Play guitar and rap. Be left and right.
There was however, one small obstacle standing in his way. Jovel didn’t play guitar. In fact, he didn’t play any instruments. Not one to be deterred (this is a guy who taught himself to produce and engineer two years before), he looked up tutorials on YouTube and got playing. Practising literally morning, noon and night, he was determined to master the art of music to his best ability. “The band that really helped me believe I could do it was the Arctic Monkeys,” says Walker. “I read they’d only been playing for three years before they released their first album. I’d assumed you had to play the guitar since you were 11 years-old but that’s not the case. I’d get 3 or 4 hours sleep a night and practise. Just practise, practise, practise.”
Although a full live band now backs him onstage, those early years of doing it alone were key to his development as an artist. It was his unending determination to play guitar that helped him to understand not only indie music but its history and culture too. “I haven’t got it down to a fine science yet, but I do think I’m one of the few people that authentically bridges the gap,” he says of his thunderous live show that has more in common with The Clash than Tinie Tempah. “You have to pay homage and understand the history.”
A self-confessed nerd with a love of Anime, Japanese film and his mum’s vintage comic collection, the young Jovel initially intended to be a genetic engineer. That all changed when he fell in love with music. Before now, Walker was almost immune to the Jungle and UK Garage that his peers were obsessed by. A passive radio listener, hearing Jay-Z’s Blueprint II album in its entirety in 2002 changed everything. “It was the first time that I listened to someone rap and really understood what they were saying.”
Immersing himself in hip hop as well as the likes of Queens of The Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys and The White Stripes, Jovel’s musical education began during one of the most creative periods in the UK underground’s musical genesis. At school with the likes of legendary grime figures including Dimples and Boy Better Know’s Frisco, the then 15 year-old studied the rhyme patterns and punchlines of those who had been before him and quickly found himself a fixture on infamous pirate station Freek FM. Deciding to make his own beats, he began to buy basic equipment, setting up a simple studio at his mum’s house in Finsbury Park. A friend of a friend introduced him to a new rhymer called Jahmaal ‘Chipmunk’ Fyffe and Chip’s friend Wizzy Wow, and through them, the likes of Scorcher and Wretch 32 began to use the studio. With Jovel as engineer and erstwhile label owner, he released Chipmunk’s first mixtapes and engineered for Tinie, Wiley, Wretch, JME, Ghetts, Skepta and many more. Classic grime albums such as ‘Simply The Best’, ‘Back 2 Da Lab’ and Chip’s ‘Whatever The Weather’ Volumes 1 and 2 emerged from the basement.
Around the same time, 2006, Walker released his own mixtape, ‘Word On The Street’ featuring production from Dexplicit and JME and collaborations with Wretch 32 and Ghetts. Its 2007 follow-up, ‘Full Metal Alchemist’ saw Random start to experiment with his indie influences, including the Vines sampling ‘The Heroine’. The two mixtapes sold over 16,000 units collectively and he was asked to go to LA where he ended up contributing to the original version of Lupe Fiasco’s ‘Lasers’ album.
Returning home, and acutely aware that a strong digital personality was becoming as increasingly important as the music, he started a blog that covered everything from new music to his favourite films and the latest gadgets – it became one of the Top 100 Gadget blogs in the UK. Over on Youtube, his ‘Refix’ series saw him cover everything from B.o.B to Rihanna, with Random re-playing every instrument himself, as well as rhyming and singing. He also created an ongoing online series ‘No Sleep For Winners’, documenting everything from Sushi to Pokemon, Mark Ronson and the Camden Crawl.
Throughout 2012, Random supported Ed Sheeran, Gym Class Heroes and Rizzle Kicks, played Bestival and headlined the BBC Introducing Stage at the BBC Hackney Weekender. A combination of a fresh, credible sound, a pervasive online presence and a massive tune – ‘Overload’ – finally led to Random being signed. After being tipped by everyone from RWD to SBTV, MTV, The Sun and the Huffington Post, Brille stepped forward. He is currently putting the finishing touches to his debut album for release later in 2013.