With our new Level 4 courses – the first year of a degree, in partnership with UEL – due to begin at Talent House in September 2023, it’s time to meet one of our new course leaders, RXWNTREE. A multi-platinum producer and classically trained musician with a diverse, multi-genre approach who’s worked with Skepta, JHus, MoStack, Stefflon Don and more, RXWNTREE will be leading on the CertHE Music Technology and Production course. Having already taught the likes of M1[onthebeat], Abracadabra & MK Da Plug, UD writer Kat Friar finds out more…
UD: Can you tell us about your career journey from when you started to now?
My name’s RXWNTREE, [I’m a] producer from east London. I started off making grime music about 15-20 years ago. Yes, I’m old now! I did a lot of stuff in the Channel U era for a group called Bomb Squad, worked a lot with bands like N-Dubz and whatnot, and Ruff Sqwad from east London as well. [I] play a lot of instruments like clarinet, sax, and piano, was in an orchestra for a while…
When I got to secondary school, I enjoyed making music – really loved it – it was something that made my friends happy and dance, and I kind of liked that feeling that I could give them so I continued doing that. Got to college, continued making music, had some successful songs in the charts… Fast forward to 2010, I dropped my debut mixtape album with Scorcher, Wretch 32, JME, all the grime guys, Lady NY, everyone.
I carried on making music from there and decided to become a teacher. After becoming a teacher I started teaching some wonderful students like M1[onthebeat], Abracadabra, MK Da Plug, Ras Eye from the HeavyTrackerz, who made ‘German Whip’. It’s been a rollercoaster. After I’d finished my PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education), as well as becoming a teacher, I then signed to Sony ATV and Tinie Tempah. And i’ve been producing for everyone since then – from Skepta to Emeli Sande… That’s a snapshot of my musical journey!
UD: Amazing. For anyone who’s not familiar with you, do you have any notable cuts in your discography that they might recognise you by? And do you have any personal favourites of your own?
Songs people would probably know me by are Skepta, Chip and Young Adz’s song called ‘Mic Check’ – it was the only garage song on their joint album, Insomnia, which charted at no.3.
Also MoStack ‘Ride’, MoStack & AJ Tracey ‘Miss Me’, Miraa May & Hailey ‘Say Yeah’, Emeli Sande ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’… We could do this for a long time haha. I do a lot of live stuff as well for Stefflon Don. Personal favourite would’ve been J Hus and MoStack ‘Dealers and Robbers’, ‘cause it was one of the first songs I did that got me to a place of recognition in this rap scene – I was known in the grime scene – but that song got me a lot of recognition in that scene, so that’d be my favourite song. But, technically speaking, my favourite song is probably one of J Hus’ that will never come out, which is the hardest part of music.
UD: Why is it never coming out?
Just because he’s moved on from that style of music now. It’s such a banger, but it happens. I’ve got another song with Nines that’s one of my favourite songs as well. That’s the hardest part about being a producer. Some of these songs will never, ever come out.
UD: That’s so sad. Do you have any anecdotes from being on the come up?
Only results matter. When I’m making music I try and separate the emotional decisions from it, so I do what’s right for the song and not what’s personally right for me. I make a song that’s got the right amount of sounds in it, the synths and whatnot, and I just separate how I emotionally feel about it and do what’s right for the record. Otherwise, you don’t make the best decisions for the song, so only results matter. Separate your emotions from the song and keep doing you, until you become cool. That’s always been my thing. I keep doing me until my things in fashion and then I run away with it ‘cause I can do me best.
UD: What is your relationship like with UD?
I first went to UD about 15 years ago probably. I had my studio on the same road in Three Mills. I met Pamela McCormick (UD founder) when myself and Jammer (BBK) were doing a studio session with McNasty, who’s Labrinth’s brother, and they worked a lot with UD as well. So we’ve worked over a long period of time and now I’m gonna be running the Level 4 course as a curriculum manager and teaching as well, so we’ve come full circle from working in studios 15 years ago to now doing education and music. It’s been a long lasting relationship.
UD: Nice. So what does your journey of moving into teaching look like? I remember you mentioned that you were a teacher at some point and how does it feel to come back into that?
I always do it cause I still want my own little charity outside and for the last 11 years now I’ve been teaching anyway, so even though I do music, things like Covid taught me that it’s always good to have a fall-back career. I’ve got my qualification – my PGCE – I’ve always taught, whether it’s workshops or whatnot. I teach regularly at least four or five times a month, it’s nothing to go back to to be honest. I’ve always been doing it.
UD: What do you think makes a good educator?
Someone who figures out what didn’t go well for them in school and who tries to reverse that. I try and look at what the teachers didn’t do for them and I put that into my workshop or lessons. So I make ’em as fun as possible, [and] get as engaged as possible. I’m often willing to make myself the fool to make everyone feel comfortable and I feel like that’s the key. Once everyone feels comfortable, we get the best outta everyone, and making everyone feel like this is a safe space. Some teachers just wanted to be suited and booted and not let their guard down to have some respect in the class, but I get respect by letting my guard down and letting everyone feel comfortable and safe. And we get the best out of the learners or whoever we’re working with…
UD: So what excites you about our Level 4 courses?
For starters, the learners that we’ve been interviewing are all exceptionally talented. They’re coming from London to Brighton so far, and we’re still recruiting. Everyone’s very versatile and different and everyone’s got passion and hunger about it, which is great. These people like the process of making music – which is what I’m really here for – and you can see they live and sleep and breathe it.
UD: What is your role as a Course Leader going to entail?
Being every student’s older brother – to get advice, to share with them, to listen – most importantly ‘cause people just wanna speak and be listened to – listen and implement what they need. Then to nurture really, and provide talent, then just use all the mistakes I’ve made to give them advice. So it’s a big brother role with ears to listen and nurture and guide.
UD: What are you looking forward to the most?
I’ve just come up from Jamaica and Miami, so it’s good to just get back into the swing of things and get up and running because I feel like the learners we’ve interviewed so far are really cool, really amazing and really bespoke. So just getting into developing them and hearing what they want to do and finding the next stars that you, UD, can give to the world.
UD: Why should potential students look at the Level 4 courses?
For starters, you’re gonna get one-on-one experience – you get one-to-one lessons with myself, like I said, I’ve worked with everyone from J Hus, Skepta and MoStack to Emeli Sande, so you’re gonna get a great tutor who’s well-rounded and [is] gonna be very honest with you. I’ve been published by Sony, I’m still published by Sony now, so you’re gonna get someone that’s gonna give you active advice, industry connects that I bring in, and also the Level 4 at Talent House has state-of-the-art equipment. I can guarantee you wherever you go, they’ll have some good equipment, but not like this! We have at least five studios here with digital desks, live pianos… We’re in east London, not hard to get to, very easy, accessible and you’re not gonna find state-of-the-art equipment like this everywhere. If you find anything close, you won’t find the staff like this. So come and learn and serve the musical Gods.
UD: My last question, do you have any advice for students still deciding?
If you’re not sure about it, just come down. I guarantee you, you’re gonna leave wanting to start now. So just come down and have a chat with us. No pressure. Come down, have a formal chat, bring some music and let’s have a chat and see if we can help you.
Check out our state-of-the-art studios HERE.
For any queries and to book a visit tour of Talent House, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow RXWNTREE on Instagram.
Words & photography: Kat Friar