INTERVIEW: CLEMENT MARFO [OF CLEMENT MARFO & THE FRONTLINE]
We caught-up with Clement Marfo & The Frontline front-man ahead of the release of the group's upcoming single Overtime.
The musical hotpot that is Clement Marfo & The Frontline have spend the majority of 2011making their presence known and voices heard across the UK music scene, touring all over the UK supporting a variety of artists. Eventually, their voices were heard in the right place, and Warner Music snapped up the collective. Now, CT&TF are currently preparing to release their first single Overtimefeaturing Grime heavyweight Ghetts. Courtney Buck caught up with the main man himself Clement Marfo, to discuss what’s been going on with the group, some of their best tour experiences, and…Pixie Lott?
Hi Clement, How are you doing?
I’m cool man! I feel a little exhausted from all the gigs we’ve been banging out, but yeah, I’m all good man. I’m looking forward to this whole campaign for Overtime, it’s exciting, everything’s coming together and we’re getting a lot of radio play. I was with Ace & Vis on 1Xtra on Saturday, so yeah, I’m just excited about everything!
You’ve probably answered this plenty of times, but how did Clement Marfo & The Frontline get together?
I remember being inspired by Jay-Z and Linkin Park’s album. I felt like as an MC or a Hip Hop artist, you’re not going be around for that long, you’ve got to have some big tunes to keep you there, and I personally, want to be around for a good 10 or 20 years doing music. I want to be able to produce music when I’m like, 40 years old and still be on tour. I want this to be an ongoing project, I want this to maintain throughout my whole career, so I hooked up with Dion [drums], he introduced me to Stacey [keyboard], Dan [guitar] and Dan introduced me to Jonny [Bass]. I was a fan of Kojo, because he was a soul artist, and I was like “I need to add you to the package, man!” I just felt like we need to make an empire together, y’know, we have to make this live feeling, not just a rap group. It’s going to be a mixture of rap, soul… It’s like, if you want to see Jay-Z, Phil Collins and Jimi Hendrix all in one night, that’s what we try to do. That’s my way of thinking of it. I’ve been thinking about and planning this for years. I’ve always wanted to open up with a band and now I’m with them, I’m starting to see a lot of results from it. Obviously, we’re now signed to Warner Music, so it was a step in the right direction. If I was just a solo artist, I don’t think I would’ve been recognised.
Good, good! You previously mentioned Overtime, which is your first single and features Ghetts. How did that collaboration come about?
Oh man! The tracks all about work ethic, so we just felt like we needed somebody who could represent work ethic, and I’m a fan of Ghetts from years ago, Ghetts just goes hard! I hit up Ghetts, and he was like “Yeah, I’m down, bruv. I love this whole vibe you got going on”. So we went in the studio, he laid down his 16 bars with ease, and I respect him. I think he’s a genius! I call these people Martians, the likes of Kano, Dot Rotten, Ghetts, I think they’re Martians. The way they write, it’s really creative, so yeah, big up to Ghetts! Also, he’s got a massive fan base, so we put the video out, and in about two days we got 20,000 views, so that’s a good look!
That’s a really good look! You’ve been doing a lot of touring throughout 2011, who have you been supporting?
Over the last year, we’ve supported Plan B, Example; we did a few shows with Florence + The Machine, and we did a tour with Chiddy Bang, and every gig has just been wild! When we go on stage, everyone expects our live energetic performances. One of my highlights of being on tour was the Plan B show in Edinburgh; the audience was just a really wide mix. There was young children to full grown adults. Plan B’s audience was phenomenal, once we got on stage, they just really appreciated our music, and the reaction at the end of the show was like “You guys should headline the show!” so I think that just showed how much we went in on that show. So yeah, just banging out the gigs right now.
Do you have any gigs coming up? We’ve got some really interesting gigs coming up, supportingDe La Soul at the Indigo2 in December, we’re supporting Ghostpoet for a Converse campaign that’s coming up. We’re just all about live music, so we’re just doing gigs all over the country.
Brilliant! So with all these gigs under your belt, what’s the most random experience you’ve had on tour?
I’m going to tell you a little secret. When we were supporting Florence + The Machine in Cardiff, and on our rider, we usually ask for beers, sandwiches, crisps, stuff like that. But I remember, on her rider, she wanted everything black. And I was like “What?” She wants straws black, tissues black, curtains black, everything black! That is raaaanndom! That’s the only random thing I can remember, but I’m sure the guys have other experiences. I was thinking maybe when I sell millions of records I can ask for just blue Skittles! [Laughs]
You mentioned your shows are like watching Phil Collins, Jay-Z and Jimi Hendrix all in one show. Would you say these people influence your music and who else influences you & your sound?
Errm…. Jay-Z’s a massive influence on me, in terms of Hip Hop. But in terms of rock, apart from Jimi Hendrix… errmm… My mind’s gone blank now! [Laughs] Everything influences me, The Fugees toN*E*R*D, that type of sound, Gorillaz… all those kind of sounds appeal to me. Everyone’s got different influences in the band, because we’re all from different places. Kojo is from a soul background, Dan is from a rock background, Stacey’s from a pop background, so putting that all together, there’s going to be so many influences.
You recently attended the MOBO Awards [along with label mates Stooshe and Smiler]. How was your red carpet experience?
Great! It was the second awards ceremony I’ve been invited to. I think every year, since I started rap, I’ve always said I wanted to go to the MOBO Awards or the BRIT Awards. But to be invited this year, I feel like it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully next year I’ll be nominated and/or performing, y’know, it all depends on the results of the next year. It’s great to be amongst these great names though. I was on the red carpet between Jessie J, Wretch 32, and Professor Green… I haven’t released my album or anything yet and these guys have and sold millions of records, everyone knows their names and then there’s little me, from Mitcham, in the middle of all of them. The Mercury Music Prize ceremony was a great experience too. It was my first red carpet event, and they all knew my name for some reason!
As always there was some controversy surrounding who won and who didn’t win awards at this year’s MOBO Awards. Who do you feel should have won or deserved to win?
Obviously, Wretch 32. I think he deserved at least one award. Jessie J getting all four awards was a little strange to me. Her success level is right up there. She’s getting awards all over the world, so it would’ve been nice for Wretch to get some appreciation from the MOBO Awards. Personally, I think it’s a good indication to keep going. It’s going to hurt at first, but ti encourages you to keep going. Look atTinchy Stryder. He’s been nominated 5 years in a row and he got his first award this year! He’s been around for 10 years strong, and he’s always producing music. He keeps it going. He’s got fans out there to keep happy. So I think it’s just a great message for Wretch to keep going.
So what’s the next step for Team CM? Can we expect an album or an EP?
Before we got signed to Warner, we were writing like crazy. I dunno what happened! There was just this chemistry. I just felt like every time we went into the studio, we just recorded a big hit! One after the other. The first song that we wrote together was Champion, and it just set the bar. It’s a big anthemic track, so expect loads of tracks like that on the album. We’ve written over 60 songs, so now we have to pick 11 for our debut album, which will be coming out in the summer of 2012. It’s going to be interesting. But we’ve got a great team around us, and I’m just looking forward to this album, man. I just think it’s really going to grab people’s attention like “wow!” Overtime and Champion are just examples of things to come.
Coolness! I’m going to hit you with some quick fire questions.
Do it! That’s my favourite part! [Laughs]
Ok! Pepsi or Coke?
McDonalds or Burger King?
Finally, if your house was burning down, and you could only save one album, what would it be?
Ahhhh! That’s hard! Umm…. Probably Usher 8701. That’s a classic album. Every song on there was just phenomenal. It’s a timeless classic. I’m not really into RnB but that’s Usher’s best album, personally.
What’s your favourite album out at the moment?
That’s tough man…. I’d say.
Maybach Music Group. It’s not really an album, it’s more of a mixtape, but yeah, I’ve been bumping that everywhere, especially on tour. But as much as I liked that, I’ve been bumping J. Cole’s new album a lot. I think that’s a great work of hip-hop.
If you could pick any female artist to take on a date, who would you pick and why?
[Laughs] Umm… That’s a tough one… Umm… Any artist in the UK or the world?
In the world is fine, but UK would be better! [Laughs]
That’s a tough one! I don’t know why, but Pixie Lott comes to mind. D’you know what it is? I think she’s got Jungle Fever, man! [Laughs] I’d like to see if I could charm her. Charm her into getting on my album! [Laughs]
Overtime [feat. Ghetts] is available to pre order now, and is released on November 14 through Warner Music. [Pre-Order via iTunes right here]
Words by Courtney Buck