The life of a music producer can be a solitary one, particularly in current times. Artist collaboration has largely moved to online exchanges, communities are now primarily digital – existing solely on platforms like Discord. Add that to a post-pandemic economy that has permanently closed many of the physical places that artists previously relied upon and it’s not hard to see how isolating it can be.
It’s a situation that Manchester-based producers Kuartz and Lone Apostrophe were acutely aware of. In response, the duo founded WORKINONIT – a monthly event in Manchester for artists to showcase their work, forge new connections, and build community. All in a relaxed environment, free for everyone to enjoy.
In its first 12 months WORKINONIT has played host to everyone from emerging local talent to international artists, and even a full live band playing MF DOOM covers. We caught up with the masterminds behind the event to learn more about their journey so far…and what’s next.
Let’s start with some background: tell me a little bit about yourselves and how you got into the Hip Hop/Beats scene
It all began when I was 12 and I picked up a guitar. From then till the age of 16 I was mostly playing in school bands doing covers. At 16 I went to college to study music technology and that’s where I met Enoch (elusive Manchester Emcee). He put me onto a bunch of different Hip Hop albums that really resonated with me and that’s when I really became interested in making beats. Around 2016 I started to release beat tapes on cassette via a few different bedroom labels around the globe which eventually put me on Village Live Records’ radar and got me my first wax release in 2017. It’s been pretty much all systems go from there and I’ve had a consistent string of releases on wax, cassette via Village and I Had an Accident Records in the states.
Growing up, our house was filled with music through the late 80’s and early 90’s, courtesy of my mum and older brother. I was absorbing everything from 808 State and MC Tunes, to Thin Lizzy and Parliament, with Beastie Boys, Silver Bullet, Hijack and Tone Loc thrown in. Beyond that, I was heavily into grunge and through Rage Against The Machine, discovered Wu Tang in 1993/94 and then I became a full time skate rat, which massively opened my eyes to Hip Hop. I would hit every live show and night I could reach and buy ludicrous amounts of music. In
maybe 2002, I began writing rhymes and later ended up with a brief monthly spot on the mic at Norvun Devolution at the Roadhouse, before I took a year out of work to study music production at SSR. I made beats for a while back then, but various house moves and space constraints ended up with my gear packed away for a decade or so, until we got our own house in 2016 and I got back on it. I’ve put a few beat tapes out and have been lucky enough to have a couple of digital singles with labels such as Village Live and Aviary Bridge.
How did you first connect? And how did the idea for WORKINONIT come together?
I remember Lone Apostrophe following me on Instagram sometime in 2018 and he reached out to say how highly he rated my beats. Ozzie the owner of The Hip Hop Chip Shop I’ve known for over 10 years. I met him at In The Loop, which was an emcee cypher night at The Corner in Fallowfield back in 2010. Back then The Hip Hop Chip Shop was an idea or a phrase I kept hearing Ozzie talk about, so when he finally managed to open up the spot in Ancoats it instantly became this staple for the Hip Hop community in Manchester. Ozzie asked me to come down and do a DJ set at the spot, that same evening I met Lone Apostrophe in person for the first time ever. Whilst I was there Ozzie was telling me he was trying to think of more events to get people through the door at the shop after the pandemic, so I suggested a beat makers event where producers can come play beats, perform live sets, finger drumming, SP404 sets etc. and he seemed pretty keen. Literally the next day Lone Apostrophe hit me up saying I should put on a beat makers event down at the spot and it’d be great to build a community, so I was like ok but you gotta get on board help! And so WORKINONIT was born.
For people who aren’t familiar, tell me a little about WORKINONIT and what the intention behind it is.
It’s crazy, WORKINONIT initially was intended to be just this quiet little Sunday soiree where people could come, hang out, listen to beats, chat to other beat makers, eat some good food and generally just be very very casual. But now, WORKINONIT has organically grown into so much more, and it’s still growing. You could call WORKINONIT a community that consists not just for beat makers now but literally anyone interested in beats, whether you’re an emcee looking for producers to work with or just a massive fan of listening to Hip Hop instrumentals, WORKINONIT has become bigger than just an event and is reaching beat makers overseas that want to come and be a part of it. Community seems to be a huge part of the event.
Yeah, WORKINONIT has fully surpassed what we originally envisioned, in that we now have regulars supporters who come down with no intention of ever making beats, or being involved in that way – they’re with us purely as fans of the sounds and the vibe we’ve been lucky enough to cultivate. Its mind blowing to think that it’s become a space where on any given Sunday, we could have dudes travelling from overseas to attend, while someone is playing their sounds outside of their house for the first time, alongside sets from genuine legends in the scene, with MCs and UK DMC champs looking on, as families enjoy a meal out. It’s bananas to look round the room. Big up Ozzie for letting us loose in his place of business!
Do you feel it’s helping to build connections within the Manchester community?
For me personally the community part is everything. Online friendships are great, especially for creative people because sometimes finding your people like yourself can be a little difficult in your local city if there isn’t a scene or events etc. Also, beat makers tend to be quiet introverted people but it’s so interesting to see when you put these people in a room together how extroverted they become once they realise they’ve found their tribe. I hear stories from people about how nervous they were to come down and just hang out, but after being there for 10 minutes have felt more comfortable in a social situation than they ever have, and these same people have gone on to drop live sets at WORKINONIT so it’s really been about nurturing this casual laid back event to suit everyone in the growing community.
WORKINONIT is for everyone, and as Kuartz said, those real-life connections are everything. A large part of the U.K. beatmaking scene seems to exist purely online and the idea of gathering everyone we can locally, in one space, seems to bring its own kind of magic. Dudes who would never cross paths otherwise have gone on to form close friendships and collaborate as a result of meeting at WORKINONIT, not to mention the sharing of knowledge, techniques, ideas and advice that goes on. It’s a learning environment as much as it’s a social event.
You’ve had a huge variety of artists playing over the last 12 months. What’s your approach to booking and/or curation?
Truthfully, we’ve never really had to ask anyone to play. We put the word out that we were starting WORKINONIT and the inbox just filled up. The only time we’ve ever had to ask people to play is if someone has cancelled at short notice. We’re also very very easy going and encourage literally anyone at any level to play at WORKINONIT, even if it’s just bringing some beats in a memory stick to be played in between sets. Some people might think that’s setting ourselves up for a disaster but I’ll be honest with you, the amount of raw talent that has walked through those doors has been incredible, there’s people out there that have been make absolute fire and I’m so glad they came down otherwise I might not have gotten to hear what they do.
Yeah, the line-ups have basically curated themselves, with dudes from across the UK (and further afield!) requesting a spot, showing up and putting the work in! We’ve been massively surprised by the number of beatmakers who are willing to travel to bless us with sounds, purely because there’s nothing similar in their local scene, even within major cities. In terms of curation, the most we do is discuss which beatmakers would work well in cyphers and complement each others’ sets, but half the magic of this first year has been putting on dudes we hadn’t previously heard of, only for them to turn up and knock heads clean off!
It looks like you’ve had an eventful first year. What have the highlights been for you?
Undoubtedly the DOOM special was a huge huge highlight but for me the whole year has been peppered with cool little moments, from having Peter Parker dropping a set (someone I look up to and remember seeing him tear down The Ritz for a Grand Central Records Birthday Party way back when) to reconnecting with old friends like Enoch. Meeting Alecs DeLarge and then watching him shell down for nearly two hours was insanely dope. Franc absolutely smashed it too, not that I wasn’t expecting him to be dope but just wasn’t ready for the high level of fire he was throwing down. Getting to beat cypher with Mecca83 was a personal highlight too, dudes been killin it for years and I’d never met him in person until WORKINONIT and now he’s part of the team which we’re excited about. I think also because it’s a social event there’s that possibility that when people are drinking, blazing etc that something hilarious is going to happen too. The number of times I’ve cracked up and laughed from the bottom of my stomach at something thats happened outside…usually Rokz is involved or Enoch.
Definitely the entire DOOM special, from start to finish. The buzz and atmosphere both inside and outside the building was something special, for sure, with an incredible amount of talent on display. My first WORKINONIT appearance was the first ever live beat set I did, which is something I never imagined I’d be doing, and to be in a beat cypher with Kuartz (as well as FTHMLSS and Catch 92) was a highlight. Peter Parker arriving with pretty much every electrical appliance he owns and then rocking all heads in the building was a mad moment for me, as I interviewed him as a journalism student at 18 years old in 1999 and was mad nervous. He’s then stood telling us two decades later that he’s nervous to be playing for us! My older brother being there for that was dope. Chatting to dudes like Mark One, who I remember DJ’ing for Method Man and Texas on The Brit Awards as a kid, has also been wild. There’s so much; Alecs DeLarge rocking feature-length sets of wall-to-wall heaters, Ethan Hill bringing mad energy with his team, the formation of our most ardent (and rowdy) team of regulars (DJ D.S, Bob Bell and the Crewe Crew), Rokz Bundy becoming our WORKINONIT Bez, watching former Rock Steady Crew member Tuf Tim Twist breaking to my beats, discovering that Rochdale is second only to Mount Vernon for jazzy boom bap – big up Dooku and Chek! There’s plenty….
You’re now heading into your second year: what’s next for WORKINONIT?
So the second year we have a lot planned. We want WORKINONIT to become more interactive at the events. Did Somebody Say Retro has kindly jumped on board to provide us with some retro gaming consoles as and when he can. We’re also going to be starting Live Rhythm Roulettes at the events which will be a little more engaging for people and hopefully provide some more insight into how different people approach making beats. I know Mecca is working on something super special too which I’m hoping we can make a regular thing but shhhh for now. More merch is in the works … again, shhhh for now. It’d be really nice to get some of the lads on a festival in the “Chill Out Tent” and do like a WORKINONIT take over for a day or something. There’s a fair few things happening in the new year but I don’t want to say to much and spoil the surprises we have in store for the community.
We were looking to expand into a range of kitchenware, stationery and underwater knife-fighting equipment, but Brexit’s proper done us over. We’ll have to settle for adding some new formats for the events, bringing in a few secret special guests and cultivating an even bigger support network. Personally, I’d love to see WORKINONIT take up a little festival spot, as Kuartz said. We’ve got the talent on deck, we just need letting loose on a line-up.