Some people just ooze coolness, which is great for them, but slightly frustrating for the rest of us. Chuck together Gorillaz bassist Seye Adelekan and a gloss red Razorback 125 and it becomes entirely unfair.
If one man knows what it takes to be cool, it's him. Joining Damon Albarn’s band back in 2017, Seye has spent the last few years working with some of the biggest names in music. “One of the great things about working with Gorillaz is that I get the chance to work with some amazing people,” he tells us while visiting the London MUTT Store.
Skepta, St Vincent, Elton John, Slowthai, Slaves and Beck are just a few to have collaborated with Gorillaz on their 2020 album ‘Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez’. Yet Seye still confesses to getting starstruck every so often even after working with such illustrious names. “In December we did a live stream and Robert Smith from The Cure was singing with us. Everybody from our crew, to the people on the lights and production and management, to the band, to Damon himself was just like “I can’t fucking believe it’s Robert Smith”. He was super dope, I got a bit starstruck but he wasn't being starstrucky do you know what I mean? He wasn’t giving off that vibe, he's just one of the coolest people on the planet. Everybody has a Cure song that they love!” Seye then casually mentions how “working with Sir Paul McCartney was amazing”, just in case you needed more examples of the plethora of stars Seye has worked with so far.
Growing up, Seye was constantly surrounded by music - singing in the church most days. His mum sang music and would sometimes have the whole family performing, including Seye’s dad on guitar. The “fertile musical environment” that Seye and his siblings grew up in clearly rubbed off, with his two older brothers also becoming professional musicians - one of whom is producer and pianist Niyi "Synematik”, while the other is Olugbenga, the bassist for Metronomy.
It was actually while crashing at his brother's house during Seye’s gap year that he got his first break in the music game. “I was sleeping on Olugbenga’s couch and he was playing with Jeremy Walmsley but couldn't do this one particular tour, so I covered him. Jeremy and I started working together for a long time after that.” The rest, as they say, is history.
So was there a moment when Seye thought he’d made it as a musician? “I wouldn’t say there was one moment when I felt like ‘I’ve made it’ because I feel like that's a dangerous way to think. Things fluctuate so much, you might have a great year, might have a great couple of years, but then the next ones might not be too great. The first time I headlined Latitude Festival with Damon was quite a big moment because I love that festival. The first time I played there was in the coffee shop, then the next year a small stage, to the next year a slightly bigger one and then with Damon’s solo album we headlined. So that was pretty special, having come up through the ranks.”
But if we’re talking favourite venues, Seye’s response may surprise you. “Still to this day one of my favourite playing experiences was back in secondary school when me and my friends had a band and we used to play at the Tunbridge Wells Forum quite a lot - which is a great sort of sticky-walled venue. We cut our teeth there when we were like 14/15 so that's always going to be up there in my heart.” There's also a special mention given to the million-year-old Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. “That was just insane. And they give you a bit of rock when you play there so I’ve got a bit at home with my name on it.”
Anyway, time we had a little chat about bikes. Seye is about to do his CBT so we’re curious what made him want to venture into the world of two wheels? “Well, the freedom of it. They’re obviously just cool machines, but there is something I feel that signifies the free spirit, the way you can just get up and go somewhere. Whereas there's something about a car that feels like a more stifled experience, you’re less in contact with the world around you. There's also something about motorcycles being a more solo experience. You might ride with people, but it's your story, you and the road. That sort of feeling fascinates me. I could definitely see myself on a motorcycle going down the coastline for hours and hours and it not being boring, whereas I feel like if I was in the car I’m more likely to nod off. It feels like a much more active way of getting somewhere.”
And what about a Mutt? “They’re super cool. I think they’re great, they are somehow classic and somehow modern and I'm not entirely sure how that's happened, but obviously, lots of really, really good people have worked hard to do that. They just look like a really well made, wonderfully crafted machine.” It’s this old-meets-new style where the most amazing things come from in Seye’s opinion. “It's the same with music. There's kind of nothing worse than someone just doing a ‘60s record, for example, but I don’t think there is necessarily anything great in someone just nodding or being reverent to what's been before. My favourite stuff is often where there is something classic and timeless, but it's referencing that; made today, clearly of now and not just nostalgic, not just futuristic.”
His passion for creativity and curiosity in other people's interests is clear. Even when we were discussing Mutts’ music and craft, double entendre tagline ‘Black Metal from Birmingham’, Seye starts telling us about these blacksmith videos that he’s been watching. “I got well into this thing called ‘Man At Arms: Reforged’ which is about these guys who make weapons from films and video games and recreate them. It's black belt level stuff off something that I do not understand. I really want to get into making knives, maybe kitchenware, maybe jewellery. It's something that I'd really like to try. The same way I started watching these videos of this guy who's a coffee expert and would compare espresso machines and stuff, it's got nothing to do with what I’m good at, but this guy is so passionate about it and I love that.”
Other than becoming a blacksmith and getting his CBT, Seye hopefully has a busy rest of the year and beyond. He’s recently released a sci-fi short story written with his brother Olugbenga, supported by Dr. Martens with all proceeds going to the charity Black Minds Matter. In June of next year, he’ll be back on the road with the Gorillaz, as well as aiming to release his own EP and continuing his voice-over work.
If you want to keep up to date with everything Seye is up to, give him a follow on Instagram, @seyemusic. You’ll be treated to clips and pics of his many musical endeavours as well as a generous helping of style (warning, you will leave his page with outfit-envy).
You can also catch him on Boogaloo Radio every Saturday from 4 - 6 pm presenting his ‘80s show ‘The New Wave Rave’, and Islington Radio every other Sunday presenting ‘Sepiatone’ - a smokey mix of ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, and a dusting of ‘70s (he’ll be live this Sunday the 26th of September, ‘21).
Thanks a lot Seye, you absolute legend!
Motorcycle featured: Razorback 125cc Gloss Red | Photography by Luis Kramer