For anyone familiar with the genre of Afrobeats, it would be almost impossible to not recognise the distinctive sounds of Juls on production.
Having gifted us hits such as Skin Tight by Mr Eazi, So Mi So by Wande Cole and most recently True Love, which featured on the platinum album Made in Lagos by Wizkid, it is fair to say Juls is one of the pinnacles of both the African music scene and as a forerunner for alternative sounds in the UK.
Despite having only decided to dedicate himself music full-time three years ago, he has spent a lifetime nurturing his craft to produce the magic that we experience today.
M Magazine caught up with Juls to discuss his journey so far, his debut album and what is in store for him in the not so distant future.
'My breakthrough came when the sound I created crossed over internationally and found the ears of Mr Eazi and Afrobeats’ greats such as Wande Cole, Burna Boy and more recently Wiz. As a DJ, these connections have taken me all around the world...'
Sam Ilori: For the benefit of those who may not know you, would you do us the pleasure of introducing yourself?
Juls: My name is Juls, I was born in east London and raised between the UK and Ghana. I’m a producer, DJ and artist in my own right and have worked with the likes of Wizkid, Goldlink, Tyler the Creator, Burna Boy and many more. I’m in a position where I’m now about to release my own debut album, Sounds Of My World.
Sam: Where did your musical journey begin and what made you want to become a producer?
Juls: It started when I was in university and I would play around with FL Studio, then Reason, then any other recording software I could get my hands on. I just stared practicing. I’m a big fan of both Kanye West and J Dilla so my beat style was very boom-bap, hip-hop and soul orientated in the beginning, but later on I decided to start making music that would give me more of identity as an African man, despite being a Londoner. I’d say my breakthrough came when the sound I created crossed over internationally and found the ears of Mr Eazi and Afrobeats’ greats such as Wande Cole, Burna Boy and more recently Wiz. As a DJ, these connections have taken me all around the world and allowed me to perform on stage with some of these artists and go on tour with Goldlink.
Sam: Who are your biggest influences?
Juls: I listen to a lot of King Tubby, Kanye West and J Dilla. From an African Highlife standpoint, I love Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas for that old school Highlife feel. With regard to the modern-day producers, I look up to people like Metro Boomin and Sars. There’s so many to mention in the UK: P2J, TSB, 4 Play, Jae5 and many more that inspire me to do what I do.
Sam: What was the turning point in your career when you knew that music is what you wanted to do long term?
Juls: I’ve always been passionate about music, but my academic background is in finance. In secondary school I was a science student with ambitions of becoming a scientist. I was on the verge of taking physics seriously at one point as I really enjoyed taking cars apart and figuring out how to put them back together. My plans changed when I arrived at university, and I became bored of science and wanted to make some money. I decided to switch to a more business orientated field and I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters in finance. I only quit to focus on my music career in 2018 as it became too difficult to balance working and creating at the same time. It was difficult because it meant missing out on a lot of opportunities and the ones I did take, such as flying to the states, would require a quick weekend turnaround. It was hard at times, but it had to be done and we made it happen.
'I’ve released classic records consecutively since 2015 and I feel that makes me stand out amongst the crowd.'
Sam: You’ve been labelled as a prolific Afrobeats producer. Would you say this statement is accurate or does your current sound transcend outside of the Afrobeats genre?
Juls: A lot of people like to put artists in boxes and I feel that to be the case for me, but if you listen to my music you will find I am one of the few whose sound travels globally as a producer. You have your typical ‘Londoner’ producer who may dabble in other genres but will always return to the sound they are more comfortable with, but I feel my sound is far more eclectic and taps into different cultures and styles that will resonate with a Brazilian on one song, an African on another and Haitian on a completely different song. I don’t necessarily put a label on my music, but I can see why people will call it Afro because of the African elements in the music, and that’s fine. I know with time people are going to experience a side of my sound they have never experienced before and maybe they will label me differently.
Sam: How did featuring on Wizkid’s album Made In Lagos affect your career?
Juls: Every so often, I have wake up calls and I feel this was one of them. I’m not really that type of producer that puts out a huge number of songs each year, chasing commercial success. However, every year I drop a classic that is timeless and I think True Love is one of them. I think it also served as a reminder to people that I’m still here doing my thing. I’ve released classic records consecutively since 2015 and I feel that makes me stand out amongst the crowd. Anytime I release something of that calibre, it’s a wakeup call and because it was Wiz, it amplified things for me even more and opened doors to a much wider audience.
Sam: What would you say are the biggest difficulties you’ve faced during your time in the industry?
Juls: As a producer, you’re always going to want the attention of the greatest artists within your field, as well as the movers and shakers within the industry. Sometimes your sound is not particularly what they are looking for at the time, so it’s easy to get overlooked. Other times they may want you to make something that isn’t necessarily what you’re known for so it’s all a balancing act. I would say this is more of an observation I have made as opposed to a challenge I have personally experienced. I know I have the ability to make magic with anyone and everyone that gets in the studio with me as long as the vibe is right. I think great things come in good time.
'I’m hoping that people take in the sounds and follow me on the music journey I am trying to take them on with this album.'
Sam: Who was your dream collaboration when you started making music and who it is now?
Juls: To be honest, it was nobody at first because when I started making beats, my focus was to establish my name. I just wanted my music to become popular and get attention from producing. Once this was achieved, I started dreaming of working with certain artists. Everybody I wanted to work with at the time, I have worked with, and I continue to speak these collaborations into existence. Moving forward, I’d like to work with a lot more international acts on some hip-hop and R&B. That’s currently where my head is with my music. I have a lot of records with different artists that I want to put out but it all just depends on making sure the timing is right.
Sam: What can listeners expect from Sounds Of My World?
Juls: I’d rather people didn’t have an expectation, but more of a hope. I’m hoping that people take in the sounds and follow me on the music journey I am trying to take them on with this album. It’s a very peaceful, spiritual body of work, it’ll keep you at ease and is really suitable for a good drive, chilling at home or with friends. There’s a few up-tempo songs on the album but even those have a mellow feel to them. I’ve really taken steps to express myself sonically through music that I grew up listening to which subsequently has evolved into this sound I have produced. I hope all will see what I have tried to achieve by blending sounds and bringing different cultures together.
Sam: Do you have a favourite song on the album and or has it changed over time?
Juls: At the moment, I don’t have a favourite song because I have this habit of not listening back to songs I’ve completed. When the album comes out (8 October), I’m going to treat myself and go for a quiet drive at midnight and vibe to the whole album over the course of the weekend. That’s when I think I will know which song is my favourite. I’ve allowed myself to rest, spend time with friends and family and recharge so I can come back rejuvenated and with a fresh mindset. In a nutshell, I don’t have a favourite song right now but that will change soon, I’m sure.
'It’s important to analyse your surroundings and see what people are gravitating towards and see if you can create similar or even better pieces of work.'
Sam: If you could summarise who Juls is in three words, what would they be and why?
Juls: A lot of times I am in my own world and when I am, I listen to music that helps me ease the stresses of life around me. For me, the best way to do that is listen to music that is mellow and spiritual, so one of the words I’d give you is spiritual. Soothing is another word because my music puts you in that type of mood. It’s very calm and relaxing. I’m the type of person that keeps calm and relaxed regardless of what is happening. I’d say the last word is experimental because I love approaching things differently every time. It throws me off sometimes when people say they know what to expect from my music, but I guess there is a distinctive flavour in how I produce, so I won’t complain. So spiritual, soothing and experimental. That’s Juls.
Sam: What advice would you give those that are starting out as producers?
Juls: I feel like many people give generic answers to this question which I try to avoid. ‘Keep going hard’ is pretty much what you hear from everyone, but I’ve been going hard for some time and in some ways feel like nothing has changed. What I will say is all you can do is be true and distinctive when it comes to your sound and have 100 percent belief in whatever it is you are making and if it doesn’t work, you can always go back to the drawing board and try new things. It’s important to analyse your surroundings and see what people are gravitating towards and see if you can create similar or even better pieces of work. Having said that, I also believe it’s important to differentiate yourself others.
Sam: What is next for Juls?
Juls: I look up to people like Black Coffee and David Guetta who are household names and tour the world. That’s what I am trying to do. Moving forward I want to make a lot more up-tempo music for people to dance to, so in the next three or four years my aim is to figure what that looks like. There are a few songs on the album that hint towards the direction I would probably like to go in, but I think in the next year or two I will have a better picture of this. I want to be a household name as a Black African man, have my name in capital letters on flyers for festivals and concerts and be able to provide for my family so all my hard work, time and efforts are not in vain.
You can listen to Sounds of my World on Spotify.