Growing Backwards is a 31-minute journey of 8 Melancholic beats on the backdrop of lyrics representing an outlook on the artist’s life, politically and musically. Whilst absorbing the whole project, I took in sips of Sane’s sudden realisations of misconceptions and conditioned idealism, alongside many other themes he later explained to me. This consensus between the sounds of the beats, alongside the truth expressed in his lyrics, is what creates the perfect balance of Growing Backwards. On the chorus of Growing Backwards, Sane composes a soft tone and offers up a question many artists often find themselves asking, “I’m just trying to do what I love, how come being me is not enough?”. I get the vibe that idealism has become imprisoned in our day and age, freeing up more space and doubt for us to think about how we are told we are meant to behave. For me, Growing Backwards means that I must take myself through a process of taking a step back, and unlearning some of the ideas that have been forced upon us. Sane take’s these issues and discusses them with a full comprehension of who he is, and the significance of where he is in life. In Save My Soul we hear him offer up theoretical questions about Race, Power, Politics, and Love. I spoke to Sane more about this project, to gain an insight on his outlook on life, how living in Leicester has shaped his craft, to understand the content at a deeper level, and to find out about his meaning of life. This interview was rich, for it left me in a wealthier position in terms of my outlook on life. Even if there were issues we both knew and agreed upon, it was meaningful because we were reminded of the wisdom we have humbly acquired through our journey in life. It was important for me to abstain from taking anything from this transcript; I needed to allow for Sane’s essence to be expressed because I could see, that this was someone who has experienced a lot of life in order to gift us with his craft.
Talk me through the transition of Skitza, to Sane Skitza to Sane?
The nickname Skitza was one that I kind of got before I even started rapping. It was kind of a piss-take. It was dark. I kind of made it my own and owned it but it didn't come from the best of places and so I think when I was younger it kind of stuck and made sense. When I was young, I wasn’t really conscious of things that we were glorifying and the things I was glorifying by using that name, and so I think I slowly tried to branch out and I changed it to Sane Skitza. Sane Skitza was a flip on that to express that I can be both. It was oxymoronic; it was me trying to be smart. That's kind of stuck for a long time. There was a long time before my last release and this album. So for me just before the release, I felt I was ready to shake that. I’m not saying anyone is completely out of the woods when it comes to mental health, but it wasn’t my choice of tag and I didn’t want to keep that. So I thought it’s a new sound, a new day, a new producer, so this is the time to go down to Sane. Sane is a play on my own name which is Zane. I can’t even promise you that it will be the last pseudonym.
What’s the album about; tell me how you came about with the name.
So, Growing Backwards came almost before the idea of the album. It was a term and idea I liked. A representation of making up for lost time in one sense massively, growing into the things I should’ve been saying, the way I should’ve been acting, and seeing things. I was growing backwards into that and realising that over the past few years I was making up for lost time. I struggled to pen anything, I can’t pen fiction. I can’t write anything that I’ve not lived, gone through, experienced and that’s another thing with making up for lost time. I spent so long writing bars that would fit the setting of the people I was rapping with or fit the setting of what was the trend, and sell myself in a certain light. The whole album was about being as real as possible. Leaving the city, I left my city behind and did things in other places. There are a lot of mentions of not being successful; I openly talk about other people around me doing well when I don’t feel I’m doing well. So I mean some people might say the album is about an analysis of depression but for me, it’s not really that. For me, it’s an acute representation of everything I was seeing and feeling at any one time. That’s how you can get problems from that album. People go through good days and bad days. I might come out the studio and feel on top of the world, and then there are other days where I’ve not done anything, I’ve not written or spoken to Luke, and then I might write something like Growing Backwards, you know.
Where is your safe haven?
I think I have a safe haven that I can never go back to, in my old house that I grew up in. I was out on the streets rather than actually staying at home making things work with my family. A lot of kids go off the rail. There was a compromise where I could just chill, I could turn the back shed into my own thing and do whatever. I was 16 when I went there last, I think I need to find a new haven but that’s a place where my mind goes back to.
What’s your favourite song on the album?
My favourite song on the album, I love the fact that my boys are on Problems. But for me, it’s Going Places. I madly want to say Growing Backwards. But with Going Places, I’m taken back to how I felt when I was writing and how I was feeling.
What does Leicester mean to you? The song Little City is lovely because for me, even if I’m not from Leicester and having grown up in Birmingham, I can move away from Birmingham but I’ve shared so many memories here. I can listen to Little City and be taken back; experiencing my personal nostalgic moments with the city I grew up in.
Leicester really taught me that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. The whole idea of being in something and not knowing what you’ve got until you leave. You realise it is you. Leicester is home, I go there and I feel grounded. I know left from right, and I know up from down. I see faces, and I know the smells, the sound, where you can walk, and where you can’t walk. Part of the name Skitz is because I was everywhere. When I was 18 I lived in Amsterdam for like 6 months, I came back, I lived in Birmingham. I was never settled, but when you get to Leicester, it’s the best place in the world. I know where bits of graffiti are, the street signs. I know everything that’s just important.
What would you say is the most important element of a song? What do you look out for first? Is it the lyrics or the beat?
For me personally, the most important element will always be the lyrics. I can fall in love with a sound and later on realise I was caught out because someone was talking absolute trash. This is on a traditional song; obviously, there are different types of music. But if I’m listening to a vocal artist on a track, the underlining importance is the lyricism. But I always preach about upping your game and sound because it doesn’t matter what you say if you don’t bother to make it listenable you’re not doing enough for your audience. There has to be a balance, but it’s the lyrics for me.
Your background, tell me about you and how you came to music and found refuge in music?
In my family, we haven’t really got a choice. With my parents, I’m sure they met as a product of music. They were in a band. My mum is of Jamaican descent, my dad’s Irish. They met in music, I have childhood memories of traveling and we hopped from music festival to music festival and that’s how we came up. My parents would do a performance here and there. I will always remember that it was never silent in my house, there was always music playing. Either my parent’s rehearsing, a record player or, my brother making a tape, so it was a big big thing for me coming up. When I fell into music, it was intrinsic. I found refuge in lyricism, I played the guitar, the bass, and I loved it, but also being able to articulate and write. When we were kids, me and my friends had the defence of articulating ourselves. This was our sword, and I realised I could do a lot with this and attach it to music.
Save my Soul is one of my favourite songs. It touches on a lot of issues, tell me what you wanted to tell your listeners because I hear Politics, Race, I feel Love. I once thought love is not the issue but it’s the people. We blame the subject when it’s the person using the subject. I loved it because it was very relaxed yet so powerful.
I feel like our generation in terms of what we see on the news and every day [issues]: we are becoming conscious of it. The world is in a bad way, and maybe it’s maturity. Things are bad everywhere and for me, you touched on it. It talks about Politics, it talks about Race, and it touches on Gender. I always secretly wanted to be a heavily politically conscious rapper but I never took off that way. On the tape, a lot of frustration and anxieties we don’t recognise as people are what is around us. The whole idea of Save My Soul is general. But what I’m trying to say is it’s about the world. It’s about where we are at. There’d be times where I’m crying over here saying black lives matter, I’m crying over here saying stop killing unarmed men, this is the same shit happening in U.K in the same sense. My boy crying over here about Palestine, and it covers other issues of terrorism, police brutality, and being conscious of the LGBT group. This song was about taking it all in and saying somebody save me and my people from this. That’s why it starts with “they kill my people in the streets, you know that bro”.
There’s a lot of hidden symbolism and metaphors in it. It was beautiful that you found that balance between the beat and the lyrics because if the project was over the top the content of it would be drowned out. You have to have the right balance between the tones in order to listen to that.
What was it like working with Luke? He explains that you were both very different but found a common ground in this and that’s what made it so good.
Me and Lowpass Luke have known of each other for years. I think I would’ve rapped on his beats years ago without knowing, but we bumped into each other here and there. Then I heard one of his instrumentals once and it’s again what we were saying about this. We didn’t meet once for the whole process whilst working together but Luke got where I was at entirely and I love him for that. I explained everything to Luke, I could say I am going through this and I won’t get at you for two weeks and I’m sorry. There was a trust that was there and I think creatively for me that was essential. This allowed me to take steps away from being fake or defended by a façade. I took steps to be real, sincere, and honest. I think Luke got that and even though some might say he’s a producer and just might make the beats. In regards to the content, he was in there. We spoke about things that I wrote about and it was an overlaying of artistry, and it was two people that met and overplayed each other. That’s what it’s like working with Luke. God bless anyone who ever works with him because you can just feel the love of the music and art. It’s rare. Everything goes round in trends and you may get linked up with people who are good and talented but they’re in it for something quite different and it's ok for a lot of people. But when you need to connect with someone and build with someone for a project, you need someone that loves every moment of it. They need to be connected.
Do you believe in fate?
Yeh, erm, yeh I think I do.
Ok, can you make up four lines, or a chorus or anything? The topic is fate; I’ll give you 20 seconds to think about it.
They used to call me mate,
But they don’t call me lately
I guess they’ll call it fate,
But I just call it snaky.
Which kind of goes back on me saying that I do believe in fate. To kind of go back to that question, I believe in fate to an extent, but I also believe strongly in choice, extremely strongly in choice. I believe there’s fate in regard to your choice. That’s a bigger conversation.
I’m going to throw a statement to you, I don’t know if I believe in fate but I’ve said that fate is a great excuse for people to use within context of course.
My reaction to that is that yeh, I hate to say it but I agree. Within context is almost the most important thing to say. I agree it was just what I was saying about choice. You are your choice and you are your evidence of your choice. I don’t think we have to get emotional especially if it’s past choices but in regards to the future, you can sit and ride it out and rely entirely on fate but there’s an element of choice.
If your craft was in human form how would he or she look?
I’ll try not to describe myself. Ok, I feel like right now he’d be not melancholy, not someone sad but someone extremely slow. Introverted to an extent with a lot to say but choosing not to say it. Erm, I’m seeing images, I’m seeing tall, lean back, rum and apple juice.
Is there any such thing as justice or peace, can the world get this?
My true belief is I think justice is entirely subjective. It is an each to their own kind of matter. There are people out there that ironically would have people put out of their misery and killed, and there are people out there that would forgive. Peace is subjective. Both live within themselves. They are so subjective that they don’t even actually exist. When you clean your house you clean your street, if you clean your neighbourhood you clean your community. If we all learn to find peace within ourselves, and we can all focus on that, finding peace and justice within ourselves, then I think that’s the only and best way to make that wise choice.
What’s your greatest fear?
Wasting time. But I do it every single day. They say you should do something you’re afraid of once a day and I’m telling you I waste my time every day. Wasting time is my fear, I’m not scared of spiders, I’m scared of getting to the end, whatever that might be, and thinking I knew I should've done that.
Where would you love to see yourself performing?
I would love to perform in Jamaica. I’m not sure whether my music is the type of music that would be popular in Jamaica right now or anytime in the foreseeable future, but that would be an iconic kind of moment.
Who are your influences?
Who are your influences?
Who are my influences?
Yes, tell me yours
Ok, my influences are the closest people to me, so my surroundings. They are the people and things that influence me a lot more. My other influences would be... this is a very hard question I didn’t think I’d have to answer. Donell Jones is my favourite singer of all time, he’s up there. He influences me because he was able to be transparent in himself. I don’t hear his new music right now and he doesn’t have that much new content but I think he’s the type of person to sit down and think I did myself justice. Because of that he influences me because I feel like everything I’m doing is for me, and whoever finds me can take from me but if I do myself justice then I’ve done it because I owe nothing to anyone. So him yes, I’ll put him up there. I’ll keep it small because I think I have a lot but I’m influenced by things that move me. They don’t have to be people, but I might go on SoundCloud right now and I’ll listen to a beat that’s produced by someone like .sinh, because I can now explore my thoughts and find refuge in music.
Yeh, you answered now I’ll answer. My influences, I think I’m influenced massively by the underdog. The actual struggle, I have a lot of love for people that will probably never make it, and that genuinely pushes me and drives me. I have a lot of love for people going through some shit mentally, people who are intelligent but can’t quite articulate in the right way. My influences are the base, and the ground level and the actual struggle because for me I feel like I’m in the half-way place where I’ve been there but I can find my way out. I couldn’t answer that question because I didn’t have an answer. My mum influences me and how I articulate myself, my boys influence me on a night out, my dad influences who I am as a man. But what drives me as an artist is the personal individual struggle and understanding it.
What was the last song you last listened to?
Davido, Fall. The song before that, Giggs, I’m pretty sure it was Essence.
If you could pick someone you’d really like to work with, who would it be?
I would like to absorb anything and everything I can from Chance the Rapper.
And finally, what’s your favourite book?
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Thank you very much Sane.
Watch the music video shot by @steveroe_ for 'Hey Ya', the music video was shot around Seoul and Incheon of South Korea