Songwriter, producer, singer and musician Royce Wood Junior is, in lieu of a better word, cool. Really, really cool. Once a flatmate with fellow singer-songwriter Jamie Woon above a recording studio, Royce would work on his production skills in the studio at night while the studio was empty before ultimately bringing together what was his first release - the Tonight Matthew EP. Strangely, even with such a close proximity and relationship to Woon, their music is largely very different, which to his benefit is a good thing (nobody wants a carbon copy).

The first time I listened to the title track from the Rover EP, accompanied by his twisted reworking of the '70s styled BBC One Mirror Globe, I was instantly transformed to a different time. As a self confessed child of the '80s, the 'LWT' inspired artwork for the Tonight Matthew EP holds particular weight and had me reminiscing of the days of top notch Saturday night television. But it's not all for nostalgic reasons - he likes the idea of "stealing from corporations" in a way that they have stolen from the general public.

On a cold, wet day in London, I get the chance to speak to the man himself on the phone while he's having a new boiler fitted in his flat (the glamour of being a musician, eh?) ahead of the release of his long awaited debut LP The Ashen Tang. He's relaxed and welcoming, which makes the conversation really easy. In a way, it almost felt like we'd spoken before, which is a little surprising considering how quiet he tends to be on social media.


I think what immediately attracted me to your music was the artwork and its really smart use of '80s/'90s TV logos which, I think adds that little extra nod of nostalgia to your music. What prompted your decision to do that?

There are a few things there. It's partly because I'm a child of the '90s. It seemed like a more naive, provincial time where Saturday night game shows like You Bet! were on and if you wanted to see any pornography you had to watch Eurotrash. Also, I like the idea of plagiarising stuff, especially vaguely corporate stuff. I was trying to take BT but I couldn't take that because I went too far with it. I like the idea of stealing from corporations as well in the same way that they steal from you, but that's another good thing. Really it's just harking back to that simpler time before the internet and celebrating "Englishness" being an Englishman.

Who are your musical influences? In particular, what were you listening to when creating the album? Did you have any reference points?

Number one, probably Stevie Wonder. It's a bit of a mixed bag. It's quite equally distributed over some quite different influences really because I like Radiohead a lot, I like Stevie Wonder, I like The Beatles, I like Nirvana but I also like electronic producers like, some of the more modern guys. I really like Lapalux, I think he's really good. Hopefully it dips its toe into all of those arenas without getting too convoluted. It's whatever takes your fancy at the time but it's definitely got a bunch of influences. It could potentially make it sound too desperate but I hope it doesn't. Predominantly, songwriting-wise, definitely Stevie Wonder's right up there... Stevie, Prince but I wanted to get some guitars in there so Jonny Greenwood. Obviously he's a big one but I also like "wonky" productions as well. A bit of [J] Dilla. That contingent of folk had an influence I'd say.

What inspired the title of the album, The Ashen Tang?

I don't know about you but being alive now in this era tends to feel like... there's lots of personal failures and a lot of joys but you're kind of always in the middle there. You're never incredibly happy or incredibly sad in my view. It's like having a mouth full of ashes that tastes tangy so I guess it's another way of saying 'Bittersweet'. 'Ashen' meaning burnt to ashes but still tangy. [Laughs] I don't know if that's deeply pretentious? Maybe I should figure out a simpler way of answering it or just make something up but there you go, that's what it is!

Absolutely not! I think a lot of people can relate to that...

Yeah, I think so. You kind of walk through life kind of medium for the most part. That's what it is really.

Now that your album is all done and ready to go, how are you feeling?

I'm feeling good about it. It's definitely a positive thing to have finished it but it's weird finishing an album because it takes so long. It's actually a long process but it's hard to appreciate finishing it, if that makes any sense? It's not an immediate gratification is it? It's not like saving a penalty or something like that, it takes ages. By the end of it you're a little bemused and confused [Laughs]. I've lived with it for a couple of months now so it feels fine. I'm sort of vaguely happy about it so that's cool!

Vaguely happy?

Yeah, vaguely happy! I think anyone would be lying if they said it was a masterpiece but it's as good as it was going to be. It's fine!

You released EPs before the album so you have some experience of putting yourself and your music out into the world. What would you say has been the biggest change from making the EPs to the album?

Well, they're pretty different stylistically. I wanted to be a little more "balls out" with the album, a bit more revelatory about myself. On the EPs there some guest vocals and when I do sing, I've generally fucked with it or manipulated it. But with the record, I just wanted it to be a bit more translucent? Transparent? What's the word... see-through, without having to hide. It's definitely less production-y; it's more about the tunes. That's probably the main difference.

There's always going to be comparisons to those that are already out there. How do you feel about being compared to other artists? I've seen your name compared to the likes of James Blake and Pharrell...

I don't really mind because it's almost inevitable. Obviously I don't mind being affiliated with people like James Blake because first and foremost, he's a really good songwriter. I don't know, man. I don't really mind it. I don't necessarily always believe there's any truth in it so it doesn't really matter, I don't mind. People are always talking about my mate Jamie [Woon] because I did some stuff with him so I'm forever just aligned with it even though our music is basically poles apart but because of that affiliation, it's always going to be mentioned in the same breath. I don't really mind man, it's all good.

The album (along with your previous projects) is being released via 37 Adventures. How did you come to work with them?

I started writing this record a couple of years ago and I sort of lost a bit of faith in it so I threw it in the bin. At that time, around 2012, Nick Worthington (the owner of 37 Adventures) heard it and had it for a couple of years and said "Well, why don't you just finish it and we'll put it out for you? You may as well finish it since you've got this far with it!" I think I was about 75% done with it and I had a bit of freak out and thought it was all dog shit [Laughs]. I just threw a couple of new things that I had been writing into it just to spice it up a bit and bring it a bit more up to date. That's what it ended up being. This time around, it didn't really take that long to do because I was almost done anyway and he was up for putting it out so I thought "Alright, cool!"

Grime MC Maxsta recently released his own version of 'Rover'. Have you heard it and if you have, what did you think of it?

Yeah, he got in and sent it on Twitter and asked if it was cool to which I said "Of course! Do what you want!" Yeah, it's interesting, isn't it? It's weird to hear a rap on your own music I suppose. Not that I don't produce Hip-Hop, because I have done, but I thought that wouldn't be a good candidate for that sort of thing. It's cool. I quite enjoyed it. It's definitely interesting!

It wasn't something I expected and I suppose in theory, on paper it shouldn't really work but when I listened to it, it does work...

It definitely took me by surprise but I'm surprised that realm - that Grimy world - was into anything I produced. I thought I was far too beige for those lads. It's quite an honour really.

Do you listen to Grime music?

I've listened to very little Grime music. I don't really know what constitutes as Grime anymore. I'm aware there's some sort of resurgence in more wonky, instrumental Grime.

I know you've been working with the likes of Kwabs and Denai Moore on their respective upcoming albums. How did you get to work with them? Did you know them prior to working with them?

I was predominantly a songwriter beforehand, sort of just a session-ing songwriter before I decided to my own artist project and I've been doing that for a few years now - doing sessions with people whether have been hooked up through publishers or whatever. It's a mixed bag of them coming to you and you going to them really. I've been lucky because I've worked with some pretty good folks over the last couple years. I enjoyed working with Kwabs, Denai and I've just done some stuff with NAO which is pretty cool. I'm trying to keep doing that as well so that's ongoing.

Is your creative process the same when it comes to working with others as it is when working on your solo material?

It's definitely largely different in that it's really hard to compromise. It's probably true of most artists that they think their own thoughts are definitely better than the people they're working with and I'm absolutely like that. I have to try to keep that in check because obviously it's not true but your own opinion is yours. But the simple act of collaborating and letting someone else's ideas onto the pallet is a real struggle sometimes. It's also good because a lot of times their ideas are totally loads better than yours anyway. Also, it helps you not to stagnate and keep doing the same thing over and over again which - if you spend a lot of the time in the studio by yourself - happens. It tends to help spice up the process a little bit. It's a double edged sword. I enjoy it and dislike it in equal measure. It's definitely a good thing to do.

What do you think about radio in its current format? Do you still see a place for it?

It seems to still hold a lot of gravitas to industry people but I'm not sure because I generally don't really listen to the radio. It's bizarre because presumably listenership is massively down. I don't know, I don't really know much about it, but I presumed that it was on its way down at least...

I suppose it's pretty standard music industry procedure to play the same record 15 times a day and to have people decide beforehand - even before they've heard the music. It's almost like an afterthought. It's almost like "who are we going to support?" and then they just continue down that path regardless - certainly for mainstream daytime radio, that seems to be the process, right? I think most people don't really take notice of that because it's pretty contrived but I don't know. I don't really know enough about it. It would be nice to hear more interesting stuff throughout the day.

The term "underground" seems to be thrown around a lot within mainstream media, especially when they're referring to artists they don't know. Look back at Kanye's BRIT Awards performance with all these Grime acts behind him and again at his KOKO show. A lot of these acts, who in their own world are very much well known, are being referred to as "underground" in this case; it just seem bizarre to me...

Yeah, it's weird. "Underground" doesn't really mean the same thing as it used to because Grime is incredibly popular isn't it? It's just because it's not "pop" music that they call it underground. I think what they mean by "underground" is alternative or independent or something because underground mean no one knows about it! [Laughs]. That's white labels and that sort of stuff. I wouldn't have said Grime is underground. It seems to be massively popular.

What about streaming. Do you see it as a good or bad thing for music?

I use it. I definitely stream stuff. Obviously it's a farce in terms of being a musician and getting paid but I'm used to not really getting paid anyway. I think that the fact that I, as a consumer, can listen to anything I want at any time greatly outweighs the fact that I don't make any money from it as a musician or an artist, so it doesn't bother me.

Do you have any plans to do any touring or live dates?

I'm on the fence about it. I started trying doing a few live things. I've been a touring musician for quite a few years and the idea of getting back on that and getting on that merry-go-round, watching your health diminish from eating ham and cheese every day, petrol station food, no sleep... I don't know, it doesn't fill me with enthusiasm to take it on by my own. Maybe if it's on a smaller scale, which if course it will be... I don't know. I'm on the fence. I'm not totally sure just yet.

What are your plans for the rest of the year and what are you hoping to achieve in 2015?

I'm definitely looking forward to getting the record out and then moving on the new stuff. I want to try to do another EP as well, but I'm definitely looking forward to getting in with some other folks and doing some collaborations. That's it really. I'm just going to keep ticking on just as I've been doing but hopefully with a bit more activity.

What would you like your musical legacy to be?

I guess just to be remembered as someone who was a good songwriter predominantly. Songwriting is my main thing. But also someone that didn't hang off anyone's balls [Laughs]. I'd like ideally not to "sell out" and keep doing things that are truthful. If I can manage to do that, those two things will be fine!