With a full-length studio recording due out later this year, Toronto-by-way-of-Manchester singer, songwriter and rapper, Shotty Horroh has just released the second track showcasing his renovated, rocker-ready sound via the new single “Dirty Old Town”. Out now on all major digital platforms thanks to Sony Music Entertainment Canada, Horroh’s (real name Adam Rooney) new track is accompanied by a visual video that continues to hint at the variety of musical writing we can expect on this upcoming debut.
Tackling the “realities of growing up in a deprived inner-city”, the songs’ lyrics are impassioned and real, pulled directly from Shotty’s own life and upbringing. A rocker at heart (he’s down with fellow Brits Oasis, The Beatles and The Stone Roses), the artist began to break out after tremendous success within his local battle rap scene, leading to attention from major acts the likes of Deadmau5, Jay Z, and Drake. Rap accolades aside, SH is diving headfirst into his new sound and, as evidenced by this second single, he’ll have no issue in continuing his ascent into musical legend. Check out the tunes below, and purchase copies here.
What prompted you to move away from battle rap and to move into a more collaborative band environment. Is there a story behind that?
Shotty: I wasn’t looking to go into a band or do anything like that at that point. It was just like I was done with Battle Rap. I was done with the fickleness of the people. The fans are evil. The fans are crazy. It’s like gladiatorial; they’re not there to watch anyone win. They are there to watch people lose. It got to the point where it just wasn’t for me – digging up dirt on people. I’ve got an arty background. I’d get back home, and I’d be getting heat because I’d brought somebody into my rapping. It was time to make a change, really. Plus, I’d started in music.
That was my first thing. Battle Rap was always a means to get promotion for the music. I just fell out of love with it. I don’t think I ever really fell in love it with it actually. It was just a means to an end. It provided money for me, and I got a lot of recognition from it. It put me over in Toronto. And then I retired. Two years now. I think I was just so sick of everything; the music that’s coming out in the charts; the stuff people are advocating; the state of hip-hop and rock and roll. The state of Britain and politics in Britain. The conservative party and all that. I wanted to make rock and roll.
I was with people who had guitars at the time. Some friends were having a good time making a few riffs. I didn’t know anything about singing in that style. I sang an Oasis song with them, and they told me I sounded like Liam Gallagher. They convinced me to have a session writing songs in that style. And they are the best songs I’ve ever written. So, then I wondered how I’d break it to everyone that I want to be a rock singer now. I phoned a couple of people I know and told them I was thinking of doing something in Rock and Roll and their reaction was something like “Yes! We were just waiting for you to figure that out.”
Manchester, where I’m from, this has always been the sound of Manchester, some form of rock and roll. So, I guess it was just a matter of time before I found the guitars and started to rock. But there was no correlation between the rock and roll and quitting Battle Rap. Battle Rap was already gone. I’m a nicer person now then the Battle Rap crowd think I am.
Check out the new single “Dirty Old Town” right here.
Having to brush up on the things you are going to need to take people down on a daily basis? That’s got to get tiring.
Shotty: That’s it, yeah? It’s like three-minute rounds, maybe up to five-minute rounds of super-intricate and often quite degrading vocals. If you’ve got a dead crowd, staring at you waiting for the slightest mess-up, right? Or they don’t react when you expect them to… it’s so stressful.
It sounds like you are describing prepping a comedy routine.
Shotty: Yes. It was crazy, bro. And that’s exactly what it felt like. You’re failing but you always just manage to get it right somehow at the end and then it’s amazing. When it finishes, and the adrenaline wears off, it’s traumatic, really. It’s stressful man. I used to get sick a lot after battles as well. You’ve got two or three months of just packing around a little kitchen counter or whatever doing these words and whatnot. And when it comes to the arena, it’s nothing like what you expected it to be like. I just don’t think I was compatible with it for the long term.
The band members that you performed with at your showcase – is that your band? Are these the people that you are talking about?
Shotty: Yeah. So, the way it started was the bassist (Jules Lynch) I was living with him. He was very big in the Battle scene. He had helped me out with a lot of the business on the inside with the leagues and stuff. So he would let me sleep on the couch and stuff. We’ve got a good relationship going on. From very early on we’d spoke about what we might do. He’s so into the Beatles and Oasis, it worked with me coming from over there (Manchester). His mother, she works in England a lot as well, so he knew lots about England and the scene there.
So me and him got along really well. Yeah man. We always talked about Oasis. So when it happened, and he would pull his guitar out, and we would play together, it just felt like it was meant to be. And he knew the other guys (we recorded with). So it was me and Jules. I knew nobody like that really – not in the rock and roll scene or anything like that. Jules had guitarists and drummers and everything. He’s got a couple of records he’s on. It felt like days later we were performing in front of Sony in a basement, and it was crazy. Just mad-fast.
The music feels so much more genuine and real – like I’m finally getting to say my piece. When I made hip-hop songs, I always found that they felt forced. I don’t know. I always knew there was more to me than just rapping. To be in a place in my life where that is predominant but you don’t notice it is just surreal. I had to come to Canada and then realize that it’s pretty cool back home. A lot of great stuff sounds come from Manchester. I needed to come away from home to realize what it was that I needed to do. That was massive.
So what did you wind up showing to Sony to garner this record deal? Your demos? Was there a showcase?
Shotty: It was all accidental. All super accidental. One of the lads that was in the session with Jules at the time was Luscious Brown aka Tom Mason, who’s like a big hip-hop producer from Toronto. And he happened to have a meeting with CMW last year, and he ran into Craig Mannix from Sony who is in A&R and he said “hey, I want to show you this shit.” But it wasn’t my shit that he wanted to show him. He wanted to show him this Reggae Hip-hop Drake sounding stuff – more contemporary stuff.
He showed him this stuff, and Craig wasn’t really into it. I guess he skipped past one of my records and Craig was like “hold on, what’s that? Go back?” And apparently, Craig had been told to steer away from any guitar bands at the time, ironically. I think it was just so different from what he’d been hearing in the Toronto scene. I’d talked a bit with Sony before when I was trying a few hip-hop things, but I was never quite good enough commercially.
Shotty Horroh recently dropped a legit “Shudehill” video.
Were you nervous at all? Were there any concerns overstepping into a label deal as quickly as you did?
Shotty: No. Because I’ve been prepared for life. That was the dream from when I was twelve years old; Tupac, and Prince. Prince got me into Hip-Hop – because Prince swore. And I thought “swearing music” is cool. And then my brother showed me more swearing music. And that was Hip Hop. When I was a kid, the record label was everything. That was the be-all and end-all. There wasn’t the internet, you had to sign to a major.
So I was always prepared for that to be my path. I got bemused though, disheartened at one point and thought that it was never going to happen. It’s like you work all your life for one thing and then it doesn’t happen. I was making other plans. I opened my Battle-league and everything. And then out of the blue this comes, all of a sudden and I’m in a different place. I’ve got a publicist. Now you’ve got a mic in my face. It was all really quick.
Do you think you will pull any of your old fans into this genre of music? Do you think they will come along?
Shotty: Oh yeah. Just because it’s so real. And I still rap in there and stuff. Rock and Roll is kind of in a four-four basis. Simple structure. Even when I was fully Hip-Hop, I’ve always had that brash Mancurian rock and roll attitude. That’s what got me big in the Battle Rap game. I was showing up for press conferences in three-piece suits and giving it some bravura. The rock and roll thing was always in character. My team was Mosh; “Moshing out but rock-fueled.” It worked so well. I was basically a rock n roller within Hip-Hop. Just my sound was Hip-Hop. But on stage I moshed, head-banged, stage dived, pits. Everything. It was just some insane shit. It just felt natural to do that.
So this new album, is it done? All the songs? Artwork? Everything?
Shotty: Yes, the music. The artwork is not done. I’m as picky about the visuals as I am with the song-writing. Everything is so important. Because we’re not only just making tunes that are good contemporary tunes, but there’s no rock and rollers anymore. Everyone is just form of conformist shit-bag who cares what the next re-Tweeter says. I’ve never been like that. Even interviews like this, it’s super important for me that people know that we are not happy with the government. We are not happy with the ISF sticking it down our throat. We’re not happy with the same old bullshit songs that are coming out.
So, I hope to see that rebellious side of musicians again. It’s not just me either, I want somebody challenging me and calling my music commercial shit and fuelling me on. I want people to just have an opinion and not be worried about likes and reTweets, do you know what I mean? It’s fucking bollocks. I don’t care about it. That comes later I guess. Fans and adoration. I feel like it used to be you were famous for being special and now your special for being famous. That’s the way it is now. I’m just trying to be special in my way.
Can we talk about where the album was recorded? The producer and mixer? Guest musicians? That kind of stuff?
Shotty: We recorded these bullshit scratch demos, and Sony heard them and saw the vision, and they just got it. So we had the choice of sitting down and negotiating to get what we needed to do what we needed to do. Getting the budget and then going and getting a studio and all that. But we went “Nah man, bollocks.” We just rock-and-rolled it out. We went to Long and McQuade and rented all of our own equipment and set up me friends mom’s house and had my buddy rig it all up.
We got this bloke from England who just proper knows his shit to come over and sit in the house with us and smoke weed and say “press this and press that.” We were in there for like four or five days and just smashed a full album out. And then did even more. There’s a song on the album called “Lanyards” that wasn’t even a part of the album. We were finished, and everyone was packing up, and I basically said “Hey. Everyone – upstairs. Let’s go up there again. We need to do another song.” I said it needs to be like “this” – and these are all Canadian guys who get the way that an album needs to be done.
They were all like “Nah. Fuck that. We’re not doing it.” So basically I just like held the whole house hostage and locked the doors and everything and said “we’re not going back to Long and McQuade – fuck that.” And then we did “Lanyards” which is my favourite song on the album. It was a cool environment. I’m from a very hostile part of England. And I’m Irish. And that’s all very hostile and weird. So to just go this super nice place in Forest Hills and be around all of these hippy types of people, these super nice people, it was just weird. Super cool environment. Loads of arguments and shit but it was good stuff.
I don’t know what it was like for them trying to explain things. I don’t know any Canadian Music – like a super Canadian sound? They were all trying to explain that to me, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it. So it was funny. We had these four guys running around and these two British Mancurian guys going “No. Bollocks. Play it like that. Stop fucking smiling. Play it like this.” It created a weird little environment in there. It’s the only way that album could have worked, mate. It couldn’t have been forced to be in a studio and having people saying “Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” It just needed to be super organic.
This might be hard to answer, but do you think you will just do your next album the same way?
Shotty: Probably not. I think as an artist I always want to experience different things and vibes. I don’t want to try and draw inspiration from the same thing over and over again. I think the next album I’d like to go out to a cabin or something – be somewhere that is totally different and have a whole new perspective for that album. But it depends on what’s going on in the world really and what people are doing. If the labour party get in and Manc city continues to win the champions league, I think maybe I’ll just record it in a field. It’s probably not going to go like that. I think even the environment you record the album in, it’s super important. We were all pissed off with each other a bit, but it worked well.
Want more? Check out the video for “Legendary” by deadmau5 and Shotty Horroh.
How far away from the demos are these finished songs on the album?
Shotty: So far away. And we all loved the demos. We had demo-itis. But they were rough. And the label was like “Oh no no, just clean this up and put this out.” And we were like “Yo, you cannot polish a turd. The songs are good, but the sound is not.” Even my manager… he loved the demos, but he knew the shit that we had sorted out up in the vault. It was hard to sell him – he’s more hip-hop, he isn’t from Rock n Roll. He didn’t get it. He’d not been to Manchester at this point. I had to sell him on it. He eventually jumped on board.
Tell me about your perspective on Toronto? What is it about this city that you like now that you are transplanted and live here?
Shotty: It’s like the English (friendly) America. It’s like America made for normal people. People here are friendlier. It’s enough America for me, with enough England. The people remind me so much of the people back home. The way you have downtown here, like Jane and Finch, it’s the same as back home. Community housing here is just the same as council housing back home. I think people believe in people more here. England, you know, Margaret Thatcher really kicked our fucking heads in. The belief level is very low. Unless you are trying to go to the Army or be a footballer or something. The belief levels are low.
Out here in Toronto, everyone believes that their youth can achieve. It’s inspiring. It rubs off on you. Everyone is always doing something creative here. And they are super receptive, even to novelties like me coming over with a different accent and whatever else I’ve got. It’s just dope, man. Toronto and Canada in and of itself has always been a big rock place. Rock music has always gone off here, hasn’t it? Anyone here that we have shown this project to and anyone that’s been involved has been great. They seem to super-love it. There are so many similarities here to back home. I have to come downtown to remember that I’m not back home, you know? But America is quite different.
That comment you made about what’s a Canadian Sound for music. I don’t even know if I can answer that. Is it Rush? Is it the Tragically Hip? Is it July Talk? Is it Bryan Adams?
Shotty: It’s all emulated off of British music or American music for the most part. But we do have a sound.
And now you are part of that sound, sir.
Shotty: (laughter) I hope so.