MTV EMA’S 2015
I took the week off my main day job to re-join my old MTV family in Milan, for the annual MTV Europe Music Awards 2015. Like last year with Nicki Minaj, I was host producing. This year our hosts were Ed Sheeran and Ruby Rose.
THE FIRST PIC OF MTV EMA 2015 HOSTS ED AND RUBY TOGETHER!
Alas Milan was hot. I say alas as I had packed a suitcase full of woolies as every year its always freezing wherever we go across Europe. So on the coach from Linate airport to our hotel, were roadies with their one rucksack and I with giant suitcase. SMH.
The awards were held at the Mediolanum arena. As with all arenas, we could’ve been anywhere in the world. The stage was surrounded by corridors lined with dressing rooms, and production offices buzzing with scriptwriters putting in last minute changes to the script, and techie crew testing mics and rigging.
RANDOM TABLES HEAVING WITH BOTTLES OF PATRON ALL AROUND THE ARENA.YOU KNOW, JUST IN CASE A RANDOM POPSTAR GETS THIRSTY.
Hair, make up and glam squads were preparing miles and miles of hair extensions, makeup palettes, clippers, weaves, wigs and more. Dressing rooms were being dressed in black, with fancy candles, huge vases of white flowers and flattering lamp lighting for the many private jets and commercial airlines flying in music acts and dancers the next day.
Our food was provided all week by long-term EMA caterers ‘eat your hearts out’. All staff working at the awards get free lunch and dinner. A daily choice of at least six main courses of fancy meals of chicken, veal, duck, venison, pasta, curries and more. Plus all the salad and accompaniments you may like. Add to that a selection of at least 8 desserts and a heaving cheese board with grapes, it’s pretty easy to put on a couple of stone after four days. Even with the endless walking around the venue, stage and climbing into high stage sets in the arena. Although the sweetie fountains do give you a really needed sugar rush, to keep you high and going at 2am when you’re exhausted.
ARTIST CATERING LOOKS ALOT SEXIER THAN MTV STAFF CATERING.
Also being prepared the day before are press packs which include fascinating-fact lists that journalists can add to their EMAs write ups. How many miles of cable, how many bottles of champagne and patron, how many cans of hairspray, how many black Mercedes, how many thousands of pounds worth of booty in the goody bags.
On day two we ran through the show onstage with cameras and directors without our main hosts as Ed was flying in the next day, and Ruby was flying in the night before! This day is useful for checking the floor plan and planning routes for sprinting through sneaky backstage corridors for costumes changes and making sure its set in stone with the floor managers so its easy to teach the hosts once they arrive.
EXHAUSTED MTV EMA HOSTS ED ANDRUBY WITH ME 1 MINUTE AFTER THE SHOW FINISHED STILL ONSET!
Its also a useful day to be able to liaise with the travel/red carpet/ glam squads about times you will need their teams to attend to our hosts and their entourages. Also to make the show running order work with exact minute-by-minute precision to ensure all music stars, entourages and crew are on the same page.
For example Ruby was flying in from South Africa from the film set of Resident Evil, where she’s acting in the upcoming film which see’s her chased by zombies in a post apocalyptic world. So Ruby’s finger nails which were broken and dirty from that role needed immediate attention to be MTV-glam. She also needed her hair colouring, tailor fittings with top Italian designers and a spray tan. So we ensured she was met around midnight the day before the show at her hotel with a manicurist, hairdresser and spray tanner. This process took till around 3am. Being uber professional, Ruby also re-worked her script to perfection so that I was able to have it changed on the auto-cue the following day.
MTV EMA STAGE 2015 GETTING READY!
The following day Ed flew in straight from his red carpet promo for his film so he was really grafting hard too. This day saw us rehearse with Ed, with me playing the part of ruby opposite him. Ed was also exhausted, as he had just flown in from his best mates bachelor party. He drove straight in from the airport to the arena to see the show set and rehearse his links, all with a smile on his face and a polite greeting for the whole crew. (its so easy to love him).
FINAL SHOT OF THE DREAMTEAM FRONT AND BACKSTAGE CREW!
Later that day I was rushed off to Milan’s Main Square, to Sugar Music Studios right in the shadow of the Duomo, where I was overseeing a studio rehearsal with the legend that is Andrea Bocelli and up and coming singer Tori Kelly. I was to be the MTV presence in case either of their teams had any questions or concerns about their artist live sets. I couldn’t believe my luck and the fact that this is my job. I’ve had hundreds of ‘pinch-me’ moments and im still excited by every one! I watched as Andrea and Tori ran through their set for the next days show gob smacked at both of their breathtaking vocals. Tori’s manager Scooter Braun (also Justin Beiber and Arianna Grandes manager), was also in the room and his dad called on Facetime whilst both artists were mid-song. So Scooter calmly let his dad watch for a minute before speaking to him. His dad’s stunned, overjoyed face at having been witness to the moment was priceless!
WITH SARA AND SONIA- MY FLOOR MANAGERS DREAMTEAM!
On show day the arena and the whole of Milan was buzzing. We ran through the camera angles and stage positions first thing in the morning after Justin Beiber had sound checked. Next it was the host’s first and only rehearsal together mere hours before the show. Then a full dress rehearsal with full cast, acts and dancers. Straight after dress-run we gave the hosts an hour to rest before the red carpet before I knocked on doors to drag Ruby to the red carpet. The fans in Italy are amazing! Really passionate screamers and so sharing the red carpet with Ruby and Jason Derulo who was flanked by two tall blonde models was hysterical.
ARIEL VIEW OF THE MTV EMA2015 BEING PREPARED.
As soon as we whisked Ruby off the red carpet it was go, go, go! The show kicked off with us climbing loads of steep steps for the opening scene and by the end of the show we were all drenched with sweat from three hours of running, changing clothes, changing scripts, learning last minute changes and more. Its tough to keep your host moving when other celebs like Justin and Ellie (Goulding) pass in the corridor and they all stop to chat. Even more impressive was that the autocue /teleprompter on one of the cameras didn’t work for two links and Ruby just reeled off her words to perfection without a flinch. No-one would’ve known.
WITH TINIE TEMPAH AND HIS MANAGER DUMI AT THE AIRPORT THE MORNING AFTER.
Ultimately, the show was great with performances by Macklemore, Jess Glynne, Jason Derulo, Rudimental and Ed Sheeran, Andrea Bocelli and tori Kelly, Pharrell and more. The celebrity glam pit in the audience was full of other names like Tinie Tempah and Naughty Boy and much hilarity was had during and after the show.
EMA WICKED WHISPERS
Which pop star went around the venue nicking bottles of alcohol to take back to their hotel when they could’ve just added it to their MTV rider?
Which pop star had a last minute hair and dress dilemma and had to make emergency plans for a new look?
Which pop star refused to enter the venue unless they came last cos the last one to arrive is the one most important and worth waiting for?
Which pop star needed their song words on autocue, as they couldn’t remember them?
Which pop star wanted to say very naughty x rated things whilst onstage, but luckily refrained?
On my return to London which barely 8 hours sleep across the past 4 days, I was invited down to a private screening room in Soho to watch a new comedy prank show – All About The Bants – hosted by Tinchy Stryder for ITV2, which is airing this weekend.
WITH TINCHY STRYDER AND HIS ‘ALL ABOUT THE BANTS” ITV2 TV SHOW CREW.
I entered the basement room to find it full of guys, not one woman up in there except me. I felt like Beyonce for a hot minute. The show is like a newer, fresher, younger version of eighties TV show ‘’beadles about’’ where Jeremy beadle and his acting team of pranksters played jokes on the unsuspecting public.
The sketches are well timed, full of diverse scenarios and a great watch.
My cynical side did think ‘ah ITV trying to tick their diversity boxes with 4 new BAME TV shows’, but actually it was good and Tinchy did a great job hosting.
Watch ALL ABOUT THE BANTS this Sunday ITV2 10.30pm.
(straight after the screening we popped into Nandos where we bumped into Giggs who was telling me about his new projects, both human and music 😉
GOOGLE BHM EVENT
Then it was off to the uber fancy Google building for their Black History Month celebration, where after a couple of keynote speakers and musician, a panel talked about the importance of young people of colour entering the techy industry. It pays at least 30% more than most industries, and at Google they even provide all food- breakfast, lunch, dinners, drinks, snacks and a gym and cinema room. Where do I send my CV?
Finally it was time to catch up with my old mate Craig David who is back and cooler than cool! He’s been telling me about his new music for months, but this month he’s been interviewed and on front covers of every mag and digital website going from Vice to NME and more! Even Justin Beiber covered his hit ‘’Fill me in’’ in a televised karaoke and Drakes been name checking him for years!
Craig blames it on the cyclical nature of trends ‘’ Things are cyclical. Double denim. Tim boots. Musically my fans are 15 years older and feeling nostalgic. They have memories that are linked to my music. There’s also the 15year old kid that doesn’t’’ know who I am. But the lyrics of ‘fill me in’ whether a decade ago or now are still relevant to any young person’’
Craig took a decade off to recoup and enjoy life by buying a rib in Miami and a super-duper swish sports car and just living the dream. Why not? He’s earned it right? ‘’ My actual last record was a covers record. Just Regular. Nothing but covers I was needing to put it all away and take a break. Live in palace in Miami, drive the car I always wanted’’.
Craig admits his mind became warped by record labels and agendas. ‘’I knew it was unhealthy for me in the music industry when I realised that even though my albums sold millions, I bought into the fact that it was a downer and hadn’t sold enough! The industry males you panic about Chart positions, getting number ones for your next single, you experience extreme success and thoughts of failure in the same seed! ’ Any young act coming through needs to understand these things. I knew rewind was fire and my first cheque proved it. But when that mentality changes to you creating music for a label it changes and isn’t fun anymore. The biggest truth is when Biggie said ‘’more money, more problems’’. So for me right now it’s fun!’
When he moved to Miami craig started an intense #eatcleantraindirty workout regime that showed him transform on social media to muscleman.
‘’my fitness was taking over from music. I was ripped but gaunt. I aged 20 years. My abs were great but my face was not. I eased back to having just 4 abs not my usual 10. Its better to come with good music and I finally found a balance for both. Ultimately it may have been about control as I used to be an overweight kid. And that fat kid inside will always exist with me. I knew I needed to go to the extreme of being ripped. But then the fear of losing it happens as you can’t go out for a meal with friends. My eating thing was deep-rooted as a kid. It’s like telling a girl in the model industry she needs to lose weight, it turns her mad. She eats tissue. Men are also affected, as it’s an ego thing about feeling worthy and in shape. Then you realise that girls don’t need that. My manager told me I looked old and crazy. I saw beautiful girls that just wanted a normal guy. I was killing myself to stay in shape and being in control. So now it’s all about balance’’.
More recently he also stated up his TS5 dj brand in his Miami home, which has now gone global, London, Europe Australia and more!), and has been at summer festivals and did such a hot set at carnival the police had to shut it down after the crowd became too excited. Did you watch him on Radio1 Xtra’s KurruptFM takeover where he was in the studio with Mistajam, Big Narstie, Stormzy and more? He shut it down!
Of course these new, young acts grew up on Craig’s music so is it any wonder they adore him? Isn’t grime the modern day child of garage? Wasn’t UK garage the forefather of grime?
Craig told me ‘’ People hadn’t forgotten me but I needed to find my hunger for the music industry again. You never really go away. As a songwriter I’ve always got a3 minutes in me that can change things‘’
Craig says what happened to the old skool UKG scene was that ‘‘the scene evolved. Led by names like Artful Dodger and Wookie, Timberland and Rodney Jerkins were doing UK vibe songs. We were having an impact on American producers. So Solid changed everything. Then the grime scene did its thing, although I don’t think it got its fair big profile. It then needed a time to go dark. Like the jungle scene. The buzz was still underground when you’d be 5th in line to rip the mic in a dark studio or rave. Now we see Stormzys come through. you see Skepta being recognised Drake. Kanye bringing BBK onstage at the Brits. Also it’s now seen as a commercial asset’’.
So is the garage scene back? Did it ever go anywhere? What changed?
‘’Back then it was more of a fashion scene. Girls felt sexy. Guys were flossing with champagne bottles. If someone steps on someone’s shoe it’s cool no problem, I’m just jamming with my girl’. Then it got dark and the scene was blamed for lots of negativity. I’m seeing organised chaos at grime events though. It kicks off and the energy is crazy!’’
Do Americans steal our sounds?
It goes both ways. We mimic their soul. We have such a multicultural eclectic mix of sounds. When Skpeta does shutdown Americans go \’what is THIS?\’ and try to jump on board. Like when I first did rewind people just looked at me confused but in months the Americans were playing it all over radio.
For this young Boy from Southampton who came to London and made it big, this time around he says ‘’its more important now to make sure that the people around me are happy. I want my team Colin Lester 15 years who’s fought for me for years Alex. Matt. All my team who do this day in and out working hard for me. Matt said I’d have to come to London to make and put out new music and it took me a moment to realise he was right. It was a pivotal moment. I left my apt and car and returned to London and am back in the mix. I wanna see my team enjoy their graft at awards and ceremonies’’.
‘’Big Narstie came to my studio and was offended that my ‘Born to do it’ plaque was just sitting on the floor in my studio. Narstie told me that ‘That album got me through hard times man!’. So I had to get s screwdriver and put the plaque on the wall. I now tell that story to you cos that was a poignant moment for me. I had perspective and realisation’’.
And Craig isn’t like the ushers of this world who jumped into EDM when it was hot to have a hit. Talking about his new music he says the sounds the same ‘’my new music flavor? If born to do it was my first big break I was narrating simple relatable stories and melodies and R&B. That’s exactly the same place where I’m at now. Look at Ed Sheeran…he’s fly, acoustically, with beats or with a guitar. Simple but great!’’
With most of the UKs black soul singers not visible to the public, I ask Craig if at least on the UK soul music scene, the public view of the industry has been hijacked by white singers? Craig disagrees ‘’the race card is a cop-out. Race can go both ways. It would diminish all I’ve done. My mums white my dad’s blk. I don’t recognise it at all’’.
”I’m calling my album ‘Following my intuition’ cos every time I’ve followed it, it’s been right. When I haven’t, it’s bitten me in the ass. I’m working with a guy called White Nerd from Manchester – he’s amazing. Trejohn Marie a great new songwriter. And Kay Trendada futuristic R&B.
Hallway through my interview Craig’s manager (Colin Lester), who I’ve known for years arrives in the studio and jokes that the interviews over!. After he leaves the room Craig tells me that he loves Colin like a dad for having his back for so many years. ‘’ We used to do inerviews and Colin would bombard me and play jokes and I’d be like in ’embarrassing dad mode’ but now I’m all good with it cos he’s really held me down over 16 years and always championed me…’’
I remind Craig of the video that was secretly filmed of Colin being furious about the Bo Selecta sketch back in the day that was all over the Internet. Craig laughs ‘’yes, Colin went mad!” It’s a father son thing.
When asked about how craig had felt during that time he reveals ‘’ The mainstream media portrayal of it was out of control. It was flattering. I was caricatured alongside David Beckham, Michael jackosn and more. The thing all got blurred. I thought it was funny and went onstage at Royal Albert Hall even wearing my own caricature mask. But PR teams were putting out stories everywhere saying I was angry. But I wasn’t. Its only hurtful if you let it be. Keith (Lemmon) and I patched it up a long time ago at Ferns wedding. There was an awkward tension in the room. Guests were probably hoping it would all kick off like at school in the playground. I walked over to Keith and hugged him and it was all-good. If you’re a great musician you can take the heat. Kanye gets the heat ripped out of him daily but he carry’s on and says ‘I’m running for president and you\’re going to buy my Yeezys! And by the way, I have the hottest girl in the game!’ That\’s what it’s about. Not taking it all too seriously. People just want to hear new music and that’s what I’m bringing to them!’’
Clearly it’s Craig having the last laugh.