The interview you are about to read contains exclusive details concerning Jam Baxter & Chemo : Mansion 38.
For the first time, Chemo reveals the creation process of the Mansion 38 LP – starting from Chemo’s first encounter with Jam Baxter at a London warehouse party, all the way to Bangkok, Thailand where they recorded the entire album which released 10 March, 2017.
But that’s not all. Read on to discover what became of Chemo’s pet pheasant, where to find the recipe for Baxter’s morning Elixir, why Lee Scott got a gun pointed in his face and many intimate insights into the chemistry Chemo & Baxter shared whilst creating the sensational release.
Chemo first encountered Jam Baxter at a warehouse party, near the London M25. They shared a social circle, so down the line became introduced by mutual friends. Although their friendship quickly solidified, Chemo admitted he was initially cautious about the newly acquainted lyricist.
When I found out that he rapped, I actively tried to avoid him so that he wouldn’t rap into my ear all the time, eventually I realised that he was actually really good at words. Once I had convinced him to stop screaming into the microphone, I realised that he was in fact one of the most brilliant poets I had come across. I guess he just sees and describes the world very differently to other people, he approaches hip-hop music from a Gonzo / Hunter S. Thompson perspective and that really resonates with me.
Their shared passion for freakish psychedelia helped instigate their first critically acclaimed collaboration, Baxter & Chemo’s now-infamous ‘…So We Ate Them Whole’ LP which released December, 2014 on High Focus Records. Afterwards, while the aftermath of their shared success simmered, Chemo began plotting his next adventure. Having grown up in London and lived there his entire life, he pounced when an opportunity arose to leave for Bangkok. However, his decision did not come without painstaking sacrifice, as Chemo had to leave behind his beloved pet pheasant, Peter.
Alas I could not take Peter with me to Thailand for fear of him being devoured by wild dogs, Before I departed, I set him free in a large National Park in Kent where he lives to this day – we chat occasionally on WhatsApp.
After saying final goodbyes, Chemo boarded his plane across the world, journeying tirelessly until reaching Mansion 38, an apartment on a back street block in central Bangkok.
As you enter the mansion, you are greeted by a glorious middle aged Thai receptionist who always smiles at you – even if you are at that moment carrying a squealing pig and being chased by a biker gang. The Mansion comes replete with swimming pool, statues of 90’s action film characters and an erotic museum, therefore we always had something to stimulate the mind.
Chemo and Jam Baxter started the creation process for ‘Mansion 38’ before Baxter set foot in Thailand. With a couple track concepts laid down, Baxter became increasingly impatient to record the project, so spoke to Chemo about joining him in Thailand.
Baxter took a while to convince me of his plans, I had already embarked on a project amassing various field recordings from rural hill tribes, and I was reluctant to embark on another sweaty rap album with a known degenerate.
Regardless of Chemo’s hesitancy, Baxter put his plan into action by allegedly ringing his label boss whilst heavily intoxicated, frenziedly requesting a flight to Bangkok to rejoin Chemo forthwith. Suddenly Baxter was regurgitated from the belly of a jet airliner into the surreal surroundings of Mansion 38.
As soon as I met the dishevelled Jam Baxter in the Mansion, I realised that this would be both the best and also worst place for him…
…Chemo says, reminiscing Baxter’s arrival….
Looking out from his room onto a scale model of the Washington, D.C. White House in the middle of a powerful Monsoon, I knew that we were in for a month of delirious times and relentless creativity, whilst at the same time noting the proximity of the Pharmacy and the Liquor Store that were to put us both in danger of implosion.
Thus began Chemo and Baxter’s Mansion 38 experience, an impulsive month long duration laden with seedy, tropical hedonism. To get creative juices flowing, besides from Baxter’s morning Elixer – the recipe of which can be found in the liner notes of the ‘Mansion 38’ album – together they drank a lot of Hong Thoong, a sweet Thai rum that Chemo claimed;
mystically has very light hangovers. Either that or Ya Dong, a rural kind of moonshine enriched with Chinese medicinal herbs and spices. It is supposedly an aphrodisiac which is good, but also can make you blind which is obviously bad, so it’s best to drink it responsibly.
Baxter managed to find his pharmaceutical supply within his first 24 hours, whereas I preferred to drink coconuts and fly hand made kites off the roof.
Once suitably intoxicated, Chemo and Baxter would transform into workhorses. While Chemo would endlessly craft riddims, Baxter would write furiously up to 24 hours a day, to anything and everything Chemo offered up;
This approach made me feel totally free to experiment, It perhaps led to the quite contemporary and unusual sound of the LP.
You only have to hear Chemo’s prior collaborations to notice his impulse for breaking boundaries when it comes to creating contemporary hip-hop melodies. However, Chemo personally refuses to accept he is breaking boundaries, claiming his motivation is…
…to have a varied sound for my work.
When it came to working with Jam Baxter, Chemo recognised a potential for limitless creativity.
“I know that High Focus has a lot of fans who particularly like beats with a boom bap flavour, which is absolutely fine and I respect people’s taste, but I think that Jam Baxter is such an important cult artist that his fans will follow him wherever his creativity leads to. And that can result in some really exciting music……
…..I’m really happy with some of the more personal tracks on the album
answering which were his favourite aspects of the ‘Mansion 38’ album.
I have been subtly trying to nudge Baxter towards slightly more introspective subject matter along with his observational descriptive stuff, and on this album I think he has got a near perfect balance between the two. Its self referential without being narcissistic but he still has the ability to construct the vivid imagery and savage description that he is so good at.
Instrumentally, Chemo took influence from the local music culture, trying to replicate the settings in which the album was devised.;
I used my Phin guitar, which is a Thai folk instrument from the Isaan region on a couple of the tracks, I try to always use new sounds and techniques so I don’t just make the same beat over and over again till I die.
One of the most hauntingly engrossing atmospheres that Chemo created during Baxter’s stay was the self-titled ‘Mansion 38’ single, most of which Chemo played himself. Answering what sounds he used to form the instrumental;
As usual, there’s some little prog-rock sampled bits, experimental 60’s electronica and some rare Thai folk music. It all goes into the soup.
The Mansion 38 single, which was sold independently on 7″ white label vinyl, and contains features from Blah Records founder Lee Scott and Bad Taste icon Trellion. When the news emerged that the two rappers were set to accompany Chemo and Baxter out in Bangkok, the excitement levels intensified.
It was a wild night at the Mansion with the winds howling and Baxter told me of his plan to fly his two buddies out to Bangkok for a week to shoot some videos and record some tracks,
Chemo explains, reminiscing of when Baxter suggested bringing the Scott & Trellion to them.
“I thought the plan was insane, but if there’s one thing I know in this life, it’s that you don’t question a man when he is swinging from the chandeliers. These two comedians had never really left the UK much before I don’t believe,”
Chemo says, recalling Scott & Trellion’s arrival.
“I think they were initially overwhelmed by the heat, the smell and the frantic nature of Bangkok. Combined with severe jetlag they in fact coped surprisingly well and dived straight into the process of procuring intoxicants and rapping loudly at each other in an air conditioned room.”
The Mansion 38 single contains multiple illicit stories, many that left listeners dumbstruck at which were parody and which were reality. It turns out that all of those stories are in fact, true. Although many precise details of their explicit endeavours were deemed too scandalous for print, Chemo could reveal when Lee Scott got a gun pointed at him.
The gun thing was a guy on the same floor in the Mansion who had obviously had enough of Section Boyz on loop at 3am, he arrived at the door with a handgun shouting ‘YOU GOT A PROBLEMMM?’ Pretty scary stuff to be honest, as the fact is that once a Thai person loses face in a situation, they can totally flip and start shooting or stabbing. I think Baxter only listened to Chopin till 9pm from then on.
By the end of the month, Chemo pondered if perhaps Baxter’s stay wasn’t in fact the spiritual venture he probably needed:
To call it anything resembling spiritual would be grossly inaccurate, but by hook or by crook, we ended up with some brilliant music written and recorded in the midst of a whirlwind of questionable activities, deranged human animals and emotions.
Although it’s unlikely that Chemo will make an appearance back in the UK to tour ‘Mansion 38’ anytime soon;
Baxter has a great performing relationship with Sammy B Side so I’m happy to let them do their thing, live shows are not really within the realms of my expertise – I’m a studio man. I have been working on a new solo album for 3 years but I keep getting confused and losing track of what my purpose is in making the music. One day I might think I am making a Grime/Drill album, the next day making a psychedelic Jazz album. I’m sure you can understand my confusion.
Chemo, thank you for your time. Have you got any final shoutouts?
Thank you Ethan for letting me do this interview, it was very therapeutic. Shout out to Baxter for making this body of work with me. Thanks to Fliptrix and High Focus for entertaining our lewd vision and putting money down to make it all happen.
Interview by @EthanEverton