AVP International is a musician that has big things coming for him. By being an artist who has been tactfully under the radar for the last decade, he's shared the stage and been part of recording sessions with a plethora of noteworthy artists. Hailing from East London but a native of Zambian and Nigerian heritage, AVP Intl. has been perceived to have raw and soul-filled vocals which sit alongside the home-produced beats that he says he had to develop out of necessity. He was one of the founding members of the House Gospel Choir and has since delivered compelling performances, including one that was sold out at the Perth International Arts Festival in 2016.
After making the conscious decision to travel to the states, he developed Voices Of New York, an acapella poetry album which features people sharing their thoughts whilst riding the subway, after spending a total of six weeks there. It also inspired his mixtape Gram Culture which features those refined producing talents and effortless flows. Taking inspiration from artists such as 2000's Kanye West, AVP Intl. fortifies his beats with soul samples and smooth sounds for the ears.
His latest EP offering Ode To Yeshua, released by Bezalel Art Haus, unapologetically expresses his love for having Jesus guide him in his life. With unique sampling that rings across the tracks, it brings pure joy and prosperity from start to finish. I got to catch up with AVP Intl. to see what he's got going for him.
Firstly, introduce yourself!
In my head, I am the Earl of Zamgeria - as I'm of mixed Zambian & Nigerian heritage - a bit of self-proclaimed royalty lol. My father named me Amedè "Ah-meh-deh", which means 'flowing river water has no enemy'. Publicly I go by AVP International but just AVP is cool. I Love how Tony Williams refers to himself as 'World Famous Tony Williams' so I thought heck why not! East London raised with African blood.
Tell us about how you got into music.
I wanted to be a scientist growing up, the solar system, town planning and transport was my thing but it wasn't until my greek school teacher, Miss Pakos carried out a class exercise in year 5 to help understand how a choir works. I kept singing out in an operatic voice and then she asked, "who keeps singing in that voice", everyone pointed at me and my teacher seemed impressed. For that day the seed was planted. The summer before I started secondary school I learned from older friends that the school held Christmas concerts so I spent each day learning songs by Usher, Musiq Soulchild & Joe, we're talking 2001.
Fast forward, I did the audition and my music teachers were speechless... the rest is history. I think I was also the last generation in my local area to really have youth clubs and music studios readily available to me before the government slowly stopped funding those projects. I had some really encouraging youth workers that helped water the seed. I started beat-making at 14, my cousin Kriptic Beats handed me a copy of Fruity Loops 4 and I never looked back. Actually, I used to get CDRoms - If you're old enough to remember those - in my Kelloggs cereal boxes of a program called Ejay. There was a dance, hip hop and pop version which had loads of loops which you could play around with to make cool beats. I think I was about 12 years old.
How do you think you’ve grown as a musician?
Boy! Well, I just turned 30 a few weeks ago so a lot of growth has taken place. A lot of my growth happened out of necessity as I instinctively knew what was needed but I never really had a clique around me who would get their hands stuck into my work, so I had to learn how to produce, write and mix my records myself as well as creating the artwork myself etc. It has really taught me how to be fully self-sufficient on the creative aspect. I dropped out of university early to come back to London and get stuck into the music life, working as a sound engineer in a few studios including the Red Bull Studio when it first opened in London, which allowed me to apply everything I knew on projects other than my own.
As a vocalist, people such as Michelle Escoffery, ShezAr and Randolph Matthews, as well as being in groups such as House Gospel Choir have really helped me develop my understanding of harmony, singing as part of a professional choir, being a leader within a large group and also developed my skills as choir director. Regarding production, I have been blessed to have spent time with or, to have had useful conversations with some experienced producers such as Eric Lau, Morgan Zarate, Typesun, Nightmare On Wax, Sampha, Kwes, Oddisee and Tony Nwachukwu from Attica Blues who have all dropped nuggets along the way which I will always hold onto.
How as working with those producers beneficial to your creative processes and what did you learn from them?
Tony is someone I met while I was volunteering at The Roundhouse Studios as a technician, he was a tutor. He gave me the opportunity to work with him on his CDR Burntprogress events which allowed me to get hands-on with new digital music production tools as well as the old school hardware like the 808 Drum Machine. He was the one who got the role at the Red Bull Music Academy which I am grateful for many reasons. Typesun & Nightmares On Wax are two producers I have toured with as their lead vocalist, both similar in character but different in what they demand. Typesun is a very disciplined producer, he knows exactly how he wants things to sound whereas N.O.W. embraces being free in music within a framework. Last summer he invited me to join him at a jazz festival in Nuremberg, Germany, called Stars I'm Luitpoldheim. A full big band full of legendary players and an orchestra in a large park under the stars in front of an audience of 70,000 people. Certainly one of my career highlights.
Morgan Zarate is great in the studio, he's always looking for something new. Never lazy in his search whereas Sampha is like a silent assassin, very quiet and will allow you to lead the way in a session, but this is Sampha before he became what he is now. As with both producers we never completed any material but it was always good to see that no two producers work the same!
Who are your biggest influences?
J Dilla! He's your favourite producers favourite producer. I really love the collection of work that The Neptunes has given us over the years, the Soulquarian neo-soul movement had me in my early 00s, Mos Def, Badu, Dwele those kinda sounds, however, my ultimate musical hero is Kanye West. He is someone I have been studying closely since he dropped 'Slow Jams' in 2004. His boldness, creative choices, sources, consistency and execution has just been... I cannot find the words. Some love him, some don't but I have always been able to understand him and see a little bit of myself in him, even now. Others worth naming: Outkast, Charles & Ray Eames, Dieter Rams, Fela Kuti, Madlib, Floetry, Teedra Moses, Joe, the list goes on but above them all, Jesus, The Christ!
How do you go about producing your own tracks / what methods do you use and what’s the creative process? My bedroom, plants, Mac Book, midi keyboard and some nice headphones and that it! I do a mix of original stuff but at the moment I am very much into sampling Japanese City Pop in my music. I know some producers like to produce a heap of stuff, that’s not me... I finish it if I am feeling the idea. My process involves more listening than playing if that makes sense, I would listen to a sample over and over before I actually do anything with it. Enjoying visualising the idea, I guess. Sometimes I write poetry and convert them into verses. I normally like having the beat first and then the rest is history.
What would you say to someone who wants to get into producing their own music or wants to become a musician? - Sometimes you will cry, sometimes you will feel undervalued, underpaid, under-everything BUT! Making music isn't really about you like that, it's about what you bring to your listener, it's a service because your music becomes a soundtrack to the people’s lives, it ministers to people. You have to have a deep love for it and have faith! Find out who inspired who inspires you, then, you study them. Be patient. Be authentic. Have fun. I wish I had a dedicated mentor, so I'd say seek that too.
Have you thought about labels or getting signed?
So so. It just depends on what they can do for me to be honest. Being signed isn't best for everyone. I'd love to work exclusively with some kind of designer, brand, space though. Tate galleries, A.P.C., Cold Laundry's Ola & Cerise Alabi, their ideas are amazing.
What sound are you trying to create - what’s your genre?
This question... It all sounds 'normal' to me because it flows from me. I do call it electric soul, someone else would say alternative - hip hop - soul etc. As a believer and follower of Jesus The Christ, I want to talk about Him as much as I can in my work moving forward without alienating anyone. He is a major part of my being and the saviour of my life, I just want to celebrate that with an open invitation to everyone else to join the party.
How do you want people to feel with your music? Edified.
Who would you love to collaborate with? M.I.A... well kinda already done that! Kanye West, Anderson Paak, The Sunday Service Choir, Andre 3000, BJ The Chicago Kid, DJ Harrison is dope, Nicholas Britell would be interesting. A producer called Dave Okumu is cool too! Joy Orbison would also be an interesting collaboration. Meek Mill, Kim Burrell...
As a long-serving member of House Gospel Choir at the time, I had the chance to record and perform with artists such as Kylie Minogue, Beverley Knight, Emile Sande and more. M.I.A. was one of them! We did three sessions on her unreleased album that she's probably still working, but she was only present at the last session, I was fanboying inside but played it cool haha. She really just trusted us to develop ideas, really not complicated to work with. I do hope to collaborate with her someday and make some real art, something that challenges how we see the world and each other. I'll keep praying about that one. The more people you work with, the more you realise that they are also just humans, no greater or lesser than I.
Who’s your role model? Jesus! Need I say more, haha! However, on a more tangible level, again I have to mention Kanye West. As much as we admire his creativity, do we realise what he's just done? A Black-African-American-Billionaire-from-Chicago owns thousands of acres of land in the Divided States of America ...yes I said divided! A country that is not designed for the melanin man to succeed let alone own anything. Remember that song lyric from All Falls Down: "We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us, We trying to buy back our 40 acres" ...Mr. West did that 20 times over with more than a mule. I recognise that success isn't what you own, but the ability to manifest what you said you'll do, in my humble opinion. I also have a mentor who would rather be left unnamed. He just really shows me what sober-mindedness in a man is supposed to look like. An older head full of nuggets.
Jesus Is King is probably his weakest album on a technical level but I believe that the whole point. With that album, he told the world: Listen, I am Kanye West and I have flaws too. Only Jesus is perfect! 'Water' is a beautiful piece but 'Use This Gospel' has to be my favourite track on the album, it's bold, spacious and confident, nothing like the authoritative tone of The Clipse! Verse two!!! Many have been sceptical about his rededication to Christ but, Apostle Paul used to massacre Jews who accepted Jesus as Lord, somehow God used him to write the Epistles in the New Testament... so boy!
What was the creative process of 'Ode To Yeshua'? This project was heavily inspired by an EP called 'Actually' produced by Kay Young which was released last summer. I love everything about it, her choice of samples, the warm texture leaving you hungry for more, I wanted to create something like that with my own take. I only started putting it together from about a week before lockdown and then spent three weeks producing and recording the project. It felt necessary in a time like this to give a small bodywork that feels like a celebration and a prayer in one. The EP is laced with transposed Minnie Riperton samples all over it with added drums and melodies on top of everything else. The cover art is actually an abstract expressionist painting I made a couple years ago, I then photoshopped myself into it by total fluke and loved it. It felt right.
What were you trying to achieve with ‘Voices of New York’?
I was solving something I saw as a problem, for lack of better words. I spent most of February 2019 in New York for the first time exploring the open mic scene, where I started meeting cliques of poets and rappers. I started following them to their shows, building relationships with them and so on, but when I asked them if I could hear their work anywhere else, most of them said no, a few had books. I was like "naaah! You guys are not gonna be slept on!" So I planned a second trip last October organising everything from here which was a headache because Whatsapp isn't really a thing in NY. In the sessions, I just asked everyone to record a piece they'd like to say to the world, something that will live forever. I did it because their work deserved the exposure and the packaging it called out for, but it became something greater than that, It means so much to them, knowing that brought me to tears. In terms of the theme of VONY, it paints the scene of a group of storytellers all sharing their thoughts while riding the New York subway, I hope you felt that.
What do you like to do when not creating music? Online chess, some days I'm smoking players online to the point they cuss me, some days I'm the one being smoked, I hate it passionately lol. Otherwise, I'm a transport nerd, always loved learning about trains, planes and cities from young. Furthermore, like Kelis and Action Bronson, I'm also a chef; that's my day job. It's a very tough lifestyle but also very fulfilling. I'm that guy you'd invite to your friend's barbecue as the tag-along plus one who ends up manning the grill.
What’s next for you? More music! Ode To Yeshua 2.0 is in working progress and another finished project titled 'BLKDNTCRK' but it's all about putting work out at the right time. A Voices Of New York 2 is in the air but I'd have to wait and see, any excuse to head back to New York haha! A collaborative duo project called Eleo Perez is also baking gently. Let's see what 2020 holds.
AVP International's latest music video for 'Tears O' Joy' is out now! You can watch it right here.