Over the years, I’ve met a lot of people in all walks of life throughout my travels, at my parties or just in passing and connecting on some level. Many of the people that I’ve met and built relationships with were talented individuals but unknown to the masses and all who had secret talents just waiting to be unleashed on the world. When I look back at many of the pictures from these interactions over the last 20 years, I see the youthfulness in everyone, the pre-social media exposure, the humbleness, the excitement of living in the moment and doing things for you which built the person who we all are today.
One of those people that I’ve met before the name became a household one in the industry was the homie Noam, known to the world as Soul Supreme who has been heating up over the last few years and dropping must have and quickly selling out vinyl releases. I met Noam years prior back at my Hot Peas & Butta party in New York where he would travel from Tel Aviv every Summer to spend time in the city which had to have been circa 2008. Whenever we would sit and chat, he would always mention that he wanted to bring me to Tel Aviv to play a party but the scene was not quite ready for me yet and he assured me that he would one day make it happen. Having never been to Israel before, I was excited for the opportunity to tour there and play a night of Funk & Soul. Fast forward 5 years to 2013 and the call came in that the scene was ready to hear what I had to play and I was off to Tel Aviv.
Since the beginning, I always knew that Soul Supreme was a man of his word and a great talent when it came to DJ’ing and music production which shows in the present day with his sought after releases. Having released his first 45 in 2018 under the moniker “Love’s High” on Chicago’s Star Creature label, he released his second, a cover version double-sider of “The Message” b/w “Umi Says” on Tugboat Editions in 2019 before launching his own label, Soul Supreme records in 2020 with his first, and ridiculously amazing flips of two A Tribe Called Quest classics with “Check The Rhime” b/w “Lyrics To Go”. 2020 was the year of the pandemic, but that didn’t stop the now residing in Amsterdam producer from putting his best foot forward and delivering a full length, self-titled LP to close out the year.
It’s 2021 and with lockdown restrictions in many parts of the world, for artists the only thing keeping us going is being in our spaces to create and release music to stay connected to the outside world so it’s no wonder that Soul Supreme kicked the year off with another 45 which brings us to the start of this featured interview with someone that I consider a friend, a brother and an amazing human.
Skeme – We’ve known each other for the better part of a decade plus and I’ve always known you to be heavy into music. How did you get started and what was your entry point that led you to where you are today?
Soul Supreme – I started playing piano as a kid but I was never too good or serious about it. The first major entry point for me was when I started breaking around the age of 14-15. Through bboying I discovered funk, soul and rap. Slowly I started getting interested where the samples behind the beats came from and that led to my interest in jazz.
Around my early 20’s I stopped bboying and started collecting records and djing. It always felt like a natural extension of what I was doing and it was never a really conscious decision. I just started djing because that’s what I felt I should do. The last stepping stone was moving to the Netherlands around 2014. I was new in town and the locals weren’t really keen on giving me a chance and booking me to play any gigs. I had to reconfigure my plans and I decided to focus more on production – something I always wanted to get serious about and finally had time to do.
Skeme – You’re rather well rounded musically with an appreciation for sounds in general but who or what would you say are your biggest influences that define your style and who you are as an artist?
Soul Supreme – Thats a tough one. I wear a few different hats so there are different influences to each one of those. Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Mizell Brothers, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, J Dilla, Thes One, Pete Rock, Bobby Timmons, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Madlib, George Duke, Lee Morgan… But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I try to study music everyday and of as wide variety as I can.
Skeme – I’ve always been skeptical of modern day remixes or reinterpretations of classic songs because most times, the producer totally ruins what was already perfect but you’ve covered a couple of A Tribe Called Quest songs and absolutely nailed them beautifully. Were you hesitant at any point in doing them or did you know that you would do them due justice?
Soul Supreme – I can definitely relate to this. Initially I never planned on releasing any covers, it was just another thing that just evolved over time organically. I started doing them for myself in order to study the greats. In the beginning it was more about understanding how to program beats, then I moved to studying mixing and engineering of songs I loved, after that I paid more attention to arrangement and song writing and in the last couple of years I’m more focused on improving as a pianist.
I posted some on Instagram and many people started requesting me to release them so I started considering it. As you mentioned, great songs are quite easy to mess so I’m very aware and consider which ones I want to release. I only release songs I feel like I can put my own voice and ideas through. Releasing a cover just to release a cover is pointless to what I’m trying to do.
Skeme – Your debut 45 release on Tugboat Editions covered “The Message” b/w “Umi Says” which sold out instantly and gave listeners a taste of who you were and what was to come. Did you think that you would see that type of reaction from record buyers and DJs?
Soul Supreme – Tim (of Tugboat Editions/Star Creature) was very certain it would do well but honestly I always find it tricky to predict how people would react to my music. All I can say is that I was very happy with both tracks and especially with how Umi Says turned out as it was exactly how I’d heard it in my head but beyond that I didn’t know what to think. Even today after a series of well received projects I still cannot tell which songs would resonate with buyers and djs. I just try to trust my taste and vision and hope it would resonate with others.
Skeme – After your debut release, you began working on setting up your own label, Soul Supreme Records and dropped a full LP which was a very strong move on your part especially in 45 driven market. As someone who understands how difficult it is to not only be an artist but also administrative duties of a brand, I applaud you for that. What made you go that route and how are you balancing your time between creating and the business side?
Soul Supreme – Thank you. Until this past summer I was working a 9-5 and by opening my own label I was finally able to dedicate myself to music full time. I must thank Kon for pushing me towards doing it myself and not relying on labels and others. Prior to that I was trying to get labels to release my music (and most of them either rejected it or offered terrible deals) and Kon simply told me – if you don’t believe in yourself enough to invest in yourself then why are you expecting to do so?
From that moment on I decided on doing it myself and I cannot imagine looking back. Not only I can make a living this way but I also have full control on the creative and business side which is priceless. Of course it’s always a challenge separating the two and I still have a lot to improve in that aspect. The way I try to divide the time is that when I create and study music it’s all art but the moment I press a record it turns into a product and I have to consider the business side of things. Usually I decide on a project and decide on a deadline where I schedule a mastering session. Once the record is sent to the pressing plant I dedicate all my time to studying and creating new music until the project is out and then the cycle restarts.
Skeme – Your self-titled debut LP really gave us a large slice of the pie in your range and sound exploring the realms of Hip Hop, Jazz Fusion and Jazz-Funk, what’s your equipment set up look like and can you tell me about your recording process?
Soul Supreme – My equipment right now consists of a Rhodes MK1, Yamaha U3 upright piano, Moog Sub 37 and a Sequential OB-6. I don’t have a lot of gear but each piece is of good quality and I know it well enough to use it in my sleep.
The process varies from project to project but I’d say there are 2 main ways I work: most of the time I’d do a short demo of an idea I have and only finish it when I decide to release it. The other option is that I have the entire thing in my head and I just finish it in one go. For Example the Huit Octobre 1971 version was finished including the mix in 4 hours. I think I decided to do it at 4 pm and by 8:30 I already posted the finished video.
Skeme – You closed out 2020 with a sold out debut album and quickly flew into 2021 dropping a new 45 which paid tribute to Doom which you began working on before his untimely passing. What brought about doing this 45 which seems to be yet another one in your discography that has sold out as well.
Soul Supreme – I already knew when I released the LP I’d release the Huit Octobre on a 45 afterwards. I try to have a theme when I release cover 45s so I tried to find something that both relates to the other side and also one I can bring something of my own into. Madvillain was one of those albums that completely changed what I perceived a hip hop album can sound like and Raid was always a stand out track for me. I felt I could bring something new into it that would hold the integrity of the original but also present something different.
Skeme – What’s next for Soul Supreme and what does the future hold?
Soul Supreme – For now I focus on just studying more music and becoming better at what I do. In the last year I’ve been leaning more towards working with other musicians and expanding my sound so you can expect more projects with live instrumentation. As for the next release, I have 2 J Dilla version 45s dropping together. I am not sure what will be next after that but I’m definitely interested in starting to work with vocalists so hopefully I’ll be able to make that happen in 2021. I like to work with people in real life, so COVID presented a challenge for that but I hope we can soon travel again and make music in the same room with others.