Swindle is ahead of the curve. The South London producer, multi-instrumentalist and composer has spent the past 15 years championing what he calls the “left of centre”. His musical community is scattered through grime, dubstep, jazz, soul and rap – all genres and scenes that he has helped bring from the underground into mainstream conversation, thanks to distinctive collaborations that have produced four of his own albums and several other records with the likes of Ghetts, Kojey Radical, Celeste, D Double E and Joel Culpepper.
A decade ago, Swindle released his debut album and proclaimed Long Live the Jazz. At a time when the UK jazz scene was still regarded as a niche pursuit overseen largely by traditionalists, Swindle fearlessly blended weighty dubstep basslines with stacked horn arrangements, thundering dancefloor-oriented beats, and live jazz instrumentation. Now UK jazz is booming thanks to its cross-pollination of these influences, with young acts like saxophonist Nubya Garcia even getting her start playing as part of Swindle’s live band.
Nominated for a Mercury Music Prize in 2022 for his work on Kojey Radical’s sprawling album Reason to Smile, earning an Ivor Novello nomination for their track “Payback” in 2023 as well as writing the official theme song for the award ceremony, Swindle’s cross-genre stylings are currently being celebrated. His is an open-eared production process that has progressed from the grime and dubstep scenes of mid-noughties London, with 2007’s The 140 Mixtape featuring early showings from MCs Ghetts and Big Narstie, to 2013’s Long Live the Jazz and 2015’s cross-cultural Peace, Love & Music, which was recorded in studios from London to LA, Tokyo and beyond.
2019’s No More Normal meanwhile continued the cross-genre feel, traversing through G-Funk, jazz horns, head-nodding hip-hop beats, and dextrous verses to play out like a who’s who of the UK’s most formidable Black talent, featuring everyone from D Double E to Nubya Garcia, Andrew Ashong, Etta Bond and Kojey Radical. Most recently, in the midst of pandemic lockdowns, 2021’s The New World acted as an “emergency linkup” for Swindle’s collaborators, all recorded over a week at Real World Studios when restrictions eased. “It became like a therapy session,” he says. “When the world was melting in 2020, that record saved me.” Swindle also accompanied the release with a luscious and expansive 15-minute short film celebrating its featured artists.
More than just Swindle’s community, his collaborators form the continuum of great Black British music that he is a key part of carrying the legacy for – and his forthcoming projects show no signs of slowing down including a work-in-progress instrumental record and a full score for writer Candice Carty-Williams’ eight-part Netflix and BBC series Champion.
“I'm never just working on one thing – that's what keeps me moving and focused,” Swindle says. “I want to keep repping that left of centre. To see artists like Kojey getting nominated for a Mercury feels like the struggle we went through was all worth it. 10 years on from my first record, it’s come full circle.” And with the worlds of film and TV calling, alongside developing his community of musical collaborators, it seems that although Swindle might be ahead of the curve, there is still plenty more to come