“I just liked being loud,” says Scottish music producer Bobby Perman, when asked about his earliest musical escapades. And frankly, things haven’t changed much.
It began at age eight when his parents bought him a miniature drum kit for Christmas, which when you think about it, suggests some pretty cool ‘rents. Everything changed when Bobby, citing classic soul music, rock and grunge as his first influences, discovered hip hop at age 14. With his second EP, Rosario, released on critically acclaimed label LuckyMe last week, and not long back from touring with Baauer (yes, of Harlem Shake fame), Bobby, or S-Type to the fans, is bright-eyed and high-spirited about the future.
His mother is a classically trained singer and percussionist, his father played in blues bands and his two entrepreneurial brothers run their own creative companies, so it’s not hugely surprising that Bobby ended up in the music industry. With a growing interest in his elder brothers’ DJing pursuits and record collections, Bobby was first introduced to hip hop when he was given the now classic ’96 Fugees album, The Score. Shortly after he bought a copy of Gang Starr’s Step Into The Arena and “fell in love with hip hop”.
“He started messing around with a four-track tape machine at home,” says his brother Tommy, “and then graduated to the computer. He got into sampling really quickly. We went halves on an MPC2000 but he was so much better at it than me… I never really got a look in!” [An MPC is a MIDI Production Centre. Made by Akai since ’88, they are similar to drum machines and allow artists to create the looping samples often found in rap records. Bobby has used a number of programs and instruments since, but now relies strictly on the computer program Logic.]
In 2005, at just 17, Bobby released his first vinyl record on Tommy’s independent label, Surface Pressure – a collaboration that involved Detroit artist Finale rapping over a beat that Bobby produced. Though not widely circulated, the record certainly drew attention in the modest Scottish music scene and Bobby began to make a name for himself.
There is little doubt the technological era in which Bobby began making music has also played a crucial role in his success, reflects brother Tommy. “Early on he was very active in online hip hop forums and the community aspect of these sites was invaluable,” Tommy says. “I really don’t think Bobby would have had as many opportunities if it weren’t for the support of like-minded folks he met online.”
The road to success hasn’t been an easy one and it definitely didn’t come quickly, however.
“I certainly took music seriously,” Bobby told The Newsroom. “But I didn’t see any serious money in it.”
Despite lacking in MPC finesse, Tommy formed an experimental indie band – FOUND – and enjoyed success throughout the UK for over a decade.
“I suppose Bobby maybe saw my work in FOUND as an example of how difficult it is to make money from music,” Tommy told The Newsroom. “Although by lots of measures I was successful, I still had to supplement my income with work I didn’t want to do, and continue to do so… So I can understand why Bob didn’t believe he could make money from music.”
Despite coming from a family where every member enjoyed some form of higher education, Bobby was adamant from a young age that university wasn’t for him.
Eldest brother Dougal says it is “incredibly difficult” to make a living from music. “I am extremely impressed and proud of my wee bro for managing to do it. I love how Bobby has stuck doggedly to making music and doing things his way.”
Dougal runs his own audio engineering company as well as an independent radio station from his offices in Glasgow. It was in those offices that Bobby worked throughout his early 20s, getting through his nine to five so he could get home and start making beats again. He had many minor successes throughout those years, but was still far off making S-Type a recognisable nom de plume.
In 2011 the process was accelerated when an independent Scottish label, LuckyMe, took notice. The music and arts collective had developed a large cult following in the UK and overseas, and the founder had grown up in the same Scottish club scene as Bobby. The label now represents a multitude of influential electronic acts including Hudson Mohawke, Lunice, Rustie, Jacques Greene and Cashmere Cat – all of whom have toured Australia in the past year.
Bobby’s first EP released on LuckyMe – Billboard – generated mass appeal and received positive reviews on multiple mainstream blogs including Pitchfork and Fact Magazine. The success of the label no doubt played a huge hand.
“My first record with LuckyMe felt to me like my first release,” he reflected. “I was super proud of the music.”
Not long after its release, two tracks from the record were chosen to be used in a global Nokia campaign. It was then that Bobby’s perspective shifted. The money he made from the Nokia advertisements finally allowed Bobby to give up the day job and turn music production into a full-time profession. Since signing with LuckyMe he has toured the UK with London duo Aluna George and in March he returned from a 28-date US tour with Baauer and renowned hip hop producers DJ Mustard and AraabMuzik.
Last month he was back in America playing a sold-out show with recent Justin Bieber collaborator, Chance The Rapper.
“I am living my dreams,” he says, “but it crept up on me slowly, so sometimes I have to take a step back just to see how far I’ve come. I’m still just a kid who likes to be loud… just… now I get paid for it.” – Thea Carley
Top photo from the S-Type Facebook page.