We caught up with House of El to discuss the past year, career and more.
Towards the end of last year we sat down with the burgeoning artist House of El. He’d just released his EP Lazarus which now has a live version that you can check out here. But with the craziness of 2020 there was a lot more to touch on than just music so we went into all sorts from setbacks, legacy and even prejudice.
How has 2020 been for you?
This years been good for me, honestly. I had to keep reminding myself of my objectives because it’s been an easy year for you to kind of fall into yourself and let yourself be depressed. But you kind of just have to remove the negative thats happening because of the pandemic because everyone’s in the same boat around the world so you can’t really complain about it. From that perspective it’s been a good year I’ve been productive, I’ve been able to put music out, I’ve been able to record, I’ve been able to create and even learn some new skills. It’s been a good year, in a weird way.
Do you think you’ve ever been prejudged or put into a box because of the way you look?
Hell yeah! I grew up in a household and family were we were very about Blackness, I grew up around that heavy. So I feel like I came into the industry, and the working world being aware and I feel like a lot of Black people are made aware early that they’re going to “have to work harder” or things like that. So yeah I’ve definitely been prejudged.
That is in a way a struggle you’ve had to overcome, what would you say are the other biggest struggles you’ve had to go through to get to where you are now?
Even wanting to do music, I had to learn music theory. I wasn’t allowed to just say I want to do music. That is a very white middle class area to even want to do that, so time and time again people would ask “have you thought about something else?” or “this is an alternative way that you could do it”. I was always like whatever’s the highest achievement – I want that. Even if I don’t get there, I still have to see what it is.
In school I was told I shouldn’t do music because it would be “too much” then even in uni facing rejection. Then I got into the music business and I remember one manager said to me “you’re not really a producer” and I almost took it on in the moment but I thought wait a minute everything can be learnt. If you’re saying I’m not a producer now that doesn’t mean anything because I can always learn it.
I think as a Black person, creatively you learn to have a hard head but then you have to unlearn that because you do need to listen as well. So yeah one of the big ones has been people consistently trying to block me. But I’m also thankful I don’t want it to seem like like it’s completely horrible, you get a spine from it and you learn to kind of survive.
What does the ‘glass ceiling’ mean to you?
The ‘glass ceiling’ to me means…it’s like the ending of Charlie and the Chocolate Factor That’s one of my favourite movies, and when he breaks through that thing you’re absorbing it as a kind. Everything in that film is impossible, and the ‘glass ceiling’ is just everything that’s told to you that it impossible.
As soon as you say that I think of heroes, even people that I’ve never met but I would see as a hero. People now like Jay Z and Diddy and then going back to Jazz legends like Miles Davis, Duke Ellington – there was no ceiling, they were mixing with any part of society. Beyond that I think ownership, once you own whatever you do you’ve broken through it – that’s the ‘glass ceiling’.
What do you think of being conventional or doing what’s considered normal
I think genius level is when you can’t tell the difference between what conventional and unconventional is. A genius doesn’t know when they’re doing something wrong, they just think ‘I did it because I wanted to’. If you want to be great you have to kind of not really worry about that.
I think that in society it depends, in some cultures, there’s more of a spectrum. Think back to the 60s or people like Prince and Michael Jackson and the fashions at the time. I think the way people live effects the way people think so conventional thought can come from oppression it can come from all sorts of things but part of being a creative and trying to create and be great is throwing away that rulebook.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be that I went for everything that I wanted. Everything that came in my head I went for it and just did it. Whether it succeeded or not. It’s almost like I want my legacy to be that I failed a lot and tried things. I want that to be an example. It makes more sense to just try the things in your head than it does to try anything else. So yeah I just want that to be my legacy.
What have you got planned for the future?
If this past year has taught me anything it’s just keep your plans loose. I’ve got more music, music’s just what I do I create. I want to do more business, I want to own as much as humanly possible, I want to own everything. But my plans are so loose right now that I’m just rolling with it.