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Space Africa and Rainy Miller
Photography Timon Benson, Styling Alexander Luc

Rainy Miller and Space Afrika are finding light in the darkness

Featuring the likes of Coby Sey, Mica Levi and Richie Culver, the artists discuss their joint album, A Grisaille Wedding, and why they’re ‘like Odd Future but for the North West’ of England

Over the past few years, Fixed Abode head Rainy Miller and Space Afrika’s Joshua Inyang and Joshua Reid have been carving out a world of their own, expanding their ever-growing cast of collaborators across joint music projects, fashion shows, film scores and art exhibitions. Drawing on their experiences in real-time, their projects – originally pegged to the North West scene, and venues such as Manchester’s SOUP and The White Hotel – are no longer localised to one particular region, but spread out across the global underground, with live shows at some of Europe’s most respected experimental venues and music festivals.

Conversations surrounding the North West scene are usually pegged to bleak cityscapes and British working-class narratives, but A Grisaille Wedding is a new chapter for the artists, who’ve spent the past few years touring and making new connections. Featuring an extended family of both new and old collaborators – including Voice Actor, Mica Levi, Iceboy Violet, Coby Sey, Richie Culver, RenzNiro and bobbieorkid – teamwork is key to the record, with each artist bringing their own distinct sound into the mix. Built on trust and mutual respect, it’s exactly this allied approach to artistry that gave Manchester such a strong reputation to begin with, and A Grisaille Wedding extends this across regional and country lines. Sonically, there are still murky clublands, though they give way to brighter, more joyful days – just like a winter wedding, where friends gather in the chill to celebrate new beginnings.

Below, Rainy Miller and Space Afrika go head-to-head to discuss the new album, the power of collaboration, and why they’re ”like Odd Future but for the North West”.

So, A Grisaille Wedding – what’s the thinking behind the album, and the name?

Rainy Miller: In my head, I’ve had this dragging obsession with trying to populate the world that Space Afrika has built over the years – this hauntological grey cityscape, the rain and the brutalism. That was a lot of the tropes that we’re kind of written about when it came to Space Afrika’s music, but also about the people up here [in Manchester].

The idea of the wedding was to take this greyscale world – because grisaille is also a style of painting using different shades of grey to create a depth of field. There’s this juxtaposition of a marriage on a rainy day, using the idea of the light over the dark to inform the world they’ve created for us – and it snowballed from there. 

Joshua Inyang: We had a conversation with Rainy about the album and how we were leaning towards Grisaille and the whole idea of the wedding. We thought, what other concepts can describe this album and what we want to achieve? The name almost has an old French film feel about it, and we very much leaned into the greyness. The backdrop architecture and its associations with the North West was a strong point, but it also started to line up with how we feel about ourselves and our personal lives. The stories that have been told, the image that’s been created around us, which is mostly true, is coming from our own words and ideas. But there are a lot of perspectives that become lazy or fixated when we’ve been growing as artists. Now we’ve seen the world and we’re working on a lot of things outside the North West. Through this marriage, we can match up the ways that we can exemplify the steps we’ve made outside of this fixed story – and it’s not a story that should continue to dictate us. 

The grisaille painting has an undercoating of light grey or blue. But that in itself can’t create a perfect image, it’s a foundation to be built upon. This record was us personifying this world, giving ourselves a new foundation to build on.

Joshua Reid: The terminology of the wedding is a ceremony of coming together, which really speaks true to the collaborators across the record. It’s a celebration of what’s been achieved but an acknowledgement of what came before. 

How would you say life has changed since your last projects? How’s this reflected in the music?

Rainy Miller: Naturally, time’s moving on, the day-to-day is changing. The narrative around us has always been peppered with how gritty it is, how we’re so hard done by – but how do we put across that there’s a light in the dark? I don’t want to be 40 years old and still writing about how hard done by my life has been, I’m hoping my reality will have changed by then. We’re writing about that in real-time, so the arc of how we’re being portrayed has to change as well, even if that arc isn’t the trendiest thing to write about. People just love misery, don’t they? I’m obviously writing from a place of pain and trauma, but the perspectives shift. As that changes, the art is changing, too. 

Joshua Reid: The kind of music that we make and the places we come from, it can be hard sometimes to break out or transcend it, because if the location or the story is about misery, it’s such a strong point. When you decide to break through that, it can almost feel like the message has been lost. But our realities are changing in real-time. I like the idea of the light breaking through the concrete and the greyness, because yes, you’re on tour and you’re enjoying yourself, but you return home as well. These moments of light and darkness are exactly what this record speaks to.

“People just love misery, don’t they? I’m obviously writing from a place of pain and trauma, but the perspectives shift. As that changes, the art is changing, too” – Rainy Miller

Joshua Inyang: If you look at the people we’ve chosen to collaborate with, none of that is accidental. Everyone fits into that story because they’re needed, it’s all planned. If you go and look at the collaboration list, it’s not a UK thing, it goes all around Europe.

One beautiful thing that's come out of this marriage is being able to have all these crazy, psychedelic, nonsensical ideas, but then also find some form in that. A lot of our influences, a lot of the music that we engage with on a daily basis is pop music – and we have ambitions for our music to be enjoyed in bigger worlds, whether that’s pop or the art world.

Rainy Miller: I like what you’re saying about these psychedelic moments, how we’re playing music for like ten minutes then stripping it down and organising it. That’s a crazy metaphor for what marriage is, which is organised love. In a way, you take something that is extremely unformed and raw and then you organise it in a sense to move forward.

How would you describe your relationship with each other? With this new record and all the collaborators, it feels like you’re expanding the family.

Joshua Inyang: With [Josh and Rainy], we’re really good mates, we’re brothers. The first time I met Rainy we were in the studio together with Blackhaine – god, you two are a package – and we sat down for four hours and knocked out about four tunes in the first two or three hours of meeting each other. We all looked at each other like, that’s west.

Rainy Miller: It was mad, wasn’t it? It’s taken me a while to find my crowd, like you and Josh were a lot more integrated into the fabric of what was going on. It took me a while to find the kind of crowd I was meant to be with, and it happened in the most seamless way. 

Joshua Reid: When I met Rainy and the gang for the first time, it was mad because just before I left [Berlin], it was feeling like it was time to reach out. Meeting the guys was like, this is family now. It’s making me think why I left in the first place, this is the community that I’m trying to find. 

Rainy Miller: Even you going into Berlin, and extending the family out, when you think about the exhibition in Berlin last month, all of us were in that because you went out and made them connections. 

Joshua Reid: It’s always been like never forgetting where you come from, but bringing through the family, the crew that supported you, and having that relationship, which allows everyone to thrive in their own sense, to bring it back to the table and get everybody together. From a collaboration standpoint, it's bigger than music, it's bigger than that, it's a family. 

Joshua Inyang: Yeah it’s like Odd Future but for the North West. As you were chatting lads, one of the things that’s propelled us to these points is everyone rises to the occasion for each other. We’ve all kind of shocked each other in those moments, or someone has really put themselves out there on behalf of the team to do it.

Rainy Miller: We’ve developed our own musical language, because we’re not musicians at the same time. For us to develop our ideas, we have to develop our own musical language. Ever since meeting you lot, the angle of my music has changed. I didn't have the skills or the necessary tools to be able to go out and chase what I was going to do by myself. 

And we get to that point now where we’re sharing this connection and this connectivity and this network of ideas that only happen in very specific ways. I think that’s where a lot of the interesting stuff is coming from now. We’re developing our own practices and kind of expanding our language a little bit within it all. 

 A Grisaille Wedding is out now

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