Living Newspaper Clippings: Transcript of Jammz and Nazareth Hassan in conversation

This is the transcript of the recorded conversation between Jammz and Nazareth Hassan, recorded as part of the Royal Court Living Newspaper Clippings series. This conversation was recorded in March 2021.

Jammz: Hello, my name is Jammz and I wrote for Edition 2 of Living Newspaper.

Nazareth Hassan: Hi, I’m Nazareth. I wrote for Edition One of Living Newspaper. My full name is Nazareth Hassan.

Jammz: How you doung? It’s good to finally meet, I’ve heard a lot about you. 

Nazareth: I know we’ve been working around each other. That’s what’s so weird about this process is working in orbit of everybody but never really talking to anyone, 

Jammz: Ola speaks very highly of you.

Nazareth: Love Ola! Obsessed. Yeah, she’s wonderful. 

Jammz: How was writing for Edition One?

Nazareth: It was cool. I didn’t do a lot of like writing-writing. I made a few sound pieces for the elevators and the staircases. And then I made this little substage thing, which was more of a diagram, I guess. Yeah it was a little diagram of what was happening in this club and what this dancer was supposed to be doing on top of your music. So I thought that was really fun. I really didn’t do any, like dialogue or like, playwriting as I normally would.

Jammz: Do, you normally work so quickly? Because that for me, that process was so quick and responsive.

Nazareth: I’m really comfortable with like, with putting stuff out, you know what I mean? Like, just sort of like letting words out – now if that stuff is good, is another question. A whole other question. But I can like, you know, I can produce something that is like watchable rather quickly. It was nice to just not like be thinking about stuff. You know what I mean? Yeah, sort of, like put something out. What about you? Did you like the pace of the project?

Jammz: Yeah, you know, it was quite quick. I usually I’m such a perfectionist, like with everything I normally do. Like in my music world, I take the most like care with it. I can write something in five minutes, that’s the easy part, but it’s the going back and doing all the editing, listening to it. By the time it’s finished, it sometimes takes me two years to write things that I’m really happy with. So working like that was actually really good, because it kind of reminded me actually, sometimes you do overthink it a lot. I was contacted about the project maybe two weeks before the actual date of the Edition. And then by the time I actually kind of cottoned on and realised ‘Okay, this is what I need to do’ I think I wrote the whole piece like the night before. Oh really? You wrote the whole piece the night before? Because I was working in collaboration with loads of other writers. So I was kind of just waiting. Everyone was so busy, so I was like ‘cool – I just need to get all of these ideas from everyone.’ And I just wanted to make sure I had everybody’s ideas put into the piece. So once I got the full list, I wrote that whole piece the night before – I stayed up till like three in the morning and I obviously composed for it as well. But that bit I managed to do before that evening so it was all right. So it was just the writing that needed to get done. But it was quite fun. I really enjoyed it.

Nazareth: That’s really impressive man. Are you talking about the rap and the front page? Where you improving? 

Jammz: I wrote all of it. 

Nazareth: I was impressed. I was like, how do you memorise that so quick?

Jammz: Do you know what, the memorising part? So I wrote it the night before the first rehearsals, and we had a week of rehearsals, and then we were doing rehearsals, and I was like it’s good… but it would be so much better off paper. And it’s getting filmed and obviously I do grime and I know that if people see me reading off this piece of paper, it’s going to be a laughable offence. It’s not me that’s gonna come here and be embarrassed today. So I’m just gonna try it. I was up one night going over and over and over lines again. But I think after about 15 tries over the two days, I just managed to get it off paper, but there was still like one or two errors in it, but it was fine.

Nazareth: I mean, that rap was amazing. It was gorgeous. Just like the way that you were sort of detailing. I was watching Small Axe? Oh yes. I didn’t really know a lot about like, Jamaican history in England, right. I had really not like sort of studied that particular aspect of their history and thought it was really beautiful the way that you sort of, like strung that whole history together lyrically.

Jammz: Yes. That’s a whole conversation, like the history of, you know, Black Caribbeans in England, and how we’ve been treated as a community and I think I really wanted to get across the frustration that not just I felt, but a lot of other people feel as well. So I just wanted to kind of hammer that home.

Nazareth: Period. You did it. I just watched it. So it’s like fresh on my brain.

Jammz: I still need to get a link for Edition One, because I haven’t seen your piece yet, but I really do want to see it.

Nazareth: I made the substage. And then with Chloe, I made the cartoon. And then I did the lifts, /the elevators and the staircases.

Jammz: Amazing.

Nazareth: Yeah, I think that’s it. That’s all I did.

Jammz: So those quotes that I was reading, were they your quotes as well?

Nazareth: Yeah, those are my quotes. See that’s what I’m talking about. Right? Like I could like, write anything, right? I just put it out there. I think Ola gave me a lot of grace, or maybe I shouldn’t have gotten some grace. Like, she should have been like, “What the fuck is that? What are you talking about?” Yeah, I don’t know. There’s something about the club that also just feels like like, I miss the club so much. I really miss going out. 

Jammz: You don’t realise how much you miss that kind of environment. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not always the best of environments, but even the act of being together in the middle of a pandemic is something so radical, literally. The idea of gathering in groups is just like, ‘You’re not supposed to do that’. So that’s why when Ola asked me to do that piece. I was like, ‘Yes, definitely’. Because I thought it was so important.

Nazareth: Right? And even to like, do this project, like, I feel like, you know, theatre is all about the art of gathering. It’s a social art form. And so, you know, having that taken away from us both as a source of income, right, a source of work, but also as a source of community. It’s been just a double whammy on everyone I know.

Jammz: How’s the pandemic been for you over in New York?

Nazareth: Well, I just got back, I’ve been in Atlanta for like, the last year, and I just moved back. I’m in Crown Heights now. New York is just one of those places that is, you know, it’s always constantly morphing and changing. But right now, I think it’s lost a sense of identity. I’m not used to that, I’m not used to being in a New York that is, you know, lost its sense of self. I think being in New York is sort of like, you’re able to see how the pandemic is actually sort of ravaging the country on like a microcosmic way, you know. Businesses are going out of business – the turnover so quick, the gentrification is accelerated, in this sort of, like, economic crisis. In Atlanta, it’s a little bit easier to like, put that out of your mind because it’s a little bit more suburban. But in New York, it’s like right in your face. I live across from some projects. I’m looking at them right now. And like, just the some of the ordinances that have been passed… it’s very present, you know. It’s all just like, right here, and you can’t look away from it?

Jammz: Yeah, I feel like the pandemic has probably made those things more obvious, or probably accelerated them.


Yeah, definitely. For sure. And it’s made the the need for community much larger like I think doing Living Newspaper was as much for me as it was for the theatre, you know. I wanted to make something. Yeah, I needed I needed to make something with yall.

Jammz: Yeah, if you’re anything like me, art, before a means of earning, is a form of expression. That’s why I feel that it’s so important.

Nazareth: Yeah, definitely. Music and sound has been what’s gotten me through the pandemic. I’m sure that’s true for you,

Jammz: Mate, if I never had it, I’d be lost. I’d be so lost right now.

Nazareth: Why did you start music? What’s your origin?

Jammz: Why did I start music?. You know, I don’t really have a reason. My dad is a musician. So he is a bass player. He’s now a guitar teacher. So he used to be part of the jazz community over here, taking me on tour with him. So from as early as I can remember, I’ve always been around instruments and computers and stuff. My mum is a big music lover, she used to go raving in South London, she used to bring home these tape packs and CD packs and we used to play them when I was about six. When I was about 9 or 10, me and my mum moved out of my granddad’s house, we got our own place, and I had nothing in my room. Entertainment-wise. I never had a TV, I didn’t even have a bed when I first moved there. I had a radio set, and I found that it was playing jungle and garage. I was like, cool, I like this music. I’ll leave the tuner here. And then I didn’t know about the station that I was tuned into was actually down the road from me. And it was a station that over the years in terms of grime, was one of the most legendary stations. So I kind of just left the tuner there. And I heard everything from the evolution and I started writing about maybe age 11 or 12. And from there I’ve just kind of been in it, but I didn’t actually take it seriously. I’ve always kind of done it and written. Everybody at school knew I did music, went to college, and I’d done a freestyle video. And then everyone was like, “This is sick”. Like I done it one week and I came next week and everyone knew the lyrics. I was like, cool. It was only really, maybe I say maybe 2014, 2015, I started going to pirate radio a lot… a lot, a lot, a lot. I was going through a bad time and I wasn’t really go with the intention of ‘ahhh I need to be famous’. No, I was just going because I was just enjoying venting. And then I ended up becoming addicted to that feeling. So I had to go there every day, literally for about a year and a half and my name kind of picked up and I done a Boiler Room one day. Yeah, done a Boiler Room, got invited to do a Boiler Room, and then as I’m doing the Boiler Room I’m hearing people say my lyrics back to me, and I’m like, “What the hell is going on here?” That’s when I kind of realised cool, you might be able to take this seriously. I’ve just been doing it ever since to be honest. How about you? I was listening to Moonface.

Nazareth: Thank you man, I appreciate it. Yeah, I certainly come from – my dad was a musician and my grandma was a musician. They started me in piano classes as soon as I could move my fingers fast enough. I started doing theatre because I was doing like musical theatre. And that sort of took off, I think that part of my brain, like the theatre part of my brain kind of separated from the music part of my brain. In that theatre feels like a place for me to like, sort of expand my perspective on something, and understand something that I can’t see without that perspective. Whereas music feels like, it feels almost like a time capsule. I can make a piece or make a song that is about someone or about how someone made me feel, or just like, you know, making songs that record the feelings that I have that I want to remember. Because music is so physical, it hits you and it’s such a bodily experience. Over the pandemic, I think I’ve been connecting with music and sound work more. For that reason – it’s just so transportative. It’s almost like you’re pressing buttons on a person – if you make a soundscape you can basically shape someone’s experience of that song based on the different textures that you have. That’s immensely fascinating. You know, what I mean? Like, how to create anxiety in someone versus how to create nostalgia. You know, it’s just like the click of a button, the rise of a little knob, can turn something into something really emotional. That’s really exciting to me.

Jammz: Do you feel that your work and producing theatre pieces has changed your perspective on how you make music?

Nazareth: I think the other way around. I think I’ve always made music kind of rhythmically. I’ve always thought of playwriting as like the poetry of time and space so, I’ve always kind of approached it with sort of like a physical rhythmic perspective, I guess. I think that making music over the quarantine has made me more vulnerable in my playwriting. And I think with music, it’s sort of like – when I’m writing a song or like producing something, I’m definitely pulling on what I’m feeling in that moment.

Jammz: Yeah.

Nazareth: Whereas, with a play, you know, it takes months, years, to write a play and to get it up. Sometimes that sort of real time reaction is delayed. I feel like playwriting… writing a play is a spell or it’s a prayer, right? That prayer only matters when you need it. So sometimes it’s hard to sort of write with that same urgency, and write that prayer. When you know it’s not gonna be performed or invoked for a while. I’m trying to reap that out of myself. I’m trying to remove that awareness of the institution from my writing anyway, and just like to write. But yeah, I don’t know, I think there’s something… when I’m writing a play, I’m sort of thinking about sustainability in a way that I’m not with the song. With a song, I can record that shit, put it to the side, get it mastered, and it’ll be out. And then it’s done. Whereas a play is like, you know, it’s a living, breathing thing. That’s always sort of growing in and of itself, you know. So, yeah, music has made me more vulnerable, for sure.

Jammz: I think, no, I can definitely relate to that.

Nazareth: What made you want to work in theatre?  I know, you worked on Ola’s Poet in Da Corner, right? 

Jammz: It was actually by chance. I never set out with any intention to work in theatre. Also, I knew Deborah, for 11 years this year. She wrote the play. So I was actually on a project with her and we kept in contact. And she contacted me initially to help her write some songs for the play. And I think I drafted like one or two songs initially, and we just kept working on the songs, and she just kept kind of involving me in the process, just to see where the initial drafts of the play were going. And long story short, she invited me down to a reading at the Royal Court. And I read obviously, the role of SS Vyper, who I played, and Vicky was there and I read it and Vicky was like, “Oh, you read it so well. You might as well be in the play” so I was like “Okay! Let’s go.” So yeah, that’s how I came to be in the play. But then actually being in the play, opened my eyes to a whole new world that I just never even thought to look into before, it just changed my whole perspective on what I can do with my music, which is why I kind of asked that question because coming from the other side of it. I’m not traditionally a theatre maker or a writer. I’m a musician. So I find it very easy to channel my feelings into a song, even easier than I can actually verbally speak it, which is very weird. So, obviously, being in that play and seeing how theatre works, and actually what theatre does, kind of just made me think, okay, when I write music now, I’m not writing in the mind frame of I need to write a song that can get played on mainstream radio. Not that I ever cared about mainstream radio anyway, but it doesn’t need to be this three minute long thing that’s gonna go on a Spotify playlist. I’m now writing my own frame of like, how far can I take this? What can I add to it that’s going to make it more than just music? Where can it go? Or where can it live? Doing Poet in da Corner, just shows you can turn it from this thing that lives on an mp3 or WAV to this whole living, breathing thing like you were saying, and then it just gives it this whole other life which is like, so cool to me.

Nazareth: Right? Definitely. I actually think I take a lot of inspiration from, from rap and like, from the way that like, I think rappers are really good at like, just sort of augmenting time. Right? Y’all literally know how to make language fucking skip, and jump and slow down. You know what I mean? Y’all are like psychedelic in a lot of ways. I think that belongs in the theatre. You know, I think actually that sort of mind frame and that way of working with language is exactly what the theatre needs to like, be revived a little bit.

Jammz: Definitely. Like Deborah always says to me, like music, especially rap and gramme, it is theatre when you think it. You get all these rap beefs and problems… it’s theatre, it’s only natural that it kind of translates into ‘theatre-theatre’.

Nazareth: Do you have any othet questions? Wait, what’s your sign? I’m a Gemini.

Jammz: People always get on to me for this but I’m on the border –  I’m 21st of May so I’m bang in the middle of Taurus and Gemin

Nazareth: That’s very Gemini! 

Jammz: I don’t know, I identify more as a Taurus man, I’ll be honest. I’m way too headstrong for my own good sometimes.

Nazareth: All right. stubborn. I love Taurus too. I can’t help myself sometimes. 

Jammz: When’s your birthday? 

Nazareth: May 24th

Jammz: Okay, you’re three days after me. Okay so this was meant to happen.

Nazareth: Meant to happen! Beaming through the, fucking across the country, across the world.

Jammz: Exactly. We’ll have to do this again and have a proper catch-up.

Nazareth: Definitely when I come to London, we’ll have a… what do you guys say? Have a pint?

Jammz: I don’t drink beer… [Laughter]