In an age when making music has never been easier, it's reassuring when an artist takes a long time to finish an album.
It implies effort, thought, contemplation, all the stuff that good art requires, albeit in the face of diminishing financial rewards.
Aim (aka Andy Turner) perhaps took this to extremes for his new album The Habit of a Lifetime (And How to Kick It), remaking the record approximately four times over a four year spell. This was due to a combination of his own sense of quality control and his natural steady workflow, but also the distraction of the multifarious responsibilities of running Atic Records - the focus on releasing other artists resulted in a nine-year gap since his last album Flight 602.
The gorgeous rolling bass-lines and boom-bap drums of his 1999 debut Cold Water Music defined the Aim sound and helped to reinvent Manchester’s musical landscape at the time. So it signals Turner's artistic confidence that he is happy to diverge from the formula with the straight 4/4 beats of the opening tracks of the new album ('We Don’t Play' and 'The More I Get (The More I Want)'). Ably assisted by the formidable talents of long time transatlantic collaborators Q Ball and Curt Cazal, the mixture of hip hop horns and deeply wistful melodies remind you this is an Aim production.
As the more familiar swinging snare returns with tracks like 'How It All Got Started' and 'Gangstarr (The Tribute)', you realise this is as pure a hip hop record as Aim has produced. Indeed there's a certain romance in the story of a lad from the north of England, whose tastes were shaped by a combination of Shut Up and Dance, Tears for Fears and Pete Rock, providing such an accomplished tribute to the genre.
We caught up with one of the world’s greatest beatsmiths to get his views on what has been called a love-letter to hip hop.
Congrats on the new album! After a gap of around nine years, were you a little nervous?
Thanks. Yeah, it's been a while. I wasn't really nervous about the music, I was confident we'd get that right. You never know how it's going to go down though so again I wouldn't say I was nervous but at the end of the day you want people to like it, and from a business point of view we release on our own label on all formats using our own money so you hope it sells too.
You told me in a previous interview you had remade this album three or four times over about four years. It must be a relief to see all that hard work finally released and getting a good response...
It's a weight off for sure. It was a lot of mind over matter and being honest with yourself and if a track wasn't right, even if it had to be done again from scratch, so be it. You can't afford to think about the work involved, just the end product and how it needs to be. We set the bar high early on and each track we worked on we tried to make bigger and better than the one before.
How would you say this compares in style to your previous work?
Style-wise I'd say it's a continuation of what I've always tried to do. There's nothing really left-field on there but saying that I do feel like it's a big step forward for me production wise. As for QNC, they've definitely done some of their career best verses on this record. We weren't trying to re-invent the wheel with The Habit Of A Lifetime, we just wanted to make a classic hip-hop album. Whether we managed it or not is up for debate but that's what we set out to do.
I particularly like the album cover - what was the thinking behind that?
As soon as we started kicking 'The Habit of a Lifetime' round as a possible title it made me think of an old '70s novel or pulpy self-help life-management paperback. I've been working with Vern Simpson, a designer I met a few years ago, on my last couple of releases and he's a genius. Basically anything I can imagine he can realise so I said we need to create this book as if it actually existed. It had to be an original pressing too so you get the wear and tear. He came back with this cover and blew my mind, it was perfect.
The music site Groovement.co.uk calls the album a "love letter to the genre" - was that your intention?
We enjoyed making this record, first and foremost it was for us. We're fans of proper hip-hop. We love the genre, we're grateful to all the artists and labels that have released music that inspires us and maybe, sub-consciously, it was us saying thanks.
Sean Price who raps on the album has since passed away. Does that affect the way you now look at the album?
It does. I didn't know him personally. I was just a fan. I knew he didn't do too many features though so I was amazed when Curt said he'd hooked it up. He's a great character and his verse is stunning, it wouldn't be the same record without it. His passing was tragic but outside of his family, his work is his legacy and he'll be remembered as one of the true masters.
The album is called 'The Habit of a Lifetime and How To Kick It' - any lifetime habits you wish you could kick?
Not really. I mean I've got plenty of bad habits but I've learnt to live with them.
Any plans to tour?
Not at the moment. It's not a priority for me if I'm being honest. I know it's part of the grind but I'd rather be in the studio making the next album. We'll see what happens, we might do a few shows in the new year.
Which other records have you particularly enjoyed in 2015?
Well, I love everything Red Laser Records and Chopped Herring Records put out, they've been busy this year. Also, a friend of mine that I DJ with at free parties we put on through the summer in our local park started playing Blorp93 by Gnork. I rarely do this as once someone is playing a tune it's their tune but I had to have that one in the bag. I think it came out originally in 2013 but I picked it up this summer on a re-press.
When can we expect the next Aim release!?
I've started my next solo album and I have the title but it's impossible to say how long it will take to finish. I'll just keep chipping away and it'll be done when it's done. I've got a couple of other projects on the go too. My next release will be a double A side seven inch with Mikey D.O.N. (of Krispy 3 fame). I'm also helping to produce and mix Niko's next album, she's written some brilliant new songs so I'm excited to get going on that one.