SOULQUEST LAB #1 An interview with Cisco Swank

rancisco Haye, known as Cisco Swank, is a 20 years old Brooklyn based multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and rapper. In this interview, we talked inspiration, his latest project, Pursuit of, as well as his life in the Big Apple.

Hey man, Thank you for being here, it’s great to have you. How are you ? 

Bro I'm good just been chilling, hanging in there. Also just doing online music school which is kind of wack lol but we’re making it work.

First off, congratulations on your new project Pursuit Of. We are huge fans of your work here and we love the project. When did you start making music and what first got you into it ? Did you grow up in a musical household?

Bro thank you. Yeah man I’ve been making music for a while. I started playing the piano and drums when I was about 4 years old. Both of my parents are musicians, my mom being a singer-songwriter and my father a multi-instrumentalist so I was always immersed in music.

How would you describe the music that you typically create to people that might not be familiar with it?

I dont know, I usually describe it as a mix of all black-american music. So a mix of jazz, hip-hop, r&b, neo soul, and gospel.

You obviously write your own music, you play multiple instruments, rap, sing, produce, mix and master while being a student at Berklee College of Music. How do you balance meeting with the demands of such a renowned school and working on your music, playing gigs (+being your own manager) ?

Yeah I’m not gonna lie it gets kind of crazy at times lol. But I think staying focused and prioritizing certain things over others has definitely helped. Just waking up and saying “ok today Ima finish this beat, transcribe this solo, and finish ear training homework” like having a plan even if its getting a couple things done can be really beneficial and productive. Also I try to surround myself with motivated people, dudes who are on the same type of things also helps.

I’m sure growing up in New York and being surrounded by such cultural and artistic diversity influenced you but what are the daily struggles of a musician in a city with so many incredible musicians ?

Yeah New York is highkey the greatest city in the world especially for what I do. I guess a struggle would be there's so many young artists in New York doing literally the same thing as me so I think standing out as an artist has been important to me. Like what makes me different from everyone else and accentuating that heavily in my art.

What do you think about the upcoming jazz scene in the US, for example artists like Morgan Guerin, Immanuelle Wilkins, Jahari Stampley or Alfredo Colon?

It's crazy because I actually know most of them really well. I think its really beautiful dude looking at these cats my age continuing a lineage of a really important music. Also guys like Joel Ross, Giveton Gelin, Kassa Overall and Julius Rodriguez are shifting the narrative of jazz to a more relatable lens especially for younger people. I think is great because this is a generational music.

What about the upcoming scene in UK ? (Kamal Williams, Nubya Garcia, Blue lab beats etc..) - Do you feel like these new ways of “jazz” will democratize this scene we love ?

Yeah man I think they’re making cool stuff. And for sure I think what they’re doing is cool in terms of pushing what you could call “jazz” to a broader audience.

Can you tell us a little more about ‘’Pursuit Of’’ and your friend Tobias Kelly?

Pursuit Of I think is a project for people to relate to. To experience themselves in. I mean I talk about a lot of things in it but overall its about longing, searching/finding oneself, spirituality, and highkey just about life. Everything on this joint was produced by my dude Tobias. We met in Berklee really briefly when I was a freshman in 2018 but I'd been a fan of his music for about a year prior just from what he'd been dropping on soundcloud. I’d definitely consider him one of the most important voices musically in our generation. One of my favorite drummers as well as producers and I think his musicality on drums makes him stand out production wise. But word we think really similarly sonically and being that our musical backgrounds are really similar I think you can feel it in the project.

I recently spent some time listening to your previous soundcloud releases and really enjoyed listening to you rapping over Knxwledge or Statik Selektah beats. You seem inspired by underground hip-hop artists like Mf Doom, Earl Sweatshirt, Pink Siifu, Oakland based Ovrkast but also artists like Iman Omari, Robert Glasper and Even Stevie Wonder. Do you think having such broad tastes helped you shape your eclectic style and versatility?

Yeah man I definitely bump all of those artists heavily. I think listening to music from a lot of genres has helped me approach creating in a different way. And thats not even including all the gospel, classical, and soul I grew up listening to. But yeah I think now a days music can be really one dimensional and being able to not only listen to but understand music from a different genre or culture can help you create someone that more people will relate to.

I discovered your work through Braxton Cook’s instagram and I was amazed at the quality of your instagram music videos. Do you feel like having a strong presence on social media and growing an organic community is a necessary step for emerging artists to get heard ?

Yeah social media can be really beneficial in terms of getting your art out there. It's also really easy to reach out to people and collaborate in addition to showcasing your art which I mess with. But its really important to realize that being a musician we exist outside of someone's phone lol. I mean, if not for COVID, it's important to go to shows, network, experience music, like, face to face because that's how music/art was meant to be received.

I totally agree with this. Face to face interactions are essential. In terms of production, what’s your creative process like ? Can you tell us about your workflow ? Any special tools or plugins?

I highkey just go with the flow. Being that I consider myself a pianist first, keys are usually the driving force in whatever I’m working with. Also I like the concept of making beats based on other songs and that way you have a feel your trying to go for but still making it your own, like a type beat lol. In terms of plugins, I mess with anything Waves, fab filter and Native Instruments. Also I use Keyscape in like every song lol.

You put me onto Beige. And their track ‘Do you?’ We love discovering forward thinking artists here. Who have you been listening to lately? Are there any underrated artists that you like or friends of yours that we might have not heard of ?

Bro yeah Beige are my dudes Solo Smith and Trey Graves. I highly recommend listening to both of their individual work. Also homies like Morgan Guiren, Tobias has several mixtapes on soundcloud under Lil Laurel, Malaya, D.S. 16, Yoshi T. Also guys like Caleb Giles, Navy Blue, and Ade Hakim making great music.

What do you feel is the best track/album you’ve ever released and why?

I don’t know man. I think everything I’ve released thus far holds importance to me. I cant really put one over the other. I can say Pursuit Of is a project I’m most proud of right now though because I think it represents me and Tobias well not only musically but as people.

What’s next for you? What have you been working on lately?

I’m working on a full length album looking to release early next year. I've been working on this for about 2 years now so I’m pretty hype about it.

Thank you so much for answering our questions. We appreciate your time and wish you continued success in your next projects. 

Nah man thank YOU ! Follow and support Cisco on Instagram, Bandcamp, Soundcloud & Spotify

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