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DIGITAL STORIES

Adex, the statement of Northern Quarter



Manchester is home to some of the UKs most prolific musicians and the history of the city’s sonic relevance is globally known. Behind every good story is a plot, much like the people who pull the strings behind the scenes of the music industry - the people shaking hands, punching the numbers, and plotting the angles.


In the late 80s and 90s, Tony Wilson was honing in on Northern talent with his record label Factory Records. Tony provided a platform that allowed Northern acts to sign to, stay northern rooted, and then take the brush and paint however they liked. Since then Manchester has experienced a major shift, from the culture and music, to the clubs, restaurants, and overall scale of the city’s property development. Manchester boasts a skyline that is starting to slowly resemble Gotham city and everyday, we see new big acts come out of the concrete. With the likes of critically acclaimed Manchester born rapper Aitch and two of the hottest producers in the UK, LiTek & WhyJay, it’s safe to say that Manchester is encountering one of its most dynamic and exciting eras right now.


Amongst this is one individual is taking it upon himself to help blossom this array of talent. Michael Adex, who goes by the mononymous Adex, is the CEO of the 360 entertainment company NQ. Adex started the business back in 2017, calling it Northern Quarter and following a spike in success and exposure, changed it to NQ in 2019.



 

Tell us how it all began.


It began in a small town called Alsdorf in Germany. I was born in Aachen and moved to Manchester at ten years old. I was a big football head and when I was small I used to play football for teams like Borussia Dortmund followed by Blackburn when I made the move to England.


Growing up, I was just a kid being a kid. Not necessarily a class clown but popular and personable with a glimpse of self-confessed arrogance; new skills were learned quickly so the need to revise was non-existent. I favoured chatting to people over sitting down and listening to the teacher, this built the construct for future people skills. Learning to not be afraid, to go to a different city, meet new people and to try different things


How is football culture parallel to your work?


I like a lot of analogies when I speak about football. in football you’ve got the youth academies, you’ve got your reserves and your first team; those different stages. You can see those similarities in an artist’s journey as well because everyone starts from somewhere. You don’t just wake up and be a Ronaldo or a Wayne Rooney, you have to start from somewhere. There are a lot of things in music that people don’t see, they just see the end product.


You might discover an artist when they’re touring the world or you may discover an artist when they’re doing their first show, and all those stages in-between you’ve got to go through. So the similarities in the football world between a young footballer and a young artist; It’s a similar journey they have to go through and experience.


How did you form connections within the industry?


In my professional career there's been YouTube and acting, a stint on Channel 4s’ “Fresh Meat” as well as broadcasting and my own radio show.


In terms of music, connections were made by discovering new artists on Soundcloud and keeping contact. With music, it’s very subjective, something that you might like, some maybe not. But I feel like I’ve got good taste, so I see if I like it there are a thousand other people who might feel the same way, so it’s one of those things where as long as I connect with it and I like it. I’ve got this kind of rule as well: When people send me music, I like three songs. They’ve got me. Anyone can make a song, especially in this day and age but the question is can you actually be an artist? How do you work in the studio? Mindset? Are you trying to do this properly or? Understanding the artist more than what they’re sending you is the thing.



 

"When people send me music, I like three songs. They’ve got me"


 

In what ways is the industry shifting?


I’d say the main thing is evolving technology. Now, you’ve got social media, you’ve got different platforms; SoundCloud was the go-to back then but now it’s not as popular. You’ve got the likes of Spotify and Apple Music which provide this streaming era we’re currently in. You’ve even got the likes of TikTok and all these new platforms create a completely different landscape. back then, it was mainly bands and stuff, whereas now, even Little Mix have broken up so there aren’t even bands like that anymore.


It’s more sounds and music and everyone seems to just be experimenting. There are no rules. I think back in the day it was a little one-dimensional in the essence there would be a guided path to do this and then do that then move on to the next thing. Whereas now, you can start in a different direction and do this and do that and dabble onto the next thing simultaneously, it doesn’t matter. It’s a completely different landscape.



What is it about Manchester artists that makes them different?


It’s a very eclectic taste. You always find people being creative in a different way. There is no set way of doing something. you’ll find someone musically doing a ‘Bay Area’ sound, Compared to someone doing straight grime or hip-hop it’s very very different, it’s a fashion of everything. Something that I think is so sick about the city is that you’ll just find people doing mad shit that’s not conventional.


Tell us about your relationship with Aitch.


Around that time, I was doing a lot of moving around in the city, when grime was emerging in Manchester I used to be at loads of DJ sets. Aitch was an artist that I saw performing and a friendship started from there.

When I decided to jump into the music he was one of the first people I thought about, because when I saw him perform I was like “Yo this kid is sick”. There was always something special about him; when I decided to get into music it was so easy to just be like “Yo I wanna work with you let’s build”. That was it. We’ve released three projects together so far.


‘The artist is the Ferrari but the manager is the engine’. How do you, as a manager, keep your artists motivated and on track?


Everyone’s an individual, you’ve always got to have some sort of self-motivation and that’s really important. The artists have got to want it. I’ve got big ambitions. if an artist's ambition is to just be the biggest in Manchester, to be honest, I’m not trying to work with them., personally its not for me because im trying to push the boundary because ultimately anything is possible. Why would you limit yourself to just that? It doesn’t make sense. There's a conversation I have with all my artists and the people I work with. I tell them, “Look, we can go wherever we want to go and I will try my best to get us that opportunity but ultimately you’ve got to take those opportunities and you’ve got to make it work”.



You've travelled a lot. What skills have you learnt?


You always come back home. If I've been travelling for 6 months, a month, a week or whatever, you always like coming back and making sure you’re connecting and applying what you’ve learned from other cultures to yourself.


We’ve got a lot of things planned, including building on the label, the publishing company, the management side and we’ve got the CIC (Community Interest Company) as well which is doing its thing. We’ve recently invested in another northern platform which allows new artists to showcase their talent. So just building on those things and again, just pushing and trying to get more artists, producers, more executives through the door and hopefully push the culture forward. And doing that on a more international level too, I’m looking at different places in Europe, North America, even long term I’m trying to go to Japan, places like that. The world’s your oyster, right?


 

"you always like coming back and making sure you’re connecting and applying what you’ve learned from other cultures to yourself."


 

What influences you when travelling?


The culture. Music is the soundtrack of life. Music is shaped by the culture that surrounds it. The music is influenced by the way people move and operate from that place.



What does the future of NQ House look like?

It used to be Conservative members club, but now it’s becoming this huge media hub not only for musicians, with podcast spaces and much more. I think it’s important for the city. I was a kid that was born in a different country so my mindset was already a little different in terms of how big the world is. However, with social media, we’re blessed to have a better understanding of the different things happening in different places. It’s so important to be able to move around the city. Me and Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham created an initiative, where we were able to give 16-18 year-olds free travel around the city.


I’m someone who has tried a lot of different things but sometimes when you’re a kid; it’s just football, or it’s just this or that. There are so many different things for kids to try. We used to give tickets away to orchestra performances, the theatre, football games - it’s open to anyone. The skills that you can pick up from that are invaluable and they can direct you to what you want to do. Being able to create a space that brings people in and creates opportunities is great. It's so important to pave the way back and to make sure the people coming through are given the opportunities that I had.


I look at NQ as a whole entertainment company; in this day and age, there should be no rules. There are no rules. You can do anything you want.


 

Manchester has no plan in stopping the upwards trajectory that it’s currently in. People are paying attention for the right reasons and with the likes of Adex contributing to the city with the recognition it deserves; not only through music but through a community focus in the place he calls home.
NQ has just signed a partnership with Abbey Road studios providing opportunities for people who have only dreamed of stepping foot there. It’s safe we’re only seeing the beginning of something great.

 

Talent: Michael Adex

Photography: Micheal O’Donnell + Jake Jacobs

Styling: Clementine Brown

Grooming: Chloe Joseph

Producer: Kevin Flag

Production Asistant: Ruby Harris

Interviewer: Raheel Ashraf

Editor: Ellie Baker




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