The two-time UK Beatbox Champion takes time out of his packed schedule to tell Heso Magazine about the inspirational genius of Bach and recording his solo album naked while surrounded by monks…
HESO Magazine: Your hometown is Brighton. For the benefit of readers outside England, enlighten us about the little town by the sea that gave us Beardyman…
Beardyman: Brighton is a beautiful little place. Some people call it London-on-sea, but they’re just jealous and overly nostalgic. It’s an awesome place to try and make it in music. True, it’s almost as expensive as London to live there, but the character of the place is still as hippy-like and alternative as ever. It’s got so much character. And it’s just the right size that you’ve got loads of students and young people who love music and like being entertained, but still small enough to make a name for yourself with a couple of years worth of good gigs. For people putting on their own nights there are places to start out—less than there were, but still places. It’s much less harsh than London in terms of attitude. If living in London makes you crazy, Brighton is the antidote. It’s chill. I love it.
HM: How did you get into beatboxing?
BM: I’ve always done it, since I can remember, but I didn’t know there was a name for it, let alone that you could make a living from it. Soon as I saw Rahzel though, I knew I had to give it a shot. That was in 2003 I think…I saw him rock a crowd for a whole hour, and just thought, wicked, I wanna do that! So I teamed up with Klumzy-tung, a ridiculous freestyle MC, and we just started seeing how silly we could be. We developed our own style of “silliness” mixed with hip-hop and drum n bass, and that showed me how silly you could be and get away with it. Since then I haven’t been afraid to be stupid on stage.
HM: When did you decide to commit to being a full-time beatboxer?
BM: It was a decision I took about two years ago. I hit a crossroads, where I could either try and be a musical artist or not sacrifice my degree and possibly my career in product design. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I thought I’d starve, but actually I’m doing OK. For now…haha!
HM: Who are your biggest influences?
BM: So many people inspire me: Jimi Hendrix, for his improvisational and technical genius; Bach for being able to play a six part fugue with two hands and one brain and improvise the whole thing, which is a bit like playing six games of chess blindfolded. Bobby McFerrin for his incredible vocal accuracy and ability to control an audience to such an extent that he can play them like a keyboard with his feet. There’s this clip of him at the Montreaux Jazz Festival doing it. It’s required viewing for any live musician. Rahzel and all beatboxers worldwide – I’m fascinated by stagecraft, and every beatboxer has their own style of theatre that they bring to a performance. James Brown, Tool, Tim Exile. Tim Exile’s amazing! He regularly clears rooms because his sets are so scary. I love him.
HM: Your live performances are packed full of musical and mimical creativity. Where does your inspiration come from?
BM: Anything really. Whatever makes me laugh, or whatever I’m having a joke about with my mates. You’ve got to check out the Lyrebird of Southern Australia. It’s the best mimic in all creation. It could take any beatboxer down, I’m not even joking. Check it out on YouTube – it’ll fuck your head up. It makes parrots look like amateurs. There’s a quote for you…”Parrots are fucking amateurs!”
HM: When you’re up on stage how much is improvisation? How do you prepare before a show?
BM: It’s a mixture depending on the show. I practice routines but I always end up changing them on the day because every crowd is different and you gotta roll with whatever vibe is flowing. It’s pretty cool being able to just adapt a set to do whatever you feel like doing. That’s the advantage of making all the music at the same time with your mouth.
HM: You have a lot of collaborations in the pipeline at the moment. What should we be looking out for this year?
BM: I’m going to be cutting down on gigs in a big way this next 6 months. I need to get this album recorded. I’m doing a freestyle album with musicians and MCs, a podcast with recorded gig material, a studio album and various other collaborations: one with A-skills, another with the Quemists, and many others this year, some of which are too exciting to talk about… but if they happen, then awesomeness will rain down from on high and bless all da people dem!
Also though, and most excitingly, the club-night run by myself and JFB, the UK DMC champion, is going from strength to strength. We have a club night in Brighton and in London, both in excellent venues and at both of them we have complete artistic license. JFB scratches with sounds he’s recorded and we make the entire set out of that. It’s really quite unique—come see it before it gets too big and we’re packing out stadiums!
HM: What can we expect from a Beardyman solo album?
BM: I’m going to record the whole album naked, surrounded by monks of all different faiths. Then I will throw it away and make a new album entirely out of samples of fish being gutted. I’ll release that on a major label under the pseudonym “Robbie Williams” and go on tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra…But really…I’m going to be releasing a couple of different strands of musical recordings: the live improvised stuff, which will be more fun and dance driven, and then there’ll be some slightly deeper, more polished stuff which will be broader in scope and audience. I play instruments too so I’ll be using them. No need to hem in your creativity just to fit into the beatbox mould.
HM: Can we expect to see you out in Japan anytime soon?
BM: Definitely. If someone wants to book me, I’d love to see Japan. I hear the sushi is very good…
Beardyman’s debut EP Mr. Maybe is available from iTunes
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