Beardyman talks to eGigs

inspiration, innovation, compering, and the current tour on Monday 22 March 2010

Beardyman is taking to the road with gigs in Europe as well as Birmingham, Glasgow, London, Bristol, Manchester and Ireland and took time out to have a quick chat with eGigs.

What are you up to at the moment?
I'm about to do a radio thing. I'm about to do a headlining tour, so that's the reason for going on a bit of a PR mission I suppose. It's really good to do stuff to remind people you exist.

What's been your most memorable live show, before this headlining tour?
There's been so many. I've done some mental gigs, I've done giant children's concerts with 8,000 children. I've done gigs at google head office. I've pretended to be a lecturer to Al Gore, and the head of business for China. I've introduced the heads of google and youtube onto stage whilst pretending to be a French technology lecturer and then breaking into beatbox half way through. I've breakcore raves that have been mental, I've done massive drum and bass raves, I've done some weird gigs. So many, I should write my memoires.

It's been a weird, weird career so far, and it's getting weirder. Actually it's finally getting less weird. This is my first tour which is quite a standard thing to do. But I'm doing it in an un-standard way getting people to give me suggestions of what to do, rather than doing an album and touring it around the country, saying, "These are the songs I've written about the world, and myself" instead I'm saying "Give me a genre, give me a subject and I'll make it work."

Were you always going to be a beatboxer?
I'm sure at some point I'll be pouring my heart out into songs, I've been writing them since I was five, they were good and they got a small amount of notice when I was playing an open mic night at university but I just got carried away with this beatbox thing.

I never thought that music was a valid career, because my dad's an accountant and my mum's a teacher and they actively dissuaded me from going into the music industry. I sort of believed them for a while, but then these gigs started happening about six years ago and they just haven't stopped.

I just love it because I don't have a job, but I do have a flat, and that to me is a really good equation. I decide when I get up, and again I get to do whatever music I want and I love it, it's just really cool.

And do you have a new album in the pipeline?
I do, yes. It's going to be... interesting. I've been in the studio with Tom Middleton, and we've been making some really cool stuff, but, it's not that conventional, so I'm a bit unsure about how it's going to be received. It's got a certain about of commercial liability because it's interesting, and it's really fun and it's me doing lots of different impressions of rappers and singers, and a lot of weird voices, and different impressions of instruments, all within good music. It's quite diverse, and hopefully really entertaining, basically it's more entertaining than it is deep. There is some deep dubstep on there too, and some drum and bass and stuff like that. That's what I want to do really, make shit hot dance music, but for the moment I'm just concentrating on doing stuff entertaining.

At the same time if you come to any of my gigs, it's a careful balance of me going mental and being silly, and some really bangin' deep dance music, and I want to keep it eclectic.

Will you play the songs from the album live on your tour?
I'm not at the moment particularly keen on doing the songs that I've written just for the sake of doing them. I do have some quite artistic leanings, but I'm not sure that now is the time to do that. Basically, if people do like the songs on my album, then I will start to do them. But, currently I'm more concerned about the show being a show, and a show that people really want to come and see, rather than performing the songs.

I'm not going to be changing my focus to become a recording artist who tours, there's already thousands of them. I don't see the point of trying to be more of a normal artist if that means I'm going to be seen as another normal artist. I'd rather put on a show that's different. The music industry is something that's a stodgy kind of gloop, that once you're in it kind of sucks you down. I think it's best to do something unusual if you can. I'd rather be one of those artists that does weird things, and provide a cool show that has people questioning the things that they hear. As much as there's a place for normal music, my favourite bands are those that aren't that normal.

Who are your favourite bands?
Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Bjork, Tim Exile, and I like a lot of others Tunng, and I'm listening to a lot of random dubstep at the moment. I really like 16Bit, they're crazy, they're literally mental, I've heard stories of them ripping up hotel rooms which is different for a dubstep artist. Most sit around smoking weed, but 16Bit destroy things.

Max Tundra too, what a legend, he is amazing, and he's really weird and unconventional, the music he makes veers from palatable to the very unusual and a bit of a head fuck, to just art which is really weird. I love him, apparently he's really meticulous, and spends hours and hours and hours on each track and he doesn't use any computers. I love people like that, people who produce weird music that's good. I don't think you have to have choruses and verses, or even proper meaning and a thread to have something be interesting. As long as it holds your interest.

Song form is only one of many possible forms, and it's not even the best one. It's just one of the many forms. It's just that the way the music industry is at the moment it's about songs. Songs that are three minutes long, which is a very, very, brief amount of time for anything. But I'm more of a fan of mixes and I think they're better. They pick you up, take you somewhere, and drop you off at the end, and you've gone on a whole journey.

This why I like Aphex Twin, there's so many different forms, I've never heard anything like a chorus in anything he's done. The closest thing to a chorus is 'Windowlicker' and only then it's dance music which is a different form anyway. I just think music is fascinating and there's no point doing songs you don't particularly want to. If you've got something you want to say, and you really want to pour your heart out about it, do it and write a song, and if you don't – shut up.

People like Imogen Heap, she's brilliant as well, has a bit of an ethos like that where she's creating things, and she has a huge degree of commercial sensibility and she has written songs for others but she's as much a producer as she is an artist. Like Kate Bush who's amazing, she's so weird, but she's an actual genius. When you hear her talk she's just some actual girl from Essex, but when you hear her sing she's got a million different voices. She was back in the day the sexiest thing of all time. Being that fit and with that voice she could have just done the standard thing and made some songs, but she didn't she made the weirdest songs ever that were so deep and full of emotion. At times really rampantly sexual as well, she is a bit of a genius, and form wise she goes for song form, but really wacky world music.

There's so many bands who are just weird like Gong, and Ozric Tentacles, they are amazing they do whole songs which aren't songs, they just do long trippy stuff. Battles, too they are amazing, they have choruses sometimes, and usually words that you can't really hear, just wicked.

You did quite a bit of the festival circuit last year, and appeared as the compere at Camp Bestival, did you enjoy that?
No, hosting is a nightmare because the soundmen, it doesn't matter what the promoter has said to you, the soundmen just don't care about you. You end up being totally shafted with sound. Playing a set during band changeovers is just a nightmare, for that reason no. It's fun though, the bigger the venue the more shafted you're going to get. They think because you're hosting they will just give you a mic, and don't sound check it. Plus I've got equipment that has to be wheeled on and wheeled off, and the stage manager invariably just hates you because you're not the act he's trying to set up on the stage. It's also one of the most stressful thing in the world, but I do run my own club night and host that, I've hosted some of the biggest events I've ever been to.

Camp Bestival was funny, PJ Harvey had asked the whole site to be shut down and Rob da Bank literally begged me to do something on the stage to placate the crowd. I suppose it was quite funny, this strange gaggle of the town crier, that comedian Tim what's his name who was rubbish and just jumped up and down on stage drinking beer out of a trumpet, and then wouldn't leave, and me. I couldn't resist doing some really bangin' house music with 10,000 people baying for blood.

I've hosted Bestival, and Camp Bestival, and Get Loaded In The Park, although I ducked out of that half way through because there were cans being thrown and the sound was shit, and I couldn't do my job properly. I feel I've kind of achieved the hosting thing as much as I'll ever need to. Because of being a beatboxer people like to get you on board to hype the crowd, and feel you've got a bit more to offer, but the logistics of it are just horrible. So, I'm moving away from that, the skills I used for hosting I'm honing more. I'm doing some stand up comedy, and improvisation with groups, and doing some pretty daring musical improvisation stuff. It's fun and it's cool, and it's a real honour to do these things, but I'm trying to push the boat out a bit more, artistically.

There's a lot of stuff out on Youtube of last year's labours where I really delved into improvisation, we had so many crazy ideas, with my habitual collaborators. There's so much stuff coming out on Youtube of what I've done in the last year. I'm really excited about it.

Have you put it up yet?
There's a bunch of stuff up already, if you go to my Youtube channel. I'm about to group things, because there's about 100 videos which are all awesome and have all got 5 stars, and I'm proud of them all. The mad dance gigs, the comedy stuff, it's all up there the really weird different stuff that's more fun, there's loads more still to go up on there.

Do you think you'd have been successful 40 years ago before all the new media you use?
I'd like to think so. Have you heard of Raymond Scott? He was a genius. Moog, the inventor of the modern synthesizer, was his protégé. Raymond Scott invented the world's first sequencer, he had an entire room of valves and stuff back in the Fifties. It was an armature that swung around a pole and it had a light sensor on it, and it would pass this ring of lights. Raymond would turn the lights on and off and that would determine how loud the signal would be, really basic stuff but the guy was a genius.

At any point in musical history there have been innovations, like the piano when it came out was an amazing innovation. Even now, it's still incredible, if you look at it, it's incredibly complex.

So you think you'd have been one of those people who would have come up with innovations?
Well, there's a lot of stuff that I'm doing at the moment. I've got two programmers who I've employed in my quest to help me design the perfect live music creation system. It's a costly and frustratingly long experience, but ultimately the goal will be to be a musical innovator, by having designed a new way for people to make music. So, Raymond Scott is my idol and inspiration.

You can do so much stuff today, but back in the day look at Jamaica and they invented dub not by using stuff that already existed but by circuit bending and taking things apart, and experimenting with tape loops and just getting really wacky, and smoking loads of green, and just thinking, "Well, what if we do this?" And just pushing the boat out. Look at the stuff The Beatles did back in the Sixties it still sounds good today, and that's because George Martin was mental and he was there to help their ideas come to fruition.

Who knows where you can take beatboxing? I've got this thing I'm doing this vision. But if I'd been in the past I'd probably have been a fishmonger, but a really innovative one.

Have you got any festivals line up for this year?
Yes, lots of international festivals this year. I'm trying to spread myself around the world a bit. I'm not really in the UK much this summer, although I'll be touring the UK after the summer as well.

How do international audiences take to you?
Well, I think English is the most widely spoken language in Europe, and I'll be doing festivals outside Europe in Canada, and Japan. I don't think that many people speak English in Japan, so that will be interesting, that will be really interesting. For that one I think I'll have to do things which don't necessarily involve words. But around Europe there's often a pretty large crowd, and the most I'll say on the mic is "Make some noise" and various things around that. To be honest you don't have to say anything, you can just go on and shout, "Rarrr!" and they respond in kind. They just respond to your energy, you don't have to say anything.

Have you got your support acts sorted out yet?
Yes, pretty much. We're just sorting out the logistics of who is going to play when and where. We've got some really cool support acts, I'm going to be making an official announcement at some point, but we're just finalising things at the moment because budgets are really tight. It's the standard tour support so we can't really pay them anything. There's some really cool people who are lined up, who are really awesome, but I can't say anything in case it doesn't come off. They're like me, something a little bit different, and some of them use new technology and do really crazy things.

Beardyman's tour dates in the UK are as follows:
Wed 28 April Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
Thu 29 April The Arches, Glasgow
Sat 01 May O2 Academy, Islington, London
Sun 02 May Metropolis, Bristol
Wed 05 May FAC51: The Factory, Manchester

To buy tickets, where available, click here. Tickets for the gig on 29th April at The Arches are still available by calling 08444 999 990 or logging onto

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article by: Scott Williams

published: 22/03/2010 17:45

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