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July 2011

THE Sampson family is among the leading players in Nottingham’s music scene. Brothers Pete and John play in Swimming – who The Times described as “an indie hovercraft powered by amphetamine guitar” – and are in talks with labels to release their second album but already have a US deal for their next single, Sun In The Island.
John’s wife Ronika is hotly tipped by the NME and The Guardian to take her retro eighties pop to the masses.
Meanwhile, Pete also performs as a solo artist, beatboxer The Petebox.
“My mum used to make me play the piano when I was a kid but then I picked up a guitar and discovered Nirvana,” says the 35-year-old, who played in bands with his brother while at school.
“I started playing the drums because he kept being in bands that couldn’t do it properly,” he laughs.
“Beatboxing come much later on. Initially I was fascinated by the mechanics of it. You’d hear someone do a particular sound and you’d obsess over it until you’d learned how to do it.”
The idea came from his cousin.
“He was doing this, shall we say, rudimentary beatboxing but I didn’t think much of it until I heard Rahzel. That was when I realised it could be deeply skilful and musical.”
He adds: “I was quite obsessive about it, I was compelled to do it all the time.”
Which meant annoying the family by walking around the house making odd noises?
“Yes,” he laughs. “An awful lot.”
Pete won a Channel 4 Talent Award, then the title of Radio 1 Beatboxing Champion.
At the time he was running workshops for Notts County Council, teaching young people beatboxing skills in schools and youth clubs, but for the past two years he’s been too busy performing around the world, including Europe, Africa and Mexico.
As we speak he’s at Birmingham Airport boarding a flight to Aya Napa.
From the initial beatboxing tricks, he developed his performance to create a full show using loop pedals and guitars.
“Making sounds wasn’t enough,” says Pete, who has another musical brother, Ross, who composes film scores.
“I wanted to turn what I was doing into music. So I’d do a 50 Cent tune or, for example, Drop It Like It’s Hot and that would get an instant reaction from a crowd. That was very satisfying at first but eventually became unfulfilling – as a musician, I suppose.
“That’s when I got the loop pedal. That saved my relationship with beatboxing because I was getting bored with it.”
He had a taste of how popular the mix of beatboxing and guitar could be when his cover of the Pixies’ Where Is My Mind? topped more than one million views on YouTube.
Earlier this year he toured the UK with Diversity, the dance group from Britain’s Got Talent, beatboxing as part of their arena show.
“On the last tour I actually danced as well. Well, it was a series of moves rather than actual dancing,” he laughs.
He’s appeared at all the major UK festivals such as Glastonbury, Bestival and V but Splendour is a special one.
“There’s something about playing your home city. The first time I played Splendour it turned into a mega show. The whole Courtyard was full. I didn’t realise anyone knew who I was.”

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