How did you get started in music?
I started learning and played piano from being a kid, then upon discovering Nirvana picked up a guitar and started writing songs. I started playing the drums to be in a band with my brother John (also a member of Swimming) when I was about 15.
Where did the beatboxing come in?
I learnt about the concept from my cousin who had a few beatbox moves down but it was when I heard Rahzel that I realised beatboxing could be deeply skilful and musical. I was quite obsessive about it. I was fascinated by the mechanics of it and endeavoured to learn and create arrangements and shows focussing on beatboxing from then on.
But these days it isn’t just beatboxing is it as you use guitars and a loop pedal?
Making sounds wasn’t enough I guess and I wanted to turn what I was doing into music. That’s when I got the loop pedal. That saved my relationship with beatboxing because I was getting bored with it. I record and loop beatboxing to create the bed of the tracks, then I will sing lines over the top and sometimes add a guitar if it suits. I'm trying to create the kind of arrangements a band would. I record a full spectrum of sounds with my voice into my loop pedal, including basslines, brass sections, synth lines, textures and beats. Then I place perhaps more focus on the melodies that define and drive the tracks.
You’ve played Glastonbury, Bestival and V, toured with Diversity, played shows with Jay Sean and Foreign Beggars... any highlights?
I’m proud to have been part of all those shows but there's nothing quite like playing to an audience that's just there for you, so I'd say a few of the bigger festival appearances I've had have been highlights for me. Reading 2009 and V Festival 2011 were perhaps the highlights. I've also preformed at and seen the Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Monaco Grand Prix. That was pretty nuts.
Your cover of the Pixies’ Where Is My Mind? has had more than 1.8m hits on YouTube. How did that happen?
I recorded my version of it at the start of last year not really thinking too much about it. Simon Ellis filmed it in his kitchen and I uploaded it thinking it might get a few views. I saw it as a one-off but then it went mega viral and amassed half a million views in two weeks. A few famous people started posting about but the best thing that happened really was when the Pixies themselves posted in on Facebook, Twitter and their own their website. The thought that they've not only seen it but endorsed it blew my mind. The Pixies and Nirvana were the reason I started creating music. The success of the video sparked the whole idea to make a live, studio, video album.
And that is Future Loops, your debut album. Does it feel like it’s been a long time coming?
I guess so because I've been making music for a while now. Although it's actually only taken about six months to make it.
Unlike a regular album release, you’ve recorded each track in one take on video, filmed by BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Simon Ellis. Why do it that way?
There have been a lot of beatbox albums but they don't seem to capture the experience that people get from seeing beatboxing live. Making it a live, studio, video album was the best way I could think of to do that. You can see exactly what I'm recording, looping and playing live, so you know exactly what's going on. The fact that it's live I think keeps that point of interest that beatboxing carries. It's also a documentary of the exact takes that make the record. The listener can witness the moments that make up the record as they occur.
Why Simon Ellis?
A lot of your readers will know of his amazing, award winning film-making abilities. I knew he would really think about the visual side of things and he’s created a totally immersive experience. The look and style of each video is not only beautifully done but actually evolves and develops with the music.
Is there a particular style on the album?
I'm not too sure! It is a beatbox album but I'd say style-wise it's more of an indie album. I play my guitar a lot and some of the tracks have more soulful toplines. Some of them delve further into the more classic dance driven beatboxing and some have jazz type brass sections.
Are there other covers on there apart from Where Is My Mind?
I've done it half and half. I'm known for my reinterpretation of songs live and wanted to take that further onto my record so there are covers of Nirvana, Crystal Castles and The Beach Boys. I also wanted to put some of my tracks on there.
Will Future Loops be available as a regular CD and download?
You can get the physical CD/DVD or download it through iTunes and all other digital stores.
You are launching Futureloops tonight at Nottingham Contemporary. Tell me more...
We're presenting a screening of the album. The idea is the audience will see and hear the album as intended - projected onto a big screen and played through good, loud speakers. No-one's made an album in this way and we wanted to make an event around the whole idea of the album itself.
What's next for you?
I go on a tour to promote the album starting on May 29, including the Dot to Dot festival on Sunday June 3. I’ll be playing a few cool festivals over the summer, working on some new material with Swimming and then starting on a second album.
THePETEBOX and Simon Ellis present Future Loops at
Nottingham Contemporary tonight from 7.30pm to 1am. The screening takes place in The Space from 8pm, followed by an aftershow party in the Cafe Bar featuring Si Tew and DJ Joff. Tickets are £8 or £15 with a copy of the CD/DVD album, available from the gallery, from gigantic.com orthepetebox.com/futureloops.