JamOne interviews the UK beatbox legend on tour in North America.
JamOne interviews the UK beatbox legend on tour in North America...
What did you think of Kwiz and Generik's Radio Mix Project?
I think that mix CD was dope. Now see, that was something fresh, something new. It was more in the way it was put across. It was heavy. I thought it was really well put together. Maybe just a few of the snares I was like 'yeh right' 😉 (laughter)
What do you think of thousands of people knowing how to do your snares and routines?
To put them out into public is for people to get to know them so there's nothing wrong with people doing them. It's sort of like people doing - not that I would normally use this as a comparison as I wouldn't compare myself to Jimmy Hendrix - but it's like people doing a Jimmy Hendrix riff or something like that. It's something people want to do because it's something they f**kin' love! It's cool that people like the snares that I do. That's cool. I'm not the sole creator of the human mouth so people can go ahead with their business and do things. If I was someone else knowing what I know now, I would steer away from them because I can do them. I'm always trying to find the next thing and that's my mentality on it all.
How you feeling right now? How's the tour going?
Yeh, the tour's great. It's a different market. It's a different whole kinda crowd to what we're used to playing to. This is the second year we've come out for a drum and bass thing and I don't think there's ever going to be a year when we don't do a drum and bass thing. But it's strange 'cause it's not a hip-hop market. It's just ravers and it's wicked. It's great. I'm all about doing different and new crowds. 😉
How do raving crowds compare to hip-hop crowds?
Hip-hop crowds think too much. (laughter) Hip-hop crowds are about what's real and what's not real, what's white and what's not white, what's right and what's not right so when they come to hear my album or an album that isn't perceived as hip-hop then they start flaking out, "Er, that's not how you put beatbox down, that's not how you do rapping, that's not how you do..." - you know? They just want stuff that they can identify with which is quite understandable.
Tell us about your signing to BMG.
Yeh, yeh, I'm signed up to a major label now. 🙂 I think I'm the only beatboxer that has or is at the moment.
What does that mean for you and for everybody else?
That means a lot. That in itself means a lot. It means we can get to a bigger, wider audience and show exactly what people like you and me do - and how we tick and how we think - and the best way to do that is explaining it and spoon-feeding it very gently because the last thing I wanted to do an the album was to do like a whole 'beatbox' album entirely of beatbox because a) people don't get that, and b) I guess it's like doing a whole tabla album or just an electric guitar album or a solo drummer album. It just doesn't really put the instrument across in a perfect way. Because in an ideal way we'd rock on record as much as we do on stage - so that was always my first thing. How do I put across what Killa Kela is and what beatboxing is about, on a record?
So, putting two-and-two together, I was all about creating a landscape so the beatbox can glide and move around on it, so I've got a string quartet, I've got backing vocalists, I've got piano. I've got one or two additional things but to be honest, I'm the guy in the middle of the set and I roll around on that carpet of sound and that in itself is beatboxing with strings and beatboxing with other things. It's not really what's done in major label land anyway so I was like "let's take it somewhere like that" and sometimes I do the beat and sing all the way through the album. I sing and do the beat all through the verse and the chorus. Sometimes I do spoken word and add all the sound effects. I try and do everything once, do it all raw, in one take - no special effects - just the roots in a band kind of set. And that's it. Sometimes I'll scratch the vocals or change my voice into a girl which I like doing. (laughter) Just to come with something different for people to digest a bit more easily - in a Spit Kingdom kinda way.
Tell us about Jawbreaker?
Jawbreaker's my boy! That's my boy - that's the boy of the band. 🙂 For me, that was like a dubbed out, tripped out kinda take on what it is - I wanted to make it kinda like a pop anthem - a little thing that people can walk away with, "the jawbreaker, the jawbreaker, the beatbox, the jawbreaker, the Killa Kela." That was the kind of mood we were on.
It's co-produced by a guy called Spider J who's part of Spit Kingdom and he's band leader for Lee Scratch Perry and Mad Professor. He's band leader for a lot of different dub bands, so when we came to do the whole album, he had a dab hand - being a part of Spit Kingdom and all - in half the production with me. So there's a big dub influence on a lot of the album. A lot of heavy bottom end. Very kind of 'Massive Attacky' I guess. Then, like I said, I produced half of the album and wrote most of the album. It's gonna be a good album! 🙂
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
The next five years? Hopefully I've done the best I can for the beatbox community - gone as far as I can to help preserve something that it all stands for. In 5 years time I hope to be an established artist in my own right I guess, 'cause there's one thing being a beatboxer and stuff, but there's another thing...it's how I came to put together the album.
I didn't want it to be a beatbox album, I wanted it to be Killa Kela. I wanted it to be me, my personality. When a lot of beatboxers go on record they tend to go behind the boards when normally people see them on stage as a front man. I think that's a shame - a lot of personality and what people see on stage goes behind the boards. For me, that kind of ruins the artistry of it all. For me, it's all about being the artist and seeing how far I can go as Killa Kela.
What did you want to be before you became a beatboxer and artist?
Yeh man, a spaced out astronaut! (thinks hard) I don't know what I wanted to be. I didn't want to be anything really. I was kind of in limbo - I was really into the hip-hop thing, really into the street culture thing - anything that was street culture. I used to hang out with 360 Physicals, which is my old crew - everything from running around train tracks right through to... - there was like this religious-based thing that we tried to uphold. It wasn't about the music. I hardly knew any independent rap acts. Al I knew was my friend was spinning it, my friend was DJing it and I knew all the words to it!
And it was exactly the same with the writers. I knew every single graffiti writer, I knew every breakdancer - I knew everything to do with street. And drum and bass, I knew the DJs. When it came to skating, anything, anything, I was just in it, anything that was kind of rebellious and had kick - that is what it was all about for me. And the beatbox thing really was secondary to a lot of activity. I mean, I used to rap, I used to sing, I used to skate (I used to skate a bit - not too heavily - I was always scared of hurting myself ;)), but the beatboxing always came kind of second.
And all of a sudden I just started getting a bit more into it. I think I was finding more snares and sounds and it suddenly just dawned on me. I think the pinnacle of it was when the power went out at one of the first club nights I ever went to. The power went out and I jumped on stage and I just did something and I was like 'woah' and I was only 16 or something - I wasn't even allowed in the club. And I was like, I'm going to do that more then. Definitely, I'm going to do that a lot more. And then from that point on it was more sounds and see how long I could do a show for.
I always say, it's not the culture, it's the people in the culture. I know what hip-hop is to me. I mean, I f**king love it to death, and as far as I'm concerned I try and live it and breathe it the best way I possibly can. The same shit applies, the same ethics - I still don't smoke, I still go to the b-boy battles, I still go and hang out in certain circles and people are like, "what are you doing here?" - and that's not taking anything away from the actual events. Neither am I saying I shouldn't be there.
All I'm saying is that my morals, my beliefs and the way I see hip-hop hasn't changed at all. I think that sometimes some of the people, some of the core... - I mean, I've got the fat laces, I've got the Rock Steady t-shirt, I've handled my business like that and I still do. Some people have a real bee in their bonnet about what is real - what it is and what it should be.
What do you think about beatboxers like Shlomo and Joel Turner?
I don't know Joel Turner... Listen, right, I just think all the beatboxers that are about at the moment are dope and they've just got to keep kicking their thing and keep doing their thing. The hardest thing is getting recognised and I can't honestly tell you definitely that say, 50% of what I've done is down to luck and down to the hustle. If you've got nothing else to lose then f**king go for it. All of them are talented and they've all got huge potential. Sometimes it's all in the mind - you've just got to open it out.
I think that what's going on for the whole community is an important thing. It creates a base, such an important foundation for other beatboxers and for people - even like myself - to be able to do things and then still be able to cater and live for the core audience and the core community that there is. I think that Humanbeatbox.com is like literally one of the best Web sites for all of that and I think TyTe does a wicked job. TyTe's my boy you know. He's a father figure and he's doing his thing and we're going to be doing a lot more work with TyTe. There's going to be a lot more stuff coming up on Humanbeatbox.com for sure. It's the epicentre.
What can we expect from your show tonight?
A few new tracks, some new beatbox parts, more integration. You're going to see 45 minutes of sheer hell. (laughs) then things get very loud in the background Let me tell you something, for the first time ever I decided to go to an ENT doctor today - ear, nose and throat - and I had to check my ears out because Shure microphones were hooking us up with some in-ear moulds so I had to get my ears waxed first. So I went in there - and this is the best thing that's happened to me on tour - he goes, "there's something in your ear, that's why you can't get moulds." and I was like, "Can you get it out for me?"
So he got this metal thing, a long rod, and poked it right in my ear and pulled out, what can only be described as a long piece of plastic. It was crazy. I had a long piece of plastic in my f**king ear! And then, I said, "Can you check my throat out?" because I've never been to one of these doctors before. I want to know what I've done to my throat. He checked my vocal chords, he checked everything. Anyone who says beatboxing is dangerous - no, no it isn't. Anyone who says beatboxing is dangerous, don't even hear it. He said my throat was fine, my neck muscles are fine, everything was cool. So kids, don't worry about your throats! You heard it hear first, because I'm completely sorted and you will be too.
Any last words - any shoutouts or anything?
A big shoutout to Humanbeatbox.com. A big shoutout to all area crews. Killa Kela, live and direct. Fear not, more shit's going to be put up on the Web site! Log on or jog on. Peace!