yasSon and Fat Tony catch up with Killa Kela before the Skins premiere launch party in Bristol for a HUMANBEATBOX.COM exclusive interview.
Killa Kela speaks to Humanbeatbox.com - 2008
yasSon - Hey there! We have Killa Kela! We’re representing Humanbeatbox.com and we’re going to be interviewing you today.
Kela – Yeah, yeah. Can’t wait man!
yasSon – What’s today all about then?
Kela – Today is like, well it’s ‘Skins’ day. They do this TV show on T4 called ‘Skins’, and basically they do illegal parties-based stuff from Myspace. They’re doing launches across the UK. There is one in London, and one in Bristol they were doing, this one being the first one in Bristol. It’s going to be wicked. Just warming up man. Just got out the van, it’s live, the venue looks good as well, …and it’s going to be wicked.
yasSon – Awesome. Right, you've obviously been Beatboxing for a very long time, so how do you constantly push yourself to improve?
Kela – How do I push to better myself? I think I’m a quite a determined person generally…quite self-motivated. So I guess that when it comes to the sounds and stuff, I think that’s more what it is. It’s just doing it live, and being able to translate it live, and have the shows to back it up. That’s what kind of motivates me to come up with new sounds, and new styles. It was always the case when I first started Beatboxing. I was like 17 or 18 and it was like “Whoa!!” I’d get into clubs, illegally, at a young age and I’m just like “I get it! If I do this, then I get into the club for free! I get drink, I get x y z that comes with that… I’ve got to find a way of staying on stage a little bit longer”. So that’s always been a kind of motivation. But as the crowds have gotten bigger and their countries have got different and the language barriers have come in and stuff… That’s probably the biggest motivation, people that come and see the shows.
yasSon - What advice would you give to up-and-coming Beatboxers?
Kela – The biggest advice has always been, and always will be, to try and come up with a style that’s all of your own. I find it a bit incestuous sometimes when you hear other Beatboxers. It’s fine that they have inspiration; I think it’s great. It’s a compliment when someone copies a style or a sound, and that’s all well and good. But I do find it a tad incestuous when I think about the things that inspired me when I grew up with Beatbox…. and it wasn’t Beatboxers , do you know what I mean? You’re imitating something [else]. But when other Beatboxers nowadays are imitating each other, that’s a bit weird, because where are the influences coming from? Where do you draw the line on that influence? So, when asked for advice, it’s always to come up with your own style. Whether it’s different styles of music you listen to, whether it’s different kinds of vocals you listen to, whether it’s…. I don’t know, going on holiday and finding yourself…just to come up with a whole new batch of influences, a style that’s all of your own, think about what the mouth, what your mouth is. What your mouth does is totally different from mine; each one’s different. We all have different things, there’s plenty of stuff out there Beatbox-wise. There’s peoples styles that I wouldn’t want to copy, and then there’s people's styles that I just couldn’t copy if I tried. And that’s just skill. That’s the beauty of instruments, you know what I mean?
yasSon – We saw on your website that you had reviewed the new SHURE KSM9 microphone. What advice could you give to the more experienced Beatboxer regarding equipment / recording etc?
Kela – It’s weird because the new album… It was like we were road-testing ideas. Because I still didn’t know, even from my personal experience of making albums and stuff, what I do now. It’s hard to try and define what makes a “Beatbox Sound” on an album. So, we were testing different equipment and stuff. There was nothing more than having the biggest speakers with the microphone in front of it and me grabbing a KSM9 and just banging it out from a P.A system, being recorded straight into a separate microphone, another KSM9, and it going straight to the mixing board. It defines the sound and it’s like taking an acoustic guitar into the world of electric I think. You know, you’re putting it out there and people recognise it as…is this from the mouth? is that from the mouth? Doesn’t matter, because if they’ve heard it in our live show, they remember the bass, they remember the impact, and they remember the distortion. And as far as the KSM9 goes, that’s nothing but a good helping hand in that direction... If I was to recommend any equipment, especially recording-wise, it’s just go with the “rawganic”, you know what I mean? And the other thing would be the traditional kind of processors. You know, like compressors and equalisers and things like that. You don’t need to go too far away from the light show; it’s needs to feel real. It needs to feel as human as possible and it needs to sound as naturally sounding as people would expect it. Like throughout the whole 2 or 3 albums and few mix tapes I’ve done, each time it’s been almost trying to help people play catch-up a little bit and try and re-define what Beatboxing should sound like on a record. There are no rules, and that’s what’s great about it, is that there are no rules. Try whatever you want YasSon; you know what I mean, whatever you want to do.
yasSon – Experimentation is the key…
Kela – Yeah, yeah, yeah! Every day, ALL day…
yasSon – Awesome… Last year you teamed up with producer James Rushent of 'Does It Offend You? Yeah?' to release 'Reveal Your Inner Self...’. This saw a change in your musical direction to a more raw, abrasive style. How will this affect your sound in the future?
Kela – I mean it’s totally switched up the sound now. The general feel of it, the general feel of the new album is like that, ‘cause I figured each progress…it’s staying on top of things, and all my friends now, DJ’s are all checking that stuff out. And they’re just, I don’t know, moving in that general direction, and I think you’ve got to keep in within scenes, and I love that sound of music. It’s raw, it’s got that kind of Daft Punk-y, Prodigy, “Does it Offend You, Yeah?” It’s dope! But at the same time you want to try and keep your own sensibility. Like all the things, your personal tastes need to come in there. You choose your producers that you think will get the best out of you. In my opinion I don’t want a producer that kind of takes what isn’t you and make it sound like theirs. Do you know what I mean? Because a lot of producers, they try and re-invent the world when it comes to Beatboxers and Beatboxing. I’ve got ideas, you hope they have the right producers that have the right ideas, but at the same time they are happy to let you put your point across. I’m more a writer man, I like writing the sounds and like writing the lyrics and I like creating the sounds as well, so it’s like that’s what James did for me. And also we’ve also got that Hadouken on the album, we’ve got…. Plan B. Plan B’s doing some stuff. We did some studio with DJ Craze so there’s a couple of other producers and such. A guy called Martin ushenet, who is James’ dad, Martin’s son. He used to do production for the Human League and he did the Quadraphenia album, The Specials, a whole heap. Loads and loads of stuff back in the 80’s. So he’s been a really good influence, and a really good producer to work with. And there’s Spit Kingdom as well, my boy Andy Knowles, and Spider J, the guys you’ll see tonight on stage. We’re just doing it properly, you know?
yasSon – Yeah man. It sounds awesome…
Kela – Cool.
yasSon – You recently released a new mix CD, working with such broad ranging artists as Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Wiley, Adam Freeland, Clipz and as you mentioned before Plan B. How has this affected the way you implement Beatboxing into music?
Kela – Ah, a lot! Hanging around with great people you’re going to create great things. When I did stuff with Get Cape, he did some stuff on the mix CD. I did the Electric Proms for the BBC with him. That was about 2 years ago, and that was dope. He was just completely more countrified Indie-Electronica than you ever get from a Beatboxers point of view. Just getting in there and doing it was dope. It was wicked fun. I think every time you do something like that, it broadens peoples minds to where Beatboxing can go. More importantly I think you want to brush off a few certain stigmas. There’s been a lot of [stigmas] for decades now; Beatboxing has always been secondary to something. It’s like the Beatboxer comes out and the Rapper raps or the Beatboxer stands behind when you got no drummer. Which is cool but where’s the personality in that? That’s what you’ve got to question. You’ve got your Rahzel’s and you’ve got your… just name them all, you got your faces. The sad thing is that you know it takes ages and ages and ages to shrug off. “Ah, we went to a show last night, did you see that Beatboxer? Did you see that Beatboxer?” And it’s like “Yo, where’re the names?” You’ve got to remember that guy’s name! He’s not ‘JUST’ a Beatboxer! That’s all I try and do… push Killa Kela… push the name, push the personality, push the scene and push it into people’s faces. It doesn’t matter what kind of genre, you know? It’s about getting it out there. And I love all music. When I was younger I grew up on Hip Hop, so that’s why I do what I do. It’s about breaking some doors, and I don’t know, representing it and opening it to a wider audience.
Fat Tony - You’ve performed all around the world to some enormous audiences... where do you generally enjoy playing most, and what's been your real defining moment on stage?
Kela – Wow… Favourite place, killer moment moment… Best place, the best place is ultimately home, you know I love playing to a packed crowd of people that you live amongst. If I were to pick out a show outside of the UK, it would be… Oh man, there’s so many, Eastern Europe kills it… Poland, Lithuania, Prague, some great places. They’re hungry for what they love, they love it, and they love shows. I do like playing in the states, because I just feel I can take something back, in a scene they kind of created, you know Hip Hop and Beatbox-wise, it’s kind of curve-balled, when you rock in there with your English accent and you do a show to a packed crowd that’s really dope, and they get the drops, they get all little subtleties, which maybe can’t cut through in some other places, that’s just it. For the best place, best show I’d say…MTV music awards with Snoop. That was amazing. That was end of last year, that was ridiculous. Prince, performing with Prince, that was ridiculous, …that was the week before my birthday, so that was dope. Royal Variety performance, that was an absolute head fu*k. I was so drunk, I was so drunk the night before on these stupid cocktails, and I got on stage and you know, at the time you’re not really thinking about performing in front of the Queen. So I’m kind of glad I was a little bit hung-over and messed up because if you put too much emphasis on who’s in the house, it’s like it actually probably wouldn’t have gone down.
Fat Tony – That’s fair enough then… So... You have toured with the likes of Jurassic 5... Pharrel Williams and Justin Timberlake. What do you see next on the cards in terms of tours?
Kela – Tour-wise coming up we’re kind of holding it down at the moment, we’re not doing a lot of touring, because I’m working on the new album, an that’s really [taking] priority. We’ve got a couple of key dates, obviously with Skins, and we’ve got a big show coming on the 15th of February at the Jazz Club in London and that’s more a big kind of profile gig, test-the-waters on some new routines and new tracks, new live show basically. You might have already missed it because you’re probably watching this a year or two later, so sorry guys, but it was fu**ing great! Haha! But, you know, it’s down time, just to work on an album. To be honest, it’s been the best recording ever, because unlike the two years grace we’ve had since “Elocution”, so much has happened, in terms of, well, a number of things. Justin Timberlake, with his album, it has Beatboxing all over it. Timberland is still doing the Beatbox all over it, it’s for real. There’s countless shows and performances that I’ve done, where people yet again have seen Killa Kela and the Beatbox scene in general is embraced with people are all over the place making moves and making it happen. It’s even more of a great time to be unlocking a few doors; people are kind of up to speed and are getting the deal.
Fat Tony - Do you find that your music is accepted by people who don't necessarily understand Beatboxing? You always have the Beatboxers that look up to you as sort of a role model or an icon. What about the people who don’t know much about Beatboxing, people who don’t necessarily appreciate it, as an individual genre of music?
Kela – How do you mean, how do I deal with it or what do I think?
Fat Tony – What do they think, I suppose?
Kela – I think we need to step back a minute, and work out what it is, because we can get a little bit inside ourselves you know, break a few ribs and suck ourselves off about how good we are at Beatboxing. But at the end of the day not everybody wants to hear Beatboxing. I think on a scale of 60 minutes worth of music, it needs to be 60 minutes worth of music. My first album, “Permanent Marker”, if I was to play my mum and dad that album at that time, they probably would have thought to themselves “erm, uh-huh… it’s pretty vocal innit?” Or “it’s a little bit left-field” I think when it comes to those kind of people, and the record buying public, the ticket-buying public, you’ve got to give diversity as an artist full stop. You’ve got to give yourself a diverse bit of artillery, a bit of ammunition to fire at them, or else you’re just going to have a few strings to your bow. So, I don’t think it’s so much trying to prove to them something…I think it’s more like go with your instincts. Make music that everyone will love and do a show that everyone will love. Then you’re away.
YasSon – So now for a bit of a sillier question.
Kela – Cool...
yasSon – Did you get a blue peter badge when you were on the show?
Kela – Yeah, I did! Yeah, never leave the studio without one I’m saying! I got one, and I got another one for my mum, but that was a secret pilff, that was a secret steal. I loved it. It was great. Who wouldn’t you know?
yasSon – Keeping with the silly questions… Is it really impossible to put a ‘Fruit Pastille’ in yer mouth without chewing..?
Kela – It’s not so impossible, it’s just a headache after like the 79th time of doing it! I love Fruit Pastilles, but the red ones! I am going to still hold out for a couple of months! It was intense, because you could only have like the one flavour. But yeah, you can if truth be known…
yasSon - As you know Vauxhall are now sponsoring the Beatboxing Championships in the UK. How do you feel this affects the Beatboxing scene in general?
Kela – Well yeah, if Vauxhall’s sponsoring the championships, that’s ridiculous!
Kela’s manager – We’re all driving Corsas!
Kela – Yeah, we’re all driving Corsas, where’s my Corsa? But seriously man, if you’ve got any big corporate company putting money into it…it’s so productive and works, I just think it’s nothing but a really, really good thing. It highlights the scene and pushes it into a more, a more commercial direction. It gives people an insight into a thing we all love. That’s totally… I think it’s wicked.
yasSon – Ok, now we have some questions from the full members of Humanbeatbox.com
Kela – Cool.
yasSon – First up we have Evret from Toowoomba, Australia, What physical affects (both negative, and positive) has Beatboxing for so long had on your body (throat, vocal chords, lungs, etc.). And if there are any negatives, have they all been overcome, or are there lasting effects?
Kela – Right, as far as incidences go, where you know potential after-effects and stuff I don’t think so. But, I had a benign tumour in my tonsil, back in 2002, and literally, what’s the dangly bit? Anyway, it was the size of a balloon, in the back of my tonsil, hanging off my tonsil. And I can’t help but think…it was the time when I was doing a lot of shows, a lot of shows. And I completely took it for granted. I felt like there was something there, but I was like… whatever. In hindsight, it could have been something to do with it, to do with Beatboxing maybe. By and large, I don’t think you’re doing yourself anything outside of the norm. I find when I do normal tracks, where I am doing vocal scratching and singing, or shouting or spoken word or whatever, I find my voice gets a little bit more raw after that then if I am Beatboxing. Normally Beatboxing is a bit more of a downtime for in-between the shows, it’s a bit more a downtime for the vocal. It’s a bit easier on the voice, other things like…I got muscles all around here now (moves around his lips). You know we’re talking 10 years of Beatboxing. And like yeah I got that (around his lips) got a quite a few muscles (moves around jaw) here and there, around here (moves around throat) and that’s good… But you know, you learn the errors
of your ways as well. When I was younger I would get so tired out of doing shows, afterwards, and stuff from Beatboxing. I think at 23/24 [years old] the last thing you’re thinking about is your dietary habits or physically taking or how physically it’s hitting you. But now that I’m older, and I’m training and I’m exercising, I’m living a better way of life. It’s not so in the back of a van or on a flight, or eating bad, drinking too much. When you’re doing a show, it’s just better. Just look after yourself. I speak to some people and they worry about this, that and the third, and it’s only because it means so much to them. If it means so much to you, you’re going to worry. I used to do that when I was younger… so worried about stuff, what if that, what if this? Man, honestly…don’t worry about it, you know? Nothing can go wrong. Just don’t do the obvious, don’t smoke, don’t do weed, don’t you know, I hate to be the barer like of “do the right thing”, but do the right thing, and then you’ll be fine.
I remember having bags of Vocal Zones. I used to have bags of Vocal Zones from Boots, loads of honey before and after every show. “I hear so and so said, ‘If you do that your voice will get 10 times’”…But…I could warm up maybe, I could warm up my voice before I go on stage, maybe I could do that a bit better or something like that. But nah just do what you do. There’s my answer!!
YasSon – Well, the next person from Humanbeatbox.com we have is Zepenso from Uppsala, Sweden. I hope I pronounced that right…
Kela – Wicked... (laughs)
yasSon – He’s asking, once you get to the Pro-Beatboxer level, how much does Beatboxing begin to feel like work rather than fun?
Kela – Nah, it’s always fun! There’s no work element in it, man. The holidays started years ago, Ha… No, no, it’s good fun. Everything, everything’s great, no work… The day you have to sign off from work asking for permission for 3 days off.
yasSon – Yeah, that’s happening at the moment with me! I’ve got to do it.
Kela – You know what you’ve got to do. Yeah (laughs)
yasSon – Ok, the next person from Humanbeatbox.com, …we have MCLD from London, England. What do you think about the possibilities for Beatboxers to take it seriously and earn some/all of their living off it? Can only a few ever manage it? Are there things you have to do, like sponsorship, adverts?
Kela – I think in terms of music nowadays it’s going full circle. It’s every man for himself, in terms of where your commodity comes from. If it’s doing an album and it’s making money off the music, if it’s doing an advert, then it’s doing a commercial for whoever Vauxhall or whoever. Yeah, I guess by any means necessary. It’s like with anything. The music in general is not really what it was last year. In terms of can any one be a success? Yeah, of course you can, anyone can do it. And you know I’m testament to a Beatboxer success, I’ve never had a job, Ha! I had a part time job as a petrol attendant in 1998 and I did that for 6 months and that’s it. Makes me absolutely useless though if you were to put me in an environment as simple as using a computer for something like a tourist information board, I wouldn’t be able to do it. So I can’t discredit from doing their jobs…’cause I can’t do it. But what I can do is Beatbox, sing and entertain. Entertain.
yasSon – Well Thanks Killa Kela, any shout out’s you want to give to the camera?
Kela – Big shout out to Humanbeatbox.com all day, every day. Big up to my boys, big up to Faith, big up to Shlomo, big up to Rahzel the gentleman, big up to Splinter, big up to YasSon, the big man! Big shout out to Spitkingdom, Andy Show, DJ Skeletric, big shout out too Chi Chi, big shout out to Spider J, big shout out to Trip, Rookwood, Dick and Deliable, Porje One. More importantly, you guys, you’re fuc*ing great, keep it large, keep it big and keep pushing…keep pushing the boundaries, keep doing your things… And get out of the bedrooms and get on stage. PEACE.
Big up to TyTe, big up to Hobbit, big shouts to Gemma’s street team. Big shouts to Agent 77, big shouts to Spitkingdom street-team…No wait a minute, I haven’t finished! Big shout out to my Moms, big shout out to my Dad, my Dad’s always on Humanbeatbox.com. Big shout out to Bristol, big shout out to Australia, Big shout to New Zealand, Big shout out to Eklips, big, big thanks to Martin Rushenent. I’d like to thank everyone…(laughs) right then, see ya later!
Red Devil from Atkinson, NH - “What was it like to do a beat for the plan b song "business woman"? Do you plan on doing something similar in the future?”
Kela – Yeah, man! Ben and I have just written a live Beatbox cover version of "Need Your Loving" for my new Album. Sounds sick, definitely a nice step up from Business Woman.
Azeem from London, England - “What did your family/friends/peers say to you about it when you began it, and also when you started to take it more seriously?”
Kela - Hmm, well my family have been nothing but supportive, and my friends are all musicians or DJs; The same friends I have now. I always took my trade seriously. I think my friends and family would have been really disappointed in me if I didn't go get those opportunities. My friends are who inspire me.
Rooky from Cork, Ireland - “If you could go back in time and do something different (Beatbox-wise), what would it be?”
Kela - There isn't really anything I regret. Nothing I have a problem with being in the archives! ...I truly believe that. Hmmm, Done something differently? I'm sure there are loads and loads; I'm extremely critical of myself.
Boze from Glasgow, Scotland - “Would you rather 1000 people bought your next CD or 10,000 people downloaded it?”
Kela - What would you rather? A thousand CD's sold wouldn't even pay for the making of an album. 10,000 iTune sales (or other legal/illegal methods) would be 10,000 people at the O2 arena, or Madison Square Garden. Do themath man 🙂
Corsair from the Isle of White - “What do you most hope to achieve (professionally or otherwise) in the
Kela - To make the biggest, genre defining, Killa Kela album possible. That's all. That and to keep supporting the Beatbox scene in any way I can. "They don't have to like me, just don't take my shit lightly" Yup. 🙂
Drops from Nottingham - “Where do you see Beatboxing in 20 years time? Not just yourself, but Beatboxing in general.”
Kela - It'll be 10 years this July since I first jumped on a mic at a show. Since then, I've seen a lot of things come and go… People and styles, but the biggest thing to have embraced the scene, is technology. Hands down. Myspace, the Internet, etc. The next 20 years will be in the hands of scientists.
Sparticus from Hereford, U.K - “Which Beatboxers do you like at the moment (which styles, etc) and are there any out there that inspire what you're doing at the moment, maybe to help you move forward and progress?”
Kela - People inspire me, man... And I love our scene. Eklips, Faith, Poizonous...But to be honest, there isn't one Beatboxer that I could single out, and that's the truth. I love characters, personalities etc. and that, fortunately, is what our scene has an abundance of. We all need to support that and we all need to spread the good vibes man... Push everyone through the net.
Visit Kela's website