Welsh beatboxer, MC and looper Mr Phormula has been busy pushing the boundaries of beatboxing. Locked away in basement studios he has been collaborating with musicians and artists in a series of visual performances. Perhaps Mr Phormula should be called Mr Phenominal as he is the master of creating vocal landscapes underpinned with slick grooves. In this short interview he tells us about a new video series he is putting together, his 'Concept Collection'.
Firstly, tell us about yourself. Who are you and where are you from?
Iawn! ('iawn' is Welsh for 'Hi') My name is Ed Holden a.k.a Mr Phormula. I’m based in the gloomy mountainous region of North Wales in the British Isles. I’m a live looper, rapper and a producer. I also make silly noises with my voice for a living.
What is the inspiration behind the Concept Collection series?
The concept collection is the direct result of my passion for collaboration and improvisation. Collaboration is where my heart has always been. I get a kick out of taking my artform somewhere else in an attempt to respond to someone else musically. I’m very interested in the idea that improvisation can often create spontaneous performances that otherwise you wouldn’t explore as a solo artist. Being able to communicate musically and create a unique performance is fascinating especially when you start fusing genres that otherwise wouldn’t coincide with each other. That’s why I have started the concept collection, to explore collaboration in vocalism. Oh, and to have a whole load of fun in the process!
What do you hope to achieve through this collaborative work?
At present, I just have a big interest in cross collaborating genres. I don’t really have an aim as such. If people enjoy the performances then that’s more than enough of an achievement. Who knows where the project will go? For now I’m just enjoying collaborating with other artists.
How hard do you think it is for beatboxers to break new ground?
I think that today’s younger generation of beatboxers are on another level. Some of the techniques I have heard recently are mind-boggling. I don’t count myself as part of that generation as I’m a bit older, obviously haha. So I think for beatboxers like myself it may be more of a challenge to break new ground, but having said that, it’s the same for every genre of music and not only music; but life in general. Art-forms evolve and that’s a beautiful thing in my opinion. I think that you can get a lot out of life by being passionate about what you do as opposed to being hooked on taking your technique to the next level. There’s always going to be someone out there that will take it to the next level and even if you were that person you’ll still always be compared to someone else, that’s the nature of music. Be passionate about what you do and that will open doors eventually. Wow, went all deep on that answer didn’t I?
The first performance was with multi instrumentalist and live looper Henry Horell.Tell us about Henry Horell. Who is he and why did you choose to collaborate with him?
Henry is a good friend of mine. Not only that, he’s also an incredible musician! He moved to Bangor, North Wales a few years ago and I got to know him through a community project we were both involved with at the time. We’d end up jamming when we could and this eventually this led to frequent hookups. When I first thought about the concept collection it was a no-brainer to get Henry on board. It was great setting up all the gear and having a jam too - that’s half of what the Concept Collection is about, having fun and being a geek with all the devices!
The second performance features international jazz pianist Huw Warren and renowned break dancer Wren Ball.How did you meet Huw Warren and what inspired you to collaborate with him?
Myself and Huw go way back in the Wales music scene. I’ve been involved in bands since I was thirteen and it was through gigs that I’d occasionally bump into Huw. I have always been fascinated with him as a musician and eventually we ended up jamming. I have the upmost respect for him. The way he’s able to communicate musically through his playing is mind boggling. I often wonder if he’s human?! He’s able to reply to anything you throw at him within the drop of a hat. It was a natural progression to get Huw involved. Myself and Huw also collaborate with Wren on another project called “Cypher” which is another exciting project that involves not only the three of us but also Wren’s breaking crew from Sheffield – Steel City Rockers – another amazing bunch of artists!!!!
What do you think breakdancer Wren Ball brings to the performance?
Wren is another incredible artist that I have met on my journey through music. The first time we met we instantly connected on a musical level, especially through hip-hop. Breaking and beatboxing are often not as popular as the other elements of hip-hop so naturally we were both on the same wavelength. We certainly come from the golden era of hip-hop! In turn this reflects in our performances. I’m really into swinging hip-hop beats, J Dilla style, the whole 90’s hiphop feel, so it’s inevitable that I do this when I jam with Wren, haha. The fact that we’re involved in “Cypher” also means that we have a great interest in collaboration, another reason why I got Wren involved. We filmed the collab at Wren's new studio space - Bones to the Stones - see www.wrenball.co.uk for more info.
How do you see yourself developing as an artist as a result of these collaborations?
I certainly see myself exploring different aspects of vocalism. For example, most beatboxers work in 4/4, but playing with Huw from a jazz background means that I have to cater for different signatures. I’m certainly no pro at this but it's definitely something I want to explore further. I also have a big interest in soundscapes. It’s incredible what you can achieve with a bunch of effects and your voice. Expect to hear a lot of soundscpaes in the concept collection! These are a few of the elements that will certainly contribute to my development as an artist. At the end of the day I just want to enjoy what I’m doing and hopefully reflect this in my performance.
What future collaborations would you like to form as part of the series?
Rest assured, I have some incredible artists lined up for the next set of collaborations. I can’t reveal too much at present. Very excited though!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Much respect to all the beatboxers and artists that I have met and collaborated with on my journey through music. I wouldn’t be exploring the 'Concept Collection' if I hadn’t of met you! I look forward to collaborating with you all again soon!