Beardyman is no stranger to festivals, with a headline appearance this year at Standon Calling, a themed boutique festival in Hertfordshire.
Named the King of Sound and Ruler of Beats by the BBC, we caught up with Beardyman to ask him about all things beatboxing and find out just why he won’t get in the Standon Calling swimming pool…
Hello, Beardyman. With all the different things you’ve been trying out lately, do you still consider yourself a beatboxer?
It’s difficult to say. I think it is a slightly misleading description of me, because if someone came to see me live then they wouldn’t necessarily see someone beatboxing and doing covers of songs. But I do still beatbox, so it is still a key part of the overall sound.
And what tips would you give to new beatboxers who want to take it into a career like you did?
There’s so much competition that you have to be truly exceptional. Since I started, it’s been ten years and now the game has completely shifted. I wouldn’t really know what to say to people other than what I’d say to anyone trying to get into any line of work – build up a skillset which makes you sufficiently different and therefore sought after. If you’re the only one who does a combination of things and you do them well and you work hard, then you’ll get far.
Who do you think are the most interesting musicians and beatboxers around at the moment?
There’s someone called ‘That 1 Guy’ who is a Canadian dude. He’s made his own instrument out of lots of tubing and MIDI sensors and he dresses like an undertaker. It’s the most insane show, he sounds like Primus. Also Tim Exile’s very interesting. He’s kind of a beatboxer, he’s very similar to me and inspired me in the first place to do electronic stuff. I think that anyone who makes their own instrument, I find interesting. People who just play whatever instrument they’ve got aren’t as interesting to me.
There aren’t many beatboxers who I find interesting. Faith SFX is probably my favourite beatboxer; he makes noises and acts like a robot and does scratching and urban horror noises. He’s brilliant and his set of noises is phenomenal; incredibly low and incredibly high. He’s very focused and he’s been in the game for seven or eight years now, which I suppose for a beatboxer is a long time. There’s a guy called Rheyne as well, and he’s just a dude from New Jersey who works at a music equipment store. He gets slightly discounted gear and he’s filled his studio with equipment, he’s awesome. I’m very nerdy with what I find interesting.
Is there anyone that you’re not really a fan of?
You’re trying to get me in trouble! The trouble is, some of these big artists who are hateable pop dickheads are actually lovely people to hang out with. I don’t hate the players, I hate the game – I really do hate the game. I think the structure of commercial radio is a problem – the fact that there has to be a very focused attempt to get one dominant form of music which everyone will like ends up watering down anything that could be niche or interesting. For me, I’m like a musical pervert, I really like things that are the musical equivalent of kinky. Things that are just disgusting forms of music and all kinds of weird, really savage stuff. It’s interesting in dance music now, like dubstep, you get some revolting noises like Skrillex and it’s amazing. People like Skrillex are bringing guttural noises into the mainstream, which is fantastic. But it’s only a matter of time before J-Lo’s shaking her arse about to some savage bass line or whatever.
It’s not necessarily the people that I dislike who are doing pop music so much as the people who make money off it and keep it going. I’m of the opinion that if commercial radio and the music system wasn’t there, then you would have people actively seeking out music that they love. If there was no industry surrounding it then it would still exist, because music is just something that happens.
There’s an interview with you a while ago where you said you’d prefer if the songs from your last album weren’t licensed for radio play…
Yeah, I stand by that, I don’t give a shit about radio. I don’t think it’s my medium. I mean, if I make a tune that I really like and then decide I’d be happy putting it on the radio and it gets really big, I’ll completely change my tune. I think my last album was done in a very rushed way and I’m not a fan of my last album. Which I know my management aren’t going to be happy with me saying!
Are you waiting to start your next album until you have time to do it properly then?
Yeah, exactly. There are ideas floating around but rather than make an album, I want to make a new release for every month for the next year. I want to do it properly if I do it this time, and not make any concessions to other people’s expectations of me. I think in the actual making of music, don’t have any sales agenda in mind and just make the music you want to make, whatever it sounds like.
You’re playing Standon Calling soon. Have you been before?
No, not that I remember.
It’s got a swimming pool and balloon rides. Are you going to take part in any of those?
No. Nope. It’s not out of an unwillingness to engage and have fun, it’s more just because I won’t have time. I’ll be in an out.
Not because you hate swimming pools or anything.
Not because I hate swimming pools. Just because it’s work.
If you could make your own festival, what sort of things would you put in the fields?
I think I’d make sure that there were lots of things to do that weren’t just music related, because that’s always fun. It should be an area designed for enjoyment of life without the cares and stresses of deadlines and hierarchal tyrannical structures. I’d have yoga tents, smoothie shacks and places to go and so random bits of weird art stuff. The thing is, I wouldn’t know what to put in there but all you have to do is let the weirdos in and you get a brilliant festival. You get walkabout artists, who do weird stuff and it creates this atmosphere to be free and be silly. I think the blossoming of festivals in the last ten years is great because I think it’s very natural to just have an opportunity to let your hair down. So just lots of weird stuff.
Do you prefer big festivals and massive crowds or do you prefer smaller and more intimate shows?
It really depends. You get an amazing buzz out of playing a massive crowd, but it’s rewarding in a different way to play to smaller audiences because you can tailor the performance to individual people. You can actually look at people’s faces and glean from that what you should be doing, and you can have a conversation with people, so it feels more like a gathering than a straight up performance. But with a massive audience, it’s an insane buzz coming off stage and knowing you made that many people lose their minds.
In terms of festivals, I don’t think it’s necessarily the size which is the deciding factor of what makes a festival good or bad. I’ve been to some really shit small festivals and some awful large festivals. Like V Festival, which is an abhorrence and an insult to everything that is good and pure about music.
Why is that?
It’s high street crap, it’s the same as going to Morrisons or something.
Morrisons have a festival now. It’s called M-Fest.
Well, you know who’s going to be going to that festival, don’t you? It’ll be the same people that buy Morrisons magazine, that shop in Morrisons and have Morrisons cards. And good luck to them, if they want to go to a festival and have a good laugh. I think I’d rather see boring people going to boring festivals than sitting at home and watching TV. But V-Fest is awful, there’s no soul to it. There are advertisements everywhere, so you don’t feel like you’ve escaped the modern world but that you’re right at the heart of it. The artists are the same ones they’ve been promoting on the radio to make sure they get big, just manufactured music.
And obviously that’s not true across the board, because there’s been some great acts playing V-Fest, but in general I’d rather not be there because of the people it attracts. It attracts a bunch of scum who aren’t there for a transcendental experience or to release their souls from the banality of modern existence but to get pissed and dance around with their shirts off to whatever band happens to be number three in the charts.
Catch Beardyman headlining this year's Standon Calling - which runs from 3-5 August. Tickets are on sale now, for more information visit Gigwise Gig Tickets.