Interview : Beardyman – I’ve always seen myself as a thing that does stuff for reasons. I’ve never known the reasons, but I’m pretty sure there are reasons

After winning the UK Beatbox Championship twice in a row (2005/6), Beardyman né Darren Foreman ploughed headlong into the swirling vortex of musical and technological experimentation before him and has referred to himself in the third person ever since. An obsession with music technology and looping became career-long study in the possibilities afforded by technology in the field of musical improvisation but he remained limited by the consumer tech available at the time.

Having played main stages and packed-out rooms the world over, Foreman decided that it was time to reveal what he had been working on in secret all this time. Ahead of his ground breaking Dream Team show at Brixton Electric, A&R man Simon Huxtable sat down with Beardyman to chat about his career, the show and his thoughts on life.

Hi Darren, we’re so glad you could join us at Decoded Magazine. How’s your day been so far?

It’s been great, I’ve been getting tasks done and ordering things I need for my rig on Amazon and setting up my gear. I kind of like it when I have errands and stuff to do, it means I can listen to music and switch my brain off.

Tell us a little about how you got into Beatboxing. Where did you realise you could make so many noises with your voice?

When I was like 3. I was a weird kid.

Who would you say were your inspirations growing up?

Lionel Richie, The Beatles, Elton John, Michael Jackson – the things in my parents record collection. Luckily, they also had a bunch of classical music too, still love Holst’s The Planet Suite, it’s transcendent. Also Kenny Everett’s worlds worst record show – it’s amazing. That and Spike Jones, the original one, not the director. The guy with the insane acrobatic show-band and the racks of guns and hooters. He was a genius.

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You’ve won the UK Beatboxing championship twice on the bounce, an impressive achievement. Did ever have a chance to go back and maybe school the kids on new techniques, or just show support for the scene?

Beatboxing is a different beast now compared to when I was doing it competitively. There are 6 year olds with crazy moves now; thats the internet, it’s helping us evolve.

Your live show has almost taken on a life of its own now. Its part comedy, part beatboxing part human sample library. How long does it take to develop new ideas?

Ideas come to me often whilst crying into the bin. I cry into the bin a lot. It represents the endless undoing, the vortex of hopelessness from which we must all extricate ourselves every living second of every minute of every day.

We understand you’re currently preparing for a show at Electric Brixton in April where you’ll attempt to do a live recording of an album for each performance. Sounds insane! How have the rehearsals been going?

Rehearsals are vital, even if you’re doing a project like this; we’re attempting to make a new album, live in the moment, based on audience suggestions. It’s a tall order and we’ve been practicing hard to be able to meet that challenge.

Can you tell us about some of the dream team of artists you have performing along side you on the night?

There’s Bellatrix on bass. She’s actually female world beatbox champion, but she’ll be mostly on double bass for this show. She’s unbelievably good on bass. JFB – 3x UK DMC champion on scratching duties. Dizraeli, unbelievable vocal shaman. LeeN, the greatest freestyle MC that has ever lived. Emre Ramazanoglu, drummed for Michael Jackson, written with Sia. . . he’s insanely good. INSAAANELY good!  Ben Sarfas, the only violinist I know who can play back in the style of an Irish jig in 7/12 at 300bpm!  Rob Lewis on Cello. . Rob is amazing and has been involved in several other projects i’ve done before of this kind, smashing every one. Both him and Ben and Emre have specially designed set ups for this project allowing them to create the kind of sounds i’ve been imaging they would be spitting out.

Improvisation features very heavily in this new show. Can you explain how you’ll work around what the musicians will be doing?

I won’t be working around them. I’ll be corralling them! I have 2 microphones, one which the audience can hear and one which only the band can hear. I’m screaming instructions into it, key changes, chords, musical expression directions, arrangement decisions, it’s a lot to do as well as performing. But it’s awesome.

Would you consider yourself a ‘performance artist’ now, or is beatboxing still at the core of what you do?

I’ve always seen myself as a thing that does stuff for reasons. I’ve never known the reasons, but I’m pretty sure there are reasons. How can we ever know the ultimate reason. . . maybe there isn’t one.

We understand you have a couple of university degrees from before you became famous. Has there ever been a time when its all been a bit too much, and you’ve wanted to walk away and try something new?

No. I’m still trying to lay the egg. It’s gonna be a Faberge!