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Motormouf on Beatboxing, Looping, and the EDL

5 September 16 words: Shariff Ibrahim

"I did drama for a little bit but the beatboxing came after my cousin showed me a guy called Rahzel, and that was it for me"

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Our Motormouf. photo: Raphael Achache


As it’s going off right in front of us – what are your thoughts on the EDL march?
I’m happy there are the anti-fascist rallies going on at the same time right next door, at a time when everyone needs to stick together as much as we can. The dung is hitting the fan, shall we say. It’s just funny how the EDL are doing all this kind of stuff but will all of that matter when they come to a life or death situation and someone else of a different colour, creed or religion is giving them a hand? Let them spit their dummies out and whine all they want but they can’t front on the people.

Also, the #BlackLivesMatter protest in Nottingham – is that something that matters to us in Britain?
Totally. As much as we say it’s not as bad as America, it’s happening here as well. Now, the protest that happened in Nottingham, as controversial as it was, and as much as it got the word about and was a fantastic idea, they didn’t really think about other members of the public. They’re lying there on the tram tracks to get their voices heard, which they did, but they took it out on the members of the public who were using those trams to get to work or get the kids to school. I think they’re going the wrong way about it and putting a bad tinge on the whole #BlackLivesMatter thing.

Do you see yourself as politically minded?
I guess I am politically charged, but in terms of being politically-minded and knowing the ins and outs of politics, I don’t know a thing. I keep out of it. Not to be ignorant at all, but nowadays I don’t know what to believe. You can talk about politics and you’ll have people that’ll fight over it, like with the whole EU thing. Whether you think leave or stay, that’s your opinion, it shouldn’t be forced on people.

You are supporting Akala in October – is he someone you’ve admired for his political stance or more for his music?
I completely rate Akala, but not just as a musician or a lyricist but as a movement within himself. Like Tupac Shakur, he’s more than a rapper, it’s more than his music, he was doing it outside, he was protesting, he was giving back to charities and all that stuff. No offence to Akala or Immortal Technique or rappers like that, I love what they represent, but as musicians, a full album’s worth of politically charged tracks can be a bit much. I like a bit of diversity, a bit of poetry, a bit of funk, and a bit of fun.

You’ve had a pretty busy summer…
This summer’s been incredible, but financially not the best. My soul is full of love, but my wallet is empty. In June, I was playing a festival every single weekend. I played one called Eden in Scotland – without a shadow of a doubt the best festival I’ve ever been to. Then I did MoFest, which was really cool, then went to Glastonbury and kind of played by accident with Renegade. Halfway through they had a freestyle and I drunkenly said, “I can beatbox”, so they got me up and I managed to have a jam with them, which was awesome. I did a charity festival called Shantyfest, then had a couple of weeks off, then it was Deerstock – I managed to do some workshops out there as well, teaching kids and adults how to beatbox, which was a lot of fun. I’ve just come back from Y Not festival as well. So yes, it’s been a very eventful summer!

How and when did you start beatboxing?
I was about eleven when I started. I always wanted to get into comedy acting – I used to love people like Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams. I did drama for a little bit but the beatboxing was after my cousin showed me a guy called Rahzel, and that was it for me. When I was fifteen, me and my mates were out just kicking it and my mate was freestyling, and I just randomly jumped in and started beatboxing. They just looked at me like “Wait, what?! That’s dope”. So I’ve been doing it for twelve or thriteen years now and performing for about the past eight years. Then the past couple of years I’ve started using the Loop Station. The feedback I’ve got from it is mad because other loop pedal artists may be technically better than me but in terms of a performance, it’s just me being myself and having fun, and a lot of people dig that energy a lot more than another acclaimed beatboxer.

Is there a good scene for beatboxing in Nottingham?
You’ve got Petebox who is really representing. However, the other beatboxers, there’s me and then there’s Leetabix. I’ve not seen Foz for ages – Foz, if you’re reading, I hope you’re still rocking the microphone – I need you out here, bruv! Beatboxing is more of a rarity and I think a lot of people are still getting used to it, especially in the loop pedal scene. Loop pedal artists have only really been around, in the commercial sense, for about ten years or something.

Have massive artists like Ed Sheeran using loop pedals broadened the appeal?
Totally. You’ll see performances of Ed Sheeran playing at festivals like Glastonbury where he had thousands and thousands of people watching, and he’s just there with a guitar, a microphone and a loop pedal. This guy can move a whole crowd with just that, and that’s what I want to bring. With other artists who use Loop Stations, they can create amazing soundscapes and crazy sounds and beautiful songs and have this avant garde sound, or can be really funky with it. With me, I like to beatbox and rap but I try to keep it as raw as I can. I may do a political song, but I always aim to bring it back and get people dancing and having a good time.

One of the first times I saw you perform properly was at the UK Beatbox Championship in 2010, where you were robbed in the final. Do you still compete?
In terms of beatbox battles, no. The competition nowadays is fierce, it’s scarily good. When I was at the championships last year, I was watching the under eighteens battles and there was this lad called RedBeard, and I thought he was better than the over eighteens solo battles. I’m not even joking. When you see the younger generation do it, they’re getting techniques so much easier and quicker, because they’re watching the old’uns do it. There’re a lot of sound effects that I can’t do, even typical things that a lot of beatboxers can. I’m not bothered about being the best beatboxer, or rapper or poet, because I don’t believe there is such a thing – I just want to play, inspire and have fun with what I’m doing before I’m six feet in the ground. As long as I go and get funky, I’ve got no regrets.

You did merk Kane Ashmore in that Clash Money rap battle though…
You know what, that was so difficult. The funniest thing about that whole battle was that it was my first ever rap battle and it was against one of my best mates. And because it was a family event, we couldn’t swear and go in on each other, or if we did, it had to be very PG-13. It’s probably a good thing, because if we had been able to, we probably wouldn’t be friends after.

Are you recording at the moment?
I’ve been working on this thing for nearly a year, and it’s a bit of a mad time being festival season, so I’m not really in the booth as much as I want to be or should be. I’m hoping it’ll be out before the end of the year or the beginning of next year. It’s a four of five track EP and I’m naming it 30 58, which are the numbers from the devices I’m using - a Boss RC30 twin track Loop Station and SM58 microphone.

What about your band Just James?
We are playing Macmillan Fest at Stealth. We haven’t really been around for the last year and a half because the drummer Joe is working in London and everyone’s been outside Nottingham and the Midlands in general. I feel like, as both musicians and people, we’ve matured, so when Just James do get back together and start writing again, there’ll be more maturity in the music.

You’re also playing Hockley Hustle in October…
I’m going to be doing a bit of busking with Afterdark Movement, playing at JamCafe with some friends and vocalists for an open jam session, and playing with Revenge of Calculon, a duo from Nottingham who play synth and bass and wear these Mexican wrestling masks. It’s the coolest, weirdest, most alternative thing I’ve seen in Nottingham for a long time.

Your on-stage dress sense is quite eclectic too. How would you describe your style?
Festival swag! Going to and playing festivals has encouraged me to be myself both on and off stage. I’ll just walk around not really caring what I’m wearing, if the colour scheme’s all over the place or if it’s on point or whatever. I want to inspire other people to do the same thing, to just dress how they want to dress, be themselves and have fun with what they’re doing. I don’t even go on stage with a set list any more, I just go up there and feel the energy, and do me. If you like it, you like it, if you don’t, you don’t.

Motormouf performs with his band Just James at Macmillan Fest on Saturday 3 September. You can also see him at Hockley Hustle, Sunday 9 October, and supporting Akala, The Maze, Tuesday 25 October.

Motormouf on Twitter

Motormouf NG64 video from back in the day
Motormouf answers questions in photos
Motormouf vlogs the Vocalmente festival beatbox battle in Italy

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