Could you explain to our readers what is different about your new tour, ‘Human Geekbox’, than your previous tours?
#HumanGeekbox is a one man theatre show, so I’m mixing my beatboxing with a storyline from my own life. I was born into a line of certified geeks – my grandfather, Professor Kahn, was an astronomer and they named a planet after him, called Planet Kahnia. When I was a kid I thought I was going to go and live there. So #HumanGeekbox kind of tells the story of 4 generations of space obsessed boys from my grandfather, my dad, me, then down to my own son, all mashed up with plenty of beatboxing, live looping and audience interaction.
What is the story behind naming the tour ‘#HumanGeekbox’?
Well the show is all about science and geekdom, and also about how we all make mistakes and we’re all human, and also it sounds like Human Beatbox which is the old-skool name for my art form.
Is it at all disconcerting that you’ll be working with a different collaborator every night?
It’s a slightly ridiculous and totally terrifying challenge: to co-write, perform and release a new song in 2 hours with a different local artist in each town on the tour. After each show, the music will be released digitally in aid of War Child. My guest in Leeds is the amazing Thabo and The Real Deal, I can’t wait.
How was working with the likes of Damon Albarn, Bjork, Martha Wainwright, Jarvis Cocker etc and have these collaborations helped you develop as an artist?
Being asked to record with Bjork was a big shock, as it was my first major break. I was working in a call centre typing out lonely hearts ads when I got a voicemail from her asking me to come to London to record my beats. After that collaboration I got really inspired about my music and took it a lot more seriously, and since then I’ve got to work with amazing people like Jarvis, Imogen Heap, Bill Bailey and the Mighty Boosh.
Where is your favourite venue to play and why?
Glastonbury – so many happy memories. My equipment once caused a power cut in front of 10,000 people at Glastonbury. I was distraught thinking this would surely be the end of it all, but the crowd just kept whooping, singing and clapping until suddenly we were back on. There was a colossal cheer and the rest of the set had so much energy – we were all just so happy that we got to go on!
Do you think that your background in classical percussion and jazz has helped you later on in your career?
Definitely – having a trained as a musician has really helped me. I think the beatboxers who have really stood out over the years are those who are top-class musicians.
How did you get into beatboxing?
I grew up in a very musical family and got my first drumkit aged 8 years old. All I wanted to do was play my drums on Top Of The Pops. Only problem was it was on at 7pm, and I wasn’t allowed to practise my drums after 6, so I instinctively started making noises with my mouth. I didn’t know it was called beatboxing until much later.
Do you ever feel that mainstream music undermines beatboxing as a musical art form?
No – beatboxing has been in the mainstream, like Britain’s Got Talent and the like, but it has also been embraced by more credible but successful figures in the business like Bjork.
Finally, what do you have planned after the tour?
Working on my new album which will come out in a year or so, and in the meantime I’m doing lots of composing – including writing a vocal score for Bristol Old Vic’s Christmas production of The Little Mermaid which opens in November, and I’m going to write a choral beatbox piece next year for the National Youth Choir. Very exciting times!