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DJ Mag Live Sessions Episode 2, featuring Beardyman
Imagine a machine that can let you record and mix music in real time – one that will enable musicians to get down the ideas in their head instantly, with no filter between the germs of a song and hearing it come alive straight away. Imagine the fevered genius capable of building such a perfect musical aid. Meet the BEARDYTRON_5000mkIII (Beardytron). And meet its creator…Beardyman, whose performances have been viewed over 50 million times on YouTube alone with improvisation being at the heart of the creative process.
Chances are, you already know Beardyman (born Darren Foreman). He’s the lovable beatboxing champion, the festival favorite last heard playing the charismatic stoner on Fatboy Slim’s global smash “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat,” right? Well, yes, that was Beardyman. But the musician emerging from hiding on his startling new album Distractions (out on 2/17 in North America on Tummy Touch Records) is virtually a different species altogether. The album is currently streaming in full over at KCRW.com (http://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/album-preview/beardymandistractions).
It’s an album a world away from comedy, a multi-faceted collection that takes in blissed-out declarations of love, glitchy electronica and thwacking great big pop songs. What it definitely doesn’t have is straight-up beatboxed pastiches.
Three years in the making, Distractions was initially designed to showcase what the Beardytron is capable of. In doing so, it also showed what Beardyman is capable of. Having scrapped plans to release EPs themed around sci-fi based electronica, Balearic-inspired, jump-up dance and his singer-songwriter side, Beardyman has compiled the best songs together on Distractions, before taking out the dance tracks as they didn’t quite fit with the chilled out, uplifting mood that unites the other songs’ vision.
“Once I found a way to sequence these tracks, I thought ‘This really works’,” says Beardyman. “There are three different trajectories, but they hang together well as a journey. The Balearic ones seem to be about love, lust and betrayal, the electronic ones are abstract and the singer-songwriter tracks are more personal, quite angsty.”
As for the Beardytron that Distractions was made on? It requires four iPads and two laptops “running at just below the speed of light” to enable Beardyman to instantly process any song ideas he has, straight away being able to access his hundreds of presets made on myriad instruments and manipulating them in infinite combinations to record and mix live. Frankly, we should be grateful that Beardyman has used the Beardytron to make a great album, rather than create the black hole it’s probably capable of.
“Before I started making Distractions, I was using a patched-up array of different machines, and the end result was still nowhere near what I had in my head for the Beardytron,” says Beardyman at his north London terraced home, the outwardly unlikely lair for such a game changing instrument. “It’s taken three years and three different versions to get the Beardytron properly running, but it really does let me create songs instantly, with no filter between having an idea and realizing it as a song.”
To the public, the first glimpse of the Beardytron was at Beardyman’s TED talk in 2013 (http://goo.gl/58dLwq), which has racked up a staggering two million views.
“I was going to talk about the history of mimicry, but I don’t have a PhD, so I didn’t” he smiles. “I thought ‘The Beardytron is really cool, why not showcase that?’ I think I found a happy medium of demonstrating what I’d built, whilst framing it in the context of beatboxing and my personal story.” Those suitably impressed in the TED audience included philosopher Daniel Dennett, Paypal founder Elon Musk, Bono, and Simpson’s creator Matt Groening.
Beardyman also met Herbie Hancock at TED, leading the jazz pioneer to become the only other person so far to successfully use the Beardytron. “We jammed for four hours and there are some sweet little ideas that I might use for other stuff,” he says. “There are plans to develop a commercially available version of the Beardytron. “But I’ve been talking about developing it for a long time and for now it’s time to stop developing the gear and develop as an artist instead.”
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