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Shlomo - The IndieLondon interview


Interview by Rob Carnevale

HUMAN beatbox Shlomo talks about his forthcoming London date at the Royal Albert Hall (on Tuesday, November 5), his career to date and some of his best memories, including working with Bjork and Damon Albarn.

Since taking up beatboxing in 2002, Shlomo has won global acclaim and worked with some of the biggest names in music including Bjork, Damon Abarn, Jarvis Cocker, Martha Wainwright, Imogen Heap, The Specials, DJ Yoda and Bill Bailey. In the process, he has consistently pushed the boundaries of beatboxing, bringing the art form to new and unexpected audiences through such diverse collaborations.

Q. First off, in your own words describe what beat-boxing is and why you were drawn to it?
Shlomo: Beatboxing is making music using nothing but your voice. I’ve been doing it instinctively since childhood as a way to practise my drums without annoying the neighbours so that I could fulfil my dream of drumming on Top Of The Pops.

Q. When did you first know you had a talent for it?
Shlomo: When I was 18 I went down to a beatboxing competition in St James’ Park called King Of The Jam. The winner got a pot of jam. Proper Bon Mamon, the good shit. And I won the jam!

Q. Do you have to follow any kind of training regime to maintain your voice and protect your vocals/throat?
Shlomo: I don’t smoke, drink, and try not to raise my voice. You probably should do lots of exersizes and warm ups, but not many beatboxers I know do.

Q. In your opinion, is beat-boxing an under-rated music form or is it doing nicely?
Shlomo: It’s doing OK! I’ve always seemed to find myself with new and exciting challenges within the art form so it must still be relevant!

Q. What’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about you?
Shlomo: Westwood once called me the ‘Harry Potter of beatbox’!

Q. How do you compose an original beat-box song?
Shlomo: I often start with my loopstation and start layering up beats, basslines, harmonies and lyrics and see where it goes.

Q. What can we expect from the forthcoming live dates, especially London?
Shlomo: It’s a very theatrical show called #HumanGeekbox. 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.

Q. What does it mean to be playing a venue that’s as steeped in history as the Royal Albert Hall?
Shlomo: It’s really exciting. I played there as a kid at the School’s Proms, proudly playing the drum roll for the opening of the national anthem! So it will be good to be back.

Q. How was being dubbed the Harry Potter of Beatbox by Westwood?
Shlomo: I’m pretty sure it was a compliment.


Q. How was collaborating with people like Bjork? What did you learn from her?
Shlomo: 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. The main thing I learnt from her was that beatboxing can be more than just a gimmick, it can be a way to make original music, and exciting music at that.

Q. And Damon Albarn? What did you work with him on?
Shlomo: He organised a huge show at Glastonbury called Africa Express where he got loads of African musicians jamming with Western legends. I walked up to him and said: “Hi I’m Shlomo, I’m a beatboxer.” And he said: “Great, can you jump up with me and The Specials to sing A Message To You Rudy“, which just happens to be one of my all time favourite songs. I was like “hell yes”!

Q. Which artists would you love still to collaborate with?
Shlomo: Stevie Wonder!!

Q. What’s your favourite live beat-boxing memory?
Shlomo: At Glastonbury my equipment once caused a power cut in front of 10,000 people. 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 collosal cheer and the rest of the set had so much energy – we were all just so happy that we got to go on!

Q. How is the Charity Collaborator Challenge coming? And what does War Child mean to you?
Shlomo: It’s going really well thanks. I’ve written and released seven tracks, each with a different local artist in each town on the tour. The next one is with Newton Faulkner at the Albert Hall, which is super exciting. Raising money for War Child fits so well with the show, which is all about childhood, so it’s great to be able to help children who are not as lucky as I have been.

Q. How actively involved are you with War Child? Do you travel with the charity and visit the victims of war? If yes, can you talk a little bit about the experience…
Shlomo: I haven’t visited a War zone yet.

Q. Finally, what does a beat-boxer listen to in his spare time – what are the current 10 most listened to tracks?
Shlomo: I’m loving Disclosure, Submotion Orchestra, Rudimental and Volcano Choir!