Our Artist of the Month for December, THEPETEBOX is one of those artists that has to be heard to be believed. Ahead of the release of his upcoming debut originals album, ‘Use The Fire’, we asked Pete a few questions about the music making process, how he got into beatboxing (with some ace advice), and touring across the world.
Hey, Pete! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your Notts roots?
I lived in Nottingham for a long time, I love the place. I started playing my first shows there – open mic nights and my first ever club night shows were in Nottingham. I went to school in Southwell, at the Minster. And then as soon as I was 18 I moved out and went to Uni, but then I came back to Nottingham and I lived there for ages. Sherwood, Ashby, Sneinton, Sherwood again. I moved about.
You’re on tour at the moment, how’s that going?
It’s going alright. I’m pretty ill at the minute actually, but I’ll recover. Other than that, it’s going really good. This is just a sort of pre-album release tour. I’m just playing my new tracks. It’s been really nice, I’ve played four shows so far.
And then you’re coming back to Nottingham in December…
Yeah it’s the last show of the tour, a homecoming. I get to play in front of all my mates. I’m really looking forward to it, it should be awesome. And then there’s the after party at Suede.
You must have to look after your voice whilst on tour..
Um yeah, I don’t know what’s gone wrong at the minute actually. This isn’t normal. The thing that screws up my voice the most is talking loud in a club. After the show when there’s loud music, so you’re talking loud and stuff. I don’t know what’s happened at the minute, I think I’ve got tonsillitis or something. It’s very painful but it’ll be okay.
You did a tour of America last year, how was that?
Yeah, last November I did a West Coast US tour, which was very cool. I had an absolute blast. It’s amazing to go and connect with fans on the other side of the world. It was really good.
And then you’ve got a huge fanbase over in Eastern Europe as well, how did that come about?
Yeah that’s right I play in East Europe. I think Youtube played a big part in that. My first album ‘Future Loops,’ which was half made up of covers and half original tracks, and I actually created a video album. You may remember Beyonce did it for the first time ever about two years later… Yeah, mine didn’t get quite as much press.
Having the videos had two functions: one was so people could really get invested in the album making process and how I actually recorded it. And then the other thing is that Youtube has the capacity to give a global audience. And if you get a viral video that gets shared worldwide. All my shows are incoming requests from promoters around the world. If you do the right shows, the right festivals, with the right promoters then you very quickly build a fanbase. I think my heaviest area at the minute is Eastern Europe like Lithuania, Czech Republic and also Germany.
Can you talk us through about your live setup when you’re on tour and the equipment you use?
Well, my main instrument is beatboxing. That’s how I convey it – multi sonic vocal percussion is my instrument. That’s how I create the soundscapes. And to do that I use loop pedals, samplers and effects. I have different boxes that do all those different things. The loop pedal is how I arrange my tracks; my verses, choruses. Effects are what creates the ambience and stuff. Then all the samplers mean I can go in between sort of filling the sonic space in the way that a band does and a DJ does. So like really immediate big, fast beats or just big sounding arrangements that are normally typical of a band. And then I am the frontman as well, I will sing and play my guitar on top. So I just have a whole bunch of loopers, effects and samplers that all communicate with each other that enable me to do that.
How did you actually get into beatboxing and discover that you could do this with your voice?
Big misconception that actually, that anybody ever discovers that they can do anything. Maybe, if you’re double jointed you kinda discover that. But with anything that’s got a skill set attached to it, it’s not discovery more just… Well maybe I discovered I had the ability to stick at something I was shit at. It was just a very long learning process, it’s more that you have an inclination to actually do it.
If you hear about it and fall in love with the idea of it, the mechanics of it. Then you can relate to the idea that some other person is doing it, therefore anyone could do it then you just learn. It takes a long time to feel good about what you’re doing – especially then because I didn’t have any tutorials or anything I was just doing it off my own back listening to CDs of my heroes; Rahzel and Killa Kella. Then I heard a guy called MC Xander with a loop pedal a few years back and that sort of changed everything because suddenly I was like woah there’s this thing that you can plug your microphone into and create verses and choruses and write songs. That really invigorated my love of beatboxing and started me on my new path.
Was it beatboxing that first got you creating music?
Nah, I was already into music. I played guitar since I was about 14, I’d written hundreds of songs on my guitar. I also played drums in a band called SWIMMING. So I was doing all of this for many years before I started beatboxing. Beatboxing was just an extension of my compulsion to create music, I guess.
For your new album, ‘Use the Fire,’ you set up a pledge campaign. That must have been cool to see how many people were so eager to hear new music from you.
Yeah that, and also because of the way I’m doing this, it’s a much more heavily involved process. It means there’s more people involved and more money. Usually in that situation you go to a record label or something but we’ve been very much DIY and self-sufficient, so that’s why I chose the pledge root.
Have you got any standout tracks from the album yet?
Yeah, the album process has been a weird one. I’ve written so many songs that have not made it and changed everything a couple of times. It’s been a long process to get it right but it means that I’m just excited to show people all of the songs. I’ve always felt complete musical freedom with beatboxing, which I’m really grateful for and that people are into it. There is a very heavy reliance on the process. So the people who are into the process are more into hearing what the product is. For me, that means like my first album has got such a radical, wide range of music on it, style wise but it is all gelled together because of the process of how I’m doing it. And it’s the same with this, it jumps from one place to another but, sonically, it’s all very much in tune with each other.
Is it very different from your first album then?
Yeah way different. It’s a lot bigger sonically. They are all original songs on this one. I was way more into the songwriting this time. There are a lot more lyrics, themes and stuff going on. It’s a non-linear process. The first album was all live on a loop pedal, so it had to be all linear. But with this one, it all chops and changes, the songs are more involved.
How was it working with your brother in the studio?
Yeah, John Sampson aka CJ MIRRA. He’s a fantastic producer and he comes up with ideas of things that I wouldn’t do. He’s like a seasoned pro at that, so things always come out differently with him which is what I wanted. He has a very tights handle on all things sound. It’s good to feed him the songs and for him to react as a producer. He can capture the sound and sonic quality that I wouldn’t be able to do on my own. We’ve been in SWIMMING together since I was about 15 so it was a very natural process. Although we did write a lot together and I did realise that I hadn’t actually written anything with anyone else, which was a new experience in terms of my beatboxing.
Have you got anything else you’d like to say to Nusic Readers?
The show on the 11th December at Rescue Rooms. I’d like to invite everybody down, share my new music with everyone. It’s a homecoming show and it’s the last of the tour. So yeah, come to that and party all night.
We’d like to thank Pete for taking the time to answer our questions.
Yours in Love of New Music,
Katie Beard x