MTS 2020: From the famous Kitchen Diaries YouTube hit and audience-sampling Battlejam nights, to festival appearances around the world and even regular appearances on Radio 4, Darren Foreman (aka Beardyman)’s combination of quintessentially British comedy and utterly authentic electronic music is gloriously individual.
On stage, his formidable vocalisation talents provide the fuel for an elaborate live rig that enables extraordinarily deep on-the-fly sampling, looping, processing and synthesis, and is one of the two subjects of this Producer Masterclass, the other being the production of his single, 6am (Ready To Write).
Rewinding back to the other end of the Beardyman timeline, though, where did it all begin? “I’ve had the stage name Beardyman since around 2004,” says Darren. “Then I’d been beatboxing since I was a toddler, but never thought I could earn a living from it. I started doing shows at tiny bars when I was at uni, and the first one I did was a mate’s girlfriend’s birthday party. I literally didn’t give a fuck at that time, and that defined the kind of entity I was on stage. I deliberately trolled the audience - and I still do!
“Now, I have to go out of my way to remember that it doesn’t matter what I do on stage. I take a moment before every show to remember how little it’s OK to give a fuck when you’re on stage, and that’s such a great thing to have in your life. To go on stage and be a fucking idiot for an hour, deliberately trolling strangers that are lapping it up, saying, ‘Thank you – troll us again!” is amazing. You’re turning them into a pack of animals, basically, and it’s great to get on stage and scream at the audience before dropping some savage techno on them. It’s a weird thing to be able to do, and a blessing. I love to add elements of comedy to my show, like you mess up on stage, but as it’s framed as comedy, no one minds.”
Having transitioned from competition-level beatboxer to an eclectic and idiosyncratic musical remit (albeit still with beatboxing very much at its core), Darren’s artistic influences are as varied as they come.
“Beatboxing-wise, I used to listen to people like Killa Kela and Faith SFX, who were the vanguard of the day, and an artist who I’m really feeling right now is an amazingly talented kiddie called NaPoM, who made an entire album with just his mouth! No looping or layering, and the bare minimum of effects - literally just a bit of compression, reverb and perhaps some slapback delay.
“These days, I’m less influenced by beatboxers, and take more influence from other artists. I enjoy listening to Marc Rebillet, as he literally doesn’t give a fuck. I love how he combines music and comedy. I enjoy Bill Bailey for similar reasons. Ed Solo is also an inspiration, he’s such a talented producer and has been for years - the guy’s quite simply a scientist in the studio.”
As you’ll see in the video, a meticulous degree of planning and preparation goes into every aspect of Darren’s live performance rig, but ultimately it’s all about enabling an improvisational approach on the night.
“I don’t have a single way of making a track,” he explains. “Sometimes, I like to catch a vibe from the crowd and work with that. If something makes me laugh and makes them laugh too, then it’s all good. I do enjoy making tracks live in real time, as it’s a great way of capturing the moment. You never quite know what’s going to happen.”
Now, fire up the masterclass video above to see and hear this unique musician in action.
This Producer Masterclass originally appeared in Computer Music 278 (February 2020)