All You Need is BASS

AYNiB’s Interview with THe PETEBOX

credit: David

ThePETEBOX was one of the artists at this years Shambhala Music Festival that I had been most excited to see and he delivered a fantastic set. His Future Loops album has been by far my favorite release of 2012 and I am pretty sure if it were possible to wear out a digital file I would have done it with Fugue in DnB Minor. He is an award winning beatboxer, talented musician, and has damn good taste in music.

We here at All You Need is Bass are proud to present our interview with ThePETEBOX:

AYNiB: Thank you very much for sitting down with us. I know your heading out right after this.

THePETEBOX: Yeah.  Ten-hour bus ride.

AYNiB: That’s a long bus ride.

TPB: I get to see some sights on the way probably, some countryside.

Have you toured around? Have you been to Canada before?

TPB: No, it’s my first time in Canada. I’ve been there since last Friday. This is my third festival. I played Basscoast. I did the show in Calgary and then I came to Shambhala.

Right on! How do you like Shambhala?

TPB: Yeah, it’s amazing. The big difference for someone from England who hasn’t been to Canada before, is it’s just beautiful scenery everywhere. Being here in a festival, just right in the middle of it, there’s something special about it. You have the mountains as a backdrop and you see billions more stars at night. It’s just wicked and everyone’s crazy.

AYNiB: Crazy, can be an understatement for people here. Speaking of crazy, your last 18 months have been crazy.

TPB: Yes, life is crazy but it’s good.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]There’s not many songs in the world that have done it. It just sent shivers down my spine.[/quote]

You put out that video on YouTube and everything kind of exploded?

TPB: Yeah, The Pixies were great. I made that video when I reconciled the fact that I came from being a guitarist. I wrote songs on the guitar and sang sort of grunge and post-rock songs and then I became a beatboxer and started playing drum and bass and techno nights like that. Then I decided why not do them both? Thought I’d cover that Pixie’s track. I even remember where I was when I heard that, and it just literally … there’s not many songs in the world that have done it. It just sent shivers down my spine. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. So, to get to do that video, it went pretty nuts on the Internet and that’s one of the basis for my Future Loops album, to release them as live videos.

Have you actually got to meet the Pixies?

TPB: I haven’t met the Pixies yet.

AYNiB: Not yet?

TPB: I don’t know it would be weird to meet them.

AYNiB: Do you think so?

TPB: I don’t know. They’re just so amazing. They tweeted the video and they put this bit on their website with my video’s there. I hope it’s them personally who do it, because that would be great.

AYNiB: I feel like it is.

TPB: The thought that it is, is nice [laughs]

There’s a pretty diverse mix in Future Loops. You know, you have Crystal Castles, you have the Beach Boys, you have the Pixies, and you have Nirvana. How did you pick all those tracks?

TPB: Well, for me since I started doing this, you know there are a lot of covers on the album as well as my tracks and everyone is like, “Do this one. Do this one. Do this one,” but actually there’s pretty much no other covers in the world that I would want to do now. Those are just songs by bands that have had a massive influence on me.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Nirvana, and the Pixies they’re kind of the reasons why I started playing guitar and wanting to make music myself [/quote] When I was about 8-years-old, I made a whole side of a 45-minute tape of “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys. Just one after another after another after another. An entire side of a Forty-five minute tape. I just sat there with my Dad’s CD player recording into my little tape deck. Just as soon as the song finished, I would skip back and I’d play it again. So, I had one whole side of that song. I just couldn’t get enough of it.

Nirvana, and the Pixies they’re kind of the reasons why I started playing guitar and wanting to make music myself (especially Nirvana). Then Crystal Castles and then MGMT- I just I kind of got a bit worried being that I never had a big emotional attachment to music for ages and ages. And then, I know this is several years back now, but then when MGMT came along, and Crystal Castles came along I just loved it. Absolutely loved it, and then that was it. That’s kind of my musical roots. So what’s better than to be able to actually perform music by them and kind of interpret them in my way?

Do you think your next album is going to be all original stuff?

TPB: Yeah, I just think so. I think it was just the best move from where I was at. I’ve always used the idea of beatboxing as being an interesting thing for people to listen to because of the way you’re making it and people don’t really identify with themselves being able to do it. Even though if one could, you get that extra minute of people paying attention to you. Then, I also found a good way of getting people listening is to do songs that they’ll know. I just thought for the first album  if I did just a covers album, it wouldn’t have been the same, I just would have been a covers guy. If I just did an original album, it wouldn’t have had the reach that it’s had. So, this has done even better than I’d hoped.

By recording it on YouTube, it connects people to what you’re doing. It’s an interesting process. Do you think  your next albums will sort of follow the same model?

TPB: I’m going through millions of ideas now. Nothing is contrived. I do think of some kind of strategy, because I wouldn’t want to just go to a recorded multi-tracked album. I think what I’ve done with this album totally embraces the idea that it’s beatboxing. It’s live and the essential thing is that people can see exactly what is recorded, loop, sample, and they can see it being done. I think that has a lot of weight in people, in the experience of listening to it. I want to maintain that because I am a beatboxer. People associate me with that. I don’t want to just come out with an album that is completely separate from that. So, I need to find a way of keeping that element of it so there’s a lot of interest while also I need it to sound bigger and better.

Maybe collaborations or something like that?

TPB: Oh yeah, that’s not a problem from my standpoint. But there are a couple of things I want to do, probably, maybe… [Laughs]

AYNiB: Any little whispers? [laughs]

TPB: I don’t know. [laughs]

Rahzel inspired you to beatbox?

TPB: Yeah, we’re talking 10 years ago when I got started beatboxing. I just heard that If Your Mother Only Knew routine by Rhazel which 10 years ago was pretty groundbreaking. Then there wasn’t quite the internet resource. Now, you go on YouTube and you just type in beatboxer tutorials and there’s lots of people who you can see their mouths and everything like that. It’s a lot more accessible but, back then, all I knew to do is just listen to as many beatboxers as I could and just copy what they are doing. To me it showcased what humans could do with their mouths. You know, they’ve all got pretty similar set-up in their mouth and their teeth and their tongues and whatever like that. So, that was it, I suppose that is where it began.

I’m just curious. Were there any problems with licensing rights? You have a Nirvana cover on there and…

TPB: Selling it [laughs].

AYNiB: Yeah, which is interesting.

TPB: No, well I have a music lawyer, and I have a publisher and surprisingly all you need to do pay the publishers of the song a mechanical royalty percentage and only if you’re selling it. So, the writers of the songs get the performing rights anyway through the established societies to make sure that happens just per play. My job now is to get all my money and pay that I’ve earned from the album and I need to pay… it’s an 8% basic royalty per song to the publishers

AYNiB: So, Courtney Love isn’t pounding on your door looking for money…

TPB: Yeah, I guess if she owns the rights. She probably would, but it’s already done now.

AYNiB: That Beck/Coolio cover you did, that’s legit right there. That was awesome.

TPB: That’s cool. I don’t normally do that. There’s another one actually, “Loser” by Beck.  I learned that when it came out. I wrote the lyrics down and literally since I learned it, I reckon there’s not a day that goes by that I haven’t sung it or thought it. There’s just something about those lyrics. I just don’t have a fuckin’ clue what he’s going on about but the eloquence in i t- I just love it. It’s like my perfect few bars of words. So, yeah, I want to do something with that song. That might be a cover I might do someday. Maybe like as a video or something. I kind of like the element of surprise as well, and I’m suddenly doing this Gangsta’s Paradise gig and then it’s just like: Okay here we go. I’m doing another song on the top and everyone is like, “I know that one as well!”

As far as your gear set-up, what are you running?

TPB: I guess the hub of operations is a Boss RC-50 Loop Station. That’s where I arrange all the tracks. It has three channels of pretty much infinite looping if you’ve got the memory for it. That’s where I can build up verses, choruses, stuff like that. Then I use the Kaos Pad mainly for a few events. I don’t even go that crazy on them, but I can manipulate them as I go just to add space. A few reverbs, chords, delays.

That one also has a kind of sampler in it, so I could sample to the beat. So I can set the tempo and I can just sample one beat. So if I go “ih, ih, ih, ih, ih, ih.” Or I can set it do to two beats. So I’d be like “ih, ih, ih.” Or four beats, “ih… ih” like that. And I find that is really nice.

With my looping I like to get the track going as quickly as possible. I get a bit bored watching people spend like four minutes building up the song before it actually gets into the grit of it. So, this kind of helps me get everything going really quickly and that’s it. Then that goes through this TC-Helicon vocal effects unit, which is for the processing. It makes the vocal mics sound nicer and it’s got these amazing effects that I don’t use yet. Next time, maybe. Then, a mixer just so I can control the sound.

Anybody you’re excited to see to see this weekend?

TPB: Well, I’m leaving now but I was really excited to see DubFX.

AYNiB: I saw him out there during your set.

TPB: Yeah, yeah he was out there watching me.

AYNiB: Yeah [laughs]

TPB: [laughs] I just discovered his stuff  not that long ago, eight or nine months ago.  Loads of people would talk about him and I just hadn’t checked him out. Then, suddenly there’s this guy, he writes great songs and has something about his voice. He’s got this texture to his voice. There’s all these kids doing incredible beatbox stuff, but I’m not really too fussed about that anymore. Just watching him, he just really thinks like: Okay here is a space for this bass line and there’s always a wicked bass line. He really thinks about shaping the sounds and the effects and just makes good songs. So, yeah, I heard he was here. So, I was like, I need to go meet him. I met him and we had a good chat about looping. It was cool.

Yeah, I really wanted to see him, but I’m going to be gone. I caught DJ Woody, I’ve done the show with him before and saw DJ Yoda last night.

AYNiB: Yoda was sick last night.

TPB: Yeah. I was just running around. I didn’t know who was playing because I didn’t have a schedule. I’ve been here for a week and I keep bumping into people that I’ve met. This place is a really nice community.

AYNiB: It’s a fantastic community here. It’s big but small at the same time. We have a country of only a thirty million people…

TPB: …and in such a big massive space.

AYNiB: Yeah, exactly.

TPB: That’s what I like people to keep in mind. Everyone drives here from like Vancouver. And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to go drive here and I’m just going to nip down the road to so-and-so and it’s like a 2 ½ hour drive and I’m like, “that is not nipping down the road.”

[laughter]

To me, that is like the longest distance in a UK tour. Generally, if it’s planned well, you’re going to be driving an hour or two max between each city. Here it’s like five hours and you just rock it and you just do it.

How much have you been touring?

TPB: Well, in my life?

AYNiB: No, as PETEBOX, because with Swimming you finished a European tour right?

TPB: Man, it’s weird. I recently did a UK tour for my album. You go here, it’s a set. I’m on tour. Generally, I am always doing shows, but from independent promoters getting in touch with me. I’m kind of constantly touring and they’re not like tours as such. In the last month, I’ve flown to Greece three times, done the show in Cypress, went to Europe a handful of times times and now I’ve just come here. It’s just like I’m always doing shows. It’s mad. [laughs]

From a production standpoint, are you usually are you more of a studio-writing guy or are you writing on the road?

TPB:  Oh, yeah. No, I kind of don’t know how I write or when I write. I never sit down and go, “Alright, I’m going to write a song.” I just one day have my loop peddle on and then I’ll pretty much just do the song. Just free styling what I’m making up and then I’ll just refine it a bit, and maybe change this part or change that part and work out some effects and then it just happens. As soon as I’ve done that, I never feel like I can do another one. But then one day, I’ll just be there and then all of the sudden, there will be another song.

Like Wave, the one with acoustical guitar, I just did it and then there’s a few things that’s like, “ah, that doesn’t sound very good. I’ll do that better.” And it’s done.

Fugue in DnB Minor is my favorite track. Like how long did that take?

TPB: I don’t have a clue! [laughter] Again, with that song I knew it needed to be more than it was, for the album. It used to be half as long. I used to stop like… “I’m gonna sing and sing and I’m going to make you grin.” And then I loop that up and then I’d finish. And then for the albums I knew this needed to be longer, more epic, whatever.

Then I just did it one day. I said I’m going to work on it. Went through the song, and then I worked out the logistics on how I was going to loop what where.  Then, just as I was doing it, I just suddenly broke it down and I just started going, [singing melody]. Didn’t have any lyrics or anything. [singing melody]. And then that was it. It literally just happen. Then, the words I don’t know if this takes the magic out for you or what, but I just do a few rewrites of the lyrics, a few words here and there and it just comes out. But I kind of like that fact. But then, at the same time, it fills me with massive fear because I still don’t feel like I know how to write a song or can even just sit down and go “alright I’m going to write a song.” Which I can. I recently did an advert for Honda where there were like: Go write. Here’s the visual. We want a piece of music. I’m watching this animation in my studio and if I get this it’s a really good thing and I really want to do it. But you’re kind of not forced to, but I had a day to do it. I had a day to write it and record it. So, I did it, and I got it.  It made me happy because that made me think I want to write a song and I feel like I could.

AYNiB: All right brain. Do it.

TPB: Yeah. It’s just a matter of just doing it. Like, simple hard work actually goes along way.

With doing the advert for Honda, What are your thoughts on the commercialization of music?

TPB:  I know people that insist that they don’t want to start asking for money for gigs and this. The thing is, with that, I think if you’re compelled to do anything. You get some guys that love BMX. They can’t get enough of it. They do it all hours of the day, every day. And then there’s some people who love making things out of wood. There’s some people that yodel, or whatever. So, with music you’re compelled to do your music. You want to do that all the time. You want to be able to spend your entire life doing music. And with the way this structure of society in England or wherever you live, generally is geared towards the fact that you need to make money. You have to have money to generally fit in with what’s going on around you. If you want a house, if you want to eat, you’re going to pay. The idea of making money through music is just so you can spend all your time doing it. Because otherwise you’re spending eight hours a day in a job that you don’t feel in your soul you should be devoting that much time to. I say for me, thinking about getting an advert like the Honda advert, which was honestly they’re putting it on me was quite cool. I have no qualms about that because I think it enhanced the media and the art of the actual video itself. I’m proud to have been part in making the outcome. Also, making money is a facilitator.

Would you feel different if someone were to offer you money for a song that you’d already created rather than enlisting you to create something specifically for them?

TPB: If it’s something I’ve created. I don’t know about that, because, that’s kind of a more of a personal thing if it’s just come out of you. It depends on how much money I guess whether I’m going to do it.

[laughter]

TPB:  I give you a portion of my soul.

[laughter]

Have you had a pretty nice reception at events?

TPB: Yeah, it’s weird. I actually have fans and that’s a weird concept. Because I’ve always done shows, and generally I go out onto the stage unknown up until the YouTube stuff happened. I would do big shows somehow, I don’t quite know how and win people over. But, now I’m finding I’m going to shows and there are people with my t-shirt on.

AYNiB: Yeah, there was a girl out there with one on.

TPB: People want me to sign shit. It’s like, these are fans and I saw out there people singing along to my songs. It’s quite amazing. Because it’s a reflection of the fact that people have seen what you do and they’re inspired by it. So either if they just purely enjoy it, they just want to dance to it, or they just want to listen to it more. People say some really nice stuff and they get quite emotionally attached to what I do. As a reflection of that, it’s quite humbling. They’re waiting to see me, waiting to see what I’m going to do. It’s amazing. It’s nuts.

ThePETEBOX at Abu Dhabi

Who have been some of your favorite people to tour with?

TPB: I don’t know. I kind of find my experience through real life through my association with my beatboxing being so varied. Every situation I’m in I’m constantly moving around and just going, this is nuts that I’m here. I’ve been playing shows in Africa. From South Africa to Malawi. Some of the most poorest and remote parts of Africa, and I’ve done shows, in front of people there that I’ve managed to connect with through music. Then I played the Abu Dhabi, Formula One Grand Prix where I’m in front of 30,000 people on a beach. I’ve got back stage VIP tickets to see Prince. I’m in a box watching the Formula One, and this is just me on my own. This is fuckin’ nuts. And then to festivals to these kind of corporate shows or private parties and then just everyone, and then tours where people that I never thought I would tour with. I think it’s pretty amazing, just for all these things.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]I played the Abu Dhabi, Formula One Grand Prix where I’m in front of 30,000 people on a beach[/quote] I just got to tour with my band Swimming, supporting Carl Barat from The Libertines. He is an amazing guy and the shows are brilliant. But it was like a budget sort of tour in a van around Europe. I had the time of my life. At least we flew from the last show there in Bologna to Abu Dhabi for this month of my traveling miles every day and being amazed that we got a meal each night. To being picked up at Abu Dhabi airport, which looks like the inside of a palace by someone who was like “PETEbox” and I’m fucking hung over and all this. “Alright, here you go, here’s your phone while you’re here. This is yours. And here’s your car.” It’s like a brand new BMW and your driver. “While you’re here for the next few days, he will be waiting for you there wherever you want to go.” And I’m like, this is weird. Then I go into this ridiculous hotel, passing Sofia Ellis-Bextor who is just standing there. It’s just plush. It’s just like this change in the scenery and experience. That’s the thing I’m more amazed about.

Then you toured through South Africa and Malawi?

TPB: Well, there’s this festival out there. It’s how I met DJ Yoda actually.

AYNiB: Really?

TPB: The first time like years ago. One of my almost first couple years doing the show. I hooked up with this night in Chibuku, called Chibuku in Liverpool. One of the guys that runs that went out to Malawi and just thought, “I want to bring some UK music to Malawi.” And he started this festival called Lake of Stars where they have local Malawi and African musicians and loads of DJs from the UK.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]…going to little villages in Africa, setting up the sound system and doing shows. It was nuts![/quote] When I was out there, the Annie Mac was playing and DJ Yoda was playing and then you also got a lot of local musicians. So a lot of travelers go, a lot of people from the UK go. It’s just an incredible experience. So, I stayed there. We did a tour from South Africa in this big land-loving yellow submarine bus. We drove for two weeks doing shows up the coast, with Joe Driscoll and a couple of DJs. Just going to little villages in Africa, setting up the sound system and doing shows. It was nuts. It was such a privilege to meet the people from there and to be able to play music and to listen to what they’re doing because you hear some just incredible musicians out there.

AYNiB: Some of the world music coming out of Malawi is fantastic.

TPB: Yeah, I know. There seems to be such a raw kind of thing. You walk along the beach and there isn’t much there at all. They don’t have a lot of things and there’s just groups of kids, you hear this music, and there’s a group of kids around a tree with sticks just making these incredible rhythms. It sounds amazing. It’s very pure.

AYNiB: Sampling that would be beautiful.

TPB: We stayed somewhere where I heard this singing, like a choir singing. It was like nothing I’d heard. It wasn’t like gospel music, it’s not like stuff I’ve heard in a church; but there was just this church where the men and women get together and sing songs in a choir. There’s no electricity or anything. We were staying in this campsite. We were in tents and when I heard it I followed it. We were kind of going there and I was like, “Wow, this is just sounding incredible,” the harmonies and the ways they’re moving in and out of each other, like the melodies. I was tentatively sort of edging nearer to the door. It was just an open thing, like a wooden building. And we got spotted. I didn’t want them to feel like I was like invading their space. And they’re reaction was like, “What are you doing here” and “Hi come on in and join in”. We were all there holding hands and just doing the movements and singing along. It was just that kind of welcoming, open arm sort of mentality. I just thought wow, what a privilege!

AYNiB: That must have been a highlight for you

TPB: Yeah, and all because I’m a beatboxer.

AYNIB: That’s awesome! Well thank you very much for sitting down with All You Need is Bass. This has been a real treat.

For More Info on THePETEBOX:

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Buy the debut album Future Loops at: http://www.thepetebox.com/futureloops/

About author

Alex

Alex is the Editor in Chief and one the founders at All You Need is Bass, and is one of the primary contributors. He is a man of many different hats and musical tastes - plus he looks just smashing in a vest!

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