NOT EXACTLY IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE: A DR SYNTAX INTERVIEW
We recently caught up with The Mouse Outfit frontman who is also one half of The Killer Combo alongside Pete Cannon, to put a couple of questions to him..
We’ve got you booked in for this Good Friday the 18th at The Bowery District in Reading.. You’ve played in Reading before though, right? How do you remember it?
It’s been quite a while! I was here with Stig Of The Dump and Manipulate a few years ago. If I remember right, Lowkey was on the bill too. I remember it being a top night. People tend to go all out on bank holidays as well, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.
What can those attending expect to see from your live show?
It’s the Killer Combo! Tour, so we’ll be doing lots of songs from the new album, as well as some of my older stuff. We try and put together a set so it’s as engaging as possible and gets our personalities across. It’s great working with Pete Cannon as he’s not exactly a shrinking violet. Apparently he does all sorts of entertaining moves during the show, but he’s behind me for most of it so I can’t really confirm that.
As well as touring with Pete Cannon, you’re also currently on tour with Mouse Outfit. Have you been surprised by the overwhelming positive response to Escape Music?
I certainly have! It’s been an amazing year for us. I had confidence in the music, but it’s also a lot about timing and the album seems to have struck a chord with people.
..It won the Wordplay award for best album. How much of a help do you feel that’s been in gaining new fans who are into other sorts of UK Hip-Hop but perhaps have not heard your earlier, solo stuff?
It’s definitely given me a second wind. It feels a lot like Foreign Beggars ‘Asylum Speakers’ times again. There were a few years when people weren’t really checking for hip hop in the traditional sense – dubstep took over for a bit – but the next generation is really keen.
I was lucky enough to be at the Mouse Outfit show earlier this month at Village Underground. It was a fantastic turn-out and I’m struggling to remember the last time a fairly new UK Hip-Hop act from out of town can draw such a large crowd seemingly with such ease.. what’s the secret to your success?
I think what we do is pretty accessible to all ages and tastes – you can’t really argue with a big, tight band, so I think there’s something for everyone. Sparkz and I front the band and our styles are very different, and we try and engage with the crowd as much as possible. It’s also a big group of like-minded people doing what we love, and I’d like to think that comes across.
How do you find most people discover your music both as Dr Syntax and with The Mouse Outfit?
Nowadays, of course videos are really important, but also just being prolific with our output and getting about and doing shows as much as possible. I feel like we made a mark on the festival circuit last year and I constantly meet fans who tell me they saw me in some field somewhere, then went and checked my older stuff out. We don’t have a big PR machine so it’s crucial for us to keep the levels high and keep the momentum up.
There’s been some amazing Hip-Hop coming out of Manchester recently. It seems like the place is more organised and unified than London. Have you any comment on that, what is your perspective?
It’s smaller of course, so there’s a community spirit to the scene, and Mancunians are fiercely proud of their own. When I moved here four years ago, there were people honing their skills at open mics, and now they are getting things out that are really slick. Again, it comes down to the younger generation being focused on hip hop again, and the more people there are involved in something, the greater the creativity and friendly competition.
Anyone you think people should check for both and in Manchester and also in general?
Definitely Voodoo Black – they are amazing. And also Ape Cult, Bluntskins, Skittles, TNC… outside of Manchester, people should check out Jman, Split Prophets. I heard some guys from Brighton called Team Dreeb – definitely worth a listen if you like your UK rap.
Could you predict the circumstance you find yourself in now when you were just starting out as a rapper?
Definitely not. I probably didn’t think I’d be rapping in my early thirties, for a start, and as it is, I’m as enthusiastic as I’ve ever been about making music. and probably more productive than I have been in a while.
You seem to have always used a nice balance of humour in your raps, is this intentional or does the humorous commentary just come as you’re writing?
Thanks. I guess it’s my influences shining through – you know, I love Slick Rick, Devin the Dude, that sort of thing. Also, if I was po-faced and super serious, I think it would be ridiculous. I’m not exactly Immortal Technique.
More recently, I’ve heard the term “middle-class rap” used to describe your most recent endeavours. What are your feelings towards that term? Have you any response to those who use this label?
Well, that makes me cringe a bit because you might hear that and think I’m trying to push a certain agenda, when I’m just being myself. On the other hand, I can’t really get a bee in my bonnet. I like knitwear and expensive cheese wheels. And I have a song called ‘Middle Class Problems’. I think you can make hip hop regardless of your background, as long as you are respectful of what came before you, and don’t do something corny and contrived. I don’t make middle class hip hop, I make hip hop and I’m from a middle class background.
You’re sure to be at plenty of festivals this summer. Which ones are you confirmed for and where are they?
Soundwave and Outlook in Croatia, Fusion in Germany, Sunrise, Shambala, Boomtown Fair, Green Man and Nozstock in England. There will be a load more coming in I think – the best place to check for updates is www.drsyntax.eu.
Thank you for your time, any shout outs?
Thanks to Holdin’ Court for showing love and bringing us to Reading! We are really looking forward to it. Also, shout out to Steve Gammon, Peter Canyon and Paul Cannon.
Catch Dr Syntax & Pete Cannon in Reading at The Bowery District (formerly Rewind) on Friday 18th April as part of the Killer Combo Tour. Grab your advance tickets here before they’re all gone!