Orifice Vulgatron, Metropolis, and DJ Nonames, the guys behind Foreign Beggars, aren’t ones to mince words. Like their bass-grime-hip-hop hybrid tunes, they cut right to the point, bouncing off each other’s lines with aplomb in our recent interview with them, which followed on the heels of their recent single for Deadmau5‘s mau5trap label, “Flying to Mars.” With a world tour mounting in September, their Uprising full-length on the way on October 1, and new single “Anywhere” about to land next month, we figured now was a great time to get the lowdown from these London-based chaps.
What were your first musical obsessions?
Orifice Vulgatron: The ’80s: Michael Jackson, Ratt, Gn’R, Motley Crüe, NWA, 2 Live Crew. You can see where this all went in the ’90s.
Metropolis: Any East Coast rap from 1993-1998, really. That was the period I really got obsessed by music. Before rap, I liked stuff, but it didn’t really call to my soul.
DJ Nonames: Run-DMC, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Bobby Brown… forgive me, I was nine.
What you doing before Foreign Beggars?
OV: School ’til I was 16, then business degree at uni in Dubai and a graphics degree at uni in London. I played bass in metal band from 13 to 19. I started rhyming at 16, started throwing D&B parties in Dubai at 17. I continued throwing and playing at D&B raves and open mics and pirates in London from 19 until 21. Then I left uni at 21 to focus on music full time. By the end of 2002, Foreign Beggars was born and “Where Did the Sun Go 12” was released.
M: I was rapping from around the age of 11. I went to uni and met the guys during that period. I joined a group called Slippaz Krew when I was around 19, but after a couple of years I decided I wanted a break, so I moved to South Africa to play basketball for a year or so. When I came back, I made a couple tracks with FB, and the rest is history.
NN: School in Yorkshire, then Kentucky for five years, then Oxford for six years. I’ve been in London for the last 13 years. I first came to study biology at Queen Mary University, where I got really into the whole turntablist/DJ thing. By the time I got my degree, I was doing radio, playing out for Eclectic Breaks, and doing stuff with my first band, Focused Few. I started DJing with OV, Shlohmo, and was introduced to Metropolis (who was at my uni). He laced a few tracks on the first album, which was produced entirely by Dag Nabbit… and we went from there.
Foreign Beggars have changed shape from what it was before 2002. Was there a particular event when you all finally realized that the sound you had developed collectively was going to be the final formula for Foreign Beggars?
OV: Nah, not really. We were into all sorts of music and initially. Dag Nabbit and myself had intended on starting a D&B label. We’d both been making hip-hop since ’96, so our skills in this area were far more developed. By the time ’02 came round, the hip-hop joints we were making were far more interesting and ready to go than the D&B stuff, so we decided that was the first stuff we’d drop. Also, for myself as an MC, hip-hop allowed a lot more space for creativity and skills and was generally a more important feature in the music. I also felt to really come out as an MC you need to be rapping to a level and not just hosting, etc.
There are very few crews with hip-hop/rap at their core that have been embraced and so closely identified with the electronic music community. From dubstep to drum & bass, a huge list of producers and remixers have been linked to you guys. To what would you attribute this acceptance?
OV: I think there are several reasons for this. We’ve always brought elements of D&B, dubstep, grime, and garage into our live sets, and embraced that energy and vibe. Also, just repping UK music from the off, and knowing all those artists while we were all coming up… In my early days I spent about 70% of my time at raves and 30% at the hip-hop shows (granted, there were far less). When it comes to making music, we’ve never really tried to stick in one box, and have always embraced the movements around us. Another reason I think we got more recognition from the electronic scene is because of the strength and vibe of our live shows. We were booked to appear on line-ups that were predominantly D&B, grime, dubstep, breaks, or electro acts.
Often music fans will maintain a strictly hip-hop or electronic music diet. Do think your success with crossing over or mixing these genres is just a sign of the times, or do you feel like Foreign Beggars have a special breed of fan?
OV: Nah, not really. I think the days of the singular-music-minded fan have been outdated and even then, it was only music nazis that were only into one genre of music. I can understand that some people just plainly don’t get rap music, in the same way certain people don’t get electronic loop-based music or rock music in its entirety, but I think it’s naive to assume that people are into one thing and not another. There is a massive crossover and I think if the fusion is done intelligently, progressively, and respectful to the genres in question, it should only demonstrate a natural evolution in the music.
Are there any special procedures or methods you typically follow when writing new music? What is the typical workflow for producing something new?
OV: I guess there aren’t that many variations. Essentially, the music written now is composed of two MCs writing to production and beats. Sometimes we get sent an early form of the beat, which is several loops we use to construct a song on. Sometimes it’s almost a finished track we work on top of; sometimes we get to sit down and write the whole track from scratch. And once there is a semblance of a beat, we write the lyrics. At times, we’re in different countries so we don’t come up with the concept together; one will start the track and write verse and chorus and send it over to the other to write from.
How often are you working on new music? How much do you shelve or throw away?
OV: At the moment, all the time. It’s a little crazy because our touring schedules are so mental and time is so limited we literally are bashing stuff out to deadlines. I’d like to get back to how it was when we wrote our first two albums, where we have the space to work, experiment, and create without the pressure of having to deliver by a certain date. Not everything works either. I think at the moment we’re working with an 85% release rate. For the first few albums, I’d say we’ve actually shelved more than 50-60% of what was created.
Who’s the craziest among you?
OV: Maaah… debatable. We’re all crazy. That’s why we can probably tolerate each other’s madness. One thing we’ve all learned is how to approach situations and all have a no-bullshit attitude towards dealing with issues.
Who’s always late?
Nonames 70%, OV 15%, Metropolis 15%
NN: Bullshit! We’re all late as fuck.
Where’s the best place to eat in London?
OV: There are so many amazing places to eat in London!
M: My mum’s yard, get me?
NN: The Hawksmoor.
Do you ever test material live in a local venue, or do you have a process for feedback?
OV: I wouldn’t say we do local testing; we just gradually incorporate new stuff into the sets, which has meant it’s pretty much evolved bit by bit since we first started.
NN: It’s nice to test new mixes out on different PAs. We normally have a new remix or master or tune from one of our friends we wanna play at soundcheck, and we throw new bits in the show all the time. Obviously, there’s certain tunes we gotta play, though.
You guys just had the “Palm Of My Hand” and “Flying To Mars” singles out on Deadmau5′s label, mau5trap, which will also be the home for your upcoming full-length album. It marks a somewhat different direction for the label, but does it mark a different direction for you guys?
OV: It definitely is a step in a different direction for the label, but one of the main reasons we signed with them for the LP was that they didn’t want to infringe on our creative control and requested we do exactly what we wanted with the record. For us, I’d just say it’s a continuation of our exploration into rhyming over progressive electronic production. We’ve selected all the producers, songs, singles, video directors, design, mix engineer, and even PR companies and strategies, and they’ve supported us all the way.