David Crowe, AKA Larynx, won the Leeds leg of the Vauxhall Tribes regional tour with a stunning performance which brought humour and physicality to the art of beatboxing. He is currently studying Contemporary Dance in Leeds and has also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
I caught up with him after the competition and discussed the events that have brought him to where he is now, his plans for the future and the attitude he thinks is necessary to succeed in the creative arts and in life in general. In conversation, I found him to be intelligent and self-aware with a lot of potential and no fear of speaking his mind… but read on and draw you own conclusions.
For a report on the Leeds competition as a whole, click here.
Hiya mate, great beatbox show we saw there. I know someone mentioned a comparison to Killa Kela… has he been an influence?
Larynx: Yeah absolutely, I’ve played with Killa Kela before actually which was amazing. My friends did this thing in Falmouth and then they wanted – because they’re friends with our band – they were like, whoever we get we want you to warm ’em up. So we were, like, sweet. So it was like the Sratch Perverts and there were like three of them – you don’t come across more than one of them nowadays… so we were going mad… and then three days before, they cancelled. And one of my friends kind of knows Killa and he rang him and said, we’ve got a grand, do you want it for one set? I didn’t actually find out until the day and like, he’s my legend Killa Kela, he’s fucking amazing… and I went down there and was like "I’m going to meet the Scratch Perverts" and they were like "Did nobody tell you… It’s fucking Killa Kela, man…" "No way!". I just went round the corner and he was there and I said "Fuck me, I’ve just seen him on a Rowntree’s Fruit Pastille Advert… What the fuck… Yeah yeah yeah… so we did that set, that was awesome, we warmed up Grandmaster Flash in February. That was sick, it was just like the God of hip-hop has entered and we’re warming him up.
Yeah, so the band I’m with The Anomalies is like a middle-class hip-hop group… they don’t rap about blunts, forties and bitches and they don’t rap about how they’ve had a hard time, ‘cos none of them have. One of the guy’s dads is a multi-millionaire, like he’s a multi-millionaire.
Yeah, I mean they always talk about reality [in] rap so, if your reality is that, as long as you’re repping it and making it entertaining, that’s what you’re after surely?
Larynx: Exactly yeah.. I mean, basically they’re rapping about getting pissed, getting stoned, getting on a minger, waking up in the morning… all the shit that happens. I mean, the fact of the matter is that we didn’t grow up in the ghetto, we don’t carry guns, we just fuck about. They’re great, I really didn’t want to leave the band but I had to come up here in September. They were on the uprise, but it wasn’t really a definite, whereas I know that dance school is what I really want to do. And while I’m training to be a dancer, I can beatbox all I want, you know. I’ve learnt the harmonica, I’m learning the flute which my girlfriend’s lent me… that’s going to sound ace. I’m in the process of making a tube so I can carry it around and just pull it out like a sword.
Like a samurai or something… maybe get your DJ to drop a little Wu-Tang intro or something?
Larynx: Yeah, sick as fuck, and like pan pipes…
Basically, I beatboxed for like four months, didn’t think I was getting that good, was going to quit and then my friend who owns a club said to come on the mic. So I went on the mic and everything I did just blew me away… I didn’t even know that I could do this, it was so amazing. So I did some more stuff on the mic and I just didn’t fucking stop after that. Then it got kind of boring, like I’m not a natural beatboxer. Killa Kela obviously picked it up and after six months, he was the shit, end of. It took me six months to pick up rhythm, I had no rhythm, I had no clarity of beats, anything. It took me six months to get that and that was cool, but when I did, six months later, I was fucking bored. It was like, I’m never going to be Killa Kela, I’m never going to be Rahzel, so I have to integrate something else. I saw one guy do a harmonica beatbox real badly and I’d bought a harmonica the day before for my friend just because he wanted to learn Blues and then I saw it on the internet and I was like "Fuck!". I had it in the car and I couldn’t work out how to do it and then I saw this guy doing it in the internet real badly and I was like "That’s fucking mine!".
So I learnt that in, like, three weeks. I’m also learning the pan pipes, anything I can blow through I want to beatbox with. Fuck! I found you know those little yellow birds that you put water in and you blow and they go tweettweettweettweettweet? My girlfriend sent me one up in the post just to be cute and I put some water in it and I was blowing through it and [makes some noises with his mouth] I couldn’t believe what I’d found. I rang her up and was like, "You’re the best!". But I didn’t find that…
But you’ve got skills…
Larynx: I’ve got some fingers in some pies but they’re nowhere near where they need to be…
But they never will be when they’re starting off. You’re very close to being a sellable, bookable name on your own strength.
Larynx: That’s the thing, I don’t want to do a straight beatbox show, like hired as a beatboxer – I want to integrate all these instruments.
You cheered the breakers, you were enthusiastic about the breakers, you body-popped a little bit yourself… you had almost a stand-up comedy thing going, so you are taking it away from the sort of poker-faced, arms-folded "My-beatboxing-skills-are-super-good" kind of thing…
Larynx: That’s the thing man, I don’t like… a lot of b-boys have got a real bad attitude, like, "Oh, I’m a breaker, I wear baggy clothes, I’m so cool" and they won’t teach other people because they don’t want other people to "bite" their moves. So, fucking, get a life man…
So, while I was having my operation and stuff, I was teaching for Social Services. I was teaching some real fucked-up kids, they’d had a real bad time in their life. Only six of them in a class, yeah, but you try and teach kids who’ve had, like, molesting problems or just beating problems or stealing problems. Three hours, yeah, and four of them were doing stuff like [beatboxes a bass and drum pattern]. I mean, it was bit cloudy but it just blew me away. That took me a year to get that, man. I had nobody to learn off, I had nobody to teach me. I saw one guy on stage and thought "He looks cool, I want to look cool too", therefore I learnt it. So these kids are actually beatboxing. One of them got a gig the other month, I got an e-mail through. Six months ago he’d just come out of Juvie for stealing a car… he’s like thirteen! I mean it was an unpaid gig and all the rest of it but I was just like, fuck me man! Heartwarming, man. It was wicked.
So yeah, the whole beatboxing thing, I want to integrate it into instruments. Just because, 50 Cent and all that shit, really fucks me off. I mean, he’s a fairly untalented man.
Not a very talented rapper at least… a very effective self-promoter.
Larynx: My God, he’s done alright… he made ten million in six months. I mean that kind of stuff it’s like, much respect. But when it comes down to it, for enjoyment, and for as you say keeping it real, it’s not what it’s all about. Whereas J5, they were around a long time ago and they’re so fucking cool. So cool. And they integrate stuff. You know those kid’s toys that make animal noises? Their DJ had one of those on an echo unit and then had a deck strapped around his neck… you know when you see something you’ve never seen before? You’ve seen a black rapper do it, you’ve seen a white rapper do it… you need to see a rapper who’s blind or something…
So, with the instruments, if I can have like a fifteen-minute show, I don’t want to beatbox for fifteen minutes. I mean, Killa Kela started doing like R&B shit… and he can’t really sing and it’s R&B shit.
Whereas if he actually had an R&B singer with him, that’s be better…
Larynx: Yeah, of course. That’s the thing. You just drift into something, so with the beatboxing, the body-popping and obviously the contemporary dance which I’m going to be doing for a few years, I just want a group of people that can do what I do and just make the most jaw-dropping show you’ve ever seen. And I’ve also designed… I don’t like saying this… alright, I’ve got this design of a paintball mask and inside the paintball mask and inside the mask is a fitting that holds a mic perfectly and it’s strapped to my face so I can completely dance and move freely while I’m beatboxing… I can do whatever I want. [With a handheld mic] I’ve got that hand there and it’s stuck so I can’t go anywhere but if it’s free I can do whatever I want. So if I’ve got my company and I’ve got like ten guys who are wearing those masks and it’s like a beatbox orchestra and they’re all dancing… oh my god, the fucking dreams I’ve got mate. I just need this contemporary training…
Can we just pull back for a minute – we were talking before I started recording about where you came from… can we just get where you came from, get the back-story properly recorded.
Larynx: I was born in Birmingham, I was skinny, I was goofy, I was just a bit retarded really. The only thing I had was I was fast, I was a good runner, but I was just dumb as fuck, couldn’t get anything down. Then in my last year, I found out that I was quite good at Maths and I was like, well at least I’ve got something. Then I moved to Herefordshire, to like a really middle-class town, it’s all green, you don’t get anything over 30ft high, everybody knows everybody’s business. Anyway, the school in there is shit-hot and I got in there thinking I was good at Maths and I was like bottom of the class, like retarded man. They put this times-table sheet in front of me, like 1×1, 1×2 and then it goes all the way to ten. Kids were doing this in like seven minutes… my first time took me 24 1/2 minutes. I mean… the other kids were just like "Is he okay?"
From that point, I didn’t really do anything good. I was dealing drugs, taking quite a lot of drugs, skipping school, fighting, stealing… I’m such a cunt. We went on a trip to Belgium and I used to be like, you pay me to do something and I’ll do it. So they were like, here’s three euro, go and run through that massive fountain. This was two degrees for fuck’s sake… I’d fucking do it just like that, just because… I’m entertaining someone, I’m in the middle of something, they’re all laughing. Fuck knows why. Anyway, I nicked a bottle of vodka and got caught. I got suspended from school five times – never expelled. The rule was three suspensions and you’re out, but I got to like five and I was still okay and I got to take my exams and all the rest of it. Then I did a load of acting and wanted to act for ages. At this point I hadn’t even touched beatboxing or dancing, I had no rhythm. I used to dance like someone’s dad. I was just into acting and I went to Performing Arts school to act. Then after a year of that, so I had just turned seventeen, I watched a recording of a performance we did and it was real good performance in my eyes and I did the best that I could and I was just like, fuck me, you are shit…
On the scale of things, you think about how many actors are up-and-coming and how many actors are fucking awesome, I looked at myself and I was like "Man, you’re alright…"
Sure, in acting, like in a lot of fields of performance, like… say you go and work in a bank, you can be very middle-grade and you can progress up and one day you’ll be a bank manager and if you’re lucky make 30-40 grand a year. I mean, if you’re actor or a beatboxer… you had the wow factor on stage but [in creative professions] you have to find the thing where you have that factor. If you’re an actor and you’re okay, you’re never even going to make a living from it.
Larynx: That’s it. I saw this recording and it really depressed me. This had been my dream for four years. I wanted to go to RADA, I wanted to do all this shit and then it was just a wake-up call. Like, I may be one of the top five or ten in my class but… I was living in Herefordshire, that’s another thing. People who are good think they’re amazing until they get out of our tiny little town or city and meet someone who’s actually fucking alright and they’re like suddenly "I’m wank". So if I met somebody in London who was training as an actor, they would have fucking killed me.
So my mate started body-popping and I thought it was sick as fuck and just fell in love with it. So I tried and that’s when I started beatboxing as well and that’s when I started beatboxing as well, just from hearing a guy called A-Plus on TV. So I wanted to do that for sure, started body-popping and just didn’t stop. I got in a dance company called Two-Faced, which me and the guy who was in the final [B-Boy Al AKA Crazy Al] we were in the same company. We’re best mates, he’s a real good lad. We’re halving the cheque… we just said that if we both get to the final, we’ll just halve it, whatever.
So I started dancing, started popping, beatboxing. I started doing some gigs for this band, just started warming them up, nothing serious, and with this company like went to Edinburgh, got Pick Of The Fringe… it was fucking awesome. Then I left because I’d got into this school in Leeds… and then in Edinburgh I just fucked my leg completely, had to come back for an operation. I took a year out, the band hired me, I warmed them up for a year and now I’m back in Leeds, trying to do what I can. And that’s the thing, my name isn’t anywhere, I’m not on the internet, I’m not on UKBeatbox.com, no-one knows my name.
You will be mate, believe me… we’ll definitely be trying to get your name out.
Larynx: Sure, anyway… you’ve got to understand that from the age of like 12, 13, through til about sixteen, I was a complete fuck-up. I was dealing, I was taking ’em. I fucked my family around. It was a really shit time. People have hard times in their life… I made them hard. Some people’s parents die… it’s fucked up. My parents are still together, they always gave me what I wanted, they backed me 100% in every way and I fucked them in the arse for years. And then I started dancing so I quit all the drugs after having some horrible comedowns, like huge depression. And then once I got into the school it was like I had something, like, I’ve fucked up for years but now I have something. Loads of kids I used to hang around with are smackheads now. They’re still using heroin, they’re still stuck in the same place. There parents don’t want them, all that shit. I found dancing and beatboxing, started getting gigs, stopped the drugs, got more gigs, got more gigs, and then… and intelligence came with it. Like I said, I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box at first…
So you found the talent… in terms of what you’re doing now, you’re obviously very on it, you’re very aware…
Larynx: That’s it man… I think that the main reason that people do a lot of drugs is to get out of reality… they don’t like the reality they’re in. I didn’t particularly like my reality, it was fucking boring, but when I was wasted, it was fun. And then as soon as I found getting on a stage.. it was fucking awesome, man.
I just wish that the people who are fucking up, or the kids who are in my position… all you need is passion, I tell you that now. If you find a passion man… you blow everything else off. I blew it all off. I quit weed like that, I quit pills like that… people find that real hard.
A lot of people don’t have that incentive where… if you’re on a comedown and you’re stoned, you know you can’t get up and perform effectively when you need to, it takes the edge off everything… and there’s no need to get fucked all the time when you’re doing something you love. You remove the incentive towards taking drugs and you provide an incentive away from it.
Larynx: Exactly… I’ve got this opportunity to be dancing for like four years or whatever and when I come out of that I’m going to be an incredibly well-trained dancer. With that… I can use it. A lot of the people in the third year of the school that I’m in… the stuff that they’re doing I don’t like. I just want the training. I want to be built like a brick shithouse… if somebody teaches me a style of dance I can just pick it up because I’ve done this training. I can do four years of beatboxing and learning the instruments. When I come out, hopefully I’ll have my finger in so many pies that I can start a chipshop, you know what I mean? That’s what I want.
Cool. You said you’ve done a bit of outreach, sort of social stuff already… are you looking to keep pushing that? If you can identify with people who have fuck all to do except negative stuff, are you going to keep pushing an alternative?
Larynx: Don’t get me wrong, over the last couple of years I’ve grown a conscience and gathered up some morals and through that… when I started beatboxing for the Social Services kids, I tell you straight, the only reason I did it was because they were paying £40 an hour. I mean, I’d teach fucking dragons for £40 an hour.
Ha ha yeah, do they need any DJs?
Larynx: Yeah, I was like fuck yeah I’ll do it every day, I’ll do it twenty-four hours a day. So I did it like once a month. But after a while it was like, I’d do it for a fiver an hour… just seeing… just giving them something. You’ve heard a thousand people say it before… "Oh, it’s so touching…" – but they’re not lying man. When you help somebody… I mean, these kids might still be nicking my car, but at least one out of a hundred of them isn’t going to be. And if I do make it the way I want to, as long as I’m making a comfortable living, I can do whatever I want. And if I’ve got all this income and all these jobs coming in then I can teach these kids. If I’d had a teacher when I first started beatboxing and popping, I’d be a lot better than I am now. At the age of twenty-five, I could be teaching a thirteen-year-old who’s going to piss on me. I’d love to go into a competition when I’m twenty-two and a kid I’ve taught to burn me… I would be so proud.
And like you said before, that’s an attitude you sometimes don’t see with dancers…
Larynx: Yeah, I mean Al, he’s definitely the kind of people that I want to work with and his style is just crazy… but when you go to a battle a lot of the breakdancers are just so up themselves. You know if you’ve met someone and you see them in the street… it’s just polite to say hello, or a nod or something. B-boys… you might have battled them five times, you’ve shook hands, you’ve talked… but they won’t even look at you. It’s just like, have some respect for people… in anything you can do, you’ve got to have respect for people.
I asked my dance teacher’s dad after I got my injury… my whole world had crumbled and it looked like I wasn’t going to dance again. I asked him… "What’s the meaning of life… your meaning of life" and he said "be nice to people and people will be nice to you". That was it for me. If I’m nice to someone who kicks my arse in a battle, or I meet him and I’m nice to him and in six years time he sees me on a panel and he’s auditioning for me, he’s going to remember me for being a nice guy instead of a stuck-up cunt. And sitting here chatting to you… I don’t necessarily know you but you have to give people the time of day.
Absolutely, you can tell if people are just thinking "I’m better than you but I’m willing to allow you the honour of talking to me because I need something from you" or if they’re genuinely willing to talk to you on a level.
Larynx: Like I said, I’ve had shit times in my life which have been my fault. I wasn’t happy, I was only happy when I was fucked. Now I have something which keeps me happy and if I have a bad attitude that’s going to ruin my chances of having a good day. When I wake up, if I feel like shit I just have to spin it round. If you walk past someone who doesn’t like you just for you being a cunt, it’s the worst feeling ever. I’ve had it a thousand times. In my town, everybody knows everybody and when your friend’s parents know you’re dealing drugs and don’t want your friend coming round to your house, that’s a horrible feeling. It’s taken me years to get out of that shtook, and now I’m fucking out and I am staying out.
So there you have it… David Crowe, a young man who already has a lot of life experience behind him and who now has his sights firmly set on what is sure to be a bright future. Watch this space… I’m sure this won’t be the last we’ll hear of him.
- Vauxhall Tribes website