Testament (aka Andy Brooks) is the Guiness World Record holding human beatboxer. He has appeared on BBC TV, MTV, Radio 1 and Radio 3 and he brings his new show Blake Remixed to Unity Theatre on Tue 17 Nov.
Hi Testament, could you tell us a bit about Blake Remixed?
ThIs a show that is about William Blake, Hip-Hop and me.This show explores these two amazing counter-cultural things through the lense of of mixed up life. For me all my favourite Hip-Hop artists’ work is about the problems with society, race, spirituality and the trials being an artist. William Blake did that too, and his voice is so relevant to right now. For me, the link between Blake and British Hip-Hop is really clear.
What are the challenges of performing in such a multimedia show?
I’ve done years of rocking clubs and venues but is my first theatre show. The producers and the director Tom tell me the multi-media element is really different to a usual theatre process. The core team of myself, the legendary DJ Woody and visionary projection artist Dave Lynch had to work in really close collaboration. A lot of the scenes couldn’t happen without the beats and the visuals being done first. In the show I interact live with the music and the projections, so months in advance in different parts of the country we had to film the guest artists who I talk to and rap with.
How has the production changed and grown since the first time you performed it to an audience?
It’s tighter, stronger and we really enjoy it! The great thing about have all the multimedia stuff being controlled live (though vinyl turntables!!!) is that we can be really playful and vibe with the audience.
How did you start beatboxing? (which is amazing, my jaw was dropped when I saw you perform)
I 11 years old, and was just waiting for my mate to get ready to go and play out. He was taking ages, I was humming to myself, and it turned into beatboxing. So I was self-taught for the most part, which was good in that I’ve developed certain sounds which are specific to me. I didn’t take it seriously though. I did it for little interludes when I was touring with my first live band, and then later on I met Shlomo and he encouraged me to focus on it more.
Who are the beatboxers and rappers you admire most?
In terms of beatboxing, Shlomo (who’s one of the filmed characters in the show) is a real innovator. Coming up with new sounds and techniques but also putting beatboxing in new contexts. Ball-Zee is my favourite beatboxer to listen to right now, I’m still trying to figure out some of his techniques! Jehst is one of my favourite rappers, period. Kendrick Lamar is a breath of fresh air right now, which is amazing considering he’s so commercially massive too. De Le Soul were one of the groups that inspired me to get started and I met them last year which was incredible.
What advice would you give for an aspiring performer?
Keep going. If you believe in yourself, keep trying to improve, be open to new things, you’ll get there. It may not be the destination you expected, but you will find a good place.