Interview: Bellatrix explores her identity
The legendary UK Beatboxing Championships is celebrating its tenth birthday at the Clapham Grand, London on Saturday. It’s the biggest event to date and features over 15 unprecedented live performers including Foreign Beggars, Reeps One, Rodney P and Skitz. Something You Said’s 25ThC caught up with UK female beatboxer extraodinaire Bellatrix in advance of the show:
When and how did you first get into beat boxing?
I was 14 when I came across beatboxing. I was going out with an older guy who was a rapper and in a crew with DukeBox – one of the guys who really pioneered beatboxing in this country. Duke was super patient with me and showed me some beatboxing basics, luring me into a new world I would never leave!
Who has influenced you over the years and who do you respect in the current crop of beat boxers?
I studied jazz (double bass) for four years at the Guildhall School in London, and actually took a lot of inspiration for my beatboxing from drummers. Elvin Jones, Brian Blade and Questlove are a few names that spring to mind. I also learned a great deal from my peers on the oldskool British beatbox scene; MC Zani, Hobbit, Yasson. Right now there’s so much exciting new action, particularly in the international female beatbox community. The new female world beatbox champion Kaila is bringing an exciting new vibe with her.
You were the first professional female beatboxer in the UK and the first woman to take part in the UK Beatboxing championships. How did that make you feel being the first and do you think that you have inspired others to follow your lead?
At the time I was so young that I didn’t quite understand the gravity of what I was doing, or even the complexity of institutionalised sexism. I didn’t want to be recognised for being female and just wanted to get on with it. Nowadays I see how important it is that I give myself the due credit for what I’ve done. Other women beatboxers have told me how I’ve inspired them, and it makes me more proud than anything. But there’s still a long way to go before we reach equality in beatboxing.
You have been crowned the world’s female beatbox champion and the UK champion. What ambitions to you have for the future?
My work so far has generally been as a collaborator in various delicious bands and projects. Whilst I have LOVED every minute of it, I have recently felt an intense desire to peel away from this path and explore my identity as a solo artist. My main focus over the past few months has been writing music, and my ambition now is to start putting out music in spring 2016. You can follow my progress on facebook.com/BellatrixOnline // @Bellatrix_Music // www.Bellatrixmusic.co.uk.
You are performing at the Clapham Grand on 07 November 2015 for the 10th Anniversary of the UK Beatbox Championships. What do you have planned for your solo set and your set with The Beatbox Collective?
Yes! I’m hyped for the beatbox champs and so proud of the crew for nailing such a heavy lineup! In my solo set I will be doing some songs from my new cache of music, using a looper, my voice and synth. With The Beatbox Collective we’ll be going in with the usual world-championship-winning beatbox activity hehe!
Who else on the bill are you looking forward to seeing perform?
I’m properly hyped to see all of the artists on the line-up, but I’m particularly looking forward to seeing my sistren Cate Ferris. We used to be in a band together, and I know she’s been making incredible music since but haven’t seen her perform for a year or so. She really is an outstanding artist.
There is a world renowned judging panel at the championships. What do they look for in reaching their decisions and what makes a beat boxer stand out from the crowd?
Each judge is always different. There are often score sheets with categories such as musicality, creativity, technicality and originality. Because beatboxing is essentially making music, it is impossible to have a right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing a winner. Especially when it reaches a high level, and judges often disagree on the winner and have to vote. This is why battling shouldn’t be a reflection on someone’s ability as a beatboxer and an artist. It’s a very specific game.
How often and for how long do you have to train to keep your voice in peak condition and how do you come up with new sounds/routines?
Well the more you practice, the better you will get. And it never ends! There is always room for improvement. But there is a period as a beginner where you improve very quickly if you do a decent amount of practice every day. It’s helps to be playful and creative, and listening to things is always a good starting point.
In addition to beat boxing you also play the double bass and guitar. How do you combine the two?
Lately I’ve been working on arranging versions of my songs that I can play double bass, beatbox and sing all at the same time. Playing the bass and beatboxing at the same time is actually quite natural for me to do, but adding the songs as well is taking some time! It’s exciting though – it feels amazing.
What advice do you have for aspiring beatboxers?
Work hard. Be a part of the beatbox community. Aspire to be your own beatboxer as opposed to a copy of your favourite beatboxer.
Interview by 25ThC