Backstage Pass: BeatFox on Beatboxing at 50+ Sofars

Backstage Pass: BeatFox on Beatboxing at 50+ Sofars
Backstage PassApril 15, 2019

Jim (otherwise known as BeatFox) is no stranger to Sofar, having performed at over 50 Sofars in Europe, mostly in his London hometown. He chats with us about the art of beatboxing, some of his favorite moments at Sofar and how he comes up with all those strange and cool noises:

Artists he’s loving at the moment:
Koffee from Jamaica as well as a lot of undiscovered artists on YouTube.

His first Sofar:
My first Sofar as an artist was a bit of a jarring experience. I had just come back from performing  at the Olympics in Brazil with the Beatbox Collective, and the Sofar show couldn’t have been more different. It was hosted in a  gorgeous Masonic Temple hidden in a hotel in Shoreditch. It didn’t help that I was jetlagged and slightly delirious, but it was an amazing experience.

If he could play a Sofar anywhere in the world, it’d be:
There are too many to choose from, but all of the tropical ones. I’m going to Australia in April and wouldn’t mind doing a show there.

Out of over 50 Sofars, the ones that have been the most memorable:
At this point, the venues from the shows stand out more than individual performances. The first show in the Masonic Temple was hard to top, but I’ve had shows in lots of great spaces.

The best shows are the ones where someone in the audience is blown away by the beatboxing. I pick up on the energy of the crowd by connecting eyes with someone in the audience and making a moment for a few seconds.

The Firestone partnership show in Paris was cool because it was my first show in Paris. I had actually Alex who runs Sofar Paris two years earlier at a festival, where he promised he would get me to play in Paris. And it happened! The Give a Home show supporting Amnesty International also stood out because Jessie Ware performed too. I never thought I would see her in such an intimate concert setting.

Why Sofars are perfect for beatboxers:
I like the intimacy and the short sets. They allow me to show my full musical vocabulary and show how versatile I can be in genres. I am not just a hip-hop or rap or house or grime beatboxer. I like that they start shows at a novice level, and ease the expertise up. You don’t want to go full force right away; it’s gradual. It’s nice to show people something they haven’t heard before and talk with them about it after shows.

BeatFox performing at Sofar London

What his beatboxing journey has been:
More than I thought it could have been. I was just a kid making noises on the playground and now to be playing shows around the world is something I can’t comprehend. It’s not what I set out to do, but it’s been really cool.

It started when I was making noises while waiting with my friends for a movie. One of the girls made a big deal, saying I was beatboxing, but I didn’t even know what that was at the time! After the movie, she showed me some videos of other beatboxers and that got me to practicing and realizing I was pretty good. I always felt the need to prove that it wasn’t just a party trick, even though a lot of the time it came up at parties when people found out I could beatbox. I’ve had to prove that it is a form of music, and Sofar has done a great job in backing up beatboxing as art and legitimizing it.

His influences as a beatboxer:
I tried not to listen to other beatboxers as I was developing my sound. I didn’t want to be influenced too much by the sounds they made that I couldn’t make myself. Beatboxers like Ball-Zee of the Beatbox Collective fascinate me. They are people who are great at control, and controlling sound is key. In Brazil with the Collective, we did an hour long show that was full of improv. It was really fun to entertain the crowd with vocal feats such as imitating a ping pong game. Every performance is a challenge and I enjoy challenging and pushing myself, getting more tired and more intense. My longest solo routine was 45 minutes, and I didn’t mind not having breaks because every sound was satisfying. I tend to do hour to hour and fifteen minute shows with London Contemporary Voices. My longest show was in Bulgaria. It was me and another beatboxer, and it lasted for six hours. The energy was so great that every time things would wind down, the audience would revive it, the guitarist would play another note, and we would get right back into it.

How he discovers new sounds:
I discover new things my voice can do constantly. I can’t help it; I make noises all the time. I enjoy challenging myself. When walking with my friends, I try to replicate the sounds of their shoes squeaking. I once spent an hour with one of my flatmates where we made noises at each other and tried to replicate them. My flatmate isn’t a beatboxer himself but he gave it his all.

What’s next for Beatfox:
I’m working on a project called the Noise Boys. There are three beatboxers, three tap dancers and a guitarist. What we do is a call and response with vocals and tap dancing. We have had a few rehearsals, have been in the studio and have done a video. The idea is to create an Edinburgh Fringe style show and do a world tour. I think we would work very well with Sofar. Besides that, I just want to travel as much as possible and play Sofar wherever I can.

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