Darren Foreman, the human drum machine better known as Beardyman, is as much a part of the summer festival circuit as chemically induced happiness and mud-streaked wellies. The 32-year-old north London native came to prominence in 2006 with a victory at the UK Beatbox Championship, then repeated this feat in 2007, before retiring to the judging panel so the competition wouldn't become as predictable as Premier League football.
A severe case of self-diagnosed musical ADD has confined his discography to a paltry two releases. This debilitating condition has seen him drift away from beatboxing and into the realms of musical improvisation, emerging as a modern day Django Reinhardt. He's sunk seven years of effort, and around £30,000, into creating the Beardytron 5000 MK II - a live-action, inspiration-capturing device that allows him to warp sound as it happens. It made its debut on tour late last year, and after a barrage of needy emails and foot stomping, he agreed to give us an explanation and demonstration in his north London Beardylair.
So how did you first discover your beatboxing powers?
I found my beatboxing powers in a box in Nuneaton, I'm not even sure whose they were but they're mine now.
Convenient. You must've spent a lot of time perfecting them, does it ever get lonely?
Uh, no, 'cause I've got a cat so it's fine. Ha!
A cat, and, according to your Twitter account, seven children. Does The Sun ever give you grief about that?
My son gives me a lot of grief about it, 'cause three of the children are actually his. So I guess I'm a double grandfather? It's very complicated. They basically had to make up a new form of maths to try and compute how many mothers were involved. It was all to do with snowballing and Gary Glitter, it's awful.
We'll talk more about that off record. So what is the Beardytron 5000?
[In Dr. Evil voice] The Beardytron 5000 MK II is an incredible machine that will destroy all of humanity; errrrhhhh! The Beardytron 5000 is a machine made by Dave Gamble of DMG audio, it has its own wifi protocol controlling three iPad's, which allow me to control a program on my laptop, which is a hosting environment for VST's and a next-level looper, which has a kind of grid of loops that I can freely move around and record into, replace, overdub, multiply, and divide lengths according to the base length of the first loop that I make, which I can do in a variety of different ways - either according to a metronome or a just the first loop itself. It's written in C++ so it has taken about seven years to design, about a year and a half to actually code and test and refine but it itself enables me to make music from the future.
Uhh... ok... thorough. So in what musical genre does this music from the future fit into?
In the future there will be no genres. There'll just be white noise. Everything will have just blended into one awful cacophonous wall of sound.
Are you familiar with "Police Academy" at all?
I am, yes.
Do you style yourself as a rap-game Michael Winslow?
No, because I'm not in the rap game and I don't tend to do that many sound effects anymore, I'm moving away from sound effects and beatboxing more into making music with technology and improvisation. As for the rap game, it's all a bit silly, isn't it? Hip-hop was cool but it's become kind of trope now -- for me, anyway. I respect it as an art form and I love the counterculture element and the conspiratorial element, I love that it's separate from the mainstream and I love anyone with an amazing flow but it's so rare for me to think that. I can't listen to it very long, that's the problem, unless it's A Tribe Called Quest; that I can listen to all day, or anything that Q-Tip does. But if you mean hip-hop culture and beef and rappers trying to outflow each other, I leave that to rappers because they're good at it. I'm more interested in improvisation and making music live.
By your own reckoning, you're a former Miss World, did you ever feel like your responsibilities as Miss World weighed down on you professionally?
Yeah, it was very hard when I was Miss World for that one year. I had to do all these openings and be at the Super Bowl and all that kind of stuff, especially knowing the hate I was getting for having changed the game, as it were. I was faced with riots, picketing outside my house, but I think it's more important that personality is more important, that beauty is on the inside. I mean, it doesn't matter that I had to suck off all the judges.
How exactly do you feel you changed the game, though?
As I say, it was groundbreaking that I won the Miss World competition on my personality alone. That shows women all over the world that it doesn't matter what you look like - even if you look like me - you can be the most beautiful woman in the world. I know that I am the most beautiful woman in the world and that fills me with confidence. Every day I look into the mirror and say: "YOU are the most beautiful woman in the world", and then I just spend hours masturbating, because I'm in love with myself. And I think that's the most important thing, that you find yourself so attractive that you just can't stop masturbating. That's happiness. That's the gift I've given to the world.
That's... the most beautiful thing I've ever heard... what's your favourite sound?
The sound of crying children.
Text by Aleks Eror for Crane.tv