Doc Brown spoke to us ahead of finishing his new album "Stemma" and playing his first festival in 10 years. We sat down with Doc Brown to see what influences him, what the new album is about and playing music live. Check it out.
British comedian Doc Brown has been a sensation in British culture for over a decade. The wordsmith has gained a huge amount of momentum for his tongue in cheek comedy style, as well as the clever play on words which features heavily during sets. As well as being an award-winning comedian and featuring in Ricky Gervais' "David Brent: Life on The Road", Doc is also a grime MC who made a name for himself in 2003 through the classic art of battling.
Now, Doc Brown is back to his musical roots with a fresh album "Stemma" that takes you on a journey. In order to get a better look at the man behind the album, we spoke to the MC about musical influences, growing up in London and how the album came about. Take a look and have a read as Doc Brown chats to The Idle Man.
How did you get your nickname "Doc Brown"?
I was about 15, a know it all and pretty nerdy too I guess so it was a Back to the Future reference as to how my mates saw me - as a kind of nutty professor. Let's be real, it was essentially a diss but I flipped it!
What were your musical influences when you were growing up and how do you think they’ve impacted the music you make?
All my parent's stuff: Bob Dylan, Hendrix, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, Luther Vandross, Motown, Reggae and Folk, plus all the pop I heard on the radio. I didn’t really get fully into Rap until I was about 14 or 15. But I still listen to all my parents’ music to this day and its influence is profound because I’ve never felt like I represent only one outlook or culture. I guess that’s also part of being mixed race. My musical taste is like my upbringing- eclectic.
Do you think that growing up in London influenced the way that you write your music?
Definitely. I think it has all the swagger, aggression, urgency, progressive thinking and inclusivity that my city has, and my sound is a reflection of the energy I feel which is massively influenced by my environment.
How do you differ your stage performance between music and comedy?
The music is a lot more intense so there is a lot more physical energy and a desire to get the crowd involved. I’m not dripping with sweat at the end of a comedy show. I can keep comedy contained and as quiet as I choose, but my live music has to be raucous and I need every single audience member fully involved!
Do you incorporate the comedy side of your life into your music writing or do you keep them separate?
I keep them separate, but that’s not to say that some of my “serious” music doesn’t contain humour of a kind, just not jokes. Even the darkest dramas have moments of brevity. Life at it’s worst can still find humour and my music is as truthful as I can make it; a reflection of life as I understand it.
Your new album “Stemma” is out, tell us about that process working on music again and are you happy with the reception?
It was a personal passion project, but one that I wanted to have the quality to be able to sit alongside any other artists’ releases, so I worked incredibly hard on it. It’s concise and very focused, twelve songs with distinctly individual character, all delivered from the heart. This project was in part a return to my youth and my roots, whilst simultaneously being a journey into my recent state of mind and outlook on life.
In terms of the reception, it’s been literally 100% positive which makes me very happy. I have a dedicated small but cultish following and I didn’t want to let them down. That was most important to me. Competing in the charts was never a priority.
How was recording the album?
Really fun and creatively intense. In the old days, I used to get ready-made beats sent to me and I’d write to them, go to a studio and record. This time round I had a base wherein I could experiment from scratch with a number of musicians and producers and everything was written and recorded on the day of each session. So it was a totally different approach. I wanted to test myself, but also most importantly I wanted to have a vibe and be able to say, well that was that vibe on that day. Also, I didn’t want to second guess myself or spend months on one song.
I recorded another 12 or 14 songs over the 18 month period of producing the album that I might yet put out as a sort of “lost sessions” project because there are some great tracks there, they just didn’t fit into the overall concept of what Stemma is about: sins of the father, behavioural traits, breaking the chain, being better. Those are the conceptual elements that link all twelve songs on the final album.
You’re playing at Standon Calling, are you looking forward to that?
Literally cannot wait. I haven't played music at a festival since Festival in 2006 so it’s a huge deal for me. I’m just itching to get out there now.
Have you got any other shows or big plans for 2017?
I’m close to agreeing on terms for a UK tour of the album in December, plus a special performance at Camden Roundhouse in the early autumn, playing the album with a full live band.
Finally, who’s one artist that you would love to work with in the future?
Loyle Carner. Probably my favourite rapper out at the minute. I’d love to be on a track with him.
A man of many talents it looks as though 2017 is going to be Doc Brown's year with a busy schedule already mounting. Although he may be more well known as a comedian, it's even better to see him returning to his MC roots and "Stemma" is a testament to that. Not everything has to be funny in a comedian's world and the album shows a different side to the "Proper Tea" rapper we're not used to. Topics like fatherhood and being the best you can, show a heartfelt desire to push his music career back to his grime ways. We couldn't be happier.
Doc Brown is set to play this year’s Standon Calling, returning to Standon Lordship in Hertfordshire between July 27th-30th alongside a packed bill of incredible entertainment. From headliners Grace Jones, Orbital and Clean Bandit to stellar sets from the likes of Slaves, Editors, Laura Mvula, Nothing But Thieves and Kate Tempest. There;s stage takeovers from Sink The Pink and Mike Skinner/Murkage’s Tonga through DJ spins from Idris Elba, Faithless and more - Standon Calling is the definitive festival experience!
Final weekend tickets are available now from £147, so for more details and information head to standon-calling.com