Vulgatron never lost his hardcore.
It’s been present in his DNA since childhood exposure to bands like Deicide, Napalm Death and Pantera and remained a prominent signature in his style right the way through his tenure as the fieriest founding member of hugely influential UK hip-hop crew Foreign Beggars and, of course, I Am Legion; a brutalist electronic headbutt of a project between Foreign Beggars and Noisia I Am Legion is Vulgraton came into his own as an MC who can command the most uncompromising sonic aesthetics with equal measures of lyrical venom and gymnastics.
Prior to this the ski-mask sporting rapper also spent years as a frontman for death metal bands. In fact hardcore resonates with this MC so much he puts on bands like Meshuggah and Car Bomb just to chill out.
Which is why his new single Deadman should resonate with fans of either hardcore of heavy electronic music. His first solo release since Foreign Beggars announced they’ll be going their separate ways at the end of 2019, Deadman was produced by Mark The Beast and Nitepunk, it comes our way on Never Say Die and it hints at the ‘onslaught of fuckery’ he’s about to drop in the future. Oh, and it bangs. Hard. You might have already seen the video…
Here’s how – and why – it came to be, and the fire we can expect to follow…
A new chapter. Deadman feels like a brutal statement of intent…
I’ve always been drawn to the darker and the heavier side of music. You can tell from the work we’ve done with Noisia, Black Sun Empire and Skrillex collaborations.
And the previous Foreign Beggars records released on Never Say Die…
Foreign Beggars had many sides to it; hip-hop, soulful stuff, the electronic side and the harder side which was an element I’d usually bring to the table. Because the band was constantly moving, there wasn’t always space for that energy to be there. But it’s a side of music I’m really into and I feel I can express myself in. It’s where I came from to begin with. I was in a death metal band for seven years and have been inspired by it from the moment I was first exposed to it as a kid.
How old were you? What bands?
I was 10. Deicide, Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Sepultura. Early 90s. That was very influential for me. That dark mystic release has always had a presence in everything I’ve done since. Whether it’s a live performance or the lyrics, there’s always a prevalence. Dissect the old Foreign Beggars lyrics and there are references of specific death metal albums from the past.
From the age of 10? That’s an acquired taste. I got as far as Machine Head, Pantera, Sepultura but it took years of cheesier metal bands to get there
I heard Napalm Death and Deicide before I even heard Pantera. But that band – and fuck all the racial shit to do with them – meant everything to me and my brothers. They were the centre piece.
You never forget the first time you hear Fucking Hostile
Vulgar Display Of Power. That was the blueprint. Perhaps subliminally that had an influence on the Vulgatron name. I’ve not considered this before.
Interesting. I guess the allure for you is the tension and energy and raw release?
Yes. I was sent to a super Christian school the same month we discovered Deicide. We had to hide these super satanic CDs we were listening to but they gave us the release we needed being in such a strict Christian environment at the time. It was a strange existence.
What a life-changing moment in your life
You learn a lot about yourself during time like that.
So this is you tapping back to your roots and ploughing them into this on a new level?
When I go to a show, I want to get my head blown off. That’s what I’m trying to bring to the table here.
What are your thoughts on the lack of moshing etiquette in electronic music?
It’s there. It’s just not such a tradition but most people get it and understand it. Don’t go putting rose-tinted glasses on about metal though bro; fucked up shit that happens at metal shows. I’ve experienced it first-hand, racism and bigotry and all that shit. But it’s always the minority. Most people understand that it’s about connecting. It’s about releasing aggression without taking it out on other people. If someone falls over you pick them up at the end of the day we’re all a fucking family.
Electronic music is much more than just about moshing properly, though. There is a deep culture of individual expression, raving, releasing and connecting which I think the younger generation of rail riders need to explore and understand more. Raving is a journey. It’s the whole theme park, experience and company as opposed to the rollercoaster of a single track.
Couldn’t agree more. I’ve found the people who make the darkest music are often the most chilled people. They’ve channelled their aggression…
They’re not carrying that daily shit around with them. They crystalize it into an artform. Everything is energy, it’s where you choose to channel that. If you apply it with intelligence and passion and want to share it and channel it positively then you come up with something that touches people.
It’s an outlet isn’t it? Perhaps almost like meditation?
Just listening to it is a release. I can put on the most brutal music on a flight like some Decapitated and falls asleep. That shit calms me.
Deadman doesn’t calm me. It’s aggy as hell. It’s another reminder that there’s so much more potential for exploration in that fusion between hardcore and bass music.
For sure. There was a point when dubstep and grime were right next to each other but dubstep got heavier and heavier and moved away from grime and became less focused on lyricism. We did The Harder They Fall EP in 2011 but I don’t think were many other proper lyricist-based MC records. There’s good hosts and vocalists in the genre but besides Virus Syndicate, no rap group. Dope DoD were doing similar stuff in their field but this harder end from the 140/1150 spectrum there hasn’t been so much of a hardcore influence. I think Never Say Die are in the best place to explore it and bring it back on the agenda. SKiSM’s been around, he understands the nuances of the music. What’s needed. How to deliver it. I just want to bring some underground UK energy back to the fucking cypher.
That’s done best with a proper frontman
I learnt a lot from the I Am Legion era. The whole vibe we put together with the lighting, visuals, styling and outfits. When we stepped onto the stage we turned into something beyond any of us; it wasn’t a Foreign Beggars show, it wasn’t a Noisia show, it was a beast that was bigger than both. That’s the energy I want to bring to the Vulgatron show when I take it on the road.
Sounds like you have pretty clear plans about a live show?
We’re still figuring it out. It’s game time. None of this ‘oh let’s try this and see if it works’. This is it. It wont’ happen until it’s ready. The way I see it, I Am Legion was practice for what I want to do now. When we bring a show, it’s going to be a problem.
Sick. At first I thought Deadman might be firing shots…
Don’t get it twisted bro. It sounds like I might be sending shots for CASisDEAD and Dead Team but I’m not. I think he’s one of the most vital UK artists around right now. So don’t misinterpret that, he’s been an inspiration to me lately.
How did you link with Mark The Beast and Nitepunk. A label connection?
It’s just an extension of the way I live my life. I’m impulsive, I’m not very organised or meticulous, I’m open to what the universe gives me so if I feel a vibe then I’ll jump on it. That’s how you end up making connections. I met Nitepunk on tour in America and had a few days off in New York. He introduced himself to me at a bass party and I ended up having to use his studio last minute to record a final track for the Foreign Beggars album. One of our last ever singles, Standing with Rag N Bone Man.
When I was there, he and Mark played me some of their music including the track that would go on to become Deadman. It was written on purely analogue equipment. It was experiment and not a traditional dubstep tune in that way. It could have been made 20 years ago, it’s warm and it’s rowdy. I took it and we developed it over time then I took it to Tommy SKisM. It’s a departure for the label but they know not everything has to fit the standard DJ structure. It’s an art piece for them. And besides, the remixes fucking bang…
The Krimer one bangs but who else has remixed it?
You’ll have to wait and see
What comes next anyway? I reckon you’ve got a stack of stuff lined up…
This is just the beginning of an onslaught of fuckery. It’s been interesting building up the tracks. The producers I’m working with are a little out of their comfort zone, it’s making them explore. That’s an exciting creative position to be in.
Who else can you tell us about?
I just told you, wait and see. But I will shout out some people involved in this so far. Obviously Nitepunk and Mark The Beast. The video director Tarnish Vision, Mass Dust and just everyone who’s pushing their music forward, not compromising and making connections with people through persistence, dedication and self belief.