It’s a rare thing for an Astrophysics student to pack up and transform himself into an award-winning, Guinness World Record-breaking beatboxer, producer and live looping technologist. But clearly, it was a good move. Following an incredible year peaking with performances at Glastonbury and in Ibiza, SK Shlomo continues to push boundaries on his return to Brighton this month. Shlomo will be bringing an exclusive performance at The Old Market alongside the release of his compilation album Story So Far and upcoming EP, Brainchild 1.
Having never actually completed a solo studio album before, Shlomo is now heavily focusing on mastering three elements of his creative process. The first, pushing himself as a singer. “I’ve been going into hardcore training mode – like doing the gym with my voice!” Second, his production – Shlomo’s new material is entirely self-produced. Finally, and perhaps the most difficult focus, his songwriting. Following an impressive back catalogue of collaborative work, it has become difficult for him to write music to perform alone. Shlomo admits he’s a little bit scared to be real, to express those things close to his heart to be listened to over and over again. “I’m trying to be a bit less of a perfectionist and a bit more shameless. Just being proud of who I am.”
Travelling the world was one of Shlomo’s primary motivations when he first started making music – and making music was a perfect way of getting to do that. “When I was 18 I was just doing it for fun – just to impress people and get free beer!” At that time every day was a dream come true, but he hadn’t analysed what his other dreams might be. It remained important for Shlomo to connect with the people in the countries he visited, and to create music that could be meaningful all over the world. And he’s keen to repeat that same journey he went on at 18 with his latest project and brand new name: SK Shlomo. By simply adding his initials, SK Shlomo represents a whole new chapter to this artist’s life and career.
This change of name is Shlomo’s first big announcement to his fans and audience to mark a new approach of giving the music more respect and doing something that he considers “really real”. He stresses that it might sound different, but in that lies the reason for the creation of the compilation, Story So Far. His aim? “To celebrate what’s happened already before embarking on this new journey together.”
A great deal of Shlomo’s own journey was inspired by Björk, one of the many artists he has worked with, not to mention some of the biggest names in music (see: Damon Albarn, Martha Wainwright and Basement Jaxx). Shlomo admits when he first met Björk, he didn’t know much about her, or her “mystical goddess” reputation. “I was just like ‘Oh, hi, my name’s Shlo!’, and she was just like that too – she just wanted to focus on the music.” Björk constantly challenged Shlomo, pushing his abilities and making up genres, including a “techno-rumba”. “It really fit with my mindset as a rhythm specialist and someone who loves techno and loves rumba – like, how does she know that?!” Shlomo came away from the experience keen to stray from the easy route and set his own boundary-pushing challenges. “I think it’s really important for any artist to constantly check in with yourself. It’s really lovely to have that freedom, self-respect and self-discipline to keep pushing.”
Back in 2011, Shlomo stormed the competition and won the title of World Looping Champion. As someone always obsessed with technology and music, he became frustrated with the limitations of looping equipment on the market, eager for something exciting and new. Last year, he became the proud creator of Beast – his own customised software-looping machine with a name oozing attitude over its competition. The story of Beast’s evolution and the fresh new music that came along with it inspired a show: #NEWRULES is what came after, “Since Beast was created I’ve started giving the music a little bit more respect. I’ve always been a little bit afraid to do what’s really true to me because it’s easier to do what people expect you to do. So it’s a real solo project. I feel like… what am I hiding from?”
This time around, it’s just Shlomo and Beast. Recording the audience, those sounds are chopped up, manipulated and turned it into music, so the audience become part of the show. Live looping is a tricky business, but Shlomo keeps his cool. “It goes wrong all the time! But that’s what makes it so exciting. If you keep your cool and play along you can use it to go in another direction. You can use it as a creative challenge!”
Totally obsessed with music, rhythm and general showing off from a very early age, it only seemed natural to create Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure For Kids – a show he’ll be performing beforehand. He laughs, “It’s super fun because it’s the grown-ups who love it! The kids love it too, but I think grown-ups don’t expect to enjoy a show that’s aimed at kids.”
The #NEWRULES show, a mix of new and old material, stays constantly exciting because, as Shlomo tells me, it’s different every time. Telling stories and sharing bits of his life with his audience, his true aim is to show his audiences where he’s come from, and where he’s going next. “It’s a big celebration of music. I throw in a few tracks that people will already know and love – tracks I love that other people have made. It should be a little whirlwind entry into my world!”
SK SHLOMO: #NEWRULES and Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure For Kids comes to The Old Market on Fri 17 Feb