Samuel Jones, Exeter, June 2019
Matthew (aka B-Boy Splinter) is a breaker from Devon with over 15 years of experience in the breaking scene, constantly travelling, representing, battling and learning at jams all over the world. He is part of the crew Just 4 Funk who have performed at Breakin Convention and Glastonbury and he teaches regularly for the breakdancing society at Exeter University and works with young people not in education, employment or training.
IA: Can you introduce yourself and what you do?
MM: I’m Matthew Macklin and I’m part of a group called Just 4 Funk; we’re based in the South West but the main people are spread out now. There’s a guy called Suga Rush in Okehampton he’s one of the main people I train with, a guy called Sam aka Sheku in Barnstaple - he’s by far the most competitive guy in my crew, there’s a guy called Ryoji near Totnes and he’s about to move to London, a girl called Olivia from Bristol, a guy called Ricoshea from Torquay, a guy called Elvin from Bristol and Bax2Basics, Bugz, Dr Bones and Longlegz. We started this as a crew just for fun, for doing competitions mainly and a few shows. I got more into teaching first of all and then I was mentored by a woman called Gillian from Dance in Devon who helped me with things like funding applications. I started building us up to do more things rather than just a school ringing me up and asking; I did a whole bunch of workshops across the South West for a few years and building up people to teach. Back then Sam was 16 and we had a lot of things to do with him, now he’s amazing. I’ve travelled, been in maybe 30 countries now breaking competitively; I’m not an international level really, but I’ve learned a lot from doing that. Right now funding is pretty tight so we’re not doing that much just training and we’re doing Glastonbury next week. That’s it. We don’t have much on right now, just Glastonbury and teaching our own students...it’s pretty relaxed at the moment. That and doing our other jobs, because we all have other jobs, except for me. I’m the only one who doesn’t have another job so I do all the admin. Sam’s a barber, Suga Rush is a support worker, Olivia is a soft tissue therapist - they all have other jobs. I’m the one that does the funding applications and all that, though we’re not doing a lot of that right now.
IA: I’m interested in the idea of crews, families and alternate kinship; who are the people who you have chosen and who have chosen to be with you?
SM: I think this is an interesting idea. It’s something that is kind of romanticised and idealised...there’s always someone talking about ‘real crews’ and ‘fake crews’ but most crews today didn’t grow up in the Bronx. We didn’t go around robbing people or anything, which some of the crews did or claim to do; a lot of those people aren’t in the same crews that they started in, but they already had a thing of taking from other neighbourhoods. People have a romanticised view of what they were - that’s not taking away from what anyone did, they did amazing things - but that said we’re probably closer to that idea. I mean, we’re not going around stabbing anyone and we didn’t get involved in street crime...we all met at university. We didn’t all go to university...but there’s a long history in the UK of blagging free space at university. So...we all met physically in the geographical space of the university, but we weren’t all students. I’d only been breaking a year when I met the guys, so it wasn’t like there was a huge skill difference. We shared what we all knew with each other...because we only knew 10 things [laughs] and there was different relationships in the crew. Some really tight friendships, some had some fallings out, but nothing too crazy. That first generation of it, was me, Suga Rush, Elvin and later on Bugz.
IA: Where’s Bugz from?
MM: His early life was in London, but now he lives in Dawlish. He’s not competing as much now, but when he was he was the shit. Him and Mouse used to compete together; I think they were undefeated in the UK...they were the people to beat. Bugz joined our crew, he moved back from Exeter to London I guess because he felt it was more a family type group and we became quite good friends. I’ve been to see him in Germany a few times, so yeah so real friendships and obviously as time’s gone on we’ve got younger people in the crew. I’m 33 now and I’m training Ryoji who is 19, and Sam who is 22. When me and Sam started to be close friends, Sam was 16 and I was dunno must have been 27...something like that. That’s a different dynamic to when I met Suga Rush - I must have been 19 he would have been 25 or something. I guess it does change it; I was taking care of Sam at that time, but he’s always been his own person so it wasn’t like difficult. He’s always been a bit of a special guy and we went to Poland and trained out there. We trained with Renegade and he came down to help us a lot in the mid days...in the early days we did it all ourselves and then at some point, probably about 2010 maybe 2011/12 we got pretty good, I’m really thinking of myself at the time, I got pretty good. Other people that were no more talented or hard-working than me were getting better in the scene, not loads of people but a handful of people - the difference is they had sought out mentors. At the beginning you don’t really need one - you just need space and music to practice, but as time goes on you do benefit from having more structure. It was around that time I somehow became friends with Foggy from Battle Cats...he was training a lot with Poe One and Freeze so he hooked me up with those guys and I started seeking out more mentors. I had some funding to bring Renegade down and he actually offered to do it for free but I wouldn’t let him; it’s like five hours, and I was gonna pay myself for it, so I’m gonna pay you. It took a bit of time to sort out but he came down for a period of weeks, and then worked with us every week - that was really valuable to have that continuation...one of his pieces of advice was ‘Travel.’Eat toast if that’s what it takes, save your money, but travel...that’ll make you better at breaking. I must have been 27 at this time - still young enough to think I can improve a lot - Sam had just turned 16/17 and it was an amazing time for him. The first year we paid our own way which was quite difficult, because for Sam he had a paper round or something...
IA: How do you travel on paper round money?
MM: We travelled cheap to Poland and stayed with friends...you can travel pretty cheap as long as you go to the right places. The following year we got some funding and I think we went to 11 countries in one year. It was crazy and it was all because of the support of Arts Council England. We went to Japan at one point and it was totally badass.
IA: For a B-Boy to make a transition into Arts Council England is a rare thing. You mentioned Gillian early on, when did that relationship materialise and the idea that you could access funding to help you do what you’re doing?
MM: In the very early days I was just at uni doing breaking and there was some guys who knew this woman called Jo Tasker who still runs a thing called Value Theatre. It’s for kids who have had tough lives - they don’t really call them pupil referral units any more they’re personalised learning centres they change the name nearly every year for something more ‘politically correct’ - it’s where you go if you got kicked out of school a lot of times. She brought me in and was the first person to have me in to teach kids and she was amazing. At the time she was pregnant with her first kid I think and she was doing back spins; she’s also just really passionate about working with kids and she helped me...I was only 19, 20, 21 and I wasn’t that outgoing and I didn’t think I could work with kids. At the time breaking was trending...not like breaking, breaking but the street dance stuff, Britain’s Got Talent and George Sampson; he won the first one and then all of a sudden these kids would be like ‘miss can we do some street dance’ and it would be a woman in jazz shoes playing britney songs. They were like ‘That’s not what we asked for.’ I started teaching through her, and once one asked me, others would like ring me up. I met Gillian through that and they had some funding and were doing stuff in youth clubs and outdoor stuff - this was a long time ago. Then a couple of years in Gillian just called me in for a meeting and she’s like ‘You should have a class, a regular class.’ I was getting ready to leave uni and this was about 2008, she found me some funding and helped me start the class at Exeter Phoenix...which is still going now. After a while it didn’t need any funding any more, because it just filled up and that was my first thing with her. I’d see her every now and again and she was like ‘You need to evolve it to the next level; you need to apply for more funding to take it to the next level.’ She helped me again because I didn’t even know it was a thing really, it wasn’t something I was aware of. I was just breaking. I think I did Arts Council Exeter first and then she did Arts Council England with me. She put down a letter of support which was super valuable and I got a small grant for seven grand. I think that was the first time we got Renegade down and he did some extra training with my kids. One thing we struggle with Hip Hop here is - which probably everyone struggles with in the UK - is getting free space for kids. You want to get somewhere that kids can actually get to, not some hall out in a village. So, it’s gonna cost you forty quid for two hours. You can’t have that for training. You can take people to your secret informal spaces which is free, but you can’t take a bunch of kids there. We’ve got a bunch of secret spaces around but obviously that’s only suitable for informal training...by then Sam was 15/16 and I could take him, but I’m not about to take a bunch of 8-year olds! You want to give the opportunity for all of the 16-year olds to be exceptional, but you need a balance of formal and informal learning. We only had totally informal. So, she paid for a space for us - I think it was about 20 weeks - which was really valuable, most of our projects have taken a twist on that format. Go around obscure rural areas or do a course in Exeter if they’re close enough. Me and Suga Rush also started a project which we funded out of our own pocket and didn’t get Arts Council funding but got some funding from Starbucks one year. Actually, one of our students, he was a film student, got some funding from Starbucks one year - he was just really on it. We did a few events called Tuff Breaks which is hopefully gonna come back this year. Gillian was really helpful. It was probably four years in a row I got funding from Arts Council England, just building on projects. Gillian retired about four years ago and I could really do with some help with funding now! It was really weird we built up all this stuff, Sam had gone from this really good 16 year-old to someone who could teach breaking - he does it now - but he does so much stuff outside breaking that he needs support with all the administration and everything; that’s what I applied for, but they didn’t give it to us. Which is really annoying because some of the momentum is being lost. Not for Sam individually, he’s doing amazing.
IA: He’s hoovering it up. I was at Vile Style last year.
MM: He’s winning too much stuff to keep track on. Me and Suga Rush...we were all quite lucky how we got together...it’s a good group of people. In the beginning I was the one...I came from a martial arts background and so I learned breaking really quickly, I got the level up really quickly and Suga Rush was a really experienced youth worker, so was used to teaching; when we were teaching at Phoenix I could do some basic windmills and stuff, Suga Rush could barely do that, but his way with people was just amazing and so we just swapped skills immediately. Sam has got this amazing work ethic and is incredibly talented, he is really out going and has a sports background so he learned fast...we was just lucky we had the right person for almost every job really. Then you could learn off of it. That was a lot of luck and a great support network. I remember saying to Steve - that’s Suga Rush - ‘Gillian’s saying I should do this, but I don’t know what to do about financial security’ and he was like ‘You need to take a risk and set up a company.’
IA: Is that the origin of Just 4 Funk, the company?
MM: Yeah, we set up in 2007 I think. Because we were based at the uni but we wanted something a bit distinct from the university society. So me and Bax2Basics Barry got together a crew and we were trying to find a name that wasn’t too serious, because we’d only been breaking two years at that point and we wanted something to distinguish ourselves from the stupid crews but wasn’t so serious that we look stupid if we get smoked in the first dance. Like ‘Dynamic Stars’ or something. So how about ‘Just for Fun’ and he misheard me and said ‘Did you say Just for Funk?' and I was like ‘YES I DID.’ That’s how we called the crew Just 4 Funk. We were very lucky at the time...there was an event in Plymouth called Battle Stations and there was a guy called Kip Thomas running it every month on a Thursday and it was amazing, it had battles and stuff. We went every month and it was great for us because the level wasn’t super high, so we felt like super stars. Winning every time and we got all that positive feedback. It was a really fun event and it wasn’t just a hall. You know some events are just a hall and a DJ, it was in a night club and people who was there wanted to listen to Hip Hop. It wasn’t just men in anoraks that you sometimes get at Hip Hop events...it was normal people. It was a Hip Hop party with breaking in it and we had that for two years. That’s how Just 4 Funk started. We were already using the name in our teaching anyway, it just happened organically. It happened that everyone in the crew was someone you would trust with the brand...we didn’t think of it as a brand anyway it just sort of happened. Some crews have kids smoking weed and shit but we never had anyone who would be like that...so there was never any real distinction between the company and the crew which can cause some problems. When I was going to set the company up I tried to think of another name for ages but couldn’t come up with one.
IA: How is it perceived as a brand, in battles and things locally and nationally?
MM: I think in battles and competitions I don’t think anyone really minds, I don’t think anyone would really know we’re a company. Obviously if you’ve done research ahead of time, but if we went to battle in say Leeds people know me and they know Just 4 Funk...I don’t think it really matters. I think it’s good for us because it’s congruent. You get other crews and the image of their crew is like ‘Bad Ass’ whereas ours is ‘Let’s work with children.’ We’re all pretty normal and just focused on breaking. It’s not an obstacle I’ve had to deal with.
IA: How did you meet Hip Hop?
MM: I guess I first heard it at school...but it wasn’t really Hip Hop culture. I think my earliest memory of Hip Hop was...I think seeing Second to None doing some head spins or something on TV. I remember dad - who still lived with us at the time, so a really long time ago, I must have been seven or something. It might not even have been Second to None but I remember a bald guy doing head spins in the 90s...and so it must have been. I remember my dad saying ‘Well if you do too many head spins that’s what happens to your hair.’ That’s my first memory...I remember messing around and stuff but that...I was an active kid anyway did martial arts and stuff like lots of kids do. I think Wu Tang released a computer game, because they just do everything...they do socks too...I think it was like Streetfighter II but with Wu Tang. I don’t think I played it but I remember talking to people about it and being really confused; I’d heard of Wu Tang and I was like ‘I thought they were Hip Hop.’ I didn’t get the connection between Hip Hop and the martial arts thing. Though what I know now that’s really clever of them. I was doing a lot of martial arts at the time and a bunch of stuff I was obsessed with; I was mostly listening to drum and bass which does have its roots back to Hip Hop but again, I didn’t know it at the time. I was doing tricking...do you know what that is?
IA: What is tricking?
MM: It’s basically doing gymnastics and martial arts but it’s informal; I mean there are probably classes for it now but there wasn’t when I started...it was backyard gymnastics basically. There was a website called ‘trickstutorials.com’ which I don’t think is very active now which had tutorials on; now you could just go on YouTube, but this was before YouTube and this guy had...Gigi Mufti had these slides of how to do it. Sometimes it would take like two hours to download and I got into that when I was 16/17 years old, I used to do it in college. It was really hard to find a gymnastics centre that would let you do that...it was super formal back then. You’d go to a gymnastics centre and they’d be like ‘you have to do five years of forward rolls and handstands’ before they let you do any of that. So some guy I met on tricks tutorials - who is now a rocket scientist, he works at SpaceX - he dropped out of studying English Literature at Winchester which is quite close to where I’m from - my parents are from Southampton. Anyway. I met him as he was about to do astrophysics...I can’t remember when. He’d somehow blagged a space at a gym near London - I won’t say the name of it...they thought he was doing Kung Fu which technically he was but he was just doing tricking so we got in the place with all the foam pits and the bounce equipment that we’d we’ve been fantasising about for ages. We’d been saying ‘What if we buy some old mattresses and stick ‘em in the garden and flip and stuff?’ We used to travel up for two hours every week for this secret training and there was a crew called Children of the Monkey Basket...B-Boy crew who were really good...they’re not going as a crew any more I don’t think; I think Mouse was in that crew back in the day but he didn’t train there. I wasn’t breaking...I was just interested in tricking at the time but they were training and doing windmills and air flares and power moves. So, I had a little go at stuff but I didn’t really get it at that point. I remember seeing people doing breaking and thinking what has that got to do with Hip Hop music? I didn’t really get it at that point...I had a dim awareness that Hip Hop makes you dance. I just saw people do an air flare and thought...that’s a really hard trick. I didn’t really understand...why wouldn’t you just do tricking? It’s easier and more impressive! Then you got people doing a windmill which is way harder and not as impressive; I didn’t get the link between music at all. That’s nothing to do with Monkey Basket because they were training and there was no music...they were being respectful of everyone else. They were sound. I remember Tim helping me with tricks. But I still didn’t get it. I came to uni and I ended up here walking around looking for some societies and I saw this guy doing some breaking; I still couldn’t find a gymnastics place and this was 2005. I thought maybe it would be cool to go and learn some tricks...and they were really friendly guys. A guy called Dan Thomas was running it at the time and there was this guy called Krispy; we went out on a social and then I got it because I saw them breaking to Hip Hop. It was amazing. Suddenly in that moment I was like...that’s why Hip Hop and breaking. From then I wanted to look that good in dance because obviously I didn’t, I was this dorky guy from Southampton. That was when I started looking for footage, because back then there wasn’t that much. The main number one guy was Physicx...you looked at his stuff and thought that isn’t even inspiring because it’s so hard. I didn’t think I couldn’t even get near...I know that’s sacrilege but I remember thinking I can’t. But I made much faster progress than I realised because I did jiu-jitsu for years, so all the ups to downs I could already do. I didn’t have anyone to teach me, but I learned windmills in three months - which doesn’t sound much - but when you’re just figuring it out yourself...swipes was like tricking...so I learned that stuff really fast, but I had to put a lot more work in to make myself look cool when I danced.
IA: You talk about international influences and visiting 11 countries in a year. Can you give us a flavour of those travels?
MM: The year before was when Renegade came down and back then if you met Sam you could tell he was going to be really, really good. I think Renegade’s exact words to me were ‘you’ll see the promised land, but you’ll never walk through it.’ in terms of how far I’d go, but Sam could really do it. He said to me, you could still be really decent but you need to travel now. I wrote to the Arts Council and said...basically I could just about scrape the money together, but it’s one thing to say to people in London, where you can fly for £30, to travel. We’ve got to pay £100 to get to London. It’s ridiculous, the trains were a rip off even back then. I said if they could pay half the travel and the structure of the grant was...some people I’d taught the year before needed mentoring and I wanted to take a number of those to level up and travel. The Arts Council said yes. It wasn’t that much money - you think of the millions they put in to someone doing some quite abstract things - we could do this for a few grand because you can travel really cheap. Most of it was help getting to the airports, because we can pay for the flights...just help us get to the airport. Sam had to come up from Barnstaple and even if I drive us you gotta pay for parking...if the flights are at 6 in the morning, it’s just really long. We mostly went around Europe...I originally applied for the money to go to Europe and so we went to Poland, Germany, Italy a couple of times. Those were all really sick. I think we went to Germany twice and Slovakia for Outbreak. Oh yeah Bounce was coming over to do workshops; I don’t know how I heard about Bounce, he’s got this mysterious secret vibe. I think I went to a workshop with Blanka and I heard he was coming over so I rearranged the funding to bring him down to Exeter; it was a really good workshop with really deep stuff. He has this kind of mind of taking things apart, his whole...I don’t want to spoil his workshop...but he talked about taking things apart putting them back together. I mean with breaking there’s not that much to it but it’s how someone says it to you. I remember a lot of things I’d been learning for years, but when Renegade said it to me in a certain way I got it. The most important thing Renegade taught me was how you sit in the music; everyone thinks they got it but you can tell when there’s something really magical about dancing, you can tell. Kev was the guy who helped me do it. With Bounce what he really helped with was breaking habits of thought, he said a lot of breaking is just stuff we do without thinking about it. He gave me this example of you’ve got this cap here if you take it apart...what’s inside it. If you take it apart on the peak, inside is probably a piece of plastic or cardboard. What if you took it apart, took it out and put something else in? He has this technique called the One Zero Two concept which I won’t go into because that’s his workshop that he teaches...but it’s about how you’ve got patterns that are circular and patterns that are infinity shaped and you can take things out of them. Basic concepts but it’s the way they both explained it. At this point Sam was really starting to get good and I think at this point Mouse had also come down with him; Bounce was like ‘You know why that kid is good? It’s cos he’s isolated. He’s in Barnstaple and he’s disciplined.’ I thought about it after and he’d made good progress because he was just doing it every morning and night. I wrote to Bounce saying could I bring Sam over - because I wanted the secret techniques too - I think it’s Shadow Rock style he teaches. He wrote me a letter of support which was really nice and so we applied to Arts Council England at the time they did an international development funds. It was only a couple of grand, but I applied and we got the grant. I rang up Sam ‘Sam! Sam! We’re going to Japan!’ So we went out there, trained with Bounce, got a bunch of secret techniques and we battled loads in Japan too. The Japanese scene is another level. It’s just so different and they really take the culture really seriously...they’re really hardcore, but really friendly. We went to Japan, came back and after that I worked for three months on another application...then I ran out of money and had to get a job because I can’t write applications because I’ve got to work. I set up another company to try and get money from other funders not just the Arts Council; I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to find ways to not be totally dependant on the them.
IA: I’m interested in the idea of learning, teaching and incremental gains. If you look at an equivalent circus artist, they’re specialising in a particular skill for the rest of their life but after achieving a physical peak it then slowly disappears - they’re trying to keep it but it slowly fades. Does breaking have a similar kind of arc where you build, build, plateau and slow fade?
MM: That’s a really good question and I think it depends on the person. It definitely plateaus. One thing that I learned is that it takes a different method of training to get to each level; a lot of people don’t realise that. When you first start breaking, someone teaches you something or you have a tutorial...well today a lot of people just go on YouTube. You can take some moves and practice them in a mirror or a window for reflection - that’s what we used to do. That’s level one, you get something. Level two is like cyphering, that’s what it is for me. That’s the fun level where you turn up, the music is good and you’re playing with each other; you can stay in that level for...you could just do that forever and have a good time. I saw rapid progress at that time and so I’d put the music on I’d cypher, practice some moves and cypher. I learnt all the songs too...not deliberately, but you learn them because they’re on all the time. You understand the rhythms quite easily; your moves match the rhythm because you made them up to the rhythm, so they’ll fit. For me that’s when I realised I started reaching a plateau and I needed a different thing. Most people don’t get past that level, because that’s the fun level...the part after that isn’t as fun. You’ve got to battle a lot...which some people don’t like because you lose a lot; you’ve got to spend a lot of money travelling to places to lose. Mostly you lose. But to get past that level, that’s when I started seeking mentors...you can’t possibly have got everything right yourself, because it’s a massive echo chamber; with your own crew, you go to the battle and everyone says you’ve done well...there’s no criticism really...unless you seek it out. What do you really think? There’s very few people who will say ‘I think you lost because of this.’ Deep down you know you’re not doing it perfectly and so people get disillusioned with it. Or a more common one is people think they lost for a different reason to what they did. ‘Oh yeah I lost to that guy because he did air flares.’ They think that’s why they lost...no, they lost because they didn’t connect with the music, or they didn’t look like they meant it, or they didn’t have intention, or have conviction in their music. They don’t think like that because they see breaking as a scale of easy to difficult...they see that someone was further towards difficult and that’s why they lost. So you’ve got to seek out a mentor...depending on the person, some people are very structured people and other people have to learn to let go of structure and learn to be more free with it, especially at a high level. It’s easy to freestyle on your first round to get through, but what about the higher level once you’re in the final you’ve gone 10 rounds already...you have to have structure. You have to have a list in your head. People say ‘I freestyle’ but you have to have a set or a mini set in your head, you’ve got to learn new skills to compete and you’ve got to think about things like battle tactics, ammo, and being mentally tougher, so you don’t get thrown off. You only get this by doing loads of battles; whereas if you wanna do shows, you’ve got to develop different skills. Performance skills and placement on stage, things like that. In terms of holding on to it...I think it depends when you started it. I started quite late at 19 and had a martial arts background; I picked it up quite quick and I probably could have got a lot better than I did if I had known about all the different things at the beginning. But because of that, I’ve peaked different things at different times. I think if you start really young, then mentally you’re going to peak everything at the same time. Because you have that knowledge of music, performance, intention and you’re going to athletically peak at the same time. Whereas I look at me, I’m 33, I’m pretty athletic but I probably was faster five years ago, but my understanding has grown. So, although I might have physically peaked my understanding of music and performance is still growing. The scene looks different now...so anyone, if they’ve stayed up to date, can look cooler now than they did 10 years ago if they stayed up to date. It’s kind of a weird one. With that said I’ve had a knee injury for like a year and I have lost some stuff. My flares are really scrappy, I can’t do them right now and I need to re-learn that.
IA: Was that an injury from breaking?
MM: Yeah it just popped. I was doing a pretzel really carefully, warming up and it just popped. I think I tore the meniscus and the ACL was injured. It’s taken a whole year and I couldn’t do footwork during that time which is fundamental. At first I couldn’t keep my leg straight for a windmill, so I had to really cut down...I’ve maintained training through injury but I’ve noticed I’ve lost some stuff. I guess it is trailing off a bit.
IA: That idea of different things peaking at different times...
MM: It’s like Mouse. He’s pushing 40 but his body has been fermented in funk music, it’s in him and he’s beating people who are athletically better than him. The scene is always changing, always creating new opportunities and obviously you do get older...the standard is always going up, so even if you weren’t getting worse...you’d think you were.
IA: You were in the 1% and now...
MM: There’s probably like 80% who can do it. When we went to Japan, we did a battle and Sam went through to the final and I went out in the first round. Though I think the guy who came second was the guy who beat me...so. I remember thinking the level is just...it’s hard for me to compete at this level now. It’s Japan and most people have at least one mental move...which I don’t have.
IA: Mentors are an important thing. If there are three people in your orbit who are important in your life, who are they and why?
MM: I’m very lucky in that I have more than three. Suga Rush is one of my best friends...he’s someone that...it is rare to meet someone you can rely on not flake. It’s a super power. Olivia...she lives in Bristol now and then Barry who I live with from Bax2Basics...although he doesn’t really compete now. Sam...the whole crew really. They’re the three I rely...so if we’re thinking of doing something as a crew I ring up Suga Rush.
IA: For Glasto have you got a show or is it something you’ve put together previously?
MM: Yeah we’ve got a show we put together a few years ago. Making a show is hard. The more people you have...you’ve got to decide if you want to make money...you’ve got to do a show with three people or less...that’s the only way to make money with Hip Hop, if you do a show with beat boxing you can charge the same as band. Venues funds are the same whether you’ve got 10 people of five people in your band, their money doesn’t change; so if you do it with 10 people you get £100 each or if you can do it with two you get £500 each. You can do a one man show...but it’s hard and it’s not suitable for every event. You can’t break for 45 minutes, but you can beatbox, do some singing, have a little break, do some jokes and you’ve done a whole show. With 10 people it can be a lot of fun but it’s quite hard to do. I had this idea a while ago, that instead of having hours and hours of rehearsals - it relies on everyone being dope - you have a structure to tie it together which makes it seem more structured than it is. Suga Rush is an amazing public speaker, he hosts...he hosts Floor Wars in Denmark. So, I thought let’s use that; he can talk and so whole sections are broken up meaning you can do it in one day’s rehearsal for a show. We update it all the time but it’s quite easy...that’s what we’re doing for Glasto. Not all the people are full time B-Boys either...they can’t just take a week off work, if they could that would be amazing...but that’s not us. We all live at least an hour from each other and we all have other jobs. It’s a good show and I’m really proud of it...but if you have to switch someone, it can be done. We have this theatre show which is 45 minutes which we came up with a few years ago and we’ve modified it to be our festival show. Doing a festival show is fun, you can do it with three or 10 people...the basic idea is always there. Obviously, it’s better with more people. If someone rings us up from something, like a car show in Taunton, we can do it and split it between three people and make some money. On the other hand, if it’s something you really want to do like Glastonbury, we can do it with seven people...it’s a really clever idea. It’s the 80/20 rule. If you can make 80% of box office for 20% of work that’s way more effective than trying to create the perfect show. We’ve done work for Breakin’ Convention before, with Jonzi D, that was cool. I think we did our first one in 2009. So...really cool story. The first Breakin’ Convention I went to in was 2007, they had a thing where you could audition to be in it...so we did the one in Plymouth, at the time we were all living in Exeter so it was really easy. I had this amazing secret space which you can’t get any more and we had this amazing show called Know The Hedge. Breakin’ Convention want to see you doing something from your local areas, so it’s all people pretending to be on the London Underground. We’re from Devon so we thought it’s going to have some rural themes...we had a barn dance in it, a giant tractor...and they loved it. They asked us to do it in London the next year. So, in 2011 or 2012 we were on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells! But that show was so much work and if one person had pulled out we would have been so screwed...it wasn’t something you could really do again because if someone booked it and you’d need at least three days rehearsal; so we made a different concept. I’ve done some shows where we’ve had funding and you’ve got a week to make it...but some shows you just want to have something for people who are doing it in the evenings. I’ve got some ideas for shows which I want to ask the Arts Council to support us - shows for schools with anti bullying stuff, where I would get us paid for R&D time. It’s good to have shows that don’t need that R&D time.
IA: The idea of breaking and rurality is totally different to people who in live in London or Bristol...
MM: That’s always been the challenge for us. Suga Rush has always made the effort to come in at least once a week; we all train on our own and we all train together at least once a week...except for Olivia because she lives further away now. We basically all train on our own now but we have that focus once a week for each other. It’s not that different to London if you think about it - you might have to travel at least an hour and half on the tube to get somewhere. People always think if you go to London you can do loads of training...but sometimes you can’t even find a spot to train. In the whole of frickin London. Everyone wants to make money out of their space and we don’t have a culture that’s amenable to breaking in public spaces to train in this country. In Osaka, you can break in the train station and it’s acceptable. People love it, but try doing that at Exeter Central and you’ll get moved on by some jobsworth in two minutes. That’s London. It’s like me driving to Bristol, which is an hour and a half away, which seems insane and I wouldn’t do it regularly. It’s always a challenge for training and everyone good has had to overcome that. That’s part of the hustle. I’ve had people say that to me ‘There’s nowhere to train.’ That’s half the game of Hip Hop, you have to hustle the space; nobody realises because it’s just one guy or girl who hustles the space and then everyone shows up and complains about paying two quid or something. You don’t often realise how lucky you are...if you’re not prepared to make that happen, you’re never gonna get good. At some point you’re gonna outgrow the amount of training there is, unless you’re somewhere there’s already training every day for free, you’re gonna need extra training. But most people won’t do it because it’s a skill that falls outside of what they think breaking is. They go ‘I just wanna train my flares.’ Well actually, you’ve got to get the real world. I think it's important and you have to wanna train on your own. Training on your own for an hour is like training in a group for three hours...if you can make yourself do that for an hour it’s long. I do groups of five and that’s like a week’s training if you were training in a group. 25 flares and 25 windmills, that’s like a month of training in a group where you’re gonna do your flares once or twice. There’s pros and cons because you’ve got to be aware of the performance element. It’s the same thing if you speak to people who rap but who have never performed, they mumble. They might be saying really clever things but they don’t know how to perform at all. It’s the same training in a group with breaking, you’re amazing when you’ve got the right song, the energy is good and you’re feeling amazing. But when you’re in the final of a battle, you don’t like the song, you’re tired, you’re not feeling it and you’re crap because you haven’t had the discipline to put something together even when you're bad. The swing for us right now is we’ve got a good focus for training, but it’s bad for performance...so we’re practising the performance element when we train together at the minute.
IA: What is your strongest memory of dance?
MM: There’s too many man, it’s been my whole life. I guess those three I told you about earlier. When I first saw who I thought was Second to None on TV, when I first met Tim and when I first saw Krispy getting down. My first international battle I went to, the first competition I won...in Bath. It was called Stupid Fresh...that’s not true, the first competition we won as a crew was Seven City in Southampton in 2007 or 2008. The first one I won on my own was Stupid Fresh, that was 2008 or 2009, that was really sick. Going to Japan with Sam was amazing, I’d always wanted to go to Japan, getting the chance to do that with him was sick. There’s been too many memories.
IA: You spoke a bit about the breaking evolution with new moves being invented all the time. Can you talk about your relationship with that because some B-Boys like to evolve and bend things whereas others stay pure...
MM: It’s a tradition of experimentation. Early on I was interested in it and I’d read everything I can; I don’t think anyone posts any more but B-Boy World used to have some really, really smart stuff in it. Stuff Kenny had wrote, interviews and stuff. I remember one thing I read early on ‘Foundation is not a move.’ When I started breaking around 2005 that was when old school training was coming back ‘Lets go back to the roots.’ Everyone was wearing more 70s clothes and it was all about footwork; I remember Kenny saying ‘Foundation is not a move.’ It’s more about a mindset, and an approach. You can have foundation...it was something I didn’t get at the time, I didn’t get it until later when I was training with Renegade. It’s about an approach, not what you do. You can have a kid who hasn’t really got the form down...he can have all the moves but he hasn’t got the feel of it...there’s different ways of looking at it. It can be about connecting to the music...but people get that wrong too, they think it’s about riding beats. It’s deeper than that it’s actually...it’s music, which is our connection to that time period, our spiritual connection to the people who were making it. The human feeling of the time. Even if we can’t relate to it directly - I mean I live in Exeter, I can’t necessarily relate to someone who lived in the 70s, 80s, 90s Bronx...but I can in some ways. That’s the beauty of the music. You can have that connection even if your life is totally different, as long as you’re making moves off that music and as long as you’re honest with it. It’s always going to look a bit like breaking looks because of the musical aesthetic but sometimes you gotta experiment with it and sometimes that experimentation is in the musical form. As long as it’s still connected with the music, it’s still breaking. You could learn all the moves and do it perfectly but still not really be breaking. It’s like Kenny said to me, once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it. He wasn’t talking explicitly about foundation, he was talking more about music, sitting in the rhythm and stuff. That’s really the same thing as what foundation is. You can’t unsee it - is someone doing a movement or are they breaking?
IA: Can you talk about your relationship to the music?
MM: Yeah. I’ve always been really big on that before I got into breaking I was into loads of drum and bass, before that it was trip hop and Bonobo...before Bonobo was cool and every contemporary dancer was using them in a routine. I was getting into funk and stuff when I discovered breaking, and then I got into Hip Hop. I knew some Hip Hop like Wu Tang and quickly realised they were sampling the same things I was hearing in trip hop; then I heard James Brown for the first time. I fucking love James Brown. We have this ongoing joke in my crew how I punished everyone by just putting on James Brown for five years of training. It was always just James Brown. Back then on YouTube you couldn’t just find a B-Boy mix, you had to find it yourself. You’d see a battle and be like ‘What’s that song?’ and you'd have to figure it out, so you’d find an artist...I don’t know Baby Huey and the Babysitters...and then you’d have to find their albums, listen to all their songs, then you’d find the one. Then the same person that uploaded Baby Huey has maybe uploaded something else and you’d have to do it like that. That music is amazing, it’s the best music that’s ever been written in my opinion. Maybe if you’re more qualified to talk about classical music...you can compare them but they’re not the same thing. In terms of pop music - even stuff we don’t think of as being pop like rock or metal it’s all pop in a sense...James Brown is the best. It’s amazing and we’ll never recreate. It was a unique confluence of things at the time, you had all different backgrounds and races of people in New York...not just New York because you had the west coast as well...but with all the technology coming through as well, it was before computers but after electronics. It was this window which you could never recreate now, you can’t go back to before computers. The musical evolution of the time, the culture and the politics. People think funk is really happy which it is, but you’ve got the tension underlying in the music which is never going to be recreated. I don’t really like listening to modern funk bands...I get why they’re doing it, because they like funk, I like funk, but you just can’t recreate it. It’s never the same, it’s more a nostalgia thing. I never really had a problem with training myself to like it, I’m a structured person in some ways but not for dance...I just put the music on and want to start dancing. But you can’t do that, not competitively at least. When I was training with Poe and Freeze they used to talk about marking the music and what Renegade told me later about sitting in the beat really helped me more...even though I thought I was doing that before...it felt like another level, more intense maybe. Not intense, I got more satisfaction from it. I’ve always been good at being on beat and in the rhythms, especially early on people when didn’t really get that - I used to win a lot of stuff just off of actually listening to the music. I think it was because I’d always practiced like that, now that’s a basic expectation and I can’t just win off that. The weird thing now is that you get music produced for breaking; I understand and respect the people doing it because you can’t just have something shown on Red Bull and it’s not good...I think it’s weird when dancers produce music for dancing. It’s just a bit like...it reminds me of kids colouring books where pictures had been drawn for you and you’re just colouring it in. When dancers produce music, it’s a bit like that; they’re already B-Boys and they’re making music. They can’t go back to not being B-Boys and making music. That’s why the stuff from James Brown, you can go back to it time and time again and reinterpret it. My crew laugh at me, but I can hear James Brown now, it’s just as good as when I heard it 15 years ago. Most songs aren’t like that, once you’ve heard it a few times...they’re quite shallow and that’s the trouble with a lot of the modern B-Boy stuff, it’s more a soundtrack than music. I know I’m not the only person who feels that way. It’s a necessary evil, and I hate going to battles when they’re playing stuff like that - it’s not even going to be on TV so play the good stuff! I like getting down to funk breaks, that’s what I like.
IA: Is there anything we haven’t spoken about so far that you want recording or putting down? A memory, event, person...
MM: Almost certainly but I won’t remember it until it’s too late...I’ll let you know, but I can’t think of anything right now.
IA: Have you worked with people not in education, employment or training?
MM: NEETS yeah.
IA: In my mind there could be a relationship between how Hip Hop connected oppressed people(s) and see similarities with them.
MM: I learned a lot about...my first experience teaching breaking was in that...in the pupil referral unit with Jo. I mean, they’re not NEETS because they’re in education but only just; I’ve learned different stuff and the thing with breaking is, it’s not for everyone and it’s really hard. Not everyone will go that far with it - maybe one out of hundred - so you can’t have that expectation. It’s frustrating when you first start and if I’d had someone teach me this when I first started I’d have been amazing. You haven’t failed if you teach 10 kids and none of them go on to be serious breakers, so don’t lower your expectations...but adjust your way of thinking. I remember when I first taught in the school, I was in a room with Jo and they all sat down and wouldn’t do anything; one kid, I taught him a corkscrew or something and while he was doing it he was telling me to fuck myself and was taking the piss. I was like ‘Well that didn’t go very well.’ Afterwards when the kids left the room the teacher was like ‘That was amazing, when can you come back? He talked to you, got off his chair and the girls stayed in the room.’ They were looking at their phone the whole time but they stayed in the room. Jo was like you’ve got to understand that you engaged their attention with something...they stayed in the room and had a positive experience from it. That’s partly because we were friendly and approachable and partly because breaking is amazing. You could probably do it with something else but it’s not going to be as effective - you wouldn’t get the same result with those kids with finger painting or pottery, with other kids you’d get a better result with pottery probably. My class at Exeter Phoenix...I was like ‘We need to set up an advanced class.’ But there’s no point, we don’t have enough advanced kids to fill that and it ends up costing you money. So I’ve changed my approach to that. It’s a fishing net...if it’s a fun and recreational class I throw my net out and every now and then you get one kid and it’s not ‘you’ve got what it takes’ because it’s not true, you can’t tell you’ve got what it takes and it’s very rarely the kids you think it’s gonna be at the beginning. If you look at the kids who were in Bristol at the beginning when Wilkie and that were teaching, where are they now? The ones that are good now are probably the ones you didn’t really think at the time, you can’t really predict it. So now, as they emerge, I teach them for free. For the other kids it’s recreational and it’s fun. The thing about breaking is, if you don’t progress it gets boring...but progression is really hard. You can’t from the beginning be like ‘do these 100 times now’ but some of them are - Sam was like that - but most people aren’t. You need funding if you’re going to do an advanced group because you’ll never get that many which is frustrating. To go back to NEETS it depends, you can find those kids who will connect with it anywhere, but it’s such a rare thing, one in 1000 maybe. If you look at it, we’re providing opportunities, but you can’t guarantee anyone is going to take them; wherever you are, if someone is offering it, it’ll lift you up from wherever you are. It’s the same if you find that kid that is going to be inspired by computer programming...it’s not always gonna be breaking.
IA: There’s maybe 50,000 kids in Exeter and breaking will be the thing for 20 of them.
MM: Exactly. It’s something different, but it’s hard for everyone. I teach at the uni sometimes and they’re scared...they don’t want you to look at them when they’re doing it. It’s hard for them because they’re considered the academic intellectual elite of the country and they won’t do it because they can’t get it straight away. There’s enough watered-down stuff as it is for kids, sometimes the watered down stuff is so tepid and uninspiring but breaking is exciting because it’s hard. That’s why its exciting. It’s a bit of a game like you’ve got to make it as accessible as you can without watering it down otherwise you’re just teaching the same watered down stuff everyone else is teaching. Some watered down finger painting thing that everyone is teaching them. You’ve got to have different expectations for different levels. If you go to a pupil referral unit and you get a few people doing it that’s amazing, it will have a really positive effect on them and they may never do it again. So, funny thing I do jiu-jitsu again now - I did it when I was a kid and then I stopped for 10 years - I started again a few weeks ago and I remember when I walked in again someone was like ‘Hey, it’s the break dancer!’ It was a guy I had taught when he was 12 in some youth club over the river and he remembered me. I probably only taught him for a couple of weeks, but he remembered. I started to get in a spar with a guy and he said ‘This is gonna sound really weird but I think you taught me break dancing when I was in primary school.’ Even if they don’t do it again, it has a positive effect, it opens your eyes...it’s about having different expectations. You can be part of some of the good stuff that happens to that kid and that’s still good because maybe not a lot of good stuff happens to them. I remember the first show we did with Jo. She’s an amazing drama teacher and so she’ll do some drama with them and I’ll do some breaking. The breaking is just to get them hooked to do something that’s cool, but it’s about getting the show ready. Most of the stuff is not that hard...you think it’s not that hard, but actually it’s really hard if you got no confidence to get up and do that stuff. It’s such a massive achievement...and then we deal with stuff like when parents don’t even turn up, it’s quite emotional and some of the teachers get really sad about that. I’ve worked as a teaching assistant as well and sometimes when I’m having a break from breaking I go and do it because they always need people, men especially. The pay’s terrible but I remember working with one of the teachers who said don’t forget if you tell a kid they’re good at something today, that might be the only time they hear it because they don’t get that at home. It’s really powerful, even if they don’t react. You can do that with anything, but if you do that with breaking, if you get a kid to do an Indian step and you don’t fake it and say ‘that’s amazing you’re gonna go and win the world championship.’ but do it in an honest way where you go ‘I respect that you’ve done that, you’ve listened, you’ve tried and you’ve done that. People at Exeter uni are too scared to do that and you’ve just done that.’ They might not hear anything like that; even if they do hear that, they might not believe it because they’ve been conditioned to think they’re a bit shit and they’re worthless. You know, conditioned to not really hear praise. The antidote to that is specific praise - specific, honest and genuine, not just ‘You’re great’. Good teachers are always looking for opportunities to do that. If a kid has been conditioned to think they’re worthless, they’re gonna behave in a way that they think they’re worthless and then it’s really hard to convince them that you mean it. Breaking is a really good way to do that, even if it is really hard, if you can just get a kid to attempt it. I can say that to a kid ‘I’ve taught to a lot of people and a lot of them are too scared to even try and you’ve done it.’ Especially if you get them to do it in front of someone. Even if they’re messing about, being offensive and trying to be cool. You can say ‘Even though you’ve been a complete dick to me today, I respect that you got up and did that.’ They may never do breaking again but that’s the power it has. Everyone wishes they could do it, even if they aren’t going to put the work in to do it! Only a handful of people I’ve taught have gone on to take it really seriously I’d say; Ryoji and Sam - none of them were that naughty - well Sam might have been a bit naughty, but not really that bad.
IA: Can you talk about self-care and mental health in Hip Hop and breaking; it’s not really talked about, and from some of the things you do it seems crucial.
MM: It’s a really interesting question, I think breaking attracts people who are a bit nuts; that’s not the politically correct way of saying it but I remember Ken Swift saying that to me. I went to him after his workshop and he said ‘Back when I was a kid and you did breaking you had to be a bit crazy, that was part of it.’ He said, his first experience of breaking was walking past a shop where James Brown was playing and his friend suddenly jumped, spanner jumped into a split in the middle of the street. He was like ‘What are you doing?!’ He was a bit embarrassed and his friend was a bit crazy, I think the phrase he used was a bit cuckoo. It’s true. Breaking attracts people who are a bit cuckoo, even if they’re not crazy on the surface, you can guarantee that once you get a bit deeper they’re crazy under the surface. It might be true of everyone, or it might be true of everyone in difficult disciplines; most Olympic athletes I read somewhere are considered mentally unhealthy, because you’ve got to be so obsessed, far beyond the point of healthy obsession. It got to the point where most coaches - sorry this is a bit of a tangent - this Russian strength coach saying any coach can make an athlete do more, the hard part is making an athlete do less. That’s why they have a problem with steroids; you could take some steroids and not have bad effects. But that’s not what some athletes do...they take too much and die at 25, but win at 24. The point I’m trying to make is it’s a bit of a skewed sample - if you look at the mental health in B-Boys/B-Girls, they’re already pretty nuts anyway...but breaking is part of their self care. I wouldn’t say that breaking can cause your problems, because your problems are already there, they’ll follow you wherever you go and be reflected back at you. Because breaking has got that echo chamber, it can’t be as humbling as it could be. If you do jiu-jitsu, someone is gonna beat you. You get submitted and you can’t pretend you didn’t lose. With breaking you could go home and be like ‘Oh well the judges are all friends with that guy, it’s corrupt.’ It’s simple. You lost. Go home and train some more. I’m not saying dicks don’t exist, because they do. But you don’t get humbled in breaking. I think if you go in with a healthy attitude - I can think of a few examples in the UK scene where it’s not healthy, you don’t necessarily spiral into depression, but you usually just spiral into this massive ego play - haters. You know that term haters, it’s massively over used; they use haters to describe someone who just doesn’t agree with them. But there’s people whose whole life gets consumed by this bitterness. This doesn’t just happen in breaking, but you can really see it in breaking. I think it’s easy because you don’t get checked that often, there’s always someone to tell you ‘yeah you were robbed’ if that’s what you want, you can always find someone to tell you that you should’ve won and the judge is probably friends with the guy...I think it’s important to stay humble. I don’t think you can say there’s more crazy people in breaking because it makes people crazy; it’s probably made more people less crazy but you can still be so negative that breaking is not enough. There’s a good chance that breaking will reflect positive things back at you. I’ve been really lucky and I’ve met positive people, not only have I had positive energy reflected back at me but people who are good influences. None of them smoked weed really or were heavy drinkers, they didn’t have any bad habits, which was good for me. Even though at 19 you’re an adult, you’re not really. People are always influenced by people around them - especially people under 25. If you go to uni and you’re friends with people who take drugs all the time, then you’ll take drugs. I was quite lucky because I was with quite clean cut people. Steve. What is he? Youth Pastor. He’s totally bananas but for him it has turned into good things. He doesn’t drink or smoke. Olivia doesn’t drink or smoke really and that was really good for me at the time. We just break, break, break, break. That’s not true of everyone though; you could join a crew and find this guy is really cool and then find out he smokes a lot of weed; so you think ‘I should smoke weed too.’ It happens and we shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t happen. I don’t have a problem with people smoking weed - I think it should be legal - even though I don’t smoke it. You should never tell kids you smoke weed. If I’m in a school and they say ‘Sir do you smoke weed?’ I say ‘I don’t mess with that.’ In terms of self-care...breaking is my self care. I enjoy it, so I do it. I remember a tricks tutorial from years ago saying ‘Never make tricking into a chore because if you make it into a chore you’ll never do it.’ So, I’ve never made breaking a chore, but I never take time off - I’d never take a week off, maybe a rest day only. Personally, I meditate as well. I don’t know if that’s self-care exactly, I guess it kinda is, I’ve done that for a long time and that’s really good. I think breaking is interesting because it’s a solid wall you’ve got to push through,
IA: It’s really visible. As you said there are levels, battles and training...
MM: ...and you’ve got to deal with people falling out with you, being dicks to you and trying not to get drawn into it. People love drama and so you’ll likely get rewarded for starting drama. People love it. As much as people talk about ‘Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun’ people want to see people being dicks. They don’t want to see it go too far, they don’t want to see anyone get seriously hurt...but if it all kicks off, they want to see it. But then you end up with people...that’s their whole gig, being a dick. It’s not just bad for them, it’s bad for the scene as well. Breaking is so cathartic...you can do it from nothing. If you’re one of those who has been blessed by meeting it early enough in your life that you can do it...you don’t need loads of money like you would for other sports or if you want to be a ballet dancer; there’s probably some funding for that but there’s not many broke ballet dancers. They probably didn’t come from broke families...you know what...I’m making a big generalisation there, I retract that statement. But yeah, some sports take lots of money. Breaking doesn’t. It’s just space, some music and hunger.
IA: The final question and you almost got onto it there. It’s about class and breaking and your kind of relationship to it.
MM: That’s really interesting because I’m super middle class; I’m not from the streets at all. It’s weird. Breaking is full of people who want to act like they’re more gangster than they actually are. All of Hip Hop is. Think of NWA’s first album, they released a gangsta rap album, but most of the stuff on that album is made up. It’s weird...you’ve got to connect with the feeling of the music which it does and it doesn’t...I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t think class is that important but it’s important to be authentic. You can be authentic without trying to act like you’re ‘Street.’ That said, there’s something fake in middle classness, we have this fake politeness, especially in the UK. We have this fake...what would you call it...self-deprecating humour. It is totally fake and it’s a thing we’ve developed not to put ourselves on the line going ‘I’d probably be rubbish at that.’ That’s fine, it’s a totally effective thing to bond people together. But it’s a tactic to make it look like you’re not taking yourself too seriously. You can’t do that in breaking. It looks shit. You have to put yourself on the line. That’s not fake to do that, it’s not ‘acting street’ it’s stripping away the stuff you’ve learned as a middle class person. That’s a sweeping generalisation...obviously. Some working class people - even the working class/middle class classification is super out of date now, it’s way more complicated than that and it doesn’t really reflect society. But there’s something to it. Some people have had a hard life and that is where you grew up. You can be middle class or upper class and have really struggled in other ways, or you can be really poor but always had a loving supportive family which doesn’t necessarily have a negative effect on you. I think anyone can break, you just have to be authentic and find what that means for you.
IA: So what does that mean for you?
MM: I think it’s that thing I said. Putting yourself on the line and not acting like you don’t care when you do. I remember the last time someone got up in my face after a battle...it’s all fake, all just acting. I remember them saying at some point had Sam bitten someone’s move - he hadn’t. I remember him getting up in my face and I just looked at him like ‘I can’t be bothered to have the argument with you.’ I’ve said my thing, you’ve said your thing. I’m done. That was it. I’m not gonna act like ‘Let’s take this outside.’ There’s people who would but I can’t be arsed because I’m going to see you again in two weeks time...what’s the point. It’s a bit of a knife edge because...I battled this guy a while ago, I won’t say his name and in the battle, he’s shouting quite a lot, he’s aggressive - not abusive but in his words and stuff when he’s breaking. I kind of...it’s a bit fake, but he does it really well. I lost the battle and someone said to me maybe you should be more aggressive like that guy; I have done it before, but it felt fake. I was just like, no, it felt fake for me and I’m not going to do it. Aspects of breaking are aggressive, whole elements of it are this posturing and showing I’m better than you. So, if you do it right, in my opinion if you’re talking, you’re not doing it right. You’re making up for what you can’t do. The whole point of breaking is that is expresses what you can’t do with the voice. If you could express it with the voice it would be rap. It’s like all dance. You have to dance because there’s no other way to express it. It’s like painting, if they could express that in words, they’d just tell you. Why do musicians make music, if you could communicate what you want to communicate in words, you’d write a book. So, in all dance, we can talk about it in words, but you can’t connect with the essence of what it is with words. Put it into the dance. I’m not going to act like a bad man, that’s just stupid. Watch people with really crisp technique and then you get it. You don’t know anything about them, you don’t know if they’ve got a really nice background or a really tough one. It doesn’t matter. What they had to do was strip away and build up their personality...their persona that you’re seeing performed. What have they had to strip away? You’ve got to have an authentic stripping back and an authentic building up for the realness.
Image - credit Danny T