To celebrate the 5th Birthday of OneLion Sound events, on 14th November, we're hosting a big party at The Phoenix, Exeter. Among a whole heap of other talent, we are very pleased to playing host to a live show from big band hip-hop powerhouse, The Mouse Outfit. These guys have been tearing down the scene for a minute now and mostly perform alongside talented Mancunian MC Sparkz and, of course, certified UK legend Dr Syntax.
DS: Dr Syntax / knocking on a bit / Manchester / Rap Singer
OLS: Talk us through your first ever stage show?
DS: I think it was hosting my friend’s drum and bass set when I was about 15 at the Mill arts centre, Banbury. It was a busy room brimming with teenage angst, a good deal of it coming from me. I think it went okay though.
OLS: What kind of student were you at school?
DS: I was pretty good I think. I’d daydream a lot, but I don’t think I was too much of a little shit. Quite introverted really.
OLS: How did you first get into music and when were you first inspired to be involved in making it?
DS: My babysitter when I was about nine brought hip hop tapes round. Stuff like Public Enemy, Ice T etc. It wasn't long after that really. Someone’s definitely got a tape somewhere of me rapping in an American accent before my voice broke.
OLS: How did the name Dr Syntax come about?
DS: It’s originally the name of a 19th century satirical character invented by William Combe. The name struck a chord with me; quite grand and pompous but also very sensible and clinical. Could be a rapper’s name, but also very stuffy and British-sounding.
OLS: Do you recall the first release you featured on?
DS: I think it was my old crew The Menagerie’s album ‘Wild Kingdom’. I was maybe 22 or 23. The producer was Tom Caruana, who I did the ‘A Slice Of Fried Gold’ album with recently. The DJ was Nick Maxwell and the other MC was Elemental (now Professor Elemental). Good times!
DS: This sounds awful, whatever decisions I make! The music bit is the easy bit. I’ll go for John Cooper Clarke ‘Disguise in Love’, Odd Squad ‘Fadanuf Fa Erybody’ and David Axelrod ‘Songs of Experience’. Friends are where it gets tricky. Do I take 2 women? Or 1 man and 1 woman? I don’t know. Someone’s getting killed, aren’t they? Erm, broccoli. Wait, is it one meal, one type of food, like Mexican or Chinese, or one food type, like a particular vegetable? There are just too many variables, this is chaos.
OLS: Okay, you're right, there are too many variables there, and someone would probably get killed. Lets move on to something less murderous. What have been the highlights of your career so far?
DS: Touring with Foreign Beggars years ago was amazing. We were all young and excited and new to it all, and to see it grow and for us to be a big part of that scene in 2004/5 was incredible. I remember we performed at Hip Hop Kemp in Czech Republic to about 15,000 people, which was ridiculous. It was like a CGI crowd.
The rise of Mouse Outfit has been similar, but of course I’m coming at it from a different perspective. I’ve seen hip hop rise and fall and rise again in terms of popularity, which makes it all the more exciting that it’s come back around. It’s also been amazing doing all the festivals we've done - maybe the Hidden Woods stage at Boomtown this year, if I had to pick a highlight. That really felt like, damn, this is a thing now! An actual thing! But then, touring and recording with Pete has been great too. I’m really lucky to have had a second wind, and on two fronts – it’s amazing to be part of a big band show that people buzz off, and also do a classic DJ/MC show where we do what we want and have loads of fun with it.
OLS: What artists did you listen to growing up that you feel have had an influence on your sound?
DS: Slick Rick, Del the Funky Homosapien, all of that classic golden age hip hop.
OLS: Have you ever tried your hand at any of the other elements of hip hop. Graff/Breaking/Deejaying?
DS: Yeah. Rubbish at all of it. I grew up in the countryside so I was mainly influenced by the music as that’s what I had access to – I didn’t know breakdancers or graffiti artists but I could listen to rap albums.
OLS: Where would you like to see The Mouse Outfit as a collective and Yourself, as a solo artist 5 years from now?
DS: I hope that we can build on what we have. I hope we can take the show on the road and see some more of the world, and keep coming with music that’s relevant and interesting. I want to make more albums with Pete, and develop our live show, so it’s more than just an MC/DJ combo but is very different to the Mouse Outfit show. I’d like to push the comedic angle of that show – perhaps it will get more and more ridiculous.
Huge thanks to Dr Syntax for speaking to us - Catch him alongside Sparkz & The Mouse Outfit and oodles more at Exeter Phoenix, 14th November.
TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE