When we stumbled across Gypsy Unit a few months back (here’s to you Soundcloud) we knew we were onto a serious winner. Tearing up a genre busting maelstrom of fiddle laced urban mayhem, their supremely infectious choruses, rattling grooves and frenetic energy had us straight down the fortune teller in a balaclava. Already notorious as part of Dodge and Fuski, dubstep filth merchants whose forays into Grannystep had pensioners nationwide clutching their colostomy bags in terror, Dodge has crewed up with Bobylon, Kerry and Benjie – the seditious Stradivarius defiler to unleash the blistering sonic armory officially known to anyone who will listen as Gyp Hop. Stripping the glittering dirt out of dubstep, welding it firmly to a hip hop flavour, and mugging the Gypsy Kings in a back alley, they’ve channeled it all into an impossibly fat and funky dancefloor pumping, neighbors thumping, bail jumping free flow assault. And in the few short months between issues, that fortune teller came good and their first release ‘Stop’ is now imminent, they’re picking up Radio 1 support from Rob da Bank and will be storming our favorite stage, Arcadia at this years Glastonbury…. We had a word
Can you tell us a little about yourselves individually and your creative backgrounds
Gypsy Unit: Dodge is from Mid-Wales, and has been making music of varying quality for around 7 years. He also makes dubstep as part of Dodge & Fuski, and used to produce another hiphop crew called The Anomalies. Regarding Gypsy Unit he’s in charge of production and trying to rap. Bobylon has been going to festivals since he was a twitch in his dad’s nutsack, raps in his sleep and makes beans on toast to a very high standard. Kerry is Bobby’s long-suffering girlfriend, also from a musically diverse background and is a festival child at heart – she heads up singing duties. Benjie is Dodge’s brother (notice a pattern here?) who plays most instruments whether they exist or not. He also sings with Kerry and is in charge of looking after the band’s sandwiches.
How did you come together as a band and what was the spark behind Gypsy Unit
Gypsy Unit: It was a slow process – Dodge & Bobylon started making hiphop under different names beforehand and it was only when Benjie came along one day with a violin he had left in his car that things really got moving. It was fundamentally caused from a spark caused due to the anticipation of summer, everything was very ‘in the moment’.
Dodge/Bobylon: It sounded like a fucking cliché. It was all ‘women this’ and ‘trying to keep everything together’ bollocks about Britain being grey and miserable over the sound of a piano loop, and let’s face it, people don’t want reality when they go out on a Friday. What the want is pop music disguised to the point they don’t realise its pop music any more.
Where did the violin come in and did someone’s parents insistence on music lessons finally come good
Gypsy Unit: The violin is fundamentally what created Gypsy Unit. Regarding the maternal pressure, in a word, yes.
How aware were you of the currents in Balkan and electro swing as you were distilling your sound
Dodge: Haven’t got a clue man, I only listen to Lady Gaga.
Bobylon: Obviously we were aware of the electro swing movement, people like Dunkelbunt and Caravan Palace were big influences on our sound, but we thought we’d try and bring a more urban, bass-heavy sound to it.
Dodge: Yeah, while making sure all the choruses were catchy and the tunes had a commercial, sing-along-able structure to them but still danceable.
Dodge: In all honesty, the ones without violins come about when Benjie isn’t here and I have to improvise with a synth or some bollocks I’ve sampled off youtube.
How much is the underlying track collaborative and how much does Dodge turn up with a finished groove to start firing vocal ideas over
Gypsy Unit: It’s generally a collaboration between Dodge & Benjie, however we try to make sure everybody is present during sessions to chip in ideas.
How do the lyrics flow – is it as a crew or individually
Gypsy Unit: Regarding rapping, Dodge & Bobylon generally write their verses on their own most of the time (when they’re not plagiarising PJ and Duncan), and it tends to be fairly on the spot. Choruses tend to be an ideas firing session where everybody puts in their thoughts and then Benjie and Kerry refine them into the finished thing. Ultimately the chorus is what glues the track together and gives it its identity so it’s by far the most important factor along with the beat.
Why do you think that after so many years of splintered tribalism in dance music genres that there is this explosion of crossover at the moment
Gypsy Unit: Who knows, maybe people are waking up to the idea that minimal techno is shit. And that psy-trance is NOT ART.
Dodge: Bobby is good at gimmicky one-liners (ask his ex-girlfriends).
With the realities of the business in such flux and with virtually no money in sales – how are you approaching breaking through
Bobylon: In the words of Dizzee Rascal: ‘Book me, watch me, hear me, pay me’
Long term – how do you feel that the current assumption that music is free is going to impact the fostering of fresh talent
Bobylon: You can still make money, you just have to have Dodge,
How has the label response been so far and is it more challenging for a band to start scoring gigs on talent alone than a lone producer
Dodge: To be honest I haven’t even bothered sending out demos. I’m still trying to work out the best approach to take with Gypsy Unit and I’m not sure that selling music necessarily has to be a key part of it. Obviously if Sony approached me with a suitcase of money I wouldn’t tell them to fuck off but I think due to the fact the industry is changing so much at the moment it’s not going to be the deciding factor. I mean, with dubstep, myself and Fuski sell tunes and that’s how you get your name out there to begin with but it’s not how the money is made. In any kind of non-daytime radio music these days it seems that gigs are the way to do it, and everything else revolves around that – whether we try and sell through a label, through iTunes or just leave it streaming for free on our site.
Gypsy Unit: Brynland Avenue was our spiritual home. We felt totally at ease with the environment and it was the obvious catalyst for making this kind of music. Our neighbours felt otherwise. Twats.
How critical is a fat wink and a sense of humour to your music
Gypsy Unit: Not every tune is a joke but you’ve got to have a laugh. Taking yourself too seriously is one of hiphop’s worst cliches. You get me.
Was it a conscious decision to make some tunes at house tempo to open up DJ possibilities beyond hip hop and dubstep sets
Gypsy Unit: Not really, I mean we’ve never even tried doing a DJ set. We just found that you get a lot more audience participation in clubs when they can dance. Who in their right mind would want to go to a club, get pissed as fuck then just stand listening to somebody’s monologue because the beats too slow to be danceable? We all love hiphop but some of it should be left to listening to when you’re chilling out at home or need to listen to something consoling.
How much scope for improvisation do you make room for live
Dodge: Bobby likes to switch up some of the words in his verses sometimes on the fly to add an element of unpredictability. I’m still not sure if it’s deliberate.
Bobylon: The main improvisation comes with the singers, like harmonies on the fly and backing up me and Dodge in our verses with an assortment of ‘oooooooohh’ type noises.
Bobylon: I feel it’s split into the very commercial hip-pop stuff you hear on the radio, and the more talented people who have stayed underground like Taskforce and Contact Play. I feel there’s a gap in the market for people who have a level of integrity while being able to balance this with what sells, and fundamentally what people actually want to go out and listen/dance to.
Dodge: Yeah it’s all about giving people what they deep down actually want while making them think it’s what they should be into, and keeping it credible. I mean loads of people think they don’t like commercial music and think it’s like made by robots in music factories or some shit, but whack the name Rusko on the cover and everyone suddenly likes it because they think it’s cool. There’s a moral in there somewhere I think, but I’m not sure what it is.
Does the internet give up and coming acts a voice that they would never have had or is there a sense of getting lost in the vast quantities of music out there as everyone and their gran jumps on Soundcloud
Dodge: Definitely, with the right marketing. I mean you’re right it’s catch-22 but if you’ve got a memorable name, set up your website/soundcloud etc so google finds them properly and fundamentally have a product that’s different enough that people like, it’ll spread virally on it’s own accord. As of now we have done absolutely no advertising/promo or anything other than make sure we set stuff up in our favour to allow it to spread. All I’ve ever done is post the early tracks we were making onto my Facebook status. Also my gran IS on soundcloud – check out Dodge & Fuski – Grannystep Ft. Dodge’s Nan. No, that’s not a joke.
Dodge: Alcohol. Lots of it. Being professional makes for boring music.
Bobylon: We all have our vices, the key is trying to use them creatively.
What have you got planned for 2011
Gypsy Unit: Gigs are by far and away the main focus – especially festivals. We’ve got lots of stuff already coming in but if anyone reading this runs events (UK or otherwise) or knows anyone who does, no matter how tenuous – send em to the site below
Long term – what is the dream for you
Gypsy Unit: Our own brand of condoms. Being thrown at us. Used. While we’re headlining Glastonbury.