As part of the Small But Hard Records collective, DJ Scotch Egg(DJ Scotch Bonnet), K-The-I??? and Tenshun are no strangers to the more exploratory fringes of Hip Hop and Electronic music. Japanese producer DJ Scotch Egg was renowned for his Chiptune and Gabba experiments, before he went on to release a string of Hip-Hop focused records under his Scotch Bonnet moniker. Los Angeles-based rapper K-The-I??? has featured on labels like Big Dada, Fake Four Inc. and Mush Records, whilst San Diego beatmaker Tenshun has self-released a slew of LPs on his own Skrapez imprint.
Members of Small But Hard (including Walter Gross, Inumikaku, Kthei and Inumikaku) banded together for an exclusive performance at this year’s Berlin Atonal (which we covered in detail), resulting in a smorgasbord of bass heavy Psychedelic, Hip Hop and Punk Experimental sounds. We caught up with some of the crew in Berlin to discuss the German capital’s love of Boom Bap, their favourite video games and Scotch Egg’s Japanese pancake stall…
Scotch Egg, you recently moved to Berlin from Brighton. How have you found the change?
Scotch Egg: It’s a really nice place. There’s a much greater chance of meeting a lot of musicians here than in Brighton. Everyone’s coming to Berlin now. It’s easy to get…umm not sure if I should say this…much easier to get through the border agency!
K-The-I???: A little more lenient.
I’ve been seeing all the ‘migrants welcome’ stickers around here it’s amazing – so different to the UK. You were doing a lot of Breakcore with people like Shitmat back in the UK right?
SE: Yeah I was.
How’s the change with DJ Scotch Bonnet to Hip Hop been?
SE: I always listened to slow beat stuff while I was doing the Gameboy music but I only recently learned how to make it. People change all the time and I really prefer to change it up all the time. It’s more natural that way. I still play my Gameboy stuff but recently, doing Hip Hop has been my highlight – making music with other people.
DJ Scotch Egg
With the Gameboy stuff did you come to that from video games?
SE: Yeah I play Gameboy, Nes and Snes a lot. We downloaded an emulator and play loads of Street Fighter 2.
K-the-I???, you’re really into Street Fighter right?
KI: I’m going for a competition next year at EVO. Be warned, my combos are ready! I keep with Ryu. Zangief sometimes if I just wanna bully somebody, but Ryu is a little classier.
SE: Yeah I play Ryu too.
KI: See it’s classier. I like that.
I always play Chun-Li – but I’m slightly more on the beginner’s spectrum.
KI: That’s a quick ass character. I was dressed as Ryu for the gig at Atonal. I was gonna bring it today but I felt like I should embody myself. I left Ryu at home.
Lets talk about your Hip Hop. How’s things going with Ninja Tune?
KI: It’s beautiful, it’s really good working with them. It’s complex working with them you know, but they’re very easy going. They let you turn in a project and if they agree with it they agree with it. If they’re not into it they’ll definitely tell you they’re not into it. But it’s easy working with them, the label is awesome – no complaints.
What’s the Hip Hop scene like in Berlin?
KI: It’s thriving, they’re much more into like old school Hip Hop out here. It’s not really like that advanced weirdo California shit goes down here. All the old school quintessential is cracking out here. I like it out here, they’re open minded but I can tell the niche is definitely for old school stuff. At least that’s what I’ve noticed.
Talking old school stuff, scratching is about as old school as it gets. How did you get into the scene Tenshun?
Tenshun: I got into it randomly. My older brother was into Hip Hop a whole lot. He’d play a load of mixtapes. I was always fascinated with how they made the sounds and stuff. I really wanted to try doing that stuff so I put on my dad’s turntable, saved up for a mixer and got started from there. I’ve always been into manipulating the sound and all that – I see it as another way of talking.
Scratching is a sort of connection between Hip Hop and Dance music. You guys are quite inspired by Electronic music.
KI: I’m very much in the Electronic music camp. I do beats as well. We’re all full on musicians, there’s not one thing we don’t do but we keep it tight for this project. I leave the beats to Scotch Egg’s hands, I’ll just be a rapper for this one. I love the Los Angeles stuff, Flying Lotus, Daedelus, Low End Theory – that’s pretty much my niche. Also UK stuff…
What UK music excites you guys?
KI: Rustie is dope, Hud Mo is dope. For rappers it’s mostly Grime stuff but as far as the top, Rustie is the dopest.
T: It’s not from the UK but I’ve always been into the old school Boom Bap stuff like P Rock. Electronic-wise you gotta love AFX and all that. I’m still really into a load of Breakcore stuff – all cut up. I love how they program it.
You mentioned Breakcore… you still into that Scotch Egg?
SE: Sure why not?! (laughs)
KI: Great answer…keep it short!
How did Scotch Bonnet come about then?
KI: Shall we be honest? We make everything up as we go along… much more freestyled! (laughs). We all got together as Small But Hard and things kicked off.
Hows the label going then?
SE: It’s great, everyone works really well together…it all happened very naturally. We started Small But Hard three years ago. Everyone was experimenting with their own style and as an artist. The crew is getting bigger naturally – it’s an amazing thing. All the people are very nice and just wanna make music together. We put out tapes – I don’t really see it as a label. Although we put out a lot of stuff it’s much more of a collective.
Why’s it called Small But Hard?
SE: Use your imagination! (Everyone laughs)
We’ve talked a lot about music, but food is just as important. I know you’ve been covertly running a Japanese pancake stall here. How did that happen?
SE: I started last May – it’s really nice people are more open minded about it. I can share something I love with anyone. It’s more open than music as anyone can enjoy food – kids, Grandma, anyone.
T: We both help out as well.
KI: I play the role of the muscle!
You brought your pancakes into your Boiler Room session. I think you’re the only person to have ever brought a frying pan into a Boiler Room before.
SE: I was actually selling its outside so I just thought hell why not!
Featured Image: Camille Blake
Words: William Warren