INTERVIEW

Gorilla Funk is here, and it’s public enemy number 1

Photography by Tim Cochrane

Gorilla Funk is here, and it’s public enemy number 1

On first look it was Grace Jones doing Rage Against The Machine. Nope, the dude from Spank Rock fronting Public Enemy. A camped up Chuck D rapping to dirty disco about immigration. A few impressions sprang to mind when we stumbled across Ezra Bang And Hot Machine in April. They – for live they are a they – were supporting Tired Irie at Hoxton Bar And Kitchen, thrusting out heavy synths and socially aware lyrics to their own brand of bastardised hip hop. We were there along with another 20 pairs of eyes, not looking at the venue’s stage but rather in front of our noses to where Ezra Bang was stomping about in the crowd, spitting his lyrics and wearing a Bizzle, jumbo faux gold chain and white Wayfarers. Even if a pool of photographers hadn’t been rib-digging each other for an Ezra closeup we’d have instantly decided to follow the band to their Amersham Arms gig in May. We needed to talk to this lot. Although, essentially, Ezra Bang And Hot Machine is one man.

“I’m an only child so I don’t play well with others,” laughs the New York born singer. “No, I don’t think I ever had the idea that I wanted to do it all on my own, I just couldn’t find people to get on board and do what I wanted to do.”

That was 18 months ago. And while Ezra has now poached and pieced together a live band of like minds, he still composes his “Gorilla Funk” from top to toe himself, drawing on inspiration from heroes that include Mick Jagger, Bobby Brown and the curve ball of Tom Waits (“For a long time he was my biggest influence,” says Ezra “just the way he approached putting records together is amazing”). To us the end result is a hybrid of hip hop, electro and rock. To him it’s “just punk, in that it’s DIY and rough.”

Although Ezra’s new hometown of London has welcomed him into its bosom, being a black New York rapper with a wedge cut has meant that Public Enemy comparisons have continued to follow him. Not that it’s a bad thing, especially as the tone of Ezra’s lyrics more than whiff of Chuck D’s and Flavor Flav’s.

Ezra nods: “I guess recently [my raps have featured] the theme of immigration. Like, obviously with me being an American, living in England, while I’ve not got it nearly as bad as people that come over on a boat and work for two pounds a day, in some ways I can sort of side where that’s coming from. And what the album’s turned into is sort of a story of immigrants and immigrant cultures.”

First you’ll be able to hear a new Ezra Bang And Hot Machine EP later this summer, the direction of which will be more in the trajectory of recent single ‘The Erotic Adventures Of John The Butcher’. Until then, you’ll have to search elsewhere for your dirrrty dancefloor ruts, something that Ezra remains optimistic about: “I think there’s so much stuff that people are releasing independently that’s coming through the pipeline, which in a few years will be picked up. And that’s really exciting. There are always a lot of people making really exciting music and it just takes one act to break down the door. There’s a lot of stuff I like at the moment, like thecocknbullkid and Tic Tac and The Real Heat. I think it’s going to be alright.”

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Originally published in issue 2 (vol. 2) of Loud And Quiet. August 2008

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