We’ve had the privilege of chatting to a few bands and artists beyond the postcodes of Leeds lately. But we’re thrilled to introduce you to Said The Bear, a rapper who resides in Headingley, who knows more than a thing or two about relishing different genres.
Hello there, how are you doing?
Hello, I am good — really good in fact. Just waiting for normality to resume.
How have you found these unsettling times?
To be honest, I lost my job a matter of days before lockdown, so I was already in good practice when everything turned upside down. I have really enjoyed having time focus on myself both creatively and mentally. I’ve never been so productive in my life, and I’ve made some huge lifestyle changes that I want to carry forward into everyday life once we’re past this palaver. But yes, overall, I’ve had a pretty good time.
That’s really great to hear! To bring everybody up to speed, tell us about Said The Bear. How did you come to start making music?
Since I was young, I have always been exposed to music. My dad was a folk singer, though only in his spare time, and my then brother-in-law played guitar and sang in bands in the ’90s, so I always idolised him.
When I was about 11, I started playing bits on guitar, but I never really pursued that and, still to this day, I can only play a handful of chords. When I was 15 or 16, I was in a post hardcore/metal-inspired band in which I sang or screamed and played the synth. We were shit but this is when I started enjoying song-writing and realised that this was something I wanted to do. And not actually being much of a singer, rapping was a good way to convey my lyrics — especially with a lot of them being on the poetic side of the scale.
You mentioned that you hail from Leeds — have you always lived in LS9?
I am actually pretty new Leeds, though I have been putting on a drum and bass night here for the last four years and used to spend most weekends crashing on my mate’s sofa in Headingley. I’m a Welsh boy, brought up in the North Yorkshire Moors that came to Leeds via Manchester, so quite an array of different places.
I was about 15 when hip-hop became a constant genre in my life. When did you get into it?
Even to this day I listen to so much different music. Obviously I love hip-hop but I can’t claim it’s at the forefront of every playlist. I was brought up on The Beach Boys, Kirsty MacColl, The Watersons and Kraftwerk, to name a few, but also influenced by anything my sisters were listening to as they grew up in the ’90s. So that meant bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Gomez and Supergrass.
However, I remember my sister’s boyfriend giving me a copy of the Cypress Hill album ‘Stoned Raiders’ when I was about 11 and I used to always borrow Outkast’s album ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’ from my sister’s bedroom when she was out.
To be honest, it wasn’t until I was about 16 that I started to appreciate the intricacies of the genre and I’m still learning more about it and appreciating different elements of it. I am a true of advocate of “if a song slaps, it slaps regardless of genre”.
Can’t argue with that at all! Now, the Coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of anguish and posed many challenges this year. It’s had a particularly huge impact on musicians. Have you had to cancel gigs?
To be honest, no, I’m new to the gigging circuit. I’ve been building up to it since my interest in music was conceived. I had promised myself that 2020 was going to be my year for progression. I feel like I have had so much going on in my life for the past five years that being the one on stage was never the priority, hence why I decided to organise events instead. However, as I said, 2020 was meant to be my year! But then again, it was meant to be everyone’s, wasn’t it?
If only… Has this been a time to write and produce more material?
Bluntly, yes. I have never been so inspired or productive. I must’ve written and recorded almost an album’s worth of material and then lots of other scribbles are in my notepad or in my phone. I’ve been flexing so hard on that.
As a rapper, are you open to collaborating with other artists? Everyone somehow knows a friend of someone’s friend in the Leeds area — do you link up with rappers or songwriters locally?
So, at the moment, there’s a collab with a band called Hunter Gatherer in the works; it’s all recorded and is currently with a producer to stick it all together and make it sound good. Every track I write somewhat feels like a collaboration; when you’re working with a producer, you bounce ideas back and forth. I’m really lucky as pretty much all my mates are producers or creatives in some shape or form, so working on collaborations with them is sick. I would happily collaborate with whoever, as long as they’re open-minded and not rigid with the sound they want to play with! It’s fun to experiment with different genres and so on.
Without revealing all the plans you have up your sleeve, can you divulge anything about upcoming new releases or gigs later in the year?
So, I have released two songs during lockdown: ‘Easy Life’ and ‘Better Me’. I’m edging towards releasing my next single, ‘1993’, which is about where I grew up and the stupid shit we used to get up to. There’s a music video to go along with that.
There may be another EP in the works and a few more tracks to be heard, but we will have to wait and see. I have my debut London show coming up in on 18th September at The Rocksteady in Dalston. And hopefully once this situation is all done and dusted, there’ll be more gigs in the making.