An unusual hip-hop act, in that he performs his vocals live from behind a drum set, Alex Gough is one of the ever-growing array of international-calibre Irish hip-hop acts.
His output has been light but cutting so far. In most recent single ‘Fool’, for example, he builds the track around an almost tropical rhythm, cutting vocally into the beat as it progresses. ‘Step To Me’ has dancier undertones and a mellow edge.
I talked to Alex to explore his music so far, playing live from behind that drum set, and what he makes of the development in Irish hip-hop in recent years…
2019 was a big year for you. Did it feel like a step up?
2019 was definitely a massive step up. I had been working away on my own music alongside playing in other bands and school etc. 2019 was the year I decided I was going to turn this project into something. I had big plans for creating a live show and bringing a band together. I was fortunate enough to be able to take the live show to some of the biggest shows I’ve ever played like Electric Picnic, my first gig in London and Other Voices, 2019. It was a dream come true.
You’re stuck indoors at the moment, but a big part of your reputation is live. How have you developed your live show, and how anxious are you to get back to it?
The live show has gone from my original brainchild of live jazz-infused hip hop and developed through playing gigs and trying new things in the moment. I’ve always wanted the live show to be a different experience to my recorded music.
I’m lucky to have a band that are both amazing musicians and very close friends that allow me to bring that to life. They do a ridiculously good job at every gig. From the start, I’ve left a lot of the live show up to interpretation, meaning it could really go anywhere at any point and I love that. The root of the song always remains the same though. Losing shows as a result of all this has been tough but it’s for our safety and the safety of the gig-goers. I’d play a gig right now if I could, I can’t wait to get back to playing.
Can you tell me the story behind ‘Fool’?
It was towards the end of last summer when it was made. I had driven to cork for a rehearsal and was staying at my guitarist’s house, the day after I was supposed to drive home, but we started messing around on Ableton on his computer.
We were scrolling through a sample pack and found this Afro-Cuban loop with this really cool trumpet line. I was like “Matt, that one let’s chop it” and within like 30 minutes, the beat was done. I wrote and recorded the first verse and hook while we were listening through and tweaking. The words were pretty nonchalant at the time but came to some sort of meaning as it progressed.