We chat to Abandoman about rappers, difficult audiences and amazing boomboxes!
“Do ya’ like the ryhmes? Do ya’ like the craic? C’mon in, have a cup of tea and a bit of hip-hop!”
– Abandoman, 2014
Fringe legends Abandoman are bringing their mind-blowing, interactive, hip-hop, improv comedy show ‘Moonrock Boombox’ to Brighton’s Komedia on the 10th June. We recently spoke to the very funny Rob Broderick A.K.A Abandoman to talk rappers, difficult audiences and amazing boomboxes!
How did you get into Hip-Hop? And how did that evolve into comedy hip-hop? I know you used to do stand-up.
Hip-Hop was my favourite thing as a kid when I was 13-14, at the time the radio was full of things like Seal and Prince and I had no interest in them, I couldn’t relate to them lyrically. I heard rap for the first time in 93-94, lots of gangster rap, I think I initially liked it because they were great storytellers. Snoop Dogg’s first album was jammed with stories, Ice Cube and Yo-Yo even have a debate on one of his records. It just moved so fast. One of the older lads in the area had a tape and I heard it for the first time and I was it was the greatest thing! I still remember the euphoria! So I was hugely into rap for years and when I moved to England and started doing stand-up and then I met this rapper ended up doing a hip-hop, theatre workshop which involved free styling which was really good fun. I realised it was what I wanted to do. A couple of months later we went to Brighton Fringe Festival and I was doing stand up where I chatted to the crowd and then i’d turn things into ridiculously long songs where there was no structure. Songs could be 20 minutes long! The beat never changed, I was solo so I just put on one little guitar loop and this wouldn’t change for the whole 20 minutes! I’d only have time to do 3 within a show! So gradually that became the show and then I met James who played guitar and then that evolved into the Abandoman show. That month in Brighton was almost like my training and I came away thinking ‘Cool, that’s the show!’ now I just have to convince people that an Irish, freestyle rapper isn’t as shit as it sounds!
So you got into rap when you were quite young, was it a big genre in Ireland at the time?
No! Amongst my friends, I was the only one who liked rap. There wasn’t another guy I could turn to and be like ‘Now what do you think of Notorius B.I.G?’ and because there was no-one to discuss it with I was left to try and decipher the lyrics on my own. Prior to the internet and prior to hip-hop being so mainstream slang was really difficult to understand and I remember, when I was 13, hearing the term ‘Home-Boy’ for the first time and going to a mate of mine and asking if he knew what it was. Because he was an older kid and didn’t want to look stupid he told be it was the person who at the time is closest to his home! I had no idea about the slang! Recently I got the book ‘Decoded’ by Jay Z, because I was really into him at 17 and I thought I pretty much understood the slang in his songs but then I read the book and it turned out some of the lyrics were really coded slang for how to deal drugs! It was like when you read poetry and you think, ‘yeah I get this’ and then you read something about it and realise you really didn’t. I think that period also helped me to eventually freestyle though because I was always playing catch-up, I was rapping along to songs trying to keep up so by the time I reached 18 I realised I could freestyle quite well.
On your website it says you are ‘Ireland’s top comedy, hip-hop, improv team’ are there any others?
No! I’ve got to speak to my website people…which is basically me! In terms of the full phrase ‘Irish, Hip-hop, Improv, Comedy Group’ …if there’s a few others out there then they’ve been very low key. We’re the top of 1, which means we’re also technically the worst! We’ve created a genre so niche that only we fit into it. There are other Irish Rappers though.
How do audiences react to your unique brand of comedy?
It depends. One of my favourite things in the early days was when we came back home to Ireland and we’d do gigs and there was a really fun vibe because people just didn’t know what to expect. Recently we did a tiny little gig to warm up for a London based act and I was chatting with everybody finding out what they did and they were all clammed up , no-one wanted to speak, no-one really knew what we were and everyone was like ‘No don’t speak to the man, he’ll take the piss!’ But as soon as we got into the first song they were all really into it and clamouring to be asked! That’s a really fun thing for us to watch. We’re not there to take the piss, just to tease, we like to build the audience up. I think that comes from when I watched Dara O’Brien when I was 17 and he found out me and my mate were underage, in the comedy club, and we were doing these big exams so we really should have been at home studying and he did so much stuff about it! At the end people were treating us like legends, buying us drinks, we became minor celebrities in the theatre and I remember thinking it was brilliant and I loved that feeling and I want to make our audience feel the same.
You supported Ed Sheeran on tour in 2013, how was that and how did that come about?
I met Ed because he was doing a free show in Brighton at The Quadrant in 2011 and he invited us to tour with him and it was mental, it was brilliant! The audience had no interest in us but as soon as we gone into the freestyle and they realised what we were doing they really enjoyed it. We got Hasbro to send us a giant connect 4 and we’d battle people whilst playing and dress them up in capes and give them a crown and tell people that they were celebrities in their home town for being connect 4 champions! We really messed around. I think those gigs were really lovely and they really went off. Music crowds are a much louder audience than comedy crowds, when someone they’ve come to see appears on stage they really let rip, they punch the air and scream for about 17 minutes! When the tour ended, Ed Sheeran fans, who wouldn’t have come to see us prior to the tour, would come to our gigs and you could tell they were in the house because we’d walk out into a regular comedy club and people would be clapping politely and then out of the claps you’d hear 4 girls screaming and the rest of the club would be like ‘Who are these people?!’. Ed Sheeran totally spoiled us and then we went back to our regular comedy gigs. We’re trying to get on One Direction’s tour just to get that buzz back! I heard Little Mix are playing soon at Brighton Centre, i’ll have to get my people to talk to their people…
Do you ever run out of inspiration when your free styling on stage?
No not really! You just ask another question, thats the brilliant thing. Festival crowds are the best because their in a playful mindset, you are trying to get people to say things you haven’t heard before and they give you the best suggestions. Different gigs and audiences come to you in different states, sometimes an audience are super up for it and they give beautiful ludicrous suggestions that spark visual images in your mind and then sometimes you do really have to really pull a few teeth to get anything. What you’re looking for are the less generic answers, it’s the little things, it’s the detail, that’s when the songs become easier for us. We have to have interaction with the audience to make it work. Once we ended up supporting Labrinth and when I got there I realised the stage was about 10ft off the ground and for some legal reason the stage was a comical distance away from the crowd. So for the gig the other guys were on stage, drums, keys and guitar and literally in what feels like a separate room, i’m standing on this little 2ft raise trying to rap with the crowd and I could see people looking at the stage not even knowing where my voice was coming from!
Where does your show title ‘Moonrock Boombox’ come from?
Because we got an amazing boom box! Which was all gold, we thought it was cool and we called it the Moonrock Boombox so we called the show that. After that the show kind of took on futuristic qualities and now it lives up to it’s name but in the early days it was literally because we found the worlds greatest boom box. I wish it was a more poignant story! Like my father left it to me in the war or something…
See Rob and the rest of Abandoman at Komedia, June 10th, 8pm tickets here – komediabrighton.ticketsolve.com/shows/873510463
Watch this space for an exclusive Brighton based rap coming soon!
Also check out the video of Abandoman in action below:
Photos by – IDIL SUKAN DRAW HQ