Interview With MC Bad Genius Of Philadelphia Grand Jury

It has been a big year for Philadelphia Grand Jury. As well as temporarily relocating to the UK, the guys have returned to Australia to play Splendour In The Grass as well as a series of sold out headline shows around the country, lost a drummer, gained a drummer, and re-released their debut album complete with heaps of extras, including new single Save Our Town and their iconic cover of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems. I was lucky enough to be able to ask Joel Beeson, aka MC Bad Genius, a few questions.

APYS: Firstly and most importantly, when I saw The Philly Jays at Falls in Tasmania last year your microphone was stolen when the whole band entered the crowd for ‘I Don’t Want To Party’- did you ever get it back? Is this a regular occurrence?

Joel: Actually, that time it didn’t come back.  More often than not it doesn’t.  I don’t really understand it though.  Who takes a microphone?  I mean, take a setlist or a pick (or if you can get them out of her iron grip, take one of Susie’s drumsticks), but who takes a microphone?  Better yet, who takes a guitar?  One time someone walked up on stage, took Berkfinger’s guitar and walked out the door.  We eventually got it back thanks to our pleading on the internet reaching the ears of JJJ which lead the thief to be shamed into returning it to the venue.

‘Hope Is For Hopers’ has become a bit of a hero album for advocates of self-production- do you think your DIY approach to music has helped with the challenges of relocating to the UK?

It’s definitely been the best option for us in terms of being in total control of our music, as well as all the business side of things.  And when we moved to the UK, it meant that we had to spend even more time and effort just keeping things going.  But it also meant that any successes that we did have were due to ourselves and not anyone else, so it made the whole experience more satisfying.  But it almost broke us.  Many times.

I’m sure you’ve been asked plenty of times, but was the relocation a tough decision? It’s great to see you coming back to Australia so regularly, was this a conscious objective when moving?

It was never intended to be a permanent move, so it wasn’t hard in that sense.  But what it has meant is that we’ve come back to Australia and none of us have any home to live in.  Berkfinger is sleeping on a friend’s floor, Susie is bouncing around from couch to couch and I’m on a farm a couple of hours north of Sydney.  There isn’t really any stability and we don’t even know what country we’re going to be based in next year.  The hardest thing with everything is asking my wife to put up with such a nomadic lifestyle, but luckily she’s very lovely and patient.

New single ‘Save Our Town’ experiments a bit with a synth lead, do you think this is a possible new style for the band?

We seem to get inspired in the studio by sounds, so when we inherited an old Yamaha synth and bought a crappy old keyboard for $20 at a music auction, the song just wrote itself.  We’ve been experimenting with drum machines as well and I think the next album is going to be more eclectic than the first one.  But its still going to be pop songs with a rough edge, because that’s what we’ve always been about.

The Philly Jays have been privileged with some amazing drummers, but considering that a couple of these haven’t quite worked out in the end, do you consider yourselves lucky or unlucky when it comes to drummers?

We’re definitely lucky with drummers rather than unlucky.  We’ve had Dan and Ivan and Calvin and now we have Susie and all of them have been great drummers.  They’ve all had very different styles and have really inspired us to move in different directions with both our live show and recording.  And Susie definitely seems to be the best fit for us out of them all, so its worked out pretty well really.

You guys have one of the most unique and exciting live shows I have ever seen, I still remember seeing you for the first time opening for Yves Klein Blue ages ago, where you handed out all your instruments to the crowd and we tried to play along with a song. Do you find it hard to keep on coming up with these crazy ideas for live shows, or do they come naturally?

We just like to mess with the common expectations of how a live gig goes.  Its much more exciting than seeing a band simply recreating their album but in a slightly different order.  Its actually really fun to break down that barrier between the band and the crowd, so it just ends up that everyone is all in it together.  Sometimes people freak out when you’re standing next to them in the crowd and yelling in their face, but other times people absolutely love it and start pushing you back.  Or they just jump up on stage and things just turn into total chaos.  Just as long as they give back those damn microphones.

And finally, from your experience, what is your favourite Australian music festival and why?

I don’t really enjoy festivals all that much.  The only one that I would go to even if we weren’t playing is Laneway.  Every time I’ve been I’ve fallen in love with another band that I didn’t know before, plus its much more relaxed than all the other festivals.  Last year we played at the Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne Laneways and we got to see every band on the bill because the acts that clashed in one city didn’t clash in the other.  The Middle East closed one of the stages at the Melbourne Laneway with the moon rising behind them and I was sitting on the grass by myself watching them.  It was pretty surreal.  I may or may not have cried a little.

(I was there for that set as well and can confirm that it was indeed pretty much magic).

Thanks a lot, and I look forward to seeing you guys at the Geelong Sizzling 2011 show.

See you soon!

Philadelphia Grand Jury are doing a series of shows in regional centers with Bluejuice and Purple Sneakers DJs early next year, dubbed Sizzling 2011. Full details here.

One Response to “Interview With MC Bad Genius Of Philadelphia Grand Jury”

  1. Impressive interview with some well thought out questions. Good work. Do you plan to do more of these?

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