Interview with Professor Elemental
Ahh… Professor Elemental… this man is legend in my eyes, so it’s difficult to describe the magnitude of the sense of honour I feel in being able to present this interview with him… turn the dial up to twelve and you still won’t be close.
The Professor – the parallel-universal twin of Paul Alborough – is a time-travelling, steampunk, chap-hop rap star with an unquenchable thirst for tea and adventure. This caffeine-rattled explorer, philosopher, philanthropist and animal experimentalist is quite simply one of the funniest characters I’ve witnessed in my life.
I can’t recall how it came about I clicked on the link to watch his video, Fighting Trousers, for the first time, but I can remember the huge smile that came to my face a few seconds later, then the laugher as I watched it through.
He’s the best of English humour, wrapped up in rhyme and cipher – an instantly delightful chap who you endear to immediately and later, when you get to listening to the rest of his album, worry a bit about. You wonder if a man should be spending so much time with an orangutan and badgermingo.
Fighting Trousers - a diss song in response to ‘biting’ from inferior arch-rival, Mr B, the ‘Gentleman Rhymer’ – would pass with Cambridge-grade marks as a stand-alone comedy sketch, but very quickly, as the song progresses, you realise that the genius humour is matched in equal measure by an outstanding rapping ability.
I shared that song on Facebook and my Dad got back in touch after 14 years to comment: “lol!” And he still hasn’t accepted my friend request.
My friend Dan, an FBI-known musical pirate (in the sense of stealing copyrighted music online (and from shops sometimes, too) rather than anything to do with singing and dancing with sailors… though, there were some stories) even PAID FOR and downloaded the Professor’s album, The Indifference Engine… such was his respect and admiration for this man’s music. (The last piece of music Dan paid for was Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice – the original release. He still plays it, too. And does the dance.)
I bought The Indifference Engine when I went up to live at Loch Lomond, in the Highlands of Scotland, and made it to the peak of the mighty 3,194ft Ben Lomond to the accompaniment of energising tracks such as Splendid, Cup of Brown Joy and Animal Magic… as well as, of course, Fighting Trousers, which made me feel like I was taking the mountain back for England!
Please, please follow this excellent man on Twitter - @Prof_Elemental – and make repeated investigatory visits to his action-packed website at: www.professorelemental.com
My spider senses tell me this perfect English gentleman is on the verge of megastardom, and it’s going to be a ride just to watch his rise. Like with JFK, 9/11 and when Take That confirmed they were getting back together, for long generations to come, people will be asking where you were when you first heard Professor Elemental.
So, it is my utmost pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce the legend…
… the Monty Python of Hip Hop…
… the eternally splendid…
… Professor Elemental!
Where do you live, and when? Which year do you go to put your feet up and have a nice cup of tea?
I live in the very heart of Sussex, England, tucked away in the seldom-seen Elemental Manor, which was briefly opened as a Stately Home, but then closed again half an hour later and moved by the National Trust to a secret location, for the protection of the public.
For a nice cuppa, I tend to pop to Tuesday the 5th of September, 1954. The weather was perfectly reasonable and nothing much happened, so it’s just right for a quiet tea and a sit down on the lawn.
Can you give us a guide to your wardrobe? How many pairs of ‘occasion trousers’ do you own, and have you ever pushed past all the fur coats at the back and discovered a mysterious alternate universe which features talking lions?
I did once clear out my wardrobe, but sadly all I found back there was a copy of ‘The Naked Ape’ by Desmond Morris. Apparently, Geoffrey - my orangutan butler - had thought it some sort of erotic text for simians, but then discarded it in disgust.
As for my wardrobe, it is nearly all knitted by my dear mother; apart from the trousers, which I invent myself. I have over 70 pairs, including my time-travel trousers, badger-baiting trousers and, of course, my fighting trousers… which are sadly rather frayed from over-use in the taking down of rivals.
What’s the story behind your time-travel trousers? How did they come into your possession?
I was given them by my future self, when I asked where he got them from. He told me that he had visited himself from the past to give them to himself and then pass them onto me. Where they came from originally, I’m not sure… but it was definitely the future. Or the past.
What attracted you to rap and Hip Hop, rather than other genres of music throughout the ages?
Because Hip Hop is, quite simply, the best form of music - nothing compares to the raw energy and the ability to talk about anything at length, from any angle. It also manages to be ridiculous at times, particularly when it doesn’t mean to be, and I find that rather endearing.
Which was your favourite year for Hip Hop, and who are your greatest influences?
Undoubtedly, 1994 remains the finest year for me. Everyone was in their prime around that time: A Tribe Called Quest, Gangstarr, Nas, Redman… so many classics that completely rewrote what Hip Hop should be.
That said, it’s a secret that Hip Hop constantly likes to think the previous decade was loads better. In the 90s everyone was banging on about how good the 80s were and so on. And every year I hear music that blows my mind. It’s still fresh as it ever was.
I am influenced mostly by those around me, plus the likes of Vivian Stanchell and Hoffnung, they are a huge influence on the comedic side of things. And Tom Caruana’s beats are always a spark to get me writing.
How has Hip Hop evolved in 3011?
It’s devolved into a dirty rap primordial sludge to wallow in. Much better, less shiny.
Are there more Elementals in the ether?
Well, through workshops, I have taught many new emcees and I like to think there are a few Minimentals out there. Plus, of course, the clones! My cloning machine is a bit broken, so many of them are different sizes or colours or shapes, but it’s always good to have a rainbow coloured army of misshapen clones at your disposal if needed.
What’s the single-most greatest thing you’ve discovered in your explorations?
That there is no food that can’t be improved with the addition of maple syrup.
Have you ever thought of (or tried) introducing Hip Hop earlier than the time of its natural birth – such as in the court of Henry VIII, or around the time of Jesus? I quite like the idea of Greensleeves having a bit of repartee to it, and the Bible would be much more popular to the youth of today if it was available on iTunes and had a good bass line. Was Jesus a good rapper?
I did go back and battle Jesus, you know - he was a bit of a ‘name’ in his time and I thought it would be good for my reputation if I beat him in a rap battle, but there was quite some controversy about my victory… He had just been nailed to the cross and it was suggested that he wasn’t at his best.
Generally, I try to keep out of that side of time travel. One wrong move and suddenly the Nazis have won or we’re on Planet of the Apes or something - and believe me that’s no joke… I’ve spent time on the Planet of the Apes. It smelled bloody awful.
Do you think you’ll ever bury the hatchet with Mr B, in a non-axe sort of way? Would you be prepared to record with him, if he sorted out his attitude?
Oh goodness me, yes! We are planning that very thing now… after Meadowlands, we agreed to have a gentlemanly fight on record, just to let the public decide how much better than him I am.
How did employing Geoffrey, your orangutan butler, come about – and what exactly did happen to your previous butler that you had to resort to primates?
Well, it’s a long story- soon to be revealed in the Professor Elemental comic book - now in production (I am not above a quick plug). As for my previous bulter, Pugh, well let’s just say that he moved on. Or was accidently melded with a grotesque beast from the netherworld and now resides in chains in the attic. Whichever you like.
You are renowned for your (humane) animal fusion experiments… can you give us some examples of your greatest successes, and let us know which is your favourite?
I was always very fond of the badgermingo. I have often dreamed of riding a flock of them to the Americas to peck out the eyes of Piers Morgan.
Paraphrasing Oscar Wild’s description of the country tradition of fox hunting – “The uneatable, pursued by a shower of bastards in top hats.” – which animal would you fuse with a fox to give it the best survival chances against a pack of hounds and Prims-soaked men on horseback? A tyrannosaurus fox perhaps?
Yes, that would be ideal. Or I would just equip the fox with heavy artiliery. A fox on his own is vulnerable, but a fox with a rocket launcher strapped to his back is not to be trifled with.
What was your first computer?
It was an Amstrad, just at the time all of my friends got Amigas. I was laughed out of the gentlemen’s club for that one.
You seem to have a lot of fun with your following on Twitter. Have you always been happy to mingle with the commoners, or has social networking given you a chance to engage with them without suffering the smell?
I can honestly say that pretty much everyone I have met on Twitter is someone who I could imagine hanging out with - apart from the spam bots, who would be very dull company. Plus, the most wonderful things have come from that site, including this interview. And I imagine everyone on there to smell just lovely, like fresh tea-cakes or the scent in a forest after rain.
Rumour has it that you’re going to be returning to the 21st Century for a prolonged stay, beginning this September. Does this mean that fans will have more opportunities to see you performing around the country and wider world? What next for the Professor?
YES PLEASE! Come October, I will be everywhere! Please check www.professorelemental.com in a few weeks as more details are announced. I’ll be hopefully over in the States too. First up though is weekend at the asylum in Lincoln in September and the white mischief Halloween ball on the 29th September in London. Both should be a blast.
Plus I am lucky enough to be working on a cartoon, comic, toy and a fresh new album for next year!
There are many splendid times ahead!
You can follow Professor Elemental on Twitter at @Prof_Elemental – and, really, I can’t recommend that strongly enough. He’s brilliant and very, very funny… definitely one of my favourite follows… apart from you, of course – but that goes without saying! Now come here and give me a hug! #nicesave
Also, there are loads of goodies stored about his website. Have a good rattle around at: www.professorelemental.com
And CLICK HERE to go to the iTunes page to buy the excellence-encrusted album, The Indifference Engine.