Kid Beyond has been waiting a lifetime for tomorrow. Today, it’s his birthday. In 24 hours: Well, that’s the present. And, even though he’s got a party planned in his new apartment—his first in his native San Francisco that can hold more than two people at one time—it’s just something to get him through until the wee hours when he’ll wake up, fly to New Jersey, grab his mom, and then continue on to London, where, along with the lucky few thousands, he’ll see Led Zeppelin.
“I am so excited,” he says, sounding like K-Fed at a custody hearing. “This is what life is for: Going to London to see Led Zeppelin. John Bonham is part of the reason I do what I do.”
Which, from the outside, seems like a big stretch. Kid Beyond isn’t a drummer; he’s a beatboxer. In fact, he’s really more like a self-contained orchestra, without any instruments. He creates songs out of carefully built digital loops—on the fly, no less, adding one layer of noise on top of the other. In a matter of a few seconds and some well-timed clicks of a foot pedal, Beyond can twist a few mouth pops and what seems like humming into a fully funked-out electro track that could make Timbaland jealous. The beats blast out in raw drum & bass waves. Coos become string sections. Clicks become drum fills. And the bass lines: Beyond can create rumbles with nothing more than his voice. Once it’s all assembled—right before your absolutely astounded eyes—he starts singing, his equally surprising voice gently adding a calming counterbalance to all that chaos he just mustered.
“I’ve just always been able to this,” he says. “Even when I was a kid, I’d walk down the street and be singing the guitar line and then the drum beat. Stuff was always coming out of my mouth. It was almost obsessive-compulsive.”
The kicker, though: While it’s mesmerizing to watch Beyond work—just check out any one of his YouTube videos for proof—he isn’t content to amaze. “I’m a songwriter,” he says. “I get that the beatboxing is the thing that impresses people. I understand that. But I do more.”
And he‘s not kidding. A quick listen through his debut EP Amplivate proves it. Beyond writes seductive electro-pop on par with groups like Basement Jaxx and U.N.K.L.E. The only difference is in the instruments used. It’s right there in the songs: “Mothership” is a massive dance track designed to shake walls. “Deep Inside” is more subtle and haunting, though equally hip-shaking, Beyond laying down a thick and melodic base line that literally pulls you through the track. And “I Shall Be Free,” a swelling trip-hop track lays out Beyond’s Buddhist philosophy in stunning mix of sound and storytelling, culminates in the kind of massive choir of voices usually reserved for Prince. “I’m still trying to figure out the limitations of what I can do with this,” he says. “My only problem is that it takes me a long time to write a song. Some people can sit in a hotel room and write three songs in one day. I just don’t work that way. It takes me ages.”
Which is why Beyond was hoping that he’d not get to just watch Led Zeppelin, but be the band’s new drummer—sans drums, of course. He got close—sort of. Last year VH1 ran Supergroup, a show that featured a gaggle of ’80s rockers desperate either for a paycheck or some extra exposure—probably a bit of both. The drummer: Jason Bonham, the son of late Zep drummer John Bonham. Halfway through the run of the show, Bonham had to go on tour. The producers thought it would be interesting to bring in Beyond. He set up in the Supergroup studio, started laying down some beats. Some of the guys, like Ted Nugent, were willing to give Beyond a try. Frontman Sebastian Bach totally freaked, throwing a toddler-style tantrum.
“Yeah, that didn’t work out so well for me,” Beyond laughs. “I heard from Bonham later that, after watching the tape of what I was doing, he told the guys that they were idiots for not working with me.”
KID BEYOND @ Bliss Nightlife, 404 S. West Temple, Friday Dec. 14, 8:30 p.m. Info: 363-3734
Kid Beyond in action: