Interview – Professor Elemental

Professor Elemental is a hip-hop MC like no other, combining the worlds of steampunk and chap-hop with a love for adventure, invention and the quintessential British cup of tea. M3 had a chat with Elemental about the benefits of social media, the disadvantages of copyright and his upcoming TV pilot…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Prof. Elemental – I am a Hip Hop emcee who has embraced both comedy and the world of Steampunk as my musical niche. Although I’m an unsigned artist, I have been lucky enough to find a fan base world wide, largely due to videos on YouTube and utilising new media. I’ve just gone full time with music as my actual profession and I am delighted to say that it is going brilliantly so far.

What inspired you to focus on music? What is your own musical background?
I have always been obsessed by rap music in all of its many forms. The UK has a vibrant and very inclusive Hip Hop scene, where no one is really in it for the money or a career.  From a personal point of view, it was only when I introduced character comedy into the act that things took off.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I genuinely don’t have a preference for listening back, but I guess MP3’s just because of the quantity of music you can have with you. I listen to music pretty much the whole time I am awake and have always been more interested in having a huge variety of songs, rather than the format that they are on.

Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Not at all. I think people still listen to whole albums, particularly from artists they love. Hip Hop has produced a lot of albums which are average, but with a few amazing songs on – so I have always been used to ‘harvesting’ the good songs from an average album for mixtapes and so forth. That works really well in the age of iTunes playlists and so on.

Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
Necessary progression I guess. It is sad from a community point of view, but then – think of all the new ways for people to discover like minded people and find the music they love which are available now. When I was young, the independent record shop was not a welcoming place if you didn’t know exactly what you were after – and I didn’t have any friends who liked the same music. That wouldn’t be a problem growing up now.

Do you feel that the abundance of recorded music that is easily available on the internet has led people to place more importance on the live experience as the ‘authentic’ way to hear music?
Yes, I think that’s one of the big advantages a musician has now. I definitely get a lot of people coming to see me live on that kind of basis. That’s why it’s all the more important to have a memorable live show and lots of merch and music to sell while you are there.

How useful do you think social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc) is for up-and-coming musicians and artists?
It is HUGE, you can’t underestimate it. My entire music career has been launched by a single YouTube video and is maintained by Twitter, Facebook and the like. But it is worth being smart about it, there is no point in bombarding your fans with endless ads. Myspace is a good example of how musicians who over sell themselves can lose impact very quickly. Find your market and get to know your fans. I still get excited when I chat to a rapper I love on Twitter, I think you can build a genuine relationship with the people who listen to your music in a way you have never been able to before.

Do you think the digital age has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
I am quite militant on this. If traditional concepts of copyright aren’t obsolete, then they should be. Make everything accessible to everyone, smash the tattered industry to bits! Bring music back to the people and reward the people who make it! The only people who should be getting upset about copyright and a lack of industry are the company executives, and they often provide very little to the actual culture of the music.

What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
It is a great worry and I have been very sad to see so many great music blogs taken down. Although the fight will continue and there will always be some freedom on the internet, I do feel like we will look at the last 15 years as a golden age of freedom of speech and distribution.

What do you personally believe the future of music distribution will look like?
I hope that it will look like me! I don’t mean that in as egotistical a way as it sounds, but I’d love to see more small indy labels and collectives, plus individual entertainers able to compete on a level playing field with the listener having the freedom of choice to hear whatever they like.
That’s a very simplistic view though and the entertainment industry will always find new ways to stay on top and get noticed by the general public. Which is a little sad.

Finally, what does the future hold for Professor Elemental?
Thanks to the freedom of having a character to play with and largely due to the generosity of fans, I am branching out into a TV pilot, a comic and some very bizarre and lovely other projects. Plus a new album and more shows than I know what to do with…

For more information about Professor Elemental, you can visit his official website and find him on Facebook and Twitter. You can also view an advert for his upcoming TV pilot here. You can also read another M3 interview with Elemental’s producer, Tom Caruana.


About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.


  1. Pingback: A Conversation With Tom Caruana « M3 Event

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