Bugzy Malone is one of those types of artists who radiate confidence and ooze abstractions and sentiments brought about by struggle through his lyrics. His latest mixtape, The Journal Of An Evil Genius Volume 1, is sheer indulgence. The visual project is a murky exploration of his adolescence, taking listeners on a journey through his chaotic world across its six tracks. Every once in a while an artist releases an body of work, something that’s so raw, so personal, and so visibly borne out of emotional grievance, that we remember why these kinds of albums can be the best of them all. With one foot firmly planted in music, Bugzy has the other rooted in art, and his highly-anticipated offering is a perfect example— although, given its fragility, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that it was made in his own sublet studio.
Hailing from Manchester, UK, the multi-talented artist cites Quentin Tarantino as a main source of inspiration. His work, which is full of dark imagery, lies very much in the direct influence of his creative output. Upon asking him to define his approach, he simply said, “I try to create works of art from experiences and emotions.” We talked with Bugzy via email— while he was in the studio— about his introductions to music, being vulnerable and his creative direction.
RESPECT.: A lot of youngsters connect with you and your music. When you first started out, was there anyone who was maybe a guide or that you felt you had a connection with?
I get this type of question a lot and I always struggle to name any inarticulate people. I think it’s fair to say I’ve been lucky enough to have witnessed the stories of some of the greatest people of all time from actors, [to] musicians to athletes. So without going into too much detail as a youngster, I was pretty quickly introduced to these people, and naturally, you feel a sense of guidance and connection. I’ve seen Michael Jackson invent his own style of dance, Stevie Wonder play a piano and create timeless music without the use of his eyes, Tupac turn rap music into a universally accepted genre and I watched Mohammed Ali’s full journey to becoming a legend in the sport of boxing, the list goes on. What I’m getting at is I’ve probably felt guided by many of the greats over the years as opposed to one particular person.
When I first heard the name Bugzy Malone, I immediately thought of the ‘70s classic gangster film, Bugsy Malone. Was this a childhood nickname? Where did it come from?
When I was about 11 or 12 people would call me Little Bugz, and growing up it just kind of stuck. I suppose once I started music, it was a simple case of turning a nickname into a stage name and Bugzy Malone just seemed to work perfectly.
Would you describe yourself as emotionally unstable?
I think the fact that I’ve been asked this question would suggest to me that the character I play in The Journal Of An Evil Genius is convincing.
So is it painful or liberating when you go into the studio and rap lyrics strongly associated with depression, crime, love and rage?
Well, at some point we all vent to someone and get things off our chest. The difference with me is I’m an artist, so I try to create works of art from experiences and emotions. I wrote this record as if I was writing my journal and touched on stuff I probably wouldn’t bring up in ordinary conversation. So I guess you could say listening back to this record, it has helped me answer a lot of my own questions so yeah I guess liberating would be the correct word.
Does “Serial Killer” characterize your current state of mind?
At the end of that song I say, “I’m gonna call this track ‘Serial Killer’ because I am just killing everything.” I used the term ‘Serial Killer’ as a metaphor basically insinuating I’m killing everything I do musically. I think if you look at the project as an all-round work of art in the medium of music and film it would fall into the Horror category. If art work was always an accurate reflection of a creator’s current state of mind, I think people like Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino would have been locked up a very long time ago.
The track seems to be driven by violence and you not taking any shit. There also seems to be a lot of resentment in there. What’s the story behind it?
With the project being a concept mixtape titled The Journal Of An Evil Genius, I tried to make the songs and videos relate to the title as much as possible in order to create a theme. So with the nature of a journal being to document your feelings, occurrences and experiences, and the character I play being labelled an Evil Genius, I guess it was a simple case of keeping the theme consistent.
When you first envisioned The Journal Of An Evil Genius, was your main impetus to tell your story from multiple perspectives in order to achieve a sense of realism? Or did the idea to make a video for each song evolve throughout the process?
It’s basically a mixtape campaign. My whole approach to this project was to test the waters with my mixtape stuff before bringing out the EP by doing something consistent and a little different. I felt as if I wanted to tell a story loosely based on reality and used the raw emotion of the songs as an excuse to create a mini-horror movie. I’ve been a big fan of Quentin Tarantino since watching some of his most popular films like, Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, Inglorious Bastards. His attention to detail gives each film a distinct atmosphere. This moved me towards watching series such as Tim Kring’s Heroes, which for me had the same attention to detail but with each episode being 20 minutes long it was much easier to follow. So I wanted to tell a story using music videos in episodes and make them unique in terms of concept and content, and although it’s quite dark, I think I accomplished what I set out to do.
So since this mixtape is so personal, and so closely tied to a specific time in your life, who or what did you turn to for inspiration?
I find that going through a hard time comes [with] overwhelming emotions, so for me these emotions inspired me to write the music and tell a story, with such a sentimental record comes the over whelming desire to do something more with it and the next step is a visual. So I took inspiration from Quentin Tarantino‘s whole approach to film making, Tim Kring’s profound storytelling and the list just goes on. I think in the lead-up to a project, I take inspiration from wherever I can and whatever I encounter during that period of my life, whether it’s a film, song, story or just an experience of my own.
Did you anticipate the reaction you would receive, or were you simply telling your story the only way you know how?
As I said earlier, this whole thing was kind of an experiment to see just how people would react to such a deep and profound story told in such an unusual medium, so at this point the reaction couldn’t have been better.
“Childhood Memories” is a really beautiful track. How long did it to take to make?
Most music I make takes a couple of hours to write and record. Once we have a draft of the song, I will go away and listen to it day to day to try and figure out what it’s missing and where it could be improved. I’m not the finished article but I don’t think I’m a million miles away from finding my sound, which makes the writing, recording and mixing process much easier to feel happy with.
On the track it sounded like an older version of you speaking to your past self. I’m curious to find out how you did this, was it something you thought about as you were writing?
I tried to make the whole thing unique in terms of concept and diverse in content, so with “Childhood Memories,“ I tried to make it almost as if I am talking to the psychiatrist throughout the song, explaining the highs and lows of my childhood.
Have you always been rebellious?
Not always — my mum tells me she never had to tell me off up until the age of around 7 or 8 I guess I was quite obedient, and then I think with just some of the situations I was faced with in school, I kind of changed my outlook and felt as if I had to take matters into my own hands in order to get by.
You have quite an intimidating persona through your music. Is there a softer side fans don’t get to see?
Yes. I think with the concept being so predominant throughout my music fans have only really got to see me in one of a few settings, but what you mustn’t forget is this is The Journal Of An Evil Genius Volume 1, there will be a sequel.
What’s the reasoning behind “Unwelcomed Guest”? For a song that offers optimism, why the evil black eyes and constant fighting with the devil?
I wanted any excuse to do something different with this project, and the reference we found for “Unwelcomed Guest” was from a film called Revolver, in which there is an elevator scene featuring Jason Statham showing him battling with his alter ego. The scene was subtle but extremely effective. It was a mix between amazing acting and slight changes in atmosphere that made that scene alone one of the best in the entire film. I felt it was the perfect idea for a song with such a bizarre concept.
So do you think that notion comes with a direct incitement? As if you’re inviting listeners to help you find peace?
No. I think it’s more down to me having a lot of people like you said before feeling a connection with me or looking up to me in some respects. I wanted to give them an insight into my background and the issues I’ve had to overcome. I felt by showing signs of vulnerability it would make the people that have followed my journey so far feel as if, “Well if he can do it, so can I.”
What’s the ideal environment for people to listen or experience your music?
I think with me coming from such a diverse struggle that anybody coming from any kind of struggle as a youngster growing up will be able to relate at some point.
Close your eyes with me just for a moment and think five years from now. Tell me, what can you see?
In five years time, I see a mastered craft and recognition for timeless works of art.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I want to say a big thanks to my team — @HeyGamal and @MuteAndMatte for helping bringing this project together. Also a massive thanks to @Joss_ism for helping get the project the correct exposure and an even bigger thanks to you for taking time out to watch and listen to the project.