It’s fair to say that indie label founder, film maker, Don’t Flop battler and Sheffield grime artist Psychosis Holochaust has really been keeping his nose to the grindstone of late. For the most part, he’s been tirelessly promoting his city’s grime scene, in addition to participating in the odd rap battle for Don’t Flop, releasing a slew of quality music videos, and all the while maintaining operations at Prison Planet Records HQ.
With his rapid-fire delivery, complex rhyme patterns and fantasy-inspired lyrics that draw influences from a mix of sci-fi, comic books and computer games, the Steel City representative is honing arguably one of the most distinctive styles in UK rap music today. Hopefully, the following interview will give you an insight into what really drives and inspires this talented young artist to stay so fresh and innovative in the scene.
TC: First off, where did you get your name?
PH: Growing up, a lot of the people around me called me ‘Psycho Theo’ and that name kinda stuck with me for many years right through to college when I first started showing more interest in MCing and stuff. This was back I would record like 2/3 tracks a year, and was primarily a filmmaker; I didn’t class my self as a rapper for one minute. To be honest, I thought rapping was a bit of a stupid thing to do! It wasn’t until the years went on that I started realising how much I actually enjoyed it, so I started doing more and more tracks. I needed to change my name, so went with Psychosis, and being a massive movie fan — especially one of 70s/80s Italian exploitation — a lot of my favourites were Cannibal Holocaust, Zombie Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, so I just thought the ‘Holochaust’ part was nice to throw on the end. It was still a time when I wasn’t taking music too seriously; I just had a lot of people around me who were into it and making beats and I kinda just got hooked, so I went with that name and have stuck with it since.
TC: You came up through the Sheffield grime ranks, but you’ve also been heavily involved in hip-hop over the past few years. Do you see yourself as a grime emcee, a hip-hop crossover artist, or perhaps someone who’s helping to bridge the stylistic gap between the two genres?
PH: I have always classed myself as a grime MC, however hip-hop is something I have always loved and is a genre of music I will always make. I think some of the best tracks I have made have been hip-hop: ‘Prison Planet Anthem’, ‘Final Wars’, and not to mention a whole bunch of new ones I’ve got coming out on the new album. To say I am purely a grime MC would not a correct as I have made and always will make lots of hip-hop. Being from Sheffield, a city constantly thriving in grime and bassline, it’s grime music that I have always held closest to me, and the one genre I personally will always favour over hip-hop; but at the end of the day, its all just rapping no matter what speed the instrumental it’s over.
TC: Which artists would you say have most influenced your style?
PH: Probably Ghetts and Shameless if I’m honest. I have been listening to all kinds of music for years, but have only been rapping seriously for about 2 and a half years, and it was listening to his early stuff that really made me wanna do it. I have always had that high, stabby voice so early on I never really knew how to project myself without sounding too mad over the beat, so it was listening to their stuff that made me realise that I could make my voice work. Going even further back, B-Real from Cypress Hill, and his high stabby voice also inspired me to want to make mine work. As for ideas and inspiration, films, comics and computer games influence my style more than any rapper ever will.
TC: I’ve noticed recently you’ve been busy promoting a night called Grime House in Sheffield which features an array of local grime talent on the bill. How do you feel about grime in the Steel City? Is it a thriving scene? Are you guys getting the recognition you deserve?
PH: Yeah, Grime House is sick; basically it’s me and all the people I am involved with in the Sheffield grime scene putting on a big rave every two weeks, complete with live hosting and PAs from a slew of local MCs. We decided to set the whole thing up because most venues in Sheffield that once played bassline have since shut down, owing to the ‘bad vibe’ it has been accused of attracting. Similarly grime (well, I don’t even know venues that even play much grime anymore) has probably waned on the club scene for the same reason. Eveyone nowadays is on that dubstep hype — and that is one genre I have never been a massive fan of; hence why me and my scene heads decided to put a grime night on so we can actually play our own stuff to a massive crowd, and listen to all the grime and bassline tracks we never get to hear when we go out anymore. And yes, Sheffield has a massive grime scene, plus I think we do to some extent get a lot of good recognition for it — not as much as we should get but unless it’s down south, no city does. Birmingham has started to get a lot of mad coverage which is good, and hopefully the buzz will spread further North soon. People in general just need to keep pushing their own stuff forward, and not imitate the sound of others or changing up their own sound to please a certain crowd. If you know you are making good music, it really doesn’t matter where you’re from.
TC: Earlier this year you released an absolute banger of a grime track titled ‘100 Hit Combo’. Firstly, who produced it and secondly, what sort of a message were you trying to send out with it?
PH: It was produced by Titch of BOK studio in Sheffield, and anyone from Sheff knows what a legend he is. He is part of a massive dance music collective called ‘The Squire of Gothos’ who play all over Europe, and he is also one of the sickest producers I know so, we just sat down and made it togther in just a couple of hours. To be honest, the only message I wanted to put accross with that track is that I had not been on the grime scene for a good while for the pure fact I was battling in Don’t Flop a lot at the time, as well as spending about 9 months making Adventure Rap, and then working on my solo album, End Game which is mostly hip-hop. I just wanted to come back with something proper hard-hitting and to show everyone that I can still duppy grime better than most. I also wanted to write a track that had a hardcore knockout punchline every 2/4 bars and I think i did this pretty well with ‘100 Hit Combo’ and the remixes.
TC: Alongside long-time beatmaker collaborator Dr. Calpol, you’re also part of Sheffield grime collective, Toxic Defence Force. Is this still an active outfit, and if so, what are your future plans for it?
PH: Yeah, Calpol has been my best mate for years now. We both grew up together and went to the same school and stuff. Toxic Defence Force is the music me and him make, and he is by far the best musician and beat maker I know. He has played classical piano since he was 8 years old and now makes bassline and grime music. We have an EP coming out at somepoint, for which he has made all the beats and has confirmed all the collabs; I just have not had a chance to start recording it yet because of the other projects I have going on at the moment. It’s sounding amazing though, possibly the best music I have ever made, plus it’s gonna have some mad collabs on it you wouldn’t expect, too.
TC: In 2010 you founded independent UK hip-hop label Prison Planet Records, with the likes of Flex Digits, Pseudonym and OhPityMe all featuring on the current artist roster. What’s the label all about, and what do you hope to achieve with it?
PH: We didn’t aim to achieve anything with it really; it was just about putting the music we do under one banner and to push it as a whole. Me and Flex are both predominantly solo artists, but obviously we do collab and work on projects together from time to time, and Pseudonym is always up for getting involved in the stuff we make. OhPityMe is less into the music side of stuff these days and is more into the classic Sega game play-throughs and stuff we do for the Prison Planet YouTube channel. We as a collective provide all different types of entertainment — I for one am working on a feature length documentry which I plan to release on the label as a way of promoting all our stuff on a proffesional level under one organisation.
TC: One of your best-known releases to date is the Adventure Rap EP on which you, a host of various UK emcees and producer Saint Bastard all collaborated. For those that don’t know, what is “Adventure Rap” and how did the whole concept come about?
PH: The whole adventure rap stuff came about from bars we used to just freestyle all the time, and with us all been massive fans of movies, comics and rap, the whole thing just kinda all fell into place. It was actually Faceraper from Wales who made most of the beats; the guy’s an absolute G — he just used to send me about four mad adventure beats everyday! There was loads of material we didnt use too, and we’ll probably do a part 2 at somepoint in the future. It was a lot of fun to write, and some of the tracks of that album — especially the ones produced by Saint Bastard — are still some of my favourite tracks I’ve ever made.
PH: As it stands, End Game is one track away from completion!! I’ve just kept getting distracted with grime projects, raves and battling of late to have taken the time to get it all finished. That said, I’ve got a banger dropping when the CD is out featuring a music video and a big name on it, as well as stuff produced by Wizard, so it should be sick when it’s all out! It’s weird trying and put a finger on what sound it is: its proper 70s retro post-apocolyptic exploitation and sci-fi sounding (if that makes aby sense) plus there’s a lot of deep real shit in there with some proper ‘fuck you’ music, some of which you could call adventure rap, albeit set in space rather than in a medieval fantasy world. I’ve also got some killer collabs on there with people like Trellion and Tenchoo, as well a grime number on there with Kase and Chronicle, which is an absolute beast of a track! The album will be out before Christmas, and I’ll keep y’all posted about it. Also, shouts to Wolly for the cover art!
TC: You’ve battled extensively on Don’t Flop, and are steadily building a reputation as a quite formidable opponent. What do you like about battling, and how do you feel about the current state of the UK battle scene?
PH: I like the hype you get from battling – a lot of the time it can be way better than performing at a rave or doing a gig, purely for the adrenaline boost you get. When I walk into my battles, it’s like a cage fight bruv haha! However, I do think you have to mix it in with music and PA’s though, cos I don’t think its healthy just putting all your energy into one thing. I look at these guys who don’t make music and just battle, and I don’t ever wanna be like one of them. As for my future battles, it looks like I’ll be locking horns with Tantrum from California in November — a battle which has all been confirmed for Don’t Flop’s flagship Blood in The Water event in London. The battle should be an absolute beast, especially given how a lot of people say we have such similar styles. It should be really interesting to see who comes out on top.
TC: With you being a film maker and me being a bit of a film buff, I have to ask you who’s style of directing you prefer: Kubrick’s or Hitchcock’s?
PH: Well, Kubrick is obviously a fucking legend, and Clockwork Orange features one of my favourite fight scenes in any film ever, where the droogs fight Billy Boy’s gang. It also has some of the best dialogue in any film ever — the same can be said for Full Metal Jacket. However, I would still have to say Hitchcock — his film ‘The Birds is untouchable! Also, Kubrick’s arty style can give me a bit of a headache after a while, plus Hitchcock even had his own theme song which is a big look! So, Alfred all day!
TC: And finally, where’s the best place on the web for people to find you, look your stuff up and get in touch with you?
PH: The official website (www.prisonplanetrecords.com) is currently down as I’m switching hosts and servers in addition to doing some redesigning. At the moment, the Prison Planet YouTube page is probably the best place to check my shit out and to download most of the songs I’ve made in the last year from the download links in the video descriptions. (www.youtube.com/PrisonPlanetRecords).