Electro hip-hop frontman Ezra Bang talks about the importance of genre
Of all the acts that are playing at Dubai SoundCity this week – and there are 78 of them, remember – one of the ones we’re most interested in is Ezra Bang + Hot Machine. Fronted by colourful rapper Ezra, the band’s confrontational lyrics, distorted synth sound and art-gangsta stylings make them an odd fit for Dubai. So will they be toning themselves down just a tad when they hit the city? ‘Of course I’ll change my approach,’ says Ezra. ‘I’ve been informed that I’m not allowed to use profanity, and personally I’d like to avoid fines and/or jail time. Ha! Besides, it’s cool to do things like this – it keeps you on your toes. We’ve had to clean up before for a live radio session and it suddenly makes you acutely aware of every single minute detail. I can’t wait, to be honest. We’ve spent the past seven months touring so we’re totally relaxed onstage. It’s kind of like a house party.’
Speaking of house, that’s one of the few genres the band isn’t really poking about in at the moment; their music is a mish-mash of electro, hip-hop and live instrumentation. But Ezra views it more simply. ‘As bizarre as it may sound, I see it as pop music,’ he says. ‘We went into the studio with Howard Grey – he did The Cure, XTC and Art Brut – and started making them into a cohesive thing that’s equal parts punk, hip-hop, dance and New York electro.’
This mixing of genres isn’t particularly unusual these days, and it almost seems that the concept of genre is dead. So should we rethink these fiddly categories? ‘Yes and no,’ shrugs Ezra. ‘In some ways genre still defines how successfully an act manages to pull off the aesthetics or techniques of a certain style. I think that context is important – a couple of years ago there was a lot of “grime-influenced” stuff being made, but much of it was terrible if you knew anything about the music they were referencing. My ideal world would be about complete context, but a complete lack of preconception about what bands ought to be making.’
By this point it seems that Ezra has an answer for everything, so we throw him one from left-field: if music be the food of love, what’s the Alka-Seltzer? ‘True genius lacks moderation. There is no overindulgence in love, thus no need for Alka-Seltzer. Love is a form of genius, no? Or at least the capacity to love… um, I’m freestyling now.’ Ezra Bang + Hot Machine play Dubai SoundCity at Alpha, November 5.