Alex Hackett, 22, beatboxer around central London
Photography ©Rob Greig
How the hell did you become a beatboxer?
‘Me and my friend used to beatbox and rap a bit – really badly – and one day we were walking down the street and he said: “We’ve got to pick one each so we can get better at it.” He picked rap so I got stuck with beatboxing. But my mum is a singer, and so are my two sisters, so I’ve always had the musical background. It all just comes from a passion and a love for beatboxing: when you get into any sort of music you have to learn the intricacies around it.’
How did you get into busking, then?
‘I came across this video of a guy called Contrix. I found it amazing how he could just get a crowd of people on the street watching him do that. So I used my student loan to buy a really crappy guitar amp, went to the South Bank and just started up.’
So was it something you’d always wanted to do?
‘No, I just sort of stumbled into it. I did a management degree, and one of the first things I learned was that the best business is one with hardly any costs to eat into your profit. I realised that beatboxing had almost no costs, so I started doing it for a bit of extra cash on top of my student loan, but it quickly became something that I could live off.’
What’s the hardest thing about doing it?
‘Like any job there’s ups and downs. The rain will stop you in your tracks. But the main problem is the influx of buskers. About three years ago, there were just a few of us in central London. Now there are so many buskers coming here from around the world, there’s loads of competition. You can walk around for hours and not find a spot.’
How about crowds, do they ever get rowdy?
‘Yeah, you always get the joker who’ll chuck his beer into your money pot or try and grab your microphone. There was a homeless guy who got really drunk and was swerving between me and my audience. He started walking around, sticking his fingers up at people’s cameras. Eventually everyone left.’
Must be pretty fun, though?
‘Compared to a normal job, I get to do what I love – and I get paid more than most people as well!’
Hours As many as you want, up to 60hrs p/w
Starting salary Around £50 per day, but varies.
Qualifications Some kind of talent would help.
Interview by Eddy Frankel