Louder Than War Interview: Busking Sensation Lewis Floyd Henry
Louder Than War meets Lewis Floyd Henry, a talented underground artist who has, over the past few years, caught the attention and imagination of thousands of music fans across the world – both in the street and online.
Lewis’ live set is made up of his own material mixed up with some clever, energetic and unique re-workings of stone-cold-classics, such as ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ll’. Lewis performs one of the greatest ‘busking’ sets you’ll ever see or hear – something which was became obvious thanks to his fired-up live guitar cover of The Wu Tang Clans hip-hop epic ‘Protect ya Neck’, a video of which went viral, getting over 166,00 hits on YouTube.
But the covers and unique street performances are really only half of the story as the wildly talented artist / guitarist / singer songwriter looks to release his new album ‘Across The Thames’ this coming September. With that being just a couple of weeks away it seemed like a good idea for Louder Than War to catch up with Lewis to chat about his wild cover versions, his own music, his band’s documentary and why becoming Adele’s old ‘noisy’ neighbour actually paid off for his band.
Hey Lewis, big thanks for talking to Louder Than War … first off I wanted to say the I came across you playing and busking via YouTube with your cover of The Wu Tang Clan’s ‘Protect Ya Neck’. It just blew me away thanks to your guitar work over some really fire and faultless MC’ing … is ‘Protect Ya Neck’ your most well known tune would you say?
Lewis Floyd Henry: Thanks, I would say it has had the most hits on YouTube due to the fact that the person who filmed it and uploaded the footage has a huge Hip Hop social media following. So it kind of went a bit viral for that reason.
What other tunes do you play and put your twist on?
Lewis: Old Dirty Bastards: ‘Shimmy Shimmy Y’all’ is fused together with Prokofiev’s ‘Dance of the Knights’ which then turns into an old school Thrash metal piece that I came up with from busking it around.
Plus Bob Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’ which mutates at the end and gives the audience a great opportunity to shout: We don’t take, No Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!…
There’s ‘Black Sabbath verses The Wu Tang Clan’. Which is basically the Wu’s ‘Bring Da Rukas’ and Sabbath’s ‘Into The Void’
I’ve recently been doing team ups like in Marvel comics. I’m doing this killer thing at the moment which is Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath vs Ghost Face Killer and Raekwon The Chef. I’ve taken the 2 verses from ‘Criminology’. Ghost Face’s verse is with Led Zeppelins Main Riff in ‘Heart Breaker’ and Raekwons is spit over the Main Riff in Black Sabbaths ‘Electric Funeral’. This equates to one heavy track!
There are many others that get the ‘L.F.H’ treatment.
Can you tell me a bit about how you started out playing, did you play in a group or on your own before taking your talent on the streets?
Lewis: The first group I was in was called ‘Eclipse’ that had William Close on bass who is the son of Bob Close who played guitar for Pink Floyd in the early days with Syd Barrett. Tristan Anderson on drums and me on guitar and vocals. We were around 13 years old, playing covers with some originals. Our debut show was at Lewisham theater in 91 or 92.
William left, then we got a guy called Ben Muir on vocals and we started to go in a heavier direction influenced by Sound Garden’s album ‘BadMoterFinger’ and Pantera’s ‘Cowboys from Hell’. Changed our name to Wrench which had Simon Hollohand on Bass then Deranged then Critical Mass with bass duties changing to Jimmy Marlow. We then called ourselves Existence of Hate around the time we were 17 and cut a demo which got reviewed in Terrorizor magazine.
Then Ben Muir left and I took on vocals, recruiting Matt Gill on bass going by the name EOH. Then Tristan left to go to university and that band fell apart.
Around about this time I reverted back to playing acoustic guitar and composing some Soul rap style songs. Then a few months later Tristan introduced me to some guys down at Music city in New Cross cause I think he felt a bit bad about the situation. So I formed this band with Douglas wheeler on Bass, who used to play for the metal band Lab Rat, he knew John Chalk who was an amazing musician in his on right! But he played drums for a bit. We also had a second guitarist called Lee Trucker. We went by the name KNOWN which was my old graffiti tag name. I remember we played crystal Palace bowl 3 years running. We played songs that I had composed, kind of psychedelic heavy soul rock with raps in. This band eventually ran its course.
Then, band-less, I would play open mic sessions in New Cross at the New Cross inn which held a blues open mic jam every Wednesday and the Paradise bar afterwards which held a Jazz jam. They had a house band who then allowed people up to jam around 11pm. I would jam some of my own things that I had written with whoever was up there. It was very much the case of showing someone on the spot the chord changes / tempo and then, off we go!!
Did you carry on solo, jamming with other musicians or form another group?
Lewis: Around this period I met Zac Baker, a really amazing drummer who was tipped off about me by a local promoter called David Duck. We formed this 2 piece band which was nameless and played a handful of dates, we thought it would be cool to become 3 piece with a bassist. So by chance when we were jamming in one of the squat coffee shops at that time in New Cross this guy called Ben Powell walked in, who must off heard us from the street, plugged his bass into his effects which he happened to be carrying and right there we created a band that would also be called KNOWN. We released an E.P. called Grey Skies which is out on Vinyl. There was also a lengthy documentary made about us by a film maker called Mason Gaines. It is called: ” THE STORY OF KNOWN”, you can watch it on YouTube.
…what happened to KNOWN?
Lewis: We used to rehearse really loud around at Zacs in Tulse Hill, he was then in a relationship with Shingy Shonowa from the Noisettes and their Neighbour was Adele!! Those were fun times. I remember Adele’s mum coming in screaming at us to turn it down, she was sweet enough to give us some money to record an album, this was before anyone knew who Adele was. We will be releasing this album in early 2014.
Everyone had to move out of the flats above the co-op because they were being sold by the landlord, Zac moved to Italy because he fell in love with this beautiful Italian woman who is now his wife and the band was kind of over.
So I started playing guitar alone. I also started to play drums and set a kit up in my room. I played drums for a friend called Rufus Miller whose dad is Stings guitarist. We formed a band called Fox Glove which later became know as Rufus and Lewis. It was like heavy stoner doom with Rufus playing bass and singing his own songs. Around this time I used to sit around my drums at home with my guitar in hand, this is when the idea of trying to do a one man band thing came to mind.
The Internet obviously brings you to the whole world, not just the street you play on, so when did your busking tunes take off online?
Lewis: I started busking with KNOWN, Ben Powell on Bass and Zac Baker on drums around 2004 around London. We were known for rocking up on some old school BMX’s and playing 4hr long sets. I started busking as a one man band around 2007 along Southbank and Borough Market. I put my name on the kick drum, people would film and upload their footage. Sometimes they would upload it with my name but most often than not it would be without so there are quite a few bits of footage of me busking floating around out there from around 2007.
You also play the festival circuit too don’t you?
Lewis: I do yeah, I’ve played at…The Big Chill, Secret Garden Party, Bestival, Camp Bestival, Latitude and Glastonbury to name a few.
Having played the open streets many places around the World where do you reckon is the best spot you’ve ever busked?
Lewis: I’ve busked in: Kyoto, Osaka, Sydney, Melbourne, Sao Paulo, Milan, Paris, London. The best spot was Brick Lane from 2007 till 2012, then Tower Hamlets council destroyed Brick Lane and it’s quirkiness which is such a shame. I got a £150 fine for obstructing the highway which is ironic considering the council cram the streets with market stalls which cause the foot traffic into a very tight and uncomfortable bottle necked situation and place a long row of Boris Johnson’s pay as you go bikes which are rather unsightly and take up the best part of what was known as Brick Lane beach, but that’s OK because they have a license which they pay extortionate amount for which allows them to trade. This is the nature of the beast.
Whats the best reaction you’ve ever had while out busking?
Lewis: The best reaction was when Ronnie Wood walked past on Brick Lane and said “Sounds great man”! Or when Jimmy Page gave one of his kids some money to put in my case when I was busking on South Bank.
That’s pretty cool…so does busking pay the bills?
How about recording tunes like your version of ‘Protect ya Neck’ and other covers / re-workings that you play?
Lewis: The My version of ‘Protect ya Neck’ is out there, released by Adjust Records on 7″ vinyl.
… lastly Lewis, what are your future plan around the busking, gigging and releases…and where can we see you next?
Lewis: I’m releasing my next album in late September which is called “Across the Thames” it will be out on Vinyl, download and C.D. which I am absolutely thrilled with. I will start recording the follow up around October which is my favorite time of year to record an album.
I will be gigging, busking and releasing albums as Lewis Floyd Henry and performing and releasing albums with some of the other projects I have on the go.
The original line up of Existence of Hate has reformed after a 19 year hiatus and is currently re-working the old demos into a live set that will be recorded and released on vinyl in 2014. KNOWN will be releasing the album that Adele’s mum gave us £600 quid to record back in 2006 / 2007. Apart from that I’ll be skating my old school Dimebag Deck, Inking up some skin and painting more canvas.
Follow Lewis on Facebook. Bookings / inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
All words by Carl Stanley. More writing by carl on Louder Than War can be found in his author’s archive.