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Meet the People: Tonn Piper

Lynda Moyo probes Tonn Piper, one of the North West’s top drum‘n’bass MCs.

Written by . Published on April 4th 2007.

Meet the People: Tonn Piper

Tonn Piper, age 27.

How did you get into MCing?It started off with my big sister taking me to house parties when me and my brother were about 11 or 12. We then started going to our own house parties around Burnage, Didsbury, Moss Side, Longsight, you name it we were there. I have mad memories of turning up at clubs with 50 MCs around the mic. Trying to get our time was a tough job back in the day. General Pain was the first to give me a mic at a big rave when I was 15. I’ll never forget that. After that it was all about Spellbound, Band on the Wall and Dpercussion, where I exploded on the scene.

Exploded? Very modest. What has made you stay here?Manchester is my home and too many people have sold out, gone to London and become nobodies. Manchester is better than most locations in the country. You can get from Liverpool to Manchester in 40 minutes. It’s the same with Leeds and Sheffield. Birmingham’s an hour away. I can do 2-3 gigs in a night and they are all major cities that have major drum n bass nights. All the big London DJs come up to these cities and if I’m a resident MC in each of these cities, I’m laughing. Mancunians, we rise. May the North be with you.

What have you been up to recently?I’ve been in Miami. I was out there with DJ Prophecy. I had a couple of gigs out there. I met Fat Joe and Charles Barkley. I went to the Ultra Music Festival there. A lot of major drum‘n’bass DJs had me on their sets. Goldie, Grooverider, Fabio, Pendulum, Mampi Swift. Awesome time.

As well as MCing, you’re also in a rock band, Daywalkers. How did that happen?The long dreads are for moshin’ purposes. A black boy in a rock band, I’ve got to have something that everyone can relate to when I’m doing air guitar. Basically my friend Robin used to promote drum‘n’bass nights and he brought Phil the guitarist to have a look at me MCing. He was saying he could imagine me in a band. This was in 1999-2000. The band made a tune for me but I didn’t do it. Then all of a sudden Phil’s band packed up so we found a drummer and we all had a jam. From the first jam we had we created eight tracks. It’s making me a better MC.

So do you prefer being an MC or in the band?Anything goes because a lot of the band's chorus lyrics are what I’m now rinsin’ at the drum‘n’bass nights because I’ve got a following from the rock/metal scene. Some of the indie scene are now following me to drum‘n’bass gigs. The whole crowd's changing.

What are you listening to at the moment?My reality check as an MC is MF Doom. Every time I’m getting ahead of myself, I play that CD. I listen to Papoose. Of course the local boys: Broke‘n’English, Strategy, DRS, Konny Kon, my brother Bandit. Now and again a bit of grime and dubstep. I’m a big Wu-Tang fan. Rock wise, I listen to Faith No More and Rage Against The Machine.

Who are the biggest MCs coming out of Manchester at the moment?I’m one of the top 5 MCs in town. Also Goldfinger, Bandit, Strategy and DRS. Those guys have put as much work as I have over the years to clean up the MC’s image.

What advice would you give for all the wannabe MCs out there?Get some sort of school education. I got GCSEs, I went to college, I did business and IT. There’re loads of programmes around town where kids are getting certificates for MCing. There’s not many MCs around town that can make a living out of MCing. A certificate doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day. There’s a market there but not everybody is paying for that market. A CD comes out and everybody bootlegs it. I do workshops sometimes. I’ve cut down this year because I realised that I was helping these kids to achieve a dream that I’ve not fully achieved yet.

What does the future hold for Tonn Piper and the Day Walkers?I don’t want the Daywalkers to be just another Rage Against The Machine imitation. I don’t want to go down that political route. I don’t want to go down the gangster route either. I’ve lost a lot of friends to that. A lot of people will listen to the tracks when the albums finished and notice I always use characters out of cartoons, films or soaps as a reference to who I am. Most of my lyrics have that in.

You can see Tonn Piper at the last ever Ape at the Apollo on Thursday 5 April. He will be at Saki Bar, Wilmslow Road, Rusholme on Friday 6 April. Daywalkers will be performing at Music Box, 65 Oxford Street on Sunday 9 April.

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