Cave Man on life lessons, the Leanin’ collective and essential NoSpace EP

Cave Man aka. Pooch is one of many young, Greater Manchester-based artists, engaging in work with far-reaching social and cultural benefits. He is a conscientious rapper, youth leader and project producer, whose background in theatre and poetry make him a captivating performer, while his key roles in both the Leanin’ and NoSpace collectives ensure he is heard loud and clear above the busy Manchester scene. Next month’s Inner City Waves – which also features Maxi Zee, Rosebud, China Lilly and DJ Flow Theory – won’t be the first time he has stepped foot on the Band on the Wall stage. We discussed that, alongside his plans for Leanin’ and awesome NoSpace EP, over the course of an uplifting catch-up with the bearded lyricist.

You began Leanin’ in 2016 and have done loads with the collective since. What have you learned about yourself, your peers and the City’s music scene during that time and what are Leanin’ keen to tackle during the next 12 months?

Caveman: ‘Maaate. It’s always busy. I’ve seen how much self-perception shapes and influences artists. The confidence, or lack of it, that an artist approaches their audience with is transformative. I’ve seen no one, despite what they tell you, perform better drunk, or on drugs, they just don’t. I’ve seen some of my peers go flying! Berry [Blacc] was at our first event, he’s on tour now, Chris Amor headlining and hosting everywhere, Blakk Ice is seen as one of the city’s foremost up ‘n’ comers, Evergreens artwork is getting more and more places, K.I.M.E getting thousands of YouTube hits, Roxanna is super active on her own stuff now, 21CT are growing from strength to strength – I’m not claiming credit for anyone else’s hard work, but it does feel great to see how far the team and associates are building their own things.’

‘I’ve also created professional theatre, delivered workshops, facilitated drama workshops for young people, project managed, done solo sets, played instruments in front of people, done drawings, got on an airplane on my own, sang, released music – alllll sorts of stuff that I didn’t really know how to do before I did it. It’s been a very good year for pushing myself and learning what I can do.

I want to continue putting on great events, helping the artists around me progress and fulfil themselves, creating spaces for people to feel free, connected, respected and happy. We’re also beginning creating a Leanin’ mixtape and I’m always interested in collaboration, especially with visual artists.’

You contributed a wide-ranging set of verses to the NoSpace EP, which is itself a wide-ranging project! How did NoSpace come together, who’s in the driving seat and what’s on the horizon for the group?

Caveman: ‘NoSpace were part of a project at Contact called Level Up, we received a year’s training in music industry, production, performance worked with some big names, did some big shows, released a project. I gotta shout those guys out coz it was a huge opportunity for me. The music is produced in house, but we have quite a few producers: Tobija, BLUE, TOMONOMOUS and Shaquavo mainly.

We’re making new music! Working on stuff all the time. I think we took a bit of time to find our feet, but now we all get each other it’s proper flowing. I think we’ll have the opposite of a difficult second album.’

You were unexpectedly invited to open for The Last Poets when they visited Band on the Wall in 2015. Can you remind us how it went down?

Caveman: ‘So the last Poets were in town and I was already amped for the show as I had seen them [before], and also been able to link some of my friends, Inna Voice, the support set. So it was all good. But then I was in Band on the Wall on the day of the show and was just in the room with them, made eye contact, head nod you know how it goes. But then I thought well I might as well say hello, so I did, and started talking about poetry and Manchester, where words and music intersect, and about what it’s like here.

They were very interested in hearing about the inner city and poverty affected areas. I had written a poem about homelessness that morning, the kinda feeling of stifling guilt of not being able help someone, of the shame that arouses, and yet how quickly it passes. So I read them the poem and they say hey man open up for us tonight. I’m like eh? They’re like yeah man it’s on. I was selling t-shirts! So I had to hide my t-shirts, run on stage, read my poem, make the crowd make noise for these guys, and then get back to work. I saw the son of one of them, on VLAD tv recently. He was an actor in Juice with Tupac. Surreal!’

As a writer, do you find rhymes and poetry to be two distinct art forms, or do the disciplines merge as you formulate and vocalise ideas?

Caveman: ‘Honestly music has consumed my poetry now. I’ve written like one half decent poem in 12 months, creating music is too infectious! There’s definitely a lot of crossover. I write super short poems now. I think with poetry I think about every word, I’ll write seven perfect words and be buzzing. Music writing is a bit of a bigger picture.’

If you could get hold to the master tapes for any record, from any era or genre, and make a beat from it – what would you choose?

Caveman: ‘I want the o.g. drums to Nina Simone’s Funkier Than a Mosquitos tweeter!!!’

What has blown your mind in the past few months: art, music, writing, current affairs…?

Caveman: ‘I love Atlanta, the Donald Glover TV series, can’t recommend it enough. Film wise I saw Isle of Dogs which blew my mind. I love cut together work. Wes Anderson is a genius. Writing wise Roberto Bolano is a masssssster, I also enjoyed The Buddha of Suburbia lately, and I’m reading pimp by Iceberg Slim currently. Music wise Dubbul O’s new project was sick, I’ve been listening to Dorothy Ashby, Haiku D’Etat, Bobby Caldwell and starting to understand why people like Common. Robert Glasper Experiment, the new Alfa Mist, a lot of A Tribe Called Quest, Cat Stevens’ Tiny Desk made me cry a bit. Oh and my EP is on Spotify which is pretty cool!’

Since every day is a school day…what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned post education – the one thing you would pass on to anyone that would likely be of use?

Caveman: Walking on your own and turning off your phone and social media have immeasurable benefits. It’s so so very worth it. Sleep, food, water are important for every single human, ever. You can’t buck the trend!’