People Just Do Nothing has developed an indisputable cult following since releasing its first webisode in 2011. Now with an extremely successful five-season TV series under their belt, the Kurupt FM boys are looking to broaden their horizons, conquering new spaces outside of their Brentford homeland. Hence People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan; a film that follows the boys’ attempt to finally taste the commercial success they have been craving since their inception. When a Japanese game show picks up Kurupt FM’s track “Heart Monitor Riddem”, MC Grindah and Co are given a shot at redemption; but at what cost to their relationships and integrity?
Since their initial success, People Just Do Nothing have chosen to conduct almost all of their interviews in character. The result of this has been some legendary content, like their appearances on Radar Radio and their takeover of BBC Radio 1Xtra, but fans have always been curious about the men behind the characters. Prior to the official release of the film, I sat down over Zoom with four men who are largely responsible for the genesis and cultivation of the idea; Allan Seapa (MC Grindah), Hugo Chegwin (DJ Beats), Asim Chaudhry (Chabuddy G), and Steve Stamp (DJ Steves). The result was an extremely insightful, but also a typically entertaining conversation about the film, the music industry, and the inspiration for Japan as the setting. Make sure to check out People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan in a cinema near you, and be sure to give their debut album Greatest Hits Part 1 a listen or two!
Obviously this is a comedy, with some ridiculously funny scenes, but I feel like there were some underlying criticisms and exposes of what the ‘dream’ of the music industry can actually turn out to be. To what extent did your own experiences in the industry shape this narrative?
Hugo: “Not really, to be honest.”
Allan: “Tell the truth!”
Hugo: “Yes! Nah not really. You see it happen, like I’ve seen big artists have big record deals, everyone’s excited for them, and then it doesn’t go to plan. The label might be saying ‘oh you need to work with this guy’, or ‘you need to go in this direction’.”
Allan: “It’s more something that we’ve seen, yeah, and something that we’re obviously against. You’ve got Miche, that gets obsessed with social media, and obsessed with showing that social media is more important than real life. Those little jokes, they’re all part of the same thing. There’s this whole world that is fake and bullshit and can hurt people, so it’s something that we poke fun at.”
Hugo: “It’s sort of a way of talking about friendship, and they’re the sticks.”
So it’s social commentary not directed just at the music industry, but the wider world?
Hugo: “Yeah exactly, and sex! (Laughing)”
One of the main takeaways from the film appears to be that if you want to make it big in japan, you either have to sacrifice your musical integrity and your close relationships, or you have to sacrifice the opportunity to be ‘big’ itself. They seem to be mutually exclusive. Is that a reflection of the industry just in Japan, or do you think it’s the reality across the world?
Allan: “Nah, that’s a worldwide thing, that’s the machine. That’s a reflection of the machine; whether it’s TV, music or film, the machine run things and only cares about the money side of it. That’s not just Japan. For example, Skibbar and Shabba are big in Japan, they’re drum and bass MC’s who didn’t have to dress in an admiral outfit.”
Hugo: “Or dye their hair ginger and spike it up. I think Grindah’s intention is just to be famous.”
Allan: “I think his intention is to be loved for his music, and this is the only way he can do it.”
Hugo: “Yeah exactly, he’s tried every other avenue, and this is the only one that is working. It’s not a reflection of Japanese record labels, or even record labels in general.”
Grindah and Beats go down different paths in light of their sudden fame. Beats realises early on that it is not for him, swapping his usual loyalty for Grindah for loyalty to his own music and dignity. Grindah, on the other hand, is completely wrapped up in it until the very end. Why do you think they had such different reactions?
What would Seapa Dee and Hoax make of all this? How do you think they would have dealt with being big in Japan?
Allan: “(Laughing) They would have tried to find the most niche underground hip hop night.”
Hugo: “90’s crime rap. It’s actually quite popular out there.”
Allan: “We would have tried to find weed immediately, probably back then we would have just be on the old Burger Kings and that.”
Hugo: “Bit of Burger King, blazing, and probably talking to women that didn’t want to talk back to us. Just like most men really.”
Allan: “Then we were in the hip hop era. Before that we’re talking Jungle and Garage, looking for a rave, you know?”
Hugo: “And pills.”
You mentioned how you would probably be looking for Burger King. Following your instagram since you’ve been out in Japan, I noticed that you both seem to have a real appreciation for cultures across the world. Is that desire to experience new things something you’ve always had, or is it a new development?
Allan: “Well, I’ve got a foreign family (double foreign). My dad’s from Iraq and my mum’s from the Czech Republic, my dad’s Kurdish, so I’ve always had an international family, who lived in different places and had a love for food. But then it was just a good fifteen years of living in London, and just wanting to smoke weed and do nothing.”
Hugo: “And eat chicken nuggets like all the other kids!”
Allan: “Exactly, it wasn’t until I was 22 years old, I went out to Thailand with Hugo and met Steve out there, and that gave me the travel bug ever since then.”
Hugo: “I think we both realised how good it is for your growth as a person, especially you.”
Allan: “(Laughing) It’s true!”
Hugo: “Travel broadens the mind!”
Allan: “But it is true, cause that’s where we came up with the idea for People Just Do Nothing as well, sitting out there, talking about things, and it did actually change a lot of things for me. I got really intro travelling and went all around Asia. That’s why we were so excited about going out to Japan, and me and Hugo actually went out there together for a writing trip a year before the film, and just had an amazing time. Food, culture, garms.”
Allan: “A lot of Bape, yeah.”
Have you ever come into contact with a music exec like Taka? Was he just meant to embody everything wrong with the music industry, or was he directly inspired by a particular type of person?
Allan: “He’s a general embodiment for sure, the first one yeah.”
Hugo: “He’s the bad guy. You see films, they’re so easy. There’s good guys and bad guys, and he’s the bad guy.”
Well if there are good guys and bad guys, would it be fair to say Grindah is a bad guy? He really buys into Taka and his ideas.
Allan: “Yeah for sure. Beats is really the good guy.”
I’m glad you mentioned that. We know Beats throughout the TV series as having this undying loyalty for Grindah, ride or die, whatever happens he’s standing by him. But then we see in this movie, there’s limits to it. What was the thinking behind that?
Hugo: “I think because Grindah’s moved away, he lives in Pitsea, whilst Beats has a job, he has his own independence, and life has changed since he moved away. I think because of that he probably has 2% more of a backbone. He has a best interest for all of them at heart.”
Grindah: “Also, Grindah has never changed. We’ve seen in the TV series how Beats kinda gets to him but it’s sorted out pretty easily, but Grindah has never changed. This is the first time he’s changed, and he’s started selling out. All the morals he’s installed in Beats over all these years, of staying underground, staying true to your craft, suddenly they’re all out the window. So Beats is looking at this guy like this isn’t the guy I fell in love with!”
Hugo: “Because he has that slight independence about him now, he has that much more of a backbone about him, but once it goes to shit he can’t handle it anyways. We talk about it on the album.”
Allan: “Yeah, there’s a track called “Letter to Grindah” on the album.”
That sounds emotional.
Allan: “Yeah, it’s got a reply, “Letter to BT”
Early on in the film, Beats and Grindah agree that music has only gotten worse since 2005. I was wondering if Hugo Chegwin and Allan Seapa agree with this?
Allan: “(Laughing) No!”
Hugo: “Definitely not.”
Allan: “There was a time where I probably would have, as well.”
Hugo: “Back in the 90’s crime rap era.”
Allan: “Yeah, but not anymore man. I do feel like it got a bit corny in about ‘06, there was that really corny dubstep and all the grime bres were doing corny shit, but it got better both before and after that.”
Hugo: “I’ve just embraced all of this new stuff.”
Allan: “Yeah, he loves Drake.”
Hugo: “I’m a driller.”
Allan: “I like drill too you know.”
Hugo: “I don’t force myself to listen to it because everyone listens to it, but if something captures me then I will.”
Are there any artists you’re checking for at the moment then from this new generation?
Hugo: “I like Loski, I think Loski’s good.“
Allan: “Loski’s hard. Obviously OFB, Headie One, RV.”
Hugo: “FredAgain, I know he’s not part of that generation but he’s part of that world. I like that guy from West as well, I’ve forgotten his name now.”
Allan: “Oh Digga D?”
Hugo: “Nah not Digga D.”
Allan: “Ohhhh, he’s got beef with Digga D!”
Hugo: “No I don’t.”
Allan: “They carry swords you madman!”
Hugo: “Nah not him, someone else from West? He’s got a tune with Fredo.”
Allan: “You don’t like Fredo either do you?”
Hugo: “No I do like him, he’s good.”
This isn’t the platform to be saying these things Hugo!
Hugo: “(Laughing) Exactly! You’re gonna get me murdered or something! I like everyone, especially Fredo!”
Allan: “Let’s shout out CASisDEAD while we’re talking about this though, we’re waiting on his new shit, he’s the best.”
Hugo: “Drop it!”
As actors, what was the biggest jump or difference from shooting People Just Do Nothing the TV series, compared to the film?
Steve: “I’d say it wasn’t actually that different really. I think the challenge was to try and keep it feeling similar in terms of not changing the way we film or the way we perform as actors, we wanted to maintain that level of improvisation and make sure that the vibe of the set was very open to people chipping in new ideas.
“It was about trying to protect what we had created in the TV show, and not allowing the scale of what we were doing with it being a film to affect the atmosphere on set. I think we achieved that, and it felt very similar on one level, in terms of having quite a small set and bouncing off each other. The main difference was that we were out in Tokyo, which was quite mad, but yeah.”
What was the inspiration behind using Japan as the setting? I saw in an interview you mentioned that doing a spinoff in a place like Ibiza would be too expected, but out of everywhere, why Tokyo?
Asim: “I think it was Jon Petrie, our producer, who came up with the idea. But we always wanted to put them in a challenging environment. We had talked earlier on about doing it at a festival, but I think we agreed that no matter where they would be, they would be experiencing fame for the first time.
“The thing with Japan, is that Japan does have those kinds of nice subcultures, where strange things can become quite big sometimes. We just thought it would be an interesting place for the boys to be, a fish out of water, culture clash sort of experience. But really the film is about their shot at fame, so it could have been anywhere really; Japan just offered a particular texture.”
Steve: “It’s such an intense place as well, Tokyo, it’s so busy and so overwhelming in terms of the sounds and the sights and the food. Everything is so different to a European city for example, so that combined with the idea of the landscape being so spectacular, with the neon lights, the completely different look to the London landscape…once we came up with that idea it made sense on so many levels.”
Asim: “I remember, we were like ‘yeah we’re gonna do Japan’, but then we were like ‘nah we can’t, it’s mental Japan’. Eventually we came back to it and just agreed it was the best idea.”
Steve: “Because at first we didn’t know if we needed to go abroad really. My argument originally was just that we should do a festival film, and it’s about them experiencing the booking for a festival, it would feel like a big journey, you would have the visual feast of the festival, with lots of little sub plots. But then the film The Festival came out, and ruined that plan! But yeah man, I’m really happy with choosing Japan, I think it worked out really well.”
Obviously in 2021 we live in a world in which underground UK music has never been more commercialised and globalised. Does this film reflect this new reality? That it could actually be possible for a Brentford pirate radio crew to be ‘big in Japan’ now? Could this film have been made 15 years ago?
Steve: “I think weirdly though, when we were researching it, and even stuff we had already watched, there’s quite a lot of examples of musicians going to Japan. There was already that amazing documentary about drum and bass, LJT Bukem, and that was in our heads when we were talking about it.
“There’s also that Wu Tang documentary where they couldn’t get weed, and that was the inspiration for the Steves plot. So there were elements that we were drawing from that were from real life. Even the idea of a tune blowing up over there; there is a small underground grime scene out there, that’s fairly well known in Tokyo, so it made sense that there could be people hearing their music.”
Asim: “On a more universal level, I think this film could have been made 15 years ago, because what it’s really about is selling your soul to the devil. That’s what the music industry does; taking something which is pure and organic, and putting it through this process, this machine, to make something marketable that has lost its soul but become more commercially viable.
“That’s been the case in the music industry since it started, there’s always been ‘the man’, the industry guy who’s going to change and mould you, making you something you don’t want to be. So the story is that, it’s the same old story. That’s why I’d said its universal and could have been made a long time ago.”
I’m glad you touched on that, because I think Chabuddy has one of the most interesting arcs throughout the movie. In the TV series we know him as this money man, almost a scammer, who is always focused on making his next hustle work. Now in the film, he directly opposes the industry, with his mantra being “Fuck Taka” throughout the film. What inspired this character development?
Asim: “You know what, it’s so funny you said “Fuck Taka” there. We had a screening last week, with all of my family and friends, and my mum and dad came. They hadn’t seen each other for about 15 years, it was bare awkward but alright at the same time; I was thinking they might get back together, nah I’m joking! Anyways, my mum loved the film, and the next day she said ‘in my head I’ve just been walking around the house saying “Fuck Taka”!
“But yeah, it was quite difficult deciding Chabuddy’s arc. Chabuddy in Japan, your first thought is that he is going to be doing scams, buying robots, all kinds of mad stuff, but really, it was basically Chabuddy getting kicked out of the group. Steve was saying earlier that Chabuddy represents loyalty in the film; he’s a useless manager, but a loyal friend. There’s even that bit where he says “Chabuddy G might not be the best manager, but he’s a good mate”, and that’s basically what his arc is about.”
Steve: “He becomes a victim of their success.”
Asim: “When the man gets you, the industry machine, it wants to remove all the good stuff. They get rid of Beats as well, it’s this idea of divide and conquer. He blinds Grindah with the promise of being the star. Ken who plays Taka does it so well, that suave, slimy kinda guy.
“Chabuddy’s arc was difficult to come up with, we had loads of different versions, but I feel like it worked within that story. Like you said, you were expecting him to be on his scam shit and all his hustling, and all that, but he’s really not, he just wants to be a part of their success and fun.”
People Just Do Nothing” Big In Japan is out everywhere now! Make sure to catch it now!