Hobbyists - The Soul Musician

Fightland Blog

By Shawn Smith

In which we talk to the part-timers and casual gym rats who fight when they're not at their day jobs. 

Christian Gregory is a contemporary soul artist, with a vintage sound that combines elements of jazz and big band. Recently, he released his first EP, entitled “Count on You”. The first video, Won’t Get Nowhere, was released this past summer, and is heavily influenced by perennial boxing film Raging Bull.

We heard Gregory was a serious Muay Thai student, so we spoke with him about his budding career, his Muay Thai training regimen, and the making of his boxing-themed music video.

FIghtland: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before?
Christian Gregory: It's definitely soul music. We record a lot of it in a kind of in an old school way. We record to tape. We get a whole bunch of musicians down and we record tracks usually in one take, or at least the core of them. We're not doing it as a kind of throwback, retro sort of thing. We're making new music. There's definitely a kind of modernity to it. There's freshness to it, or at least we hope so. 

A lot of the influences that crop up in my music definitely came from before I was even born. The old artists like Marvin Gaye and Al Green, Otis Redding, people like that. It's the kind of stuff I just naturally grabbed onto growing up. I would kind of dig through my parent’s record collection; I'd find a lot of jazz records and stuff.

I'm not doing this as an aesthetic. I'm not trying to make it look retro or throwback. I don't really approach it in that direction. I just try and make music that I like. A lot of the influences just happen to be older. I guess there's an inherent freshness there somehow. 

What inspired the concept for the video?
I think it's definitely something in the rhythm and speed of the song. It's such a slow, kind of fancier ballad. Because it is so down tempo, he just wanted to sort of juxtapose that with something that normally would be hard hitting and quite fast paced. 

It wasn't my idea to just get punched in the face for a day. The director, Kaz Ove, he came up with the concept when he heard the track because he's a huge (Martin) Scorsese fan so he immediately thought of the idea of not giving up. He thought of the scene in Raging Bull where Jake Lamotta just doesn't go down. He thought it would be an interesting one, instead of the heroic artist who is the victor at the end and comes back to knock the other guy out.

He kind of suggested that idea straight away and I kind of laughed because of the way he pitched it. He said "how about we do a boxing thing where you just get punched in the face" so I was kind of laughing it off. Then when I thought about it, I thought there might be something there. 

It was quite structured; there were quite a lot of complex shots in there. Definitely for five minutes worth of footage, I had to go a lot more of beating.

My trainer, Richmond Allen was actually in the video. Thankfully he knew how to hit hard enough to sell it, but how to not knock me out and finish the shoot.

How did you get into Muay Thai?
Well, I started Muay Thai about six years ago. It was a friend of mine who training at that gym regularly. Just as I was getting to know him, he said I should come down and give it a try. 

The first session was just hell. After the warm-up, I was like "shit, I don't think I can do this again." By the end of the session, I just felt really good so I stuck it out. I got into it immediately after trying it. I was fortunate enough to do one-on-on sessions with Bill Judd that ran the gym, who still owns it. He was one of the first British guys in Thailand to fight over there competitively. 

He set up this gym called KO that was really a sort of spit and sawdust gym in East London. I just kind of got hooked to that. I started doing more of the classes, more of the one-on-one stuff. I just liked the variety of the sessions really. 30 minutes of bag and pads, then conditioning, then abs at the end. The variety in the session I really found interesting. 

What does your training look like in a week?
I usually aim for five sessions a week, might be a bit more or less. I try to do three at the Muay-Thai gym, often one-on-one sessions. Other than that, I either do running or bag work on my own at the gym. I guess the key sessions are the one-on-ones with Richmond (Annan). 

The format usually is that I run to the gym, which is part of my warmup. I'll get there, just do three rounds of skipping, burpees, jump squats, sit ups, dips then training either on the bag or on pads with Richmond. We'll just do different combinations, work on technique or work on footing, flexibility, power. He's always got a complete mixed bag of tricks, just new ways of making me hurt basically. 

What music do you listen to at the gym?
I don't get to choose. One day he (Annan) might have pop on, the next day might be Drum and Bass. The days I really notice it is when there's nothing on there. Usually it's something upbeat or energetic. Usually it reflects the mood that Richmond's in. If it's some dark, aggressive hip-hop, then you might as well just walk out (laughs). 

Are there any similarities between making music and training in combat sports?
The one thing that I kind of think of when I'm training is if he's giving me a set of combinations, or trying to teach a certain move in terms of muscle memory, it's kind of the same approach as when I'm playing the guitar. You're learning certain movements. You have to teach your brain how to move certain muscles to exact positions in kind of a quick and relaxed way. I try and apply that. The only other thing in terms of combinations is just remembering to breath and remembering the rhythm. 

When they pointed (the rhythm) out to me, it made a lot of sense. One day I wasn't doing it well and he's like "come on, you're a musician." He just counted it out for me, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 and then when you try and apply that kind of logic, it makes a lot of sense. 



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