The inventor has since moved out of London and started renting a separate studio. It’s littered with tools, spare parts and half-broken musical instruments that have been donated or bought by Battle on the cheap. The space is a simple but visually stimulating backdrop for all of his YouTube videos. The equipment and purposefully unpolished creations reinforce Battle’s simple message: if you want to learn electronics, get stuck in. You don’t need expensive equipment and shouldn’t be afraid of breaking or ‘spoiling’ any product made by a giant corporation.
Still, the extra YouTube and Patreon money has helped. The infamous Furby organ, for instance, required many charismatic and, for Battle, expensive toys. “It took about a year and a half to get enough Furbies,” he said. “Because Furby’s are like £10-15 [roughly $13-19] each. It was quite an expensive one for the time.” The investment was worth it, however. The musical monstrosity attracted 3.8 million views on YouTube and countless headlines from both mainstream and niche technology publications. “It was overwhelming,” he said. “It was very overwhelming.”
“I don’t see anybody or the light of day until about midnight. Every single day, seven days a week.”
Despite his growing popularity, Battle runs a small operation. He pays a friend, Johnny Goddard, to help with some of the more complicated shoots every month. Otherwise, though, he’s a one-man army with a number of responsibilities. He has to research, build and either perform with each instrument or explain how others can build a similar device. Battle then has to edit and upload each video to YouTube, as well as keep track of his monthly Patreon commitments.
The hours are long. “I literally don’t do anything else,” he said. “I get up between 8AM and 10AM, get to the studio, and then I stay at the studio. I don’t see anybody or the light of day until about midnight. Every single day, seven days a week. I love it, but then I look back and go, ‘Oh my girlfriend must hate me.'” He pauses for a moment, before adding: “She doesn’t though, she supports me. She builds stuff as well, which is relieving!”
Battle is also a musician that uses his online income to fund the occasional tour and justify the time required to both write and record new tracks. He hasn’t formally released anything, though, beyond a single called “Groundhog Day.” Battle dropped the electro-banger earlier this month and intends to release new music every four weeks moving forward. “I’ve got a big bank of songs I need to get out,” he explained. “But I never know when to put them out. I just don’t know.”
Look Mum No Computer is in a unique situation. He doesn’t have a record deal and, provided his YouTube and Patreon numbers remain stable, might never need to. He’s a truly independent artist who can release tracks whenever and however he likes. Songs like “Groundhog Day” expose people to his eccentric invention videos, and vice versa. Like Donald Glover, who works as a writer, actor and musician under the handle Childish Gambino, people like Look Mum No Computer for his quirky personality and imagination. Music, build tutorials and vlogs — they’re simply different ways of consuming and appreciating Battle’s dotty work.
The synth-obsessed artist plays into this during his live performances. Look Mum No Computer spends half of his set playing tracks on large, custom instruments. The machines face the crowd, which means you only see Battle’s back as he bounces between them, pushing buttons and twisting crudely-labeled dials. As soon as there’s a gap in the track, though — a particular loop, or medley, that can run for a couple of bars — he pivots toward the crowd and howls into a microphone as beads of sweat pour from his scruffy, outlandish haircut.
At the end of every song, though, the performance takes a turn. Battle explains that his machines are breaking down and require constant maintenance during the set. “What a piece of shit!” He says suddenly. “I’m so sorry. Just give us a second!” It’s hard to tell how much, if any of these problems are planned. Regardless, they never seem to faze Battle. And the crowd doesn’t seem to mind, either. They laugh and cheer as his creations falter and, sporadically, roar back to life so he can perform another song. “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” A man in the crowd shouts at one point. Everyone, including Battle, lets out a hoot.