Friday, 5 March 2010

Interview - Scroobius Pip

As the phone rings out, I’m suddenly struck by uncertainty. Should I call him by his real name, David, or his bearded stage alter ego, Scroobius Pip? I make a snap judgement and opt for the former. It seems to go down well.

Catching one half of the genre obliterating duo that is Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip on a rare day off ahead of their UK Tour, Scroobius Pip is as down to earth and inviting as his lyricism would imply. In fact, chatting to one of the most observant and credible spoken word artists of this generation, he is everything you would expect; humble, articulate and humorous. But as he trips over certain words and takes short pauses before pronouncing others, the one surprise about Scroobius Pip is his noticeable difficulty in expressing certain words; a consequence of the little known speech impediment he used spoken word to overcome.

Whilst honing his poetic license, he teamed up with electronic veteran and musician, Dan Le Sac, in 2006. Two years later, they released Angles; a musical cacophony of beats, melodies and subject matters covering God, homosexuality, self harm and love. These often bleak topics and dark comedic undertones alongside their now trademark electronic, hip hop, spoken word musical style culminated in something of a cult following.

Touring extensively ever since, the duo started penning new material whilst on the road last year:

“I sort of envisaged we’d have all this time off to make the second album but we were pretty much still touring and gigging constantly. I think the longest we had without a gig was about a whole month and even when you’re doing that, there are tons of other bits and bobs going on so it was very much written on the road. It wasn’t until October last year that we were in the studio recording it and we had like a month and a half to get it recorded and in the bag.”

After the success of tracks like Thou Shalt Always Kill and such high expectations placed upon Dan Le Sav vs. Scroobius Pip, after two years away from the studio was the notorious strain of second album anticipation a cause for writers block? Not according to Scroobius Pip:

“I didn’t really think about it that much in that sense. I think that’s where I benefited from being on the road so much during it. There wasn’t that pressure of being in the studio and having to do it. We’d been writing it since we finished the last album, so bits and bobs had been coming together and on tour we’d drop songs in here and there, so it didn’t seem like too much pressure.

“I think we lucked out in that the first album got a lot of good exposure and good reviews but we’re still very much on an independent label [Sunday Best] and not a chart act as such. So there isn’t so much expectation that can be measured. It’s not like we need a top ten album, that’s not what we’ve ever done. Our goal is to write an album that we’re really happy with. If we make an album we’re pleased with, in theory the fans should like it ‘cause that’s exactly how we wrote the first one. We didn’t know that anyone was going to hear it really.”

It would seem nigh on impossible for a band or artist not to develop after so long away on the road and away from the studio. Rather, it is something of a necessity and the likes of Radiohead, Modest Mouse and Foo Fighters have this new album reinvention down to a fine art. But with Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip’s distinctive lyrical focus and dynamic genre bashing style, Scroobius Pip recognises that to start their sound from scratch in a bid to increase their fan base would not only have been uncharacteristic but also risked damaging their organic leftfield sound;

“I think it still sounds very much like us. I think it sounds developed and we’ve clearly learnt more and hopefully improved our skills. But it’s not like it’s Jack Penate completely redefining his sound. It sounds like us still. I mean we never really fit into just one genre so it’s still got that, but it feels developed. It’s up in the air as to whether it will win over many new fans if you know what I mean. But using Jack as an example, so many people got into his new stuff that didn’t enjoy his old stuff at all, but I don’t think we’ve had that change and I don’t think we want to

“It was weird with Jack Penate. I’m a big fan of him and gigged with him from early on and that first album I still love, its great pop music. But I think that because he’s a young lad, some of the backlash and criticism did hit through to him. So I was concerned when I was talking to him and he was writing his new album, he was saying, ‘oh I’m writing it this way.’ I was worried he was trying too hard but he nailed it and it was completely right. He did a fantastic job. I think also partly down to a lot of the subject matters we discuss in our songs, a lot of the fans will have that deeper connection than all that.”

So with the new album out later this month and the eclectic duo soon to start a sell out UK tour, things look set to get pretty manic for them this year. But Scroobius Pip can’t wait to get back on the road and showcase their new material:

“For us, this tour is hugely exciting. With the first album, we were touring even before the album came out and that came out now two years ago. So we’ve been playing those same songs to people for about three years and it’s just gonna be great to offer up new stuff. The fan base has grown and grown and we were starting to feel like we were cheating people in some way. It was like another gig, another huge crowd but you’ve probably seen us four times and we probably played all the same songs –it was starting to feel unfair.

“Our key has always been to try and entertain people and give them their money’s worth. Obviously we’ve got a lot of songs which are quite dark and serious and we will play them ,but we don’t want people to come to the gig and just nod their heads and say ‘yep, yep that was a good point’. We do want people to have a good night out as that’s what they’ve paid to do. We have plenty of up tempo tracks in there, some theatrics- I’ve got some costume changes in one of the songs, and you know, stuff like that just to make it enjoyable and entertaining."

Amidst this already packed out year, Scroobius Pip has found the time to put his creative juices to another use; a book of poetry:

“It’s just another reason for me to just be stupidly excited at the moment. I’d been asked a few times if I would release a book of poetry and I never really read a lot of poetry; I like to watch it be performed live, I like to hear the writer perform it. So I decided that for me to release a book of poetry would be kind of arrogant, like ‘I don’t read poetry but you should read mine.’ But the thought of that made me question why I didn’t read poetry as a youngster, so I came up with the idea of putting together a graphic novel of poems.

“I used MySpace and it’s all from fans and the public. I got artists from all over the world to submit pictures of each poem and turn it into a comic strip almost. The work that came in was amazing and I half expected the standard to be quite average [laughs]. I then took it to Titan Books who put out The Watchman comic books and all sorts of amazing stuff. They saw the standard and loved it and that’s coming out on Titan now; which is a huge testament to the quality put out there”

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