Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip


A few days ago I was lucky enough to interview a real-life genius-man, Scroobius Pip (who I may or may not have mentioned several thousand times before on this very blog) for my student paper, the Newcastle Courier. He was a bloody nice man, and what you find below is what happened…

Well, given that we’re a Newcastle paper, why aren’t you coming to our fair city on the tour?

It’s terrible isn’t it? We tend to alternate between Middlesbrough and Newcastle, but we’re not making either on this tour. It’s purely because with the offers we got in, and the space we had time-wise it’s all we could fit in. If you look at our gig listings, and they’re about to be updated to even more, we literally haven’t got a day off in between. But at some point I’m sure we’ll get back to Newcastle.

Having heard the new single, ‘Get Better’ and songs like ‘Angles’ and ‘Tommy C’ on the first album, do you feel you write about issues more than subjects?

It’s about tying the two together really, tackling particular subjects that are issues. All I’ve done there is reword your question and it doesn’t mean anything! It’s looking at issues and subjects aren’t normally covered in songs and try to address those things. It’s always annoyed me, particularly in the last few years, for example green or political issues have become really fashionable for bands to talk about in interviews and then on their actual songs they just go and sing another love song. 10% of your fanbase will see that interview and get that message, whereas 100% of your fanbase will hear the song where you’re talking about absolutely nothing. It’s always been my thought that if there was something I would talk about or felt passionate about I’d put it in the songs, where it’s getting directly to the audience.

So are you trying to get a message across to change your fans or are you just expressing your own views?

It’s just my own views. It’s always something that people can misconstrue, they see all of it as being preachy, but it’s always my own views. Often I’ll turn them into a story as a vessel for getting my message across, but there’s also a huge awareness that I’m a 28 year old dude from Essex you know? I don’t think I’ve got all the answers, my opinions change regularly, I’m sure there’s stuff on Angles [Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip’s debut album] that I’d feel differently about now. It’s just opinions, it’s not saying “if you disagree, you’re wrong”. ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ is a prime example, the point of that is half of it contradicts itself anyway, the only important one is “Thou shalt think for yourselves” because you shouldn’t be able to listen to every opinion in the song and agree with it. It’s things like not putting artists on pedestals when I’ve previously said ‘Thou shalt not take the names of Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer in vain’ – they do contradict themselves and that’s the whole point. A lot of people did say, “you shouldn’t tell people what to think” and I’m not! I’m saying think for yourselves.

When you re-recorded the song with Posdnous from De La Soul were addressing some of those changes in opinion then or were you just adding to that list of contradictions?

It’s a bit of a weird one, I wish that there was a thought of “I have to put right what I got wrong” in a Quantum Leap kind of way, but to be honest it was originally just going to be just new vocals from Pos and the old vocals from me, but we got Pos’ vocals through and it just had me itching and I said “I just have to write some new, better ones”. It was just hearing a legend, I listened to 3 Feet High and Rising at school and to have Pos covering one of our songs was amazing, and I couldn’t just put that with the old lyrics, so I then rewrote and added some new bits purely out of excitement and being a hip-hop fan.

So when you say he was covering your song, did he offer to do that or did you approach him?

It was the label that asked him if he was interested, and he was! He wrote his parts and we actually recorded it all before meeting because he was in America. Then he came over and we did some press together and it was just amazing hearing him saying what he liked about the song. On 3 Feet High De La Soul basically invented the hip-hop skit and he said that people don’t realise that those skits are just as important to the group as the songs, and that ‘Thou Shalt’ reminded him of those skits but we had the balls to go and make a whole song out of it. It is quite light-hearted but has a serious point, just like those early De La Soul skits. It was just great hearing all that from a living legend.

You reference a lot of your favourite hip-hop artists on ‘Development’, do you have any more star fans itching to work on your new records?

We’ve not got anyone lined up, but there’s obviously numerous people we’d love to work with. Actually, through Pos we got details for people like Q-Tip but we never got round to actually doing it basically because we stopped working with our American manager and things like that so it never came about. It would be a dream to work with them, and now I guess it’s strangely achievable. We never expected to get the chance to work with Pos but now that that’s happened you can sit there with the most ridiculous list of hip-hop legends when a month beforehand you never would have dreamt of getting a chance to work with and go, “well, it’s possible”!

You referred to them as hip-hop legends and yourself as a hip-hop fan – do you not consider yourself a hip-hop artist as much, or is that something that’s growing as you continue doing what you’re doing?

It’s really tough, because the term hip-hop is a really awkward one these days. Generally, hip-hop is thought of as Kanye West and 50 Cent and I’ve got no problem with them but I wouldn’t consider the genre that we do to be the same as the one they do. I’m a huge hip-hop fan, and particularly on the new album there are certain tracks that are very much hip-hop tracks in beat, delivery and content so I still see myself as a hip-hop fan who just happens to have the chance to make the music and work with some amazing people.

A lot of people refer to you as a spoken word artist or a poet, do you see yourself as that rather than a hip-hop artist or do they work together?

I come from the spoken word scene and the first stuff I did with Dan was when he did remixes of my stuff. So I do come from that scene but I don’t think there has to be a definition between them. If you listen to some of the KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions stuff, Public Enemy, Rakim, it can be as powerful, productive and moving as any poetry. When I got into Sage Francis and Saul Williams I realised that it doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can be one and the same thing. Saying that, I do generally refer to myself as a spoken word artist just because of that confusion over what people might perceive to be hip-hop. Literally, I speak words, bang. It’s descriptive and blunt, that’s what I do for a living.

Speaking of spoken word, are you planning to do anything like No Commercial Breaks [Pip’s debut spoken word album] again?

I’m not sure. At the moment all the focus is the work with Dan. A lot of people ask if I’m planning to do solo stuff and that’s not really how my brain works. I’ll be writing something and think, “man, I need to talk to Dan and get a good beat to this”, not “I’ll put that in the solo cupboard”. At some point I would like to do another solo EP that would be a change from the sound Dan and I have developed but it’s not on my radar at present. It’s just too exciting to have a new record to push and be doing what I’m doing.

So with the new record, do you feel there’s a switch of style since Angles or has there been a development?

I think there’s a development from Dan and I on this one. There are tracks with a really full sound but then there’s tracks like ‘5 Minutes’ where Dan’s made an amazing, basic drumbeat. Even the single’s a beautifully bare electro beat that builds up and gets bigger. What I loved about was the swell of it – the original had an intro that was about a minute and a half long as we slowly added more synth sounds. I guess it’s something that comes with more confidence or experience as a writer as there’s not the need to jump in and start the song immediately, you can let the beat build and then jump in. I think there is a development of Dan’s production and with my vocals – I’m a bit more at flow as well as with my subject matter.

The single’s been described as Italo-Disco, was that a conscious effort by Dan?

I wouldn’t really know! We work over email and the reason for that is because I have no knowledge of dance, beginning, middle or end. I mean, I know what I love and the reason I started working with Dan isn’t because of his name in the dance scene, it was just because I thought his work sounded awesome. It’s weird to have got more into the dance scene, because dance is the one genre I’ve never really got my head round! To be in an act that in a lot of record shops comes under the dance section is quite strange, but it’s great in that respect. I’ve always been into punk and metal, and then hip-hop, but dance is the one thing I never got. I’d go to clubs at uni and people would be loving it, off their nuts, and I’d just be going “Nah, I don’t get it”. In that way, Dan’s opened the door for me.

Do you feel that, as an act, you’re quite far removed from other artists because of that fusion of genres?

Yeah, we don’t quite fit into the dance scene because I’m not a garage or drum ‘n’ bass MC, I can’t just jump up and ramble about nothing. Equally, we don’t sit comfortably in the UK hip-hop scene because the sounds of Dan’s production are so diverse and different from what the UK hip-hop scene is. There is an unusual mixture, and I don’t mean that in a “look, we’re so special” kind of way, because it was never a planned thing – it comes from both of us working in record shops for years and having such broad musical tastes that they come together like they do.

Are you planning on hitting the festival season this year?

Last year we really eased off because the year before we headlined a stage at Reading and Leeds and we wanted to come back with the new record. We’d done two years of playing every festival with the same songs, and it’d feel weird to do another season and say “here’s the songs we played two years ago, hope you enjoy them again, I’m wearing a different shirt”. This time we’ve got so many new tracks and it’ll be great to get them out there.

Do you enjoy touring and festival season as much as the recording process?

It’s the variation that makes it exciting. After a month or two of gigs you get a bit tired of it and then you’ve got festival touring which tends to be a bit more broken up and you’re not playing to just your fanbase so it’s a different task. Writing and recording gives you time off, so being able to switch between them all is what makes the job exciting.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

I don’t have that, I don’t think there should be any guilt in pleasure. A good song is a good song. We used to cover ‘Push the Button’ by the Sugababes and that is a fucking brilliant song. It should be a guilty pleasure but I show no guilt at all about it. I’m one of the biggest Cyndi Lauper fans you’ll ever meet. If you look into her back catalogue, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ is nothing to do with Cyndi Lauper. She’s a legend, and I would never refer to it as a guilty pleasure.

What was your favourite album of last year?

I sound like a wanker because it wasn’t even released in the UK, so I sound like a real muso snob but it was just because I didn’t get that much new music last year that excited me. It’s a guy called P.O.S., he’s an American rapper and the album’s called ‘Never Better’ and it’s just amazing. The thing that appeals to me is he comes from a punk background as well and the sound of the beats and delivery sound like no hip-hop I’ve ever heard before. He’s got hints of Chuck D in the way he seems so comfortable and can deliver stuff with such intensity without having to shout. It’s just a great hip-hop album. He toured supporting King Blues and punk bands, and it was great to see punk kids saying “What, this is hip-hop, it doesn’t work” and then winning them over. There’s a great line about when you first become a punk, and that got everyone on board, he just knows what punk’s about.

Now a few friends wanted to ask you some questions of their own, is that ok?

Go for it.

What’s your favourite colour?

Brown. Just because I’m standing in my living room and I’ve got a brown sofa, a brown rug and brown furniture. It’s all brown.

Favourite cereal?

I’m currently on the chocolate crunchy nut clusters. That’s because I’ve just moved and I’ve got particularly deep bowls and they don’t go soggy, that’s the key. With the deep bowls you usually get to the bottom and it’s all soggy, but that doesn’t happen with the clusters.

That was a more technical answer than I expected.

You’ve gotta give technical answers to light-hearted questions.

I’ve got one particularly strange friend who wanted to know if it was actually your beard that does the rapping and you just move your hands around…

The beard has the power. I’d recommend any artist to grow one. In all seriousness, when I was doing spoken word gigs it’s easy to say “the dude with the big beard was good” and you’ll remember the dude with the big beard.

I suppose that works across the board because people refer to Fleet Foxes as the folk band with the beards!

It really does work. Just on a recognisable level, I get recognised when I’m out a lot and it’s not because I’m world famous, it’s just I’m easier to recognise than most indie bands. They’ve got that generic look, I’ve just got a massive beard.

Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip release ‘Get Better’ on 1st March, and the album ‘The Logic of Chance’ is released on the 14th. Coincedentally, that’s also the day they go on tour. Hoorah!

Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip – Waiting For The Beat To Kick In (and ‘Reading My Dreams’) (YSI)

What with the spirit of goodwill that’s being bandied around at the moment, I thought it only proper to recognise the achievements of those bands whose albums weren’t quite good enough (or didn’t exist enough) to be included on my end of year album list. So here we go, the unrecognised gems of this fair year of music. Oh and if you’re too lazy to download them all from below, and too impatient to wait for the next half tomorrow, here’s a big ol’ Zip file stuffed full of ’em.

Arcade Fire – Lenin (YSI)

I know this has been around for quite a while, but 2009 was the year that this song was finally released, and it’s my list, ok? A more sparse and upbeat affair than their usual offerings, Montreal’s finest have created a jaunty, guitar-driven imagining of everyone’s favourite Bolshevik’s childhood, chock-full of piano sweeps and not-quite singalong moments.

Band of Skulls – Death By Diamonds and Pearls (YSI)

I still haven’t got round to listening to this album, but if this song is anything to go by, it’ll sound like the White Stripes. A lot. I mean, everything about this song, from the vocals, guitar tone, crashing drums and even the skittering, twitching solo sounds like Jack and Meg. And in my head, that can never be a bad thing, it’s just badass from begininning to end.

Beirut – My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille (YSI)

Some didn’t take to it, but Zach Condon’s brief foray into laid back electonica made me a happy man. There’s something about the rising and falling of the underwater synths in this song, coupled with his idiosyncratic drawl that never fails to make me pleased, it sounds like a more chilled-out Hot Chip at times. If Zach ever decides to bring back his Realpeople alter-ego again, I for one will not be unhappy.

Beth Jeans Houghton – I Will Return, I Promise (YSI)

Another North-East entry, this time trying to wrestle the London-centric new-folk scene all the way up the A1. Ms. Houghton’s four track EP, Hot Toast Vol. 1 gave us an alternative to all those Southern softies (note: I am one) with a punchier folk lilt, with this opening track the standout.

Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta A Feeling (YSI)

Now, I understand this is a controversial choice for a blogger to make, but honestly, this is (to use the common vernacular) a CHOON. It always made me a little happier to be in a place playing crappy music, and when it was played in Newcastle’s coolest club (World Headquarters) by the coolest DJ (Tom), it vindicated my guilty pleasure. Plus, hearing Fergie sound like a fucking idiot when she shouts “Drank!” and “La chaim!” will never tire.

Bob Dylan – Must Be Santa (YSI)

To be honest, this is a favourite just because of how fucking insane it is. I hated it when I first heard it, but one more listen convinced me that polka + Dylan’s new voice = terrifying, hilarious, genius. It’s brightened up my whole Christmas.

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill (De La Edit) (YSI)

It’s not as good as the original, but the sound of those synths and Pip’s Essex preaching accompanied by Posdnous’ classic flow was always going to be a good idea. “Thou shalt not think that having a blog makes you a journalist”. Oops.

The Drums – Let’s Go Surfing (YSI)

Time will tell if this band can get out of the one-trick-pony phase they seem to be in now, but their first single was my song of the summer. It’s an infectiously whistle-filled romp of post-punk surf pop that charmed many a blogger and even the discerning ears (read in sarcastic tone here) of Radio 1 for a time, albeit a long time after summer was over.

Esser – Headlock (YSI)

I really liked Esser’s album when it came away, but my interest waned after a few listens, it just seems to lack the real substance that a truly good album needs, but his singles were always winners, and ‘Headlock’ is no exception. Re-released to promote the album, it just jumps out at you, all mockney vocals and cheap-sounding synths and beats. It’s endlessly danceable and emininently catchy.

Good Shoes – The Way My Heartbeats (YSI)

The sample track from the Morden boys’ second album piqued my interest in them all over again, with a heavier, quicker sound, but retaining the jangling guitar tone and Rhys’ yelping vocals that I fell in love with. Brilliant.

Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks (YSI)

I’d never paid much heed to Grizzly Bear before this, the whole American indie sound is alien to my frosty British ears a lot of the time, but this the swooning vocals put over a sluggish stomping beat in this song just grabbed me, it sounds far more sinister than it should, and the video is bloody wonderful.

Little Comets – One Night In October (YSI)

This is an insanely cheery slice of debut single indie-pop from Newcastle’s favourite new bunch of smiling loons. Full of yelps and charmingly twee lines like ‘Just like Carlisle, she lies on the border‘, the band seem to specialise in gettingnunder your skin and getting you to twitch about, just like the song. They’re getting an increasing amount of love up north, and if they keep making songs like this I can certainly see that extending all over this fair green land and maybe beyond.

Local Natives – Camera Talk (YSI)

I haven’t got hold of their album yet, but Local Natives’ indie band version of Fleet Foxes’ harmonies along with an irrepressible quick-march tempo is just beautiful. The amount of instruments they get into this song without making it sound overstuffed is a masterclass in prudent songwriting.

I’ve just written a piece about why Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip are important to the modern music industry over at the far-more-brilliant-than-here Sweeping The Nation.

Check it out, and then read some proper music blogging as opposed to my semi-intelligible ramblings.

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Tommy C

Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip are fast becoming my most blogged about artists on this here journal, but where’s the shame in that? They’re absolutely incredible, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of Angles, and their latest news is just icing on the cake.

Having recently supported De La Soul (my friend saw them, the bastard), the legendary Posdnuos has contributed and helped edit a new version of the awesome “Thou Shalt Always Kill”. How freaking awesome is that? Already the Xfm track of the week and slated for release on the 15th January, it’s currently available to listen to on the duo’s Myspace.

Just to refresh your collective memories, here’s the original version:

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill

It’s the end of the year, and sure as eggs is eggs there are music lists, polls and debates galore. I’m a sucker for a good end-of-year list, so I’m sure as hell gonna contribute my own. So without further ado, here are my top ten albums of the year:

10. Does It Offend You, Yeah? – You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into

A triumph of genre crossovers, from Daft Punk to ’80s pop, there was hardly a dud track on here.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Weird Science

9. Ida Maria – Fortress Around My Heart

Explosive, effervescent pop-punk from the amazing Miss Maria, her live show is just as good.

Ida Maria – Stella

 

8. Lightspeed Champion – Falling Off The Lavender Bridge

Dev Hynes truly manages to shake off the Test Icicles tag to mould himself as a brilliant, twisted folk troubador.

Lightspeed Champion – Galaxy Of The Lost

 

7. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

I know comedy records shouldn’t count, but this is such a well-formed album, the fact that it’s funny doesn’t even matter that much.

Flight of the Conchords – The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)

 

6. Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires

The perfect blend of house, indie, funk and any other genre you want to name, this album manages the seemingly impossible task of making a hugely coherent album without ever becoming samey.

Friendly Fires – Photobooth

 

5. Mumford and Sons – Lend Me Your Eyes EP

Alright, it’s an EP not an album, but all four tracks are just so beautiful, so unbelievably heart-wrenching and glorious that I can’t not include it.

Mumford and Sons – Awake My Soul

 

4. Laura Marling – Alas, I Cannot Swim

New-folk’s true pioneer, this album delivered exactly what everyone wanted, the old demos produced beautifully, as well as some wonderful new tracks.

Laura Marling – Night Terror

 

3. Johnny Flynn – A Larum

Three new-folk albums in a row eh? I’d been waiting for an album from Johnny Flynn since his first demo of Tickle Me Pink, and the album was everything I’d wanted and more.

Johnny Flynn – Leftovers

 

2. Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Angles

Hip-hop doesn’t have to be corporate, gangstafied shite, it can be poetry, it can be dance music, it can be funny or tragically sad. In short, this album’s brilliant.

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – The Beat That My Heart Skipped

1. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

To be honest, I don’t think there was ever a doubt in my mind that this would be first place. When it came out it was just so different. Totally summery, totally African and totally incredible.

Vampire Weekend – Bryn

Inspired by my little diatribe earlier, I felt like listening to some hip-hop. Sure, there’s a whole heap of crap around at the moment but the genre also includes some of the best lyricists around. Here are some of my favourite tracks. Disclaimer – I’m White, Middle Class and English. I will sound like an idiot when talking about this. I probably already have done. I’m sorry.

Outkast – Roses
Now go on the raw sex, my AIDS test is flawless
Regardless, we don’t want to get involved with no lawyers
And judges just to hold grudges in a courtroom
I wanna see your support bra not support you!

They’re not inspired but they sure sound catchy in context.

CRS – Us Placers
Lifestyles of the broke and famous
Let you know how crazy this game is
Look at all the new beautiful faces
At home supermodel, Myspaces
Long for their shot on the TV screens
American Idol never seen these dreams
Just last week they want to see ID
Now they got you in VIP, huh?
How many people almost famous
You almost remember what they name is
Like “Hey, didn’t you play in..? No it couldn’t be, quit playin”
I try to keep that balance
After MTV that’s a Real World Challenge Back on that train
Never to be heard from again…

Now here’s Kanye on form, along with Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell, this song from the Can’t Tell Me Nothing mixtape is just awesome, not least because the background sample is from Thom Yorke’s, “The Eraser”.

N.W.A. – Express Yourself
I’m expressin’ with my full capabilities,
And now I’m livin’ in correctional facilities,
Cause some don’t agree with how I do this.
I get straight, meditate like a Buddhist
I’m droppin’ flavour, my behaviour is heriditary,
But my technique is very necessary.
Blame it on Ice Cube… because he says it gets funky
When you got a subject and a predacit.

My favourite opening lyrics from any hip-hop song, it’s just all so well put together – the flow of the rhythm carries you thoughout, and every verse has another part to enjoy.

Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip – Development
I remember hearing Mos Def rhyme the alphabet
I just sat there in silence

As a sign of respect

I knew what I had to do

And that’s what happened next

I rhymed the periodic table
To stay one step ahead
Hydrogen is number one
Cause hydrogen is what puts the shine in the sun
Through nuclear fusion and when it’s done

It leaves element number two
Helium…
Helium is the second lightest gas that there is

So we use it in balloons we give to little kids

Then there’s lithium often used to treat mental problems

Beryllium don’t conduct electric currents, it stops them

Boron can be used to make things harden

And that smoke that’s coming out of your exhaust, carbon

Carbon is arguably the most important element

And nitrogen in the air is almost eighty percent

The rest of the air is mainly oxygen

And fluorine is the lightest of the halogens

OK that’s enough teaching
I ain’t trying to bore ya
I’m just trying to be a positive role model for ya

I’m sorry, I know that’s a lot of words, but I just couldn’t cut Mr. Pip’s awesome lyrics. Nor could I resist putting more of his work up, I just love it, it’s the best kind of hip-hop, intelligent music, lyrics with something to say and an altogether good feeling about it all.

This is only a little thing, but I want to get it off my chest. As much as I enjoyed the older music of Mr. West, I can’t for the life of me understand how anyone can like “Love Lockdown”. It’s repetitive, his lyrics aren’t up to their usual standard, and frankly his singing voice isn’t a patch on his usual drawl. I’m not going to post it, but if you must listen, go on The Hype Machine, there are several thousand links, you won’t miss it. Here’s some proper hip-hop from a brilliant producer and a bearded poet. Maybe Kanye could follow suit. Please?

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Fixed (Demo)