Q&A :: Scroobius Pip
Scroobius Pip has a reputation as being one of the most respected lyricists to have come out of the UK's grass roots hip hop movement in recent times. Over the course of two albums as part of the hip hop/spoken word duo Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip and one solo album, Pip has never pulled any punches when it comes to expressing himself through his art. The sincerity of the hip hop movement in the UK and the current state of online journalism (eeek!) are among the things that have been in his lyrical crosshairs in recent times, earning him both plaudits and criticism for his candour.
John Balfe spoke to Scroobius Pip about his solo album Distraction Pieces, the reaction to some of his music, his relationship with Irish fans and more.
Q: What was it like working on a solo record after having worked with Dan Le Sac for so long?
A: I worked with a lot of different producers on it, so I didn't get the feeling that I was left out there on my own. It was great to have that experience of working with different people, to stretch my legs in that way. I really enjoyed it, but equally it's made me really excite to get back working with Dan again.
Q: The album charted well, especially on iTunes. That must have been rewarding to see?
A: I genuinely saw this record going down as a side-project. I wanted to do something that got my hardcore and punk influences across. It wasn't necessarily a vanity project, but I didn't think that other people would 'get it' that much.
It got in the Top 40, #7 in the iTunes chart... I didn't expect that at all. Part of the reason for [releasing it] on my own label (Speech Development) was to see how many costs can be cut. It's very tough to put out records these days with record labels folding, so I wanted to see how little I could spend. I spent a miniscule amount compared to any other record that was in the iTunes chart, or even the Top 40.
Q: You were in there with Coldplay, among others...
A: I was. I'd gamble that Coldplay's spend was 100 times more than mine.
Q: The video for 'Introdiction', the first single from 'Distraction Pieces', only cost you £100 to make too.
A: Well, it was £100 plus favours. I'd say all four videos we did for the album were done for about £5,000 in total. £5,000 for one video is seen as a micro-budget in the music industry. 'Introdiction' was the most successful one and I spent £70 renting a container and about £30 on kids toys which I set on fire. For anyone who's not seen the video, that's now so intriguing isn't it! I owned the clippers though.
Q: You made a profit from that video then, didn't you sell your beard clippings on eBay?
A: Yeah, yeah, for more than a £100 so it's the first video to literally make a profit, a direct accountable profit.
Q: In your song 'Fixed' you were very critical of the state of UK hip-hop. Was there any fallout from that, did anyone ever challenge you on your assertions?
A: Not hugely. There was a fallout, as people were pissed off about it. A little while after recording that song we got asked to support Lethal Bizzle at his album launch and we were humming and hawing about doing 'Fixed' and we did. It didn't go down hugely well because it was a room full of real UK hip-hop heads, artists, producers and everything. A lot of it is pantomime. I'm poking people there intentionally, it's tongue-in-cheek. I'm trying to stir things up. The point of it is: prove me wrong, then. If you hear that song and you're offended, then prove me wrong.
Q: So it's a challenge more than an indictment?
A: Yeah, exactly. I love that. If it gets me a load of stick, then cool - I don't care. I'm big enough to handle it.
Q: I saw your tweet from a few weeks ago saying something along the lines of "it's a bad time to have a beard with all these posters for 'The Dictator' about the place."
A: Yeah, it was terrible. I was getting a train to London and all the school kids were out at the bus stop next to the station had the poster for The Dictator, so I just kept my headphones because I don't want to know what they're saying!
Q: Music has traditionally played a very pivotal role in societal change and upheaval. As a lyricist is it important for you, at least occasionally, to affect change through your music?
A: The weird thing is not being a singer. If I don't sing I feel I have to put content into what I write. I'm not someone who just loves the sound of their own voice. If I'm speaking to people, I want there to be a topic or a subject. At the same time, I never set out to "write this to change that".
They're tied in, but I don't think music has ever changed anything. It has inspired people in places to then get up and do stuff, but it is people who make changes and get up there and be active. A song is just a song. It can be a catalyst - and that's great - but I don't sit there with the idea that I'm going to write a song and the whole world will go "ohhh, I get it now".
Q: What are the plans for a third Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip record?
A: Me and Dan are hoping to start writing for the third record later this year. Dan has a solo record coming out in the next month or so, so once he's wound down from that the plan is for us to get right in and then hopefully tour that. We'll start touring new material next year. For me personally, I really hope that we start writing soon. I'm excited to get back to it.
Q: You're playing Indiependence again this year. In fact, you play a lot of Irish shows.
A: With this solo record and the stuff I do with Dan, we try to end our tours in Ireland. We just have a wicked time there. In Dublin, quite early on, Leagues O'Toole from Foggy Notions and this guy Johnny in Galway were really on to us quick and pushed us quick there. It almost feels like a homecoming when we do Dublin or Galway or Cork. Ireland in general seems to be a real home crowd. It's always exciting.
On the last tour in fact, with a band, we ended in Ireland and it was so nice. Europe is cool, but anywhere there are language barriers - particularly with all the new material - there's going to be ups and downs, so it was great to end it in Ireland. We went completely mental!
Introdiction by Scroobius Pip :: (Lyrics Not Safe For Work!)
Scroobius Pip will play the Indiependence Music & Arts Festival on the weekend of 3rd to 5th August.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Wednesday 20th June 2012 | Music
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