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Sage Francis
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Hipsteroverkill gives DanVsPip 4 stars  Reply with quote

Hipsteroverkill gives DanVsPip 4 stars


Fresh out of a small town in Essex, G.B. about an hour outside of London, 2 faces have emerged on the international music scene. Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip have risen seemingly from nowhere to tackle BBC radio with the surprise hit "Thou Shalt Always Kill". With the war cry, "Thou shalt never make repetitive generic music!" the song combines a unique blend of electronic beats and a spoken word delivered philosophy on life and the music industry (not to mention it's listeners). Never has a song of this nature crossed over, so now, they are banking on repeating their European success state side. Currently on the road in the U.S. in support of their newly released CD, Angles, poet/M.C. Scroobius took time out to talk to Hipster Overkill about the state of the music biz, the creative process, and Lil' Wayne.

Questions by Dominic Painter
Answers by Scroobius Pip

Hipster Overkill: your new CD Angles is not a typcical Hip-Hop album by U.S. standards. What avenues have you found more useful for promoting the album this side of the pond?

Scroobius Pip: In the UK we came up more on the indie scene [where the album was received positively]. With the U.S., the only bad reviews we've seem to have got are from people reviewing it as a straight Hip Hop album which...

HO: which isn't gonna work...

SP: ...[the CD] is a bit different. We're just making sure we keep doing what we do and try to get as much of a [following] as possible.

HO: Due to the rise of MP3s, in the U.S. retailers have been going out of business like crazy and it's hard to find indie music, let alone imports. How have things been affected in the U.K.?

SP: It's similar. There's always going to be record stores. There's always people who want a CD. There's just so much on line now that it's all about getting exposure in America, in Japan, and around the world through myspace and Youtube, places where people can access material, see videos and a performance. It builds up a demand for when the album comes out and [for us] it seems to have worked.

HO: What I pick up from a lot of U.K. urban sub-genres is that it's heavily influenced by the dance scene and drum & bass scene. I got to interview Dizzee Rascal and he was saying he's not Hip-Hop but if you listen to his latest CD, Maths + English, he's trying to go for that down south American style, and there's obviously a Hip-Hop influence. Where do you come from with your music, because on Angles you give a lot of references to KRS-One and Rakim?

SP: Exactly, the thing is, it's all the influences. We didn't sit and and go, "let's make a Hip-Hop album", I love Hip-Hop, you know, KRS and Rakim and people like that are all absolute legends. But then I [also] grew up listening to a lot of punk as well and a lot of Metal and indie and kind of some jazz. Our music is taking all of those influences together.

HO: What is your relationship with your producer/partner Dan Le Sac? Did you guys individually have something going on prior to this album? Generally when you see a name with a "vs." it's because a band already put a song out and then a dance producer came in and remixed it. How did your partnership start and why choose that group name?

SP: You nailed it, I'd done some solo stuff and Dan remixed a couple of tracks. It started to get some coverage so we put up a myspace page ( as Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, then we wrote a couple songs together and it just blew up from there. The first song we wrote, "Thou Shalt Always Kill", within a month was getting played on the BBC in the U.K. and so we did a video for that track which has gone on to get more than 3 million views on youtube. So we stumbled into being an act. Originally it was just a collaboration of artists but then we started to realize that the stuff we wrote together was far stronger than what either of us were doing individually.

HO: Dan's style seems to go more on an indie rock and electronic vibe but still has the Hip-Hop elements.

SP: Dan's production has got a lot of a dance element on it, which is one of the genres I never really got into, so that's why it's really interesting. When me and Dan started to work together [he wanted] to see if I could work over that kind of thing and get into it and it worked out nicely. Yet again, some of the tracks he had had an obvious Hip-Hop influence which obviously worked its way into our styling.

HO: Definitely there is a Hip-Hop element on the album but when you get to the song that blew y'all up, "Thou Shalt Always Kill", as well as "Back From Hell" there's a production sound reminiscent of The Prodigy thanks to their intensity and tempo. Has there been pressure for you guys to produce more of that rather than the more Hip-Hop oriented tracks?

SP: The cool thing was we avoided any pressure like that. When "Thou Shalt Always Kill" blew up we made a conscious decision to not sign a record deal until we had finished the album the way we wanted it. So we made the whole album in the style we wanted it to be and then went to labels and said, "do you want to put this out". So, there wasn't anyone to put pressure on us to go any particular direction.

HO: What was the inspiration for "Thou Shalt Always Kill"?

SP: I come from a spoken word background and it was [a poem] I used to do that had a good structure and a basic skeleton that I could add bits too. I could add something that happened in the news that day or if someone at a gig had pissed me off or something like that I could just add parts into it. So when Dan sent me the
beat I re-wrote parts of it, I did the whole "just a band" bit, and within an hour and a half it was recorded and sent off.

HO: I haven't heard anything as effective in breaking through the pop music boundary while using spoken word. Other songs like "Waiting For The Beat To Kick In" also focus on poetry more than rapping so explain where you come from and where it all developed in terms of your style.

SP: I started doing spoken word in part because a lot of the acts that were exciting me were people like Gill-Scott Heron, Sage Francis and Saul William who were doing some amazing spoken word. Basically, I was living in a town (Stanford Le Hope, UK) where I had no one to make beats for me. So it's as simple as that. I just thought, "spoken word I can do off my own back." It was just a case of not wanting to have to rely on anyone else. I wanted to be able to book gigs and show up and do them. That's where it started. I did do a lot [poetry] by just performing on street corners and it went from there.

HO: At what point did you decide to go in a more Rap direction?

SP: Well, when I made my solo album I made all the beats by myself with just CD mixers and [equipment] like that then I got a live Jazz band to re-record them. Again, I love Hip-Hop so I wanted to try and combine the two and have a bit of Hip-Hopy beats but then some spoken word tracks with the live band. Then Dan did some remixes and it all just went from there, it gelled together so nicely.

HO: In U.S. underground Hip-Hop, the "Backpack" scene, I don't know if they use that term in London at all....

SP: I'm familiar with it.

HO: These "Backpack" rappers typically don't know how to break the commercial barrier but want that type of success...

SP: It seems to be a thing that's very inward looking, if you know what I mean, it doesn't seem to push out. We kind of fluked upon the commercial thing. It's been something that's been hard to transition in the past, spoken word over beats, so we never anticipated it.

HO: Yeah, but these underground guys in the states tend to have a very negative view of commercial rappers and they harp on it a lot. You on the other hand, a theme pops up regularly about being original and making real music but it's not in that pissed off kind of way I'm used to hearing. It's a much more humble way of going about it.

SP: There's a lot of commercial stuff I don't like, that's a fact. But then there's some, like Lil' Wayne, that are tearing it up at the moment...

HO: Is Wayne really doing it in Europe like that right now?

SP: He's only just starting to. I grabbed his latest album when it came out and I've been listening to a lot of the mix tapes and it's fantastic! He's not had the single in the U.K. to break but then I don't think that's ever going to be the case. In the U.K. you don't have that big string of singles, it's always about the album.

HO: Have you heard the new Kanye West single "Love Lockdown"?

SP: Yeah, I saw it at the end of the MTV Awards. I thought when he came out [originally] he was pushing boundaries but then seemed to be just churning through and doing the same as everyone else was doing. With the new [song], I got excited at the end of the VMA's 'cause it seemed completely out of nowhere. Something original and kind of daring in a way. He's pushing [the boundaries] again.

One of things I was gonna say about the underground thing, when we were in Texas about 6 months ago for SxSW I was doing a thing for U.K. TV and I was chatting with Saul Williams. He made a really good point when he was saying that his loyalty isn't to the underground. His loyalty is to his music and to having a message in there and making original music. The more people that hear it the better and if it blows up then that's got to be a good thing. If you're writing lyrics with content and worth, you should want as many people to hear it as possible. This whole kind of "I'm keeping it underground" mentality doesn't appeal to me.

HO: In regard to your lyrics, you tend to be heavy on narrative coming from a philosophical stand point. It's almost sort of conversational. This is in a time when a lot of Hip-Hop, especially with guys like Lil' Wayne, is style over substance. In the post Jay-Z era i have changed that term to "Swagger over substance". Swagger is very important quality to have with American rappers. With you, an artist who decided to have a specific point to each song, if you were to break Hip-Hop into pieces what percentage would you give to the side of entertainment and what percentage would you give to the purpose of communication?

SP: On the [album] I want to get as much content as possible and push some harshness, make it a little uncomfortable to listen to because of the challenging subjects. Whereas in the live show it's important to have that, but also entertainment as well. At the end of the day people are coming out to be entertained.

HO: Specifically with records though...

SP: I go on line to try to get a balance of a lot of tongue and cheek stuff to make the harsher stuff easier to swallow. Because if you start a little light hearted and joking and then you hit 'em with some harsh content it's gonna have all the bigger effects.

HO: when you start with the track, where does it all come from first?

SP: It really varies, me and Dan have written in so many different ways. Right now I'm writing just a lot of lyrics and thinking of subjects I want to discuss. About 3 weeks ago Dan sent me a new beat and I wrote a new song within a day that's more uptempo and a more beat driven song, it's not all about content. We don't want to become one of those acts that's too preachy, you naw mean, a depressing kind of shit. We want our content and message but then we have our up-beat and uplifting stuff as well. That's one of the most important things about music in a way.
Post Mon Oct 20, 2008 1:24 pm
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Inedible Condiment

Joined: 30 Sep 2008
Posts: 1046
Location: Halifax, NS
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I really like what he (and I guess Saul too) had to say about the "keeping it underground" thing... I have friends who write rock songs, perform them for their friends and never want to record or even do them in a bar or anything because it ruins the integrity or something... horseshit. Like SP says, if you're writing something of worth, you should want as many people to hear it as possible.
Post Mon Oct 20, 2008 4:39 pm
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