Josh Gray, Music Editor, chats to the poet /spoken word artist / rapper / director /radio DJ /one half of hip-hop duo Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip.
“I KNOW it sounds weird” roars Scroobius Pip, “I do want you to look back on this and smile but I kinda want that smile to be through tears”. This isn’t how he starts our interview, in case you were worried: it’s the lone vocal that kickstarts Repent, Replenish, Repeat, the latest collaboration album between the well-bearded Essex rapper and producer/laptop musician Dan Le Sac. The two have been working together since the release of their debut album Angles in 2008, merging Pips’s unique style of spoken word poetry with Dan’s trigger-happy electronic hooks. The last few years have seen them working on their solo careers, with Scroobius Pip
releasing his heavier Distraction Pieces and Dan Le Sac his more experimental Space Between The Words, but now they’re back together and ready to take over the UK underground scene once more.
“The point of doing solo records is that they would be so different,” explains Pip, “I needed to do Pieces ‘cause I had all these punk and metal influences, and Dan equally had all these different areas he wanted to explore that we don’t cover in our stuff together”. When asked if there was any sense of rivalry, he laughs: “There wasn’t any competition. I mean, I’m a Dan Le Sac fan”.
He speaks with a rhythmic stutter, giving the impression that he could break out into a well-paced verse at any moment: “I’m lucky to get this constant variation of going from touring with Dan for ages to then touring with a band. The last huge runs of tours and shows I did were all spoken word, so I get to experience all those styles and areas, so I can’t complain at all”.
The spoken word scene is where Scroobius Pip started out, performing without backing music to bring audiences a pure performance of his poetry. But in no way is he tied down to any one artform: “I do what I do,” he explains, “I usually go with spoken word artist ‘cause it’s so literal, I literally speak words. Ten years ago it was pretentious to say you don’t need labels, but now you clearly don’t. I mean if you want to know what Scroobius Pip sounds like then you can take your phone out and find out in under a minute. You don’t need to say ‘it’s poetry, it’s spoken word, it’s electronic and hip and this and that’. It’s like ‘it’s this, come listen!’”
Pip has also taken on directing duties for the pair’s videos and presents his own hip-hop radio show The Beatdown on XFM: “I have people who listen regularly and say ‘I’m not into hip-hop, but I like the stuff you play.’ Well that means you’re into hip hop! You’re just not into certain types of hip hop. I mean there’s a lot that’s crap and a lot that’s absolutely amazing, it’s about finding the right bits”.
Much of Repent, Replenish, Repeat’s content was inspired by loss and heartbreak: “I draw from true experiences; (lead single) ‘Stunner’ was about five or six different exes and probably one or two people I’d just fancied in films. As for ‘You Will See Me’, it’s largely about a guy who cheated on a friend of mine and then there’s elements I’ll take from my own break ups”.
Pip’s couplets slot in perfectly around Dan Le Sac’s glitchy soundbeds, demonstrating the synchronicity that has built up between them. “The process will normally start with Dan sending over tonnes and tonnes of beats and I’ll pick a few that I’m feeling” Pip tells me; “It’s all felt like a very natural process. We started out as solo artists, then did a couple of albums together, then both fancied doing solo records again. But the plan was always to then do our third record”.
The pair of them are known for performing electric shows before mingling with their fans: “I like that personal touch. It annoys me that there now exists such a thing as meet and greet tickets for gigs, when you can pay extra to meet the band. They f*cking paid to get in! They’re wearing your t-shirt and singing the words to your songs back to you, they shouldn’t have to pay to then meet you. In general, from doors ‘til stage time I’ll be on the merch booth, and after the gig I’ll be on the merch booth til the end to chat and hang out. It’s weird that people see that as a special thing. It’s what we should be doing”. So look out after the DLS vs SP show this week; you might just get a chance to meet the man of the mighty beard.
Speaking of which, I did manage to ask how he keeps his mane in such good shape: “Good beard oil is the way to go”, he sagely responds, “It’s such a fine line, I wouldn’t do anything more than that, because the point of having a beard is that you’re not having to ponce about and shave and be all caring of yourself. But get out the shower, put a bit of beard oil on and you’re sorted”.
Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip are playing The Lemon Grove on Tuesday 28th January
Josh Gray, Music Editorbookmark me