////SCROOBIUS PIP////OCTOBER 2007////
If you love filthy dirty beats and genius spoken word/MCing is your thing, then Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip have definitely got the credentials to keep your powder dry. Undoubtedly, this year’s underground success story, with their modern-day take on the ten commandments with their ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ track, this duo are currently causing a massive stir across the nation. If you don’t believe me, Zane Lowe reckons they have ‘the hottest track in the world right now’ and NME (even after being knocked on the track) were quoted as saying “you’ve written the track of the year”. Lyrical maestro ‘Scroobius Pip’ took some time off from recording their debut album to speak exclusively to Outline…
Firstly, please describe Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip to anyone who may not have heard of you?
It’s really quite hard, but that’s kind of an advantage. We span Electro, Indie, Hip Hop, spoken word and all sorts really. It’s good for us though, ‘cause bookings wise, we tend to get on all sorts, Indie, Punk and even Dance line-ups, so we get a good variation. We’re kind of a mixture of loads of styles. On my part, just having a lyrical content is the main focus.
Are you two solo artists or now an ongoing joint act/band?
It’s a permanent thing, but it’s kinda weird how it happened. We stumbled into being a band really. We were both performing as soloists and I put out an album just over a year ago. I contacted Dan (whom I new from working with him) to book me for a gig. By the time I’d got there he’d done a remix of one of my tracks. At this point we both had MySpace pages and he was putting the remixes up on his. Then he had too many up there to also put up his own stuff, so we thought we’d sling a joint page up and leave ‘em there. The joint page started to get more hits and interest than our single pages, so from that we started to write tracks together and suddenly we stumbled into being a band.
You’ve already had two great singles, so surely the album will drop soon?
We’re looking at March for a release date; it’s being recorded at the moment. There are a few titles kicking around, but I think we’ll keep them under wraps for the time being… (laughs). We’ve got the tracks written now though. The way we work is a bit er… basically, Dan has just spent the last week in the studio building up the beats making them spot on, then I go in for a week and then do my part and then we swap round again and then we’re both in.
I suppose that way you both get to stamp your own mark on the music?
I think that’s why it works with us doing the ‘Vs’ thing, ‘cause it lets us keep our individual styles and yet when we get together, it all seems to sit together.
Lyrically, the singles have gone down BIG styleee, so can you tell me a little bit about some of the other subject matter that will be tackled on the album?
A lot of variation to be completely honest; on the tour recently we debuted a new song, which we we’re sure if it would work live. It’s really quite strange, I don’t think people expect this type of thing to come from hip-hop acts (or whatever we come under), but it’s basically the life story of Tommy Cooper. It’s used as a definition of what beauty is, which I know sounds very odd, until you hear the track. There’s a huge variation on there – even some Country. There’s a lot of story telling on there and then there’s things like ‘A Letter from God to Man’, which is gonna be our next release. Well I say that, but we’re gonna give it away really. We wanted to get it out before Christmas, but trying to get clearance of a huge Radiohead sample takes time. It’s not that we’ve been told no, but these things take a long time. So we’ve decided to give it away for free, between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve on our MySpace page. So hopefully if people take it and they see family and friends over Christmas, they’ll play it and discuss something other than X Factor, Eastenders or Corrie. It’s a relevant one for Christmas. Although we wanted to do a video and get a proper release for it, it seemed more important for people to hear it and discuss it, rather than for us to make a few quid off it….
Can we talk about musical influences for both of you?
We met working in HMV, which is perfect for musical influences. I think if you work in an environment where you’re exposed to loads of genres, it widens your taste. No matter how keen you are to listen to new stuff, if it’s gonna cost thirty or forty quid to get you slightly into a different genre, you’re gonna be a bit reluctant. But if you can sit in a shop and listen to everything, it opens it up a lot. From my side, on a writing front, there are guys around at the moment from America, like Sage Francis, Saul Williams or Aesop Rock who are all just doing amazing stuff, although I grew up listening to punk. We are doing a US tour soon and we found out that one of the DJs playing us the most out in L.A. is Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols. We were like, “that’s ridiculous, just totally amazing”. On my part it’s Punk, Hip Hop, Rock, a real variation, on Dan’s, he’s the one with the knowledge of the Dance and Electro scenes. One thing I was never that into was dance, so it’s really odd that we are now playing places like Fabric. I never dreamt that this would be the direction that it went, although we get to play at all these different types of events. We try to adapt our set to fit what’s appropriate, but we generally try and do what we always do and try to turn people on to different types of stuff. People come up and say that they’re into Hip Hop but like what we’re doing. I’m always reluctant to say that we are Hip Hop because the general perception in the UK is like Fifty Cent. But for the underground fans I’m happy to admit we are, because there’s stuff there I absolutely love and has been a huge influence. But if you claim that to the general people, a lot won’t listen ‘cause their not into Hip Hop.
You played a blinder at Latitude as a virtually unknown headliner, in fact it wa my personal highlight of the entire weekend, but how was it for you two?
Latitude was great man, definitely my favourite. The European festivals were great too, but of the UK ones that we played, including Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds, Latitude as a whole weekend was amazing, I loved it. Also, it was the first time we got to headline a stage. This Friday is mine and Dan’s first year anniversary working together, so to play at any festival, let alone headline one is just ridiculous. The day sun was just coming down when we were on, it was quite mad. I loved the fact that there was such a focus over the whole weekend on the Literary and Poetry side of things. I did a few sets in the poetry tent, but more than anything I just got hang out and watch some of my favourite poets on the UK scene, doing some amazing, amazing sets. After my first set I saw Polar Bear and David Jay and it made me go back to my van and write some new stuff for my second set. I just felt like I couldn’t go back and do what I’d planned, their standard was so high. I didn’t re-write everything, but beforehand, I’d thought I’ll do the same spoken word act twice, I mean it was only a ten minute set so I thought, I’d be fine, but they we’re so inspirational that I had to re-plan things.
On my way home from Latitude I’d heard Zane Lowe bigging up your set on Radio 1, but saying you were actually unsigned. Is this true?
Yeah, we are still unsigned. We’re lucky we have a great booking agent. With ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ Dan made the beat in his flat and then he e-mailed it to me and I recorded it in my bedroom. Then I sent it back to him in about an hour and a half, and that’s the vocal we have used. I sent a CDR to John Kennedy at Xfm, and he played it a few hours after he received it, and it’s all just happened from there. We’ve met tons of different labels since then, and we’re not one of those bands who are all like ‘we’re gonna do it ourselves and fuck the labels’. We just haven’t had the time to find the right label yet. We agreed to do the festivals, then there was a UK tour and now we’re trying to get the album recorded. We’re doing it with a friend of ours in his studio in Essex. Instead of spending thousands of pounds in London, we thought lets just get someone we know who is top quality and we’ll get a better recording. We don’t need that much studio stuff ‘cause Dan makes all the beats on his computer; all we really need is a vocal recording. I mean, commuting to London each day to record a vocal isn’t going to get as good a vibe as going around the corner to someone we know and are relaxed enough to get it all nailed. At this point we are lucky enough to have a bit of a profile so we can go to labels and not be turned in to this or that. Hopefully we can approach different labels when the album is done and say do you want to put this out or not. And if not, cool, see you later…
‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ – I have totry and find out where the inspiration for this track came from?
I used to do it as a spoken word set or to end my sets cause’ it was a good one where I could have a basic structure where I could have like ten to twelve ‘Thou Shalts’ and then that day I could add things that were relevant or current to the show. So it was a good one for adaptability. At one show some guy was chatting through everyone else’s poetry, but then he expected the audience to care that he’d translated a poem from Latin or something, so I could throw something in about that on the night, or other things that annoyed me. Along with that and other stuff on the album, I wrote it not really conscious that other people would ever really hear it, so we never really worried about offending anyone. They were written purely as a piece of poetry or piece of art, so it’s unrestricted. So now, if we upset anyone, it’s a shame, but what can you do ‘cause the stuff has already been written…
If you were to re-write the track today, what other commandments would you add to it?
That’s a tough one. As we are recording it now for the album, we are not averse to re-releasing it at some point. We purposely kept it quite small with limited vinyl and CDs just to keep it more intimate and about the people who were already into us. Dan’s always said that if we re-released it he’d like me to write some new commandments, but I don’t think it’d be right personally. For me, it is very much a track of its time and the moment. I think if I did do it, it would become less of a comment on pop culture, so it’s a tough one. I don’t think I’d add any or take any away.
As an artist, that’s got to be a great way to feel about something you’ve produced?
Exactly, it’s good in one way but also from the other way it can never be complete because it’s such a current comment. There’s always stuff happening in the world, so I could keep adding to it for the rest of my life. I think it’s best to leave it where it is. As we’ve had more exposure now, anything added would take away from the realness. I wrote it sitting in my local park by myself one day…
The track was described as the ‘thinking mans anthem for 2007’, I wondered what your non-thinking mans anthem would be for this year?
Oh, it’s gotta be ‘Stars in their Eyes’ by Just Jack. That’s the complete idiots anthem for 2007 (laughs). Apparently he’s a top guy, so I don’t want to slag anyone off, but when that came out, it just felt like it had been written a long time ago, like when the Spice Girls first came out. Back then it would have been really current and scathing, but now it’s like what people have been talking about for the last five year’s. People are like “yeah man, I agree with that”, and I’m thinking you agree with that ‘cause we were talking about that five years ago. There’s a really good Sage Francis quote, where he said at the start of one of his shows as a joke, ‘I’m the thinking man’s, thinking man’.
So how do you get into girls minds?
Just through pretending to be a deep poet (laughs). I don’t know. I’ve never been one to kind of ‘Mac’ girls. I believe that’s what the kids call it (more laughter). I haven’t got a clue really. I’ve always been lucky enough to meet nice girls so hopefully I can reciprocate those emotions. Look at me sounding like a deep lad…
You’ve had over a million downloads of that track. So, I’m imagining you are getting a bit famous now? What’s the most bizarre celeb-type experience you’ve had so far?
There’s been numerous. I mean first of all, we’ve had a million views on youtube, not downloads, so being honest we’ve made fuck-all money from it yet. So there’s recognition, but that doesn’t mean I’ve even been able to move out of my Mum’s house yet. Just after Glastonbury, I’d read about a few rumours that I’d slept with Aisleyne from Big Brother – which was quite nice to hear. I did meet her and she was a really nice girl. You’d expect these Big Brother types to be idiots, but she came up and said that lyrically she’d not been caught by anything like this, so that was really nice. But it was just hilarious to read it in blogs, like “I saw them going off together so they must be a couple now”, when actually I spoke to her for about two minutes in total.
What was your Mum’s take on that one?
Ahh, she doesn’t get on the net that much, so she doesn’t get involved (laughs). It’s always good when people come up and say “are you that guy then?”, I’m like all humble and they’re like, “you’re Max Yahoo right?”, and then I’m like “who?!” A lot of people say it’s annoying to be approached by people, but I think it’s great, really humbling. The fact that we’ve only been doing this for a year, it’s ridiculous that people even know who we are let alone shake our hands or wanna talk to us. But it is a bit embarrassing when you are doing the humble thing and people say “yeah, you’re that guy from System of a Down”, and I’m like, “erm, no sorry, erm, sorry, no, my mistake…” (laughs).
You’ve supported Lethal Bizzle, Mark Ronson & RJD2 to name but a few; I wondered what were the most Rock ‘n’ Roll antics you witnessed?
Our only actual tour was our own headline tour. The others were just support slots. I mean, supporting EL-P was a huge one for us, ‘cause he’s such a great Hip Hop producer. Doing our own tour was the most Rock ‘n’ Roll one, cause we took a band called I Shouted Gun out with us and they did all the Rock ‘n’ Roll parts for us. So me and Dan would go and have our early nights and then we’d hear of their antics in the morning. I mean, it was mainly their drummer; he’s quite a Rock ‘n’ Roll character. On one of the first dates, a few of us had gone out and got a bit drunk, but the drummer stayed out later than us. He came back to the hotel room a bit smashed, crashed out, got up to use the toilet, closed the door, and then realised that wasn’t the toilet mid-flow. So he had to go down the reception in his pants, which was good, because he was sharing with Dan Le Sac. He told them he’d locked himself out of the room, so they asked what name was it under. He didn’t know Dan’s real name, I mean, I think most of us can figure out that Le Sac is not his real name. So the hotel wouldn’t give him the room key. He was like, “but I’m standing here in my pants, where else do you think I’m staying? I wouldn’t have just strolled in off the streets in my pants, would I?” They are a great little band, though; you should check ‘em out.
If you could change any policy or law, what would it be?
Oh that’s tough. The ones I’m most attached to are quite insignificant on the grand scheme of things. I started off being a graffiti artist; I was into stencilling. In fact I used to go to Norwich to do little stencil trips. I think the crackdown should be on tagging and the shit stuff. There is some amazing art on the streets and people are getting locked up because of it. In fact, Norwich was one of my first stencilling moments. I was going out with a girl, who lived in Norwich at the time, then a few months later she was in a bar and one of my stencils was on the front cover of an Arts magazine. That was my first exposure or feature in any magazine. So that was quite nice. If I get in trouble, fair play, but I’ll deny it all. I visited Norwich a lot of times, so I’m looking forward to heading back…
Has the honesty found within your lyrics got you into trouble yet?
There’s always going to be bits and bobs. I mean I write about my personal experiences. Some people may not understand or feel that it’s appropriate, but generally they accept it and get over it. I would never censor what I write for a label, and although this might sound a bit harsh, why should I censor it for people? You’ve got to write truthfully and from the heart. There have been certain lines from certain tracks where people have been a bit like, “cheers”. My get out is always, “well I didn’t know it was going to get popular, sorry”. My other get out clause is “well I wrote it at home, or in a park, so you can’t get angry with me”.
Finally the big one: beard maintenance and cultivation; you have a very impressive specimen; have you any good tips for us?
Yes I have. Persistence is one. There is an awful part when you are growing it, where it looks terrible, so you’ve got to push through that. People are often surprised when I admit to looking after it. I condition it, I use ‘Aussie Three Minute Miracle’ (a little endorsement there) which keeps it in great condition. People often assume it to be dirty, but I don’t want to keep up that stereotype; I want to keep up a good clean image for beards…