Death of the Journalist or Needed: More Social Commentators

A phone call with Scroobius Pip

Photographer:Sara Bowrey

Anna Hyams, Daniel Fahey - 22 November 2011

“Don’t skim intros”

Scroobius Pip is a poet/frontman/social commentator (delete when appropriate). Essentially, he is whatever his poems, songs and observations allow him to be and, in the current overproduced, under-opinionated reality of pop superficiality, one thing his work and social scrutiny allows him to be is refreshing.

Originating from Essex, Pip began as a spoken word artist before hooking up with dan le sac, a beat-programmer and DJ, who foraged and spliced the scattered beats that drove the duo’s first hit ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’.

The track attempted to flag up, and perhaps defeat, people’s reactionary decisions (“Thou shalt give equal worth to tragedies that occur in non-English speaking countries as to those that occur in English-speaking countries”) and self-righteous preconceptions (“Thou shalt not stop liking a band just because they've become popular”) by morphing the Bible’s Ten Commandments into a modern Ode To Living and urging listeners to think for themselves.

The pair went on to create two albums: 2008’s ‘Angles’, a hip pop album featuring heavy-duty breaks and reflective lyrics, and ‘The Logic of Chance’, two years later, which flexed dan le sac’s electronica muscle and delved further into the poignancy of Pips thoughts:

“Sometimes Great Britain ain’t that great
Kids getting stabbed at alarming rate
Pressed with a passion to exaggerate
Increasing clueless Heads of State”

“Listen to each track through”

Currently though, Scroobius Pip and dan le sac have parted ways. They’re dedicating alone time to focus on a solo album each, the first of which, Pip’s  ‘Distraction Pieces’, came out in September. That’s one of the reasons Virtual Festivals are speaking to him in the middle of a tour. He picks up the receiver somewhere in Dublin.

How has he found it touring without dan? “It’s nice as a change, if you know what I mean,” he says, “but I’m really looking forward to getting back for [Madness-curated festival] the House of Fun Weekender and doing a Le Sac vs Pip set."

The departure of dan le sac has allowed a number of contributors to drastically change the sound listeners would perhaps expect from Scroobius Pip release.

There are flourishes of darkness and plenty of heavier, rockier overtones to enjoy. The LP is much more guitar reliant and a little more hectic as distortion blurs the lines sonically and visually – the cover art is a series of dots that from afar merge to create Pip’s image.

How has he found playing the new album live? “It’s been good touring with a live band and having that kind of set-up with the live drums and guitar element on stage. It’s a nice change of set-up.”

He continues: “With the solo stuff it’s got that live band, and harder, feel, so we’re definitely looking into that for 2012. I think it’d be really interesting to do, so we’ll see how it all goes down. On this tour we’ve had constant mosh pits and circle pits and all sorts.”

There’s even a production credit on the album for DJ Zane Lowe on ‘Death of the Journalist’, a number that bates Internet blogs and web journalism with lyrics attacking writers with put downs like: “Less reliable sources than Wikipedia” and the flaming: “They don’t have sources anymore, they have Google find”. Perhaps the irony of chorus - “Don’t-don’t-don’t believe the hype machine”, which snugly nods towards Public Enemy – isn’t lost on the singer who got in Lowe, Radio 1’s resident hype man, to help finish the product.

“The blogger is king/the gossip column is leading you”

With only a handful of live shows left on his current solo jaunt, Scroobius Pip will be joining his old comrade, dan le sac, at Butlin’s Minehead as part of Madness’ House of Fun Weekender.

It’s rumoured to be one of their last shows together for a while. “House of Fun Weekender sounded like a fun one to do,” Pip excitedly tells us.  “So we’ll do that one as our last one until we’ve got new material really… we have been turning down a lot of shows actually.”

What convinced them to play the festival? Pip: “It just looks like it’ll be a really interesting one, I mean we’ve always had a really varied fan base so I feel confident that we’ll be able to win over a lot of new people and we’ll have a load of people there who are already into what we do.

“I just love the fact that it’s in a little holiday resort, a Butlins, so everyone can come from their chalets and come and enjoy the show and then pop back to the chalets for dinner and then come back and watch some more bands, I love that.”

What about other holiday camp traditions? Will he swap his black jacket for a redcoat? “Who knows? If they’re willing to officially award me a redcoat before the show, then I’d make that jump. I’m up for it!”

The festival, which takes this weekend (25-27 November) offers plenty of other activities onsite as well including an ‘Olympics’, where teams of two compete in darts, bowling and pool. Pub sports then. Are he and Dan going to enter as a team? “I’m not sure how long we’ve actually got there but if we’re about for long enough, Olympics or otherwise I’ll be doing a bit of darts, bowling and pool I’m up for it.

“We’ll see what we can pull out of the bag. If they have table football, Dan’s a table football expert, so I’d feel confident then, but we can see what we can do elsewhere, we’ll meet in battle!”

Talking of battles, we want to discuss the Internet footage of Pip adopting the more rock de rigueur live ideas he has in his shows, namely crowd surfing from a stage to the bar. “[Laughs] Well it all started because basically on this tour I’ve been running the merch stall myself and it’s been easiest to get to the merch stall by going over the crowd, so I’ve been doing that at a few shows,” he says.

“At one the merch stall was out of the room so, I needed a drink before I went there and crowd surfed to the bar. When I’d done that they literally crowd surfed me out the door and over to the merch booth which was nice.”

Where will he go from here? “I’m not sure what’s next, I’ve done one where the merch stall was up some stairs, only a few stairs, not like two flights, but we managed to get up there. It’s been a good little challenge, keeps everyone on their toes.”

“All picked apart and ripped painting fake failures or glories”

Finally, it being November – or Movember as one charity as it relabelled, encouraging men to grow ‘taches to raise awareness of their health – we want to delve into a little bit of beard talk, especially with Pip’s Rasputin-like effort.

“I’ve been abusing everyone who’s been doing Movember,” ruffles Pip, “I think it’s such a good charity, so climb a mountain or something for charity, don’t just go: ‘I’m not gonna shave for a month’. That’s not dedication! A moustache is for life, not just for charity.”

Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip will play alongside headliners Madness at the House Of Fun Weekender 2011 with The Cuban Brothers, Jerry Dammers, Beardyman and Andrew Weatherall among the acts on the bill.

House Of Fun Weekender 2011 tickets start from £155 per person, which includes entry to all events and accommodation over the weekend.

Click to buy House Of Fun Weekender tickets.


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