Scroobius Pip

by
Scroobius Pip
Ahead of his appearance at The Lemon Grove this January, Leah Devaney chats to Scroobius Pip about stammers, fairy tales, and the spoken word scene.

Let’s start by talking about Thou Shalt Always Kill, the track you are probably best known for. Does its continued success surprise you (especially given the subject matter)?
Yeah, completely. Its initial success, let alone its continued success, was and is a complete surprise – especially given that it’s not a normal verse, chorus kind of thing; it’s basically one long rant. I think it just came at the right time through MySpace and YouTube and it came at the start of the time when you didn’t need a major label behind you to pick up steam. So yeah, it kind of went down better than we could have hoped.

I know that you get asked about this track a lot: the first time I listened to Porter, I honestly thought it was about kidnapping kids. I was just wondering if you’ve had any weird reactions to that song and what people tend to think it’s about?
It surprises me how few people on their first listen seem to realise who the girls are, because I thought they were all quite obvious references. Basically the idea is that it’s an Alice of Alice In Wonderland, it’s a Wendy from Peter Pan, and a Dorothy from Wizard of Oz. I was just looking at the idea of how we have these beautiful stories in literature and yet if anyone tried to tell these stories or claim that they were true, they’d put you in a cell and think you were absolutely insane. It’s kind of looking at the idea that all of those three are in a mental institute rather than being the characters we perceive them to be.

Are you surprised at the almost inadvertent success that Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip have had, given that you don’t necessarily court fame?
It’s kind of a 50/50 thing, because while we don’t court fame, for almost seven years now I don’t think I’ve had more than two weeks off the road. We gig constantly and work really hard, so it’s a bit of both really. As soon as we had the shock attention of Thou Shalt Always Kill, we’ve worked day and night to maintain that, so it’s kind of a bit of both, seeing all the hard work pay off. I mean I’ve not had a holiday for seven or eight years now, and yeah that’s because of the dedication to what we do.

You have written quite a lot of songs about suicide and murder, and other quite depressing subjects. Do you ever sit down and consciously decide that you’re going to write about these dark things?
It’s kind of the element that I tend to find more fascinating. In life, when we’re happy we tend to do everything we can to remain in that place (and rightly so) whereas when something bad happens and we’re sad we do everything we can to get out of that place as quickly as possible to return to a happy place. Because of that, those areas remain the most unexplored so I tend to write to really explore a lot of those areas and emotions.

You’ve sampled others in many of your songs. Is there any specific song from 2013 that you heard and thought you’d like to include in any future records?
Not really. I mean we’ve sampled Radiohead and Dizzee Rascal and I leave all that down to Dan. The samples we’ve done have come from me wanting to sample them, but in general, why would we need to when Dan’s making beats like Stunner? I’m more excited about stuff I’ve heard from Dan than about stuff I’ve heard anywhere else, honestly.

Over the last few years you’ve got your own radio show, you’ve played the Royal Albert Hall, you’ve done Edinburgh… Is there anything else this year that you’d like to try out?
It’s continuing everything on really; I’ve got a club night I run, I’ve got a film night I run. It’s going to be a case of touring as much as we can obviously – we’ve got the tour coming up and sales for that have been absolutely insane. We’re gonna be on the road for three, four months and hopefully there’ll be a few festivals. It’s about getting as much done as I can. It’s rare that I’ll sit down at the computer and think ‘I’d like to do these things this year’. These opportunities just have to be taken as they arrive.

An online magazine labelled you ‘the face of the UK’s spoken word scene’. Is that daunting?
I don’t know, it’s just the words isn’t it? – in every sense in fact. The labels don’t really mean anything. In the modern world, there’s no point in labelling things in such a way because everything’s so instantly accessible. There’s no point in trying to describe what I sound like when you can take the time out and listen to what I sound like. I’m not fussed – it’s nice and there’s some really amazing acts on the spoken word scene so I’m really proud to be a part of it.

Is there anybody you’d recommend in particular?
Yeah, I mean I did a spoken word tour at the end of – not last year – but the year before, and I took Kate Tempest and Polarbear on tour, and they were absolutely amazing. But there’s a guy called Rob Olson who I’m a massive fan of. There’s loads – there’s Jodi Ann Bickley who is absolutely amazing; the list goes on and on and on.

Do you ever find that your stutter holds you back, when spoken word is such a naked art form with nothing to hide behind?
It’s kind of the opposite. I think that I probably wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I hadn’t grown up with a stutter. People assume that I’ve had these problems since I was in education, but I haven’t. I did alright at school but I didn’t do English at uni or college or anything like that. But, from an early age I’d be thinking ahead in a sense and knowing what word I’d stutter on so I’d be replacing that with another word and I think that widened my vocabulary and allowed me to do what I do today. The radio show’s a good example; I stutter on that all the time and don’t see it as a big issue to be honest. To me, it’s no different to having a particular accent or a particular style of speech. The more you just ignore it, other people start to ignore it too.

After you’ve finished this tour, do you know what’s coming next? Will you be going solo again?
After the tour it’s going to be constant festivals – that’s the focus at the moment. I plan to do another solo record at some point, so that’s on the cards, but that’s far in the distance at this point.

And finally, are you looking forward to coming to Exeter? Have you ever visited us before?
Yeah, I can’t wait actually. We’ve not actually been for a long time; it’s really hard to get bookings in the South West area. Everybody complains to us that we don’t come down but they don’t know that you can’t just turn up and play – you have to get booked! We’ve been a couple of times, but we played there years ago supporting Mark Ronson and I’ll always remember that one. I signed someone after the gig and they were the first person to get my autograph tattooed on them – that was in Exeter so it’ll be good to return.