Making dents in ignorance

GALWAY WILL be the last date on dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip’s upcoming tour but despite their gruelling schedule, the band will deliver nothing less than one hell of a great night. After all Galway is a city for which they genuinely have affection.

“Galway has always been really good,” Scroobius Pip (aka David Meads ) tells me during our Thursday morning interview. “It was one of the first places we played outside of London that we got an excited welcome. There is a really good local scene and the promoters seem to have everyone on board.”

Stress!! and Kelly’s present dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip upstairs in Kelly’s Bar, Bridge Street this Sunday at 8pm. It will be a last chance to catch the duo for the foreseeable future as they take a break from touring to concentrate on their next album.

“We play a couple of festivals in Europe in November but after that there will be a bit of collapsing on the couch,” says Pip. “It will be nice to not have anything on the calendar as we’ve been touring for the last four years. We’ll be doing some solo projects and then it will be back working on the third album.”

The art of conversation

With the release of the single ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ and the debut album Angles in 2008 and second album Logic Of Chance earlier this year, dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip have established themselves as the most exciting alternative hip hop act in Britain.

They found a welcome home among the indie/alternative crowd whose feet were seduced by le sac’s infectious, catchy, street-wise DJing, while their minds were stimulated by Pip’s oratorical styled raps, full of witty and intelligent critiques of modern popular culture, attitudes, politics, and society.

Pip’s love of words, argument, and phraseology are obvious from his lyrics. Unusually for such a lover of words, he was not an avid reader.

“My mum was a librarian but I never read much,” he says. “I took more after my dad as he never read much either. My mum and my brother were always reading, but I did always enjoy conversation and learned things in that manner.”

Also suprising is the fact that Pip grew up with a stammer, buthe was determined that this would be no barrier to his speech and verbal development.

“I think my vocabulary was strengthened as I grew up with a stutter,” he says. “I had to think ahead in each sentence of what I was going to say. If there was a word I knew I would stammer on I had to think of another one to use instead. That helped me broaden my vocabulary without me noticing. I guess I became mire comfortable with it and it’s never affected me when I perform live.”

Pip started writing poetry in 2005, recorded an EP of his raps, and toured as a solo spoken word artist, before joining forces with le sac. How did the two men end up working together?

“We’d known each other for a few years,” says Pip. “We went to college together, knew the same people - dan was a year ahead of me - and we worked in a record shop together. Around 2006 I quit the job in the record shop and did a tour, living in a van, and performing outside other people’s gigs, as there would always be a line of people waiting outside.

“I sent dan a demo and he booked me. When I got there dan was doing a live DJ set and remixing songs from my solo EP and it come together from there. We put stuff on Myspace, it went down well and from there it went mental. Four years and two albums later we said ‘We’re a band then?’ It wasn’t as conscious a decision as you’d assume.”

Straight talking

The English writer Edward Lear (1812 - 1889 ) is famous for his ‘nonsense’ rhymes. Works such as The Owl and The Pussycat are celebrated for their verbal invention and love of real and imaginary words.

Syd Barrett and The Pretty Things were inspired by Lear’s writings. John Lennon was also an admirer. His song ‘I Am The Walrus’ and his books of satirical and nonsense stories and poems, In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works, are indebted to Lear.

Pip is another English musician inspired by Lear and he takes his stage name from Lear’s poem The Scroobius Pip because, as he told Beatdom, it is about “ a creature that doesn’t know what it is...He doesn’t fit into any one category and can just be his own creature.”

Pip’s raps though give the strong impression of a man of strong opinions who knows where he stands and who knows himself. As for categorisation, he would seem to be at least centre-Left. For Pip though the name represents freedom from any ideological strait-jacket.

“It’s about not getting into one particular category or genre,” he says. “It’s fine to have an opinion in different areas. I took the name Scroobius Pip when I started doing art, photography, writing, and music. I thought I had to focus on one but I realised you don’t have to. You can be a metaller and love Metallica, it doesn’t mean you can’t get into hip hop. If you are a strong liberal or conservative it doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion that doesn’t toe the line.”

At the duo’s Kelly’s show, they are certain to play the songs that have quickly established themselves as the band’s signature tracks, such as ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ and ‘Letter From God To Man’.

‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ is a withering attack on people’s need for idols: “The Beatles? Just a band/Led Zeppelin? Just a band/The Beach Boys? Just a band/The Sex Pistols? Just a band/The Clash? Just a band.” So how do dan and Pip react to the fact that people are now fans of theirs, look up to them, and view them as giving voice to how they feel?

“It’s always a really nice testament as to how normal and average dan and I are,” says Pip. “We were lucky to get the breaks we have had and it speaks volumes that people can relate to two blokes from Essex. We’re not trying to present ourselves as anything else. That’s why we like to talk and interact with the fans so much on Twitter and Facebook and show them we are not heroes or saints. We’re just to people two have jobs they really enjoy.”

‘Letter From God To Man’ can be understood as an inversion of the critique of religion from people like Richard Dawkins, drawing attention to the fact that war, hatred, prejudice, and terrorism stem, not from any supernatural force but from within humanity itself - a fact that is much more uncomfortable to acknowledge:

“People interpret it in different ways,” says Pip. “I wanted to do a song that was not pro or anti religion. I was using religion as a tool to get a message across about society and for many that’s what religion is. The song concentrates on humans and how we have reacted to situations and the importance we have placed on things.

“I had a Catholic upbringing, I went to a Catholic school. My parents felt it was good for me to have a choice and to learn about it but they were never ‘Now get up to your room and pray’. I chose not to follow a religion. I guess I’m an atheist but I don’t like to say that as I feel it’s too extreme. For me religion, atheism, it’s all bullshit.”

One of the stand out tracks from Logic of Chance was the politically charged ‘Stake A Claim’: In this democracy the government is elected by us, the people/To represent us, the people/In our best interests, on a national and international scale/And if they’re not doing so, In this democracy,/I as a citizen reserve the right/To raise up.”

“There’s been a great reaction to the song everywhere, but particularly in the UK and Ireland,” says Pip. “It’s heightened times politically. I was looking into France and how they have such a culture of strikes and taking social action until they get change. In England we moan a lot but don’t do much and our strikes are very accommodating and don’t cause too much trouble. The French impressed me and I started writing about that.”

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