Sodajerker presents… Scroobius Pip
Liverpudlian podcasting duo, Sodajerker talk songwriting and lyrical inspiration with one of the UK’s most acclaimed and successful hip-hop artists
He’s the UK hip-hop artist and spoken word poet who used his own hard graft to start his career in music. Born David Meads in 1981 in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, Scroobius Pip’s interest in music was ignited by rock acts like The Rolling Stones. After becoming inspired to make his own music when he discovered punk as a teenager, he was then swayed to believe that he could forge a career as a hip-hop artist after seeing the Beastie Boys and the Bloodhound Gang in concert.
Working in HMV, he would then become his own kickstart fund manager by staying in and saving up money to give himself a shot at making it in the music industry. He gave himself a year and the decision certainly paid off. After releasing his debut solo No Commercial Breaks in 2006, he came together with producer De le Sac as Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip and created his breakthrough song Thou Shalt Always Kill. Reaching No 34 on the UK Charts, the song announced a rare talent and forged a career that has continued to this day. To date, Scroobius Pip has released four UK Top 50 Albums, 18 singles, started his own record label, released a spoken word DVD, appeared at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, hosted his own radio show and started a weekly podcast series.
Our friends at Sodajerker took time with Scroobius Pip and found a man whose mind is already thinking of the next rhyme, before one finishes escaping his mouth.
How do you capture ideas, do you write them down or capture them on your phone?
“On my phone. My phone is just golden and I think that it is going to be one of the great travesties of modern musicians, of how many will not back stuff up. I just saw Lady Leshurr, on Instagram talking about how she’d written almost all of Queen’s Speech 5 and her phone has died and she’s lost it. I guess that’s always the case – even if you’ve written down on paper you could lose it – but I guess you don’t take your prized notebook everywhere with you, whereas with your phone you’re just so casual.”
Do you then take these ideas and start putting them together in a sequencer?
“I’m lucky enough to have worked for a long time with Dan le Sac and numerous other people. So when I’m writing and it’s rough it will generally just be on paper, or it will be notes. It’s once I get a beat off someone that I’ll start to think that this [idea] can go here or there. Or I’ll write to other songs, things I’m a fan of; Introdiction had drums from Travis Barker on it and was one of the biggest songs I’ve ever done, but when I was originally writing that I was writing it along to Bastard by Tyler, The Creator. It was just something I was writing along to that to give my working of that beat/pacing and these drums came along and this beat came along from Danny Lohner and it could then grow into what it had to be.”
You and Dan le Sac write really quickly together and Thou Shalt Always Kill was a track that you both wrote really quickly…
“Yeah. Me and Dan le Sac kind of fell together, I knew of him and was a fan of his work and Thou Shalt Always Kill was something I was using as a spoken word piece over mics and it was a great structure to have because it’s easy to add to. I can add something from the news that’s happened that day. One of the lines, ‘Thou shalt not attend an open mic and leave as soon as you’ve done your shitty little poem or song you self-righteous prick,’ came from an open mic night. There was this guy who was getting annoyed because he wasn’t getting to do his bit in part one and not part two; it was a night at the poetry cafe and he got up and did his bit at the beginning of part two and promptly left. So I did that and got the biggest reaction of any of the lines that I did that night, because it was clearly referencing the guy that had just pissed everyone off!
“So I had that kind of written and Dan sent me the beat, which I really liked and I said I’ve got something. So went up to my room and the bit about the band and emailed it back to him. He had watched The 40-Year-Old Virgin in the time in between, so I finished writing and recording the vocal in the running time of The 40-Year-Old Virgin [116 minutes for the cut version and 133 minutes for the full unrated version].”
In terms of your career, that track really changed everything for you didn’t it?
“It was insane. It was the first song that me and Dan wrote together and we made a couple of copies of CDRs, I think we sent one copy to John Kennedy on XFM and he played and it just blew up from there; we made a video for £200 or £300 and it’s now had something like 6 million views. It gave us our career, it was the reason that we got to go to America and tour Japan and all over Europe. That all started in 2006 or 2007 and it’s coming on for nearly 10 years that I’ve been able to do this and make a good living out of it, all from a song that doesn’t have a verse or a chorus; there’s nothing about it that a label or an A&R man would have said, ‘This is going to be a hit.’ It’s just one rant essentially and we couldn’t have predicted it.”
Do you think that you always had an affinity for words?
“It’s a weird one. This is something I’ve not really sure if I’d be comfortable talking about, but I’ve got a stutter and grew up with a stutter. That came from the age of four or five, I almost drowned on holiday in France, and stutters normally stem from a traumatic experience and I had a stutter all the way through my teens. And I genuinely think that it gave me a better vocabulary. Because I went to an alright school, but didn’t do particularly great at English, as people might expect of me, because the songs are quite wordy. But I’d kind of be thinking ahead of the sentence I was saying and knowing there would be a word that I would stutter on and trying to replace that word with another word. So I genuinely think that almost as a survival mechanism, it gave me a greater vocabulary and in time just gave me an obsession with words and a passion for jumping in and indulging in that.”
That’s incredible, that facility for words through thinking ahead and swapping out words…
“Yeah completely. I’ve never freestyled, I’m not a freestyler, but I am, I guess quite quick-witted – it makes me sound like I’m saying I’m hilarious all the time, but quite quick with things and sharp. Again I think that comes from being able to have to trains of thought going on at the same time, in that I’m saying the sentence but I’m also thinking ahead to the end of the sentence and replacing a word. So it’s weird that a kind of disability of sorts, I feel, just enabled me to do so much more and made me learn skills I wouldn’t have otherwise learnt, I guess.”
When it comes to issues and things that are happening in the news, do you ever feel like you have to address them, or is it mainly things that bubble up that you want to tackle?
“That’s the biggest struggle and battle with me, writing stuff that I think is worth writing and not necessarily something that will make a difference but that is a comment worth making. I always remember during the London riots, I was in Croydon and doing some filming and a lot of my family are from Croydon and South London, so I was like, ‘right, I need to get there.’ So me and my mate went down there to witness it and we ended up filming it all. And I ended up filming a spoken word piece in the middle of it all and I’ve never put that out anywhere. The next day I was editing it and I was like, this isn’t a piece of promo, the problems in the street aren’t gonna be solved by some guy doing a poem; it’s about finding the right points. I will talk on subjects but I try to talk quite broadly on something and talk about society in general, rather than feel like I’m exploiting a particular tragedy or a particular event. At the end of the day I sell my music, it’s harsh to write about a subject and go: ‘You can get that for £0.79 on iTunes,’ it’s kind of shitty.”
You’re working on some new solo material, is there anything that you can tell us about that project?
“I can tell you that I’m horrendously behind schedule! The last record that I and Dan le Sac made together was our biggest selling and our most critically acclaimed and our biggest tour, and we decided to call it a day after that. I’m intentionally taking my time with this record because I feel that I’ve got something to say, I think that there’s a chance that this could be my last record. I think after every record that I make, ‘I think that’s it I think that’s all I’ve got.’ And I don’t want to be someone who just churns out things because there’s a fanbase there for it and because I can make money from it. I wanna walk away from this when I feel that I’ve said everything that I can say, even if it’s for a few years. And that’s what it feels like at the moment. I’m working on the album and hopefully I’ll be working with Danny Lohner again. Travis Barker has laid down some drums for me, I’m hoping to work with Wes Borland and just numerous other people. There’s a lot of influences I’d like to put in there. So who knows…who knows!”
Internationally renowned songwriters are queuing up to be interviewed by Sodajerker, who now have over 80 episodes under their belt. Established in 2012 by Liverpudlian songwriting duo Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor, the Sodajerker On Songwriting podcast has welcomed guests including Lamont Dozier, Neil Sedaka, Johnny Marr, Ben Folds Five, Billy Bragg, Richard M Sherman, Neil Finn, Suzanne Vega, Jimmy Webb, Rufus Wainwright, KT Tunstall and many more.
To find out more about Sodajerker and their work, or to download their podcasts – including the full 63-minute interview with Scroobius Pip – go to www.sodajerker.com. You can also connect with them on Facebook or Twitter, or download the podcasts from iTunes.