The Big Interview: Scroobius Pip

Edinburgh Fringe, illegal downloads and rejecting Shakespeare: Chris Carr spends some time with Scroobius Pip…

Over the last few years, Scroobius Pip has made a point of releasing special items on his birthday. Last year, the spoken word artist released a free download of Stunner; the first single that was to be taken from his and Dan Le Sac’s third LP Repent Replenish Repeat. This year, however, Pip has severely upped the ante. Earlier on this month on his 33rd birthday, he released his first live DVD, Words. You may not have heard of it; if you haven’t, that’s because it’s been released without any commercial backing whatsoever. The film is taken from the final spoken word show of last year’s sold-out, 19-night residency at the legendary Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

He’s had a busy year. Expanding the repertoire of his record label Speech Development Records, releasing Sage Francis’ new Copper Gone album and Warrenpeace’s debut album SDR007, and he’s also been wrapping up his long-time collaboration with producer and beat-maker Dan Le Sac. Having released their most successful album to date, the pair have endeavoured to grind out on their current and most popular tour. Speaking to me over the phone, Pip agrees that the pair will be ending their partnership on an explosive high note.

“The shows have been amazing”, he muses. “I keep going on about this, it sounds kinda cheesy, but it’s lovely that our last album is our most critically acclaimed, and our last tour is turning out to be, in my opinion, our best performances and our best crowds.”

The last time Pip performed a solo show in Liverpool was at The Masque (pre-Liverpool’s East Village Arts Club) in support of his solo album Distraction Pieces. During that show, after the first three or four songs, all of the electrics on the stage failed. Pip recounts the drama.

“I’ve got a weird love of shows that go wrong, because I think that’s what makes them stand out”

“We had to do bits a cappella and, yeah, try and wing it all live… I’ve got a weird love of shows that go wrong, because I think that’s what makes them stand out.”

This attitude extends to his new film. In choosing not to release Words via the normal commercial methods, which would include support from the likes of Amazon and iTunes, as well as coveted data encryption from said companies that would prevent people from stealing the product online, Pip recognises that the success of this release lies solely in the hands of fans and friends spreading the good word. So why has he chosen this route?

“It’s about getting across who I am, man to man and person to person. I’ve realised that iTunes makes people react weirdly, myself included, over money. £7.99 for an album is actually really good value, but we’ve become weird with the payment structure. I’m hoping that this direct route will work where we’ve been able to produce the product cheaper for people; the download for a fiver and the DVD a tenner. The money goes directly to the artist, there’s no middle man. I’m hoping that could perk some interest up.”

There is an obvious issue with online ripping and download torrents when it comes to releases that are put together on a budget and directly released from the artist. The stance on this issue differs with everyone and depends on your moral compass as a music fan, but Pip has his own view from the artist’s perspective.

Scroobius Pip

“My main issue is that there’s no shame in the stealing. People are perfectly happy to just sit on Facebook and ask for a torrent to steal your album and I think: ‘You shouldn’t be so proud of that because you’re taking directly out of my pocket, and that, kind of, that hurts.’ People say to me, ‘Oh I’m sorry I stole your albums but I bought a ticket for your show.’ If you’ve ever been to one of my shows you’ll know that I’m drenched from head to toe in sweat by the end and I hope that that alone warrants the ticket fee. I don’t think that the ticket fee has covered the stuff you stole.”

So what about the Edinburgh experience? The Fringe is renowned as a comedy festival. Fans of Pip’s poetry will know that a lot of the subject matter, especially in poems such as Magician’s Assistant, Five Minutes and Terminal, focusses on topics that some people find hard to even talk about, let alone make fun of. So how did he manage to make light?

“I was so much more nervous because, as a massive comedy nerd, I’d scripted more jokes and gags. I felt pretty confident up until I went to see [comedians] Brett Goldstein and Tom Rosenthal’s shows, and they both just blew me away.”

Talking more about the contrast between the poetic dark matter and his comedic lighter side, he adds: “All of that was part of the really intricate planning of it. I wanted to be able to discuss serious subjects without making the audience go away feeling as though they’d been lectured. That’s the same reason I chose to do it in a venue with a bar [the much-loved Pleasance Dome]. I wanted the audience to go away thinking, ‘I’ve had a really enjoyable evening, but I’ve also heard things that have made me cry.’”

“Poetry should be for absolutely everyone, and I know that when I was growing up, I didn’t feel it was accessible to me”

Jokes can also serve to make the serious subjects all the more cathartic. “This is the reason I don’t introduce any of the poems; I don’t want to have any giveaways. I feel that, if you’ve got people laughing, if you then switch to something more dark and serious then the hairs will stand up on the backs of their necks all the more.”

It becomes clear that Pip’s show is not just about how he represents himself, but also how he represents his art form. “I chose the 10pm slot in that place so that people could have fun and so that I could show people that poetry isn’t what you think it is… or, at least, it isn’t necessarily only what you think it is. It’s so broad and so wide.

“It was about being engaging because poetry should be for absolutely everyone, and I know that when I was growing up, I didn’t feel it was accessible to me. I think that Kate Tempest and Polarbear should be taught in schools. There’s such an old adage of: ‘You need to learn to walk before you can run’, but weirdly, we don’t apply that to how we teach poetry. We go straight to Shakespeare. And again, Shakespeare is amazing, but, a lot of his stuff is, kind of, written in a language that is kind of dead or at least not structured in the same way. How are kids expected to become passionate about that stuff and engage with it or relate to it?”

As our phone call draws to a close, Pip shares his views on the independent music community and why he’s put so much faith in it. “The encryption that comes with commercial backing isn’t there, so this will inevitably get ripped. But, as I said, I’m kinda relying on you guys not stealing it. Five pounds is a low enough amount to be more convenient than hunting for a torrent. It’s a gamble that’s worth taking, because the way that I’ve always seen my fan base engage with every release is amazing.”

So that’s the way Scroobius Pip does birthdays. All I’m left wondering is what he’s got in store for us on his 34th?

Chris Carr

More from Scroob (including Words) at

Catch The Beatdown with Scroobius Pip on XFM Saturday nights from 12-1am 

Posted on 12/08/2014 by thedoublenegative