Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock with earplugs in for the last few years you will not have been able to escape the infectious sound of Scroobius Pip vs dan le sac. In 2007 the Brit hip-hop duo seemed to appear out of nowhere with their debut single ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill,’ comprising of a satirical spoken word rant from Scroobius Pip and undercut with an electro dance beat from dan le sac: it was simple, fresh and effective. Now they’re back with a new album, The Logic of Chance. I caught up with one half of the Essex two piece, producer dan le sac, to discuss their sophomore album, song writing and Simon Cowell.
Dan describes their sound as ‘a mish mash of everything I’ve ever listened to; sometimes from the electronica stuff, like Squarepusher and Lack Luster and, on a more commercial level, maybe Underworld. It also incorporates the hip hop and disco stuff that I love.’
One of the reasons for the duo’s success is that each artist is bringing something fresh and exciting to the table; as a collaborative effort it’s something really special. They push each other into new territory. ‘I’ve got this blank slate where I can write anything that I want and it works because the diversity of what I do enhances what he’s already doing with his vocals. I’m like a child in a toy store!’
The thought provoking and witty verses that Scroobius composes are slammed down on top of Dan’s beats to create their own original brand of hip-hop. Would he rather that their music made people think or make people dance? ‘As the producer, the ones who makes the beats, I would always go for dance. People are bombarded with information everyday. There’s too much to think about already. I’d rather give people an opportunity to let off a some steam.’
Whilst collaborations can be restrictive, this doesn’t seem to be the case for Scroobius and Dan. The duo write separately most of the time. ‘90% of the time he’ll be writing vocals and then when I’ve finished something I send it across to him. I’ll e-mail him five or six beats and he’ll pick one or two and come up with a vocal for them.’
Are there ever any problems with this method of song writing? ‘Every now and then he’ll send me something with a beat underneath it where he’s sampled The Cure or whatever and then I’ll spend days trying to figure out what I’m meant to do with it without using a big Cure sample!’
Debut album ‘Angles’ was released in 2008 and followed the success of their first collaborative single. The album entered the UK top thirty and the progressive pair embarked upon a tour of Europe and the US.
As the release date for the highly anticipated The Logic of Chance approaches I wonder what new directions this album might take. After all, ‘Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music.’
Is it important for them to progress musically or are they happy to stick with their winning formula? ‘Well it’s only important for yourself as an artist really. If I felt like this was the exact same album as we did last time I wouldn’t feel very excited about it.’ As if unconsciously echoing their upcoming single ‘Get Better’ Dan continues, ‘it’s the same with all creative processes; you’ve got to feel like you’re progressing, to feel like you’re getting better. And if you’re not getting any better then why are you releasing it?’
Although the new album has only been finished for a matter of months I still want to know if there’s a particular track we need to look out for. Dan is quick to say that they haven’t had time to fall in and out of love with the songs yet but that if pushed he’d probably select ‘Inert Explosions’ as his favourite ‘because its lyrically the strongest track on the album and the beat is just really simple’.
One thing that has changed for the duo since they started out is the amount of influence they can have on their music videos.
‘On the first album I didn’t take part in that side of it at all because we were touring and writing at the same time. We didn’t have time to sit down with a director and hammer out ideas. At the pitching stage, where we were choosing directors, I’d been involved just to say ‘that guy is good, we like him’ and that would be it. This time we’ve been a little more involved.
‘We spent a few weeks emailing the director of ‘Get Better’ before we shot that video. It’s important that this five minutes is a representation of us; that it’s a representation of our song’.The video for ‘Get Better’ (which is directed by Richard Heslop, who has worked with such legendary bands as The Smiths and New Order) shows Scroobius Pip delivering a motivational lesson to a group of teenagers through his modern poetry. It is a typical music video for the pair; low budget and high energy.
Dan claims the ‘Look for the Woman’ video as his favourite so far, ‘just because it has a really nice premise.’ The video shows a man with a TV set attached to his head being accompanied through his day by an angelic representation of Scroobius Pip, as if he were being guided by his guardian angel: ‘Pip is his inner self; he’s the voice in this guy’s head.’
A few years ago Scroobius and Dan created a spoof video of themselves doing an X Factor audition, spliced together with footage of the show’s panel. They are clearly not fans of Simon Cowell, however, Dan insists that there’s a fascination there, as well as hatred.
‘I wouldn’t want to hang around with him for too long but I’d like to meet the bloke, it would be quite interesting; I’d like to see if he really is that up himself. If I met him I’d ask, ‘why is your hair like that, has no-one ever told you it looks terrible? And you don’t need to pull your trousers that high!’ It’d be simple little helpful hints and tips.
‘He may be the face of commercial pop music, but there are still a lot of other people in the industry who are equally evil as he is; it’s just that they don’t choose to go on television.’
Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip certainly practise what they preach when they tell us that ‘thou shalt learn to think for yourselves’ they managed to avoid becoming victims to commercial music giants by showing a bit of independence and foresight.
Dan admits that ‘it was really hard finding a label. After ‘Thou Shalt’ we talked to quite a lot of the major labels and we had some really big offers, a lot of money. We thought about doing it. We spoke to one label in particular and the boss said he was really into us. Then we saw him on TV talking about a truly terrible pop band, saying the same things about them that he’d said to us..’
Instead of taking the easy way out, they held out for the right label and eventually signed to Rob da Bank’s ‘Sunday Best’. Having almost reached the point of giving up and doing it all themselves they realised that the perfect label had been right in front of them all along.
‘It is really important to find a label on your level,’ says Dan, ‘If we’d signed to Sony or Warner we’d be in a really dangerous position; we’re a little bit too far left to make loads of money out of record sales. We’d have released that first album, the label would have lost loads of money, we’d be sitting there wondering if they’re going to let us put another one out. We found a label that was big enough to do all the promotion it needed but small enough not to need millions of pounds back in return.’
It’s no surprise that the artists that inspire dan le sac are also independent thinkers pushing the boundaries of their music. He cites Michachu and the Shapes as one of the more exciting bands of the moment: ‘it’s really exciting to see someone doing something so off kilter and also receiving acclaim for it. I’m inspired by people who are being themselves, by people who do what they’re meant to be doing and not trying to bend what they do to fit a commercial model and make vast sums of cash.’
Refusing to compromise from the beginning seems to have been the making of Scroobius Pip vs dan le sac. With a firm base of fans, a supportive label and their combined talents they can confidently begin to build on the solid foundations they have created.