Our Interview With Dizzee Rascal

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“Some artists are very depressing – I try to be the opposite…”

Two days before Dizzee Rascal releases his new album – The Fifth – he’s in the studio editing A Day In The Life video for his label, Dirtee Stank.

Last night he was dancing around on stage with Brandy and Jessie J, an event which would have seemed fairly unlikely a decade ago when his first album, the abrasive and endlessly prickly Boy In Da Corner was released. Now, aged 28, after appearing at the Olympics and working with Beck, Calvin Harris and Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee is fast approaching National Treasure (Chase &) status.

What music did you grow up listening to?

My mum listened to a lot of gospel and Diana Ross, but I liked almost everything. I’d listen to drum and bass, Iron Maiden, 2Pac and some Motown at my child minder’s place, but the first things that really got me were Jimi Hendrix and Guns N’ Roses. I had a neighbour on my estate who was really into metal, he turned me on to magazines like Kerrang and Metal Hammer too. My cousins rinsed that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony album and they got me into Snoop too. They had a tape of Doggystyle and that changed my life.

Why did have such a strong effect?

Because it was so rude! I’d never heard anything like that before. Snoop made his life sound magical, this Doggy land he lived in sounded so amazing. The beats and sounds were so funk influenced too. I was never really into boom-bap hip-hop, I thought that was boring, this was much more musical.

Who are you listening to right now?

Migos, mainly! The new Drake album’s here in front of me, but I’ve not heard it yet. I get the impression it’s very emotional. I respect Drake, he’s done well, he’s bigger than anyone thought he would be, coming from Canada.

Where do you pick up new music from?

A lot of blogs, World Star Hip Hop is good and girls are always great at picking up new stuff. A couple of my girlfriends are brilliant at finding new rappers, people like Casey Veggies, those artists the big rappers are copying.

Tell me, does the perfect song exist?

Everyone has their own perfect song – and it’s probably terrible for everyone else. For me it could be anything – depends what mood I’m in. I think the new Janelle Monae is near perfect – she’s an amazing all-rounder, a brilliant entertainer who also makes amazing videos. Oh, and Laura Mvula – she’s wicked.

What do we learn about Dizzee Rascal by listening to Dizzee Rascal records?

That I’m open-minded and I’m a bit cheeky. I have a lot of energy and I try to add a story too. At times I’m rude and misogynistic, but I’ll balance it out too. So a song like Arse Like That is rude, but Good is about me wanting to treat a girl like a queen. I can do ignorant party tracks, but I can write songs about why there’s more to life than that too.

This is a grown-up Dizzee?

Yeah, definitely. I’m trying to draw on the positive sides, the fun I’ve been having and the places I’ve seen. Some artists are very depressing, so I try to be the opposite. Really, I want people to associate this album with good times for 10 years to come.

So The Fifth represents who you are right now?

Exactly, and that’s important. My first album was a representation of where I was back then – it was a dark, dark place – and this is the exact opposite. It’s been an amazing journey and I think a lot of people can relate to that.

What five records would we be guaranteed to hear at a Dizzee party?

Something by Snoop, for sure. Juicy J’s Bands Will Make Her Dance has got to be in there, and I’d definitely want some proper ignorant Uncle Luke stuff. Reverse Skydiving by Hot Natured would be bound to get a play, so would Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q’s Collard Greens. Chuck on Love Sosa by Chief Keef and that’s a party right there.

Finally – crucially - what’s your favourite noise?

Bass! It has to be bass – that’s the noise for me.

Our Interview With Jimmy Anderson

Jimmy and EduardoLancashire and England cricketer Jimmy Anderson has been called the best bowler of his generation and it was he who, basically, won England the Test Match back in July. Indeed, such is his dedication to the sport that he laughs that his favourite noise is, “the sound a ball makes when it hits a bat’s sweet spot.”

But there’s more to Mr A than that. He is, in his own words, a huge music fan and he’s recently been appointed as Nordoff Robbins’ newest Ambassador. “I’ve got to see first-hand the difference music therapy can make to all kinds of people,” he said recently. “Their work is really unique and I’m proud to support them.”

All of which made us wonder exactly what music does he love? So, being the proactive types we are we phoned him up and asked him.

“OK, so this is what I’m listening to right now,” Jimmy told us. “Which also means it’s what we have on in the dressing room!”

Daft Punk – Get Lucky 
I’ve always loved Daft Punk and this song’s great. This would definitely get played all the way through in the dressing room!

Imagine Dragons – Radioactive
I heard this on the radio recently and loved it. The album’s great too.

Stereophonics – Indian Summer
I’m a proper, long-term fan of the band and I love the new album.

Django Django – Default 
This is a great record – I’d love to see them some time, but we always tend to be playing when the festivals are happening!

Justin Timberlake – Mirrors 
I wasn’t really a fan before this new album, but this is a great song.

Bastille – Laura Palmer 
Bastille are definitely my favourite new band of the moment – love this.

Choir Of Young Believers – Hollow Talk
This was the theme for a TV show called The Bridge that the whole team watched on tour. Boxsets are brilliant, we’ve watched Luther, The Wire and Breaking Bad recently.

Crystal Fighters – You & I 
I’m totally new to this band. I heard this on either Radio One or Absolute Radio – I flick between them all the time – and was hooked straight away.

Jake Bugg – Someone Told Me
I first saw Jake on Later and thought he was great. I really love his album.

The Lumineers – Ho Hey
Brilliant song and I love the video where there’s whole rooms of people dancing with the band.

James – Tomorrow
This song was a huge part of my childhood – I’d listen to it in my bedroom over and over again. It might just be my favourite song ever!

 

Our Interview With The Selecter’s Pauline Black: “I wanted Mick Jagger’s baby…”

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Pauline Black, founder member of 2-Tone heroes The Selecter, is at home working on her new novel when Spotify calls. Indeed, much of the last 18 months have been spent at home constructing the story of a woman who travels to Nigeria and gives birth to twins – a prized occurrence in Pauline’s birth father’s Yoruba culture – one black and one white.

“The mother keeps the white one,” she says, “and the whole story pans out from there…”

Pauline’s own story, and the music she loves and makes, is another search for identity and belonging. Adopted at 18 months old by a white couple from Romford in Essex, she grew up in time marked by conscious and unconscious racism. In the late 70s Pauline went to university in Coventry and it was there in the summer of 1979, while gigging in local pubs and clubs, that she attended a band rehearsal that became the formative point for The Selecter.

Less than two months later this new band were supporting Madness and The Specials – soon after that they kicked off a string of hits with On My Radio. In 1982 they split, but in the last few years The Selecter have reformed again and are preparing to play a new string of shows to a generation of fans many of whom weren’t even born during the band’s initial burst of success.

“2-Tone bands like The Selecter now occupy the position that artists like Prince Buster, Toots and the Maytals or the Pioneers held for us,” she says. “It is strange to think it’s now us that are lurching into legend [she deliberately mis-pronounces it ‘leg end’] status!”

What do your new fans understand about what 2-Tone stood for?

I’m not sure they do understand Two-Tone, but I always understood it as a musical fight against racism and sexism – now I think people often forget about that part. Specials’ gigs have always been a bit of a football chant event, whereas our shows are not like that. The world’s a more dangerous place now and violence towards women is much more prevalent than it was at the end of the 70s so I think 2-Tone still has a lot to say. I grew up in a time where people had an opinion about social problems, but these days an opinion is like a political act – express yourself on social media and the whole world can come tumbling down around you.

There’s a one upmanship in being as offended as possible…

There really is, but what’s exciting musically is the new bands inspired by 2-Tone who want to make their own version of it. Miscegenation is a wonderful thing and we talk about that now.

What was the first music you were aware of?

Well, my mum and dad were older, white and working class, they liked Peters & Lee and Kathy Kirby. I parted company with that sort of thing very early on! I loved Millie’s My Boy Lollipop and anything I could search out that was authentically black. Motown, Diana Ross & The Supremes and particularly Stevie Wonder as he was almost my age group. This little guy was so full of music and life. It was easy to identify with him through the eyes of a black child surrounded by white people many of whom viewed him as an idiot savant. I remember thinking, ‘What happens when he grows up?’ Black people were supposed to be full of rhythm with big smiles and Stevie ticked those boxes but in the most wonderfully different way.

What was the first song you ever wrote?

Ha! The first one I tried to write was about the Yorkshire Ripper. I was a bit incensed by it all.

Quite right too, if you can’t be incensed about the Yorkshire Ripper what can you be incensed about?

Exactly! But it wasn’t the most commercial proposition, but that’s where I started…

Do you think the perfect song exists?

I’d say Tears of A Clown is pretty damn perfect. The subject matter, the imagery, the lyrical content, the delivery, it’s wonderfully uplifting and so full of pathos. And it lasts about three minutes too, which in itself is perfect!

If we came to a party at your house which five records would we be guaranteed to hear?

You’d hear Barbwire by Nora Dean, Get Up Stand Up by Bob Marley, Bjork’s Human Behaviour, Amy Winehouse’s Fuck Me Pumps and I’d finish the party up with a track from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

If you could have joined any band in history for a week who would it have been?

Oh, The Rolling Stones. I was very jealous of Marsha Hunt – I wanted Mick Jagger’s baby! I’ve always loved that band – my parents absolutely hated them, which, of course, made me love them even more.

What was the last amazing record you heard?

That would be Laura Mvula’s Like The Morning Dew she’s absolutely fantastic. I followed a link to it from somewhere and that was it for me.

Finally – but crucially! – what’s your favourite noise?

Definitely the song of the blackbird. I never knew it at the time, but the song of the blackbird has a melody that is so close to the one in our song, On My Radio. And this black bird sings it!

 

Amy Winehouse: #AMYS30 Playlist

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As a child growing up, Amy Winehouse’s life was full of music. Sometimes it would be her dad Mitch singing Sarah Vaughan or Frank Sinatra songs around the house, other times Amy and he would harmonise together as he drove his black cab through the London streets.

Over the years Amy’s mother Janis built up a huge record collection and she says she would often find her daughter singing along to favourite LPs, while Amy’s brother Alex frequently discovered that the CDs he thought were missing CDs were actually up in Amy’s room. Later, Mitch’s new wife Jane would take her step-daughter along when she worked on hospital radio and let Amy’s taste guide the music she programmed for that day’s shows. Ultimately, all of this music went on to create a soundtrack to Amy’s life as well as providing an inspiration for the songs she would go on to become hugely – and rightly – famous for.

This September, Amy would have turned 30. To celebrate her life and career – and the work being done in her name by the Amy Winehouse Foundation – her family have compiled a playlist of her most beloved songs for Spotify as part of #Amys30. Come for the classic soul, jazz and doo wop that helped to shape and define Amy’s sound, stick around for the handful of truly left-field choices woven into the mix.

Click here more information on the Amy Winehouse Foundation.