Skinny Pelembe has been catching attention with a string of singles and with the next logical step being an album of the same quality we decided to have a chat with Skinny Pelembe right after he got off stage at the BBC 6 Music festival in Liverpool at The Camp & Furnace.
Hi, how are you? We’re speaking to you in Liverpool ahead of your slot at the 6 Music Festival, how were you approached for the slot? And how does it feel to be here?
Yeah, I mean it’s ‘the station so I feel absolutely fabulous; it’s always 6 Music, it’s the one!
‘I feel absolutely fabulous; it’s always 6 Music, it’s the one!’
You’ve just come off stage, how did it go?
People were saying it went well, I’m always going to think it was atrocious but I’m going to say I’ll give it a 7.8.
Your releases often feature named guests; can you tell us about your live band and how you convey your releases to the live arena?
I feel very specific about what I want on records, there’s certain touchstones in production that are really important. When you play with a band all of the loops and that stuff goes out of the window but rightfully so because they’re a really great band. They’re all really good jazz players so why not go freer; to a degree live it’s more improvised.
‘[The band are] really good jazz players so why not go freer; to a degree live it’s more improvised.’
You have commented that latest single ‘No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish’ is themed around turning negativity (in this case xenophobia) into a positive energy, often themed works can form a collection; is the single part of a bigger piece? If so can you talk about that?
‘[No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish is] about feeling not black or white enough and feeling in the middle.’
The album is driven along the same kind of theme, I was just being obsessed with death, so I got through all of that by writing the album and now I’m a lot happier. [The album] is not so political and is more personal; I guess people are always going to put a political spin on ‘no dogs’ but for me it’s more personal. It’s about feeling not black or white enough and feeling in the middle.
You’ve spoken that the single is a direct response to your feelings around the shooting of a soldier in 2013 and then your later experiences of racism, we could guess that’s where the ‘No Blacks’ part of the title comes from can you explain to us more about the ‘No Dogs, No Irish’?
‘[Xenophobia often comes when] you don’t have good access to education or other cultures [so] you’re always going to feel aggressive and defensive.’
I don’t want to draw attention to that because I think it’s disrespectful; I know I’ve put out a single and I’m going to benefit from it, but I don’t think it’s a very nice thing [to intentionally] benefit from someone’s death. Yes, there was an attack on a soldier back in 2013 and it was a really xenophobic atmosphere for a few weeks after that. It’s not people’s fault but if you don’t have good access to education or other cultures then you’re always going to feel aggressive and defensive.
[The song title] is [taken from] signs that used to be on 40s/50s doors, so basically no immigrants.
There were a few tracks played live at the 6 Music festival that aren’t out yet, when you’re putting out singles do you get guided by crowd reactions?
No, I’m not going to spoonfeed you it’s not the point, the songs I play in that order is the journey I’m taking you on and if you buy in or don’t that’s fine.
This is the first of a smattering of tour and festival dates over the next few months; what else can we expect of you this year, will there be more live dates or releases?
‘After the festivals there’s a very long tour in early autumn.’
Yeah there is, we’ve got quite a lot of festivals coming up and a short tour after the albums announced. After the festivals there’s a very long tour in early autumn.
6 Music have blown us away with this line up, who has caught your eye that you will be going to see?
I wanna go The Coral, I love The Coral. I really want to see The Good, The Bad & The Queen but I’m going to miss it.