Label: Rough Trade
Mates: The Strokes, Arcade Fire, British Sea Power, Super Furry Animals,
Sufjan Stevens, the Delays, the Libertines, Fiery Furnaces.
the deal. Here's the BiG DeaL. That shitty four-piece you've been in with your
mates since Year 8 eventually managed to get some daft industry type to hand over
a blank cheque and to tell you were going to be famous. Very famous. You wouldn't
have to talk to your former classmates at school. You wouldn't have to get up
early. They only thing they didn't tell you was that music was more than just
writing songs and shaking your balls on stage. It was about being there on time.
Releasing something on time. It was about being famous on time.
sometimes you just want to consider the relativism versus the enlightenment ideal
in preparation for your first record. Something just outside of time. At least
that's what you do if you're Green Gartside of Scritti Politti. You kickstart
your career by forming a quirky British DIY post-punk band at Leeds Polytechnic,
play one show in 1976 and then disillusioned and bored with college you move into
a squat at 1 Carol Street in Camden, London. You teach your best mate since primary
school how to play the bass in six weeks, hear a Clash album, come up with a name
based around an underground Marxist critic, borrow £500 for your first record,
gets signed to Rough Trade, succumb to a physical and mental breakdown and reinvent
yourself as a studio savvy master of electronic R n' B in New York before crafting
the mighty multi-platinum-selling 'Cupid & Psyche' in 1985.
all intents and purposes you disappear.
Scritti Politti. One line
of investigation leads you to arrive at 'perfect pop', whilst another blows cold
and goes nowhere in an instant. Deeply surface bubble-gum on the one hand, deeply
subversive on the other. Not even the boy-meets-girl songs were ever that simple;
boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy loses girl in the casual interplay between
signified and signifier, dissolved in the ether of semiotics and in the long,
tender sighs that accompanied them.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Green
Gartside. Re-signed. Re-sealed. Re-delivered.
How did you get signed?
Hmm. Back in the day you didn't get 'signed'
to Rough Trade as such. With them I put out an album called 'Song To Remember'
which featured 'The Sweetest Girl' . That album got the attention of the major
labels. I was feted and courted (inc. free Christmas in Jamaica) a lot and them
signed for the most money with a separate major deal for North America. Very shrewd
of my then manager, Matthew Kay.
2. How did you celebrate?
don't precisely remember. A number of days of eating, drinking to excess and general
partying . . . goes without saying.
3. How did you blow your advance?
I signed to Virgin I gave away too much of my first advance to management, then
'blew it' on expensive New York studios and the Manhattan high-life. I think I
got a $500,000 advance for three songs. I'd heard Chaka Khan's 'We Can Work It
Out', which was produced by Arif Mardin, and liked it so much I asked Arif to
produce the next record.
4. What other names for the band did you consider?
When I first formed the band we were briefly called 'AGAINST'. Yeah.
Punk Rock!! In the end we chose 'Scritti Politti' - a name that came from a book
called 'Scritti Politici', which was written by someone called Gramsci in prison
- a clever Marxist writer. It was a play on of the Italian phrase 'political writings'.
It also sounded like the kind of sound we wanted to create with the band.
What was the worst thing a label asked you to do that you didn't like?
always have 'complete artistic control' but being asked to do morning children's
television is the pits. In Japan in we did 40 interviews and 40 photo sessions
in just 6 days. We did TV shows like 'Funky Tomato' and 'Telegio 7'.
Live circuit or showcase? Did you do it the hard or easy way?
it the vinyl way. Press up a few of your own songs. We were living in a squat
in Camden and with a £500 loan from a brother of one of the band, we booked
some studio time and came up with a 7" called 'Skank Bloc Bologna'.
How much did getting signed rely on being tied to a scene? Was there ever any
pressure to conform?
We started a scene I think. Pressure to conform?
Well when I didn't like what was around me - the beginnings of institutionalized-indie
- I moved to New York and got into R n B. Boredom and distaste were the only pressures.
Did any of the labels or management you were with support or discourage unruly
rock n' roll behaviour?
One label did want to hook me up with some tabloid-friendly
women at certain fashionable venues. Unbelievable. There was never any discouragement
to rock n' roll behaviour - just a little discretion.
9. Where's the
strangest place you've been asked to promote a record?
In Portland, Oregon
with a man in a head to toe fish-suit called the Jammin' Salmon. I had to spend
a day touring the town with him - he never spoke. I never saw his face.
Have you ever been conscious of lifting directly from another record? If so,
what was it?
If I do something that sounds too obviously like something
else I discard it straightaway. Tons of 'influences' though.
the biggest myth about success?
That it makes you happy.
was your biggest commercial mistake?
Disappearing for years on end.
Your most triumphant fluke?
I'm still waiting for a triumphant fluke
- is it a big fish? A giant parasite?
14. Ever burned a copy of an album/single
put out by your label for a friend?
Never. Never. Never. No . . . honestly
. . . never . (clears throat)
15. What's the most rock n'roll thing you've
I've done some bad, bad things. I've been a very wicked man.
How closely does the finished product - 'White Bread, Black Beer' - match its
Well the album is the demo really so its exactly like
it started out. I have a little studio at home in Hackney - in a room about 12
feet square and I would sit in my living room with just a guitar and play around.
When I found some chords and a melody I liked, I'd go right next door to the next
room and record it straight into my computer.
17. What's the biggest
musical asset you have that you feel you deserve least credit for?
dunno. Musical asset? Listening-well? Or maybe my singing. On the new album I
play all the instruments for better or worse! I'm fine with guitar and bass, but
Keyboards n' stuff I struggle with so those parts are pretty simple. I'm certainly
not trying to impress anyone with my musical skills on this album.
the deal: you've made an excellent record and some unscrupulous hack handling
the press release is about to screw it all up. What words would YOU use to describe
the new release?
"A joy. A triumph. The cherry on the ice-cream
cake. A little too long at 14 songs"
Bread, Black Beer' - Out Now on Rough Trade .
Bread, Black Beer'
Nosey Bastard for Crud Magazine 2006©