It is no secret that Idolator loves Scritti Politti, the U.K. post-punk-into-pop group masterminded by once frosted, now bearded political theorist Green Gartside. (Many “OMG!”-grade text messages were exchanged when Maura and I finally got to see the band in 2006*.) That’s why it was exciting to read this eMusic interview where Gartside talks about his future plans (even if those plans include a Hot Chip collaboration). But reading him describe his earlier self, back when Scritti was making U.S. dance-pop hits like “Perfect Way,” with characteristic revulsion made us track down a vintage 1986 video interview to see why he was still so squeamish.
Is there anything about your pop stardom period — of slick international hits like “Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)” and “Absolute” — which you recall with affection?
No, not at all. I remember it with great discomfort. It felt so wrong. It was something I’d wanted to try in an ironic way. There was no way I could buy honestly and earnestly into the whole pop thing, because I knew too much about pop, as it were. I wasn’t naïve. And yet in another way, I was. I’d thought it’d be fun to explore and play with, both musically and politically. To see what happens when you’re in Black Rock New York or Warners offices in LA…to go to the heart of things and see what it’s like.
And I just HATED it. I felt uneasy 24 hours a day. I felt a complete phony. It really got to me. There was an irrational emotional response to the whole business of being…looked at. And made to do silly, bullshit things on television, to be a little performing thing. I don’t ever remember thinking “well done,” not even quietly to myself. So I stopped making music altogether, for a long time. Now as I get less uptight about things generally, sure, it’s nice when Timbaland says he used to listen to it, and I have fond memories of meeting Miles Davis. But back then a little bit of me died every time I did some TV rubbish…
What kind of “TV rubbish” could fill Gartside which such horror 20 years after the fact? Well, thanks to YouTube we don’t have to guess:
Okay, it is pretty embarrassing watching three white guys in white socks and bad haircuts talk about how the British just aren’t funky enough. But can you imagine Justin Timberlake explaining how his album sleeve was inspired by a Marcel Duchamp-designed, banned Vogue cover where the surrealist wrapped a hunk meat in cloth? Yeah, us neither.
* Yes, we were at different shows. We’re not that bad.