Two Very Different Interviews With Scritti Politti

Jan 18th, 2008 // 7 Comments

sp.jpgIt 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.

Q&A: Scritti Politti [eMusic]
Scritti Politti Interview [YouTube]

* Yes, we were at different shows. We’re not that bad.

  1. Anonymous

    I wonder how he feels about that sparkly interim period between “Messthetics” and “Wood Beez,” when he made subversive but melodic post-pop like “The Sweetest Girl.” I admit to loving to pretty much every era of SP (OK, “Provision”? Not so much), but I’ve been enjoying the early ’80s transitional stuff lately.

    Then again, I can imagine dealing with coked-up radio guys who have no idea what your songs are about but keep clapping you on the back would be very disconcerting, especially when you’d rather be back in the hotel reading Lacan.

  2. JedTheMime

    It’s a shame he feels the need to disown his past. I’ll continue to adore both Greens!

  3. Anonymous

    i once introduced myself to Green when i spotted him in the Michael Todd Room men’s room of Palladium checking his makeup – just like in that inner sleeve photo of the Cupid & Psyche 85 LP!

  4. mike a

    He also disowns the shambolic stuff on the Early CD – which is only some of the best music ever made. Green strikes me as someone who’s so analytical as to be paralyzed at times.

  5. valerie

    I love your little Green/Scritti obsession. I wish you were the same way about Sylvian/Japan.

  6. pettyhooker

    The absolute nano-second I clicked on this, Sirius 22 First Wave launched into “Perfect Way”.


  7. C. Cooper

    Yep, the poor boy totally sold out to the multinational commercial music mafia ( in a most cynical, Jarry-meets-Debord kinda way) after *Songs to Remember* came out. Though I can understand how a boy can become dead tired of being poor. Green and many r&b legends have that particular career syndrome in common.

    His American pop star years were, nevertheless, horrifically predictable and crass. Perhaps age has brought the sober return of his earlier wisdom?

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