Words: Vicky Prior
Images: Warren Draper
If you go down to Broxholme Lane today you’ll see a futuristic vision of Doncaster complete with tigers, stags, and ladies on motorbikes. This incredible mural was painted by spZero76 as part of the last Doncopolitan Crawl and he’s returning on the 23rd of July for more.
To celebrate, Doncopolitan is hosting a Broxholme Lane Block Party with music and art from some of Doncaster’s finest creatives. The lovely Breaking Beats, responsible for the series of murals around the side of Waterdale, will be on-site alongside FiveFiveDesignz. Breaking Beats have been creating work with young people since 2014 and will be hosting a street art workshop for the evening.
FiveFiveDesignz, aka Craig, started out playing hip hop records at school and in 2007 started playing drum and bass and UK garage. Having worked out from Donny to clubs around the country he then decided to concentrate on his artwork and FiveFiveDesignz was born. Craig still does the occasional gig and will be playing at the Doncaster Caribbean Fun Day this summer. He told me he’s excited to be involved in this year’s Doncopolitan Crawl, where he’ll be spraying brand new artwork, because ‘it’s another part of the cultural shift that’s happening on Doncaster’s timeline right now…It always feels a bit more grim in Donny, especially when I’m painting, maybe that shows through with my surrealistic animal/character type stuff, but I kinda like it like that anyway.’
Providing the music is local grime duo Kannan featuring Mista Kay. Alongside making extremely catchy songs (I know the bare minimum about grime, but I got quite into their stuff when doing a bit of research on YouTube!) Kannan features Doncaster locations prominently in his videos. He says ‘I’m inspired by all sorts of things, mostly music – listening to and creating. Watching videos or filming them. We want to be legends in Doncaster for our music. We wanted to be involved because we really like everything about the Doncopolitan & they have shown us a lot of love and support.’
So please come along to Doncopolitan Crawl on 23rd July, from 5pm, and show Kannan and all our other artists even more love and support.
Craig talks about the rising musician, Skinny Pelembe. Skinny will be performing at CAST this year on the 23rd of January so make sure to book tickets on the website HERE.
Words: Craig manga
I’m a man on a mission, a detective piecing together parts of a puzzle.
A sense of mystery surrounds the young man known as Skinny Pelembe. In the past few days, I’ve attempted to seek out this living conundrum who hails from my hometown, but his presence remains elusive. In a sense, I’m relieved. I want to retain that star mythos that surrounds him.
Just who is Skinny Pelembe?
What are his origins, his touch-stones, his motivations? I have no answer. But read on, to join me on a quest to find out and discover one of the freshest new talents in the known universe (let alone Northern England).
Donning my Sherlock cap (and headphones), I have immersed myself in the man’s modest but formidable back catalogue, whilst simultaneously scouring the net and music mags for interviews, reviews and bios, to flesh out the man behind the music.
Several objective facts surface. I do know that Skinny Pelembe was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, moved to the UK, then grew up in my own humble town of Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Presently, he is based in London. He describes himself, if pushed, as “grumpy” and “secretly funky”. He is an avid fan of old-school hiphop and many of its mutant offshoots, triphop and illbient. He plays sun-dappled guitar (and jazz-infused keys), sings in the sweetest swoon-inducing falsetto, has a magpie-like propensity towards samples, programs, produces and MCs. His sound is – oxymoronically – both huge yet intimate. The man has recently signed to Brownswood Recordings, releasing a brand new track ‘I’ll Be On Your Mind’, having already released wonderful output for the London imprint. He has received much-welcomed support from Doncaster-based Higher Rhythm studios and BBC 6 Music DJ Gilles Peterson. ’Should You Go’ was premiered on Peterson’s radio show, and features on the latest edition of the Brownswood Bubblers compilations. Skinny Pelembe is also part of the Future Bubblers collective, the Arts Council England-funded programme led by Peterson, for developing new, unsigned acts.
I pondered several key questions (of personal interest): What are his influences? What other artists inform his work?
Skinny, in some previous interview, admitted to some eclectic guilty pleasures amongst the usual suspects, “Wu-Tang, Erykah Badu, Johnny Cash… Roots Manuva, The Jam, Gil Scott Heron, Blur, Nina Simone, Daedelus…Van Halen…The Smiths, Fela Kuti, Mos Def…The Fall, DJ Shadow, Portishead. Whatever was on that months Mixmag CD and way too many cheesy mod compilations.”
Skinny started his fledgling musical efforts on acoustic guitar around the age of eight. A year later, in the UK, McDonalds project Our Town Story had kids recount their town’s history through music/dance at the former Millennium Dome. As a footnote, Skinny accidentally enrolled in the dance section and endured a week’s worth of freestyle and Bollywood classes because he was too shy to say he was in the wrong group. This probably informs the eclecticism of his music and his willingness to explore.
He asserts, ”I don’t know how you can think it’s okay to still carry on doing carbon copies of whatever has already happened, especially after hearing something like DJ Shadow, or Portishead… there’s something beautiful about tradition, heritage and purism but it’s artists like these that really stand true to what I love about hip-hop and music in general; sounding out your own unique voice.”
Then came the switch to electric when Skinny’s dad started buying tapes at car boot sales.
“(Dad) popped in ‘Baker Street’, and I knew, whatever happened from then on, I was either gonna have to learn how to play guitar solos or sax riffs. Guitar had more street cred in Donny, so that was it.”
Another life-shaper involved a complete stranger on Instagram. As a result of the advice he was offered, Skinny now writes down details of all his dreams in a notebook as inspiration for his lyrics, yielding results that are equally surreal and startlingly direct. These night scribbles are then woven into loose, textured rhythms and brightly tinted melodies. His songs exist in the wonderfully fuzzy margins of hook-laden dreampop (has there ever been a more apt and literal description?) skirting hazy, translucent psyche-jazz. The perfect overlapping centre of this crazed Venn diagram? Whoah.
So, those expecting Skinny’s output to be pure unadulterated pop might be disappointed. However, if pop means wide-ranging, anything goes sonic assemblages cut with a maverick sensibility, this might truly suit: It’s a cohesive body of work, closer in spirit to those multiple-genre, multi-tasking acts such as Beck, Bjork and Sufjan Stevens, although he sounds like none of these. This fleeting, flitting spirit crops up on recent single ‘Spit / Swallow’ which weaves and wefts cavernous dub textures, gauzy pastoral guitar loops, sampladelic textures and cut-and-pasted steel-tipped hip-hop beats (which intersplice samples/found sounds with real organic drum breaks to superb organic effect) into this fine-detailed sonic tapestry. It all hangs together perfectly with not a thread out of place. Beyond the superficial production sheen, there is a true talent for melody and true songcraft, every tune is an earworm. I’m rendered helpless. Melting in deepest Afro-psychedelic soulspace. ‘Toy Shooter’ follows in similar fashion, bridging psych-pop hooklines with beat-centric, electro-jamming freedom.
Maybe, I’m no closer to discovering who Skinny Pelembe is. But maybe this is the point. We should never pin down and dissect the butterfly. It should remain brimming with its own beauty and life. One thing is clear, Skinny Pelembe is a clarion voice, a unique talent, so let Skinny be.
John Kelly interviews John Lydon on the eve of Public Image Limited’s 40th anniversary celebrations.
Words: John Kelly
First formed in 1978 after the break-up of The Sex Pistols, Lydon has fearlessly steered P.I.L. through a number of forward-thinking releases. Beginning with the experimental post-punk blast of ‘First Edition’ and the dystopian dub of ‘Metal Box’ through to the industrial world rhythms of ‘Flowers of Romance and the anarchic avant-rock of ‘Album’, Lydon has never been comfortable with the ‘punk’ tag and continues to push musical boundaries with the current P.I.L. line-up
This interview was first aired on Sine FM’s ‘Orange Flavoured Pipe Machine’ on 29th April 2018.
John, how are you, sir?
Allo! I’m very much alive thank you!
That kind of leads us nicely into my first question, actually. You’re celebrating 40 years of Public Image Ltd, quite an achievement considering all you’ve been through.
Er…yeah. But for me, now I’ve got here, it’s not good enough and I want another 40! I’ve got to be honest, the level of work I’ve been maintaining is high!
Do you think P.I.L. has received enough respect over the years considering the fantastic legacy of work you’ve produced?
Probably not. It’s been far easier for the media to be cynical. But things are changing, you know? It’s just because I’ve got the persistence of an elephant. I suppose you get there in the end and people start listening and paying attention and realising I’m not just a filthy, foul-mouthed yob. I’m a lot of other things besides.
It seems to me you’ve had that life-long struggle trying to defy categories and labels. You’ve always seemed willing to transcend expectations and break barriers, even those thrown up by the so-called ‘punk’ movement.
Yeah, well you’ve got to be ahead of the curve, ain’t ya? And you mustn’t be imitating anyone, and that’s definitely me and my lifestyle. I’m not into copying, imitating or fitting comfortably into a category. The way I write and the things I write about are the things that matter, not only to me but to the people around me – to my family, my friends, my culture, my nations, my planet Earth…and you can’t do that wrapped up in pop garb, whether it be a studded leather jacket or a sequined tuxedo. Either way, they’re just images. You’ve got to keep away from getting entrapped in that and ensnared. Unfortunately, a lot of punk kids got trapped into thinking that was all there was.
Do you still find yourself defined by the work you did in the Pistols?
Not willingly. There’ll They’ll always be the haters in the national press and no matter how much you try to be accurate, honest and decent, they still play the dirty game and give it a nasty headline and misdirect people. But that’s the world we live in. I’m sure the people that appreciate what I do are smarter than that and don’t buy into it. As for the masses, well, hello! I’ve always known the masses to be sheeeeeep. Ha, ha, ha… I’m not one to bleat amongst the flock. I could have done that. I could have hung on my laurels and pumped out endless imitations of myself and made millions. But that ‘ain’t my way. Respect is the thing that I seek.
It must have been enormously liberating to draw on those wider musical influences.
I had to work against the easy money. But the trouble with that was that meant NO MONEY! Ha, ha, ha! And with noooooo money, it’s very hard to keep members and a permanent outfit. And that’s the way it’s been up until the last ten years. I’ve finally managed to break free of the stranglehold of corporate thinking record labels, formed our own label and now we have such a thing as continuity and a sense of permanence and dignity about it. We run it ourselves. That’s how it has to be. And this way, we can guarantee wages. And we love playing live. All the fears and phobias are still there before I go on stage, but there’s a sense of gratitude that I know I’m walking on to a stage with three blokes who I completely respect and respect me.
The current line-up is tremendous and draws on past P.I.L. line-ups with Lou Edmunds back in the fold alongside Bruce Smith who also served time in The Pop Group and The Slits.
The only new addition is Scott [Firth] who is just such a friendly, easy-going, outward looking bloke. No snobbery in him. Perfect. Because for me it’s always the personalities first and the musicianship can come second. But my God, didn’t I land well because I think they’re three of the toughest boys on any stage you’ve ever heard!
Are you still listening to music and enjoying stuff being created these days?
Not when I’m preparing for a tour, no. I don’t want a Taylor Swift melody to creep into my head. Although that’s not possible actually because I don’t know if she has any!
Are you looking forward to visiting the UK despite your problems in the past?
Listen, I’m there twice a year! That’s where my family are. Just because I’ve moved my business abroad; and had to because we couldn’t get gigs anywhere. The only way we could really operate was by setting up in New York and from there I expanded. That’s how it is. You go where the work is. There’s no point sitting on your socialist, moralistic a-hole and getting nowhere, ‘cos if the powers that be won’t move, they won’t move. So, you move. And when you come back you wave a big flag in their face and embarrass the hell out of them! Ha, ha, ha!
What can we expect to hear in the set list at these forthcoming gigs, John?
Oh, a huge variety. We’ll shape shift it about a bit. Basically, it’s all driven by audience vibration. I love these small venues because I can look into the eyes of everybody out there and I can feel their energies. I know when they’re sympathetic to where we’re going, and I know what they’re pleading and asking for. Hello, audience. Don’t shout out requests ‘cos we don’t do bar mitzvahs or weddings. Ha, ha, ha.
Just be polite and transmit it psychically.
Yeah, we’re not a showband on the love boat. It’s not like that. Just let me feel your energy and that will change the tempo. Some songs of course are bound to be sad ‘cos the subject matter is sad, while others are just complete escapism. And we need both things in life. In order to survive as a human being, you need to understand all of your emotions, be in control of them and know when to not be in control of them. That’s what Public Image is absolutely experimenting in.
(And with that, Mr. Lydon launches into this touching farewell homily and is gone…)
‘The Public Image is Rotten (Songs from the Heart)’ Career Box Set (1978-2015) is available from July 20th via UNIVERSAL.
For more details about the forthcoming P.I.L. documentary visit https://thepublicimageisrotten.com/
Words: Sam F’kin Cooper
Images: Courtesy of the Donny punk scene and on-line.
The Donny punk family has been dealt a heartbreaking blow in recent weeks, as we lost two of our own. Pete Morgan and Jez Saxton were an integral part of our punk community. In 1977 I was only ten years old, so I’ve had help from some friends that were there…