Green in the tabloids !
Hear hear. Green in The Sun !
Here’s our juicy girl-free version.
By SIMON COSYNS
As his name might suggest, Green Gartside is a colourful character. Back in 1976 while at Leeds Polytechnic, he was inspired by the twin influences of The Sex Pistols and Karl Marx.
By the end of the Seventies, he was making intelligent, politicised post-punk music as founder and leader of Scritti Politti.
The band were based at their squat in Camden and were subsequently signed to one of the most imaginative indie labels of the day.
Rough Trade run by Geoff Travis. What set Green’s music apart was an unerring eye for a killer tune and a willingness for sonic exploration only equalled among peers by The Clash.
He would soon bring in elements of reggae, dub and r ‘n’ b to augment Scritti’s spiky guitars. By the mid-Eighties, Scritti Politti had signed to a major label, Green had moved to New York and recruited a new line-up and the music had become smooth, silky power pop.
A string of hits followed on both sides of the Atlantic including The Word Girl, Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) and Perfect Way, all given their distinctive sound by Green’s light, airy vocals and his instinctively cool melodies.
Then a hiatus that ran from 1988 right up to 1999 and that year’s hip-hop infused Anomie And Bonhomie.
Then another gap that lasted until this year and the arrival of White Bread Black Beer, an album that witnesses Green return to his natural home, the re-energised Rough Trade.
His new songs are a spectacular success that recall both the scratchy lo-fi work of of early Scritti Politti and the fine-tuned pop of his most
commercially successful period.
From the funk-lite opener The Boom Boom Bap, through the gorgeous Snow In Sun to the pleasingly simple Road To No Regret, you sense a rare talent back in touch with his muse.
SFTW found Green in fine spirits this week and asked him to explain all about the latest chapter in his extraordinary stop-start career.
Q: What’s it like being back at Rough Trade for the first time since the early 80s, making a Scritti Politti record?
A: I feel incredibly lucky to be back with Rough Trade, the coolest label in the world! It feels so much like it did in the early days, the same enthusiasm – the same controlled chaos.
Q: And can you fill in the blanks.. what have you been up to since Anomie and Bonhomie?
A: I spent a long time after Anomie and Bonhomie making hip-hop beats. Not songs – just grooves. I love doing that. I sort of pretend I’m D.J. Premier and stay in my music room for days. I took some of those beats to New York and collaborated with a great rapper called Skillz. After a while Geoff at Rough Trade suggested I do an album of me singing – so that’s what White Bread Black Beer is.
Q: Thank-you for appearing in The Sun but does your old Marxist fire still burn?
A: I’m not a Marxist. I think his ideas are interesting and useful. During the making of this album, I was thinking about relativism versus the enlightenment ideal. Fun eh?
Q: Petrococadollar suggests a certain disquiet at the state of the world?
A: Sure I’m appalled by much of what’s happening now. I hate nationalism, racism and fundamentalism. I think the invasion of Iraq is a disgrace.
Q: How do you find London and places like Camden these days?
A: I love London at the moment. I’ve moved to Hackney and think it’s just the best place. Very friendly. I recruited my whole new band from my local pub! It’s that kind of place!
Q: What was it like playing live recently? Your stage-fright has been well documented but it must have a big moment for you?
A: I was very nervous about playing live again after so many years. I used to get really awful panic
attacks but I think I’ve chilled out at bit as I’ve got older and am a bit less uptight generally. The new
Scritti is very inexperienced altogether – I like that. . . it’s not about slick musicianship now . . .
its about friends and having fun. We’ve done six gigs so far under our pseudonym Double G and the
Traitorous 3. The nerves get a little better each time.
Q: Why is the album called White Bread, Black Beer?
A: It should really be called White Bread Salted Peanuts and Black Beer as that covers my entire diet – except for the pizza and plonk days. I’m addicted to rubbishy white bread and Guinness. Also ‘White Bread’ is American slang for processed so-called ‘soul-less’ white culture. I like that.
Q: Did you play everything and, if so, which instruments?
A: Yeah I played everything for better or worse! I’m principally a guitarist and sometime bass player so those weren’t too hard. Keyboards n’ stuff I struggle with so those parts are pretty simple. I’m certainly not trying to impress anyone with my musical skills here!
Q: And could you elaborate more on the recording process?
A: I have a little studio at home – in a room about 12 foot square. I would sit in my living room with a guitar and when I found some chords and a melody I liked – I’d walk into the room next door and record it pretty much straightaway into my computer.
Q: This album appears to connect the dots between your early work and the mid to late eighties stuff. Was that something you intended?
A: I think the influences on this record are quite sort of pre-punk. Stuff I grew up listening to as a
kid. White pop stuff and folky bits. It does remind me of my earlier stuff – I think you’re right – it does sort of sit between the post punk early stuff and the high-tech 80’s stuff in a way!
Q: You’ve said you want to convey “the idea of just me alone at home”. Why did that route appeal?
A: I would never have had the courage to make an album alone before now. I think it has something to do with feeling a bit more secure in myself, in who I am. Being back at Rough Trade and moving back to London and getting married has something to do with it too I’m sure.
Q: Who are these characters Dr Abernathy and Mrs Hughes?
A: Mrs. Hughes was my English teacher – her husband taught Religious Instruction. They didn’t think I’d amount to much! That was at Croesyceliliog School in Cwmbran – South Wales. Dr. Abernathy just arrived in my imagination one day with his black bag!
Q: And does anything about the current music industry piss you off?
A: I hate all the bullshit in the music industry. All the insincerity and all the salesmanship and the egos. Aargh!
Q: How do you look back on the much-loved Cupid And Psyche 85 more than 20 years on?
A: I never ever think about the past if I can possible help it. I have a dreadful memory and that suits me just fine. What’s done is done – I’m going forward!
Q: Also looking back, what’s you biggest regret?..
A: I have no regrets whatsoever. Really – none . . apart from my fights with anxiety and boredom . . . I consider myself to be the luckiest laziest, happiest man I know.
Q: And greatest joy?
A: Greatest Joy? Hmm. A cheese sandwich (white bread of course) and a pint of Guinness, a sunny day and a cat on my lap!