The conversation took place just in time for me to squeeze a few last minute quotes into the book before it finally went to press. Originally, I had not attempted to interview Green for Rip It Up because A/ I felt certain he would not wish to talk about a period of musical activity he had so loudly disowned and derided, and B/ there is so much Green interview material available on the web and in old music papers (he’s always been very good at talking, and copious in his talk) that it seemed simply unnecessary.
During the phone call (me in NY, he in Dalston) I was surprised by A/ how happy he now seemed to discuss that period and by how fond he seemed of that time, despite still professing at regular intervals during the conversation to find the pre-pop era Scrit sound acutely embarrassing. And B/ how thorough his recollections were of the period, despite his insistence at regular intervals that he had a terrible memory and had trained himself to forget stuff. Finally, I was also struck by how charming he was. An earlier encounter circa 1988’s Provision had not been as enjoyable, but the only echo of his supercilious manner on that day in our second encounter was his occasional tic of saying “dyaknowwhatimean?” with just a tinge of donnish snappishness to it.
Another nice thing about the interview was the discovery that nothing I’d written on Scritti in Rip It Up turned out to be wildly off-base, either factually or interpretatively.
I am told Green is currently working on a memoir for Faber & Faber. Look forward to that, although given that it's now 13 years since his last album White Bread Black Beer - which is a longer gap than even the yawning chasm of time between Provision (1988) and Anomie and Bonhomie (1999) I'm not counting on its arrival any time soon.
S: I was struck by the coinage in the sleevenote you did for Early, talking about how listening to those early EPs for the first time in ages, they struck you as a bit “winceworthy”!
It was really through that kind of thing that I got into Henry Cow. The Wyatt route.
S: Did you apply the same sort of thing you’d done with your art work--thinking very hard about it--to the initial conceptualization of Scritti, before actually making the music? Or was it more instinctive and spontaneous?
S: So you’d be exploring all these different issues, grappling with all these overlapping theories, simultaneous with the more practical stuff, like learning how to use an amplifier, or how to string your guitar?
S: Like this guy Simon Emmerson, who went on to be Simon Booth of Weekend and Working Week, right?
S: ‘OPEC-Immac’ is one of my favorite songs on Peel Sessions, it’s got a really odd structure to it, it’s Scritti music reaching this point of near-disintegration, but still retains a lot of the melodic beauty, this sort of melodic eerieness that’s really haunting. The lyrics are very fractured too. Can you recall what that song was trying to ‘say’?
G: I think Niall was saying some of that, and so was I. Again, it was expressive of that whole thing about language and identity. But Scritti was also a group that was… we partied very hard. As they say nowadays! We were always pretty poorly. We were kind of cheese sandwich vegetarians for years. What does that account for? It’s a kind of scratching, collapsing, irritated, dissatisfied music. I was listening to some music the other night, on 6 FM or whatever it’s called, BBC 6, their alternative rock station, and I was struck by all the new bands: there was no trepidation. I had no sense that these people were playing with anything that they were slightly frightened of--either in themselves, or in the music. No sense that they going anywhere where they weren’t sure where they would end up.
S: With so much of the music of that period, but especially Scritti, there is precisely what you’re talking about: a feeling of precariousness. There’s a real sense of anxiety, people grappling with these deep doubts and exorbitant hopes: where do we go next after punk? How can we make our good intentions actually have any purchase on the world? That’s what I find so inspiring about that whole period. Possibly it was delusory, that shared feeling that music could have that degree of power. But it seemed like that for a lot of those bands, believing that it might have that power meant that it therefore became very important to work out exactly the best way of directing one’s energy. To locate the correct path, the righteous way forward, became a very urgent thing.
S: You’ve talked a lot in the past about the Brighton gig in early 1980, supporting Gang of Four, and the nervous collapse. Was that the first time you suffered a crippling panic attack?
[Actually it’s Shelley - the same poem 'The Masque of Anarchy", inspired by the Peterloo Massacre, that produced "for the many, not the few" - the Corbyn-era Labour Party's slogan - via the final verse: Rise, like lions after slumber/In unvanquishable number!/Shake your chains to earth like dew / Which in sleep had fallen on you: Ye are many—they are few! ]
S: In the rap section, you go on about “desire is so contagious/I want to eat your nation state”. I like those lines. ‘Desire’ was a big buzzword at the time, sort of drifting over from journals like Semiotexte, into the hipper end of pop culture, wasn’t it?
S: I didn’t notice this until only a few days ago, but I dug out Anomie and Bonhomie, and noticed that it continues the Scritti running theme of consumer disposables - the cheap classiness of the Dunhill, Dior, Courvoisier packaging copied on "Sweetest", "Faithless, "Asylums". So you have a bottlecap, echoing back to the discarded beer bottle cap photocopied and all grainy and grubby-looking on Peel Sessions , but on Anomie, it’s this ultra-glossy, hyper-realist painting of a bottle cap. So it’s sort of fusing the grubby realism of the do-it-yourself era Scritti cover design with the glossy glamour of ‘Sweetest’/’Faithless’/Cupid & Psyche.
S: Songs To Remember was successful, but it didn’t turn you into a pop star, as desired. There was never the Top 40 hit you were looking for. So you hooked up with Bob Last as your manager. He’s a very smart guy, grounded in left politics and critical theory, so was he a kindred spirit?
S: But for you too, wasn’t there a sense in which for a while the technicality of making these ultra-modern, super-precise records kind of took over for a while, eclipsing the theory side of things? Because making Cupid & Psyche, that was incredibly intricate work, wasn’t it?
But at the same time as big an influence-- although it was never expressed--was hip hop, which was what we were doing by day as it were, or by night. And I didn’t stop reading and writing when I moved to
S: Did Cupid’s success make you quite well off then?
further writing (by me)
me on politics and pop from Sex Pistols to Spiral Tribe, via TRB, Crass, Go4, Scrits, Dexys and Red Wedge
me on "Lions After Slumber" in this thing on 5 key postpunk tracks
my sleevenotes for the Absolute compilation 2011
me on bands who went from postpunk to new pop (including Scritti)
me on Scritti circa White Bread and Hot Chip and the Brit projection towards black American music, for Slate, 2006
my interview for The Guardian with Green circa White Bread Black Beer
my interview with Green in 1988 around Provision for Melody Maker
footnotes to the Messthetics chapter in Rip It Up with further me-thoughts + quotes from
Green and bystanders
footnotes to the Play to Win chapter in Rip It Up with further me-thoughts + New Pop era quotes from Green and bystanders
footnotes to the New Gold Dreams chapter in Rip It Up with further me-thoughts + Cupid-era quotes from Green and bystanders
my postpunk London cartography (with section on Camden) for Time Out
further writing (by others)
another one of those life-changing pieces by Barney Hoskyns - interviewing Green as he unveils the new pop Scritti in NME
Ian, penning(man) a communiqe for his communards
John Williams (author of Faithless, a neo-noir novel loosely based on Scritti) delves deep into his memories of hanging out at 1 Carol St and nearby pubs with the Collective, as well as doing the After Hours fanzine (issue w/ Scritti interview readable in full here). Via Indie Through the Looking Glass website.
Green Gartside talking about his love of Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention at Drowned In Sound
Treasury of Scrit talk and Scrit write
a couple of interviews with Green from back in the day, posted by Bobcast
'Morrocci Klung!' independent tapezine. Previously unreleased, full unedited conversation for the unpublished Dec 1981 edition (nearly 2 hours).
Greenwich Sound Radio 'Creatures What You Never Knew About' 1983 Green Gartside talks and plays records from his collection (54 mins), in two parts.
a life changing piece - Barney Hoskyns in dialogue with Green in the NME. Must have read this a dozen a times,