Published on May 25th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Not only have Cornershop laid on another sterling summer soundtrack with their acclaimed-across-the-board eighth studio album Urban Turban (click here for Rocksucker’s in-depth review), but their self-run label Ample Play has been supplying us with a steady stream of new delights – check out Matsuki Ayumu, The Paperhead, Jack Lesser Lewis’ Awkward Energy and The Sufis for starters, and then of course there are the various guest collaborators across Urban Turban.
Eleven months on from our first interview with Cornershop main man Tjinder Singh, we are delighted to bring you our second exchange with a cast-iron musical hero – but first, though, have a simultaneous gander at and earful of Urban Turban cut “Who’s Gonna Lite It Up”, then please take a few seconds to click here and vote for the track to be featured on Steve Lamacq’s 6 Music Rebel Playlist…
Thank you for another splendid album. Was it always the plan to extrapolate The Singhles Club into a full album, or was that an idea that came later?
Thanks for that. It was something that rallied behind The Singhles Club & took some time to come together. We really gave The Singhles club a lot of attention and worked with artists on all the printable artworks, or ‘digital popadoms’ as they became to be called. As the tracks were done without an album in mind, sometimes without any release in mind, the only thing that was a common denominator was my production, but as the tracks were put side by side they seemed to work very well, and it has certainly gone down very well.
I’ve been playing Urban Turban to friends who you’ll be pleased to know have been very pleasantly surprised by it – I say surprised because they’re not fellow Cornershop aficionados and appeared to harbour preconceived notions about your sound based presumably on that one song from the ’90s. Do you encounter this kind of thing yourself, and if so does it amuse or irritate you?
Unfortunately, we get this with every stem of everything that we have ever done. Not wog enough for wog stations, too wog for white stations, too noisey for funk magazines, too funkn for noise magazines, the list goes on. So yes it’s a preconceived idea but not based on one song I think, but based on the perception of the group itself. Still we are political in our outlook and have always preferred to win people over, and once they do get us they stick with us.
Your vocals have been largely absent from the last two albums now. Will you come out of your self-imposed exile any time soon? I miss your voice and lyrics!
Again, when I’m on there they complain, when I’m not they complain too, but it has been nice to hear people say they miss them…thank you again.
Thinking on, were you involved in the lyric writing for the tracks on Urban Turban that did feature lead vocals (“What Did the Hippie…” aside), or was that left to the vocalist?
If I didn’t write the vocals I arranged them. I also wrote vocals for “Dedicated” and “Solid Gold”. SoKo wrote her vocals around the music, whereas songs like “Who’s Gonna Lite It Up” were done prior to music, and “Milkin’ It” developed music and vocals together.
You alternate a lot between guitar songs and more of a ‘production’ approach. Do you approach the two very differently, or do the guitar songs end up being treated like a ‘production’ anyway?
I really just go ahead with things thinking that I want to continue enough to finish this idea, because the initial idea commands it, and therefore look at the best way that can be done.
How involved was Ben on Urban Turban?
Ben was involved in parts when he was there and to very varying degrees, but as they were songs I wanted to work with, I actually worked on them the most. His most involvement was with “Milkin It” and “Something Makes You”.
How did you decide upon which group of schoolchildren to feature on “What Did the Hippie…”? Is the half-Welsh dragon a reference to anything in particular, or is it just a bit of fun? (Kudos also for rhyming it with ‘squelch’.)
The song “What Did the Hippie…” was created specifically for the childhood section of the Manchester International Festival, and as I had the idea for a cartoon a good many years back in time, I chose that as something to develop. They liked “Soul School” and its video for its colour and simplicity, which led to them asking for us and the video creators getting back together to do something for the kids.
So as part of the development of the piece we decided to get input from children, and the festival arranged for us to go to this wonderful school in a deprived area of Lancashire, in which we worked with a class of 6-year-old kids for three days – both the kids and the teachers were amazing to work with. The Welsh dragon comes from having two half-caste kids, imagining that even dragons would have to multiply. Squelch, oh thank you sir.
Is Bubbley remaining in music in any capacity? Could you foresee ever doing another album together?
I have been meaning to meet her, she only lives a few centre-back houses from me, but as yet it has not worked out. If we can meet enough to do some recordings it would be great to do another album, or even have a cup of tea.
Are you enjoying Ample Play? How hands-on is your approach? Where/how did you come across the various artists on your roster, and are there any new movements to report?
Yes we enjoy Ample Play, its very hands on. I do most of the mailing it’s that hands-on. The artists come through to us rather naturally, we either see them or they contact us or we are told about them – Rajwant came to us because our Ample Play photographer Alison Wonderland saw her playing at a surprise birthday party for Billy Childish.
You will be headlining the Winterwell Festival in Gloucestershire on Sunday 1st July. Do you have much else planned in the way of festivals this summer? And is there any sort of tour planned?
We are deliberately only playing a few festivals this year as I have been rather ill of late and we prefer to concentrate on recording. However, there might be a tour of Europe which is being discussed at the moment.
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Curtis Mayfield, The Beatles, Al Green, Mohammad Sadiq & Ranjit Kaur and Kool Keith.
Tjinder Singh, thank you.
On Sunday 1st July Cornershop shall headline the Winterwell Festival in Gloucestershire, taking to the stage just after the screening of the Euro 2012 final. For more information, please visit winterwell.co.uk