Roger Robinson is a dozen men. Or more. He was born in Hackney, lived in Trinidad, but spent most of his adult life in London. He is a writer, poet, singer, and musician. And he is so much more. A teacher, a scholar, a thinker, an activist, a man of letters. He is one of the few unrelenting and constant observers of life in Brixton, of post-riot/pre-Brexit Britain. He is a serious man with a great sense of humour.
Roger Robinson released an album with Disrupt on every reggae lovers favourite label Jahtari in 2015 and is a founding member of King Midas Sound. He has performed worldwide and is an experienced workshop leader and lecturer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon. He received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, The V&A and Theatre Royal Stratford East where he also was Associate Artist.
On June 9th 2018 Roger Robinson will be gracing us with a performance at the College Dropout R.A.P party as a part of Poet In The City’s ‘Poetry & Lyrics’ festival. We catch up with Roger ahead of this performance to find out more.
Hi Roger, a pleasure to have a chance to interview you. Your production has a lot of resemblance of old school dub like that of Scientist but there is also a fresh, crisis sound that fits in with the modern era. How do you find this unique balance?
That’s Disrupt, the producer who I work with. They seem like solo albums, but they’re not — Disrupt does all the production. I think there’s a balance between old skool vocalisation and experimental electronic music and digi-dub with political undertones. I don’t know how we came to that, but somehow we just settled in that as a sound for both the albums.
Which dub and reggae artists are your influences?
Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Jacob Miller, Rhythm and Sound, Wackies.
Your social commentary delivery is something unique, with some tracks such as Swastika, more of a spoken word format. Do you draw any inspiration from artists from other genres?
I come from spoken word originally so that will always be an influence. I’m inspired by everything — performance art, hip hop, metal, folk, soul, jungle, but mostly by art and artists in any field. People who are trying to push new boundaries and in that push make a human connection.
How did your time in Trinidad shape your musical journey?
I was originally interested when I began music in rapso which is the poetry of calypso — a sort of local strain of rap poetry. Trinidad is a very artistic place and it allowed me to express the totality of who I might be in my art, good and bad.
What are your thoughts on the current British music scene?
The British music scene suffers a lot from being co-opted by the world of pop, so movements don’t get to develop in authentic and genuine ways. But the good thing is there’s always a lot of reinvention and the serious music always comes from the ground up as opposed to top down telling us what to like.
How important is dub and reggae in the political climate of the world today?
It’s important in this time because it’s sufferers’ music and there are a lot of people suffering.
There are a lot of materialistic mentions in the outro of Dog Heart City. From iPhone accessories to special brew. What inspired the concept of the album?
That a city is a character and can have a heartless personality and that the city can cause needless suffering.
You will be performing at the Poetry & Lyrics Festival R.A.P party, what can we expect?
A poem about breathing in and out. Breathing in is life, breathing out is death, but we need both sides.
What projects can we look forward to soon?
I’m on tour with a poetic theatre show call Mixtape about the experiences of your life being a mixtape. My folk moniker Horsedreamer with Piers Faccini is out in July 29. The new ep is called Hear My Voice.
Grab your tickets to see Roger Robinson perform at the Poet In The City R.A.P party alongside a line-up of other successful poets on 9th June at Kings Place, Kings Cross London. Click here for tickets.